9 Ways To Stop Being Codependent (They’re Not What You Think)
***Podcast disclaimer: Early in Anne’s healing journey, as are many women, she was exposed to the codependency model for recovery from being married to a sex addict. She has since realized that she and other wives of addicts have truly experienced betrayal trauma.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery no longer supports the codependency model because it has been found to cause more harm than good. Betrayal Trauma Recovery strictly uses the trauma model for assisting women who are seeking peace and safety amid the chaos of their reality.
Anne continues to utilize the 12-step manual for developing and improving her own relationship with God. Anne now uses the trauma model for her own healing. You can find more about her thoughts on this podcast here.***
What Is A Codependent?
Many women who find out about their husband’s pornography or sex addiction are labeled as codependent, co-addict, or co-sex addict. These terms are used interchangeably and are extremely harmful not just to the wife of an addict, but to the addict themselves.
The label, codependent or co-addict, takes accountability away from the addict.
You can learn more about codependency and abuse here. It also minimizes what we have been through and what has happened to us as wives of addicts.
If you are new to your own healing, you may be wondering if you are codependent.
A codependent, as applied to spouses of addicts, is defined as a person who enables someone else's lies, porn use, infidelity or abuse.
Labels are powerful tools. They can help or hinder us in our progress towards healing and recovery. The label codependent implies that the victim is, somehow responsible for the addict’s behavior. She is responsible for the crimes against her.
While it is empowering to believe that you have some control over someone else, it is also not the reality. Sometimes, professionals and clergy use the term codependent and end up keeping a victim of abuse in the abuse cycle. You can stop being codependent.
9 Ways To Stop Being Codependent:
1. Stop Labeling Yourself As Codependent—You Aren’t
The most effective way to stop being codependent is to realize that you aren't codependent.
Your behaviors are, likely, an attempt to establish safety. 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 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. Stop Saying It’s Codependency—It’s Betrayal Trauma
Betrayal Trauma happens when a woman finds out she has been repeatedly lied to, cheated 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 not what you thought it was is part of betrayal trauma.
3. Stop Saying Safety-Seeking Is Codependent—You Need Safety
It is normal for victims of lies, porn use, infidelity and abuse to develop behaviors to establish safety in their 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, when you've been lied to. Victims are hyper-alert as they attempt to feel some semblance of safety.
Many therapists and clergy get sucked into the abuser’s way of thinking—that these behaviors are harmful to the abuser and must stop for the abuser to feel safe.
However, understanding that these actions are a natural, normal response to the abuse will help you find your voice and establish the peace and safety you deserve.
4. Stop Believing You Are An Enabler—You Didn’t Know About It
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 develop mechanisms to cope and survive. 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 has been twisted by their abuser.
Abuse victims often use coping behaviors to survive the abuse. These behaviors 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’re also not codependent if you remain silent because you feel no one will believe you about the abuse.
If you are afraid for your physical or emotional safety, you are not enabling, you are trying to stay safe.
Identify what you are doing to cope with the lies, infidelity, and abuse. Then you can see if those coping behaviors provide safety or keep you stuck.
5. Stop Taking Responsibility For His Behaviors—He Deceived You
Being labeled codependent does not help victims of lies, infidelity and abuse get to safety. In fact, for a lot of women, being labeled as a codependent is traumatizing itself.
Most women had no knowledge or hint about their husband’s secret sexual life. They’ve been lied to for years. Other women who have husbands that have told them about their acting out, may not have known the extent of his acting out.
Codependency erroneously puts the responsibility of saving her husband and 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 many of us implies that we are cooperating or collaborating or connected to this thing that we don't want anything to do with—it is damaging and overwhelming.
6. Stop Believing That You Wanted This—He Lied And Abused You
Codependent implies that a woman chose her husband because of his addiction—that deep-down, in a subconscious level, she wanted to marry an addict.
This kind of thinking is flawed because these women have been lied to, manipulated, and deceived by their abusive addict husband. They are not as “sick” as their husband.
Your husband put on a great show while you were dating. He did an excellent job of covering up what he was really doing.
It’s not your fault that he’s such a great actor that he fooled more than just you. Most likely, others were also fooled by his façade.
7. Stop Believing That You Are In Denial And Delusional—He Lied To You
Codependent implies a sense of denial or delusion, like we've put our head in the sand.
Unlike other chemical dependencies like alcohol or drugs, which are tangible, and can happen right in front of our eyes, lies, abuse, porn use, and compulsive sexual behaviors aren't visible.
Women can be further traumatized when they hear the term codependent because it suggests they weren't attuned to their relationship or they didn't have enough self-awareness—that, somehow, they should have known.
We hear that a lot, "How did I not know?" Other people ask them that same question. There’s no visible outward sign that someone is a porn user and abuser. It's not your fault that you believed an excellent, practiced liar.
It's not your fault that your husband is untrustworthy, and you didn't know it. It’s not wrong to trust people that profess to love you and care about you. It’s his fault he lied, not yours.
8. Stop Believing That You Should Ignore The Abuse—That Won’t Stop It
Being forced to bear the responsibility for your abuser’s harm against you is victim-blaming.
When a woman is not being seen, heard, or validated, it's like she’s being told that she shouldn't focus on the pain of the abuse, so it's safer for her to isolate.
It's like screaming and yelling for help because our house is on fire, and someone tells 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. You can learn more about how to find a safe network here.
9. Stop Letting Codependency Cause More Trauma—You’ve Been Traumatized Enough
We can be re-traumatized or have secondary trauma from therapists who tell us, "I know your house is burning down, but don't focus on that right now."
Anne, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, experienced secondary trauma.
“I have secondary trauma because of some harmful ways my church leader dealt with the situation, and I have secondary trauma from several of the therapists that my husband worked with.”
It can be difficult to find someone to believe and validate your experience because your abuser has created an alternate reality where you are the crazy, abusive one and he is the victim. To learn more about how to know if you are being abused, read here.
Secondary trauma from a therapist is called treatment-induced trauma. Secondary trauma from clergy is called clergy-induced trauma. If you would like to learn more about secondary trauma, schedule an Individual Session today.
You can also find support through Betrayal Trauma Recovery Groups. BTRG offers sessions multiple times a day in many time zones. You can find a time that works for you by clicking here.
You are not codependent. You trusted your husband to keep you safe. That does not make you sick or codependent.
You are worthy of love and respect. You are worth it.