I established a challenge for myself a few months ago, which I detailed in a recent article. In a nutshell, it described my struggles with codependency, particularly with regard to my wife, Inass, who had a difficult time dealing with that aspect of me. It was tough to reveal that side of myself publicly, let alone to be vulnerable. It was liberating, and the experience benefited me. I’d like to document here how I’m doing with the rules I’ve established for myself and the guidelines I’m following. This of course, is not to say that changes on the other side are not being made but I can only concentrate on me and what I need to do. The key is the willingness to engage in change for genuine reasons, not just to people please or have in the background, I will do this and know it won’t last.
This is not something that has suddenly come into my conscious mind. I knew all along that what I was doing was not right but chose to ignore that. Why did I do that? Because I believed in the concept that if I could be indispensable and cover all bases, I would be secure and safe in the knowledge that no-one would leave someone who gives so much. Of course, that is not true now and was not true then. As a result of this, I lost my identity and enmeshed myself into pleasing. My professional life went on without effect but my private life was different. I continued this until my wife’s intervention opened my eyes and like anyone who is about to lose something, change came.
In this article, I want to take an honest look at how I have been really doing since I introduced rules for myself. My overall evaluation is that I have moved forward on some points but continue to struggle with others. Others, I have had real difficulty with and remain a work in progress. I would give myself 5 out of 10 if I wanted to grade myself. Fairly disappointing at first glance but the intention is to improve sustainably, not find quick fixes.
I am hoping that anyone who sees the need to do the same as me in their life will find encouragement and hope in my journey.
- Only help when asked. Here I feel I have made some progress. I have resisted the urge to jump in and find solutions and have reasonably helped when asked. On one occasion, I did say that I couldn’t at that point which left me with a feeling of guilt for a period of time. I am the kind of person who can be taken advantage of if I do not set healthy boundaries around myself and I have had to watch that. I have also been aware of how well my wife copes with things without my help which I refused to see before. Painting her as a helpless victim who needed me played into my narrative of codependency. I often got irritated if my help was rejected and acted out in a passive aggressive manner. I feel I have made good strides forward here.
- Be Genuine and emotionally honest. I must admit, I have struggled here. On a number of occasions, I have not said what I really felt at the time even when prompted. This brought up shame and resentment and I could feel that building. There is a fine line between letting something go and swallowing it down. I also felt threatened by the emotional honesty coming from my wife which initiated victim like feelings and a » I am a terrible person » type thinking. If I cannot arrest this, it will play out as usual and be all spewed out at once. I am , however, conscious of the need to be emotionally honest and I am trying. It is a new world for me and I sense it will take time.
- Drop the entitlement. This has got better. I have been largely conscious of my need for return and have tried to help in a genuine sense. I have talked myself through various incidents where my natural thinking started to go in the direction of »well, I did this for you, so…. ». That is a constant conversation I need to have with my entitlement voice that tells me that I am owed something for my sacrifice.
- Be an individual: Here is where I have struggled the most. My wife was recently away on a business trip and I coped really well, doing things for myself, being adventurous, keeping a strict routine outside of work, meeting my needs for exercise, etc. This appeared to stop when she came back as my need to be with her outweighed my need for my own needs. Some of this is natural and I am planning otherwise but it seemed to be a sharp, sudden ascent into codependent behaviour. This is a real work in progress for me and the way I talk to myself is crucial. I consolidate the fact that my needs are important and when I do something alone, we can do something together afterwards. I remind myself that she also needs some alone time too.
- Take responsibility and show leadership: This is a tricky one for me. There is a fine line between leadership and responsibility in a genuine sense and taking over in a codependent sense. We work well as a team and my wife sets good boundaries when needed. We have our responsibilities in and outside the relationship and a part to play individually in future plans. I just need to be aware of point one above!
- Other: I have struggled but successfully talked myself through feelings of victimhood. »I’m not getting enough, so I’m not enough », »I am treated badly, so I am bad », »The relationship is not good enough, so I’m not good enough. Victimhood and shaming. I tell myself this is not about my wife or even the present moment and I remind myself of the many good things we have, the plans we have, etc. My wife is honest, brutally honest sometimes but no-one can ever say that they don’t know where they stand with her. This has helped me cope with the blurred lines I have around me.
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Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a counseling psychotherapist in online private practice working with individuals, couples and groups, dealing with codependency issues, severe depression, bipolar, personality disorders, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders and other mental health issues. He has been practicing online for many years and recognized early that online therapy was a convenient method for people to meet their therapist. Working outside the box, he goes that extra mile to make sure clients have access to help between sessions, something that is greatly appreciated. He also gives part of his spare time up to mentor psychology students in a university setting.
For more information, please visit: www.drnjenner.com