9 Ways To Stop Being Codependent (They’re Not What You Think)
Definition Of Codependent
Codependent is defined as a person who enables someone else’s lies, porn use, infidelity or abuse. The label codependent carries with it the implication that the victim is in some way responsible for the crimes against her. However, therapists and clergy often misuse this term to keep victims of abuse in the abuse cycle. In order to get out, here are 10 Ways To Stop Being Codependent
1. Don’t Mislabel Yourself
The most effective way to stop being codependent is simply to realize that you aren’t. Your behaviors are likely a way to attempt to establish safety while being victimized by someone. Usually so-called codependent behaviors don’t show up before someone is victimized. Don’t take responsibility for your abuser’s actions by twisting reality to somehow make his actions your fault. It doesn’t matter what you did, he is responsible for his own actions. You do not have the power to control someone else.
2. Learn About Betrayal Trauma
Betrayal Trauma happens when a woman finds out she has been repeatedly lied to, cheating on and abused. Realizing you’re in this situation is a process. Most people don’t realize that abuse victims generally don’t know they are being abused. When they find out, it’s shocking. The trauma that comes from realizing your life is nothing like what you thought it was is part of Betrayal Trauma.
3. Understand Your Motivation
It is normal for victims of lies, porn use, infidelity and abuse to develop behaviors in an attempt to establish safety in your life. Asking questions, following up with your husband to find out where he was, tracking his phone or checking his email are normal partner behaviors. Victims are on hyper-alert as they attempt to feel some semblance of safety. Most therapists and clergy get sucked into the abusers way of thinking – that these behaviors are harmful to the abuser and must stop for the abuser to feel safe. However, knowing that actions like these are a natural, normal response will help you find your voice and establish the peace and safety you deserve.
4. Objectively Evaluate The Coping Skills You’ve Used To Survive So Far
You cannot enable an abuser. They abuse you or they don’t. Their actions are totally their responsibility. Most victims of lies, infidelity and abuse create coping mechanisms to survive. In survival mode, it’s difficult to think creatively. That’s part of the abuse – keeping you so confused and in pain that you don’t think through your options. Not being able to figure out reality or set boundaries are typical in abuse victims because their reality is being twisted by their abuser. Abuse victims often use coping skills to survive the abuse. They are often labeled by therapists and clergy who don’t understand abuse as codependent. You’re not codependent if you remain silent for fear that you will be punched if you speak up. You are afraid. Identify what you are doing to cope with the lies, infidelity, and abuse. Then you can see if those coping mechanisms provide safety or keep you stuck.
5. People Who Don’t Understand Betrayal Trauma Can Hinder Your Ability To Be Safe By Labeling You Codependent
Being labeled codependent does not help victims of lies, infidelity and abuse get to safety. In fact, for a lot of women, being labeled a codependent is traumatizing in and of itself. For example, for a woman who just found out about her husband’s compulsive sexual behavior, after years of not knowing anything about it, it feels like a huge, heavy, dangerous, dark weight just thrust upon your shoulders – and now you have to do something about it or it won’t stop. It erroneously puts the responsibility of saving family on her shoulders – rather than on the shoulders of the perpetrator. He is the only one who can save the family by changing his thoughts, attitudes, words and behaviors. Imagine being referred to as a co-murderer? That little co prefix to some of us implies that we are cooperating or collaborating or connected to this thing that we don’t want anything to do with – it can really be damaging and overwhelming.
6. It’s Not Your Fault You Married An Abuser – It’s His Fault For Being An Abuser
Wives who have the term codependency thrust upon them often feel likes it’s an indictment upon them for choosing their husband. Often the implication is that because you chose him, it’s a negative reflection on you or a condemnation. This way of thinking overlooks and minimizes the fact that women were lied to, manipulated, and deceived. Knowing that seems to diffuse the guilt associated with choosing an emotionally unhealthy husband.
7. You’re Not In Denial & You’re Not Delusional
Codependent also implies a sense of self-denial or self delusion, like we’ve somehow put our head in the sand. Unlike other chemical dependencies like alcohol or drugs, which happen in front of your eyes, lies, abuse, porn use, compulsive sexual behaviors aren’t visible. It’s difficult for women when they hear the term codependent, it suggests they weren’t attuned to their relationship or they didn’t have enough self awareness – that somehow they should have known. I hear that one a lot, “How did I not know?” Or other people ask them that same question. It’s not your fault that someone lied to you and you believed him. It’s not you fault that your husband is untrustworthy and you didn’t know that. That’s his fault.
8. Being Called Codependent Causes Victims To Withdraw & Isolate
Being forced to bear the responsibility for your abusers harm against you is intolerable. If a woman is not seen, heard, or validated, it’s safer to isolate because it’s like being told that we shouldn’t focus on the harm of the abuse. It’s like us screaming and yelling for help because our house is on fire, and someone telling you, “Don’t worry about the flames. Just vacuum like you’re supposed to and the flames will take care of themselves.” That advice puts women at risk for burning to death.
While it’s healthy to isolate from unsafe people and set boundaries around secondary abuse, it’s also necessary to create a safe support network.
9. Secondary Trauma Caused By The Codependent Model
We can be re-traumatized or have secondary trauma from therapists who tell us, “I know you’re house is burning down, but don’t focus on that right now.” For me, when I went to therapy, the therapists never addressed the fact that I was being abused continually – they told me to focus on myself. But focusing on myself didn’t stop the abuse when I don’t know how to set boundaries around my husband’s unhealthy behaviors.
I have secondary trauma because of some harmful ways my church leader dealt with the situation, secondary trauma from several of the therapists that my husband worked with. I’ve been through years of therapy, and it wasn’t until I found APSATS that I even heard the term treatment induced trauma.
Being a survivor of treatment induced trauma myself, and being a survivor of church leader induced trauma – being aware that it can happen and getting the most qualified help you can get is essential. Especially if you’re dealing with someone who exhibits narcissistic personality disorder behaviors, they can convince all the people around them of their alternate reality. You can feel so alone and scared. Having a community and a coach who can help you navigate you that from a safe space is so helpful.