Untangling the Lines Between Love and Codependency

A version of this post was originally published on DivorcedMoms.com. I wanted to share it here too. All thoughts, feelings and content are mine.

It’s been almost a year since my husband and I separated. It has taken me every single day of that year to fight my way into a healthy place, and yet, last weekend, I found myself feeling like I did a year ago.

This feeling comes on occasionally. Unexpected, uncontrolled and unwelcomed. I feel a literal emptiness. LIke I have been gutted. It’s a familiar pain.

My relationship with my husband was built on struggle. It’s been painful and difficult since day one.

The night we met, I could feel something different about him. And I resisted it. I was in no place to even be out in public at the time, much less meeting anyone new. I’d only been separated from my first husband about 2 months when number 2 came along. I knew he was trouble. Even then, in my less than healthy state, I knew I needed to run away; but something about him pulled me in.

It was like trying to run from a whirlpool. I didn’t have the skills to fight against it and before I knew it, I was sucked in.

Despite the toxic dynamic between the two of us, I fell head over heels into what I believed to be love. I flitted around telling everyone I’d found my soulmate. The looks on everyone’s faces told the story I couldn’t hear, but I was convinced I had found a true diamond in the rough. He was just too covered in dirt for everyone to see his shine.

I now know that what I believed to be falling head over heels in love with my soulmate was in fact fear driven codependency and unhealthy attachment.

In the beginning there was a great deal of desire and passion in our relationship and it swept me right off my feet. But not because it was a beautiful love story. I was swept away because I had not given myself the gift of time in order to plant some roots and heal from my first mess. I was not grounded. I had no idea who I was and I tried to find the missing pieces of myself inside someone else. And so, like a tumbleweed in the desert, I was whisked into someone else’s world. A world in which I was unwelcome, because I didn’t belong.

Oh, but I tried.

I held onto that man and that life trying to make it fit into my image of what I wanted. Trying to have it make sense in my delusion of love to satisfy my needs and my wants at the time. In that severely misguided attempt to make this relationship Godly and right, I pulled for every excuse and reason I could find to help it make sense.

“God wouldn’t have brought us this far together if it wasn’t meant to be. There is a reason for everything. Christians are supposed to love their partners at their best and at their worst. It’s my duty to stay with him and help him. He can change….”

I wholeheartedly believed ours was going to be a story of true redemptive grace. A rising from the ashes and a beautiful tale of how love came down and saved two souls.

I was wrong.

Much too soon in our relationship, I invested my whole self into him. I gave him every piece of me I had left to give. And he took them all. No questions asked. Before long I found myself in a twilight zone of abusive patterns and addictive behaviors, and the lines between love and sickness had become so intermingled I didn’t know what was what. I didn’t know where I ended and he began, and I had no idea what to do.

I stayed for many reasons. Some right, some wrong.

I stayed believing I could fix him. That my love would be enough. That underneath it all, he really was this gem of a man. That his sick behaviors and attitudes were just the result of his own pain and with enough time, patience and prayer, I could be the one to heal those wounds. That he could be the one to heal my wounds. That God had me there for a reason and I could not abort the mission before it was completed.

I feared that after investing all of me and all of my time and all of my love into this one soul, if I walked away in the middle of it all, someone else would swoop in and get the benefit of all my hard work. I believed that as a Christian woman, I was to stay. Fight. Love against all odds. Pray. Hope. Believe.

Through that process I became even more lost.

I tried to backwards loop my way into a healthy relationship with someone who was incapable of looping with me.

The truth is, in the beginning, we were both sick. Slowly but surely, I have clawed my way into health. But the strength of that whirlpool is all consuming, and even a year after separating myself from it, I still feel its power.

Whether love was built in sickness or in health, the heart gets wrapped up in it and its hard to pull it out.

I believe we tend to fall in love with someone based on the missing pieces of ourselves they seem to fill. This can be good. But it can also be very bad. Two broken, messy souls cannot “love” each other into wholeness. You simply cannot find missing pieces of yourself by giving more of them away. 

But that’s what I did. I gave it all away to a man who didn’t want any of it. I gave my everything to a man who only knows how to take.

Loving a narcissistic alcoholic is painful. Damaging. Brutal.

Unloving him is equally painful, damaging and brutal.

Even after a year of healing, during a time of finally starting to believe I was “over it all,” unexpectedly I am reminded of the impact such a love had on my already bruised soul.

The fact is, I am healing. I am in a healthy place. But that does not mean I will never feel the pain again. It doesn’t mean my heart won’t ever ache. It doesn’t even mean I will never again feel love for this man, despite his sickness and the damage caused by his unhealthy pull.

But what we had was not a healthy love. What we had was a codependent enmeshment. Somewhere along the way, I do believe that what I had for him was true love. True unselfish, unwavering, unconditional, “you before me” love. The problem is, it wasn’t returned. True love and sick codependence can’t reside in the same place. They destroy each other. It’s poisonous. And the effects trickle into forever.

I am finally untangling these twisted ropes, but it continues to be painful at times. It continues to be confusing and difficult.

But I do finally understand the error of my ways, and even if I have to claw my way out for the rest of my life, that effort will be more successful than forcing an unhealthy love.

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19 thoughts on “Untangling the Lines Between Love and Codependency

  1. As always, beautiful and beautifully honest. Having walked on such a similar road, I am so proud of how strong you are getting. I can read it more and more in every post. Blessings, my dear!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Once again, as I reading your post, I feel as if you could be talking about me.
    Alcoholism is a cruel disease that can destroy everyone it touches. I am so glad that you did not let it destroy you and your children.
    I am in a similar place right now, and you are right when you said “It doesn’t even mean I will never again feel love for this man, despite his sickness…”. There are still times when I feel that love too, and have to remind myself of why I walked away from it.

    Once again, a beautiful, heart felt and honest post.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I know this pain!! Your blog makes me feel like I am not the only woman who has ever gone through it…sometimes you forget, let your guard down and feel fully healed by God but then for a quick second you forget all the pain you went through but you have to remind yourself the outside is painful sometimes…but MUCH less painful than staying in..thank you ❤


  3. Thank you for sharing this with us. My marriage was so similar. I wish this was not anymore else’s story but It’s nice to know I’m not alone. You are doing a great job of healing your heart and picking up the pieces. Beautiful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read your post on Divorced Moms from the LIKE page, but I wanted to come here and comment! Your writing is very empowering. I know you give so many people hope and strength because you’ve turned your situation into a positive–writing about it and letting people know its okay to peel off any shame they may (but shouldn’t) feel and be happy, be loud, share it and move forward. Although I haven’t been divorced or am not in your situation, in the past, I was in a relationship that shares similar threads to yours, and still today, it’s healing to read you write about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As always I enjoy your blog, I find I identify with your life story very much. I am sorry your still in the process, it does become less, as time passes. Ha, I just realized I am still angry! How funny is that realization! What a waste therapy was! No, seriously, I had to write a hardship letter in 3-4 mins, and I realized I was super mad, unreal! Took me by surprise! Ha!
    Have a great weekend.


    NIBSIH. 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    • That anger rises up when you least expect it… It happened to me this past weekend. The grief process and the healing process are a roller coaster, but eventually, we find the smooth road and we realize that wild ride made us warriors! Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Hey, we’re all in this together! I don’t know about you, but for me it feels really good to know I’m not alone. Helps me feel like less of a terminal freak and more like I might be a person with value. Love to you both today! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

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