The not so nice reality of codependency
We have seen over the past 10 years in recovery that opposites attract. In most marriages, one of them leans towards “codependent” thinking and the other leans towards what we call “dominant” thinking. Both types of thinking are a form of control: one passive and the other active control. Codependents seem to gain control by avoiding all responsibility so nothing is their fault. Dominants seem to gain control by taking all responsibility so that everything goes their way . You can see how this is a “good” fit for marriage.
Once upon a time, I believed codependents are people that are married to addicts, such as the wife of an alcoholic. But, this belief fell apart as I realized many of the ladies in the partners recovery group (for wives of sex addicts) could not relate to my codependent thinking. Often, their thinking was more like my husband’s: dominant. My husband saw the same dynamic in the men’s sexual addiction group: many of the men leaned towards codependent thinking.
So, then I wondered: how do we describe the type of person that is attracted to an addict if they are not necessarily a codependent? The answer is quite simple: Unhealthy. Someone that is married to an addict is unhealthy. An unhealthy person is attracted to an unhealthy person. The fact that one of them has gone to an addictive level with a certain behavior is really neither here nor there. They are both simply unhealthy. Unhealthy in different ways for sure. But, at the core, it is all just unhealthy.
Now, this might strike you as odd, but I have seen wives get offended by the suggestion that they might not be codependent. I believe it is because codependency is sometimes viewed as a “good, nice-person” issue, but this could not be further from the truth. I want to point out the ugly truths about codependent thinking. There are many aspects to this thinking, but I am going to focus on just one in this post: codependents hate responsibility. We avoid it at all costs. If I may, allow me to walk through what my codependent avoidance of responsibility looks like.
I want others to make all the decisions.
I want others to make all the decisions. This is not necessarily seen on the surface. But, here is an example: the very common “What do you want to do?” fight. Here’s how it plays out in our home.
Sam (my husband): “Where do you want to go for dinner?”
Me: “I don’t know. I don’t care. Where do you want to go?”
Sam: “Well, I was thinking Olive Garden sounds good.”
Me: “Maybe. Maybe something else?”
Sam: “OK, how about Outback?”
Me: “I don’t know. That doesn’t sound very good.”
Sam: “Well, I thought you didn’t care. Where do you want to go?”
Me: “Well, I don’t know. I guess we’ll just go where you want.”
Then, if the restaurant he chose does not turn out well, I blame him because he is the one that made the decision. I avoid decisions because if I make the decision, I am responsible for the outcome. I would rather have someone else to blame. This thinking happens in silly things like restaurant choice but also in major decisions like job change. Basically, I will get other people’s opinions, see it as them making the decision for me, and then blame them if it does not work out. On the surface, it might seem like I am just very humble, but in truth, I do not want to be responsible for a decision that does not turn out well.
I want others to define my reality and who I am.
I want others to define my reality and who I am. I do not want to take responsibility for figuring out who I am; what I like and dislike; what I believe; or what God is calling me to do. I require others to define all this for me so that I do not feel responsible for decisions. Because I rely on others to define these things for me, it angers me if someone does not agree with what I am doing. I get angry that they are “forcing” me into a place where I have to either make a decision on my own or do what they think I should do to avoid making a decision on my own. My reality is defined by others. In recovery, I may appear agreeable about everything while silently blaming others when things do not turn out right, even if I only half-heartedly applied their feedback.
I do not have boundaries.
My codependent avoidance of responsibility is also the reason I do not have boundaries with others. Having healthy boundaries often upsets those that are impacted, so it requires making the decision to have boundaries and be healthy regardless of the response. It requires me to take responsibility for my boundaries and the outcomes. That is not appealing to me. So, I avoid boundaries. I prefer to remain the victim and just be angry with those that keep hurting me. I do not want to take responsibility for my choices, which includes my continuous decision to not have boundaries.
I am regularly angry.
My avoidance of any responsibility of course leaves me feeling angry with others quite often because it is their fault when things do not turn out the way I want. Often, I am silently angry. But, it eventually comes out. For me, this anger normally presents itself in extreme emotion. For others, this anger may come out in violent bursts of rage.
The desire to avoid responsibility is destructive and completely wrong. God holds each of us responsible for our own choices. Putting this responsibility on others is cruel. And, healthy people do not want to accept responsibility for someone else’s choices. This is why codependents and dominants tend to be a “good” fit for marriage. Dominants tolerate this lack of responsibility because it fits well with their desire to feel in control. They want to make the decisions and be seen as the responsible and wise one; so, as a codependent, a dominant is my dream spouse! What dominants do not realize is that codependents will seem to allow them to make all the decisions but not out of respect or love, rather out of a self-centered desire to avoid responsibility. It will seem like a great deal until the dominant realizes they are being blamed for everything. Further, codependents are constantly trying to manipulate others into making the decisions they want.
The truth is: I can try to gain a feeling that I am not responsible for my choices and actions, but God holds me accountable regardless of how I feel about it. I am always convicted when I read verses in the Bible talking about how God holds me personally accountable, and He knows my heart. I will eventually stand before Him, with no one else to blame for my choices. Codependency is not a nice issue. It is not a light issue. It needs to be taken seriously and dealt with.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10
“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” 1 Chronicles 28:9
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” Hebrews 4:12-13