Questionnaire by guest blogger James Browning.
The publishing theory goes that women read relationship books and men don't. I don't know if that's true, but I do know that some men need them desperately--especially those who feel overly responsible for everything, including the happiness of their partners.
When I ask men why they stay in relationships in which they're being emotionally or verbally abused (something they often don't realize) they tell me a man's responsibility is to solve everyone's problems and make them happy. They suppress their emotions to the point of numbness. They avoid confrontation because they've learned from experience it will only lead to more criticism and make things worse.
Because their sense of pride comes from taking care of others, they think they're failing when their partner still has problems--something exacerbated by cruel criticisms like:
- "You're not really a man"
- "You never satisfied me in bed"
- "You must be gay"
- "Your sexual equipment isn't big enough"
While they feel trapped, they're convinced that if they can only only work a little harder, sacrifice the life they want, and stop "triggering" their partner by having their own friends and interests, their partner will:
- Appreciate their sacrifices, stop acting so dominent, and fall in love again just like they did at the beginning, and/or
- Stop feeling so rejected, dependent, and abandoned and feel confident in their man's love
People who think, feel, and act in these ways may find they act in "codependent" ways. The term originally applied to people who enabled their family member's substance abuse, but grew to have a wider definition. To see if this may apply to you, take the following quiz:
Answer questions “YES or NO.” Keep count of your “YES” answers. If you're not sure, answer the question "yes."
- I am in a significant relationship with someone who is addicted to a substance.
- I feel responsible for almost everybody and everything and I felt guilty much of the time.
- I can’t say “no” without feeling guilty.
- I can accurately read other people by analyzing their facial expressions and tone of voice.
- I try very hard to please people, but I seldom feel that I measure up.
- I feel that I have to protect people, especially the addicted or depressed person in my life.
- I live in such a way that no one can ever say I’m selfish.
- I vacillate between defending the irresponsible person and blowing up in anger at him or her.
- I often relive situations and conversations to see if I can think of some way I could have done or spoken better.
- I feel overly frightened of angry people.
- I am terribly offended by personal criticism.
- To avoid feeling guilt and shame, I seldom stand up to people who disagree with me.
- I tend to see people and situations as “all good” or “all bad.”
- Though I try to please people, I often feel isolated and alone.
- I trust people too much or not at all.
- I often try to get people I love to change their attitudes and behavior.
- I tend to believe the addicted or depressed person’s promises even if he or she has broken countless promises before.
- Sometimes I have a lot of energy to help people, but sometimes I feel drained, depressed, and ambivalent.
- I often give advice even when it isn’t requested.
- I tend to confuse love with pity and I tend to love those who need me to rescue them from their problems.
- I believe I can’t be happy unless others, especially the needy people in my life, are happy.
- I am often a victim in strained and broken relationships.
- I am defensive when someone points out my faults.
- My thoughts are often consumed with the troubles and needs of the addicted or depressed person in my life.
- I feel wonderful when I can fix others’ problems, but I feel terrible when I can’t.
PLEASE DON’T LOOK AT ANWERS BELOW UNTIL AFTER TAKING THE QUIZ
5 or less You have relatively healthy boundaries, confidence, and wisdom in relationships. You can care about people without feeling responsible for their choices.
6-12 Your life is shaped to a significant degree by the demands of needy people in your life. You often feel responsible for the choices others make, and you try too hard to help them make the right ones. You would likely benefit from the input of a competent counselor or support group.
13 or more You have lost your sense of identity and you are consumed by the problems of people in your life. You can’t be happy unless you are rescuing irresponsible people from their destructive decisions. In reality, however, your hope for sanity and emotional health is not in that person to persons getting well. You have to take steps to get well whether that person does or not. Find a counselor or support group to help you gain wisdom and strength.
Here are some materials about overcoming codependency.
Browning can be found at http://malecodependence.com/2014/03/28/self-acceptance/