What am I? Codependent /Enabler/Love Addicted?

by Holly
(Douglaston, NY)

I was married to an alcoholic/drug addict for 20 years. We had 2 children. I went through hell with this man, made excuses for him, covered for him in every aspect of his life including his children until I couldn't take it anymore.

I've been divorced for 2 years now and met someone who at the time I didn't know turns out to have intimacy problems. He claims he loves me and I'd do anything for him. Sometimes I feel if he was capable he'd do the same. The bottom line is we don't have sex. He says he has the madonna/whore complex and it's his problem and should step up to the plate.

But meanwhile here I am suffering again with someone who can't give me what I need. Other than sex, we get along on every level and I know he loves me, as I do him. What the hell am I doing? I feel I'm just repeating my codependency in another form! How and why am I attracted to these men? And how do I tell him to go away? I'm very confused. I need advice!!!

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Oct 29, 2015
Was feeling rejected 5 years ago
by: Lisa

I am not quite sure why I just got notified I had a comment on a 5 year old thread? Perhaps I got the wrong link? However, I am still sober 14+ years now, older and met a man who is most certainly NOT codependent. He is kind of a natural al anon. He makes me stretch my muscles in the feelings and conflict resolution areas. I cant avoid difficult situations he wants to face issues and discuss them. He even says "ok do you want to wait until you are ready to talk without crying?". Because he knows I HATE IT. he doesn't mind it. so he puts up with my oddities and is patient loving and kind and we are engaged

I am finally having an adult (most of the time) relationship at 50 years old!!!

Nov 26, 2010
Feeling completely REJECTED
by: Lisa

I was in a marriage for years with a man who was addicted to pornography and lap dances. I was made to feel as if it was all "my insecurities" that caused me to have a problem with this. I felt trapped there and was told how stupid and incompetent I was and was fearful of leaving because I had 2 young children. I finally became engulfed in my own addiction to drugs/ and alcohol.

Thank heavens I got sober d/t a potential loss of my career. After a year sober I had garnered up the strength to leave. I was terrified but I made it. It is almost 10 years later now.

After years of not dating and working on myself in therapy I decided to try it again and began dating someone. Only to discover that my picker is still really broken. 5 months into this relationship where he initially treated me like gold, was complimentary, and sweet, and a gentleman etc I discovered HE SPENT HIS ENTIRE CAR PAYMENT ON LAP DANCES. The other issue is he doesnt "like" sex? It is a strange dynamic in a relationship (at least for me) when the woman is the one pushing for more sex. I am not used to that at all and was doubting myself.

I have discovered we both have major intimacy issues. Mine I have used sex as a tool to keep someone around..... (If they are happy in the bedroom maybe they wont leave me) and he is terrified to trust anyone enough to really let go sexually and be that vulnerable.

I dont think he is willing to look at his stuff right now so this is most likely going to end and badly. He is bipolar and also a recovering alcoholic.

I just know I can make it through anything and will grow through the pain again.

God bless.

Nov 24, 2009
Trying hard
by: Hollie

Thank you so much for your comments. I feel very alone in dealing with this issue. I've been in and out of therapy since I was 19. My first relationship with a man was physically abusive and that's when I first started therapy. Although my childhood appeared (or was according to my parents)good, I obviously did suffer feelings of abandonment, verbal sometimes physical abuse thus resulting in low self esteem and worthlessness.

Throughout my life I've tried to fight this through therapy but as I've said I continue to get involved with the "wrong man". This current relationship I'm in is very conflicting for me. I truly believe and know he loves me. Recently I found out he's been involved in pornographic websites where he talks to women. He claims it's just talking and he hasn't met any of them and has not been with anyone physically. I want to believe him but it's very difficult because I'm hurt.

I asked him if we could go to a therapist together and he said he'd think about it. He has been in therapy before and is open minded about counseling. I do know I have to set boundaries and that I do deserve better.

I'm currently in therapy, however, I've not discussed this relationship in detail. I'm too ashamed and embarrassed. But after reading your posts, I now know I'm not alone and I need to take care of myself.

I look forward to any further comments and advice and truly appreciate the support.


Nov 24, 2009
Hi Holly
by: Lyn

I can relate to how you are feeling, I too am currently in recovery from co-dependency/enabling/love addiction (though now I am not so interested in the labels as I once was). I have a track record for attracting partners with personality disorders/strong PD traits which always resulted in me trying to 'fix' them and my needs going unmet.

I only posted my story here yesterday after coming across the Iceberg Presentation slides on this site, they have helped me see myself so clearly.

After my last relationship with a highly avoidant man ended 14 months ago, for the sake of myself and my children, I decided I needed to get support amongst people who understood and also get a good therapist (CBT based therapies have only ever scratched the surface for me). I found a great online support forum which is specifically for people who have been in relationship to someone with a PD/PD traits, and I am now an active member of that community. I also found a great Jungian Analyst who bears witness to and validates the deep underlying hurt and abandonment I experienced growing up. I also took a course in mindfulness meditation and a small group of us meet up regularly to practice. Occasionally I go to a local Coda meeting.

I read as much as possible on the subject of recovery and have discovered some genuine gems of information along the way. I am really enjoying reading the vast amount of information here at internet of the mind and am looking forward to posting here on a regular basis too.

Aside from learning as much as I can, the most important thing I feel I am doing now which I wasn't in the past is facing the core issues that caused me to repeat certain patterns throughout my adult life - it is painful at times and it does take courage which is why it is best to do it with support.

Not so long ago, I remember asking similar questions to you are now and feeling so lost and helpless. Learning about focussing on our own needs and how to set boundaries are such an important part of recovery from our kind of emotional wounding. I have also learned that setting a boundary without a consequence is of little us; we have to find the courage to stick to the consequences we have set or it only encourages those in our lives to believe that our boundaries mean nothing and they can just bulldoze right over them every time.

Well done for reaching out and posting here. I look forward to sharing with you on the road to recovery. Lyn

Nov 24, 2009
To Holly
by: Angie Carter

I spent a good portion of my life in and out of "bad, verbally abusive, emotional unavailable, physically abusive, distant, smothering, exciting, boring, cruel, or obsessive relationships - take your pick.

When I first started counseling I could not even see how the relationships were actually that bad, the denial was very thick. When I finally could see the unhealthy patterns, my very next questions was "WHY???"

That is not a simple nor easy question to answer. As Don mentioned in his post, I did find a lot of answers through therapy and support groups. Uncovering, discovering and discarding was a process. I did not get in this mess over night and I did not get out of it over night. For me, what it came down to is that my subconscious "picker" was going to be drawn to people in a certain lifestyles and who acted out in certain ways.

Drugs and alcohol were involved most times. But also another dynamic of the other person was that they would put me on a pedestal for a short time (ie. instant gratification and needs being met) I became someone 'special' in the beginning. But then I started this pushing away behavior. I think I did that to see if they would actually stick around, and so the dysfunction would start. I would distance, they would pursue. When I wouldn't engage, then they would start to back off and I would pursue a little bit...just enough to get them back in the game, once I felt secure again, I would distance. Now mind you, I did not know I was doing this, it was how I did relationships. I was very terrified of really "getting involved" all the way, because it seemed to me that whenever I did do that, they would just leave! So I couldn't afford to do that. So I did this back and forth behavior. I call it the Yo-Yo dynamic. Reel it out, reel it in.

Anyway, as mentioned in the earlier post, there are definite reasons as to why you are attracting and getting involved with certain kinds of people (ie. unavailable or have specific issues that impede a healthy relationship) Once I started working on myself, the kinds of people of I drawn to started to change over time. Not right away, but after several years. Then the kinds of people who were drawn to me started to change. Today, I am in a healthy, wonderful relationship and there are reasons for that. I continue to work on myself and my spouse does the same. We put effort and energy into our relationship and we communicate. It is not magic, but it certainly feels magical.

The most important part for us, is that we put God in the center and we are not each other's Higher Power. Good luck to you Holly and continue on with an inward journey of discovering yourself and learning about what makes you 'tick' You won't regret it!!

Nov 24, 2009
Reaching out is a good start!
by: Don Carter

Hi Holly, I want to respond to a few questions you posed, but first I want to say that staying in or getting out of a relationship is not something I give advice about -- unless the one asking is not safe.

1. "What the hell am I doing? I feel I'm just repeating my codependency in another form! How and why am I attracted to these men?"

If we have experienced moderate to severe abandonment in our significant relationships then a wounding process has occurred. The result of this process is that we experience repetition compulsions which cause us to pick other people who will also not be able to meet our needs. In other words, we UNCONSCIOUSLY search for another relationship where we can continue experiencing cycles of abandonment, shame, and contempt.

Why does our unconscious "picker" keep doing this to us? In order to give us a chance to do this relationship differently this time -- to do it in a way that heals the wound. If that means to leave, to stay and get into counseling together, or something else, then do it.

If your "picker is broken" then getting out of this relationship is not a solution in and of itself -- its only a start. For more on how we unconsciously pick people who are not able to meet our needs copy and paste this link into your browser:


2. "And how do I tell him to go away? I'm very confused."

It sounds as though you have a part of you that wants to stay and a part that wants to get out of this relationship. It's likely that each part of you has different needs -- perhaps one part needs to express & experience your love through companionship while the other part needs to express & experience your love in a physical way.

Both parts need to be considered... If you choose one over the other then the abandoned part will likely create symptoms to try to get your attention.

Now I have some questions:

1. It can be very helpful to find a therapist that will sort through these issues with you. Have you tried that?

2. The Madonna/Whore complex usually means that the person is not unable to have sex -- it usually means that they cannot have sex with someone they love -- is your partner getting his sexual needs met outside of your relationship? Once married a person with this particular complex (it's not an official diagnosis by the way) usually get's into porn, affairs, and/or sexual addiction.

If you choose to stay with this person it would be wise to insist that it be with the condition that you both get help together. It's your right and a responsibility to yourself to set a boundary here. Keep in mind these issues can take a while to sort through.

Codependents Anonymous or Alanon would be a good group to get involve in so you can answer the question "What am I? Codependent /Enabler/Love Addicted?"

Hope this helps,

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