sounding like a martyr

Julie, the therapist, said to visualize what my life would be like if I was living alone, so last night while I was making dinner, I was thinking what it would be like if it was just me.

I would still be making dinner.  I would still be going to the store after work. I would still be doing laundry.

But the burden of the emptiness of the relationship wouldn’t be there.  Like Julie, the therapist, said, I would be alone, but not ignored.

In thinking about my post from last night, I realized that my long list of things I had to do while he was soaking in the tub made me sound like a martyr.

I just wanted to tell you that I don’t mind making dinner.  I don’t mind going to the store (usually).  I don’t mind washing laundry or taking care of the cat.  (Except I wish the cat was well so he didn’t need to be taken care of.  But he’s getting better.)  I don’t even mind if he (my husband, not the cat) soaks in the tub.

What I do mind is the lack of connection and the emotional emptiness in the relationship.  What I do mind is the seemingly unfairness of responsibilities.  What I do mind is that none of this can be addressed with him.

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13 Responses to sounding like a martyr

  1. Sabrena Stolze says:

    Why not? Because of the way he’ll respond or rather not respond? That’s his issue, not yours. I say this not as a judge, but as someone who WAS you for 20 years. Codependency says I don’t speak up because it won’t matter or he won’t change or he’ll get angry or it’ll get worse. But we don’t need to speak up so he’ll respond right, we speak up so we have a voice and choose for ourselves what’s okay or not or what our lives will be like. You will only have a voice and control what your life looks like when you choose to. I chose to take back the control over me and my life that I handed willingly to my husband 26 years ago and then despised him for taking. It can be done whether or not he chooses to join you. And it is the only hope of your marriage changing. As I counsel women in this l often hear, “Why do I always have to be the one to change?” and I say “because you are responsible for your own life, no one else. Why do you expect him to care more for you than you do for yourself?” I hope, whether you stay or you go, that you take your life back.

    • So what does that look like? I think I’m beginning to finally grasp parts of codependency, and while I don’t in any way disagree with what you are saying, I don’t quite understand what that would look like in my marriage. Am I saying the wrong things to him? Am I saying them in the wrong way? Am I looking for the wrong outcome? If I say something to him and get a response (or non-response) that hurts, then what? Should it not hurt? As you can tell, I don’t get it! But I really, really, really appreciate your comment! And I would love it if you would explain it a little more to me. I think on some levels I do things for me, ie, my job, working out at the gym, joining Toastmasters, even though I know these are all things that he resents. But I don’t know what to do about other things. Like deep communication, my need for fulfilling sex, my resentment that my daughters have no daddy. Do I stop looking for any of that? But to think of my life void of that kind of closeness makes me feel dead inside. I really appreciate your help.

      • This is soooo long, and I’m sorry :). The short answer is it looks (and feels) very confusing for a long time :(. I’ll answer your specific questions first then go into more detail afterwards. Yes, you might be saying the wrong things to him and in the wrong way. No, you’re probably not looking for the “wrong” outcome, but your expectations probably do contribute to your unhappiness. No, it’s not wrong to feel hurt by his responses…. now the long answers :). I’ve been following your posts for a long time and I can’t count how many times you’ve said things like “I wanted to say/scream…,” “I thought….” or even described how you did finally get the courage up to say something and then he said something that shut you down, either by responding in a selfish, self-centered way, or uncaring way, or un-relevant way, or…. whatever way. You’re communication to him, because you are hurting, is meant to provoke a response from him, and you’re expectation/hope is that he HEAR you or understand you or receive some type of enlightenment. When codependents start learning about boundaries, or speaking up, or making choices for themselves, or confronting someone, we have fantasies about the outcomes. Fantasies that include it “working” to change the other person somehow, especially when it’s our spouse. Our first motivation is about THEM changing not US so that THEY can make US feel better and that’s backwards. And when it doesn’t work we’re more angry, hurt, and frustrated. We want them to feel bad about their behavior towards us, when really they haven’t got a clue about how we feel. We’ve kept in 95% of what we feel or think because of fear, then when we do finally say something, we can’t understand why they don’t GET IT for goodness sake! But they don’t get it because they haven’t been the one inside our heads for 20 years, only we have. And those times when we finally says something, we’re often passive aggressive ourselves, with crying, pouting, giving the silent treatment, begging, pleading, anger, treating them like their stupid, or who knows what else because codependents can’s say what they feel until their emotions are so strong that they overcome our fear and then we “punish” from those feelings. And it’s all in the hope they’ll SEE how their behavior has hurt and damaged us. So, how does this cycle change? It starts with ME not HIM. 6 years ago when I started recovery (after 20 years of educating myself about codependency and adult child of alcoholism but never really working recovery because it was still his fault that I was codependent!), I decided that I WAS GOING TO CHANGE no matter what! I was JUST AS GUILTY AS HE WAS! I had just as must responsibility in our dysfunctional communication as he did. I was going to learn how to say what I felt and thought instead of keeping it in. I was going to say no, I don’t accept that from you. If I told him how I felt and thought and he said something I didn’t agree with or that hurt me, instead of trying to make him feel bad, I was going to say that it hurt me and why. I wasn’t going to let him shut me down just because he didn’t agree with me, or thought I was crazy and he had no issues. But I was going to learn how to do it without codependent “punishing behaviors” and I was going to learn how to not expect anything from him as a result of changing. I was no longer going to let him decide how this marriage was going down. And in it all, yes, I was going to stop expecting him to be or do anything other than who he was. I had to let go of my expectations of him, and grieve the loss of my ideal and deal with my hurt so I could heal. It was not his responsibility to heal me, it was mine. It was not his responsibility to make me feel better, it was mine. I had to become complete and whole apart from him so that I could choose my life for me. I did this in the context of my marriage, and it was the messiest, most painful thing I’ve ever done. It boils down to detachment and removing the victim (the two mos important chapters, in my opinion, of Codependent No More). In all of it, I couldn’t have done it without safe relationships, because he wasn’t safe for me, and we NEED relationship. I found those safe relationships with other women in Celebrate Recovery. And, for me, I couldn’t do it without God filling the hole in me, the one that had been there before my marriage and got bigger in it. I had to stop expecting my husband to fill it. He really couldn’t because he had a hole too. We were like two fleas without a dog, trying to get from each other what neither of us possessed, so we were sucking each other dry(er) and causing more damage. You don’t give up wanting the things you listed, but you won’t get them until YOU change. You will spend your life as a wounded victim of your husband and nothing will change. Ever. As you change he will only have two options, either jump on board, or jump ship, because if you change, he can’t stay in the status quo. If one number in an equation changes, the answer changes. Period. For me, either way, I was still going to change. I told my husband early on that I had no idea if our marriage could be healed, if I could ever be in love with him again. In fact, I told him I thought it was impossible, but that if I didn’t do what I was doing, there was no hope for us. Zero. I let go of any expectations, and I kept doing the work to change me. He didn’t like it, it got worse before it got better between us, but I knew inside me that what I was doing was right. There’s SO much more to say, and I feel like I didn’t say well what I wanted to, but I pray you understand what I’m trying to say and I’ll keep talking if you want me to. It’s taken 6 years of real recovery work to get where I am and to understand what I’ve needed to understand, and I’m still working it today. But Oh. My. Gosh. is it worth it. I have NEVER had the freedom to be me that I have today. I will be praying for you, and I am committed to posting on my blog as a result of this. It will take me years to document the lessons I’ve learned in this process and I want so much for women to experience freedom from their codependency.

      • Sabrena, I understand your answer. I’ve read enough about codependency to know that you are right. I’m just still not sure how to get there! Can you give me an example, either from your own life, or from something I’ve written on my blog, of a specific situation and what to say and how to respond? Maybe the thing with his text picture yesterday. He sent the text picture of him fishing. I felt mad, hurt, but didn’t say that. He sent another picture of his employee holding a fish. It wasn’t until later that he told me that he couldn’t use his work equipment for awhile so he and his employee worked in the garden and went fishing. What would be a way that I could handle something like that?
        Most often I just want to walk away from this marriage and not even deal with it in any way. But as you have pointed out, there are things I need to change about ME. Only walking away wouldn’t address the things I need to change about me.
        Thank you. And please write as much as you like!!!

      • Well, the first thing I did to get there was to let him know up front how serious this was and that things were going to change. I know with my husband he had heard many times that I was unhappy, but he was either unable or unwilling to hear how much, and that was really my fault because what I had always done was tell him and then wait for him to do something about it. And then when he didn’t things went right back to normal. Through my actions he came to belief it wasn’t that bad. Next I had to detach. If you’ve ever read Codependent No More you know what this means. If you haven’t then read this chapter. It doesn’t mean withdrawal or isolation but not allowing someone else’s issues make us crazy. Then I had to figure out how to let him make his own choices and how to make my own choices and to speak up. For example, the thing with the text of him fishing is an example of letting him make his own decisions. In that case he hasn’t actually done anything “wrong” and as an adult he can choose to do that if he likes. However, you have feelings about it based on how uncared for you feel. These are two separate issues. So before saying anything you work on dealing with your own emotions and not expecting him to fix them or do anything about them, but you do voice them once you’ve processed your feelings. You don’t attack his actions, you express you’re feelings. “I felt uncared for when you went fishing because. .” If he feels defensive and tries to turn it back to you or defend himself for this particular event just let him know it’s not really about the fishing, it’s about feeling like you’re not important and don’t allow yourself to get into a debate or shut down either. A friend of mine said it this way, “I had to start having the conversations outloud that I was having in my head.” But we have to have them from detachment so we don’t attack. You do have to, for the moment, let go of what you want him to be or do and just focus on what you can control and change, which is you. Because the backwards thing is that you won’t get what you need from him until you can be whole on your own because he’s happy with you being codependent, it gives him something he needs in his own issues. You getting healthy will be the only way he’ll act differently towards you, and if he doesn’t you’ll choose differently than you do now. Also read the chapter in CNM on removing the victim, especially about the Karpman Drama Triangle. I understand the confusion of not knowing how to be different. Once I decided to change I did it badly alot. I knew the keys were detachment, speaking up, and letting him make his own choices, but it was as hard. I was so afraid of speaking up, but when my pain became greater than my fear, it was time. These posts don’t nearly convey what I’d like to, but I will make an effort to respond to specific situations if you like. And if you really study codependency from a place of personal responsibility rather than blame you’ll get there. I promise. It’s a fight though so get ready.

  2. I cannot begin to tell you what a huge relief it was to move out and away from my passive aggressive ex husband. Suddenly my load was drastically lightened. I could keep my house up so much better without having to do all the things I was having to do for him.

    I have five children and full custody of all of them. When we were divorced my oldest was 10 and the youngest was still a baby. For a single mom with 5 little ones to say her job got EASIER sounds insane, but it’s so true!

    It made me realize just how much of a slob he really was and how much I had actually been doing for him, that the resentment actually was warranted. Meanwhile his house went to pot and was a terrible mess. :P Now he has a girlfriend to play mommy to him. Just glad it’s not me.

  3. Zoe says:

    Sabrena – That is such a great response. I have read and re-read that and read it again. It is exactly what I needed to hear today.

    • Sabrena Stolze says:

      I’m glad to hear that Zoe :). It’s something I’m so passionate about – helping codependent women claim their voice – and it is so very difficult for many to grasp and even more difficult to step in to once they do understand. And I get it. It’s ridiculous hard, scary, and painful, but crazy freeing and the best thing I’ve ever done in my life for me.

  4. Pingback: How Does the Cycle Change? | Sabrena Stolze is here

  5. mixedemotions says:

    funny when i claimed my voice, it became more difficult at home…. still is and he finds ways to turn things around on me…. so annoying. And I hate it too when people tell me I should just leave, it’s not that easy :(

    • I hear you mixedemotions. It became much more difficult at home for me too. He really wanted his codependent wife back. He turned up the heat big time to get her back. People said the same thing to me, but I didn’t want to leave, I just wanted to figure out how to be different and how to let go of trying to change him. It’s hard to go through.

  6. mixedemotions says:

    Exactly. Unless you have gone through the same thing, there’s no way to understand how confusing and messed up the whole thing is. It’s worse when he is being nice, I feel it’s like a smoke screen and I’m expecting the crap to hit the fan any minute…. i’m definitely co-dependent but i’m feeling strangled right now and it’s hard for me to see through the screen and through my emotions, I hope I figure it out soon because I think I’m going crazy. Thanks for hearing me Sabrena, I appreciate it.

  7. brknnphx says:

    I have been with mine for a year on bye. Will not make it until than. I have aalreaaady been living separately from him once I caught him behaving how he does. When I met him I was confident about myself,felt reasonably attractive and fairly decent personality. Fast forward..barely can go out of my house some days because I feel like such a loser. Y family does not like him as they see the effect on me.was heaven finding this post. Thought I was alone or crazy like he makes me feel. So many things you have wrote could be us. Even the sex thing I was even beginning to wonder if he was gay since he is so nice t his guy friends. Anyways thanks for sharing

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