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Codependency & Loving Too Much

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tessthemess posted 6/1/2017 12:25 PM

My relationship with my father is currently fine, good even. But we have had a complicated past. We have usually shared common interests and growing up he spent more personal time with me than my mother, going on fossil collecting missions every other weekend in the river valley. But as a lawyer he often worked long hours and he always had a particularly cutting way of arguing, finding the statements to hurt and using them. We would scream and yell at each other and I remember at age 21 ready to cut him out of my life. Moving out of the family home cooled us off.

Then he cheated on my mom and rugswept the entire thing, and my mom had compounded family trauma (her twin committed suicide shortly after) and she began to self medicate with alcohol. My dad and us didn't know how to help her, and I had a newborn baby at this point, and sadly her drinking became the focus rather than the trauma (I didn't understand) and he and I became closer at this point trying to help her stop drinking but also being hurt by it. This all happened about 7 years ago.

Currently my mother has successfully fought her demons and lives a more peaceful existence in the cabin beside ours. Dad comes out on the weekends. They seem happy together, but my mother and I are stronger now as a result of my greater understanding of her trauma, and her help and support. I'm still on good terms with my dad but the affair has put a new lens on my view of him. He never did work on himself in the slightest, and it was a confirmed 2 yr ea (never admitted to a PA but we all know distance doesn't matter in that amount of time)...

OwningItNow posted 6/1/2017 14:39 PM

As we really and truly look at ourselves and work to get over our old thinking and patterns, what does that work look like? I thought maybe if people gave examples it would give others ideas about how and where to begin their work.

One big piece of work for me has been to separate from what other people say to me or attempt to make me feel. I realize this is big time FOO for me. Is it for anyone else? It went (and still goes) like this:

Mom: "I have not seen you or the kids in so long."
Owning: "Everyone is busy, mom. As it is I have trouble finding 7 hours to sleep."
Mom: "What about Saturday?"
Owning: (guilt! guilt! start feeling horrible!) "Mom, I need to catch up on sleep and laundry and grocery shopping."
Mom: "Your sister and brother are coming over."
Owning: (guilt! guilt! left out! I am a bad child! She is mad at me.) "Mom, we can't. I'm sorry."
Mom: "Fine. I should have expected this. We are not as important as the rest of your life. Goodbye!!!"

The old, codependent me would show up, bitter and resentful and tired.
The new me says, "Do this for you, Owning. You need your time. You have a right to spend it taking care of yourself. She will have to get over it."

That has been my biggest challenge
: not caving in to judgement and disapproval from others and doing what is right for me.

So hard! But why is it so damn hard?
Has anyone else had to put a lot of effort in this direction?

MissesJai posted 6/1/2017 17:48 PM

So the relationship today is good but there is a history of absenteeism - primarily emotional support - from childhood. There is a connection between this and your fear of being alone. The relationship you have today doesn't undo the past. It's time to explore that.

MissesJai posted 6/1/2017 17:56 PM

But why is it so damn hard?
I struggled with this for years. My mom used guilt to manipulate me into doing so many things that I just didn't want to do. It's hard because your mom programmed you at a very young age to be a people pleaser at all costs, particularly at your own expense. She taught you that self-sacrifice and martrydom are effective.
not caving in to judgement and disapproval from others and doing what is right for me.
this is tough. Getting past this takes hard work. You've got to look at WHY you need the approval of others to the point where you sacrifice yourself. What is the payoff in doing that? Once you start really digging, you'll get to your why's and that is where behavior change happens. I had to do this work in order to break free from my mom's manipulation. My work was and is about self-love, acceptance and self-worth. Once I began to truly love and accept me for who I am, not who I wish I could be, I found my worth and in turn, I found my voice. It can be done - you just have to do the work.

OwningItNow posted 6/2/2017 14:25 PM


Yes, yes, yes.
I had to learn to like myself so much/enough that nobody's disapproval could rock me. Tough!!! It has taken years, but I still have moments where I have to talk myself down because my hurt over someone's negativity takes me by surprise. Don't get me wrong, I have to look at myself objectively. When I do mess up, I own it. But there is no. more. shame. I like me just as I am.

Another HUGE obstacle--not fixing other people's emotions, especially my H. He is a real sad sack at times, and for the first 12 years of our M, I stepped in with my healing powers. Now, I just let him be. He is responsible for figuring out what is going on with him.

Why do I want to help absolutely everyone? Need is like a magnet to my soul.

What about you, MissesJai? What part has been the hardest to overcome or taken the most work?

delilah2016 posted 6/3/2017 06:46 AM

I am getting much better at analyzing why I do things and handling relatives, but I still need a to do lot of work when I think people aren't happy with me at work.

Yesterday a situation came up where I thought two people in a different department might be mad at me and it threw me off for most of the day. I made bad food decisions and it spiraled into a crappy day.

I then helped some people in the afternoon and my depressed thoughts lifted.

I know how screwed up that is and I spent the evening analyzing the "why's". I do understand my "I am not enough" issues from childhood, but undoing the damage is tough!

Lodestar posted 6/3/2017 10:50 AM

I always thought my taking on extra responsibilities and volunteering was a result of my need for recognition and praise and feeling important.

I always thought my need to fix my WHs problems or help him with his worries was normal 'wife-behaviour'.

I thought writing the best thesis at the uni and spending hours and hours in the evenings after work preparing my classes was just a sign of my excellent work-ethic.

I always thought this voice in my head that said 'It's not ok to get the biggest/last piece or whatever' was basic politeness.

I also thought that pushing my WH or kids to adopt that view was just me being thoughtful and a good parent.

I thought my guilt over missing day-care events, pot-luck parties, etc for my DD was a normal feeling for a dedicated mom.

I thought my guilt when asking grandparents babysit was out of consideration for them.

I thought my need to prepare fantastic meals for friends and family coming over or to pot-lucks and parties was pride.

I always thought never expressing my outrage and disappointment when I felt I was treated unfairly was just modesty and conflict avoidance.

And I always thought reprimanding my WH when he *did* express his anger in similar situations was because I was ashamed of his impolite behaviour. And I thought he was overreacting.

I always attributed my need to please others, to be liked and the incessant need to be included in *all* groups to low self-esteem. Still do!

I thought going out of my way to prepare really good, healthy and nutritious meals that I knew my WH liked, to be something all wives and mothers did.

I thought investing time and effort in my WHs hobbies and interests that didn't really excite me was out of love.

I figured forgiving him after d-day#1 and burying my head in the sand on some occasions later on was an approach of an 'independent' person. Or someone trying to retain status quo.

I attributed not going on in depth and length about his 1st OW and never mentioning this again after our decision to R to be a healthy sign of a non-nagging wife and respectful partner.

I always thought taking responsibility for family outings, trips, date nights, etc. was something a 'normal' mother and wife does.

I thought me suggesting books and things to do/read after d-day#2 and concentrating on his 'healing' and becoming a better partner to be my responsibility. Because I knew best. I was the one doing all the reading.

Telling him what I need, based on SI and several books/web-sites to be a sign of openness and honesty.

ETA: I also figured obliging him with sex when I had NO desire to do so was part of my wifely obligation.

Turns out I don't know s***.

[This message edited by Lodestar at 1:29 PM, June 3rd (Saturday)]

realitybites posted 6/3/2017 19:23 PM

Don't feel bad, I could have written that whole thing.

I didn't know Shi* either.

Lodestar posted 6/4/2017 07:25 AM

I just always figured CoD was only connected to (substance) abuse issues.

I have never had any experience with that. My parents are still happily together, no-one in my family drinks more than a glass of beer/wine with dinner or some cognac with dessert. My WH has a beer (occasionally two) after sports or with dinner. None of them smokes. No-one I know does drugs (ok, no-one has after college). Alcoholism and any other substance abuse is a totally foreign thing for me. So it has taken me some time to identify myself with the idea of being CoD.

But with more reading comes wisdom and clarity. Wow. Turns out I am a totally different person than I thought. And that is not a good feeling...

marji posted 6/4/2017 09:07 AM

Lodestar The CoD concept is controversial. Some psychologists reject such a notion. If you're curious to read on you can check out "Codependency Myth." It was originally modeled on the AA concept but that too has faced serious criticsm in recent years. The psych literature on all of this is endless. Personally i like the view that humanness involves dependency--and relations are complex. What you've described seems to me a person who had clear notions of being a good person and good wife. Guess it's a matter of deciding what works and doesn't in terms of happiness rather than applying labels unless of course the labels help.

marji posted 6/4/2017 09:47 AM

PS, Lodestar just now reading your story and thought you might find some good company in the EI group. That's for those of us who partners engaged Emotionaless Infidelity. Your H seems not to have been in a traditional affair nor with prostitues or CLs NSAs but with a single LTA NSA situation.

I related to your saying your H was never late coming home, never did a night out with the boys, etc. Mine was the same. i didn't have a clue for ten years. His EI took place during work hours. It makes for crazy.

Lodestar posted 6/4/2017 14:05 PM

Marji - are you saying you don't see many CoD charcteristics in me? An honest question!

And thanks for the EI recommendation. I have a hard time matching 3+ years of infidelity with the same AP with EI, even though everything seems to point to the fact that no emotions really were included. I have been trying to look intonthe LTA thread, but have mostly failed to see any similarities. So thanks, I'll check out EI!

marji posted 6/4/2017 17:08 PM

I'm saying the very concept of CoD is a construct that some psychologists, MD, etc. regard as bogus. I do too.
So the characteristics that the "too loving" camp would regard as "unhealthy CD" might be regarded by those who reject that concept as just regular personality ways --not necessarily every woman's ways but not unhealthy. Taken further, some would regard the whole CD concept as harmful for women to the extent that it means we're again finding fault with ourselves. Along with everything else going on, now we're seeing ourselves as "enablers" or "codependents" or "too loving."

I think I might not be explaining so well but I found articles re the "codendency myth" very interesting and useful.

I understand you might not feel entirely comfortable in the EI group but if your H really had no emotional attachment--and I know there are cases like that--then maybe it will seem appropriate. Before EI I spent a lot of time in the LTA group and it fit somewhat --actually maybe no one group is perfect but there are great people in all of them and all willing to help. I have found great support, undertanding, information on SI--even humor and good cheer.

delilah2016 posted 6/5/2017 10:43 AM


I read a few of the codependency myth articles. They make some good points that may apply to some, and maybe codependency is over diagnosed, but I do believe that I am codependent and the books on page 1 of this blog have helped me change my life.

My codependency does not only effect my relationship with WH, my codependency effects most relationships in my life. I do things for others that they should be doing themselves to the point that I neglect my own needs. My WH, my kids, my coworkers, my friends. My mother is a narc and from a young age I cared for her, my father, my siblings and myself. I believe that this pattern of caring for others and not being cared for myself led me to live this pattern that has allowed me to be abused by others close to me.

The books on page one have made me realize that my "friends" aren't my friends when I try to make my needs as important as their needs. My coworkers can't come to me anymore to do more than my share of the work. My kids are probably happy that I'm not so involved in their lives anymore . My WH can't be an immature, needy child anymore. He needs to care for me as much as I care for him.

While I'm not up for a debate on this, your articles could "undiagnosed" some that only have this pattern with their spouse. For some of us it is a pattern that plays out with everyone we're in contact with.

You can call this pattern anything you want, but I call it codependent.

[This message edited by delilah2016 at 10:44 AM, June 5th (Monday)]

donewiththatlife posted 6/5/2017 11:11 AM

Hello friends. I got a little crazy at the end of May watching NPD videos on youtube and researching NPD. I made a pledge not to do that in June. I will focus only on my side of the street and how to clean it up.

MissesJai posted 6/5/2017 12:05 PM

What part has been the hardest to overcome or taken the most work?
In my case, my need for control can be debilitating. My house is on the market and this entire process is exposing my control issues.

marji posted 6/7/2017 20:00 PM

Delilah Thank you for sharing your story. It sounds like you've made great changes in your life. And maybe it is really just a matter of labels and of course if a certain designation feels fitting and the discussion is about a way that wasnt giving happiness but shows another way that can, then the important thing is not the word but the experience. I guess after all is said (literally) and done (actually) the question is, is the way we are living, is the way we are choosing bring contentment, joy, satisfaction . . . happiness.

OwningItNow posted 6/7/2017 20:53 PM

Yesterday a situation came up where I thought two people in a different department might be mad at me and it threw me off for most of the day.

I have had to do a lot of work on my professional self and relationships. It is uncomfortable to know people are angry at me, but it is usually their issue and not mine.

Turns out I don't know s***.

Holy heck, Lodestar--you must be friggin' exhausted. Codependency and overgiving at its finest. So, who took care of you then?

I guess after all is said (literally) and done (actually) the question is, is the way we are living, is the way we are choosing bring contentment, joy, satisfaction . . . happiness.

Yes, but that would suppose that you have done enough work and know yourself well enough to know if you are happy. I have several friends on more antianxiety meds, antidepressants, and bottles of wine than they can keep track of, but if you ask them, they are happy! I am extremely worried about one of these friends who is painfully codependent and exhausted while her H is just a lazy, entitled ass.

My question for determining codependency in any relationship is this: if you stopped doing all you do in this R--ALL of it--what would happen?

If the answer is anything less than, "The other person would step up and do what needs to be done," then you are in a codependent relationship.

You give/they take.
You don't give/they are unhappy.
No good.

OwningItNow posted 6/7/2017 21:34 PM

watching NPD videos on youtube and researching NPD.

donewiththatlife, we will have to compare notes! I have read everything on narcissism, twice! My H's IC told him he "has narcissistic tendencies" or is a little bit on the autism spectrum (very self focused). And I had three serious boyfriends before H--all narcissists! I am a narcissist magnet!

But we both know, narcissism + codependency = crazy FOO chemistry! Can't stay apart!

Yes, my research is a form of my control/codependency/overachieving, but I have learned not to inflict it on my relationships anymore (because all those articles I gave everyone to read, and nobody changed a damn thing!).

Lodestar posted 6/8/2017 00:31 AM

Holy heck, Lodestar--you must be friggin' exhausted. Codependency and overgiving at its finest. So, who took care of you then?

Actually, my parents always have. As has my WH, as weird as it sounds. He has always pulled his weight at home. Done more than his share of the chores and (almost) always listened and tried to solve the problems I have.

Friends, not so much. I have a hard time keeping/making close friends. Hate to make myself vulnerable and fear being rejected. So I don't initiate contact too often. I also 'lost' quite few friends when we were living abroad for 4 years. Hard to keep relationships going when you only meet 1-2 a year.

I actually think my biggest problem is not so much CoD, but just general low self-esteem. The first may result from the latter, but I think I do most things not so much out of my need to help others or my belief that my needs are less important and I have to fix everyone else, but more out of my need to be liked. By everyone and in every situation. I need to be the best. Do everything as well as I humanly can. Childhood lessons, maybe as well. My dad always used to tell me 'If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well.' But ultimately it is just my incessant need to belong, to be liked, to be in the 'inner circle', to be included, to be praised and admired. And constant fear of rejection, abandonment, exclusion, lot being liked, not being perfect/best (as a mom, wife, friend, volunteer, teacher, athlete). As simple as that.

Doesn't make me feel any better, though.

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