Codependency and Marriage


I am seeking feedback on codependency and marriage.

I am a codependent…married for 6 1/2 years. I have been unhappy for most of that time due to the fact that I have bent over backwards meeting all of my husbands needs, to the detriment of my own needs and self. We are now in counseling together for the past 6 weeks and only after my brief emotional involvement with another man. I feel that I need to work on my own codependent issues as part of our healing. Is there anyone who has been through anything similar that could be a sounding board??



Unfortunately the word codependency has been thrown around so much in the past 20 years that it’s come to mean virtually nothing.

I was “diagnosed” as codependent back in college in the 80’s. It was a useless word as it didn’t give me anything specific to work with. I had low self-esteem, was terrified of men, and emotionally immature. I ran my entire life trying to avoid what I was afraid of. Now those words helped me overcome what was going on, as did plain old growing up and older.

I’m not sure what you mean by codependency or codependency issues, but if you have low self-esteem, then you do need to work on that. Whatever is going on in your relationship with your husband, I caution you not to use codependency as an excuse to defend your “brief emotional involvement with another man.”

Taking responsibility for what you did, both in marrying a man who isn’t giving back, and in your “involvement” with another man will show you that you do indeed have the power to create your own life. You will boost your self-esteem and feelings of self-worth far more by being responsible for your actions than if you get caught up in trying to resolve “codependent issues.”

You are in my prayers, dear one. Breathe deeply, pray deeply, and let the Holy Spirit work in your heart.



If this co-dependence involves substance abuse issues, then I would suggest Al-Anon or Narc-Anon. They are sister organzations to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, structured just for the people who are affected by addicts. Everyone at one of those meetings can and does share your experience.

If it’s gambling, I think there is Gambling Anonymous for the addict, and Gamb-Anon for the affected loved ones.

There are places to go for support and healing. The phone book or your local social services office are a good start. I know they also list meetings of these organizations in my local newspaper… they might in yours too.

Prayers, and good luck.


I’m a firm believer in the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery programs. I’ve been sober 23 years and WORKING the steps for 20. There’s nothing new about them, really, but they are constructed so even a rock head like me can get them. Al-anon, Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) etc all use them.

THose 12 steps, when worked at diligently over a loooong time, can and will replace man-dependency, booze-dependency, shopping-dependency, me-dependency et al with GOD-dependency.

I ***so ***recommend them.

the hardest thing for the co-dependent to admit is this: she does almost NOTHING from the goodness of her heart. everything has a wished-for manipulation outcome. if I do this: he’ll be nicer, he’ll be sorry, i’ll feel superior, he’ll love me more, he’ll be happy, he’ll stop being grumpy, he won’t yell etc.

if she can admit her manipulations, she can learn to detach with LOVE, not with some spiteful, punitive sense of self-preservation.

the next hardest thing for the co-dependent is this: if she’s being physically abused, to admit that focusing on the co-dependancy is just subterfuge. it’s smokescreen from the real issue. if the co-dependant is being abused (or if the kids are being abused) the first order of business is to physical safety. yeah. easier said than done because it’s the co-dependency that helped put her in the abuse to begin with.

the co-dependent may be shackled to a really terrible jerk, but if she’s going to get better, she must admit if she hadn’t chosen him, she would have chosen somebody else just like him.

furthermore, without many God-dependency miracles, she’ll choose another like him again.

how do I know? because that was me all over.

Working twelve steps, great sponsors, LOTS of praying and Jesus in the Eucharist. That’s what changed me.

I pray you can find freedom from this,. Freedom and peace.


Thanks for the responses. I am so glad to get some feedback. I didn’t want to get into all the details until I knew that there was someone out there who had an idea where I am coming from.

How do I know I am codependent? I have known it for quite some time, I just never really admitted it to myself. I only admitted it to myself when I also admitted that I was unhappy in my marriage to a man who drinks heavily (is likely an alcoholic) primarily because I worked very hard to meet all of his needs while my needs were neglected. As I started to recognize my codpendency and read up on it, I realized how I have taken on the responsibility for how he was feeling, what he was doing, etc. My resentment for him has grown into a mountain. I take care of my family. We both work, but I am the “stable” one and I make more money. I am in charge of the finances. I am in charge of the spiritual development of my family. Etc. etc. etc. He takes care of nothing. Including me. He is addicted to alcohol and video games. And I think he is sexually obsessive. We are in counseling together. I am trying to work through our problems. But I now recognize that I have my own set of problems and that I need to work through if we have any chance of being a “healthy” couple.

I do not use the term “codependency” as a crutch or excuse for my behavior. I take responsibility for my bad choices.

I guess I am just feeling very alone right now. Nobody seems to really understand what I am going through.

There really is so much more to this story, but I just can’t get into it at the moment.

Thanks for listening, and for any advice.


quite frankly I only know what this means in reference to a spouse or relative who has substance abuse issues, or other addictions, so I guess if that is a factor, having the spouse get specific help with that, and you in the program (such as Al-Anon) for their relatives, is the best way to go. I would also be careful about self-diagnosing and let the counsellor tell you after suitable time and investigation, what you need to work on.

If he “drinks heavily like an alcoholic” to the detriment of your family and your marriage, he IS an alcoholic, honey, and you do need Al-Anon, spoken from one survivor to another.


Point taken. I need to call it what it is.


Hi becky;

I’m sorry you’re feeling so unhappy…(((hugs))) first of all to you!

I will say that codependence has a lot more to do with how we view of ourselves, than another person’s view of us. When we spend a lot of time developing an identity based on what another thinks of us, it is very likely that we will become dependent on that…and look at love through a different lense. Part of your intrigue with another man, is the same thing–that he told you those things that made you feel good, about you. The key is to start viewing yourself as a great person, independent of what men (including your husband) think of you. To see yourself the way God sees you. Codependence isn’t something that will change if you shift your attention to another man…you will most likely be codependent upon another man, like you are with your husband. It isn’t your husband that is the issue, it is the way you see yourself and self worth–which is through how your husband views you. You mentioned that you have ‘bent over backwards’ trying to please your husband, to your own detriment. And that really is a beautiful awakening, really. It hurts when we awaken, but it is progress! You are starting to see yourself as codependent, and thinking…how can I change this? I think counseling probably will be very beneficial, depending on the counselor…but, praying the Rosary, and reading about some strong female saints, might be helpful to you as well. Developing a hobby…outside of your home…painting, writing, whatever…something that is YOU, and brings out the inner you. We cannot be at peace with our spouses, until we are at peace with ourselves. (I said this in another thread today–it must be my mantra for the day!):slight_smile:

I hope I’ve helped a little…know that you are not alone in feeling these things. I have had moments in my life, where I looked to my husband to complete me…to make me happy, and the reality is, that only my relationship with God will make me happy and at peace. Everything else will flow from that relationship, onto others.

God bless you and I pray things work out for you!


I also just read about your husband’s drinking issues. I pray that he also heals from his addiction, and that together…you both emerge stronger as a couple.



you’re not alone. even mixing together all the unspoken history and circumstances, i can say with certainty you’re not alone. do you imagine that all the other alcoholic, codependent, addictive families are single-prpblem operations? no. they’re not. more than ever these days, alcoholism-- any substance addictions-- are layered with other crud. you’re not alone.

it would be wonderful if husband would get sober-- all the counselling in the world won’t help him a bit if he’s drinking. but his sobriety is NOT a requirement for your peace of mind and healing.

Al-Anon is filled with people who are deepening their dependence on God, learning to Trust HIM, learning to forgive and be healed while their addictive partner continues to drink/ use drugs.

please go there in addition to counselling.


Thanks for the replies. I need support…I know that. He does not believe that he has a drinking problem and he will not support my need for support from others. He doesn’t even like it that I talk to my good friends about our marriage.

I know I am not alone. But I still feel that way.:frowning:


unless you’re in physical danger, don’t concern yourself with his arguments against you getting help. just get the help.

if you are in physical danger, then get safe first.

what i’m reading here is that one way or another, you are a prisoner. either you believe you are or you really are.

please be careful and get help.

this is NOT, NOT God’s plan for you. GOD gave you free will to use, not for another to hijack.


Thank you monicatholic. That is one of my major struggles…what is God’s plan for me…and for my marriage…my family. I am trying to figure that out.

My husband is not physically abusive. I do not anticipate that he would be. But I do feel like a prisoner sometimes.


OK, I’m not married, but I did have to deal with familial alcoholism growing up, so I can offer my perspective.

Alcohol and other substance abuses changes the dynamics of family situations.

I used to do the “bend over backwards” to try to please others, until I finally came to the realization that some people simply cannot pleased, so I gave up trying and instead I started to “lay down the law”, so to speak (including pouring the beer down the sink the minute it came into the house).

OP, you need to assess your physical safety situation. Are you able to physically defend yourself? Are there weapons in the house? Do you have an escape plan? I know you said that he is not physically abusive, but that is today.

Also, in counseling, you need to keep the focus on your husband’s drinking. Don’t let him sidetrack you with side issues.

And stop obsessing over “God’s plan” as if your life were pre-planned for you. Playing the “religion card” is a classic manipulation tool that others can use against you. As long as you don’t have to confess it, don’t lose too much sleep over it.


There is a very good book on the subject of codependency written by Pia Mellody, called Facing Love Addiction. Though the author is Protestant, she does a good job with the subject. I suffered from this difficulty about six years ago, even went into major counseling and hospitalization one two occasions, but by the grace of God I came through it, and you can, too. And believe me, life is SO much better on the other side! It’s worth it to do whatever it takes to work through this problem. It doesn’t have to be a life sentence, and it sounds like you’re determined that it won’t be. Blessings of strength and wisdom to you.




Thank you for all of the caring words and suggestions.

I am planning to attend an Al-Anon meeting today during my lunch hour.

I also looked up that book “Facing Love Addiction” on It certainly looks like a good book. I might stop in at the bookstore on my way to the meeting.


Don’t be surprised when they tell you that you are sicker than the alcoholic…
Like another poster, I have been sober for 29 years and my first marriage was to a recovering alcoholic. He started drinking again and was a drug and alcohol counselor (yeah, can you believe that!) and I truly believe that the reason we aren’t still married is that I fell into the co-dependent thing for a while (if you can call 6 yrs a while) but when I started to get better, he split…



You sound just like I did in my marriage. It took a long time for me to say that I was married to an alcholic and even longer for me to accept it.

I don’t suspect that my marriage would have become too physically abusive either - but that was not because of the alcoholic. It was because of how I dealt with the alcoholic…there weren’t too many times that I gave him a reason to be angry - I guess that is because of my codepencency. I walked on egg shells for him.

Have you read the book Codependent No More? That book helped me alot.

Plus I want you to think about abuse other than physical. I have been divorced now for 5 years. My children act to their father completely different than they act to me. They openly admit to me that they are afraid of their father. Since they do not live with him they are able to laugh about what they would have to deal with if daddy was involved - they laugh, I don’t think its funny. There will never be any sort of honesty between my ex and his children, because he’s angry and mean and they do not want to push his buttons. How can children grow and blossom when they are living in a environment that scares them? They are not living they are hiding. Not to mention I was affected the same way. What about the neglect? If someone is so focused on drinking that means they are not focusing on what they should be focusing on.

Just my thoughs


Yep…that’s me. If I think something is going to bother him, anger him, upset him…I would rather just not say it. I see big, big changes in store for us. I don’t think he is going to like my getting healthy. But I am determined to do it for me and for my children.

Please keep me in your prayers.


I also have the book Codependent No More and am reading it right now. It’s amazing how much of myself I see in that book.:frowning:

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