Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Chapter 2 Romantic Relationships & Toxic Love ~ Marriage & Divorce
In December 2015 I am starting to work on preparing an online book I wrote in 2002 and 2003 for publication as an eBook and possibly as a hard copy book as well. I mentioned this in my last blog which was a chapter from this online book: Chapter 5: Codependency = conditioned reactive programming ~ Pavlov’s Dog.
I am going to start that process by sharing the second chapter of that online book in this blog. It is an online book in which I found myself exploring new levels and perspectives – both dissecting the dynamics of codependency and recovery on more sophisticated and subtle levels (both psychologically and historically) and discussing different facets of the phenomena in more concrete, practical, and hopefully understandable, terms. I wrote it in response to an online article The codependency movement is ruining marriages! by a marriage counselor who was calling the codependency recovery movement a monster – the first chapter of it is here: Chapter 1 The codependency movement is NOT ruining marriages! Here are a few quotes from my Update Newsletters about the online book that grew out of a response to this guy’s article.
“The work grew to something quite a bit beyond what I envisioned . . . . – and includes 15 chapters as of May 2003. I very happy with, and proud of, the chapters that grew out of this initial source. It has since grown into an in depth look at the phenomena of codependency on multiple levels – which in my opinion, is really much larger and more important than just a response to the silly article by Dr. Harley. . . . . .
. . . . . . . There are some places in these pages where I use some quite harsh language in reference to Dr. Harley and his beliefs – and I am going to leave that language as I wrote it. It doesn’t have anything to do with Dr. Harley personally, but rather with the type of ignorant and arrogant white male attitudes that he represents to me. Over a year later, and farther along in my recovery process, I probably would tone down that language some if I wrote these two pages today – not because my beliefs and views have changed, but because I wouldn’t be quite so reactive out of my own personal wounds. Sometimes it takes some harsh language to make a point however, and at this time I do not feel compelled to change the language as I originally published it.” – Robert May 2003
Chapter 2 Romantic Relationships & Toxic Love ~ Marriage & Divorce
““This dance of Codependence is a dance of dysfunctional relationships – of relationships that do not work to meet our needs. That does not mean just romantic relationships, or family relationships, or even human relationships in general.
The fact that dysfunction exists in our romantic, family, and human relationships is a symptom of the dysfunction that exists in our relationship with life – with being human. It is a symptom of the dysfunction which exists in our relationships with ourselves as human beings.
And the dysfunction that exists in our relationship with ourselves is a symptom of Spiritual dis-ease, of not being in balance and harmony with the universe, of feeling disconnected from our Spiritual source.
That is why it is so important to enlarge our perspective. To look beyond the romantic relationship in which we are having problems. To look beyond the dysfunction that exists in our relationships with other people.
The more we enlarge our perspective, the closer we get to the cause instead of just dealing with the symptoms. For example, the more we look at the dysfunction in our relationship with ourselves as human beings the more we can understand the dysfunction in our romantic relationships.” – quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney
At the CoDA meeting I am the secretary of here locally, one of the people sharing last week made one of those perfect Freudian slips while sharing. She talked about inter-reacting with someone. That is codependency: two people inter-reacting, each reacting out of their emotional wounds and childhood programming.
If we are inter-reacting, we are incapable of being honest in relating to other people. If we are not seeing ourselves with any clarity and emotional honesty, then we cannot see the other person with clarity – let alone the relationship. No true communication can take place between two people who are reacting to the past instead of being present in the moment – inter-reacting. (I like that word. 😉
And of course, the type of relationship this dynamic impacts the most is romantic. As I say elsewhere in my writing: romantic relationships are the greatest arena for Spiritual growth available to us – because they are the relationships that mean the most to us, that we have the most at stake emotionally. It is in romantic relationships that our buttons are pushed – that our deepest wounds are triggered. It is in romantic relationships that our core fear of intimacy (Fear of Intimacy – caused by early childhood trauma) is activated. And the problem with far too many romantic relationships – which of course, includes marriages – is that they are inter-reactions, not interactions.
“The single biggest problem with most relationships is that there are too many people involved. A romantic relationship is supposed to be two people in partnership sharing of who they are, sharing their hearts, minds, bodies, and souls with each other.
Anyone who has not done their emotional healing is bringing a plethora of people into any relationship they get involved in. Some of these people include: parents, siblings, relatives; ministers, teachers, the junior high school bully; everyone that they have ever had a romantic relationship with; the Prince and Princess of fairy tales, the lyrics of songs, and the characters from books and movies; etc. Just to think of how many ghosts are in the room, when two unconscious people are interacting, is mind boggling.
Anyone who is unconscious to how the people and events of their past have shaped who they are today, is incapable of being present in the now and having a healthy relationship. When we are reacting unconsciously to the emotional wounds and old tapes from our childhood, we are being emotionally dishonest in the moment – we are mostly reacting to how we felt in a similar dynamic in the past, not clearly responding to what is happening in the present.
As I said in the last article in this series, the single most important component in a healthy relationship is the ability to communicate. We cannot communicate clearly when we are in reaction because we are not being emotionally honest with ourselves.
We all learned to see life and self from a dysfunctional perspective – from a perspective that taught us it was shameful to be bad or wrong. We learned to blame. Since the perspective of life which civilization is founded upon is black and white, right and wrong – we got the message that if we could not figure out how to blame someone else, then it must be our fault. Toxic shame is the feeling that I am somehow defective, that there is something wrong with who I am as a being. That feeling of being defective is so painful that we are willing to do almost anything to avoid sinking into that abyss of pain within.
So we blame someone or something outside of ourselves to protect our self. A dysfunctional civilization which teaches us to look outside for our self worth, also teaches us to look outside for a villain.” – Healthy Romantic Relationships – part 3, Emotional Honesty Necessary
In that last line from this quote – “A dysfunctional civilization which teaches us to look outside for our self worth, also teaches us to look outside for a villain.” – lies the crux of the problem in so many romantic relationships. When we look to a romantic relationship to give us worth, we give another person the power to make us feel good about ourselves, to feel worthy and lovable. The person who we have given that power to, usually becomes the person to blame when we do not feel good.
The prince or princess who was going to rescue us becomes the villain who is abusing / oppressing / abandoning us. The type of love that we learned growing up in dysfunctional societies is toxic love. (Toxic Love) That codependent, addictive toxic variety of love involves giving another person power over our self esteem – empowering another wounded human being to be our higher power who determines if we have worth. It is a set up to end up feeling like a victim – with the other person as the villain, or our own perceived shameful defectiveness making us the villain who deserves to be abused.
In a healthy interrelationship, we make a choice to love another being – and we give them some power over our feelings – we do not give them power over our self worth. (Codependence vs Interdependence – healthy relationship vs dysfunctional)
and they lived Happily Ever After
We are subconsciously programmed and emotionally set up in early childhood (by fairy tales which are later reinforced by books, movies, songs, etc.) to believe that a romantic relationship will lead us to “happily ever after.” This makes us feel like failures when it does not happen. Because we feel like failures and are codependent, we go to one of the extremes: we try harder to change the other person, to earn their love, to make them available; or we blame. (And trying harder is really about blaming ourselves, thinking that it is our fault, that we are not doing it “right.”)
There is no happily ever after in this lifetime, in these bodies – it is a misconception, a misinterpretation of Metaphysical levels of reality. Knowing that consciously, intellectually, does not help us stop feeling like a failure. It is vital to heal our emotional wounds and forgive ourselves for expecting life – and romance – to be something it is not.
““We learned about life as children and it is necessary to change the way we intellectually view life in order to stop being the victim of the old tapes. By looking at, becoming conscious of, our attitudes, definitions, and perspectives, we can start discerning what works for us and what does not work. We can then start making choices about whether our intellectual view of life is serving us – or if it is setting us up to be victims because we are expecting life to be something which it is not.”
Consciousness raising is a process of enlarging the intellectual paradigm which we base our relationship with life upon. As I have stated previously in this series, our beliefs, attitudes, and definitions determine our expectations and perspectives – which in turn dictate our emotional relationships to everything and everyone in our environment. And when I say everything, I am not just talking about objects. Everything includes ideas, concepts, opinions, etc.
In order to have healthier romantic relationships it is very important to examine our concept of romantic love. If we do not have a healthy concept – realistic definitions and beliefs about – romantic love, then we do not have much chance of having a healthy relationship. If our concept of romance is based on the fairy tales and books, songs and movies, from our childhood, then we are set up to be disappointed in our romantic relationships.
Read the quotation above and substitute “love” everywhere it says “life” and you might better understand why you have felt like a victim in romantic relationships. We were set up to be victims in romance because we were taught that it is a magical paradise where we will have all of our needs met – and live “Happily ever after”. We were taught that getting the romance was the goal and that after that everything was smooth sailing.” – Healthy Romantic Relationships – part 6, Romantic Love as a Concept
We were set up to feel like failures in romantic relationships by dysfunctional societal beliefs. Feeling like a failure is emotional – buying into the belief in failure is mental: two different levels of our being. It is very important in recovery to start being able to practice discernment in relationship to our own inner process. A major component in becoming empowered to take responsibility for being co-creators of our life experience is being able to recognize when our feelings are a direct result of the beliefs we are empowering. Becoming conscious of how our subconscious programming from childhood is still affecting us today is the only way we can change that programming. Consciousness can lead to empowerment when we are willing to focus on the things we do have the power to change – and own our power to make choices instead of being the victim of dysfunctional programming.
The intellectual paradigm we are empowering to define our lives determines our perspective of life and our emotional reactions.
“One of the biggest problems with relationships in this society is that the context we approach them from is too small. If getting the relationship is the goal, we will end up being the victim. If we can start seeing relationships not as the goal but as opportunities for growth then we can start having more functional relationships. A relationship that ends is not a failure or a punishment – it is a lesson. As long as our definition of a successful relationship is one that lasts forever – we are set up to fail. There is nothing wrong with wanting a relationship that will last forever, expecting it to last forever is what is dysfunctional.”- Romantic Relationships and Valentine’s Day
When the intellectual paradigm which we are allowing to define our lives – the context in which we are relating to life / love / romance – is based upon the belief that if we do it “right” we will reach the destination of “happily ever after,” we are set up to feel like failures when we are not magically transformed by a relationship.
Codependency in Romantic Relationships for Men and Women
I have been using the pronoun we – in this discussion of being set up to feel like failures if we do not reach a destination where we live “happily ever after” – because both men and women are programmed with this unrealistic delusion in early childhood. It is women however, who traditionally were brainwashed to believe that their self worth is dependent upon reaching this destination. As I mentioned in part 1, traditionally women in this society were taught to be codependent upon their relationships with men – while men were taught that their self definition and worth comes from what they do. Additionally, men were taught to be shut down to their emotions.
“In this society, in a general sense, the men have been traditionally taught to be primarily aggressive, the “John Wayne” syndrome, while women have been taught to be self-sacrificing and passive. But that is a generalization; it is entirely possible that you came from a home where your mother was John Wayne and your father was the self-sacrificing martyr. . . . . . .
When the role model of what a man is does not allow a man to cry or express fear; when the role model for what a woman is does not allow a woman to be angry or aggressive – that is emotional dishonesty.”
Both men and women had their relationships with their own emotions twisted and distorted by the messages and role modeling of a dysfunctional, emotionally dishonest, patriarchal culture. The traditional societal standards for appropriate female behavior included the belief that it was not appropriate (not “lady like”) for a woman to be angry or assertive – which not only makes it virtually impossible to set boundaries but also precludes real emotional intimacy. It is not possible to be emotionally honest and intimate in relationship to anyone with whom it is not okay to be angry. True emotional intimacy requires sharing all of our emotions. Someone who does not have permission to own anger is forced to use other methods to try to get their needs met, learns to manipulate in emotionally dishonest ways – crying when they are angry, or using sex manipulatively to gain power in a relationship, for instance.
And, though the traditional societal standards set men up to be “John Wayne” and women to be martyrs, this role was in reality reversed in many families due to the reactive extremes of codependency. In other words, some men who hated the abusive behaviors of their father / male role models would react to the other extreme, would suppress their own anger and become more passive and martyr like – and would then usually end up marrying a woman who was like their father. While a woman who could not stand the “doormat” role modeling of her mother, would become the angry abusive one in a relationship with a man who would be the doormat. Twisting things even further, in most cases, though the roles were reversed within the relationship inter-reaction, the couple would then try to look “normal” out in society – in other words, they would attempt to keep up appearances and be seen by others as a “normal” couple. Normal in this dysfunctional society meaning the man was the boss and the woman was his helpmate.
Men got the message from societal role models that it was not “manly” to be emotionally vulnerable. Someone who cannot be emotionally vulnerable is truly incapable of any level of emotional intimacy. Both men and women in this dysfunctional society were set up to feel like failures in romantic relationships, but it was women who were taught that their self worth depended upon success in the relationship. It is normally women who seek counseling because their self esteem is invested in the relationship. It is not possible to work out problems in a relationship without dealing with emotions – and a man is taught not to deal with emotions. A man focuses on the work that his self worth comes from and ignores problems in the relationship, and/or blames the woman for them. It is a double set up for women in this dysfunctional, emotionally dishonest society.
“We learn who we are as emotional beings from the role modeling of our parents and the adults around us. I have never had an emotionally honest male role model in my life. I am having to become my own role model for what emotional honesty looks like in a man.
Romance means nothing without emotional intimacy. “In – to – me – see” We can not share our self with another being unless we can see into our self. As long as I couldn’t be emotionally intimate with myself, I was incapable of being emotionally intimate with another human being.
It is absolutely vital to learn how to be emotionally honest with ourselves. It is impossible to have a Truly successful Romantic Relationship without emotional honesty. (Truly successful being used here to mean: in balance and harmony between the physical, emotional, mental, and Spiritual levels of being.) Sex can ultimately be an empty, barren animal coupling – involving physical pleasure but really having little to do with Love – without emotional & Spiritual connection.
This results in one of the major problem areas of many relationships. Without emotional intimacy many women get turned off to sex and withhold because their emotional needs aren’t being met – and men get angry because they don’t even have a clue of what women are asking for.
“Traditionally in this society women were taught to be codependent – that is take their self-definition and self-worth from their relationships – with men, while men have been taught to be codependent on their success/career/work. That has changed somewhat in the past twenty or thirty years – but is still part of the reason that women have more of a tendency to sell their souls for relationships than men do.” – Relationships & Valentines Day
It is a double set up for women in this society. First of all the men were taught that it was not manly to be emotional and that what makes them successful as a man is what they produce – and then women were taught that they needed to be successful in romantic relationships with emotionally unavailable men in order to be successful as a woman. What a set up!
It is not women’s fault. It is also not men’s fault. It is a set up.” – The Heart Break of Romantic Relationship – part 2
Men were programmed to be emotional cripples whose only acceptable emotional outlet was anger, and women were brainwashed to feel they had worth only in relationships to men. Truly a set up! Women were brain washed into defining themselves so completely in relationship to men that they give up their name for their husband’s name. (Of course, the name they give up was their fathers – a symbolic transfer of ownership.)
I will be addressing in more depth the traditional male and female roles in society – and the historical context in which our beliefs have been molded, including some recent changes brought about by the Feminist Movement – in a later chapter, but I wanted to make the point here of how our early childhood experiences and programming set us up to feel like failures. It is vital to start becoming conscious of this so that we can change the intellectual paradigm we are allowing to define ourselves and dictate our emotional relationship with life and love.
right and wrong is a dysfunctional dance
Failure and success, winning and losing, right and wrong are part of the polarized belief system – the black and white thinking – that is the foundation, and cause, of codependency. Anyone who is thinking in terms of failure and success according to dysfunctional, delusional definitions is being codependent. They are exhibiting the programming – the brain washing – that results from growing up in a codependent culture.
When we believe in the deepest levels of our being, at the core of our programming, that we have to have a romantic relationship to be whole, to be happy and fulfilled in life, we are making that dream / delusion our higher power which determines if we have worth – which is a set up to feel like a failure. And because failure, being wrong, is considered shameful – a sign of unworthiness, of being defective – we end up putting a great deal of energy into blaming and/or denial. (Blaming is a manifestation of denial – and is only possible because of a polarized belief system.)
When our self esteem is dependent upon reaching “happily ever after,” we are set up to give away power over how we feel about our self to a delusion, a fairy tale. We look outside of ourselves and see other codependents – who were taught to keep up appearances and wear masks – who seem to have reached happily ever after. We feel like something is wrong with us because other people seem to be happy and successful and we feel like failures. We judge how we feel on the inside against how they look on the outside. And when those people that we put up on pedestals as having it made, prove to be human – get arrested, get a divorce, commit suicide, etc. – we are shocked (and sometimes secretly pleased) but we go right back to judging our self in comparison to someone else whose life looks better than ours feels.
As magical thinking children we were brainwashed / programmed to believe that love will magically transport us to happily-ever-after. We had that delusion reinforced by songs and books and movies. We are constantly being bombarded with advertising that uses our desire to be loved “happily ever after” to manipulate us into spending money on the magical ingredient that is missing – the right beer / car / clothes / makeup / medication / whatever – that will transform our lives.
It is a false belief, a dysfunctional concept, that sets us up to feel such desperate need for our dream to come true. When our feelings of self worth are dependent upon an illusion, we will put a great deal of energy into convincing our self that the dream has come true. Our investment in the fantasy, the dream, is what can make it so hard to let go of a relationship.
“It is letting go of the dream, the idea / concept, of the relationship that causes the most grief in every relationship break up that I have ever worked with. We give power and energy to the mental construct of what we want the relationship to be and cannot even begin to see the situation and the other person clearly.
Far too often – because of the concept of toxic / addictive love we are taught in this society – it is the idea of the other person that we fall in love with, not the actual person. It is so important to us to cast someone in the role of Prince or Princess that we focus on who we want them to be – not on who they really are. In our relationship with our self, we attach so much importance to getting the relationship that we are dishonest with ourselves – and with the other person – in order to manifest the dream / concept of relationship that will fix us / make our life worthwhile. Then we end up feeling like a victim when the other person does not turn out to be the person we wanted.” – The True Nature of Love – part 4, Energetic Clarity 2
What makes relationship break ups so difficult in a codependent society is not the pain of the romance ending – although there is certainly a lot of pain and grief about such endings – it is the shame that our disease beats us up with for: being “failures;” or for being unworthy and unlovable; or for being so “stupid” as to make such a “wrong” choice. Very often we hang onto a relationship long after it is empty and dead because we feel that ending it will prove that we were “wrong” – or that something is wrong with us. This is especially true in instances where our family or friends warned us that the person wasn’t good for us – then we have a great deal of ego investment in proving them wrong. This kind of attempt to avoid “failure” – to avoid admitting “defeat” – has caused many a person to stay in relationships that were abusive long after they knew it was hopeless.
The subconscious programming is so strong that it overrides common sense, intellectual knowledge, and conscious awareness – and keeps us putting a great deal of energy into rationalizing and denying reality. It is that subconscious programming – which can not be substantially changed without becoming emotionally honest, which includes releasing the repressed grief energy from childhood – that makes us powerless to live life in any way except reacting to the extremes of codependency. It is powerlessness over that programming that has caused us to be our own worst enemies.
“Because of our broken hearts, our emotional wounds, and our scrambled minds, our subconscious programming, what the disease of Codependence causes us to do is abandon ourselves. It causes the abandonment of self, the abandonment of our own inner child – and that inner child is the gateway to our channel to the Higher Self.
The one who betrayed us and abandoned and abused us the most was ourselves. That is how the emotional defense system that is Codependence works.
The battle cry of Codependence is “I’ll show you – I’ll get me.””
It is a sad reality that many codependents spend their whole lives living in reaction to their childhood wounding. Whether we are trying to earn our parents love and respect by being what they wanted us to be, or going to the other extreme rebelling against them, we are living in reaction to childhood – we are not living our own lives. Many women, and men, have stayed in marriages – that they knew were a mistake on their wedding day – for 20 or 30 or 40 years because they were trying to prove their parents wrong, or trying to avoid the shame of “failing.”
As long as we are reacting to some arbitrary, absolute standard – a marriage that lasts is a success, one that ends is a failure; a man who is emotionally vulnerable is unmanly; a women who gets angry is not a lady; etc. – we are set up to live our lives in reaction. We are set up to feel like a failure, or to blame someone or something for how we live our lives. We are set up to feel like a victim. It is only by seeing our self and reality with more clarity that we can start to own our power to make choices instead of reacting. We become empowered to take responsibility for being a co-creator in our lives by owning our power to make choices. (Empowerment and Victimization – the power of choice)
Until we start becoming conscious of the power of this subconscious emotional programming, we are powerless to do anything in our life except react. We do not have the ability to respond – response ability – if our choices are limited to right and wrong according to some arbitrary, dysfunctional cultural beliefs.
“We must start recognizing our powerlessness over this disease of Codependence.
As long as we did not know we had a choice we did not have one.
If we never knew how to say “no,” then we never really said “yes.”
We were powerless to do anything any different than we did it. We were doing the best we knew how with the tools that we had. None of us had the power to write a different script for our lives.”
A woman who stays in a marriage because she does not believe she has a choice to leave it, is not making a choice to stay. We can only Truly commit to a course of action by owning that we have a choice in the matter. Staying because we “have to” / it is “wrong” to leave, is not a choice.
Traditional Family Values – patriarchal supremacy
It is people like Dr. Harley who trumpet the sanctity of “traditional family values” – the sanctity of the institution of marriage. The traditional context for family values and marriage in this society is patriarchal supremacy. To speak of marriage without acknowledging the historical reality of the treatment of women in society is not just ignorant, it is downright stupid – in my opinion.
“For all of the so called progress of our modern societies, we still are far behind most aboriginal cultures in terms of respect for individual rights and dignity in some kind of balance with the good of the whole. (I am speaking here of tribal aboriginal societies – not urbanized ones.) Nowhere is this more evident than in terms of our relationship to our children.
Modern civilizations – both Eastern and Western – are no more than a generation or two removed from the belief that children were property. This, of course, goes hand in hand with the belief that women were property.” – Inner child healing – Why do it?
Marriage has not been a full partnership, a Sacred Union, for most women in this society. It has historically been a form of indentured servitude. It is probably an appropriate irony that marriage is referred to as an institution – since in modern day usage that term is most often used to refer to places where people are locked up.
The first paragraph in Dr. Harley’s article is a very revealing one.
“Those of us in the business of trying to save marriages struggle daily with cultural beliefs and practices that make our job difficult. The sudden surge of divorces in the 1970’s, that has made America the country with the highest divorce rate, has a great deal to do with changes in our basic beliefs. More to the point, it has to do with a major shift toward self-centeredness. Beliefs that encourage self-centeredness destroy marriage.”
The “sudden surge of divorces in the 1970’s” for those unconscious souls like Dr. Harley who are not able to understand historical context, coincides with the rise of the Feminist Movement. What Dr. Harley identifies as “self-centeredness” is actually about the liberation of women – women starting to own their right to make choices. What so changed the basic beliefs that this man holds dear, is the empowerment of women to have a self – to be an individual with self respect and rights as a person, instead of an extension of men. Women being so “self-centered” as to want to be liberated from the codependent bondage of being defined in relationship to men, has definitely challenged the traditional marriage of indentured servitude.
He is no different than any small minded bigot or racist. He bemoans the changes in society that led “those people” to forget their rightful place in the white male patriarchal system. In this case, “those people” are women. Women have forgotten their place as the servants of truly self-centered, immature, emotionally crippled little boys masquerading as men. Those same immature men who run the world and are always going to war to protect their right to keep raping the planet and trying to steal all the toys away from the other boys.
“History has been, and is being, made by immature, scared, angry, hurt individuals who were/are reacting to their childhood wounds and programming – reacting to the little child inside who feels unworthy and unlovable.” – Loving the Wounded Child Within
When someone in a relationship is hanging onto to it for dear life to try to avoid feeling like a shameful “failure” – what could possibly be worse scenario for them than to go to a counselor who believes that relationships that end are failures. The “expert” who is supposed to be helping a couple resolve problems in their relationship has an agenda because the expert’s self esteem is invested in saving the marriage. That type of situation is, too often in a dysfunctional society, a sad reality when the people who are supposed to be helpers in the healing process are still unconscious to their codependency.
Any therapist who describes divorce as a disaster and believes his/her job is to save marriages, is empowering black and white, dysfunctional, codependent thinking.
“Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr. has saved thousands of marriages from the pain of unresolved conflict and the disaster of divorce.”
Dr. Harley defines divorce as disaster, and believes that it is his purpose as a marriage counselor to save marriages. That is the belief system which he empowers. That is the perspective he will bring to any couple that comes to see him. It is impossible for him to see the relationship dynamics clearly as long as he has an agenda that he is projecting onto his clients. He is set up by his own beliefs to try to manipulate and shame people into staying in a marriage – no matter how dysfunctional that relationship may be – because it is what he bases his ego strength upon. Saving marriages is what he does – what he believes makes him successful, gives him worth.
What makes many divorce experiences feel like “disasters” is not the end of the relationship – it is the blaming that goes on to keep from feeling the shame of being a “failure.” It is the battle over who is “right” and who is “wrong” that causes so much emotional trauma. It is trying to identify – and punish – the villain, that makes divorce lawyers rich and emotionally wounds the children who get caught in the middle of this codependent dance of blame and shame.
On the day I was finishing this chapter 2, a man I had never met before came to our CoDA meeting. In the course of sharing, he started to talk about his parents. This man was probably around 50, and was going to visit his parents the next day. He started crying – struggling mightily to control his emotions, gulping shallow breaths and holding them as his body quivered. He choked out that he wished his parents hadn’t behaved so horribly in his childhood.
He recounted how his mother had said to him recently, “Oh, but our family wasn’t dysfunctional. Your father and I stayed together.” He cried as he said in a strangled voice, “That was a big part of the problem.”
Children are damaged just as much by parents who stay together in a dysfunctional marriage as children whose parents divorce. Sometimes it is even more damaging in the long run because the delusion that the family was successful is so strong that it makes it hard for the adult children to understand why they have lived their lives so dysfunctionally – after all, they came from a happy family. The happy family myth was the higher power the parents sacrificed themselves to maintain. Keeping up appearances to avoid shame, to avoid “failure.” Parents who stay together for “the children’s sake,” or to keep up appearances, are disasters as role models for what a romantic relationship looks like.
Any counselor or therapist who does not see a connection between the emotional wounds and intellectual programming of early childhood and problems manifesting in a marriage / romantic relationship, is not going to be able to help the people involved deal with the cause of the problems. Focusing on symptoms will not heal the cause.
For a marriage counselor to believe his purpose is saving marriages, without any consciousness of the cause of marital / relationship dysfunction, or of the historical context in which our beliefs about marriage have been programmed – is very diseased, codependent thinking, in my opinion.” – Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life Chapter 2 Romantic Relationships & Toxic Love ~ Marriage & Divorce
Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life is available in a subscription area of the Joy2MeU website entitled: Dancing in Light
A special offer for that subscription (as well as for the Joy2MeU Journal) is available on this special offers page.
The first two chapter of this online book is available through my regular website: The codependency movement is NOT ruining marriages!
I have published two other chapters of this work as blogs: Chapter 8 Codependents as Emotional Vampires and Chapter 13: Changing the Music: Love instead of fear and shame.
Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in the Light Book 2: A Dysfunctional Relationship with Life is the third book of what I think of as the Wounded Souls Trilogy along with Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls A Cosmic Perspective on Codependence and the Human Condition and Codependency Recovery: Wounded Souls Dancing in The Light Book 1 Empowerment, Freedom, and Inner Peace through Inner Child Healing. (This is different from The Dance of the Wounded Souls Trilogy Book 1 – “In The Beginning . . .” which is a Magical, Mystical Adult Spiritual Fable that was in fact the first book I wrote – but have never finished.)
I am going to be preparing Book 2 for publication in the coming months.