Abuse and Codependency Needs

Here's an example of abuse and codependency in which a woman trapped in codependency needed her abusive husband so she could be the loving wife.

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Marnie And Nick In Codependent Love

Marnie...is a 39 year old nurse practitioner...with a good high paying job in a prestigious research hospital.

She did not marry until she was 34...after she established her career.

She married Nick...27 yearsold...blond...rugged...and sexy. 

Marnie met Nick at the hospital where she works. 

Eventually...they began to talk briefly each morning...and as you might guess...there was a strong sexual chemistry between them.

This chemistry led Marnie to ignore the potential for abuse.

They began to date...got engaged despite her family's skepticism and that of her colleagues as well.

You might ask...what's the problem?...maybe they loved each other.

The problem of abuse may not be immediately apparent...because you don't have one crucial piece of information.

And it's not the age difference.

About ten months after she and Nick were married...Marnie sought a therapist's help for physical abuse by her husband.

This in itself is a clue that the relationship is unsound. Because... to deal with problems and get the partners back on track.

If sexual chemistry is the only thing going for a couple, they probably should not marry...because it cannot sustain a marriage relationship in and of itself.

What was the codependency problem?

The problem was that the relationship was completely unbalanced socially...educationally...and economically. And Marnie's values in each of these areas were completely different from Nick's.

She could not cross Nick's social boundaries and become part of Nick's world anymore than he could cross the boundaries into her world. 

Picture in your imagination Nick at a party for hospital staff members and their spouses...all talking about things completely foreign to Nick. 

  • He did not know about current events in medical circles...political parties and climate change.
  • He didn't like to wear Armani clothes and eat coq au vin by candlelight off china at a handsome table and sip chardonnay. He preferred to wear a T-shirt and eat meatloaf...mashed potatoes with a beer or two on a tray in front of the TV
  • He didn't want to have children and send them to private school...so they too could out think and out talk him...like their mother.

Marnie and Nick's situation had all the mismatched relationship ingredients to give rise to abuse and codependency...the guilt-based need for abuse on Marnie's part, and the anger for Nick to provide the abuse.

The non-sexual friction was as intense as the sexual friction.

If they weren't having sex...Marnie and Nick had few other ways to communicate. Well...you get the idea.


When a woman is high on the socio-economic ladder...with all that entails...and her mate is not a voluntary house husband or Mr. Mom, and he is much lower on the financial-prestige ladder...the situation is ripe for abuse and codependency because he may well feel inferior when he is constantly reminded...even by a glass of wine...that she is socially and economically superior to him.

Marnie went into therapy without being aware of abuse and codependency as it applied to her situation. That is, until she responded... without missing a beat or blinking an eye...to the therapist's question..."How do you get him to abuse you?"

You may gasp at that question...but Marnie didn't.

What happened in therapy?

Marnie simply explained how each Friday night she would begin to 'encourage' Nick to go to night school and finish his GED so he could then go on to night school for a college degree and then on to night school for a law degree.

Of course, what she thought was 'encouragement', Nick experienced as nagging reminders of his inferiority and its unacceptability to Marnie.

Everything she did to make him 'better' himself only goaded him until he lost his temper. Her 'encouragement' was how she got Nick to abuse her.

Marnie only stayed in therapy for a month.

During those 6 sessions...she came to understand that by provoking Nick she was enabling him to have a sense of power and control in the relationship when...in fact...he had none.

She also decided that she would stay with him. "Who would love him if I didn't?"...she asked.

Therapy over. There was no need for it...Marnie was a volunteer...not a victim.


Marnie needed to experience herself as the loving spouse of someone less fortunate than herself. That's the plot of an abuse and codependency story.

The underlying dynamic in Marnie's case of abuse and codependency appears to have been guilt at her own good fortune...and an abusive codependent relationship was her way of atoning for her guilt (though she had done nothing wrong by being successful).

Social work efforts to remove women from abuse and codependency environments are often not a solution because they do not address the codependent victim's underlying needs that are satisfied by the abuse. And that is why so many abused spouses return to the scene of the crime...despite professional efforts to help them.

To read how a therapist...counselor...or spiritual director should respond to a volunteer victim you can go from abuse and codependency back to relationship boundaries. Or you can continue to navigate the site and


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