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Codependency in abusive relationships

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Codependency in abusive relationships

Postby akazie » Wed Jan 03, 2007 7:07 pm

How does the abusive person create codependency in their partner?

TIA :D
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Postby shivers » Wed Jun 27, 2007 11:25 am

From my understanding of co-dependency (and I'm certainly no expert), the co-dependency exists before the union of the partners begins.

The co-dependency is created when the abused person in the relationship experienced abuse in their childhood. This becomes the 'norm' for them, they are 'comfortable' in their position in the relationship due to way they have been conditioned to accept it in their childhood.

In a way, an abused person can unconsiously search out an abusive person as a partner because it is the only way they have experienced relationships.

So, the co-dependency is not 'created' by the abuser within the relationship as you have asked the question.

Not all childhood abused persons seek out an adult abusive relationship though.

For a person to be labelled 'co-dependent' they need to look at their growing up experiences, for example, did one or both of their parents consistently make himself the centre of attention, as an example was a parent bi-polar. Or were the boundaries of the abused child not respected, eg: did a parent often dip into their money box and 'borrow' their pocket money, or read their diaries, or not give the expected privacy in the home. These type of things condition a child to accept this sort of behaviour as normal.

What can happen to the child when it is an adult is that when they have a partner who is kind, respects their boundaries and gives them breathing space to be themselves eg: values their opinions etc., this can leave the person floundering and unable to find a comfortable position within this new relationship. If it is too uncomfortable the relationship may fail, and the person may end up in the long term with someone who was slightly abusive to start with, but the abuse escalates over time, usually with each added step of commitment to the relationship.

Hope this helps.
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Postby plicketycat » Sat Jul 28, 2007 5:42 pm

Codependency describes the relationship between the abuser and the enabler. Both may have suffered childhood abuse, but this is not always the case - an abuser can wear down a healthy person's self-esteem over time, making them an enabler; but it is rare for an enabler to "create" an abuser out of a healty person.

Codependency can exist between partners, parents and children, boss and employee... pretty much any close relationship can develop into codependency. It is marked by enmeshment - the inability of the parties to experience individual emotions and actions separate from the relationship as the boundaries between individuals break down.

Normally, the abuser exhibits some destructive behavior and the enabler allows it to continue and, in some cases, even creates an environment that supports it. The enabler may be the victim of the abusive behavior, but this is not always the case - sometimes the "victim" of the destructive behavior is the abuser themselves or the children, etc. In some cases, both people are abusers and enablers of each other, and this is normally the hardest form of codependency to overcome.

Just a few examples:

The man who ignores his wife's mental issues, pretending she is normal or making the children responsible for her care, while she puts herself and the family at risk with her behavior.

The wife who makes excuses for her husband's drinking, blames herself for him beating her, and lies to family and friends about why she can't see them (i.e. child sick, rather than a black eye).

The son that defends his mother's abusive and inappropriate behavior toward his wife or girlfriend and will not listen to or support their complaints and concerns, who eventually gets rid of the woman questioning his mother's "love and devotion".

The daughter who must have her father's approval for all her life decisions, and will change her decisions to please him regardless of her husband's wishes or input or whether the decision is in the best interest of herself or her marriage.

The husband and wife who rationalize their drinking and drug abuse as "bonding", and constantly pull each other back into and reinforce the addiction.

These are just a few examples, but codependency can take on many forms. It is a relationship marked by an unhealthy lack of personal boundaries and emotional enmeshment. It is not the same as being interdependent - where two parties work together but each have their own thoughts, actions, emotions, and personality. In codependent relationships the parties are fused - their pattern of behaviors could not continue without the other person and the other person is seen as an extension of themselves.
It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not. --- Andre Gide

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. --- Oscar Wilde
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Postby Trina77 » Sat Jul 28, 2007 11:09 pm

Just a comment - there was definitely codependency involved in my former marriage, and I did come from a seriously traumatic childhood. Also had codependent friendships.

But about the marriage, to some extent it reached the point of being perhaps mutually abusive at times, when I was strong enough not to just take whatever he dished out at me verbally. What I'm saying is that I argued with him sometimes in pretty strong terms. I have enough psych. background to try to avoid name-calling, blaming, things like that, and to use "I" statements, but I'm sure there were times I was angry enough that that knowledge went by the wayside temporarily. Or was it self-protection? I know there are those who would say it was survival, the only way I knew how, and I guess there's truth to that as well. It seems very complicated to me, and so I'm really not sure. I can only say that it wasn't and isn't typical behavior for me, when dealing with other people.
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Postby shivers » Sun Jul 29, 2007 1:45 pm

Thanks plicketycat for a great explanation. I was on the right track but lacked the straightforward description you have provided.

The single sentence about the unhealthy boundaries sums it up pretty well.

Trina77, I come from a sometime mildly abusive background, probably a bit more than the average kid, but certainly not you'd call 'bad' from what I've read of other's accounts, so I considered myself reasonably 'healthy' when I entered my current relationship.

Plicketycat is spot-on when describing the wearing down of the self-esteem regardless and that person entering into an enabling stage. I did that, eventually. Initially, trying to reason with the verbal abuser but after a short time you begin to realise it is hopeless with the abuser constantly putting out no-win situations and then twisting it around to become the victim. Incredibly manipulative to experience and astonishing really to be involved in (although I wish I never had to).

Once I figured out that reasoning and asking nicely didn't work, as I found out it didn't matter how I phrased anything or voiced it, it never was good enough. When I realised the abuser had totally stopped listening to the content I said and started to take issue with the way it was said, I knew I was going to be forever on a losing streak. Plus I realised his raging and anger was fuelled by my placating comments and attempts at 'making up', so fear crept in.

Once fear was in, then so was ignoring. I threw myself into other activities around the home and distanced myself from him. But that again, still adds more fuel to the fire until he became totally intolerable to live with and I started to shout back. Funnily enough, I've found it worked. He slunks off, until once I went too far and he took a swing. HOwever, I can now see that I'm so detached from him emotionally that I don't give a fig how I speak to him anymore, and can certainly recognise abusive statements and comments emanating from me to him on a regular enough basis.

Again, being the same as you, and in the past have kept away from all those abusive statements and name calling you list, but I think for my own self-esteem to not be totally whittled away to nothing, I've been forced to employ almost the same tactics has him to stick my ground and stand up for myself.

It's not typical behaviour for me either! My biggest hope now is that when I've made the break those awful abusive traits will go as well. I'll probably have to work at it, and be conscious at removing them.
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Postby Trina77 » Mon Jul 30, 2007 5:42 am

Yep. Definitely an ongoing process (shorter or longer, individually), but eventually you'll get where you want to be.
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Postby plicketycat » Mon Jul 30, 2007 5:49 am

The abusers best trick is dumping all their crap into you and changing your behavior. This is especially true if the abuser is a narcissist and is truly unable to see that you are anything but a tool to meet their needs. Almost all narcissistic relationships end up codependent - they abuse you with their entitlement and blame-games and you enable them by pumping up their ego or taking their shame.

If you start having feelings that aren't normal for you, or acting in ways that don't seem like yourself - especially if you are feeling a vague sense of shame and contempt that makes you angry and frustrated for reasons you don't understand - chances are good that you are being abused by a narcissist.
It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not. --- Andre Gide

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. --- Oscar Wilde
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Postby shivers » Mon Jul 30, 2007 6:11 am

ooooh, plicketycat, you ARE good... :shock: :D

My partner diagnosed Narcissistic Personality Disorder earlier this year.

And you're right, the feelings of shame are vague, almost indiscernible, but definately contempt for him to the point of anger.

Didn't understand the reasons in the first 6 - 12 months, but that was all it took to dawn on me that I'd never be right in the way he works things and he always sets himself up as the victim. Even so far as giving me my birthday present, he set it up so that I'd be forced to 'beg' (ok, slight exaggeration but that is what it was) and he'd be set up as the poor victim. Being wise to them, helps immensely as he neither got to be the victim and nor did I beg, but that was how it could have gone if I wasn't so purposefully detached from him. Evil, nasty people, really evil. {shivers}
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Postby plicketycat » Mon Jul 30, 2007 6:24 am

Yes, most dealings with people who suffer from NPD or even just have some destructive narcissistic traits can leave you feeling very ICKY. Because these feelings are so disturbing to us, it's easy to lable these people "evil" -- because it can really feel that way -- but it's important to recognize that these people are "broken", too. The biggest difference between them and us is that we can eventually face where we're broken and they will sacrifice and manipulate everything and everyone so they don't have to see any of their flaws or experience shame.

I don't condone their behavior, and certainly don't think anyone should allow themselves to be continually harmed by an abuser -- but NPD is a valid psychological disorder.
It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not. --- Andre Gide

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. --- Oscar Wilde
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Postby shivers » Mon Jul 30, 2007 12:46 pm

oh, no doubts that NPD certainly is that. At the same time it's important to not let it cloud the issue of what is happening and start making excuses out of sympathy.

And the closing sentences of the Foreword written by Ken Heilbrunn, M.D. in Sam Vaknin's book Malignant Self Love sums it up well.

"And if by chance you get caught in my web, I can make your life a living hell. But remember this. I am in that web too. The difference between you and me is that you can get out."
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