Victim Blaming Codependents or Victim Blaming People Who Exhibit Codependent Behaviors
The concept of Codependency is not victim-blaming.
The concept of Codependency does not pathologize domestic abuse survivors, targets of narcissistic abuse, or other victims of other types of abuse, contrary to a lot of online rhetoric I have seen, and I don’t care what psychiatrist with what degree behind his name has stated things like, “Codependency is victim blaming and pathologizing!” – that psychiatrist, despite his eight years in medical school, is wrong.
He is wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong.
I disagree with him entirely. And I do not have to have a medical degree to see where he’s wrong, and to know that he’s wrong.
I am a recovered codependent, and I remain astounded at people, especially therapists, psychologists, and abuse survivor advocates, who should know better, who never-the-less keep peddling this trope that the concept of Codependency is victim blaming, or it’s too broad in scope to be of much use.
(There are actually other mental health professionals out there who do not believe that Codependency is useless, too broad, or that it pathologizes anyone.)
A few months ago, when news stories about Anna Duggar were more prominent – she’s married to convicted child pornography user Josh Duggar, former reality television show star
– and then, a little later, when so-called abuse survivor advocates, such as Ashley Easter started commenting on that and victim blaming Anna Dugggar, and Amy Smith of Watchkeep began attacking journalist Julie Roys, I kept seeing these people, and others who follow them, showcase a very stunning misunderstanding of, or in some cases, a lack of awareness of, Codependency.
I may in the future do more posts – ones specific to Ashley Easter, Anna Duggar, and the Amy Smith – Julie Roys fiasco from months back – but for this post, I wanted to address this topic via at least two videos I saw on Dr. Ramani’s You Tube Channel.
Dr. Ramani is a psychologist who specializes in treating victims of narcissistic abuse.
I actually like Dr. Ramani quite a bit, and I’ve seen and listened to many of her videos. I like her on a personal level, and I think she’s quite astute.
I do not feel comfortable being critical of someone who I usually agree with often, and who I find to be personable, but Dr. Ramani made a few comments in some of her videos here and there, pertaining to codependency, which I didn’t entirely agree with.
And no, I myself do not have to be a psychologist or have a mental health degree to form opinions or conclusions based upon what I hear and see!
While I do not have a mental health degree, I am college educated, and I did spend the past several years researching mental health topics. I did take psychology courses in college, but that is not what I earned my degree in.
So, I may not be an “expert” on mental health topics (in a degreed sense), but I am not an entirely uninformed person.
I feel confident in asserting that it’s more than likely that the vast majority of male Christian gender complementarians who ignorantly dismiss any and all criticism of their sexist complementarian doctrines, or critiques of how their gender views and church culture aides and abets abuse cover up in their churches, have not read anything on these topics.
I have at least read up on issues surrounding abuse, such as the role of power differentials, and I’ve read about trauma bonding, and so forth.
It seems to be a common fallacy among some people, especially “abuse survivor” advocates, or people who themselves work in the mental health field, that only “experts” can or should comment on topics pertaining to abuse.
As though the rest of us non-experts should just put our brains on a shelf and not think critically and ask, “Is this expert correct on this topic? Perhaps I should go gather research and see what other experts in this field believe – do they all agree with this individual or group that is considered an expert? Why or why not?”
I do not disregard what “experts” in a field have to say on a topic, since they obviously have more than likely spent years studying on whatever topic, but that does not mean, on the other hand, I have to, or should, un-critically accept every thing they say or believe!
Sometimes experts are wrong, even on topics in their own field, and sometimes experts get into disagreements with other experts in the same field.
When “Expert A” says that “Expert B” is incorrect regarding Topic Z, with Topic Z being in the purview of their field, which expert should I defer to, if any, and why should I take your word on which one to side with or agree with? Perhaps both are wrong. Maybe “Expert C” is the correct one.
Many Mental Health Professionals Ignorant About Or Misunderstand Codependency – So Says Other Mental Health Professionals Who Specialize in Codependency
By the way, in some of the material I’ve seen, listened to, or read by at least one psychologist, and a licensed lady therapist whose work I’m familiar with – with each admitting being former Codependent themselves – they say that that the topic of Codependency is grossly misunderstood and misrepresented by other persons in mental health occupations (including by psychiatrists and psychologists).
I’ve also seen this mentioned in yet other online, published work by other psychologists and therapists.
(That is one reason of a few, why, if someone quotes at me that,
“Codependency pathologizes victims, it is victim blaming, and it should not be brought up in the context of abuse teaching or treatment, so says Dr. Snodgrass III in his book ‘Why Do Men Beat Their Wives!,’ and Dr. Snodgrass has 30 years experience and is considered an expert in the field!”
– I don’t have to jump to agree with Snodgrass, or with the person who is quoting Snodgrass at me, as though Snodgrass is the Lord Jesus and is infallible.)
The psychologist I have in mind has even said a few times in his videos and I believe in his book – that many therapists and psychologists are themselves Codependent but don’t realize it until well into their careers, usually into middle-age.
(He also cautions if you’re a Codependent married to a Narcissist that marriage counseling will not work – most therapists and marriage counselors do not understand the Codependent – Narcissist dynamic, that one unfortunate outcome of several is that the therapist will assume the Narcissist is the “victim” and encourage the Codependent to work even harder at saving the marriage, which completely gets the situation backwards.)
At any rate, here are the videos by Dr. Ramani that I wanted to discuss:
(Link): What’s wrong with calling people codependent? (in narcissistic relationships) – this video runs close to seven minutes long
(Link): When narcissists feel entitled to your property – this video is almost ten minutes long
While the concept of Codependency does have its roots in addiction models, as Dr. Ramani brings up – beginning around the 1970s, it was the template for understanding, for example, why do wives of alcoholics stay with the alcoholic and enable him in his alcoholism – into the 1980s, more and more mental health professionals began noticing that Codependency can show up even in families where alcoholism (or drug addiction) is a generation removed, or is, and has been, entirely absent.
The fact that Codependency began as a framework to understand why some spouses stay married to, or enable a substance-addicted spouse, does not mean it is not, or cannot be, relevant to understanding other situations or types of relationships.
In addition, there are, or can be, other factors that can drive a person into codependent actions, attitudes, and behaviors, and not all of them involve being in a relationship with a substance abuser.
Codependency exists on a spectrum, with some people being very little codependent, others being moderately so, while others are extremely codependent.
Another tid bit I learned in my research: nobody is born codependent; it is a learned behavior, taught and/or role modeled from one generation to the next.
The People Who Victim-Blame Codependents
Unfortunately, I sometimes see people victim-blame Codependents, or people who may not be full-blown codependent but happen to adopt a few codependent coping mechanisms to endure a terrible (or abusive) relationship as they are in a lousy relationship.
They may not be a codependent prior to a lousy relationship, but they can turn into one during the relationship while trying to survive it, or at least adopt codependent coping skills so long as they are in the lousy relationship, until they leave the relationship.
❇️ (By the way, it’s very, very hypocritical to write Codependency off as supposedly being a “victim blaming” concept but then turn around and victim- blame Codependents for those occasions they do not practice having boundaries, or do not assert themselves and stand up to their bullies or abusers, but I see this sort of thing frequently.) ❇️
The people doing this victim-blaming are usually Non-Codependent, Non-People-Pleasing people.
We are talking about people with normal, healthy self esteem, normal boundaries, who are not afraid to be assertive towards someone who is mistreating them.
Some of the people in this group may also consist of former Codependents, former People Pleasers who later in life became assertive, developed boundaries, whether through work with a therapist, or gaining this knowledge through life experience, reading self help books, or some combination of these things.
The former Codependents who now sit in judgment of people who are still “stuck” in Codependency find it easy to critique how a “now” or currently-Codependent person is mishandling an abusive boss or abusive spouse or some other detrimental situation or relationship.
The people who have never been Codependent in the first place, or the people who left Codependency behind years ago, are what I will term “Normies.”
The Normies either do not understand what compels Codependents to do what they do, or they’ve apparently forgotten what it’s like to be highly Codependent.
In this, I would even include people who work as psychologists or psychiatrists who display, to a point, an intellectual grasp of codependency, but who show a lack of a deeper understanding, and so they end up making un-founded, inaccurate, or flatly incorrect statements about what it’s like to live with Codependency, what motives Codependents have for why they engage in people pleasing or people rescuing behaviors, or why Codependents react as they do, and/or what led someone to be Codependent.
Easy to Sit In Judgement
If you are a former Codependent or have never been one in the first place, it’s oh so easy to condemn a woman who may be Codependent and /or one with Codependent coping skills for why she stays in a crummy job with a jerk boss, or why she stays married to an abusive guy, or a guy who is now known to be a child porn user. (I may write more of this later in separate post.)
Now that you, the ex-Codependent, have great boundaries and feel confident enough to be assertive with others, and you’ve come to realize you do not need a relationship to have worth,
it’s very, VERY easy for you to now, in this present moment, to chide someone still trapped in that Codependent thinking to “just have boundaries,” or “just divorce the guy” or “you’re an awful and irresponsible mother to not divorce a guy who was arrested for child porn!”
When you are out of Codependency or never been one to start with, of COURSE the OBVIOUS solution for a woman married to a pedophile is to divorce the guy pronto, but that is not going to be an obvious or “easy” solution for the Codependent woman,
especially if her Codependency is covered in a rich slather of “Christian gender complementarian” or “biblical Patriarchy” teachings, where she’s been taught since girlhood to conflate loving and obeying God with lacking agency and being a doormat.
I know it personally took me many years of hard, personal work and study – I read a lot of books and articles about assertiveness, boundaries, and codependency – to break free of Codependency.
I still remember what it was like to be “stuck” in all the fears, self doubt, low self esteem, the maladaptive coping skills and ways of relating to others, the terror of confrontation (conflict avoidance in personal or work place relationships was my comfort zone, and my Mom and complementarian church definitely encouraged this “meek” approach to life), and trying to find worth by earning validation from others, during the 35+ years I was in Codependency.
I still remember what all that felt like, and it was terrible.
Being extremely codependent left me very vulnerable to being abused, exploited, and taken advantage of – which I was, quite often, by friends, family, and co-workers.
The Dr Ramani Videos
In the Dr. Ramani video entitled “When narcissists feel entitled to your property,” at the 3.51 mark (link again to that video), Dr. Ramani makes the observation that if the woman in the dating relationship signs over half her home’s title to her live-in boyfriend, she would be “dumb” to do so, or that would be a dumb move.
(In the letter written to an advice site, the woman says her grandmother died and left a house to her, and that the boyfriend is pressuring her to get half the house title in his name too, not just her name.
The boyfriend’s parents are also guilt tripping her.
The woman is confused and doesn’t know if not putting the boyfriend on the title makes her selfish or not. She’s writing for clarity.)
So, in essence, Dr. Ramani sounds as though if the woman in the advice column were to sign over half her house ownership to her boyfriend, she would be “dumb” to do so.
I know with age and life experience and healthy boundaries and assertiveness, yes, putting a boyfriend on a home’s title sure sounds like a dumb thing to do – but if you’re a people pleaser, unsure of yourself, have low self esteem, and / or are a Codependent, you’re not going to find this “obvious.”
This is a strange approach for Dr. Ramani to take, to depict a woman possibly signing over her house as being “dumb,” which sounds victim-blaming to me.
In the other video (link again to that video), entitled “What’s wrong with calling people codependent? (in narcissistic relationships),”
Dr. Ramani spends a lot of time towards the end lamenting how terrible and wrong it is for society (or a person’s friends and family) to shame them for being too naive, stupid, dumb, or whatever, to fall for a narcissist, stay with one, or to fall for their cons.
But why then, does Dr. Ramani turn around in this other video and say if the woman ends up allowing her boyfriend on half the title, she would be “dumb?”
The fact that this woman felt confused and unsure of herself in the first place to write in to an advice column for guidance (that Dr. Ramani is quoting from) is a huge, red flag to me that the women is probably Codependent, or at least has several Codependent relationship habits and/or thinking processes.
Not All Narcissist Abuse Targets Are Codependents, But Many Codependents Are Targeted by Narcissists
In the video “What’s wrong with calling people codependent? (in narcissistic relationships),” I’d like to point out that while not all targets of narcissistic abuse are Codependents or People Pleasers, some of them are.
I point this out because Dr. Ramani, if I remember correctly, flatly states in the video that targets of Narcissist Abuse are not, or are never, Codependent. That is not true.
(This is also a point I see periodically raised in other books or sites by experts on, or survivors of, Narcissistic Abuse, who have the unfortunate habit of downplaying, or flat-out denying, that sometimes, yes, Codependents are very attractive to, and common targets for, Narcissists – and also for “every-day,” non-personality disordered abusers and run of the mill jerks and users.)
I spent over three decades as a Codependent, and in that time, as I reflect back on my life and think of some of the mean, selfish, and horrible people I’ve had to have consistent contact with – such as family members or bosses at jobs – some of them, were, I suspect, narcissists.
Furthermore, some of the bullies I encountered in my life were attracted to me precisely because I was so very Codependent (I was sweet, agreeable, non-confrontational, let them have their way, never stood up for myself, etc).
At least one of my former tormentors, who is a family member, is either on the narcissism spectrum or she at least exhibits a few classic narcissistic tendencies, though I don’t know if she came by them herself or if she adopted them because an abusive ex-husband or boyfriend used those tactics on her.
Regardless – it is a fact that some Codependents and People Pleasers, who are very empathetic people, and who lack boundaries – are juicy, easy, irresistible targets or prey for all types of jerks, con artists, and bad people, including narcissists!
In the video, Dr. Ramani mentions that one aspect of Codependency is denial.
She says some targets of Narcissistic Abuse are not in denial, but only not informed about what Narcissism is, but once they learn what it entails, and that Narcissists do not change, that they (the partner or friend or family member of the Narcissist) can then make decisions accordingly, such as whether to divorce their narcissistic spouse, for example.
Codependents can be in denial about their Codependency, true, but it depends on the specific Codependent.
My Mom (and complementarian Baptist churches my parents raised me in) began slowly, methodically indoctrinating me and conditioning me into accepting codependent behaviors and attitudes – my Dad also played a role in this, as did secular culture.
As “womanhood” (and the answer to the question “what is a woman?” as taught by secular culture and many churches), is wrapped up not just in biology, but in gender stereotypes,
and those gender stereotypes are further based on Codependency (women should be sweet, docile, repress their own needs, lack boundaries, be passive, etc).
The thing is, though, I suspected off and on since childhood that Codependency (and gender complementarianism) was a bunch of bunk.
I was not in full denial.
I suspected from a young age that living life as a doormat (which is what Codependency can be distilled down to) is unhealthy and counter-intuitive.
However, even though I had those suspicions, I did not have any other adults in my life confirm my suspicions and tell me,
“You are correct. It is not normal, healthy, or good to go through life being passive constantly, and lacking boundaries and always ignoring your needs to meet the needs of others.”
It was a very confusing way to grow up – suspecting that the one way I was taught to live life by my parents was wrong, but the church backed up what my parents were saying at home, and I didn’t hear other adults say any differently, not even at public schools I attended in different states, and not even from the various psychiatrists I saw back during the years I had clinical depression.
Knowledge Is Only Part of the Solution
I didn’t really learn what NPD or narcissism was until I began studying the topic a few years ago.
But contrary to what Dr. Ramani says, even if I had been educated as to what Narcissism was back during the 35+ years I was extremely codependent, knowing what Narcissism is and how it works would not have necessarily helped me leave Narcissistic relationships, or even avoid them to start with.
(1) Knowing facts about something, such as understanding what a personality disorder such as Narcissism is and how it manifests, and
(2) having the self confidence, and the belief that you have a right to have and hold boundaries,
are two different things.
Codependents are often not only in darkness and ignorance about the basic rules of how to live a healthy life
(eg., they lack of knowledge on things like having boundaries, being assertive, that it’s okay for them to have their own needs and get them met, etc),
but even if Codependents are presented with the information (facts), they have to jump another hurdle: recognize and accept, deep down, that they deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, just as much as everyone else does.
You have to know that you have value and worth just as you are, and that you deserve kindness, before you can have the self confidence to assert yourself and stand up to a bully and to risk having the bully or jerk yell back at you or break off the relationship and leave you.
Both pieces of the puzzle have to be there.
Maybe for a “Normie” married to a Narcissist, all it takes is a few sessions with a Narcissistic Abuse specialist such as Dr. Ramani to present them with clarity to make informed decisions on what to do (e.g., divorce the narcissist or stay and go grey rock, or whatever),
but if her patient is a Codependent, that knowledge alone will not be enough.
(And I don’t have to “be an expert” or have a mental health degree to know this. I lived it for over 30 years until I found my own way out of it.)
Codependents Get Blamed For Not Standing Up To Bullies and Abusers, or for Not Leaving
In the Codependency model, nobody is saying the Codependent “deserves” to be abused.
Honestly, it’s the people who rant and rave against the concept who actually have a nasty habit of victim-blaming codependents for being too passive and for not defending themselves, or for not divorcing a jerk or pervert.
While I was in the state of Codependency, I often was being abused or exploited by other people.
I did not like being abused or exploited.
I couldn’t figure out why, as I went through my 20s, 30s, and 40s, I kept attracting jerks, abusers, mean people, and other negative or damaged people (I also attracted a lot of depressed or mopey people, or social misfits, when I was not drawing the attention of bullies and narcissists).
It was implied to me by my Mom and church, and by others who push women to be Codependent, that if I lived life by their rule book (that is Codependently; be sweet, passive, agreeable, run around meeting other people’s needs, etc), that my life would just run smoothly, God would reward me with blessings, nice people would run my way to befriend me.
But that is not the result of what living like a sweet little doormat got me.
After having spent years being a sweet, loving, giving little non-confrontational doormat, I kept attracting selfish people or bullies.
That left me very confused.
I sat there and thought (especially in my 20s and 30s),
“I am living life the way Mom and church taught me, but it’s not translating into happiness, lots of friendships and joy. What is wrong?
“Why is their way of life not working?
“Where are all the great friends and good times and inner peace I was taught would come my way if I just loved Jesus and treated people nice?”
What would happen in individual situations, where a friend of mine I had been good to for years would verbally abuse me and be cruel, I would then approach another friend or family member to talk about it, because I was hurting and confused and wanting empathy and maybe find an answer.
Instead, I encountered victim-blaming.
Personal Experience With Being Victim Blamed For Mistreatment I Got From Being Codependent
Here’s an example or two of what I mean….
Fred the Ex
Back when I was in a long term relationship from my late 20s into around my mid 30s, (the guy and I were engaged the last few years, Fred – Fred is not his real name), this ex began financially exploiting me about 2 or 3 years into the relationship.
By the second or third time Fred asked me for money (always with the promise that he’d re-pay me), I began suspecting that he was taking advantage of me. It made me angry and it hurt my feelings, too.
I wanted to tell “Fred” no, but I kept giving him money ($500 here, $200 there, $1200 there, etc), and over a period of years, this guy owed me several thousand dollars (even though he earned way more money than me per year).
My Mom and My Brother Tim
Years prior, I saw my Mother in the same dynamic with my older brother, Tim. (Not his real name.)
Even though Tim later confessed to our mother to lying about the money and why he needed it (my brother confessed that he made up sob stories to get her to pity him and to then send him hundreds of dollars every few months over a ten year or so period), my Mom kept sending Tim money.
This went on for years and years, even after my Dad and I told her within the first year or two, “We suspect Tim is ripping you off. Stop sending him money.”
So, my Mother role modeled for me that when someone who claims to love you comes to you asking for money, even if you think they may be shady, you loan them the money anyhow.
The message I got from watching my mother was to think to not loan your loved one the money would make you mean-spirited, heartless, and selfish.
I could see how this was a problem in my mother.
I could see how she needed to put down boundaries and start telling my brother no, but in my own personal life, with friends and boyfriends, I had a difficult time applying this concept to myself, or seeing this habit in myself.
And this was years and years before I read lots of books about codependency.
Back to Fred the Ex – and His Awful Mother
Well, at the time I was engaged to Fred (not his real name), I called his mother’s house looking for him one day, because his old cell phone was no longer working, and I could not get ahold of him.
So I call his mother’s house, and even though I had always been polite as pie to this woman, Tammy (not her real name) went off on me on the phone, screaming and yelling at me – she was putting me down and insulting me.
Tammy seemed to think her son was an angel who could do no wrong while I was just an horrible, awful girlfriend. I was shocked at her hostility, because I had always been polite with her on previous occasions I was a guest in her home.
(The reality is that Tammy’s son was a completely self absorbed jackass who got his way in that relationship the entire time. Fred never cared about me or my needs.)
One of the few comments I managed to get out in the midst of all Tammy’s screaming was,
“Are you aware that your son owes me $X,000 of dollars?”
I don’t think this woman realized the magnitude of how selfish and flawed her son was.
I thought me putting across that her adult son was using me for money (and it was a lot of money) and not paying me back what he owed me may give her second thoughts – that maybe, just maybe I was the mistreated one in the relationship, not her son.
(And no, I did not abuse or mistreat her son in that relationship: I was an utter push-over, just as my parents and church had taught me to be. Her son got his way with me 99.9% of the time. I was not mean to Fred, nor did I verbally, physically, or emotionally abuse him.)
There was a slight pause, and she began her comment with this victim-blaming comment:
“You’re an otherwise intelligent young woman…”
My brain blocked out the rest of whatever she said, because it was clear by that first half of the statement,
rather than holding her son Fred accountable for being a financial leech who was sucking off his fiance (me), his mother chose to distort it to,
‘well, you’re a dumb bitch who is stupid and naive enough to keep giving the parasite money.’
A few years before this took place, when Fred approached me with a worried look on his face, asking me to give him money so he could pay his rent, I asked him, “Why are you always asking me for money? Why don’t you ask your Mom for help?”
He just said something like, “She refuses to help me financially.”
Fred would nag and nag and plead and beg me (or throw temper tantrums) until I caved in and did whatever he wanted, so at the time, I felt even if I wanted to say “No” to him, he’d only nag me until I caved in.
Pam the Sister
Years later, after I had started Codependency recovery (but was only in the early stages of this), I was relating this story of how my ex Fred’s mom was victim blaming me for HIS financial use of me to my big sister, “Pam” (not her real name).
As I was recounting this story to Pam (I don’t remember what got me on the topic), I was trying to communicate to Pam how disgusting it was that Tammy (the ex’s mother) was blaming me for the ex ripping me off financially.
My sister, Pam, by the way, never fell to our Mother’s brainwashing to the extent that I did.
Pam moved out of the house very, very early – like around age 16 or 17 when she got married (she later divorced that guy). In some ways, because Pam moved away from our mother’s influence, she was able to spot much faster how toxic our mother’s “be a sweet doormat!” philosophy was and to drop it and figure out things on her own.
When I told Pam my sister about Tammy saying, “You’re an otherwise intelligent young woman,” as if she were saying I was naive or dumb to keep giving money to her son when he had not paid me back for previous loans, my sister Pam nodded her head in agreement with Tammy’s perspective!
I didn’t know what to say.
I was shocked that my sister was in a way taking “Tammy’s” side.
(Well, I should not have been, I guess. My sister has a long history of victim-blaming me whenever I tell her about this or that friend who let me down or screamed in anger at me, though I had done nothing to deserve it.
My whole life, due to the Codependency, I was a magnet for volatile jerks and bullies – took me much later in life to figure that out.)
Not that my sister Pam was fine with Tammy name calling me over the phone and what not (she didn’t agree with that), but my sister was like, “Yeah, when someone owes you money, and they come up to you months later asking for more, you don’t loan them more money until they pay for the previous loan.”
If you are a Non-Codependent Person, or a Recovered Codependent Person, yes, that makes absolute sense that you do not keep “loaning” a boyfriend money when he has a history of not re-paying previous loans.
I sure know that NOW that I’m in my 50s and way over and way past Codependency.
I know if I had a boyfriend now who were to ask for money, I would tell him “No.”
There would not even be a “first loan,” never mind on-going loans.
There is no way now, knowing what I know, that I’d keep loaning money to a person who has an established history of taking money and not re-paying it.
Stop Victim Blaming Codependents For Acting Out of Codependency – They Don’t Know Any Better, and Even if They Suspect, They Won’t Have the Confidence to Change Things and Say No
But back when I was in Codependency, I did not know any better!
You don’t know what you don’t know.
So, I totally condemn the view of any person, whether it is my sister, or whomever it is, who sputters things like-
“So your ex kept taking hundreds to thousands of dollars from you over a few years and didn’t repay you? Well, it’s your fault! You were dumb enough to keep giving this guy money! You should’ve known better,”
-at someone who did act naively but did so out of Codependency or People Pleasing.
Yes, I “should” have known better (I suspected my ex was exploiting me at the time, and I resented it, but I did not know better – because nobody ever taught me differently).
My parents and the Baptist faith tradition I was raised in taught me to live life through a Codependent lens.
I had no other way of living, or knowing how to approach life, even though I periodically suspected I should not be allowing that clown to keep taking money from me.
Another kicker in situations I encountered like that one, is even on the occasions I suspected something was very wrong, and that I should stand up to the jerk or the user, is that I did not have the self confidence to do so, and I had no idea how to confront a person. My mother had trained me from a young age to keep my mouth shut any time I was angry at someone.
My mother trained me to be extremely conflict avoidant. I was also taught that my needs and feelings do not matter – my Dad also sent that message constantly as I was growing up; he was very negative, shaming, and critical.
So… if my boyfriend wanted to financially exploit me, I had zero practice at conflict resolution, had no idea how to approach the topic (I tried weakly a few times), I didn’t know what to say, and I felt like I didn’t really deserve any better…. after all, I had it drilled into me repeatedly that I do not matter. If my ex wants to screw over my bank account, who cares, I do not matter. My financial security doesn’t matter. My needs don’t matter. My feelings don’t matter.
It is next to impossible to consistently stand up for yourself over a life time if you were trained to think you do not matter.
And I got that all the time, and from Christians and churches I attended, too. I heard the same toxic crap in church sermons, Christian books, etc.
I was taught it was godly, feminine, loving, and Christ-like to be giving to the point of pain.
The Codependency was re-enforced through spiritual teachings about God, Jesus, the Bible, and gender, in other words.
When you grow up hearing you shouldn’t have boundaries or be assertive, you do not realize that is even an option, and even if you did, you would not have the self esteem necessary to stand up for yourself even if you wanted to, after years of “you don’t matter” rhetoric.
That example with Fred the ex and his mother Tammy and my sister Pam is but one example.
I am not going to go on and on about it, but there were other times in my life, in other contexts, with other people (or sometimes with my sister Pam again), where I would get victim-blamed by people for having been used or abused by someone else!
These friends and family I went to in those times of crisis, when I was seeking comfort because I was confused or hurt that a so-called friend or boyfriend was mistreating me, but instead I was met with judgement and scorn – they’d want to know “why didn’t you tell him ‘no,’?” or, “why didn’t you leave that horrible friendship once you saw she was a selfish user?” – and so forth.
Stop Victim Blaming Codependents
Codependents have several different motives for why they put up with rude, abusive, or plain old unfair or garbage behavior off their spouses, friends, neighbors, family, and co-workers, and you mocking or criticizing them for not correcting or confronting the bad behavior they receive from others, or criticizing or shaming the Codependent for not breaking the abusive relationship off, only hurts the Codependent more.
Shaming and scolding Codependents who do “too much” to help others, (the Codependents who continually phone call a person they know is going through a tough time or whatever) also doesn’t help, and it’s not going to get through to the Codependent.
Codependents who keep chasing after a wounded, hurting person to help them (helping others and “being needed” are areas where Codependents get a morsel of self esteem and purpose from) are not playing on “power differentials,” with the goal of abusing the hurting person they’re reaching out to, as so many were ignorantly and falsely claiming in the Julie Roys situation a few months ago.
It’s the exact opposite: codependents are the ones preyed upon by the abusers, users and bullies in our culture.
I was trapped in Codependency for over 35 years.
I understand the Codependent mindset extremely well, even more so than some people with college degrees in psychology, far more than the “expert” group at “GRACE,” 🙄 or some of the rude, ignorant, or obnoxious “abuse survivor advocates” I see on social media who victim- blame Codependents.
And their victim-blaming attitudes towards Codependents is really disgusting. None of the compassion they hypocritically ooze for church abuse victims ever shows up in how they talk about, or talk to, current or former Codependents.
The abuse survivor advocates I’ve seen online will consider the minutiae of how and why abuse victims act as they do, and possibly how abusers act and cover up their abuse, but they never stop to consider what drives or motivates a Codependent.
If you have never been Codependent, or you were years ago but have since developed normal boundaries and self esteem, you have no clue what it’s like to still be “in” Codependency (or you have clearly forgotten),
you’ve no clue what it’s like to constantly tolerate awful behaviors from others because you feel you have no choice,
you lack the self esteem to do so,
you have no idea or recollection of what it’s like to feel compelled to behave like a rescuer or fixer to troubled people you meet, all because you’ve been taught by your family of origin or church that is how “nice Christian girls” behave or are “supposed to” behave.
As a Codependent, you’re taught in your family and church that you get value, purpose, and earn friendship (yes, you are taught you have to EARN love and friendship, because nobody will ever love you for you!), by helping others, no matter the cost to you.
You’re taught by the same people pushing this stuff that if you refuse to go along with it (as it’s tied in deeply with “gender complementarian” teachings, based on cherry-picked Bible verses taken out of context and divorced from their cultural background) that you will be disappointing or angering Jesus and God.
If you’re a serious, devout Christian girl, teenager, or grown woman, you therefore will be very hesitant to question any of it and resist it.
And you know from previous experience if you try to stop living from Codependency, to occasionally stand up for yourself or to say no to someone, you will experience a lot of guilt, which also makes you, the Codependent, confused and reluctant to try to get rid of all these behaviors.
Stop it with blaming people in your life, or who you read about online, that made questionable or naive decisions, if they are Codependent.
Stop shaming people for making naive or wrong choices, or choices that go against their own best self-interest, if they’re Codependent.
So long as Codependents are stuck in Codependency, yes, Codependents are going to make a lot of choices in life that look positively stupid or self-defeating to the average normie.
So long as Codependents are stuck in Codependency, yes, Codependents are going to do questionable things that make Normies smack their foreheads in dismay and astonishment, such as stay far too long, way longer than they should, in horrible or abusive workplaces or marriages.
So long as the Codependent remains trapped in Codependency, they’re not responsible for the questionable, poor, or self defeating choices they make because they do not understand what they are doing, and they may not even fully know why they are doing it, and they do not know how to stop doing it even if they suspect there’s an issue.
For many Codependents, the word “no” is not on the menu, for one thing.
Many (all?) Codependents do not even realize that having boundaries is a viable life alternative;
nobody has ever sat down and taught them “Adulting Basics in Jobs and Relationships 101” or “Healthy Self Esteem 101” (that you probably learned in childhood or your early 20s), such as,
- Your Needs Matter
- Your needs are just as important as anyone else’s
- It’s okay for you to get your needs met (it’s NOT selfish to do so)
- It’s okay (and NOT selfish) to have boundaries
- It’s okay to say “No” to people
- It’s not “un-feminine” or anti-Christian to be assertive if you are a woman
Codependents are not going to be fully responsible for their life choices in the same way a Non-Codependent person is, until they have a therapist, or someone or something, open their eyes to all these dynamics and help them get through it and give them pointers on how to navigate healing and how to have normal, healthy relationships
Until then, they don’t know any better.
So the next time your friend – who seems to be very Codependent – phones you upset and crying because her friend Teresa just bit her head off, and she doesn’t understand why Teresa did this, and it makes her cry from sadness and hurt feelings, please bite your tongue.
Resist the urge to tell your friend that the entire situation is really all her fault (not Teresa the verbally abusive jerk’s fault), she should’ve dumped Teresa by now, anyone with half a brain could’ve seen months ago that Teresa is bad news, as you obviously could (because you’re a Normie who is not steeped in Codependency, congratulations.)
That is not how one handles a Codependent, assuming you actually give a shit about this person and want to see her arrive at happiness.
There is a way to convey that information to your Codependent friend without shaming her or making her feel like an idiot loser.
I would like to see less of this shaming, scorning, and insulting people with Codependency for making poor relationship or poor job related choices if it’s rooted in their Codependency.
But I see it at times on social media by lay persons and in videos or articles by mental health professionals.
I will add here a few videos by people who are more empathetic in talking to or about Codependents, Codependency, (being “too nice”), and they give a few actual decent tips on how to over come People Pleasing (Codependency):
This one is 54 minutes long:
This video is almost 6 minutes long:
The following is 15.44 minutes long:
Please note I may edit this post after it’s been published to add content or re-word things to make it more clear.
(Link): When You’re in Imbalanced, Unfair Relationships – You’re the Free Therapist, The Supportive, Sounding Board Who Listens to Other People’s Non-Stop Complaining, But They Don’t Listen to You – re: The Toilet Function of Friendship