Codependency and mental illness
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Physical & Mental Health Issues Marriage and relationships are difficult by themselves, but coping with physical or mental health problems can make things even more difficult.

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Old 12-31-2012, 06:07 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Codependency and mental illness

My H has bipolar 2. He was diagnosed at least 10 years ago. Off and on meds...now off, as he says they don't help that much and I have to agree. I've always questioned whether he really has bipolar or if it's something else. Uptown recently cued me in to the fact that my H may have signs of BPD. A lightbulb went off when I read about it. It explained so much of my H's behavior and also explains why the bipolar meds don't seem to have much effect.

In my quest to figure out what's wrong with my marriage, I've read several books, read A LOT online, posted and read a lot on TAM...all with a view of trying to figure out how I could get my H to see the light and work with me to better our marriage. It finally hit me after reading some online articles that I can't change anyone but myself. I know it's been said here before, but it never really sunk in until I figured out what I needed to change about myself to make things better in my life.

The answer is: I am a codependent. I enable my H to affect my moods, my dreams, my hopes, etc by always waiting for him to change. He's not going to. If he hasn't changed for the better in 19 years if marriage, he's not magically going to do that now. I need to stop focusing on him and start focusing on myself.

I really could use some help with any tips on setting boundaries, stopping codependent behavior, etc that you all have experienced. I've read a lot online, but I'd like to hear real-life examples of how people really can make that change.
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Old 12-31-2012, 08:25 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Codependency and mental illness

Hi I have been a member on the site for many months, but have had to recently re-sign up do to my husband locking my other user account out!! I totally understand where you are coming from I have been married for 17 years and together for 21 years with my junior high sweetheart.... It breaks my heart to say there have been more bad times then good but it's the truth!!! I have fought for years to make our marriage work and I was never quit sure of why before.... My husband finally pushed me enough that I asked him to move out in march... After 4 months of being apart and extensive counseling I now understand that I am codependent. I have needed him to need me all these years... We have moved back in together and are trying to make it work but I don't really think we can!!! He is constantly still accusing me of having an affair when I have never as much as talked to someone else in that way!!! Yet while he was living outside the home he went to the extent of hiring a PI to locate a girl from his past, and had an emotional affair with a woman we both know.... I can not let it go, I know I have to in order to make our marriage work but I can't.... I really don't know what to do at this piont. I am sorry to ramble but you are the first person who I have read and thought omg someone else is going through/ has gone through exactly the me thing as I have!!!!! I didn't mention it earlier but my husband is diagnosed bipolar and takes meds everyday without much success....if you ever need a ear to listen shoot me a message... I am still in counseling and praying hard everyday that my life works out!!!!! I need some happiness I wish you well and good luck in your marriage
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Old 12-31-2012, 09:14 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Codependency and mental illness

To the OP, get the book "Co-Dependent No More" by Melody Beattie. Thats a good place to start. It can give you some helpful suggestions of things to try.
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Old 12-31-2012, 09:40 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Codependency and mental illness

Waking, it can be difficult to find good information about codependency online. The problem is that, because the APA does not consider it to be a disorder, it is not defined anywhere in the Diagnostic Manual. Moreover, there are no plans to include it in the new manual (DSM-5) coming out this May.

In a Western culture that relies on its young people being willing to sacrifice their lives for the common good -- and whose religions preach self sacrifice as being the only sure path to heaven -- there is virtually no chance that codependency will be added to the Diagnostic Manual any time soon.

Similarly, if you go to the website of the largest codependent association in the world -- CoDA -- you will find that they do not define it either. Instead, they provide a long grocery list of at least 50 different "traits" -- more than the diagnostic manual lists for all the personality disorders combined. That list, then, is so broadly inclusive that it is essentially useless.

The best online article I've seen on codependency is therapist Shari Schreiber's DO YOU LOVE TO BE NEEDED, OR NEED TO BE LOVED?. She explains how we excessive caregivers get to be this way during our childhoods. I also agree with Trey's suggestion of reading Codependent No More, the best selling book on the subject.
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Old 12-31-2012, 11:15 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Uptown-I did read the article you referenced above. I totally understand the reasonings for why people are codependent, the symptoms of it, etc. That kind of info is abundantly available online. What I'm struggling with is how to put what I know about it into practical use. It was touched on in Stop Walking On Eggshells. I'm so enmeshed in my H's needs, I literally am having trouble knowing where to draw boundaries. One thing I do know is I don't want him to harbor resentment toward me, which I'm finding he does a lot. I guess I can start with that. Still, I'm not sure how to address things like I want him to lose weight and work on rebuilding sexual attraction. How can a draw a boundary like that now when I've put up with it for so many years?
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Old 12-31-2012, 02:26 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Codependency and mental illness

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Originally Posted by Waking up to life View Post
What I'm struggling with is how to put what I know about it into practical use. ...I literally am having trouble knowing where to draw boundaries.
Waking, the book Trey recommended should help with learning how to set the boundaries and, just as important, actually enforcing them.
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One thing I do know is I don't want him to harbor resentment toward me, which I'm finding he does a lot.
Blaming you for every misfortune and harboring resentment is what BPDers do. Hence, if your H has strong BPD traits, the resentment likely will get worse each year as he becomes more resentful of your inability to make him happy -- an impossible task. As you now know, this means you must take responsibility for making yourself happy by not allowing his resentment to affect you. When you are caring for a man with the emotional development of a four year old, it is silly to let yourself be unhappy every time he chooses to throw a temper tantrum.
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Still, I'm not sure how to address things like I want him to lose weight and work on rebuilding sexual attraction.
Setting and enforcing personal boundaries is all about controlling your OWN behavior, i.e., walking out for a few hours when he is verbally abusive and taking responsibility for your own happiness (instead of depending on him). It is not about controlling HIS behavior or getting him to change. Hence, if making yourself happy results in him always throwing temper tantrums, you enforce your boundary by getting a divorce.

Moreover, if an active sex life is important to you but not to him, you give him opportunities to change and then leave him when it doesn't happen. Again, enforcing boundaries is about changing your own dysfunctional behavior, not his. This approach is enpowering because, once you realize you are fully responsible for your own happiness, you will see you have the power to make it happen. If he chooses to tag along, fine. If not, that's fine too.

Last edited by Uptown; 12-31-2012 at 02:33 PM.
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Old 12-31-2012, 03:56 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I spent almost 4 years in therapy dealing with my BPD/mental issues and codependency was the LAST thing I fixed. I honestly had no idea I was codependent until I was at the end of this. It's a hard habit to kick and I still struggle with it from time to time. I have codependent friends and family still in my life. They scream at me to "change back" because they don't like the new me. They had something to lose when I got healthy.

The bible on this is Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. For me however it took therapy to help me overcome it plus outside support. I did have friends that supported me...'safe people' so to speak. They talked me down when I wanted to be a doormat yet again.

I don't know if I could have fixed this on my own without support from professionals and caring friends.
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Old 12-31-2012, 10:46 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Codependency and mental illness

It takes a lot of therapy and some good scares to 'cure' codependency. There is no cure, there is only remission.
You always have to be checking in with yourself to make sure you aren't making sacrifices of self that nobody told you to make. My quaker faith helps me a lot because I have a duty to be myself. So that keeps me from backsliding, being around other people who are also making sure that they fulfil their purposes, whatever they might be.
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Old 12-31-2012, 11:17 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I'm afraid I may be desperately avoiding the answer that things seem to keep coming down to: I don't think I can truly address my codependency issues if I remain married to him. I feel so enmeshed with his needs, I am unable to see myself as a separate person in some ways.

There are things that I want to define as deal breakers in my marriage, like the weight gain and subsequent nose dive of normal physical activity and sex, but I feel like I've put up with them silently for so long, what gives me the right to one day announce to my H that I no longer can accept him for how he is? How can I make it known to him that I don't really have the desire to fix our marriage if he can't see that there are even problems to fix? I've let him think for way too long that everything is fine by being a codependent.

And, yes, I do realize that what I just typed above is a perfect example of me trying to take responsibility for his emotions. I just need to get to a place where I can worry about mine first without feeling like a selfish "Walkaway" type of woman. I'm about 1/3 through "Codependent No More". I hope it helps me with some of these answers...
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Old 01-01-2013, 07:00 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Codependency and mental illness

You can give him a reasonable amount of time to try to meet your needs. You've already met him more than halfway, it's not doing a total reversal, it's backing up a few steps and being reasonable on the halfway point. You're not going back on anything, you're refining your definition of acceptance.

I don't think it's unreasonable to tell a spouse/partner that they need to take better care of their health, because guess who is going to have to be taking care of them when they have a health crisis? You. If you're going to have a difficult time doing that, it's only fair to let them know that you might have limits, when push comes to shove.
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Old 01-01-2013, 10:00 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Waking up to life View Post
I feel like I've put up with them silently for so long, what gives me the right to one day announce to my H that I no longer can accept him for how he is?
I struggled with this with a codependent friend I'd had for 5 years so I know this feeling well. Again it took therapy before I realized that my needs were just as important as hers were. And I had the 'right' to grow up, to mature, to change my mind, etc. And she could either treat me the way I deserved or there is the door. I no longer felt responsible for her feelings - only mine.

What's funny is I worried for nothing. We've barely spoken in 6 months and she's totally fine. LOL We're still friends just not as close as we used to be obviously.

Sometimes we think in error that other people will just 'fall apart' if we dare leave them when the truth is they get over it. We aren't as important as we'd like to think we are.
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Old 01-02-2013, 07:32 AM   #12 (permalink)
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[QUOTE=Waking up to life;1327771]I don't think I can truly address my codependency issues if I remain married to him. /QUOTE]

Sometimes this is the case. There are people who can stay married, live in the same house, and address the issues they need to and learn to take care of themselves. However, there are some people who can not. They do need to be separate in order to work on themselves. IMO, thats ok, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to take care of yourself.
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Old 01-02-2013, 09:56 AM   #13 (permalink)
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My husband and I recently separated for 3 months because of work. Ended up being the best thing that could have ever happened to me/us. We needed the time apart to stop these codependent dynamics that we had going on. I don't think we could have ever fixed it while still together.

It wasn't a real separation in that we still spoke daily and I saw him every few weeks. The point was to REMOVE him from my daily life so I could get my head on straight. Make sense?
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Old 01-02-2013, 11:47 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Actually, I had been thinking of a trial separation. My counselor even suggested it, so I could step back and look at how things really are, not getting caught up in day to day annoyances and distractions. My H would be absolutely incensed at the idea if it came from me without any "warning". I need to see if he'll at least start by going to counseling so we can work on communication issues before I could ask for a separation. I just want some kind of direction in my marriage right now, one way or the other.
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Old 01-02-2013, 11:51 AM   #15 (permalink)
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So warn him and do it.

Whatcha waiting for?
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