This week we meet R. An elderly woman who has been married for 40 years to an emotionally distant husband in a very dysfunctional relationship. The physical side of their relationship is non-existent and things at home are complicated by the fact that their 35-year-old son still lives at home. Her husband tries to spend as little time as possible with her and R’s feelings about the situation move in cycles. Here is her story.
I do everything for these two. I cook, I clean, I look after them 24 hours a day. I even get my son up, make his bed and make breakfast for him while he is showering. This is my job and my life. I know no other way. I love it, yet I hate it because I get nothing back from them at all apart from more demands and criticism when they don’t get what they want. I feel I am trapped and no-one can help me. I should leave but I don’t. Where would I go? Who would have me..an old tired woman with my health issues? No, I am better off with the “devil I know”. I guess this will be my life now until the end and oh, how I sometimes wish that would come. I see my life as pointless. I am scorned by the people I love and have no life of my own. The only time I get any attention from them is if I ignore them for a day or two or feign illness. Then they rally around for a while until they see me as better and then it starts again. Nothing can help me….therapy, tablets or any changes that get suggested once in a while. HOW DO I STOP IT. ? IF I COULD I WOULD HAVE DONE SO YEARS AGO.
R is a classic codependent with a victim mentality. She martyrs herself with the expectation that she will get affection, validation and love in return. She has seen many therapists of different persuasions (not to mention, GPs and neurologists) and nothing has ever broken her cycle of thinking. She is very resitant to changing anything about her life. It is not because she can’t. It is because she won’t. She complains constantly about her husband and son but actually controls them with her behavior using silent treatment and exhibiting a victim mentality. When they provide her with what she wants, she is perfectly ok but goes back to irrational behavior, hypocondria and martyrdom as soon as they fall out of line. She sees sacrifice as a way of gaining what she needs. Therapy for R brought little change and in fact, the therapist had to be constantly observant that they themselves were not manipulated. R is a full-blown controlling codependent and chooses to be that way. Until she chooses a different path, nothing will change for her.