The Exposed Wound - How Polyamory Healed Our Codependent Relationship

09/10/2013 11:11 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 23:58 GMT

My ex-husband got married this summer. To my boyfriend's ex-wife. Once we were a quad. Four people together living and loving together. And although we all agreed to stay together for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, that's not quite how it worked out. Shit happens. And our shit was codependent.

As the seed of co-dependency is unhealed and 'impactful' childhood trauma, so in our fear ridden and controlling society the phenomenon of codependency is extremely common. Since codependency attracts codependency in every relationship, the phenomenon becomes polarizing and in a quad or more, exponential. And if you're polyamorous, codependent couples will attract codependent couples.

My husband and I were codependent and unaware of it, as most are. He was deprived of love by a mother in depression throughout his childhood, I was adopted and then raised by a narcissist and acted out my own patterns of abandonment. When we met, he rescued me - but soon, I became the rescuer. The breadwinner. The decision maker and the mother. But not of our children (we didn't have any); of my husband.

When we met our future partners, they were playing their own game of codependency. In their marriage of 17 years, she was the victim suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and he was the rescuer. She was the 'baby bird' and he was the protector. We even joked about it not realizing the sting in our words -

'What have the kids been up to today?' my paramour would say jokingly.

'Looking for jobs!' I'd say hopefully.

But that never happened. My husband and his wife spent all day together going to the gym and enjoying each other's company as my boyfriend and I - the rescuers - went to work. But as our partners were was used to being rescued, their fights escalated - each of them trying to put the other in the 'rescuing role' and when that failed, the persecutor role. Then my boyfriend and I would take sides, each of us rescuing our spouse from the other spouse's 'persecution' and falling into the victim-persecutor roles ourselves.

And as our relationship progressed we continued to swap roles, I positioned myself as victim of my sisterwife 'stealing' my husband as she positioned herself as a victim of my rage, jealousy and impotency. And then her husband, my paramour would come to her rescue. And my husband would come to mine. All four of us locked in our codependent roles playing out our very own, and very painful drama triangle.

Miraculously when the relationship finished, we ended up in each other's arms. In hindsight, I guess we all longed to heal and identified an opportunity to do so.

Emergence of the Adult

The new configuration gave both new core couples growth. Two rescuers fought to take charge of a single household, and fought to let go of their desire to rescue their former partners. As a result we've ended up having to recognise and modify our rescuing tendencies and heal the trauma that caused them. For our exes, two victims had to step up, go out into the world and earn a living. They too have gone through difficult times. And we were all forced to be adults.

And so now, two years after the break up, our ex-spouses married. My reaction is a mix of happiness for them - they are after all so good for each other - tempered still by sadness at the loss of my husband; all the while knowing that the biggest pain was experienced when I lost my 'son' back in 2008 before I was forced to be an adult at the age of 33. I adored him. Doted on him. But as my mother was to me, I was critical of him. The only expression of love I knew how to give eventually emasculated him. He adored me, needed me and gave away all his power...until we both fell in love with new partners who happened to be a couple.

Letting go of the past

The loss of a loved one - no matter how unhealthy the relationship - is still sad. When we met our relationship rescued us from our cruel worlds. And in that way it was joyful and beautiful. Our love was beautiful. As it moved into a mother and son love it melded into a pool of companionship which slowly trickled away without us even realizing. Codependent relationships are unsustainable. That's reality.

As a polyamorist I can continue to love several and I do. But my ex, well I love him in the past. I love us in the past. When I heard their good news, I opened my memory scrapbook for the last time  to see the past there. A gossamer winged butterfly pinned to cushion. Once vibrant and glowing, now partially crumbled into varnished dust. The love we once had before it turned sour.

The advice of one's authentic self is to live in the now, but there's plenty of reasons not to do that entirely. Remembering the magic of the day my daughter was born for one. Or that day my heart gave a queer leap when my son smiled at me for the first time. The many joyous moments of adult love I have now with my boyfriend, the father to my children. There are moments of magic in this life, and it would be a real pity not to remember them. But when something brings you pain it is the best and most recognizable sign that something is not properly laid to rest.

My momentary discomfort shows me I am not done with grieving the past. After all this time. The loss of someone who was so special to me. I feared losing him at the time because he was the first person - and the only person until that point - who loved me and accepted me for me. He saved my self-esteem and gave me ground to start rebuilding myself. With him I was worth something. Without him, I would be worth nothing. I needed him...or so my mind told me. But now I'm an adult, my self esteem doesn't need his validating love anymore. For someone like me who believes in authenticity and freedom, there's something especially ugly about seeing love pinned down...even in your memory.

It's time to let go.

Thanks go to the amazingly insightful work of Eric Berne Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships  and Robert Burney The Dance of Wounded Souls: A Cosmic Perspective of Codependence and the Human Condition

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