Counterdependence Is A Manly Kind of Dysfunction
Written By: Mark Smith
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Men have traditionally not been really big on trotting down to the local family therapist's office in order to more closely examine any feelings, problems,
weaknesses, or issues that might be lurking under the surface within themselves, or in their relationships.
In my experience, many men "choose" to darken a therapist's door for only one of four reasons: 1) because his wife/girlfriend made the appointment and
pressured him to come; 2) because his wife/girlfriend has ended the relationship; 3) in order to transport his troubled child to the office to be fixed; or
4) in order to be of help or support to his (in his eyes) emotionally unhealthy, troubled significant other.
Well, it isn't a lack of needing professional help that keeps men from facing their issues; it's their inability to feel pain that makes them unable to understand why
anyone would ever need therapy. That inability to feel emotional pain is called "Counterdependency". In my opinion, it affects the
majority of men in our culture, but it also affects many, many women. In this article, I will define and discuss Counterdependency: its causes, its consequences and
Four words best describe a Counterdependent person: grandiose, independent, oblivious, and intrusive. I will elaborate on these four characteristics.
Everyone has psychological defenses in order to cope with life. A Counterdependent's defenses are like emotional calluses. As the diagram illustrates, buried
deeply beneath a counter-dependent's psychological walls, are many pent up needs and feelings. Men are people too.
If they, as children, were raised by excessively strict parents, or were not given enough nurturing, or were made into little men by needy, helpless mothers, or if
they lived in an unstable, raging, alcoholic home, or if they were hurt and wounded in a thousand other possible ways—those wounds still exist and they are
actually running the Counterdependent's life.
Counterdependents are grandiose.
They know it all. They think they are always right. Their way is the best way. It is black and white, cut and dried. Forget trying to tell them anything. Their
confidence knows no limits. Many times they are very bright, very successful people. They are talented, and they know it. They know where they are
going—straight to the top, so don't get in their way.
Buried deeply beneath their grandiosity, however, is a great deal of insecurity. They have to win to be o.k. They have to make the sale, get the promotion, have
the nice big house, and have all the trophies of success. They base their self-esteem completely on performance and rewards; many times they sell their
souls for "success". Many times, co-dependent, insecure women are attracted to the confidence and direction of a counter-dependent man.
Counterdependents are extremely independent.
They do what they want to do when they want to do it. They aren't in touch with their needs or their limitations. They can work until they drop, and then do it again
tomorrow. Emotional intimacy through talking is just completely unfathomable and not possible. Intimacy equals sex to Counterdependent men. They aren't in
touch with feelings, they don't know how to cry, and they don't know how to use their anger appropriately and non-aggressively.
They are tough; they are rocks; they are islands. Many times their wives are extremely lonely. These men didn't receive enough love and nurturing growing up, and now
they have a hard time needing or receiving love. However, buried deeply under the calluses in a love-famished little boy.
Counterdependents are extremely oblivious, self-centered and addictive.
They interrupt people during conversations without ever noticing that they did so. They don't get subtle hints or body language. Many times they are extremely
work-focused. They work 50, 60, 70 or even 80 hours a week, not noticing the loneliness of their wives, or the father-hunger in the eyes of their children. In their
marriages they tend to have 80% or more of the power. Of necessity, they tend to marry very other-centered, self-sacrificing, co-dependent women.
Counterdependents are to be intrusive, controlling, and aggressive.
They make great military leaders, corporate heads, or football coaches, but they make for pretty lousy dads. Their need for control frequently becomes at odds with
their teenager's developing needs for autonomy and independence. At times the intrusiveness takes the form of raging and yelling.
From a distance, Counterdependents look like a million bucks. Because they have good jobs, lavish homes, and adoring, submissive wives, counter-dependents believe
that through their superior intelligence and drive they have escaped the wounds and pain of their childhoods. They haven't escaped who they really are;
they've just defended quite well against it.
The problem with that is that their walls of defense and control trap them in lives without intimacy. It also makes for relationships in the family where women and children
don't have enough power and therefore get hurt and neglected.
When a fed up Codependent wife drags her Counterdependent husband into my office, it isn't too long before I encourage him, to his obvious delight, to
stay at home and not continue therapy. They aren't workable; they know it all and they don't have any problems. The "cure" for Counterdependency is
pain and accountability. Their best form of therapy is when their significant other starts setting boundaries, taking power and demanding intimacy.
After working for awhile with a Codependent wife on her issues of low self-esteem, insecurity, fear of abandonment, and being too passive, she begins to
change things at home. Usually, it isn't long after those changes start to happen that I have a somewhat humbled and hurting counter-dependent man sitting
across from me finally ready to start dealing with his issues.
In therapy, they learn balance. They learn that real strength is being able to feel one's pain and openly express it. They learn that they don't have to build an
empire in order to be o.k. They learn the power of feeling; they learn sensitivity; and they learn how to truly take care of themselves. They learn how to love
and how to be loved.
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