The Importance of Strategy: When Codependents Leave Their Reactions To Chance
To have a strategy is to have a plan. A map that clearly indicates how one gets from point A to point B. The majority of people don’t have a strategy for their lives. They go about their business and take each day as it comes.
The most successful people create maps for their lives, because a map tells them where they’re going and the steps they need to take to get there. The map is the most direct path to where you want to be. It’s important to have a strategy for the big picture and for the little steps in between.
People that are involved with emotional manipulators need to have strategies in place, because codependency is a reactionary disease. What I mean by that is that the emotional responses of codependents are dysfunctional. As adults they are still using the same maladaptive coping mechanisms learned in childhood, so the wounded child is reacting to adult situations.
Some people withdraw and hide when they are hurt. Some cling, play victim or cry. Some become defiant and rebellious and lash out. Either way, none of these are healthy adult behaviors.
The best thing we can do for ourselves is to learn healthier ways to cope when we are faced with difficult emotional situations. The way to do that is to have a strategy in place so that we already know how we want to react, instead of letting the wounded child react in the emotionally charged moment.
Creating A Strategy
We need short term strategies in situations where we know we can’t trust ourselves to control our behavior and also in areas where we have not learned how to have proper boundaries. A strategy in this instance means that when we are in a more positive emotional state, we create the mode of behavior that we would like to exhibit when we are faced in a emotional situation.
When a Narcissist relationship ends there is a chance that they will make contact somewhere down the road. This is a dangerous occurance to a codependent because by the time they make contact much of the anger has left us and we’re more prone to be missing them and wishing they’d come back, so the better chance they have of worming their way back into our lives.
No Contact: They haven’t made contact in two weeks and you’re sticking to your guns and then suddenly your phone goes off. It’s them. Your heart is beating fast, you’ve got butterflies and you feel nervous and excited all at once. The codependent self is so relieved and wants to pick up or respond to that text message. But you know you shouldn’t. There’s a tug of war going on inside of you.
If you’ve decided to go no contact it’s because your partner has treated you in a cruel and disrespectful manner. It’s because you’re tired of being hurt and confused all the time. So you’ve made the decision to respect yourself and get out of this. But now that time has gone by you’re starting to weaken.
In this scenario a codependent needs to have a plan in place before they feel themselves weaken. Create the picture of how you want to react beforehand, so that it is your go to behavior, instead of scrambling around in the moment and acting out of emotion. Be prepared for any contact they may make, be it via text, phone call, email or face to face.
If they text – I’m not going to read it and I’m not going to respond.
If they call or email – I’m not going answer or respond and I’m not going to listen to/read their message.
If they show up at your door – Pretend you are not in and don’t answer the door, or speak through the door and tell them to leave or you’ll call the police.
If you see them out socially – Avoid them, leave, or nod to acknowledge them and engage no further. Then go about your evening.
Find a way to make yourself accountable so that you will honor your commitment to moving on. Ask your friends for help or even give yourself a mandate that you will wait 24 hours before you respond. In that 24 hours the emotional charge of the contact will have lessened and will probably have turned to anger that they would have dared contact you. That’s where we want to be – so implement the 24 hour rule on all contact and in that time find every reason not to.
Relationship Boundaries: When you are in a relationship you should always know where your line in the sand is. Cheating for most people is a line. Pathological lying is another. Not pulling their weight or squandering funds is another. Being abused, being humiliated or talked down to is another. Healthy people have a point of no return for certain behaviors they deem unacceptable in relationships. Because codependents were never taught boundaries, emotional manipulators are able to run roughshod over any protest or concern their partners may voice.
When singer Gwen Stefani discovered husband, Gavin Rossdale had been having an affair with their nanny, she made the difficult decision to end her marriage. She didn’t doubt what was happening. She didn’t give him 50 chances, she didn’t blame herself. She realized he had crossed the line and that there was no going back. He betrayed her and could no longer be trusted. Did it hurt her? Take a listen to her song Used to Love You, where she says, “Never thought this would happen. I’ll let it sink in, you’re gone…You thought there were no boundaries. You just pushed me too far. I guess nobody taught you how to love.”
Most people are desperately hurt when they go through something painful like that, but the difference between people with a healthy self-image and a codependent is that healthy people will arrive at anger a lot quicker, they’ll become indignant and will ask, how could you? Instead of, why her and not me?
They will respect themselves enough to walk away from someone that didn’t respect them. Later in her song Stefani says, “You know I was the best thing that ever happened to you. Now look at what you lost.” Healthy people know their worth and know it isn’t dependent upon someone else’s ability to see it.
Healthy people have boundaries and if their partner breaks the rules of love then there are consequences. Every time you disregard your boundaries you are disregarding yourself. So as a codependent, once your line has been crossed you have to have a strategy in place to enforce the consequences, because most codependents have never even seen someone have to pay a price for hurting them.
If your mate is cheating and that’s one of your lines, then – it’s over. Know that the codependency will be trying to make you doubt, trying to make you feel sad and unlovable. It will push you to give in and go back, because it wants you to fail. So make sure you have your strategy in place before the scene plays out in front of you and you are just acting on emotion.
In sports athletes practice plays over and over and over again. They do this so that they don’t have to think they just react in the moment and that’s what this is about. When it’s time to leave don’t think, just react, make the play that you’ve been practicing and stop making rookie mistakes.
A codependent type behavior in these situations might be to respond to the text right away and quickly pretend that nothing has happened, or they might make plans to see them again, maybe even that night. They may hop right back into bed with the person. They might send an email to their ex to tell them all the ways in which they’ve hurt them, hoping for an apology or an acknowledgement of guilt. They may start a screaming match, or throw a drink in their face. None of these are healthy. Once you know your boundary has been crossed – you’re out and you deal with the hurt and the anger on your own. You don’t owe these people anything, but you do owe yourself the ability to conduct yourself in a mature and dignified manner.
Remember there is nothing they have to say that you need to hear. Their actions have spoken for them. They are not going to give you the closure that you need so you have to learn to deal with not having it from them. That’s all you need to understand. The why’s and the who’s don’t matter. You don’t need to figure out what’s wrong with them, so you can figure out a way to fix them. All you need to know is that people who purposely hurt and manipulate other people are sick. They do what they do, because there is something wrong with them. They are responsible for their behavior and you are responsible for yours, so make sure you have a plan ahead of time and stick to that plan.
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