When I was married, I worked on my marriage and obsessed about my marriage and prayed about my marriage more than I worked on or obsessed about or prayed about my job or my writing or my speaking or my children or my friends or my health or myself or my faith walk, probably combined. My difficult marriage was at the forefront of my mind almost all of the time.
I’m not proud of that and I’m not saying it’s right or wrong; I’m just saying that was my reality.
In other words, when I was married, WIFE was my most important role, my most defining role. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it wasn’t just a role for me.
Beth =’d wife.
I wasn’t first a human being. I wasn’t first a child of God. I was wife. (To be more specific, I was bad wife in a bad marriage.) And in that encompassing, encapsulating, in that swallowing-whole-of-my-personhood, I lost so very much.
I lost me. I lost who God had created me to be.
And I melted into my partner in super unhealthy ways. It’s called codependency, in fact. And I’ve been doing the codependent dance for as long as I can remember.
Now, you can be codependent even if your marriage partner does not have a standard addiction. If your partner is abusive or you two argue all the time, without even realizing it, you may in actuality thrive on conflict or on drama or on being treated poorly. (Perhaps it’s what you grew up with, it’s all you’ve ever known, it’s what feels like normal to you.) You may, deep down, secretly love being obsessed with your difficult relationship. You may fear having nothing else to think about if your marriage were to up and disappear or up and heal. You may crave trying to untangle your marriage knots. I get it. This was me.
(And if you’re not sure if it’s you, try taking this little quiz…it’s okay, really! I took it myself.)
So, if this is you…if you are in a perpetually hurting marriage and you are – let’s call it what it is – obsessed with your husband and his behaviors and your marriage, there is hope.
- Pray. Ask Jesus to bring you healing, to open your eyes to your reality, and to start making you uncomfortable when you obsess and acquiesce.
- Get into counseling. If you’ve been living codependently for any length of time, it may take professional skill to undo. A third party can help you with this.
- Set some boundaries. If you are being treated on a regular basis, it’s okay to let your husband know that it’s no longer acceptable behavior. For instance, if he insists on yelling at you, you have the right to leave the room. You really, really do.
- Rediscover who you are in Christ. Ask God who you are to him. Look up Scripture that reminds you that you are his daughter, that you are his beloved, that you are gifted.
- Find yourself as a person. Ask God how he created you and what makes you unique. Start a list of what you love and what you can’t stand. Reflect on your childhood and adolescence…what used to bring you joy? Do you have a hobby that you’ve given up because you just don’t have the emotional energy these days to put towards it? It’s okay to pick it up again, or even – gasp! – try something new, something you’ve always wanted to try.
This will take time. You cannot expect a lifetime of thoughts and actions to be overturned overnight. But you can be free. You can become our own person. Even within the confines of a dysfunctional marriage. Jesus wants to set you free.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. –Galatians 5:1
Codependency defined my marriage….and my divorce years until…now, actually!! 🙂 Nothing like discovering you ex has already moved on into another relationship to serve as a wake-up call to QUIT living a life waiting n him to do…something. Elizabeth, my new day – my awakening – has entered on painful wings, but FINALLY has pierced my soul. Codependency is deadly in all of its forms – and literally drains the life from you!! I’m ready to begin LIVING!!! Thanks again for speaking the truth into my life!!
I have recently discovered my 20+ year marriage has been full of emotional abuse. I always knew something was wrong but until, I believe, The Lord revealed my husband was passive aggressive I could never put a name with it. Pretty much since I found this out (it was March 27, 2014) I have been in various states of hurt/anger/denial/depression/…just plain emotional upheaval! I have turned to food out of all those emotions and have gained 35 pounds. I have made this issue pretty much my life these past several months! Reading this post was such an eye-opener! I have thought all the things you have written! I know I was thinking about my marriage too much but then I would think, “Well geez, this is my marriage. I am talking about a life long choice I made. This is pretty serious! I mean my first ministry is supposed to be to my husband!” But I also knew I was making it bigger than everything else in my life, including God. I am praying for balance. I am praying for balance and healing for both my husband and myself. I thought he was all of the problem but in reality I have my part to play in this. I know all abuse is terrible. Passive aggressive abuse is very strange though in the way it is dished out. (Not all passive aggressive relationships are cookie-cutter of course. This is just how it is in my marriage) I am not hit or cursed at. I am just ignored. My requests, my needs, my feelings are ignored. If I bring them up I am “crazy” or too needy or too critical or he get so angry . I don’t have a team mate in parenting or a friend at all in my husband. I truly do not know how to live like this because all of me keeps wanting to chase after my husband when I know unless God does some major work in his life he isn’t going to change. Well I say I know that. Sometimes I don’t. Soemtimes I think I can fix him if I try this or that or be a better wife. Be a woman who loves so well I can make him love me and care about me; I have tried that too and it just doesn’t work. He is right there in front of me but I can’t have him. So all of that to say this post really stood out to me. I am wanting and hoping and praying to follow The Lord and become the person He created me to be, not me and my husband or me and my kids or me and anyone else just me! Thanks for this beautiful blog.