Thursday, 3 March 2011

The Co-Dependancy 'thing'

Copied from a forum post:

Ok, I am struggling with this whole concept.

Firstly, Lundy says:
"when an abused woman refuses to "look at her part" in the abuse, she has actually taken a powerful step out of self-blame and toward emotional recovery. She doesn't have any responsibility for his actions. Anyone who tries to get her to share responsibility is adopting the abuser's perspective."
I feel this goes totally against the whole 'co-dependancy' concept. But I'm wondering if I'm missing the point somewhere?

I don't know if I'm in denial here, but I don't think I am (but then how do you know).

When I look at my story I would say that I feel like I was scammed. Every time something happened in our relationship that was unacceptable I sought to find out what the cause was, and whether I could fix it.
Example, initially we were young and people told me he was just immature and he would grow out of it. He also was using some drugs and when I researched it I found that some of the problems he had were common in people using those drugs. So I gave him an ultimatum and he stopped using those drugs. Then it was a 'self esteem' problem. I researched it, spoke to people and tried to find ways to help his self esteem. Then it was exhaustion caused by having young children and a stressful job. I could empathised and tried to practically help. When I thought I could fix it no more we went to couples counselling where I was told it was a communication problem and that my husband might have Asperger's Syndrome. I was given ideas to help. We went to see an expert and my husband was assessed and we were told he did, indeed, have Asperger's. There is a raft of information and literature about this and suddenly everything was rationalised.

At no point did someone say to me "your husband is emotionally abusive". I sought help and advice from loads and loads of 'experts' and also friends and family. Nobody ever said his behaviour was unacceptable, though I described it in detail. Everyone said 'oh my husband is like that' or 'it's a part of his asperger's, he is physically unable to understand your emotional needs' or 'all men do that' or whatever.

I am co-dependant now, I think. I am co-dependant as a result of the abuse I have experienced. I wasn't co-dependant when we met. I was empathetic, loving, innocent, trusting, generous, forgiving. Probably totally naiive and maybe unsure of myself (I was only 19 years old). I feel like I've been scammed and tricked. I feel like so many people have played along with the trick.

I genuinely had no idea that my husband was just plain old abusive. I believed that there were all these issues that I could help to fix and then it would be OK, because it wasn't just him telling me - it was all these other so-called experts!

My husband was physically abusive 3 times in 14 years, verbally abusive just once. He was emotionally abusive which is so much subtler and more difficult to identify! Hell, Lundy Bancroft has to devote a whole chapter to the topic of how to tell if behaviour is abusive or your partner is having a bad day! Surely that should tell us that it isn't as easy as making a choice not to be treated like that??!

As soon as I realised that it wasn't immaturity/low self esteem/childhood issues/Aspergers but that he was abusive and trying to subtly control me, we separated.

Maybe my story is different from other's, but I just don't believe that I have been co-dependant from the start and have chosen to stay in an abusive relationship.

Anyway, I've rambled enough but I appreciate hearing what other people think on this topic. Like I say, maybe I'm just in denial and it will take longer for me to gain a more objective view. I just can't help distrusting a concept which is.... subtly... saying that it is slightly the woman's fault that she stayed there.


  1. Do you ever wonder whether it would have been "easier" if he had been obviously physically abusive? Whether you would have had more support from your nearest and dearest? I think a lot of women have been knocked down verbally by their partners in various ways. Some of what you relate is really familiar to me. In fact some of it reminds me of my eldest son's behaviour towards me, picking a fight and twisting it to be my fault (over a period of time) but thankfully he left home and get on great now. Of course once you have lost your own confidence and forget what is reasonable then how can you ever "get out" of a relationship? It is never as easy as picking up a bag and walking out. It's still not easy for you now. At least this blog will remind you of the reasons for the breakup and the conditions under which you will accept him back. It does sound as though he is taking the actions of his own accord and taking it seriously. This can only be a good sign.
    My ex used to make me feel completely unreasonable and everything was my fault. Even now (after 16 years) we can have a conversation that leaves me feeling bad/inadequate/stupid and then afterwards I see reason. If there is no space to step away how can you ever get your mo jo back?
    Love - Rose x

  2. Thanks for your comment Rose :-)

    He does seem to be taking it seriously, and his reactions to everything have been really different to a 'classic abuser' reaction so I've been surprised. Whether this leads to him truly changing his beliefs and values... well, I really have no idea.

    You are right, it's really common, I seem to see this emotionally abusive, controlling aspect in quite a few relationships now that I know more about it!! Frightening really.

    If someone punches you in the face, most rational people will acknowledge that is wrong and be supportive. If someone just tells you you are doing something wrong, or that you are a bit lazy or rubbish at X, Y or Z when you don't believe that to be the case, or all the other confusing things that they do - well, it's hard to explain and impossible to understand unless you've been there :-/ If he had gone further and hit me (he did hit me once, and kicked me hard once too but only those times in 14 years) or physical violence had gone from 2 one-offs to an escalating pattern then it would have been easier for me to identify. Do you know what I mean?

    Anyway, I'm working on my mo jo :-D



I appreciate all your comments, advice and support.