Last week we started exploring codependency, a pattern of relating that negatively affects many marriages.
Quite a few times I’ve been asked,
How does codependency start?
The roots of codependency are established in childhood in response to a dysfunctional family setting with chaos, trauma, abuse, neglect and/or mistreatment. The child may experience shaming, judgements, blaming, unrealistic expectations, or manipulation.
Becoming a codependent isn’t a choice. It’s a response to being raised in an atmosphere that is less than stable.
If you are codependent, it isn’t your fault.
But it IS your responsibility to address and work towards recovery. Left alone, your codependency WILL get worse, and potentially destroy important relationships with – your spouse, your kids or your close friends.
How does codependency look?
As a codependent wife, early in marriage, I thought navigating my husband’s thoughts and actions was the best expression of my love for him. Being an educator, I ‘schooled’ him on finance and what I thought were the best decisions about money planning. I showed him how he should guide his daughters from a previous relationship. I dictated family vacations, free time, and even what time to leave for church on Sunday.
I was pretty sure his world would stop spinning without my direction and ‘helpful hints.’
What is the consequence of codependency?
Because I spent so much time and energy manipulating my husband in our early years, it isn’t surprising I experienced a good deal of pushback. His interest in martial arts peaked during this time and he retreated to the gym so frequently that he even competed in the ring several times – and won!
Though pursuing personal dreams in marriage is good, I was frustrated and frequently left with only two little ones for stimulating conversation. We’d entered a downward spiral – the more he avoided me, the harder I tried to change him, the faster he retreated. I believe my pushy behaviors actually pushed him out of the house more than if I had been a pleasant and encouraging wife.
An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
Proverbs 31: 10-11
Take a long moment and consider whether you are the wife described above in Proverbs 31: 10-11, or the wife longing for more time and intimacy with your mate.
Which is it?
If you’re still unsure whether you are a codependent or not, read this checklist of classic behaviors.
Where are you in your marriage? If you are in the early years of your married life, this is the perfect time to establish healthy patterns of interacting with your husband. If you’re in the thick-of-it, this is the perfect time to change… your SELF.
Next week we’ll continue this series by unpacking one of the most grievous characteristics of codependency – lack of boundaries.
Looking at codependency is difficult, but can change your marriage forever. It did mine.
I dare you!
Read Dare to Respect, the tale of 6 wives whose marriages changed forever.