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Is codependency the death of my marriage?

5368 Views 5 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  KathyBatesel
My wife and I are having troubles. Not sure where we are headed, no one has used the D word yet but it may be coming. Let me give some background:

FOO issues caused serious anxiety/depression/self-esteem issues in me for a majority of my life. Met my wife and got married and she took on more of a codependent role with me—solving all my problems, soothing my emotional needs, protecting me from anything that might “hurt” me, never telling me when something I did annoyed or upset her, etc. We never argued or disagreed on anything. I was blissfully unaware of anything bad looming in our relationship. We have 2 beautiful daughters, and I slowly became more and more complacent with how well she treated me. She almost always initiated affection, sex, conversations, etc, and she was glad to do it “because she loved me so much”. Pretty much the only thing that I was good at was going to work—I have a GREAT job and she stays at home until both of our girls are of school age (one more year to go). She is an intelligent, highly motivated person who is eager to enter the workforce, but willingly stayed at home because we thought it was best.

Little did I know “resentment” was building inside her, and making it worse was her codependency—the need to control everyone’s behavior (including mine). She was so worried I might be hurt by “bad news” that she never once mentioned she was losing feeling for me. She is from South America and in May she took both of our girls on a 3-month trip to her country. It was a long-anticipated trip, and was an incredible experience for the girls. Well, once she got down there away from me, all the resentment came spilling out and she realized that she had very little feeling left for me. She enjoyed her friends and being independent, and then ended up having a month-long affair with an old boyfriend. She struggled to find the desire to come home, but she did (I can’t even imagine the legal/emotional trouble involved when a spouse doesn’t return to the States with their children). She admitted everything to me in July, and I accepted her back into the house and told her I loved her and we would make this work with counseling and hard efforts. She stopped contacting the OM, and now admits it was a mistake. She gave me access to all computer/phone accounts and I know for sure she doesn’t talk to him any more. She is very sorry for what she did to me, but she still doesn’t feel the same like it used to be. I understand how she wouldn’t want to go back to what it was because it was an emotionally unhealthy relationship.

Fast forward to now. It’s been an emotional roller coaster. I have been coming to terms with all my FOO problems for once. I have been still looking to her for emotional rescue, but she is unavailable. That’s fine, because I need to stand up for myself finally. Through counseling and my own hard work, I’ve been able to take ownership of the 50% of the problems I brought to the marriage. I have begun to conquer the inner demons that raged inside me for so long…I’m making a LOT of progress. I’m a decent guy, great father and good companion. I love her deeply, and now realize how much I helped to create a huge divide between us.

The problem I have is my wife has rolled everything up into the codependency issue. She is in the middle of the “detachment” phase, and she tells me she doesn’t care what I’m feeling because she just can’t rescue me. She is mostly cold and indifferent. She says she doesn’t really know if she wants this marriage to work any more, but she won’t know for sure until she recovers from the codependent behavior. So what do I do, watch the slow death of my marriage until she decided it’s over? I’m willing to do a LOT to build a new relationship on the ashes of our old one, but I can’t sit here feeling so alone while she “heals herself”. I’ll admit I was a doormat for a long time, even up until 2 weeks ago, but that was before I finally woke up—I have at least SOME pride! I still have a long way to go to fix myself emotionally, but I want a marriage with her. Do I confront her on this issue or have more compassion and let her work things out? I’m not sure I want to push her to decide it’s over when she may actually come around and decide to make a new beginning with me. That’s what I want. So what do I do in the mean time—180?
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180 is recommended for when you are pretty close to accepting the marriage is over which does not seem to be your case.

I would suggest reading the five languages of love and his needs her needs. Ask your wife to read them also. If nothing else it will show her you seriously want to save your marriage.

Other, wiser heads may have better advice.
I'm not sure what FOO is, unless you mean Family of Origin issues, which includes everyone! First, you refer to your wife as codependent. It's a "Co-" relationship, meaning it takes two. You're equally dependent. Yes, you're wife is in the "counter-dependent" phase. Both of you lost your independence. Continue to work on yourself and your codependency. Develop interests and friends other than marriage and work. Even if she leaves, on top of the grief you'll feel, you'll need to do that. Learn to create your own happiness, independent of your wife. This attracts others. My book is very useful with lots of self-help exercises is "Codependency for Dummies."
Darlene Lancer MFT
One of the problems with healing from codependency issues is something Darlene touched on. Codependents have to learn how to detach, but they also have to learn how not to.

There's plenty of great info about how to detach, but it lacks guidance on how to demonstrate caring and love. It seems people often go through a prolonged period of thinking that the whole world should revolve around them and their values, and that anyone who doesn't should be kicked to the curb. I believe a lot of counseling can encourage this inadvertently, too.

I like to use this example, and it might be helpful to you and your wife:

A detached relationship looks like the capital letter H. Two people are doing their own thing, with little connection between them. The connection is at the heart level, but there is no meeting of the minds. This can be what results from people who never really connected strongly in the first place, but it can also happen with the detachment that comes from healing codependency issues.

An enmeshed or codependent relationship looks like the capital letter I. Two people are so enmeshed that it's hard to see their individuality and differences. The relationship stands on one footing, usually the codependent's, but in their heads they're going in different directions from each other.

This might only be glimpsed when they're away from each other for a while, like when your wife took her vacation, because otherwise they are still totally tied up in one another while one's at work and the other at home. When those absences take place, it's easy for a person to suddenly remember the person they used to be and resent the loss of their personal identity.

A healthy relationship resembles the letter A. Two people with distinct identities consistently lean toward each other. They are connected at the head and the heart, but still have their own firm footing. Without the mutual support of each other, the A relationship collapses.

In healing from codependency, it's important for both of you to learn to keep your own footing and still be supportive. Your wife is moving from I to H, when she needs to find that meeting of the minds and heart that will let your relationship be an A.
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Kathy wrote a beautiful description and I love the visual.:) If we're doing alphabet soup, this marriage may be a K with only Z-man connecting. Yes, detachment is much misunderstood, which is why I call it nonattachment in my book. It really allows you to be MORE loving since you're not imposing your agenda on others. I suggest you check that when you want to share with your wife you aren't seeking her approval or advice, as that will push her away. If you're asking questions, learning to be assertive will help.

I offer Free "14 Tips for Letting Go" on my website at What Is Codependency? Codependency Symptoms and Recovery by Darlene Lancer, MFT
I also
Ooh, I might have to add that K to my repertoire!
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