Why Do We Love An Abuser?

Falling in love happens to us―usually before we really know our partner. It happens to us because we’re at the mercy of unconscious forces, commonly referred to as “chemistry.” Don’t judge yourself for loving someone who doesn’t treat you with care and respect, because by the time the relationship turns abusive, we’re attached and want to maintain our connection and love. There may have been hints of abuse in the beginning that we overlooked, because abusers are good at seduction and wait until they know we’re hooked before showing their true colors.

By then, our love is cemented and doesn’t die easily. It’s difficult to leave an abuser. It’s possible and even probable to know we’re unsafe and still love an abuser. Research shows that even victims of violence on average experience seven incidents before permanently leaving their partner.

It can feel humiliating to stay in an abusive relationship. Those who don’t understand ask why we love someone abusive and why we stay. We don’t have good answers. But there are valid reasons. Our motivations are outside our awareness and control, because we’re wired to attach for survival. These instincts control our feelings and behavior.

Deny to Survive

If we weren’t treated with respect in our family and have low self-esteem, we will tend to deny abuse. We won’t expect to be treated better than how were controlled, demeaned, or punished by a parent. Denial doesn’t mean we don’t know what’s happening. Instead, we minimize or rationalize it and/or its impact. We may not realize it’s actually abuse. Research shows we deny for survival to stay attached and procreate for survival of the species. Facts and feelings that would normally undermine love are minimized or twisted so that we overlook them or blame ourselves in order to keep loving. By appeasing our partner and connecting to love, we stop hurting. Love is rekindled and we feel safe again.

Projection, Idealization, and Repetition Compulsion

When we fall in love, if we haven’t worked through trauma from our childhood, we’re more susceptible to idealizing our partner when dating. It’s likely that we will seek out someone who reminds us of a parent with whom we have unfinished business, not necessary of our opposite sex parent. We might be attracted to someone who has aspects of both parents. Our unconscious is trying to mend our past by reliving it in the hopes that we’ll master the situation and receive the love we didn’t get as a child. This helps us overlook signs that would be predictive of trouble.

The Cycle of Abuse

After an abusive episode, often there’s a honeymoon period. This is part of the Cycle of Abuse. The abuser may seek connection and act romantic, apologetic, or remorseful. Regardless, we’re relieved that there’s peace for now. We believe promises that it will never happen again, because we want to and because we’re wired to attach. The breech of the emotional bond feels worse than the abuse. We yearn to feel connected again. Often the abuser professes to love us. We want to believe it, and feel reassured about the relationship, hopeful, and lovable. Our denial provides an illusion of safety. This is called the “Merry-Go-Round” of denial that happens in alcoholic relationships after a bout of drinking followed by promises of sobriety.

Low Self-Esteem

Due to low self-esteem, we believe the abuser’s belittling, blame, and criticisms, which further lessen our self-esteem and confidence in our own perceptions. They intentionally do this for power and control. We’re brainwashed into thinking we have to change in order to make the relationship work. We blame ourselves and try harder to meet the abuser’s demands. We may interpret sexual overtures, crumbs of kindness, or just absence of abuse as signs of love or hope that the relationship will improve. Thus, as trust in ourselves declines, our love and idealization of the abuser remain intact. We may even doubt that we could find anything better.


Many of us have empathy for the abuser, but not for ourselves. We are unaware of our needs and would feel ashamed asking for them. This makes us susceptible to manipulation if an abuser plays the victim, exaggerates guilt, shows remorse, blames us, or talks about a troubled past (they usually have one). Our empathy feeds our denial system by supplying justification, rationalization, and minimization of the pain we endure. Most victims hide the abuse from friends and relatives to protect the abuser, both out of empathy and shame about being abused. Secrecy is a mistake and gives the abuser more power.

Positive Aspects

Undoubtedly the abuser and the relationship have positive aspects that we enjoy or miss, especially the early romance and good times. We recall or look forward to their recurrence if we stay. We imagine if only he or she would control his or her anger, or agree to get help, or just change one thing, everything would be better. This is our denial.

Often abusers are also good providers, offer a social life, or have special talents. Narcissists can be exceedingly interesting and charming. Many spouses claim that they enjoy the narcissist’s company and lifestyle despite the abuse. People with a borderline personality can light up your life with excitement . . . when they’re in a good mood. Sociopaths can pretend to be whatever you want . . . for their own purposes. You won’t realize what they’re up to for some time.

Intermittent Reinforcement

When we receive occasional and unpredictable positive and negative intermittent reinforcement, we keep looking for the positive. It keeps us addictively hooked. Partners may be emotionally unavailable or have an avoidant attachment style. They may periodically want closeness. After a wonderful, intimate evening, they pull away, shut down, or are abusive. When we don’t hear from the person, we become anxious and keep seeking closeness. We mislabel our pain and longing as love.

Especially people with a personality disorder might intentionally do this to manipulate and control us with rejection or withholding. Then they randomly fulfill our needs. We become addicted to seeking a positive response. Over time, periods of withdrawal are longer, but we’re trained to stay, walk on eggshells, and wait and hope for connection. This is called “trauma bonding” due to repeated cycles of abuse in which the intermittent reinforcement of reward and punishment creates emotional bonds that resist change. It explains why abusive relationships are the most difficult to leave, and we become codependent on the abuser. We may completely lose ourselves trying to please and not displease the abuser. Bits of kindness or closeness feel all the more poignant (like make-up sex) because we’re been starved and are relieved to feel loved. This feeds the Cycle of Abuse.

Abusers will turn on the charm if you threaten to leave, but it’s just another temporary ploy to reassert control. Expect to go through withdrawal after you leave. You may still miss and love your abusive ex.

When we feel completely under the control of the abuser and can’t escape from physical injury, we can develop “Stockholm Syndrome,” a term applied to captives. Any act of kindness or even absence of violence feels like a sign of friendship and being cared for. The abuser seems less threatening, and we start imagining that they’re our friend and we’re in this together.

This occurs in intimate relationships that are less perilous due to the power of chemistry, physical attraction, and sexual bonding. We’re loyal to a fault. We want to protect the abuser whom we’re attached to rather than ourselves. We feel guilty talking to outsiders, leaving the relationship, or calling the police. Outsiders who try to help feel threatening. For example, counselors and Twelve-Step Programs may be viewed as interlopers who “want to brainwash and separate us.” This reinforces the toxic bond and isolates us from help . . . what the abuser wants!

Steps You Can Take:

If you feel trapped in a relationship or can’t get over your ex:
• Seek support and professional help. Attend CoDA meetings.
• Get information and challenge your denial.
• Report violence and take steps to protect yourself from violence and emotional abuse.
• When you miss the abuser or are longing for attention, in your mind substitute the parent whom you’re projecting on your partner. Write about and grieve that relationship.
• Be more loving to yourself. Meet your needs.
• Learn to set boundaries.
• Take steps to improve the relationship utilizing Dealing with a Narcissist…and Difficult People.
• Get Breakup Recovery and How to Raise Your Self-Esteem .
©Darlene Lancer 2019

Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

Author of Codependency for Dummies and Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You


10 Steps to Self-Esteem

Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People

How To Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits and webinar How to Be Assertive

Breakup Recovery

“I’m Not Perfect – I’m Only Human” – How to Beat Perfectionism

Spiritual Transformation in the Twelve Steps

Freedom from Guilt and Blame – Finding Self-Forgiveness

Codependency’s Recovery Daily Reflections

How to Raise Your Self-Esteem

Self-Love Meditation

Follow me on Facebook



10 Key Tips for Resolving a Marital Crisis

You feel that you are missing something or you have feelings for someone else. You annoy each other all the time, you argue for nothing, or you do not understand yourself at all. These are signs that you are going through a marital crisis. Your marriage problems seem to be spinning out of control.

Maybe the flame went out between you. Work, children, or other concerns always take up more time and mental space. Result: you have less and less time for each other.

If you want to fix it, it is important that you determine the essence of the problem. Here are some tips that will help you overcome this marital crisis.

  1. What is the problem?   

When you want to solve a marital conflict, it is good to start by determining the substance. Many people do not know or have a vague idea of ​​what is wrong with their relationship. Solving their marital crisis is all the more difficult. Start by trying to determine on your side what is wrong with your relationship. What is missing? When do disputes arise?

Difficult? In this case, you could help you apply the method described below:

Take a sheet of paper and describe your relationship as you see it now. Write down the negatives of your relationship on the left side of the sheet and the positives on the right side. Strive to list twice as many positives as negatives. Indeed, in most cases, we tend to focus on the negative points while it is important to see the relationship as a whole and determine what to work on, and on the contrary, what works.

  1. Talk about it

After determining what’s wrong and what you want to change, engage in conversation with your partner. Do not take a reproachful tone because it would lead to nothing, or an argument. A couple is composed of two people; it is up to you both to solve this marital crisis.

Tell your partner that you have thought about what you would like to change and ask him or her if he/she shares your opinion. You will probably hear your partner talking about completely different grievances, but you will find that he/she also joins you on a number of frustrations.

  1. What are your needs?

The success of a union depends on the satisfaction of the needs of the two people who form it. This is why it is important to discern the needs of the other. Sometimes, these needs are much less mysterious than you would have imagined.

Sometimes it’s as simple as a little compliment at the right time. If the behavior of your mate bothers you and you need something else, say so. It is very likely that your partner will appreciate your honesty, and it will encourage them to be more transparent. This will prevent misunderstandings. Needs need reflection and discussion.

  1. Emotional inaccessibility

Many people lock themselves into an emotional fortress that prevents them from truly getting closer to their friends or family. Of course, it’s a way to protect yourself  and that is not uncommon. It is possible that this is your situation without you having never noticing it. It is important, however, that you avoid doing this to your partner.

In addition, some people wear a social mask; again, it is a protective measure that often does more harm than good. This can result in you feeling like strangers to each other even if you have been married for years. You do not know who the other is really, because you wear this mask both even when you are together.

If you want to get closer to your partner and solve the marital crisis that you are going through, you will have to restore mutual trust and open yourself to the other. This applies to both of you. Couples therapy can be of great help to facilitating this process.


  1. Do not live in the past  

Many marriages are doomed because one of the partners carries the emotional baggage of past disappointments. Recognize that personal hindrance in the past may be the main reason why you or your partner can not fully expose each other.

This may be a lack of confidence due to a past event, and the person is delaying the current relationship; or else, this lack of trust is rooted in a deep fear of engagement or relationship failures prior to the current relationship. Try to solve these problems and help each other overcome them by being more sensitive and showing empathy toward each other.

Of course, the emotional baggage can also be born during the marriage. Perhaps one of you has deceived the other. In this case, the question is whether you want to preserve your marriage. If the answer is yes, it is important to be able to forgive each other to overcome this marital crisis together.

Tell yourself that you are both human and that humans sometimes make mistakes. Nevertheless, you can control one’s actions, and you can repair the mistakes you has made in many cases. Do not dwell on bad memories.

  1. Treat each other as you would like to be treated

Never see each other as an element of the decor. Never think that you can neglect your marriage without fearing anything negative will happen. Do not think that your marriage can go on without demonstrations of love. You would not like him or her to treat you like this. Do not act like that yourself. Your partner can not know that you love him or her if you do not tell them or show love through your actions.

You can show love through very little gestures, like calling him or her in the middle of the day just to say hello. To buy them a little something or take him or her to dinner at this restaurant where you have so many good memories. To go to an event that does not interest you so much, but that will make your partner crazy. It’s those little things that make life so special.

  1. Do not hide anything

People who have nothing to hide are open and honest. So make sure you have nothing to hide. Nobody is 100% open, but nothing prevents us from making an effort in this direction. So try to be an open book for your partner and make sure that he or she knows you thoroughly. Do not wait for the other. Nothing is more frustrating than a partner who says something but thinks the opposite. Be honest with each other; you will have already traveled halfway.

  1. Do not try to always be right 

You do not need to constantly prove to your partner that you are one step ahead of him/her. Try to understand and put yourself in your partner’s shoes instead. You will make a much more pleasant companion if you decide to be happy now rather than wanting to be right not only for your partner but for all those around you. In addition, you will be better able to have a conversation without it turning into a fight.

If your partner acts in this way, discuss the subject with him or her. Tell him that it bothers you never to be taken seriously and that he/she never agrees with you, no matter what you think. But do not make a match between you. It does not matter who’s right: the important thing is to respect each other.

  1. If the effort does not come from both sides

Show your partner his or her fears and resistance but also let him understand that you will go much further if you work together. If your partner realizes that he/she is not gaining anything to scare himself, he/she will automatically stop doing so. Show that you want to do everything to save your marriage and that you are actively working to overcome this marital crisis. Be careful not to act like a know-it-all but to communicate your kindness.

  1. Make sacrifices

Like any friendship or relationship, a marriage requires sacrifices. Marriage is the union of two different people. Sometimes children also add to the equation, and living together under one roof is not always easy. Do not be unrealistic to the point of thinking that you are simply not made for each other at the slightest disagreement.

Do not go astray in connected divorce motions of the type: “we have taken different paths” or “we are slowly moving away from each other.” A marriage requires everyone to take responsibility. Take yours.

To Summarize:

You can probably solve this marital crisis and save your marriage if you are both willing. Recognize the problems you face and face them. And above all: do it together. If needed, seek help from a licensed couples therapist. You can solve this marital conflict. You just have to find yourself. That is possible. You have fallen in love with each other, and what has united you has not disappeared. It’s just a question of rediscovering it.

The author, Luisa Hilburn knows a thing or two about men and the dating scene. Much of my writing is inspired by my encounters with men – and for good reason, I gets myself into some hilarious situations – like that time I went on a date with a guy who took me to a cow farm. If you need to find me, I am usually on a date or standing in the chocolate isle debating whether or not to give into temptation, also I am a writer and co-owner of How2bond.com.

Infidelity As Theft: Lisa Arends’ “What Infidelity Steals From You”

In a recent video by Lisa Arends on her YouTubeChannel, the wellness coach, teacher, and author of “Lessons From the End of a Marriage: A ‘How to Thrive’ Guide After Divorce” digs deep into the aftermath and effects of cheating.

Speaking candidly from personal experience, Arends recounts the end of her own 16-year marriage, which was ultimately beset by an unfaithful partner. While Arends acknowledges that “betrayal, at its core, it somebody going against what they promised you,” she also offers a more nuanced perspective on infidelity, suggesting it is a “kind of theft.”

“Infidelity steals your memories” according to Arends. And her insight and honesty in the wake of her own struggles in an unfaithful marriage certainly rings true.

After almost two decades of shared and special moments, her husband’s infidelity not only undermined the perceived stability of their relationship, it also “tainted” the memories that give so much of marriage its meaning.

The emotions engendered by infidelity are obvious — the anger, the sadness, and the regret. But there’s more under the surface. In an incredibly raw and relatable first-hand account, Arends opens up about the uncertainty and doubt sown by cheating, revealing the reality that “precious memories will never again be so precious.”

Ultimately Arends helps us understand that infidelity isn’t about sex and it isn’t simply resolved with forgiveness or divorce. Those are choices one makes in the wake of infidelity. But in her video, which works as a sort of confessional, she exposes the many emotional levels involved in infidelity.

Infidelity takes your innocence and your inclination and willingness to trust people, whether they be a spouse, or even a stranger. Infidelity robs you of the clarity of your conviction, causes you to question others’ motivations, and significantly, it steals your dreams and your future. All of the hopes and plans that a couple shares in a marriage are made meaningless by infidelity, and those long-term consequences inform live on even after the dissolution of a marriage.

But in posting this video, Lisa Arends has done more than share her story. She has given the victims of infidelity a new clarity and understanding of the pain of an extra-marital affair. She has given viewers a kind of key to unlocking complicated emotions, a well as an example to those in the midst of the affects that there is light at the end of the tunnel — and salvation in valuing yourself.

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com. Her book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.

Terry’s forthcoming book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, will be published by Sounds True in February of 2020.


Divorce Advice: 5 Tips for Staying Positive After a Breakup

Nobody ever imagines that their sparkly new marriage will end up in a bitter divorce when they first say “I do.” But the reality is that many couples will not make it to their tenth anniversary.

Even if getting a divorce was the absolute best idea for you and your ex-spouse, losing the person you thought you’d be with forever is devastating. You watch the life you had planned for yourself slip through your fingers. It can be especially difficult to carry on after separating if you have children with your ex.

So what do you do when your marriage doesn’t turn out like you thought it would? Keep your head up and follow this divorce advice so that you can stay a positive thinker during the hardships in your life.

  1. Put a Positive Spin on It

Studies show that couples who are in a happy marriage carry less of the stress hormone, cortisol, in their bloodstreams than those who are single or divorced. However, those who are with an unloving, disrespectful spouse may find that their stress levels are going through the roof.

If you have just come out of a toxic marriage it can be helpful to look at the positive, such as:

  • No longer dealing with abusive speech and behavior
  • Do not have to rely on someone else financially/take care of someone else financially
  • Stress levels decrease
  • You no longer have to deal with invasive in-laws
  • You can watch the shows you want
  • More time to pursue your hobbies and goals
  • No longer have to report to someone else
  • You have more time to focus on your career
  • You have the freedom to do whatever you want
  • Potential to find a new romantic interest who understands you better

Dealing with divorce is very difficult, but the best divorce advice is to look at the silver lining in your situation. And if you were in a dangerous or frustrating relationship, there are certainly many benefits to being on your own again!

  1. Let Yourself Grieve

Just because your marriage didn’t last doesn’t mean there weren’t good moments with your ex. After some time has passed and you have properly grieved the loss of your marriage, it can be beneficial to look back fondly on the good parts of your relationship.

Studies show that reminiscing on positive memories can reduce symptoms of depression, contribute to your overall well-being, life satisfaction, and boost self-esteem.

You can’t truly move on from your relationship unless you learn to accept your separation and let go of the past. Instead of looking at all the things your ex did wrong or remembering the ways that they hurt you, try and focus on what you learned from that relationship and use it to grow as a person.

  1. Embrace Your Social Life

When you were married, you likely had a healthy social life outside of spending time with your partner, but spending time with your spouse was your top priority. Now that you are single, you have more time to spend with your loving friends.

Family and friends can be an invaluable resource to you during your breakup. Studies show that spending time with friends and family after a breakup can significantly lower psychological distress.

  1. Look for Ways to De-Stress

If you want to be positive after your divorce, you need to start changing your mindset. You can do this by scheduling some serious de-stress activities.

  • Get a massage
  • Use some lavender essential oils
  • Do yoga or meditate
  • Get a new pet
  • Schedule enough time for sleep
  • Eat mood-elevating foods
  • Breathe
  • Take a bath
  • Plan a relaxing vacation

The impacts of divorce on children are seemingly endless. After studying three decades worth of research about family structure, Linacre Quarterly Journal states that “divorce has been shown to diminish a child’s future competence in all areas of life, including family relationships, education, emotional well-being, and future earning power.”

A solid piece of divorce advise is the following: Don’t forget to involve your children in your de-stressing process as well. Look for ways to relax them such as by making playdates with friends, taking them on a picnic, to the beach, or having a family game night.

5 Remember Who You Are

When you go through a big change in life, such as a breakup, it can be difficult to remember who you were outside of your relationship.

One of the most important pieces of divorce advice you can follow is to use your breakup as a way to reconnect with yourself. Remember all of the things you used to love to do such as exercise – studies show that it can relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.

It can also be beneficial to journal, play an instrument, and find other hobbies and activities that you used to enjoy – or find new ones that inspire you.

The greatest thing about a divorce is that it gives you the chance to have a clean slate, start over, and be the person you always dreamed of being.

Going through a divorce is one of the hardest things you will ever do, especially if you have children. But by following this divorce advice, you will be able to put a positive spin on your current situation and take control of your life.

Author Bio:

Sylvia Smith is a writer who likes to write about relationships and how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. She is currently associated with Marriage.com. She is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt its principles in their relationships. By taking purposeful and intentional action, Sylvia feels any relationship or marriage can be transformed and truly enjoyed.

Relationship As A Spiritual Path

A relationship can be an exciting path to the unknown. It offers an ever-present opportunity to grow―a path to spiritual transformation and mutual discovery and ultimately the divine when partners open to one another.

The concept of spirituality derives from “spiritus,” meaning vitality or breath of life. Like an electric charge, our soul awakes when we’re connected to that force. The more we’re aligned to it, the stronger and more alive is our soul. We tap into this power each time we express ourselves authentically.


Consider spiritual concepts, such as faith, surrender, truth, compassion, and love. As we practice these principals in our relationships, they have a synergistic effect, reinforcing one another and strengthening us.
Faith and Surrender

Faith is the first spiritual premise. A relationship with a higher source or higher power, however defined, must be our priority, because when we make someone or something (like an addiction or ambition) more important, we not only live in fear, but we also lose ourselves–our soul.

In relationships, faith in a higher power enables us to surrender our well-being and self-worth to something other than another person. It helps us rise above our fears and build autonomy and self-esteem. When we trust that we won’t disintegrate from loneliness, fear, shame, or abandonment, we’re able to brave rejection and separateness from our partner.

Surrender requires patience, which also comes from faith. If we want to relinquish controlling our relationships, we must have the confidence to wait. On the other hand, when our fears and defenses are activated, we end up hurting the relationship in our attempts to maintain it.


Our spiritual and psychological development soars when we speak and act congruently in alignment with our Self, especially when we feel we have the most to lose. With faith we gain the courage to chance our partner’s displeasure and speak the truth. Honest, authentic and assertive communication replaces passive and/or aggressive attempts to please and manipulate. Expression of our vulnerability invites others to be vulnerable also. This builds our spiritual power, resiliency, and autonomy. By giving loving, non-interfering attention, a safe, healing environment is created. When reciprocated, we no longer feel the need to hide, and our ability to risk and be vulnerable grows. Then true intimacy becomes possible.

Compassion and Love

Acceptance is essential for satisfying relationships. Yet, we can only accept and have compassion for our partner to the degree to which we accept and have compassion for ourselves. Compassion develops from self-knowledge and self-acceptance. It requires we surrender the demands of our ego to live up to unrealistic, unforgiving demands and expectations. When we understand our own and our partner’s tender points and struggles―our “triggers”― we become less reactive. Then we can listen without judgment, without taking our partner’s thoughts and feelings so personally.

Bridges of mutual empathy with our partner permit us to achieve deeper levels of acceptance and compassion for ourselves and one another. We stop clinging to expectations and ideas about how we and our partner should be. Instead, we experience both our Self and our partner as unique and separate.

Anxiety and the need for defensive behaviors that cause problems in relationships gradually dissolve. The relationship becomes a haven for two souls to experience themselves and each other in a space of love and respect. As trust grows, the relationship makes space for greater freedom and acceptance.


In an atmosphere of acceptance and compassion, unconditional love can spontaneously arise. Martin Buber believed that spirit resides not in us, but between us. He explained that the “I-Thou” experience gives rise to a numinous, spiritual force, a “presence” in which we experience our true Self.

Experiencing the Self in this milieu feels exhilarating. When we’re not trying to hide, intimacy supports our wholeness. Paradoxically, as we risk losing our partner, we gain ourselves, and although we’re now closer than before, we’re more autonomous. The Self becomes substantial and more individuated.

Our defenses, which we thought kept us safe and made us strong, have not only been obstacles to intimacy, but have also fortified old feelings of inadequacy, which stifled our Self and true inner strength. Trusting our vulnerability, we hesitatingly walk through our fears. We grow in faith, self-compassion, and courage each time we express our authentic self. By risking defenselessness, we begin to see ourselves and others more clearly. We uncover who we truly are, our divinity, within an intimate, “I-Thou” space of unconditional love.

We realize that we’re enough―that our wholeness and self-acceptance doesn’t depend on what others think, but on self-awareness. Our past conditioning and emotional blocks slowly evaporate, and we become stronger. By living in a state of presence, our lives are enriched and vital. Our being generates healing that strengthens our soul.

Such a relationship necessitates two people committed to a spiritual process. Of course, relationships require safety. Learning to value and protect ourselves are also lessons on our spiritual journey. When we don’t feel safe, we have an inherent right and duty to protect ourselves―not through defensive maneuvers, but by directly expressing our feelings, needs, and wants. Sometimes, we must set boundaries or leave a toxic relationship.

Relationship as a spiritual path requires a willingness to experience the pain of working through our fears and old programming and a belief that in truthfulness lies freedom. In most cases, couples get closer. A healthy relationship will flourish, and an inappropriate one will end.
Copyright Darlene Lancer 2019

Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

Author of Codependency for Dummies and Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You
10 Steps to Self-Esteem
Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People
How To Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits and webinar How to Be Assertive
Breakup Recovery
“I’m Not Perfect – I’m Only Human” – How to Beat Perfectionism
Spiritual Transformation in the Twelve Steps
Freedom from Guilt and Blame – Finding Self-Forgiveness
Codependency’s Recovery Daily Reflections
How to Raise Your Self-Esteem
Self-Love Meditation
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Grandchildren Benefit From Grandparent Support During & After Divorce!  

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

When divorce with children takes place grandparents often get caught in the emotional turmoil and drama. Many grandparents are eager to help in any way they can. However they often don’t know how they fit in the equation, especially when it comes to their former daughter- or son-in-law.

Most grandparents put their focus on easing the hurt, anxiety, confusion and other difficult emotions affecting their innocent grandchildren. They know that love and support is vitally important for children at this time. Even teenagers benefit from their grandparent’s presence and nurturing.

If you are a grandparent trying to navigate your adult child’s divorce, here are some guidelines to help you be there for your grandchildren at a time when it really counts.

Be a trusted and loving confidant:

If you haven’t been close to the kids beforehand, developing a relationship with your grandkids now is not a smart move. However, if you already have that bond established, strengthening the connection at a time when the kids are facing so many unknowns is more important than ever. Visits, phone calls, texts, email notes and video chats can all be supportive. These conversations also take a child’s mind off anxiety about the divorce and onto thoughts and activities that are just plain fun.

In addition, grandparents with a strong communication and trust bond are well positioned to address difficult issues. Kids are more likely to confide their frustrations, fears and insecurities with a loving grandparent. Keep in mind that it’s always more effective to offer advice when the child initiates the conversation. Then you can share your wisdom in an age-appropriate manner.

An important note of caution: If you are going to discuss topics related to divorce or other difficult subjects, it is essential that you first talk to your adult child, or both parents, to get permission in advance!

Be a safe source of support:

Remember, grandparents should never interfere where you are not welcome — as tempting as it may be. Explain your concern on behalf of the children. Discuss the message you’d like to share with the kids. If one or both parents approve, then give it your best shot. If this is an area of contention between the parents, step back and find another way to be of support to your grandkids.

When a child is resistant to your conversation with them, don’t push the issue. You’re better off retreating into safer territory. If they do confide in you, be careful never to make judgments about their parents. Listen, offer helpful advice they can use, and end with hugs and words of support. Then talk with the parents about sensible next steps.  Discuss ways you believe both parents can provide healing, reassurance and comfort   for their children during this difficult time.

If the issues are complex, it’s wise to suggest bringing in professional counselors to suggest the best options for everyone in the family. They are trained to handle heavy emotional and psychological challenges. So leave it in their hands. You want to be valued for your role as a loving grandparent – not as a therapist or judge!

Be a grandchild advocate:

If your own son or daughter doesn’t understand how the emotional turmoil related to the divorce is impacting your grandchildren, schedule time for a serous conversation together. Arm yourself with resources in advance. Visit the Child-Centered Divorce Network and other websites for relevant articles, study results, and other valuable information about how children can be adversely affected by family drama and divorce. Share these important messages during your conversation. Have some positive and concrete suggestions on hand about where they can get help and support. Let them know you’re there for them. Explain that you’re on their side but also an advocate for the kids who can’t always speak for themselves.

It’s important that you don’t accuse, judge, dismiss or demean your adult child’s   parenting. Remind them they are not alone and that most families coping with divorce face similar issues. Help is available both locally and online. Your goal is to make sure they find it.

Emphasize to both parents how much your grandchildren mean to you. Stress that you don’t want them to overlook your relationship with the kids in the months and years ahead, especially if relocation or other major changes are in the works. Explain that children need, want and value the safety and reassurance of their grandparents’ love. Your goal is to be there for your grandchildren as an asset in their adjustment to life’s many challenges for a long time to come.

***      ***      ***

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books and e-courses on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to: childcentereddivorce.com/book

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All rights reserved. © Rosalind Sedacca


10 Warning Signs Your Marriage Is in Serious Trouble

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

The most common complaint of couples today is that they’ve fallen out of love. However, falling out of love usually doesn’t occur overnight. Likewise, relationship repair takes time and effort on the part of both partners and includes practicing forgiveness and becoming more emotionally connected.

There aren’t any foolproof ways for couples to repair problems in their marriage but ending destructive relationship patterns is a good first step. If couples don’t make a commitment to do this, and take responsibility for their part in the negative dynamic, they could be at risk for a divorce.

Put an End to Harmful Relationship Patterns

According to experts, the most common reason couples divorce is because of a pursuer-distancer pattern that develops over time. Dr. Sue Johnson identifies the pattern of demand-withdraw as the “Protest Polka” and says it’s one of three “Demon Dialogues.” She explains that when one partner becomes critical and aggressive the other often becomes defensive and distant.

Renowned relationship expert Dr. John Gottman’s research on thousands of couples discovered that partners that get stuck in this pattern the first few years of marriage have more than a 80% chance of divorcing in the first four or five years.

Another common reason why couples split is the blame game. Dr. Johnson writes: “If we love our partners why don’t we just hear each other’s call for attention and connection and respond with caring?”

In other words, instead of focusing on your partner’s flaws and looking to blame him or her, try spending your energy fostering a deeper connection. Stop assuming the worst of your partner and put an end to demanding your partner change. Instead focus on your needs and how you can communicate them in a loving, respectful way. Take responsibility for your part in a problem – none of us is without flaws.

In over 40 years of research on couples in his “Love Lab” Dr. Gottman discovered that the two leading causes for divorce are criticism and contempt. In his book Why Marriages Succeed and Fail, he reminds us that criticizing our partner is different than offering a critique or voicing a complaint. The latter two are about specific issues, whereas the former is an attack on the person. For instance, a complaint is: “I was worried when you didn’t call me. We agreed that we’d check in when one of us was running late.” In comparison, criticism might be: “You never think about me, you’re so selfish.”

Further, Dr. Gottman informs us that the reason why contempt is so damaging to a marriage is that it conveys disrespect. When we communicate disrespectfully we might use sarcasm, ridicule, mimicking, an icy tone of voice, or resort to name-calling. The goal is to make the other person feel despised or worthless, which almost always backfires or makes the situation worse.

10 Warning Signs that your marriage is headed for divorce:

  1. You argue about the same things over and over (and over) again and never seem to clear the air. You both feel like you’re the loser and that you often have to defend your position.
  2. You feel criticized and put down by your partner frequently and this leaves you feeling less than “good enough.” According to renowned relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, criticism is one of the main reasons why marriages collapse.
  3. You have difficulty being vulnerable with your significant other and when you do your worst fears are actualized – you’re left regretting that you revealed your feelings and desires.
  4. You rarely spend time together and don’t have a desire to change this pattern. Intimate relationships require nurturing and couples who spend time together regularly report that they are more emotionally connected.
  5. You don’t enjoy each other’s friends or families so begin socializing away from one another. This may start out as an occasional weeknight out. But if not nipped in the bud, it can spill over into weekends – ideally when couples have an opportunity to spend more time together.
  6. You have ghosts from past relationships that surface because they were not dealt with. You may overreact to fairly innocent things your partner says or does because it triggers a memory from a past relationship.
  7. Your needs for sexual intimacy are vastly different and/or you rarely have sex. Relationship expert Cathy Meyer writes, “Whether it is him or you that has lost interest, a lack of regular intimacy in a marriage is a bad sign. Sex is the glue that binds, it is the way us adults play and enjoy each other.”
  8. You and your partner have fallen into a pursuer- distancer dynamic – one of the main causes of divorce. Over time, it erodes the love and trust between you because you’ll lack the emotional and sexual intimacy that comes from being in harmony with each other.
  9. When you argue, you seldom repair your relationship and get back on track. You fall into the trap of blaming each other and fail to compromise or apologize. As a result, you experience less warmth and closeness.  According to Dr. John Gottman, the number one solution to this problem is to get really good at repair skills. He tells Business Insider that you’ve got to get back on track after a fight if you don’t want issues to fester. Practice giving an apology that’s specific such as “I’m sorry that I kept you waiting” rather than “I’m sorry that you got mad at me.” You also need to accept your partner’s apology since no one is perfect.
  10. Emotional, verbal, or physical abuse that causes a partner to feel unsafe. For the most part, experts agree that any type of abuse erodes feelings of security, trust, or sense of belonging in a relationship and these issues can’t be resolved in the context of a marriage.

In closing, for your marriage to thrive, it’s important to create daily rituals of spending time together, show physical affection, and learn to repair conflicts in a healthy way.  Practicing emotional attunement while relaxing together can help you stay connected in spite of your differences. According to John Gottman, this means “turning toward” one another, showing empathy, and not being defensive.

Be sure to pay close attention to the role you play if you are drifting apart and focus on what you can do to reconnect with your partner rather than resorting to the “blame game.”

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com. Her book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.

Terry’s forthcoming book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, will be published by Sounds True in February of 2020.


A Lawyer’s Tips for Keeping Your Divorce Records Private

Unless your last name ends in the word “Kardashian” you’re probably not a big fan of making a public scandal out of your private life. Like it or not, though, your divorce records will be public. Because of that, it’s worth investing some time and energy into making sure that those rA Lawyer’s Tips for Keeping Your Divorce Records Private

Unless your last name ends in the word “Kardashian” you’re probably not a big fan of making a public scandal out of your private life. Like it or not, though, your divorce records will be public. Because of that, it’s worth investing some time and energy into making sure that those records aren’t scandalous.

Why Your Divorce Records Matter

Thinking about “the public record” when you’re in the middle of a divorce isn’t easy. Your head is already spinning, your heart is shredded, and your entire world is falling apart. Keeping your private life out of public divorce records is just not your #1 priority at that point.

Yet, it matters – and not just if you ever plan on running for public office.

Employers today routinely run background checks on job applicants. While you may think that a potential employer clearly won’t care about your past marital history, if that history includes allegations of domestic abuse, adultery, alcoholism, or addiction, you better think again.

Even if you are a model citizen, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about anything in your divorce. Contested divorces can get ugly very fast. People (especially spouses embroiled in a divorce war) often say things in court documents that are less than 100% true.

Lawyers are paid to spin facts into arguments that support their case. They can take true facts and weave them into a presentation that paints a very different picture of reality than the one you remember.

The problem is that once something is in writing in a court record, it usually stays there forever.

But My Spouse Lied!

Hopefully, if your spouse lies about you in a court document, you will be able to prove your innocence. But many times you never get the chance.

In divorce, what often happens is that one party files a petition claiming that his/her spouse did all kinds of horrible things. Before the judge rules on the petition, the case is settled. So the only thing in the court file is the petition with all of the horrible allegations in it. No one ever knows whether the allegations were true or not.

Other times, the judge may actually hold a hearing on the petition. Assuming the judge finds in your favor, s/he will enter an order that says, “Petition denied.” Often, that is ALL it says. There is no detail about WHY the petition was denied.

Was the petition denied because it wasn’t true? Was it denied on a technicality? No one knows.

Now the truth is that you are supposed to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Just because your ex filed court papers claiming that you were the devil incarnate, that doesn’t mean it’s true.

But human beings make a lot of assumptions. And many human beings assume (wrongly) that if anything is in a public document, it MUST be true. (Just like it must be true if you read it on the internet!)

Are All Divorce Records Public Information?

Courts in the United States are open to the public. Divorce records are public information. Anyone can look at any court file they want, usually whenever they want to look at it.

In the past, that may not have mattered much. Like the Ark of the Covenant that Indiana Jones buried in a government warehouse, finding court documents (especially old court documents) used to be a chore.

Today, though, everything has changed.

In today’s digital, hyper-connected world, it is relatively simple for anyone to access someone’s divorce court records. If you’re not technologically savvy enough to do it yourself, for under $100 you can hire an agency to do a background check on whoever you want.

Employers routinely do background checks on their employees.

If you value your privacy at all (or if you just prefer not to air your dirty laundry in public) what are you supposed to do? How can you keep your private life, private?

2 ways to Keep Your Private Life Out of Public Divorce Records

The problem with divorce is that the only one who can divorce you is a judge. That means that, if you want to end your marriage, at some point you (or your lawyer) has to go to court to do it. You have no other choice.

Since every document you file in court automatically becomes a public record, it might seem that there is no way you can keep your divorce private. To a certain extent, that’s true. No matter who you are, or what you do, if you get divorced, there will be a record of your divorce in court.

But, there is a big difference between filing standard documents with simple “boilerplate” language, and filing motion after motion full of allegations about how your spouse is an alcoholic, and abusive, and has done a whole host of horrible things.
People will always be able to discover that you got divorced. But, if you’re smart, they may not be able to discover much more than that.
Here are two ways you can control your public divorce records:

1. Ask the Court to put your documents under seal.

Filing documents “under seal” is a procedure for keeping sensitive or confidential information out of the public record. While this may sound like the perfect way for you to keep your divorce information private, the truth is that before you can do this, you have to get permission from a judge.

Unless you happen to be wealthy, well-known or well-connected, persuading a judge to seal your divorce court records is not likely to be easy. Judges are responsible for maintaining “the public record.” Most judges take that responsibility very seriously. So, for most average folks, getting their divorce put under seal is just not going to happen.

2. Stay out of court.

If you settle your divorce issues with your spouse outside of court, then the documents you file in court can be fairly “vanilla.” They will contain the information that they absolutely need to contain for legal purposes, and nothing more.
If you and your spouse agree, you can also ask a judge to remove truly sensitive and personal information (especially financial account information, or information that could negatively affect your children) from the court file. Even if you are not rich or famous, a judge is usually willing to grant this kind of limited request to keep certain information private.

(You can also try to remove your personal information from the court file in a contested case. But you will have a much harder time convincing a judge to do that for you, especially if your spouse objects.)

It’s All About What You Know

No matter who you are, you have the power to keep most of your divorce information private. But, like so many other things in divorce, doing so is a choice. The only one who can make that choice is you.
If you want to keep your private life out of the public record, you have to take the steps you need to take to do so. For most people, that means staying out of court.

What’s more, you need to stay out of court from the very beginning of your divorce. Once you have filed reams of paperwork in court, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to get permission to take those documents out of the court file.
Do you care whether your divorce records become public information? Maybe you do. Maybe you don’t. What’s important is that you take the time to answer that question before you get divorced.
Karen Covy is a divorce advisor, attorney, consultant, and coach who is committed to helping couples resolve their disputes as amicably and efficiently as possible. She is the author of When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially and Legally and the creator of the Divorce Road Map online program. You can find more of Karen’s articles on marriage and divorce at karencovy.com.

The original version of this article was published at this site: https://karencovy.com/keep-private-life-public-divorce-records/

9 Red Flags That Tell You Your Relationship Might Be Over

Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

After decades of being a therapist and lover of self-help books, I’ve come to realize that red flags usually appear fairly early on in failed relationships. For instance, most couples report that their relationship problems didn’t surface suddenly but are the result of buried resentment that can fester for years.

Likewise, when a couple splits, most state that their problems were never processed or resolved in a healthy way. As a result, they felt criticized or put down by their partner and say that they argue about the same things over and over (and over) again. In many cases, couples become detached and eventually lose fondness, admiration, and love for one another over time.

Sweeping issues under the rug only works for so long. Because when couples have deep-seated resentment, it’s one of the signs your relationship is over and can be a challenge to forgive and forget.

A healthy, intimate relationship is built on trust and vulnerability which involves sharing your innermost feelings, thoughts, and wishes. It’s important to remember that all couples have perpetual problems and can develop tools to deal with them.

According to author Claire Hatch, LCSW, “If you’re bottling up feelings of sadness or anger, you end up suppressing your feelings. You’ll find yourself feeling less joy and love, as well.” In other words, if you can’t talk about the hard things, you’ll also feel less warmth and affection; and over time less fondness and admiration for your partner.

Here are nine warning signs your relationship is over or is starting to die out:

  1. You argue about the same things.

And you do it over and over (and over) again and never seem to clear the air. You both feel like you’re the loser and that you often have to defend your position.

  1. You feel criticized and put down.

This leaves you feeling less than “good enough.” According to renowned relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, criticism is one of the main reasons why marriages collapse.

  1. You have difficulty being vulnerable with your significant other.

And when you do, your worst fears are actualized: you’re left regretting that you revealed your feelings and desires.

  1. One or both of you put your children or others first. 

Therapist and author Andrew G. Marshall writes in his book, I Love You But You Always Put Me Last, “If you put your children first, day in and day out, you will exhaust your marriage.” He posits that many parents fall into the trap of putting their children first and the outcome is resentful, alienated parents and demanding, insecure children.

  1. You don’t enjoy each other’s friends or families.

So you begin socializing away from one another. This may start out as an occasional weeknight out. But if not nipped in the bud, it can spill over into weekends — ideally when couples have an opportunity to spend more time together.

  1. You have ghosts from past relationships that surface because they were not dealt with.

You may overreact to fairly innocent things your partner says or does because it triggers a memory from a past relationship.

  1. Your needs for sexual intimacy are vastly different and/or you rarely have sex.

Relationship expert Cathy Meyer says, “Whether it is him or you that has lost interest, a lack of regular intimacy in a marriage is a bad sign. Sex is the glue that binds; it is the way adults play and enjoy each other.”

  1. You and your partner have fallen into a pursuer-distancer pattern.

This is one of the main causes of divorce. Over time, it erodes the love and trust between you because you’ll lack the emotional and sexual intimacy that comes from being in harmony with each other.

  1. When you disagree, you seldom resolve your differences.

You fall into the trap of blaming each other and fail to compromise or apologize. As a result, you experience less warmth and closeness. What are the best ways to break the negative pattern of relating that can lead to the demise of your relationship? First of all, it’s important to become conscious of your expectations.

Author Brené Brown suggests, “The fastest way for an expectation to morph into shame or resentment is for it to go unnoticed.” Dr. Brown also recommends that we drop or prerequisites for feeling worthy based on conditions, such as having our partner’s approval or a perfect relationship.

Now that you know the signs your relationship is over or dying, here are a few things you can try before giving up.

  1. Stop criticizing your partner.

Talking about specific issues will reap better results than attacking your partner. For instance, a complaint is: “I’m upset because you didn’t tell me about the phone call from your ex. We agreed to be open with each other.” Versus a criticism: “You never tell me the truth. How can I trust you?”

  1. Practice resolving conflicts as they arise.

Don’t put aside resentments that can harm communication. Experiencing conflict is inevitable and couples who strive to avoid it are at risk of developing stagnant relationships. Take responsibility for your part in a dispute. Avoid defensiveness and showing contempt for your partner (rolling your eyes, ridicule, name-calling, sarcasm).

  1. Boost up physical affection and sex.

According to author Dr. Kory Floyd, physical contact releases oxytocin (the bonding hormone) that reduces pain and causes a calming sensation. It’s released during sexual orgasm and affectionate touch as well. Physical affection also reduces stress hormones, lowering daily levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

  1. Nurture fondness and admiration for your partner. 

Remind yourself of your partner’s positive qualities — even as you grapple with their flaws — and express your positive feelings out loud several times each day. Search for common ground rather than insisting on getting your way when you have a disagreement. Listen to their point of view and avoid the stonewalling, which is shutting yourself off from communication.

The best way to create a relationship built on love, trust, and intimacy is to take responsibility for our own actions and to practice acceptance and compassion for our partner.

The truth is that all couples have problems, even the ones who seem like a perfect match. The thing to keep in mind is that realistic expectations and damage control can keep resentment from building and causing serious relationship problems.

Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

Do you want to learn successful ways to resolve conflicts in your intimate relationships? I’d love to hear your questions or concerns at movingpastdivorce.com.  Be sure to order my book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.”

My forthcoming book, The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around, will be published by Sounds True in February of 2020.

This article appeared previously on HuffingtonPost.com

What is Codependency?

By Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

Codependency is sneaky and powerful. You may not be aware that it’s the root cause of your problems. Focusing thinking and behavior around someone else is a sign of codependency. We react to something external, rather than our own internal cues. Addicts are codependent, too. Their lives revolve around their addiction – be it food, work, drugs, or sex.


Codependency derived from the term “co-alcoholic,” originating in studies of family members of substance abusers who interfered with recovery by enabling. Family therapists found that codependent behavior developed in their childhood growing up in a dysfunctional family. In the 40s, German psychoanalyst and humanist Karen Horney wrote about neurotic behavior caused by self-alienation. She described personality types that fit codependency and believed that they resulted from faulty parenting and the “tyranny of the shoulds.”

The 12-step program Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) was founded in 1986 by Ken and Mary, two therapists who had grown up in abusive families.


Codependency is not considered a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, due to lack of consensus on a definition and empirical research. However, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does list a dependent personality disorder, described as someone more passive, submissive, and dependent than most codependents. In 1989, experts at a National Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona arrived at a suggested definition: “A pattern of painful dependency on compulsive behaviors and on approval from others in an attempt to find safety, self-worth and identity.” Other definitions by experts in the field include:

Melody Beattie:  Allowing another person’s behavior to affect him or her and obsessing about controlling that person’s behavior.

Earnie Larsen:   A diminished capacity to initiate, or participate in, loving relationships.

Robert Subby:   Resulting from prolonged exposure to oppressive rules.

John Bradshaw & Pia Melody:  A symptom of abandonment – a loss of ones inner reality and an addiction to outer reality.

Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse: A brain disorder that leads codependents to seek the relief of soothing brain chemicals, which are released through compulsive behaviors, including addiction to work, substances, gambling, food, sex, and/or relationships.

Charles Whitfield: A disease of a lost selfhood.

Darlene Lancer:  A person who can’t function from his or her innate self and instead organizes thinking and behavior around a substance, process, or other person(s).”

Beattie’s and Larsen’s definition centers on relationship behavior. I agree with Bradshaw, Melody, and Whitfield that codependency resides in us whether or not we’re in a relationship. I also agree with Wegscheider-Cruse that addicts are codependent and that relief is sought through substances, processes, and people. However, unlike Cruse, I believe codependency is learned behavior that’s trans-generational. Other influences are cultural and religious biases. Although research shows that some teens had brain abnormalities even before they became drug addicts, their twins did not become addicted, so the full impact of genetic and organic causes is still unclear, particularly in view of the brain’s plasticity in adolescence.

Core Feelings and Behavior

Codependent feelings and behavior vary in degree on a continuum. Like a disease and addiction, if untreated symptoms become compulsive and worsen in stages over time.

Core feelings include:

Core Behaviors include:

Core feelings and behaviors create other problems, such as, people-pleasing, self-doubt, mistrust, perfectionism, high-reactivity, enabling, and obsessions. Codependents are usually more attuned to other people’s needs and feelings than their own. To quell anxiety about rejection, they try to accommodate others, while ignoring their own needs, wants, and feelings. As a result, they tend to lose their autonomy, particularly in intimate relationships. Over time, their self-worth declines due to self-alienation and/or allowing others to devalue them.

Codependents have varied personalities, and symptoms differ in type and severity among them. They also have diverse attachment styles. Not all are caretakers or are even in a relationship. Some seek closeness, while others avoid it. Some are addicts, bullies, selfish, and needy, or may appear independent and confident, but they attempt to control, or are controlled by, a personal relationship or their addiction. Sometimes that relationship is with an addict or narcissist. A relationship that is one-sided or marked by addiction or abuse is a sign of codependency. But not all codependent relationships are one-sided or abusive.


Untreated codependency can lead to severe anxiety, depression, and health problems. There is help for recovery and change. Recovery goes through stages that normalize codependent symptoms. The goal of recovery is to be a fully functioning adult who is:

  • Authentic
  • Autonomous
  • Capable of intimacy
  • Assertive and congruent in expression of values, feelings, and needs
  • Flexible without rigid thinking or behavior

Become informed. Get guidance and support. Codependent patterns are deeply ingrained habits and difficult to identify and change on your own. It often takes an experienced third party to identify them and to suggest alternative beliefs and responses. Therapy and 12-Step meetings provide this. In recovery, you will:

  1. Come out of denial
  2. Let go of others
  3. Build an autonomous Self
  4. Raise your self-esteem
  5. Find pleasure – develop friends, hobbies
  6. Heal past wounds
  7. Learn to be assertive and set boundaries
  8. Pursue larger goals and passions

Self-Help and Therapy

Codependency is highly recoverable, but requires effort, courage, and the right treatment. A therapist should be knowledgeable in treating codependency, shame, and self-esteem, as well as be able to teach healthier behavioral and communication skills. Cognitive-behavior therapy is effective in raising self-esteem and changing codependent thinking, feelings, and behavior. In some cases, trauma therapy is also indicated.

Recovery can generate more anxiety, so it’s important to maintain a self-help support system such as, Al-Anon or CoDA 12-Step programs. Do the exercises in my books, Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You and Codependency for Dummies and my ebooks, 10 Steps to Self-Esteem and How to Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits (see also companion webinars) to build self-esteem and become more assertive.

©Darlene Lancer 2019 All rights reserved

Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

Author of Codependency for Dummies and Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You


10 Steps to Self-Esteem

Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People

How To Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits and webinar How to Be Assertive

Breakup Recovery

“I’m Not Perfect – I’m Only Human” – How to Beat Perfectionism

Spiritual Transformation in the Twelve Steps

Freedom from Guilt and Blame – Finding Self-Forgiveness

Codependency’s Recovery Daily Reflections

How to Raise Your Self-Esteem

Self-Love Meditation

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