The so-called ’Path To Freedom’ is constantly on my mind. For anyone not in the know, this is my personal journey out of codependency with a focus on improving my personal individual life and my marriage. My wife has also been doing her own work and together we have produced some spectacular results over the past few weeks, become closer and feel more ’together’. Even though part of the dsyfunction was down to factors other than us as people ( living on three continents in five years, obvious cultural differences and expectations, different temperaments, bureaucracy associated with moving), we could have done things better. I cannot speak for her but I certainly could have.
At present, I appear to be frequently testing myself on the goals I have set as I make a concerted effort to manage codependency in my marriage. I am fairly happy at present with the results even though results are hard to quantify in real terms. I have judged my success on how much I am developing as an individual, my purpose going forward and how I can avoid jumping in and ’fixing’. Life in family Jenner is busy as always, both of us working long hours (have to personally watch workaholic tendencies) and planning quality time at the weekends plus all the things that have to be normally done to run a household, two businesses and a relationship. It seems the time goes past fairly quickly and things can get away from you as you get involved in daily life.
This is true for both of us but I have irrationally given myself the added responsibility of trying to interfere in my wife’s life as well. That has all now finished and after one year, I am content with the idea that the path has led to freedom. I am happy with how things have gone and the lessons I learned to make sure that it continues that way. This post is about those lessons in the hope that it may help someone to start or continue their journey.
So what did I do? The main thing was that I took a good look at myself. A very good look. Here are the important aspects for me:
- Focus. Codependents tend to focus on and attempt to control their object of codependency. This focus can leave them obsessed with becoming indispensable in the life of others. This is required in order to gain return such as devotion, admiration and affection. However, it is purely a control method and will ultimately fail. In addition to this, codependents sometimes involve themselves with people who have their own control agenda. It is easy to label everyone in a relationship with a codependent as a narcissist but codependents are also threatened by independence too. This was the case with me. My focus has been on meeting my own needs for validation, not seeing my wife as ’the problem’ and allowing her to have her own personal space. This was by far, the hardest part of this whole process as I have a natural protective mindset, especially around women. I have accepted that my wife does not need to be protected by me, outside of normal limits. She is a woman who has succeeded in a mans world in the middle East starting from nothing. While she is an inspiration to me, she can certainly look after herself. However, for my codependency, I always saw her as a victim which I needed to, to be able to justify my actions.
- Behaviour. Codependents can be angry people and use anger to dominate as part of the drama triangle. That’s not me but I could be very passive aggressive and play the victim. Shutting down and pouting was designed to show exactly how I was feeling without saying anything. Work it out for yourself was my motto. It was all a control method in order to gain the upper hand, make her feel sorry for me and obligate her into seeing me as a victim [this never worked]. Codependents get their needs met through victimhood and is a default method.
- Boundaries. This is an ugly word for a codependent. Boundaries are there to distinguish one person from another. This is something that is alien to anyone who has codependency and the preferred method is to enmesh, control and enable. Standing back from the feeling that I cannot do ’everything’ for her was hard. It left an empty space that needed to be filled. Initially, I didn’t know how to fill it but it soon dawned on me as I recognise the need to meet my own needs and also identified what I had been denying myself.
- Individuality. When I talk to codependents about their relationships, I often talk about purpose and identity. They too often adopt the identity and values of the person they are with. I have found it is vitally important to have that personal space and purpose and allow others to have the same. It makes the time spent together much richer. My wife often complained of me being ’too much’ or ’smothering’. I took offense at this because in my mind, I was ’the good guy’, caring about her. When I heard this, I would play passive aggressive, withdraw and send the message that I was unhappy without saying a word. I acknowledge that must have been very hard to live with. Over the last year, I have pursued various individual goals. I am not an extrovert so they are limited to more focus on how I can concentrate more on me, my physical and mental health. I seem to be finding out more about myself, relating more to my journey.
I have often said that a traditional ’recovery’ from codependency is a simplistic view of the issue. It is more about management and codependents are usually only one thought away from relapse. Many ’recovery’ programmes are based on focussing on the ’damage’ done to others and making amends. While it is important to acknowledge the impact codependency might have on people involved, it is within ourselves that we need to find true peace. As I said recently, a good dose of AA for codependents is what is truly needed and I am not talking about a 12 step programme here. Awareness of where codependency started, analysis of the patterns and action taken is the basic remedy.
I am happier at this point than I have been for many years and I have added capacity for self-love which also helps me to love others. I am also proud of myself in a healthy sense for finally taking this in hand and doing something about it. Living in denial has done me no good at all.
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Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner’s approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients’ internal “parts,” or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.