Mental Health Healing Man

Co-dependent Men?

I’m often asked if only women are the enabling partner in a co-dependent relationship, or if men can be in this position as well.  It’s unfortunate that society most frequently thinks that only men can be abusive, addictive people – this we all know is far from the truth.  We hear more about abusive men than we do women but that is not to say that a woman cannot. Men in general are potentially more prone to being an enabler, simply because of the way they are raised; on the same token they are also less likely to seek help for themselves when they do find themselves in a co-dependent relationship.
the long walkSome people will say that it’s because men are less likely to pick up a book and read about relationships, or can’t be bothered to spend time browsing the internet for help when things start to go downhill, and thus they are merely uneducated to the dangers of being in a relationship with an addict.  So, why do men stay in these relationships without seeking out help for themselves and their partners? Men are raised to be strong, protectors, leaders, and the family bread winner.  They are told that they are responsible for their family, their happiness and wellbeing sits heavy on their shoulders.  This means that the typical male familial leader will take on full responsibility for their relationships’ short comings.  They tuck their emotions away and put on the strong front at home, at work as well as in public in general. This so often will lead them to slip into denial, hiding the truth of their relationship from the rest of the world so as not to appear to be a failure.  While their intentions are good, the damage that they are doing is far worse that if they were to open up to the world and seek the help that is out there.  There is no shame in being a man in a co-dependent relationship with and addictive, narcissistic or abusive woman.

The men that I have worked with have had the strength to seek out help and support, after having lived too long in a dark place because of their partner.  Women as the abuser in these relationships are cruel, vindictive and damage their partners with their words more often than their hands.  They will say things to the men in their lives that make them question their own manhood, emotionally, and physically. They are told how they are worthless, they don’t do enough to support the family and soon come to believe that they really are at fault.  If only they worked hard, bought bigger gifts, arranged for bigger life events then they would be able to fix their relationship and they would feel like a man again. If they get a new house perhaps she will fall in love with him again and things will go back to the way they were before she started drinking.  If they have another child maybe it will help her to overcome the emotionally drained and empty woman she has become since their first child started school.

 We’ve talked about the signs of being in a co-dependent relationship before.  But I feel it’s important to look at them again.  Men, look deep into yourselves and assess your relationships honestly, and know….YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is your wife addicted to any substance be it drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications.
  2. Is your partner addicted to a particular behavior, such as shopping, sex, thrill seeking or dangerous behaviors?
  3. Do you feel responsible for the care and wellbeing of your loved ones to the point of neglecting them by working long and exhausting hours?
  4. Do you ever feel guilty for not being able to give your spouse what it is she demands to be “happy”?
  5. Do you struggle with feelings of inadequacy and an inability to please those closest to you?
  6. Do you feel that you that you are the only one capable of protecting those in your family from themselves as well as the rest of the world?
  7. Do you find yourself constantly defending your partner’s behavior or making excuses for her?
  8. Does the thought of your partner’s being angry with you frighten and make you not only emotionally but also mentally ill.
  9. Does the smallest criticism offend you more than necessary?
  10. Do you find yourself being the one who is always trying to please everyone else?
  11. Are you embarrassed by the way you are treated and spend great lengths trying to avoid letting the world see the life behind closed doors?
  12. Do you find that you trust no one?
  13. Do you hear your wife’s apologies and believe them even when they have been proved wrong time and time again?
  14. Do you resent your relationship?
  15. Do you spend your entire waking moments attempting to walk on egg shells to avoid conflict?

If you find that more than five of these are occurring in your everyday life then you may indeed be in a co-dependent relationship.  Men often don’t discuss their problems with friends nor family because it is seen to them as admitting to failure. The keep their feelings locked up inside and the pain of their denial creates an internal conflict that continues to grow until they become numb to the world around them. Shutting out the beauty that is part of the world they should be enjoying!

Men are just as likely to become co-dependent as women. The way that society sees men, and expects them to behave compounds the issue and can feed not only the enabling behavior of the man but it can also exasperate the negative behaviors of their spouse. The circle of harmful behavior and damaging words will only continue to grow.

Don’t allow this to continue in your life, seek out help, find someone to talk to and make the decision to improve your life for YOU!

Matt Morris, CPCC