Forgive and forget. We all try to live by this important maxim and in most circumstances our lives are enriched by adhering to this simple philosophy.
But there may come a time when repeatedly forgiving behavior that is cruel or violent is both fruitless and detrimental. When you find yourself caring deeply for someone who only returns love with abuse, you may be in an unhealthy, codependent relationship.
How can you tell if you’re in a codependent relationship? Take a moment to ask yourself if helping another is harming you.
Charity work, reciprocal favors among friends and family, care-taking of children ---these instances of caring leave one feeling useful, fulfilled and happy.
Continuously covering up another’s destructive behavior, making excuses for the unkind actions of a spouse, repeatedly forgiving abusive treatment ---these instances of caring leave one feeling angry, betrayed and depressed.
When helping a loved one leaves you trapped in a cycle of lies and abuse, you have progressed beyond a healthy, caring relationship to an unhealthy, codependent relationship.
If you find yourself going to great lengths to please a spouse merely to avoid angry outbursts, if you routinely have to make excuses for him to his employer, if you have held your tongue rather than ‘start trouble’ by disagreeing with him, then your may be in a relationship with a man who is exploiting your natural tendency to be a peacemaker.
The general inclination of most women to go that ‘extra mile’ to make a relationship work is usually laudable, but there may come a time when you need to decide if your commitment to a troubled man is endangering you or your children.
Sadly, many abusive men have had a difficult childhood and many loving women find themselves forgiving dangerous behavior in a sincere attempt to provide their spouse with the love he was deprived of years earlier.
Unfortunately, men with a tendency to abuse are instinctually drawn to women who will tolerate their behavior and who will err on the side of forgiveness and ‘second starts’.
Abuse comes in many forms and can be physical, mental, verbal, sexual or economic in nature. Abuse tends to escalate over time so an occasional shove may lead to frequent slaps, aggressive hair-pulling, violent shaking, blows with fists and eventually to the use of weapons.
Another form of abuse –that of verbal denigration – can ultimately be as devastating as physical blows. Years of unrelenting insults can shatter a person’s sense of self-esteem and confidence.
Women who are isolated and have no respite from verbal lashes can become depressed and may even consider suicide as the only escape from their situation.