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Joined: Jun 2006
Posts: 6,058
OP Offline
Joined: Jun 2006
Posts: 6,058

Let me begin by saying that you will probably find that my terminology is not what you are used to. I am neither a trained counselor nor an author of any books on codependency or any other topic. I am but a lowly cellular telephone salesman. With that out of the way…

I am posting this in the OT forum because it is really our only "catch-all" place to post stuff that is not really related to a certain set of conditions and I think this qualifies.

Also understand that I do not in any way claim to speak for Dr Harley or this web site or anyone else who posts on this web site.

I was the one who responded to your first post calling it spam. You took exception with that observation and I decided that I should give you a chance before picking a fight. So I have looked at a couple of posts you have made and have come to the conclusion that you are not here merely to sell your book after all. But I also question whether you understand the ramifications of some of the advice you have already given people, so I would like to ask a few questions to see where this conversation will take us.

I’m assuming by your book title that you have training in psychology, are you also a trained counselor?

Are you married? If so, how long?

If you are married, have you ever experienced infidelity as either a betrayed spouse or a wayward spouse? If so, what steps did you take to restore the relationship or did you end it and move on with your life?

I assume you have read at least parts of the site and that your challenge to Dr Harley’s assertion that the codependency movement is ruining marriages was in direct response to the article he has on this site and not merely the title of the forum you first posted on. But have you read any of the rest of the site including the basic concepts?

Have you also read any of the material that relates to infidelity?

Have you read any of the threads in the infidelity section of the forum? (Don’t post advice on a bunch of those right away please; just read a few to see where they go without your input from a codependency perspective.) Some of these are 2 or three hundred pages in length so settle in to read them. You will see more of a pattern if you read a longer thread from beginning to end that if you just look at new threads just beginning.

Infidelity is sort of unique in that it seems to be pretty consistent in the way it shows itself and in the way it responds to certain things. I suggest that these similarities are because of the correct assumptions made by Dr Harley in his basic concepts. The same patterns can be seen over and over again in the lives of folks who have found that their spouse is cheating.

You posted advice to a woman yesterday who had found out that her alcoholic husband was having an affair. His counselor suggested that he not inform her of any contact he has with OW because she is codependent. He also seems to be an alcoholic and probably needs treatment for that before much else can really take hold.

Now here’s my problem with your advice…

You basically reinforced in this woman the idea that her husband’s affair was her fault. If there is a pattern of codependency in their relationship, doesn’t this feed directly into that interaction and contribute to further deepening her problem? It also removes from her wayward husband the need to establish clear boundaries for his life that would protect his marriage and his relationship with his wife. It removes the consequences for his actions and again reinforces his behavior patterns while allowing him to obscure his own boundaries.

After being here for a while and seeing what happens when one spouse has an affair and having experienced the devastation first hand in my own marriage as well, I would simply say to you that if this man is having an affair, the problems with his marriage are nearly all the result of that affair. The affair itself is the problem. There are probably a whole host of troubles that contributed to the condition of the marriage relationship that allowed the affair to happen, but the problem right now for the marriage is the affair and not the list of things that could be helped by treating codependency or helping the husband create personal boundaries.

If he is an alcoholic, not much good can come from marital counseling until the addiction has been dealt with. Even a “dry drunk” will not respond to treatment for other problems very well until the mindset of the addiction has been broken.

The woman you responded to does not feel safe in her marriage right now. The reason she does not feel safe is because her husband continues his affair, has repeated contact with his affair partner and (on the advice of his counselor) is hiding that information from his wife. In order to feel safe ever again it will be the lying, hiding things, secret “second life” that will have to be done away with. Until she can feel confident that her marriage is open and honest, she can never feel safe again. So while treating her codependent tendencies, which I would think would manifest themselves anyway under the circumstances of finding out that your marriage has been a lie for some period of time, and helping her husband to establish better boundaries for his personal wellbeing might actually lead to both of these people becoming more well balanced individuals, it will likely result in the end of the marriage relationship.

When a marriage is in trouble it is often necessary to perform a sort of triage on the relationship. Some marriages are damaged beyond any and all hope for restoration and will die no matter what anyone does to counteract the affair that is ripping it apart.

Some other marriages will respond easily to simply identifying the affair and recovery follows rather quickly. These are usually cases where the affair was such an anomaly for the cheater that it does not really indicate a serious character flaw as much as a moment of weakness.

Still other marriages suffer from prolonged contact between the affair partners and the true addictive nature of the affair takes a lot of hard work to overcome.

And some affairs simply have to be allowed to burn out on their own and in some cases the betrayed spouse is willing to take steps to restore the marriage once the affair partners have separated on their own.

Once an affair is over, a lot of specific issues both in the marriage and as personal issues can begin to be identified in earnest as a way of helping the two heal as a couple and as individuals. But when the affair is ongoing, none of those things will contribute to the saving of the marriage relationship. It is like putting a band-aid on the scratch on an accident victim’s finger while their femoral artery is severed and they are bleeding out before your eyes. While an accident victim might have a broken leg, if they bleed to death before they get to the hospital, the bones being broken really don’t matter very much.

To continue the analogy, if a person is having a heart attack, it serves little purpose to treat their athlete’s foot. Fixing the latter might improve their quality of life, but failing to treat the heart condition will result in them not having a life.

So while codependency might need to be addressed and other personality problems and mental dysfunction issues could present problems to long term recovery, as long as the affair is present, it is the defining problem for the marriage and therefore for the individuals within the marriage and until the affair is broken, the marriage cannot recover no matter what kind of personal improvements are made. The affair IS the problem whenever there is an affair.

I would also be very careful to not fall into the new hammer mentality. Just because you have a new hammer doesn’t mean everything is a nail or even requires that it be struck with a hammer. Codependency treatment is not the panacea for all mental health issues and is certainly not the solution to saving a marriage that has been blown apart by an affair though it might actually be one of the things that caused the conditions that led to the affair. Until the affair is over, the marriage is in grave danger and no amount of attention focused on codependency alone will lead to its restoration. Marriages survive with codependency all the time. They seldom survive with an ongoing affair. The affair must be addressed first if there is to be any hope for the marriage.


Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 35,996
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 35,996

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