It is difficult to believe that someone you love would purposefully try to control, manipulate, and perhaps even hurt you. It is easier to believe you are codependent, that you are to blame or that you have done something that has made your intimate partner do this. You may even think that if you would just figure out what you are doing wrong, their angry outbursts and inexplicable behavior would stop.
People who are victims of abuse find themselves trying to second guess if their partner is angry, upset with them or unhappy in some way. It is their way of trying to make things better and to stave off the angry outburst, the thrown dishes, or the yelling and screaming.
Is it codependence or abuse?
Penny and Jeff appear to be the perfect couple in a healthy relationship. They are both successful in their professional careers, and they live in a cozy two-bedroom condo. But when they both get home from work, everything changes. Penny is always trying to figure out Jeff’s mood. If he is in a good mood, things are great. But if he is in a bad mood, she will do everything she can to fix it. The problem is that she can never do the right thing. Jeff gets angry, calls her names, tells her she is worthless and sometimes throws objects at her. The next morning, Jeff apologizes, or maybe denies that there was a problem the night before. Then everything is great, until it happens again. Penny is walking on eggshells and yet, she stays in the relationship. She feels like she’s solving a very dangerous puzzle – trying to learn if there are any patterns to what sets Jeff off and how to calm him down. She is committed to the relationship, and frankly, gets a little scared when she thinks about leaving. A friend told her she is expressing codependent behavior, and she is wondering if they are right.
What are the signs of a codependent person?
In a codependent relationship, also known as relationship addiction, one person tends to take on the role of the caretaker, while the other person acts as the dependent, excessively relying on the other person for emotional or physical support. This relationship dynamic often leads to low self-esteem, lack of autonomy, and a sense of worthlessness. Codependency can occur in any type of relationship, including romantic relationships, friendships, and family relationships. It is a type of toxic relationship where both parties feel trapped in their respective roles and find it challenging to break the cycle.
What is the difference between codependent and abusive relationships?
In a codependent relationship, both parties feel free to make choices in the relationship. Abusive relationships on the other hand, have a pattern of coercive behavior aimed at controlling and manipulating an intimate partner. Domestic abuse is a pattern of using your power unfairly to control and/or manipulate your intimate partner. It can involve physical, emotional, sexual, spiritual and financial abuse. Abusers may use various tactics, such as intimidation, threats, isolation, and gaslighting, to maintain power and control over their victims. Domestic abuse leaves victims feeling trapped, helpless, and scared.
Is Penny codependent?
The codependent partner cannot function on their own and does not have healthy boundaries. They arrange everything in their life around another person. This term is often used in a relationship where there is substance use, and one person is trying to fix or save the other.
Using the term codependent to describe Penny simply isn’t accurate. By calling her codependent, her friend implied that Penny has done something to cause Jeff’s behaviors. It would mean that Penny is in control, and stays in the relationship to help Jeff, and that she is getting some benefit from being in the relationship. It also means that there must be something wrong with her because she doesn’t leave the relationship. Penny could believe that if she wasn’t codependent, she wouldn’t be coupled with an abuser.
Is Penny in an abusive relationship?
Yes, and she has formed a traumatic bond with her abuser. The unpredictable behavior of her partner, sometimes loving, sometimes furiously angry, forges an intense bond causing her to cling to the false hope that he is changing. This type of bonding is based on the cyclical pattern of domestic abuse. She also seems to have that gut feeling survivors often experience. She is worried about the repercussions if she tries to leave.
While codependency and domestic abuse are both toxic relationships with some similarities, they are fundamentally different. Codependency is a pathological behavior that can occur in any type of relationship, while domestic abuse is a form of violence that targets intimate partners or family members. Deciding whether or not to stay in a toxic relationship is never easy, but working with a therapist may help find a path forward.