• Abuse, Codependency, and Males

The last time I checked my “Miss Daisy Flower” Twitter account, I received a Tweet from someone who sent me two links in response I did to a Tweet with a link to one of my blog posts – this one:  “Codependency Is Real And It Can Leave Women Vulnerable to Being Abused or Taken Advantage Of.”

The two links sent to me pertained to boys who had been sexually or physically abused – one story was based out of the U.K., and if I remember correctly, the other dealt with boys who had been sexually abused in some sort of Jewish religious context (by a rabbi or something).

At the moment, I’m too lazy to visit my account, log in, and re-read my notifications area to see exactly what those articles were (perhaps I’ll log back in later and post links to those articles in this post at a later time).

I did ask the person who Tweeted me what she was getting at, because at the time, I wasn’t sure. I didn’t understand the relevancy of the links she was tweeting at me. I mulled it over and now believe I may understand what she was trying to say. Here is my response.

I am a woman. I was born and raised in the United States. I was brought up in a traditional Christian family (of the Southern Baptist, evangelical variety) that believed in gender complementarianism (i.e., a belife in traditional gender roles buttressed by references to cherry picked or mis-applied Bible verses).

As I wrote in an older post,

Christian gender complementarianism is nothing but codependency for women

but it’s passed off by Christian gender complementarians as being “godly” or “God’s design” for women.

In blogging about abuse and codependency, I am most competent – and most interested in and familiar with – addressing codependency as it relates to girls and women in American culture and American Christianity.

All I can fathom at this point is that the individual who Tweeted me was perhaps assuming that saying that there are ties between some girls and women and abuse and codependency is some form of victim-blaming (or sexism?), which, as I explained in a previous post, no, it is not victim-blaming to point out the links between abuse of females and codependent behavior.

I’m a former codependent myself who used to attract users and abusers, and who used to silently endure abuse from certain family members for years, precisely because of my codependency – and I’m certainly not victim-blaming myself!

Some boys and men are codependent too. Yes, codependency in a male can make that male vulnerable to attracting mean, selfish, manipulative, controlling, or abusive people. This does not mean that such males are to “blame” for being abused or taken advantage of.

Some abusers or “mean” people, are, by the way, female! Over my life, in my personal and professional life, I’ve had both males and females use me, exploit me, abuse me, or be rude towards me.

Some boys and men learn codependent coping methods in childhood when abused and carry these mal-adaptive coping habits into adulthood. I learned this from reading books and blog posts and articles about codependency (and some about abuse).

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• Codependency Is Real And It Can Leave Women Vulnerable to Being Abused or Taken Advantage Of

Extreme Caution Urged Concerning Domestic Violence Sites that Discount the Role of Codependency in Abuse of Women – Some Abuse Victims are Indeed Codependent

Codependency is Not Victim Blaming and Can and Does Play a Role in Female Marriage (or Dating Violence) or Female Exploitation

(I began composing this post in the summer of 2016 but will publish it in the fall of 2016.)

Summary: 

The topic of Codependency, (which encompasses, but is not limited to, concepts such as assertiveness and boundaries), is NOT a “victim-blaming” one and has a place in helping girls and women make healthier choices for themselves and what they will and will not tolerate in relationships.

A brief critique of the page “Abuse Victims Are Not Codependent, They’re Trauma-Bonded” by S. Arabi – hosted on the Huffington Post – is posted much farther below under the section entitled, “COMMENTS ABOUT HUFFINGTON POST PAGE BY SHAHIDA ARABI”


I touched on this very issue in a previous post here, about half way down the page, under the section entitled “Codependency and Relationship Abuse.”

I am truly alarmed to see the number of sites, some Christian – some not, that wish to deny or discount that codependency can and does play a role in violence towards women, or the exploitation of girls and women, in romantic relationships or other areas of life.

Denying that codependent women can attract abusers or be in abusive relationships, or that being codependent can protract an abusive or exploitative relationship, is doing a very dangerous and huge dis-service to girls and women.

Before I return to that topic in depth, I’d like to fill readers in on some of my  personal background, because I believe it will help you understand where I am coming from.

Using myself as an example will also help you to realize that saying that codependency can play a role in why some women are abused, or why so many remain in exploitative relationships (including toxic friendships or toxic work-place environments), is not (NOT NOT NOT!) a form of “victim-blaming”.

You can also trust me on that because I detest victim-blaming. I have been on the receiving end of victim-blaming by various people over my life, and I know it’s not pleasant, compassionate, or fair.

I myself am a codependent who is in recovery.

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• A Response to the Complementarian ‘The Beauty of Womanhood Essay’ by Abagail Dodds

This essay by Mrs. Dodds is available from the John Piper “Desiring God” site, as well as an excerpt from Mrs. Dodd’s own blog:

The Beauty of Womanhood Her Uniqueness Makes Her Essential – Desiring God

The Prism of Womanhood – Hope and Stay (Dodds’ blog)

Because many Christian gender complementarians harbor false ideas about women who reject complementarianism, and adhere to false notions of what gender egalitarianism is, I wanted to clear up a few things about myself from the start.

You can see the longer version of my beliefs on my blog’s About Page. This is a shortened list:

  • I have always been conservative, both on social and political issues.
  • I do not hate motherhood, men, or marriage.
  • I used to be a Christian gender complementarian.
    … I understand complementarianism. I did not reject complementarianism because of liberalism, secular feminism, hatred of the Bible, or due to ignorance of what complementarianism is.
  • I am not a Christian-hating, abortion- supporting, hairy, bra-burning feminist, liberal, or Democrat (nor am I an atheist).
    In other words, I am not the stereotype a lot of Christian gender complementarians make women like me (ones who disagree with complementarianism) out to be.

I find most of Dodds’ piece to be disingenuous. She applies the word “complementarian” to some terms or concepts that are actually egalitarian in nature. On some points (not all), she is trying to sell a watered-down version of gender egalitarianism under the label “complementarian,” which is not honest nor accurate.

Maybe Dodds is not even aware that she is doing this: I find that a lot of complementarians, in their blog posts and discussions in comment boxes on blogs and forums, like and agree with egalitarianism, they apply egalitarian practices to their own lives or marriages (if married) in many aspects, but then they slap the label “complementarian” on these egalitarian beliefs.

Another inaccurate or deceptive tactic Dodds uses is to sprinkle the word “single” (as in unmarried) through-out her essay, while all the time, for the vast majority of the essay, defining her version of “biblical womanhood” or “femininity” to only be able to be practiced within the contexts of ‘stay at home motherhood.’

In other words, Dodds’ understanding of God- approved femaleness can really only be fully realized within the confines of married motherhood, yet she continually tosses out the word “single” in her essay, as if to say her views about femaleness are applicable to single adult women as well as to married women or to mothers. Dodds’ treatment or negligence of adult singles is a topic I will  return to later in this post.

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• Even Warm and Fuzzy, True, Correctly-Implemented Gender Complementarianism is Harmful to Women, and It’s Still Sexism – Yes All Comps (Refuting “Not All Comps”)

In earlier posts, I explained how I used to be a comp (gender complementarian) as a child and in my 20s but realized once for all by my mid-30s that complementarianism is false, so I rejected it.

One argument Christian gender complementarians frequently bring up any time a person criticizes complementarianism and its negative consequences on them, or someone they know, or how complementarianism harms all women, is to maintain that any harm was not caused by a true complementarian but by someone who was a fraud – someone who was not a genuine complementarian.

Or, the complementarian may argue that the complementarianism in question that harmed the person was an aberration of complementarianism, or of complementarianism incorrectly implemented.

This “Not All Comps” defense by complementarians has become extremely old hat, and I get tired of seeing it come up around the internet.

The reality is that true complementarianism practiced with the best intentions, at its pure base, is still sexism.

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• Gender Complementarianism: Marriage, Singleness, Purpose, Identity, Domestic Abuse

ALL THE SINGLE LADIES

Despite the fact that some Christian gender complementarians have claimed they do not believe God designed all women to only be SAHMs (stay at home mothers), and despite the fact that they deny that they believe that God expects all women to partake of a stereotypical, 1950s American nuclear family position – I would say again, as I have in another blog post, that the paltry amount of time, resources, respect and attention complementarians spend on never-married, childless, chlidfree, divorced or widowed women betrays this declaration.

For every article or respectful commentary about single, childless women you may be able to point me to written by a gender complementarian, I am sure I could easily point you to three, five, ten or more by complementarians about wives or mothers.

Complementarians are abnormally, almost exclusively, interested in instructing women how to be a wife or how to be a mother. They have very little to say about women who are childless, childfree, or who may never marry, or who don’t want to marry, or whose husband has died or divorced them.

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• Christian Gender Complementarianism is Christian-Endorsed Codependency for Women (And That’s Not A Good Thing)

I am a former gender complementarian. I described more of my journey out of complementarianism in other posts on this blog.

This is the third post on this blog in my series about Christian gender complementarianism and codependency. The last post explained, in a basic overview, what codependency is and how some Christians misunderstand it, or who actually believe that Christians should be kept in bondage to codependency, because these believers unfortunately think that codependency behavior is “biblical.”

In this post, I want to spell out a little more clearly how gender complementarianism is largely nothing but codependency for women with Bible verses sprinkled on top of it to make it appear as though being codependent is God’s design for women.

TL;DR

There is a table towards the bottom of this post with a side-by-side comparison of some of the major similarities between complementarianism and codependency, if you are in a hurry and don’t want to read this entire post.

REGARDING SIMILARITIES BETWEEN CHRISTIAN GENDER COMPLEMENTARIANISM AND CODEPENDENCY

Under Christian gender complementarian teachings, which I heard or saw role modeled by my parents (my mother especially), I also heard or saw codependent behavior for women advocated in Christian sermons, books, television shows, and printed magazine articles, and now, years later, I see it in a lot of Christian blogs.

As I noted earlier, the Bible shows that God condemns or frowns upon codependent behavior in followers of his, yet gender complementarianism (and its adherents) encourage women to practice these very behaviors that God dislikes.

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• Basic Overview of Codependency – And How Some Christians Misunderstand or Misrepresent Codependency

Christian gender complementarianism shares several of the same characteristics of codependency, so I wanted to write a post giving a basic overview of what codependency is.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression in adolescence by a psychiatrist. I had to see other psychiatrists and the occasional psychologist from the time I was a child and into my young adulthood for depression. I also had (and still have) anxiety and anxiety attacks.

In the years after my mother died – when the major portion of the grief had lifted – I began suspecting that something more than clinical depression had to be at the root of my issues, and it probably had something to do with how my parents raised me.

I got on the internet and started searching various terms and phrases, such as “too nice” and “are Christians supposed to be doormats.”

Through that searching, I initially found the book “No More Christian Nice Girl,” written by Christian authors Dr. Jennifer Degler and Paul Coughlin discussed on a few sites.

Free sample chapters of that book can be read here (all on Crosswalk’s site, Paul Coughlin’s blog):

Additional internet searching brought up the phrase “people pleasing,” and eventually “boundaries.”

After even more extensive internet sleuthing, I found the term “codependency.” The word and concept of codependency described in full all the other terms and behaviors I had been reading about.

I than began reading up on these subjects.

As I was reading the characteristics and descriptions of codependency, I was astounded at how similar they were to Christian gender complementarianism, especially as it is tailored to “biblical womanhood” (or, to put it another way, the teachings gender complementarians insist are God’s design, intent, or role for women).

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