As you all know I’ve been doing a series on emtional abuse and narcissistic personality disorder. The last couple of weeks I’ve been talking about what they are, how to recognize it, and the patterns it has. We’re coming near the end of the series and I really hope it’s been helpful to some women out there. It actually has helped me a lot to understand what went on in my previous marriage, information is very powerful and it can help heal. Today we’re going to not talk so much about the dysfunctional partner and talk a little about the dysfunctional you. I know you wonder or may have wondered how you got yourself into that mess. I’m going to share some of things I have learned about why this may have come about. I am not trying to blame the abused by sharing this, this is not your fault, you didn’t do anything wrong, you should not be embarrassed. But that also doesn’t mean you don’t need examine what made you make this choice because for the most part, the relationship people are in or were in was a conscious choice they made. So we have some responsibility in this that needs to examined. I chose my ex-husband and I stayed with him for 12 years much of that was because of his manipulation but I still had a choice not to give into it. So how did you end up in this mess?
The thought is that many people who are being emotionally abused as adults had emotionally abusive parents. Although I can believe that many people who end up in emotionally abusive and other abusive relationships had some abuse in their past, the shear estimated high numbers of people being emotionally abused by a loved one leads me believe that there are certainly some other ways to end up in an emotionally abusive relationship.
Emotional abuse by parents is certainly one and there are various ways for people to emotionally abuse their children. So these are some of the ways children can get emotionally abused and end up in a emotionally abusive relationship.
- Physical Neglect-when a parent does not feed a child enough food or provide the basic necessities such as clothing, shelther, or medical attention if needed
- Emotional neglect and depravation-when parents don’t take an interest in their child, do not talk to or hold and hug their child, and as generally emotionally unavailable to their child. Alcoholic parents, in particular, are often neglectful of their children’s needs
- Physical abondoment- when parents leave a child alone in the home or car for long periods of time or do not pick their child up at a designated time and place
- Verbal abuse-constantly putting a child down, name-calling, being overly critical
- Boundary violation-not respecting a child’s need for privacy, such as constantly walking in on a child in the bathroom without knocking, entering a child’s bedroom without knocking (especially an adolescent’s room), going through a child’s private belongings as a regular habit (not as a way of monitoring a troubled child’s behavior)
- Emotional sexual abuse-when parents create inappropriate bond with their child or use their child to meet their own emotional needs, the relationship can easily become romanticized and sexualized
- Role reversal-when a parent expects a child to meet his or her needs; to, in essence, parent them
- Chaotic abuse-being raised in a family where there was very little stability but instead constantly upheaval and discord
- Social abuse-when parents directly or indirectly interfere with their child’s access to his or her peers or fail to teach their child essential social skills
- Intellectual abuse-when a child’s thinking is ridiculed or attacked and she or he is not allowed to differ from the parent’s point of view.
Now if any one of these was done to you, you may have been pulled in the direction of finding a emotionally abusive partner to repeat the pattern, particularly if you are comfortable with that pattern and find it normal. You may also repeat because you’re trying for a different outcome and unconsciously this is your way of attempting to provide it. You may also be a co-dependent person which in my own opinion many women and specifically black women are trained to be. This is the definition of co-dependency from Mental Health America website.
Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. The disorder was first identified about ten years ago as the result of years of studying interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics. Co-dependent behavior is learned by watching and imitating other family members who display this type of behavior.
Who Does Co-dependency Affect?
Co-dependency often affects a spouse, a parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker of a person afflicted with alcohol or drug dependence. Originally, co-dependent was a term used to describe partners in chemical dependency, persons living with, or in a relationship with an addicted person. Similar patterns have been seen in people in relationships with chronically or mentally ill individuals. Today, however, the term has broadened to describe any co-dependent person from any dysfunctional family.
What is a Dysfunctional Family and How Does it Lead to Co-dependency?
A dysfunctional family is one in which members suffer from fear, anger, pain, or shame that is ignored or denied. Underlying problems may include any of the following:
- An addiction by a family member to drugs, alcohol, relationships, work, food, sex, or gambling.
- The existence of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
- The presence of a family member suffering from a chronic mental or physical illness.
Dysfunctional families do not acknowledge that problems exist. They don’t talk about them or confront them. As a result, family members learn to repress emotions and disregard their own needs. They become “survivors.” They develop behaviors that help them deny, ignore, or avoid difficult emotions. They detach themselves. They don’t talk. They don’t touch. They don’t confront. They don’t feel. They don’t trust. The identity and emotional development of the members of a dysfunctional family are often inhibited
Attention and energy focus on the family member who is ill or addicted. The co-dependent person typically sacrifices his or her needs to take care of a person who is sick. When co-dependents place other people’s health, welfare and safety before their own, they can lose contact with their own needs, desires, and sense of self.
How Do Co-dependent People Behave?
Co-dependents have low self-esteem and look for anything outside of themselves to make them feel better. They find it hard to “be themselves.” Some try to feel better through alcohol, drugs or nicotine – and become addicted. Others may develop compulsive behaviors like workaholism, gambling, or indiscriminate sexual activity.
They have good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating. Co-dependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “benefactors” to an individual in need. A wife may cover for her alcoholic husband; a mother may make excuses for a truant child; or a father may “pull some strings” to keep his child from suffering the consequences of delinquent behavior.
The problem is that these repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course and to become even more dependent on the unhealthy caretaking of the “benefactor.” As this reliance increases, the co-dependent develops a sense of reward and satisfaction from “being needed.” When the caretaking becomes compulsive, the co-dependent feels choiceless and helpless in the relationship, but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it. Co-dependents view themselves as victims and are attracted to that same weakness in the love and friendship relationships.
Characteristics of Co-dependent People Are:
- An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
- A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
- A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
- A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
- An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment
- An extreme need for approval and recognition
- A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
- A compelling need to control others
- Lack of trust in self and/or others
- Fear of being abandoned or alone
- Difficulty identifying feelings
- Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
- Problems with intimacy/boundaries
- Chronic anger
- Poor communications
- Difficulty making decisions