Unfortunately too many betrayed partners get slapped with the label “codependent” or “co-addict” and it’s just not true (in most cases).
Patrick Carnes developed the codependency model where it’s presumed that the partner of the addict knew about the addiction and enabled the addict and is sick themselves. They are addicted to enabling. While, codependency can fit for addictions that are easily seen – such as a drunk or high partner – sex and porn addiction often is hidden so well that when the partner finds out, it’s as if they discovered an affair.
The discovery is often traumatic and they are experiencing betrayal trauma, not codependency. The problem is, many therapists were trained in the codependent model and when they say they are an addiction counselor they mean a chemical addiction counselor.
They never studied behavior addictions like porn and sex addiction. They don’t know all the nuances (unless they’ve been the addict or the partner themselves in the past). They don’t understand how world shattering it is to discover your partner has been hiding a second life from you. They just lump you, as the betrayed, into the box they knew and studied back in the 1980’s to early 2000’s.
This is not only unethical for a therapist to take on a client experiencing something they have no training, experience, or credentials in, but it’s also risking professional trauma to their client.
I wish I could say this was not the normal experience a betrayed partner gets when seeking a therapist, but unfortunately, too many betrayed partner’s experience professional trauma at the hand of a “well-intended” therapist.
That is why I started my company The Modern Mr. and Mrs. – so that no betrayed partner or sexual addict would walk into a therapists office and experience the old models that are harmful to not only the betrayed partner, but to the addict themselves.
Why The Codependency Model Harms Both The Addict & The Partner
You would think that the codependency model is actually positive for the addict given it’s been the go to model for addiction treatment for decades. Unfortunately, the codependency model is too lenient on the addict and often “babies” the addict in session and will actually enable the addict to not recover!
Yes, the model that proposes that the partner is enabling…. it’s really the model that is enabling to the addict. Too often out of date therapists follow the Carnes model and will let everything be on the addict’s timeline. It’s when the addict is ready to talk about it. It’s when the addict is ready to disclose. It’s when the addict is ready that things happen. That type of model does nothing for the addict except teach the addict that their recovery has no impact on others and it’s all about them and their emotions. The disclosure process in the codependency model is when the addict is ready to disclose what they think should be disclosed and the betrayed partner sits there, listens, and cannot ask any more questions.
This model is absolutely dehumanizing to the betrayed partner as their needs are ignored and they are blamed for the addiction, and fuels a selfish and entitled addict that only further deteriorates what little is left of the damaged relationship.
Are you Codependent or Betrayed?
To answer this question one must first understand what codependency is and what trauma is. They look very similar to professionals who are not trained in this and an untrained professional might say you’re codependent when you’re really experiencing trauma.
“Codependency refers to an imbalanced relationship pattern where one person assumes responsibility for meeting another person’s needs to the exclusion of acknowledging their own needs or feelings.” – Wendy Rose Gould states in her article “What is Codependency?”
Is a response to a traumatic event caused by an intimate partner, like infidelity, addiction, or other betrayals, where the partner had no idea the behavior/addiction/infidelity was going on.
Trauma & Safety Seeking Behaviors That Mimic Codependency
- Constantly checking your partner’s devices
- Having control over the devices settings
- Constant check-ins with your partner
- Doing the recovery work for your addicted partner in the beginning
Some Signs of Betrayal Trauma, NOT Codependency
- Panic attacks
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation
- Desire to escape the pain
- Intrusive thoughts
- The discovery replays over and over in your head
- Weight loss or weight gain
If you are experiencing betrayal trauma check out these resources to help you further gain understanding of what you’re going through, how to recovery, and the paths recovery takes: