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Posts tagged ‘fix-it behaviors’

Are You Helping or Enabling Your Spouse?

SOURCE:  Mark Merrill

Does your spouse want or need to change something in their life? If so, it’s critical to know the difference between helping and enabling them through that change.

The change they want or need could be something serious like an addiction to prescription drugs, alcohol, food, or pornography. Or it could be something simpler like eating healthier, exercising more, or changing an annoying habit. They may talk about it, they may whine about it, they may pretend it doesn’t exist, but being their spouse, you see it better than most anyone.

In general, helping your spouse is doing something right and healthy for them that they cannot do for themselves. Enabling is doing for them what they can and need to do for themselves, allowing them to live an irresponsible life.

A recent reality show my friend was watching about a severely obese person illustrates both helping and enabling. A woman needed to lose hundreds of pounds or she would die. Her relatives had been going to the store for her every day (since she couldn’t go herself), but they bought only the unhealthy food that was killing her. That was not helping; that was enabling her obesity. Later, the relatives saw the reality of what they were doing, moved in with her, and helped her change her eating and cooking habits by cooking only healthy foods for her for several months. That was helping. She learned to choose healthier options, and successfully lived alone again, with a radically different lifestyle and weight loss that gave her hope.

Here’s what enabling looks like:

  • You do for your spouse the things they can and should do for themselves.
  • You cover up for your spouse when their issues create problems for them and others.
  • You make excuses for their behavior with others.
  • You lie to them, to yourself, and to others about the extent and eventual consequences of their issue.
  • You protect your spouse from the normal consequences of their problem.
  • You ignore your spouse or their issue altogether. Ignoring is enabling.
  • You blame others or indulge your spouse blaming others, for their issue.
  • You make empty threats related to the consequences of their choices and don’t follow through.
  • You avoid being around your spouse. Sometimes, this is necessary for a dangerous situation but usually, it only allows the spouse to wallow in the problem.
  • You repeatedly get your spouse out of the trouble their issue creates, usually at a high cost to yourself.

Here’s what helping looks like:

  • You do for your spouse the things that they cannot do for themselves.
  • You are honest with them about the consequences of inaction.
  • You don’t lie for them, and you don’t lie to them.
  • You don’t create excuses to others to cover up for their problems or issues.
  • You don’t clean up the messes their struggles or issues create.
  • You love them unconditionally, just as they are, yet you also love them enough to hope they choose to change.
  • You help them focus on the goal, without dwelling on any missteps or failures along the way.
  • You cheer them on and celebrate even small steps towards their goals.
  • You accept that you cannot change them, that they will not change unless they want to change. This may feel like giving up, but accepting this truth gives them freedom to own the change.
  • You refuse to take responsibility for their bad choices.

These are just some of the ways you can check yourself to see if you are truly helping them or enabling their destructive choices. But these are not exhaustive checklists. Don’t delay to seek out professional counsel for yourself if you have a serious situation. Don’t give up hope, but don’t give in to the temptation to indulge them in keeping the peace. And remember, your spouse can only experience true change when they want true change.

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8 Signs You’re a Codependent

SOURCE:  Elements Behavioral Health

Many people who love an alcoholic or addict begin to lose themselves in the relationship. They frequently struggle to control or change the person they love and after a while they become reactive and may barely be able to remember their own goals and dreams. In many cases, loving an addict affects people to their core and overtakes their lives.

When this happens, the addict is no longer the only sick person in the relationship. The other person has developed a disorder called codependency.

How do you know if you have developed this disorder? One way to describe it is that codependency is an unhealthy way of relating in which you have made your relationship more important than your own well-being. You may not be addicted to drugs or alcohol yourself, but you are addicted to the addict. You revolve your life around drama and unpredictability. You forget how to focus on anything except the addict.

There are many other characteristics of people who are codependent. You may have all of these characteristics or only one or two.

  • Low self-esteem – Codependents often don’t feel very good about themselves, and they look outside themselves for someone to let them know they are OK. People may feel unlovable deep down even if they appear to be self-assured. 
  • Strong nurturing tendencies – If you like taking care of other people and tend to put their needs ahead of your own, you may have a problem with codependency. You may put a lot of energy into fixing other people, solving their problems or trying to do things for them that they should do for themselves.
  • Desire to be in control – What do codependents get out of remaining in dysfunctional relationships? In many cases, they have a strong desire to be in control. By taking care of an addict or another person who appears incapable of managing his or her own life, the codependent gets to run the show.
  • Desire to be pleasing others – If you’re a codependent, you may spend a lot of time desperately seeking approval from other people. You may bail the addict out of his problems or lie for him or try to solve all of his problems because you don’t know how else to get love.
  • Being reactive – Are you a bundle of emotions all the time? Do you spend a lot of time and energy imagining the worst possible outcome of things that happen? Do you find yourself reacting to what you think other people are thinking? If you are a codependent, you may fly off the handle because you think someone gave you a “dirty look,” or you may pick up on emotions that other people are feeling because you are so other-centered.
  • Failure to set healthy boundaries – You may have a hard time distinguishing where other people end and you begin. You may obsess about other people’s problems as if they were your own.
  • Dependence – If you are a codependent, the thought of not having someone to revolve your life around feels like the end of the world. You may have a strong fear of abandonment, or you may panic at the thought of rejection. You may remain in a painful or abusive relationship because you are terribly afraid of being alone.
  • Often experiencing negative emotions – You may be filled with a lot of negative emotions. You may be sad, angry, depressed, resentful, fearful, irritable or anxious. Life may seem to be full of one disappointment after another and you may feel hopeless. Or you may be so weary of feeling negative emotions that you have learned to numb out your feelings.

Codependents often deny that they have any kind of a disorder. They believe their problems are caused by others, so they continually obsess about fixing the other person. But if you’re a codependent, the only person you can fix is you.

If you recognize yourself in some of these behaviors, consider attending a meeting, try Codependents Anonymous or Al-Anon. You can also approach a therapist or minister to talk about your behavior patterns or struggles. Recognizing that you have a problem with codependency is the first step toward self-love and healing. 

Codependency Self-Test

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors [AACC]

[This test was taken with permission from Breakthrough by Tim Clinton & Pat Springle (2012) Worthy Publishing.]

Indicate your agreement or disagreement with the following statements:

1. I am in a significant relationship with someone who is addicted to a substance or a behavior, someone who is depressed, or someone who is very needy.           Yes___ No___

2. I often feel the weight of responsibility for others’ happiness and well being. Yes___ No___

3. I can’t say “no” without feeling guilty. Yes___ No___

4. I can accurately “read” other people by analyzing their facial expressions and tone of voice. Yes___ No___

5. When I am able to fix others’ problems, I feel strong and valuable. Yes___ No___

6. I feel that I have to protect people, especially the addicted, out-of-control, or depressed person in my life. Yes___ No___

7. I live in such a way that no one can ever say I’m selfish. Yes___ No___

8. I vacillate between defending the irresponsible person and blowing up in anger at him or her. Yes___ No___

9. I often relive situations and conversations to see if I can think of some way I could have done more or spoken better to relieve stress and solve problems.                   Yes___ No___

10. I feel very frightened of angry people. Yes___ No___

11. I am quite offended by personal criticism. Yes___ No___

12. To avoid feeling guilt and shame, I seldom stand up to people who disagree with me. Yes___ No___

13. I tend to see people and situations as “all good” or “all bad.” Yes___ No___

14. Though I try to please people, I often feel isolated and alone. Yes___ No___

15. I trust people too much or not at all. Yes___ No___

16. I often try to get people I love to change their attitudes and behavior.                    Yes___ No___

17. I tend to believe the addicted or depressed person’s promises, even if he or she has broken countless promises before. Yes___ No___

18. Sometimes I have a lot of energy to help people, but sometimes I feel drained, depressed, and ambivalent. Yes___ No___

19. I often give advice, even when it isn’t requested. Yes___ No___

20. I tend to confuse love with pity, and I tend to love those who need me to rescue them from their problems. Yes___ No___

21. I believe I can’t be happy unless others, especially the needy people in my life, are happy. Yes___ No___

22. I am often a victim in strained and broken relationships. Yes___ No___

23. I am looking for somebody who will love me completely and unconditionally. Yes___ No___

24. My thoughts are often consumed with the troubles and needs of the addicted or depressed person in my life. Yes___ No___

Total:     Yes___     No___

—If you answered “yes” to 4 or fewer statements, you probably have relatively healthy boundaries, confidence, and wisdom in relationships. You can care about people without feeling responsible for their choices.

—If you answered “yes” to 5-12 statements, your life is shaped to a significant degree by the demands of needy people in your life. You often feel responsible for the choices others make, and you try too hard to help them make the right ones. You would benefit from the input of a competent counselor or support group.

—If you answered “yes” to 13 or more statements, you have lost your sense of identity, and you are consumed by the problems of addicted or depressed people in your life. You can’t be happy unless you are rescuing irresponsible people from their destructive decisions. In reality, however, your hope for sanity and emotional health is not in that person getting well. You have to take steps to get well whether that person does or not. Find a counselor or support group to help you gain wisdom and strength.

Some common characteristics of codependency include:

  • worry or anxiety
  • “bending over backwards” to take care of others
  • not knowing or not trusting one’s own feelings
  • feeling guilty for “not doing enough”
  • feeling isolated or depressed
  • staying in bad relationships (or sabotaging potentially good ones)
  • trouble with emotional connection and intimacy
  • workaholism
  • sexual problems
  • lack of energy
  • low self-esteem
  • inability to set boundaries
  • perfectionism
  • inability to share (or experience) feelings (emotionally numb)
  • striving for achievement (at any cost)

Q&A: Is It Controlling To Check My Spouse’s Emails and Texts?

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  Leslie Vernick

QUESTION:  One of the chapters in your new book on The Emotionally Destructive Marriage addresses control regarding looking at emails and texts. I never did this before until I had caught my husband in a lie about his whereabouts. He was acting differently for several months and was protective over his phone.

When I looked at his phone without his knowledge, I saw texts with co-workers and customers that were flirtatious. Then I looked at emails and also found emails that made me feel unsafe and uncomfortable as a wife. He said he could see why I thought that way and would take a look at his actions. I hadn’t looked in a long time, but several texts would appear when I was near him that I saw again were the same flirtatious exchanges.

We are in counseling, and he did admit to being deceptive regarding his whereabouts. I hadn’t looked in a while, but started looking again at his texts because I felt he was again not being truthful and maybe he never was, and that the only way I could find out the truth is if I looked.

Is this wrong and controlling as you mentioned in your book? Or is it different when you have reason to look because I hadn’t looked up until that point? Again, I love this book and can’t put it down. He is attentive to me when we are together.

If I didn’t look, I might not have realized what was going on. He is meeting with a counselor regarding his inability to express emotions (dad died when he was 6 yrs old). My counselor feels he is being emotionally promiscuous. He feels he is in control and not doing anything wrong. Recently, I saw 3 texts in over a year from a co-worker that he said were not meant for him. One said “listening to this song thinking of you” and another said, “Me too Babe, it’s been a long time.”

He said she texted back and mentioned it was not intended for him. I want to believe him, but it’s getting harder and harder. If I didn’t look, on the surface things appear normal.

ANSWER:  I’m sorry you’ve discovered that your husband has a secret life. That is painful to you and harmful to your marriage. Apparently, he is also confusing you. On the one hand, he’s agreeing that his behavior might make you feel unsafe and uncomfortable. Yet, he is also minimizing the damage when he states he’s in control of his emotional promiscuity and not doing anything wrong. If he’s not doing anything wrong, why is he hiding his behavior? With the way you worded your sentence though, I wasn’t sure if it was your husband or his counselor who felt your husband was in control of his emotional promiscuity and not doing anything wrong. If it’s the counselor, he would do well to find another counselor.

That said, the question you’re asking is are your behaviors controlling when you keep checking your husband’s cell phone and e-mails to see if he is lying or sneaking around?

Let me ask you a question. Why are you still checking? It’s not to find out if he’s lying to you. You already know the answer to that. So what’s your purpose? To find out if he’s still lying to you? You already know that answer, too. So what do you want to do with the information you already have? That is what you need to focus on right now.

You indicate that overall you have a good marriage and you would have no idea this was going on if you didn’t check. From that, I assume that you want your marriage to stay in-tact, minus the emotional promiscuity. What does your husband want? If he wants the same thing, then what will he need to change in order for him to stop his secret life?

First, he might commit himself to counseling to figure out what he’s trying to get out of his flirtatious behaviors. Next, he would initiate accountability for himself so that he will be less likely to fall into those same behaviors, you will feel safe, and you both can rebuild trust.

That means he will invite and allow you and/or other people, such as a good male accountability partner, to monitor his e-mails, phone messages or texts whenever you want to. You will not need to sneak to check. You will have full access to his passwords and be able to verify that he is doing what he says anytime you feel anxious. This is not to control him, as he must learn to control himself. This is for you to rebuild the trust that he is doing what he says he wants to do–stay married to you and stop flirting with other women.

However, that doesn’t mean that if your husband wants to, he still can’t find a way to flirt and lie about it. You cannot control him or his behaviors. The best you can do is to decide what you are willing to live with and what you are not willing to live with and then let him know what the consequences will be to your marriage if he continues to lie and flirt.

So many women obsessively try to change their husband’s sinful behaviors by playing detective and drive themselves crazy in the process. If your husband wants to be a liar and a cheat, you are absolutely powerless to stop him. All you can do is work on yourself and decide if you are willing to put up with that behavior or not. If not, then what do you need to do instead of continuously monitoring him?

I Can’t FIX… It…Him…Her………

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.” Psalm 62:5-6 NLT

Some of us—if not all of us—have known the frustration of being caught up in a situation we can’t control and can’t fix.

Are you suffering pressures, stress and pain from dealing with the consequences of a loved one’s problem?

Those pressures are very real, but even in the middle of that frustration and tension, you need to believe that there is hope.

This kind of hope can be described as the confident expectation of something good. It is hope based on our knowledge of God and his willingness to meet us right where we are. He is here now and is ready to work in us and in our difficult circumstances.

If you are not already doing so, determine to begin spending regular time praying and studying the Bible. When feelings of hopelessness fill your mind, go to God in prayer. Ask him for his strength. Ask him to bring to mind the promises you have studied from the Bible. Ask him to work his will and his plan in your life and in the life of your loved one. He loves you and he will meet your need.

Lord, thank you for this reminder that there is always hope if I am willing to trust in you. You alone are my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Concerned Persons: Because We Need Each Other by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

Q&A on The Destructive Elements of Neediness (Part 2)

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

This kind of dependency isn’t I NEED you to LOVE me in order for me to be okay, but  I NEED you to NEED me in order for me to be okay.

The same emphasis is on the word me but with a slightly different bent. This kind of dependent person often functions as a rescuer, hero, fixer, or the more capable one when in reality he or she is also quite needy but unaware of it. He uses people to feel better about himself. He does this by taking care of other’s problems or being over involved in people’s lives all the while staying completely blind to his own problems. He or she is usually attracted to someone who is weak, vulnerable, or one who needs fixing or rescuing.

The destructive thing about a fixer or rescuer is that they don’t really want the other person to get healthy because then he or she wouldn’t need them any longer. We often see this kind of dysfunctional pattern with parents who are unable to let go of their adult children, enabling them to stay weak and dependent on them because of their need to be needed.

Brenda was married to a chiropractor who loved taking care of everyone, including her. He was well loved by his patients because he took the time to listen and was readily available whenever they had a need. For Brenda however, his hovering over her felt demeaning. He called her constantly, checking on her whereabouts, making sure she was safe. He questioned how she did things and whether or not it was the “best” way they could be done. He evaluated her diet and told her where she could make improvements to lose weight. He insisted she put socks on at the airport because he didn’t want her bare feet touching the dirty floor when they went through security.

At first she found his attention flattering, but now she hated it. She wanted to make her own decisions about what she ate or whether or not she wanted to put socks on during their travels without a constant commentary about what she was doing wrong or what she could do better. Brenda often tried asserting herself, but it never ended well. Once she told Ted that she was not going to order something on the menu just because he said it was better for her, and then Ted sulked the rest of the evening, saying she didn’t appreciate how much he loved her.

And, Brenda had to admit, she didn’t. She felt angrier and angrier and hated being treated like a child. Sometimes she found herself acting like a compliant little girl who did whatever her daddy wanted, and then she’d switch into a rebellious teenager who talked back and wasn’t going to listen at all. She loathed what was happening to herself and her marriage, but didn’t know how to change the unhealthy dance they both were dancing. In a mature relationship, the goal is for both individuals to fully function as healthy adults. However, in a dependent relationship where one wants to fix and control someone else, attempts for independence are seen as threats to the rescuer’s sense of worth and are usually squashed or undermined creating a destructive pattern to the marriage and both individuals in the relationship.

Clinging, smothering, demanding and controlling are the signs of unhealthy dependence in one or both people in the relationship. If you recognize yourself in some of these descriptions, don’t beat yourself. Instead, see it as God opening your eyes to your unhealthy dependency and listen and learn what he calls you to do in order to become emotionally healthy and whole.

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