Rebecca Humphries’ honest and forthright column (My partner cheated on me on Strictly, but it took another heartbreak for me to quit toxic love, 15 October) struck a chord with me when she said: “My heartbreak … had come from the inescapable knowledge that, though they had been very different men, I had behaved the same in both relationships … I had prioritised their needs to the point where I couldn’t remember what mine were.”
Putting oneself to one side in that way is almost a textbook description of codependency. In coming out of an emotionally abusive marriage of nearly four decades, and while noting some red flags in a new relationship with an exciting but unavailable man, reading it reminded me that I still have difficulty in telling the difference between the twin states of arousal and fear.
I’m an adrenaline junkie who grew up in a disastrously dysfunctional family of origin, and so as an “adult child of” I’m having to actively learn how to tell the difference between excitement and an uneasy state of hypervigilance in myself. I’m being made more aware of, and gradually changing, my own patterns of behaviour through following the Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) 12-step programme, whose entry point is anyone who wants learn how to have healthy and loving relationships. That’s most of us, isn’t it?
In common with other 12-step programmes, CoDA doesn’t advertise itself, but relies on personal recommendations. So here’s one from me. In my experience, CoDA is neither self-help nor therapy, but rather a highly effective transformational programme that is free of charge and widely accessible to all via face-to-face and online meetings. It’s helping me to free myself from the codependent patterns, traits and conditioning that lead me to embark on toxic relationships in the first place, and it’s giving me the tools not to do that again.Name and address supplied
Thanks to Rebecca Humphries for distilling into words the feelings that I have struggled with for years – an “insidious loss of joy, opinion and confidence” that’s been my life over the past 20 years. Like her, I thought that these were just the bumps in the road encountered within any relationship. Having always thought of myself as a little feckless and impulsive, I punished myself for these “faults” by making myself work harder. You made this bed, now you shall lie in it. Be just a little more flexible, give just a little more, accept it when he tells you that you are too sensitive and that you always see the worst in things.
I consider myself an intelligent woman. Life traumas skewed my perspective, creating a vulnerability that left me open to making poor choices. Now I can see the patterns. Shrink myself, my world and my opinions to fit. Use alcohol to obliterate the voices of reason. Ignore the concerns expressed by loved ones. Accept all manner of unreasonable behaviour, and often take the blame for it.
I turned 60 recently. Like Humphries, it took two painful experiences for me to understand the impact of toxic relationships and gaslighting. I got there in the end, with a lot of help. I hope that Humphries’ article will enable other young women to see the writing on the wall and to act.Name and address supplied
Heartbreak comes in many forms. I think I am one of those “broken-bird boys” that Rebecca Humphries refers to – heartbroken by my daughter’s refusal to accept that her mum and I were not able to stay together after 24 years of marriage – my fault, it appears. She has refused to talk to me for the last three years. So though her mum and I are still close, I am lost. When I meet somebody who wants to take things further, I am terrified and end up breaking it off before I can cause anyone else the hurt I have to my daughter. I am determined to heal, but it has taken leaving behind everything and everyone I knew and going somewhere completely different. I do now feel better and happier.Name and address supplied