Co-dependency, or pathological altruism as we like to call it, is unhealthy in marriage, but how do you know it’s there? It can turn a once healthy marriage into a bad one and often leads to divorce. How does co-dependency affect marriage and divorce? And how do you figure out if you’re co-dependent or part of the problem?
On today’s show, we have Mary Joye, licensed mental health counselor and Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, joining us to talk about co-dependency, divorce, recovery, and more. It’s hard to break that trauma bond, as Mary points out. So what can you do to recognize yourself as being pathological altruistic? How does co-dependency rear its ugly head during marriage? Divorce? Mediation? And how do you avoid going down the same roads later in life? Mary talks to us about the challenges of becoming self-aware, but how important it is in making it to the other side of co-dependency. Tune in!
Links & Notes
- Mary’s book Codependent Discovery and Recovery 2.0: A Holistic Guide to Healing and Freeing Yourself
- Winter Haven Counseling
- Mary on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube
- Mary’s Author Page
- Mary’s Course ‘From Codependent to Independent’
Pete Wright: Welcome to How to Split a Toaster, a divorce podcast about saving your relationships from TruStory FM. Today, it’s time to stop trying to rescue your Toaster.
Seth Nelson: Welcome to the show everyone. I am Seth Nelson and I am here as always with my good friend, Pete Wright. Today, we’re talking about codependency. In a healthy marriage it’s expected that partners are there to support one another, but what happens when that support turns unhealthy and how can codependent behavior impact the marriage process and the divorce process? This week on the show we welcome Mary Joye, licensed mental health counselor at Florida Supreme Court certified family mediator to talk about codependency, divorce and recovery. Mary, welcome to the Toaster.
Mary Joye: It’s so nice to be at the Toaster, Seth. I appreciate that very much.
Seth Nelson: Pete, is it at the Toaster or are we in the Toaster? I’ve been staying up late wondering these things.
Pete Wright: I know. This is the central question of today’s show. Is that what you’re telling me, Seth?
Seth Nelson: I’m not saying that.
Mary Joye: Semantics are important.
Pete Wright: For crying out loud, they’re huge.
Seth Nelson: Oh God, that’s a dagger to my heart telling a lawyer it’s just semantics.
Mary Joye: No, I said semantics are important. No, semantics are important. I said semantics are important.
Seth Nelson: I missed that part, thank God.
Pete Wright: Seth, I’m a little bit worried about you. Do we need to talk about your codependent behavior right now?
Mary Joye: We might.
Seth Nelson: We might and I would first like to have Mary define what that is because I could have been using it wrong all these years when talking about, I’m just a packed animal with my dogs. Let’s see if I’m doing this right.
Mary Joye: Well, all of us are a little codependent with someone at some time, that’s not a problem, but it’s losing yourself taking care of others, just the loss of yourself. It’s a total loss of self. Someone who’s a caregiver who doesn’t take care of themselves. Very common that a caregiver will pass away before the person they’re taking care of, that’s codependence, but don’t confuse it with compassion, because we all have to be compassionate and help one another, but when you lose yourself helping someone else, then it’s codependence.
Pete Wright: Okay. You used a term around where codependence the term came from in one of your videos that I watched this morning and I actually learned something because I’d never actually put it together. Can you define it the way you define it in your handy video?
Mary Joye: Yes, it used to mean, the original intention was that you were living with someone who was dependent on a substance which made you co-dependent but it’s expanded more than that. And I wish they would use the actual terms some researchers started using, which was pathological altruism. Semantics are important, Seth. Pathological altruism, you think the best of the worst of people, it is how people follow Jim Jones and drink the Kool-Aid. It is how people felt sorry for Ted Bundy when he was hitchhiking with a cast on his arm or his leg and they picked him up. That is what you need to watch out for is pathological altruism. I wish they would change it because codependency is not a formal diagnostic manual disorder. I’m sure Seth is an attorney, is familiar with DSM-5. It’s a diagnostic manual. It’s not in there and it should be because they’ve never been able to really pinpoint what it is. I like pathological altruism, but we’ll see what happens in the future. That was coined by a woman named Barbara Oakley by the way, I can’t take credit for that.
Pete Wright: I absolutely adore that meaning. I’ve never even heard, Seth, have you heard of this?
Seth Nelson: I have not, but I’m a little concerned that you adore pathological altruism.
Mary Joye: Well, I adore it as a diagnosis because it will … I mean, insurance companies will pay for codependency because it’s a serious problem. Because most counselors, we don’t usually see the alcoholic. We usually see the codependent. We don’t see the person who needs caregiving. We see the caregiver. We see the person who’s hurting from living with someone who’s disordered. If you live with someone who’s disordered, you might be codependent, but hopefully that explains it.
Seth Nelson: And also Mary, just real quick. I know this isn’t the topic of our conversation today, but you mentioned DSM-5. Can you just explain to everyone what that is and how it gets used?
Mary Joye: Yes. It is a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. It is the fifth edition and it is what we use for insurance coding. It has criteria that needs to be met to give someone a disorder. It is a diagnostic manual on the same token it is not a Bible. I think a lot of people just go Googling and say, oh, that’s me or that’s Joe or that’s Sandy or whatever name they choose. But no, you have to use it with absolute integrity.
Pete Wright: With great power comes great responsibility.
Mary Joye: Yes.
Pete Wright: Responsibility. That is an extraordinarily helpful definition and I hope it’s helpful for people out there who think they really know where it came from because knowing where it came from really helped me figure out how to characterize codependence or pathological altruism. I’m all in on pathological altruism. I’m going to replace it everywhere. Graffiti, whatever it takes. Before we talk about how this impacts a divorce, how does it impact a marriage? When does it become unhealthy? Because you already mentioned that compassion lies on the other side, it seems of a fine line between pathological altruism and just being a good partner.
Mary Joye: It profoundly affects marriage and usually the person who most times will see this dynamic with someone who’s narcissistic or sociopathic and they’re fine in the marriage as long as the codependent does what they say, that’s what we see as a power struggle. And actually they’re both driven, a narcissist and a codependent are both driven by a subconscious fear of abandonment. One is using power and control over the other and the other one is seeking to subjugate or to try to match and nag and you must get help for your drinking. Well, you can tell someone to get help for their drinking all you want, but unless they don’t want to, they won’t do it. We see a spectrum of codependency from the doormat to the nagger and they’re both driven by a fear of abandonment and it needs to be needed instead of a desire to be wanted, which is much more healthy.
Seth Nelson: Oh my God, Pete, Andy’s going to have a hard time naming this show, because I’ve heard five different, amazing terms, the need to be needed as opposed to what was it, Mary?
Mary Joye: The desire to be wanted. It’s healthier to want to be wanted than to need to be needed. And because I am a recovered one of those and I went to an addiction specialist to get better from it. Now mind you, there’s no pills for that but I wanted to know what was going on in my brain because I’m a psychiatrist daughter, which I was an extension of my family’s image. So I said, what’s going on in my brain that I say yes when I mean no and no when I mean, yes. That’s a very common thing. A people pleasing strategy that codependents use. You dumb yourself down to make everybody else feel better. Yes, there’s five or six shows in that. The need to be needed should just be overridden by, I want to be wanted and if someone doesn’t need me that doesn’t make me less valuable.
Pete Wright: Okay. Since you just outed yourself as a recovering codependent, I have to ask you about the fog of codependency or the fog of pathological altruism. At what point do you realize you’re in this relationship? What does it take to jar you into, I guess, awareness or a sense of readiness for change in your life? How does that work? What was your experience?
Mary Joye: Just like addiction, a rock bottom moment. My ex-husband of 20 years, he did many, many little things that I could overlook and forgive because back then you just obeyed and stayed and that was the dynamic I was taught. But I realized the financial abuse was absolutely worse than any other abuse, but you hit a rock bottom. He filed bankruptcy in IRS, didn’t tell me. And then he borrowed money against our house and didn’t tell me. And the bank called me and I went, "Wow, I have hit rock bottom." And then I realized, I said, okay, I was in graduate school when these things happened, mind you. So here I was reading textbooks and the DSM-5. And even though I had been to therapy, nobody explained the neuroscience of what I was doing. Nobody explained what a trauma bond was to me. And then the light bulb just went on and I developed an exit strategy and called someone like Seth and got myself out of the mess because there was other abuse too but I don’t really need to visit that, but it’s just a rock bottom experience.
Seth Nelson: Before someone hits rock bottom, if they’re going to see a counselor, because you said the person that is the codependent person is going to be the one going to seek help. They’re going to go to the counselor. Is that a sign in and of itself like wait a minute, maybe I’m codependent here, before you hit rock bottom.
Mary Joye: Absolutely. And I wish, like I said, I wish counselors would explain trauma bonds to me. A trauma bond, a narcissist, sociopath, anybody that’s disordered or anyone who’s manipulative actually, we won’t even label them, they’re wonderful and then they’re horrible. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Dr. Jekyll isn’t real. So the trauma bond is created when they’re nice and their love bombing you as pop psychology says, it releases dopamine, oxytocin, which is that pesky trust hormone. You trust that person and then when they’re not nice to you, you get adrenaline and cortisol which is stress hormones so you start chasing and fawning after the person who proposed to you, loved you, took care of you and then all of a sudden discard you. And in narcissism, it’s called that they highly value people and then they devalue them. They discard them. There’s an elevation that they choose and then they discard you. Same with borderline disorder. Sociopaths do it too. That trauma bond is created and they know exactly what they’re doing. They don’t know why they’re doing it, but they know exactly what they’re doing. I wish someone had explained that to me, if they did, it would help understand it. I hope somebody’s out there listening. This is why when all of you say, why don’t you just leave? That’s the same as saying to someone, why don’t you just quit smoking? Why don’t you just quit doing heroin? Why don’t you just quit drinking? Because if you don’t understand that neuroscience and biochemical reactivity of it and I don’t mean to get real esoteric or scientific, but there’s hard science behind what keeps you.
Seth Nelson: No, Mary, I actually think that helps.
Mary Joye: It helped me. I was reading it in the textbooks.
Seth Nelson: When people understand that it’s physiological, there’s something going on in my body, in my brain that you can’t just take a pill for and fix that you have to retrain your brain then I think that is step one in understanding, okay. And it’s also step one for your friends to understand, why don’t you stop drinking? Because I’m an alcoholic, but the alcoholic never says that. And that’s the problem with the question it just totally misunderstands the brain, misunderstands the disease, misunderstands the dynamics of what’s truly happening here. And it is physiological and when people understand that, I think it gets into the realm of, okay, I get that if I break my arm, I have to have it set in a cast, something’s going on. But the brain, you just can’t see it.
Mary Joye: Exactly.
Seth Nelson: It doesn’t show up on an x-ray.
Mary Joye: We have PET scans. We just don’t use them. I wish they would, because it would show up on a PET scan, actually. Your empathy is in your prefrontal cortex. Narcissists and sociopaths lack a prefrontal cortex activity, that’s where your empathy resides, it’s right in your forehead, and codependence have too much empathy. And so do you see how this dynamic is just entwined?
Pete Wright: I bet it lights up like a headlight, too.
Mary Joye: It does. When anyone gives, they feel good. This is why philanthropy is wonderful. That philanthropy is not codependency, but when you don’t give you feel badly, but a codependent, you just exponential. They only feel good when they give, they do not know how to receive and teaching a codependent to retrain the brain that you cannot give without receiving first. You can’t. I cannot give you $100 if you ask for it if I only have $80, but a codependent would go out and borrow $20 more, give it to you and be in debt for $20. Let’s just put some emotional math to make it easy.
Seth Nelson: All right. That leads me to a question, Pete, can I borrow 100 bucks?
Pete Wright: I see where this is going and I’m still going to give you my last 80. I’m in trouble you guys, I’m in trouble. That actually leads to, let’s talk about divorce, because all of this gets me thinking about the complexity of severing a relationship that is codependent. There has to be, I gather, a place where you realize, I know I’m in a marriage that is not suitable for me anymore and yet I am still, is it even fair to say, addicted to the relationship?
Mary Joye: Yes. It’s fair to say that. It’s absolutely fair to say it. It’s just like addiction. You can tell yourself every day, I’m just going to put these cigarettes down, I’m going to put these cigarettes down, but there’s just something that clicks in that just drives you to do it even … And there’s name for all these things. It’s called cognitive dissonance. You know someone’s bad for you, but you stay with them and you justify it, just like, I know cigarettes smoking is bad, but it kills my appetite and I’m losing weight. That’s cognitive dissonance, two incongruent beliefs at the same time occurring. They’re simultaneous. Very difficult to break that. So you’re kind of self trauma bonding when you have that cognitive dissonance.
Pete Wright: Sure. Let’s talk about first, the nature of separation. What does it look like to realize it’s time to separate and I’m codependent. You have to go through that wake up at some point and then what?
Mary Joye: Well, you wake up and then you usually start blaming yourself, which is equally as bad as blaming the other person. Because codependency is a form of self-harm. I was three quarters of the way through writing my book about it when realized, I said, wow, this is self-harm and I’m going to address it right in the moment. I said, okay, I just had a revelation this is self-harm, it’s a form of it. It’s subconscious. But when you realize you’re harming yourself, you’re also harming the other person. You’re not a codependent enabler. I despise that term. You’re a codependent disabler. You’re disabling this person from taking responsibility. You’re taking on all their responsibility. You’re paying all the bills. You’re covering up for them. You’re lying for them. You’re saying, oh, he’s not such a bad person. Oh, they’re really nice. No, you’re covering up. So with the wake up, it also creates a meltdown and then you start deconstructing it and reconstructing it. And that is best done in therapy but if you can’t, there are ways around it, but boy, you’ve got to have a good support team.
Seth Nelson: So when you say deconstruct, reconstruct, you look back at the relationship?
Mary Joye: Yes. Look for patterns.
Seth Nelson: You deconstruct and you’re like, "What was happening?" You’re literally getting information.
Mary Joye: Yes. You’re looking back and taking inventory without being judgemental toward yourself or the other person. Then check with your childhood see if that dynamic is a reenactment from childhood, it almost always is. You either had a narcissistic or sociopath or addicted parent, and you have tried to gain mastery with that. That’s an old 40 in term is reenactment. You try to gain mastery. You have a compulsion to do that and you seldom gain mastery. I always tell my clients, it’s like watching Forrest Gump over and over and over and thinking Jenny won’t die at the end, but she will. You can never quite gain mastery.
Seth Nelson: Mary, we need to have a little warning-
Pete Wright: Spoiler horn.
Seth Nelson: Yes. Spoiler alert there. I mean, Jenny dies at the end. I didn’t know that.
Pete Wright: Now we have a title of the show. Now we’ve landed. Jenny dies at the end.
Mary Joye: Jenny dies at the end no matter what.
Pete Wright: It’s going to be with Mary Joye. Your name is forever associated with Forrest Gump. You’re welcome.
Mary Joye: Yeah. Well, it is my favorite film because it’s about being fight, flight and frozen. Lieutenant Dan’s all fight and it applies to what we’re talking about. Because Forrest was he codependent? Kind of.
Seth Nelson: Yeah.
Mary Joye: I mean, he put up with a lot from Jenny. Absolutely. He just didn’t have the capacity to understand it.
Seth Nelson: Right. But I want to get back to this. You’re looking at it. You’re taking inventory. That’s deconstructing.
Mary Joye: Yes.
Seth Nelson: But you can’t judge yourself in that. I think that’s what happened is in the moment you’re like, "Oh, he did X, I’m so stupid, I can’t believe I did that." Or he did Y and oh my God, I can’t believe I did this and respond. And you start is tearing yourself apart. But you got to kind of just say what happened and then talk about more specifically reconstruct.
Mary Joye: It’s easier than you might think. Reconstructing is about knowing what you don’t want. Many codependents come to me and I used to be one of them. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what I want anymore. They’ve given themselves away so much. When someone comes to me in codependent crisis for a divorce or for premediation counseling, because people will come to me for that too. I take a two column sheet of paper and I write what they don’t want on one side. I ask them what they don’t want. What they don’t know that I’m doing is going to the other side and writing the opposite of that. If you don’t want to be abused, you do want to have a peaceful, loving relationship. If you don’t want to be codependent, you do want to be independent. If you don’t want to be financially abused, you want to have financial security. I’m writing what they do want from deductive reasoning of what they don’t want.
Seth Nelson: And it’s a whole lot easier for someone to tell you what they don’t want than it is what they want.
Mary Joye: Exactly. Because when you’re a codependent, your negative mindset is on fire because you’re blaming yourself. You never will. When you have that aha moment you go into, like you said, you start judging yourself instead of observing yourself. And then when I find out who they are, I pretend they’ve never met anyone in their life. They’re a kid with a clean slate. Who’s your ideal mate. And it’s always them always, always. If they want someone who’s kind, generous, sweet, loving, it’s always their qualities and they go, okay, this is who you are and this is what you want.
Seth Nelson: What about that whole opposite attracts thing?
Mary Joye: Oh, it’s so true but it’s such a myth. It works in the short term.
Seth Nelson: Because see, that’s the type of legal arguments I make in court Pete. Your honor, this is so true but it’s such a myth. I like to keep the judge guessing. That’s really persuasive.
Pete Wright: It’s true. Well, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, Mary, but define that. How is it true and a myth?
Mary Joye: Well, it’s true that opposites attract because there’s deficits in all of us and when we’re young, we’re looking to fill those deficits and those voids. Like if someone’s an introvert, they are going to be attracted to an extrovert thinking they really want to be an extrovert when actually they’d be better off with someone who’s in the middle, someone who’s sociable but not going to harm them.
Seth Nelson: I’m checking the boxes here, Seth extrovert, Susie introvert. She even has a pillow that has extrovert in all the qualities and then you turn over it says introvert. It’s a big joke with in our relationship.
Mary Joye: There’s ambiverts too, there’s, I’m an ambivert. We’re 59 or 51, 49, 51 introvert, 49 extrovert. You can be.
Pete Wright: You can be all of it.
Mary Joye: You can be an ambivert, which is fine. But people that are more alike, it’s the Michelangelo phenomenon. These are the old people you see who start looking like each other and finish each other’s sentences. They’re not codependent. They’re just interdependent. And that’s a healthy thing to be, if that makes sense.
Pete Wright: Okay. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 10% of children live with a parent with an alcohol use disorder.
Seth Nelson: This is an alarming statistic as a family law professional who deals with custody cases regularly.
Pete Wright: Finding the balance between the child safety and helping the child maintain a relationship with both parents is one of the hardest things to navigate. Add in the he said, she said phenomenon that happens with divorcing couples who often weaponize alcohol use against one another and the situation is even more difficult.
Seth Nelson: All of this is why Soberlink has been one of the most important tools for my clients dealing with these issues. Soberlink’s remote alcohol monitoring tool has helped over 500,000 people prove their sobriety and provide peace of mind regarding the child’s safety. Soberlink helps keep the focus on the best interest of the child, which is really the most important part in the divorce case dealing with children. I’ve teamed up with Soberlink to create a parenting plan guide to people going through divorce that involves alcohol in children.
Pete Wright: And you can download it today at soberlink.com/toaster. And if you take a look and you think you’re ready to order Soberlink, just mention how to split a toaster for $50 off their device price.
Seth Nelson: Our thanks to Soberlink for sponsoring How to Split a Toaster.
Pete Wright: Let’s turn our attention to the actual divorce process and Seth I’ll turn to you because I’m curious, now that we’ve-
Seth Nelson: Here we go.
Pete Wright: … had this whole conversation, how does your experience of a couple in let’s say dependent crisis divorce, what does it look like in the divorce process?
Seth Nelson: They can’t get out of their own way. They can’t reach settlement on the simplest of issues from my perspective. And they might continue the litigation because the only thing connecting them is the litigation. You are stuck. You are stuck. And Mary will know the physiological aspects of this. When I say they can’t get out of their own way, I can’t get them to a yes to settle. Every time I solve a problem, Pete, they’re going to tell me another problem. I solve that problem. It’s another problem. And so here’s what I mean by that, is we’re working really hard on defining anything. Let’s just call it when we’re going to have time sharing. And we say, okay, we’re going to agree it’s going to be a 50/50 time sharing. And then they say, but what about the holidays or I want this holiday or 50/50 but not that day because that’s a special day that I always have. And now he wants to trade that day for the other day or we get 50/50 but what do we do about those days that there is no school on Monday. How do we work that day. I want to have that extra day because we don’t have school let’s make it a three day weekend, but now it might not be 50/50 and say, okay, well, if it attaches to the weekend, then it will be whoever attaches to the weekend. They say, okay, but what about my birthday? I’m like, "Do your kids really want to spend time with you on your birthday?" Well, it’s very special to me. I said, "Well, that wasn’t my question." I don’t know any children that really want to spend time with their parents on their birthday. You can celebrate that any time. How hard is it to tell a child, "Look, I know it’s my birthday let’s celebrate this weekend, go have fun with dad." There’s always another problem.
Pete Wright: But from this conversation, what I’m hearing is, they’re not really fighting about that problem.
Mary Joye: No.
Seth Nelson: No, not at all. It’s, oh, you solve this, I’m no longer going to be connected maybe we’ll get our case settled. I won’t be with this person anymore. I better come up with another problem so I can stay connected to this person. Then I solve that problem, same dynamic. And so what I do is when I see that behavior, I call it out. I say, every time I solve a problem, you give me another problem. I don’t believe at this moment in time you truly are able to settle your case.
Pete Wright: What’s the reaction to that?
Seth Nelson: They’re like, "Well, yes I am." I said, "I don’t think you are because every time I solve a problem you give me another problem. We need to really look into that." And that’s where Pete, which this is not what is used commonly in describing lawyers anymore. It’s attorney and counselor at law.
Pete Wright: Right.
Seth Nelson: That is the counselor at law section in my view, especially in family law. It’s the psychology of it.
Pete Wright: Do you find you use the words? Do you call it out by name? What I’m seeing here is some codependent behavior and we should put that on the table. Are you that open with them about that counselor?
Seth Nelson: Yes. I am the most direct lawyer I think I’ve ever met. My clients know that I am no bullshit and I’ll tell them. I can be wrong, but this is what I see and I’ve been doing this a long time.
Pete Wright: It’s okay to be wrong if you’re honest.
Seth Nelson: Yeah. And the more confident I am that I’m right the higher likelihood that I’m wrong, I’m just letting you know, there’s a weird thing in physics. When I swear to my team, we have an amazing team here at the firm, that the file is not on my desk, there’s a weird law in physics that the higher likelihood that it’s actually on my desk. I get that. But Mary is that what you see when you get in a mediation and you can’t get these people to yes.
Mary Joye: Yes. I have had many attorneys call me and say, please help me. I’m legal counsel. You’re a counselor, counselor. And I do help people like that. I say, please stop, fighting. I always tell them the devil is in the details. And they’re fighting over couches and hunting dogs, crazy things. And I always tell them, you are not going to want to sit on the couch that your ex sat on, you’re going to want a new one at some point. And I’m allowed to do that as a counselor where I can’t do it as a mediator. As a mediator, I have to be [inaudible 00:26:59] and it’s very difficult. It’s very difficult to switch those roles. But I do exactly what Seth does. I love that he’s direct. I just tell him you’re either codependent or sometimes they’ll tell the narcissist you’re being a narcissist. Just give it up. You can’t pound this person under the ground. You can’t take everything they’ve got, that’s not how the court is, it’s equitable, in the state that I live in it’s equitable distribution. I do the same thing. I’m a solution focused therapist. I’m not a, how does that make you feel therapist? I’m a how do you want to feel therapist and how can I help you get there? Same thing as a mediator, how can we reach an agreement? And I start with the common ground instead of the divisive adversarial ground. I start collaborating instead of competing. It’s like a competition, isn’t it Seth? They’re just in competition. They just don’t stop.
Seth Nelson: Right. In competition which neither one of them are going to win.
Mary Joye: Correct.
Seth Nelson: They’re going to drain their bank accounts.
Mary Joye: Exactly.
Seth Nelson: I am going to have a larger bank account, not a smaller one. When they talk to me about the couch and I get to tell them, we can argue about personal property on $450 an hour and I will tell you the floor under Florida law, is that the value of that couch is garage sale value. I will also tell you that the judge and I have a case right on point on this because we just used it in a trial, that sentimental value is also important. The judge can consider your sentimental value on why you want that couch. How much money do you want to spend talking to me and preparing you for your deposition and then ultimately your trial to talk about the sentimentality of a couch.
Pete Wright: Yes. Is there a sentimental garage sale value? Because that’s something I could lean in on. Bottom of the barrel sentiment.
Seth Nelson: Okay, Pete, I’m coming at you, but I know you and you decorate your walls with old electronic devices.
Pete Wright: I was worried you were going to call it junk.
Mary Joye: You’ve been outed.
Pete Wright: Because those would be fighting words, sir.
Seth Nelson: I would never, never dare to do that. Which his wife wants to bury for a treasure trove but that’s a whole nother story. That’s another podcast. But to you, those are very sentimental, but financially they’re not worth anything.
Mary Joye: Yeah, exactly.
Seth Nelson: How much can you sell them for?
Pete Wright: I don’t want to talk about this anymore.
Mary Joye: I’m in denial.
Pete Wright: You guys are now picking on me. Do you see me shrinking in my chair?
Seth Nelson: I’m not saying that you’re a hoarder, so don’t take it the wrong way.
Pete Wright: No, its meticulously organized junk.
Seth Nelson: I did not call it junk either, but I am one that likes to get rid of things. I don’t like having a lot of things. But the things I have, I want to be nice. I want to take care of. The only thing I ever hoard is my American Express point. I got a million of those babies.
Mary Joye: Good for you.
Seth Nelson: I don’t want to give them up, but that’s the problem, is Pete, back to this divorce, is that you can’t get out of your own way.
Pete Wright: That’s it.
Mary Joye: So true.
Seth Nelson: And ultimately you will be divorced unless both of you decide to stay together. And so you’re prolonging the inevitable.
Mary Joye: Thank you.
Seth Nelson: Because finally at one point the judge is going to look at their docket and say it’s 2022 and this case has been pending since 2018. I’m setting it for trial counsel, get ready. Oh, well, judge, we haven’t finished discovery. I want to file the motion because I want this evaluation or that evaluation or I need an appraisal. Well, you’ve had four years council, we’re going to trial. Ultimately, it’s going to get set and you’re going to get divorced and you’re just running out the clock, delaying it, kicking the can down the road. Any of those saying that you want to use that make it understandable for you, but it’s bad. And the divorce process takes up so much time. Mary, I’m going to ask you this, do you talk to them and meet with them after it’s over and what is the difference in their personality? Their demeanor, when it’s divorced, they get the paper signed six months later, the day of six a year later, how is that different?
Mary Joye: They’re usually relieved because I do usually see the codependent, and the narcissistic or the selfish person tends to be the one that drags it out more. Seth, you made me feel a little better about my divorce. I didn’t do what you did. I actually would put a watch on my bed for the billable hours. And I told my attorney one time, I said in all fairness I know you’re going to make more money if you think I want that couch, but I don’t, I would just set fire to it so let’s move to the next topic.
Seth Nelson: Which leads the law to say on the advice of council do not set fire to the couch.
Mary Joye: Exactly. But I said, I don’t care about the couch and then I tell people too that if they expedite the divorce process because that’s what I did I actually, instead of spending a lot of money getting a divorce, I was trying to shorten the process. My ex was not, he was more controlling so I was trying to shorten the process and I just moved to Maui for a few months with some friends and recovered. I tell people to have reverence for that severance and to not date, not go crazy and just be calm, just chill out and just observe your behavior and explore freedom, what freedom feels like. Do not get another relationship because you’re highly susceptible to getting into another relationship.
Seth Nelson: Well, that was going to be my next question. I know Pete was going there too, but let’s just talk about if they don’t do that. And this is my experience, I guess Mary, and I’m asking if you see this same, the relief.
Mary Joye: Yes.
Seth Nelson: First off, once the agreement is signed, if you reach an agreement and then when it actually comes through the divorce and I tell them don’t date anyone serious for at least a year until after the final paperwork was signed by the judge, go enjoy yourself. Find who you are. But the relief is almost immediate. Sometimes there’s this emotional escape, which is also relief. People start crying and they’re like, "I wanted the divorce. Why am I crying?" And I’m like, "Because it’s been hanging over you this whole time."
Mary Joye: So long. And I tell people sometimes no one wants a divorce, but some people need a divorce and there is a big difference, the same want and need. It’s very different to say, I want to drink or need a drink. Sometimes if people realize they need a divorce instead of want one, some of that fighting stops and we can get them to agree to disagree and move on with their lives. I tell them your life will be so much better. They have grief, and then like you said, Seth, it’s relief. When that blue ink hits the paper, there’s some sadness and maybe an epiphany or catharsis, but there’s a lot of relief and they just feel that way.
Seth Nelson: And Pete, you might as well ask I know about too about next relationship.
Pete Wright: How often, if you’ve been stuck in this pattern in one relationship, what is the likelihood of bouncing into another and falling into the same pattern again?
Mary Joye: A lot. Unless you have awareness, you really have to become self aware. It is going to, especially codependent people. Narcissists were really never, if they’re actually a narcissist, they don’t have a lot of insight. They’re highly likely to find someone else they could control and there might be a willing participant for that. That’s okay. But for someone who’s codependent or someone who’s likely to get hurt again, do a check on all your relationships, especially with your early caregivers, your mom, your dad, your family dynamic, check your childhood so you don’t carry those attachment disorders into adulthood. Find out what’s operating and again, deconstruct it and reconstruct it.
Seth Nelson: Now, Mary, let me ask you this. Some people are like, I’m not getting into that mumbo jumbo. I’m not talking about my childhood. Can they do this other exercise that you did is make a list of what you don’t want and then on the other side of the paper, it’s telling you what you do want.
Mary Joye: Well, that’s what I did. I already knew about my childhood. I learned that in school, but that’s exactly how I did it. And I went, who’s going to do it.
Seth Nelson: But if you don’t want to go back to your childhood, if you don’t want to do that, and what we always are talking about, go see a counselor and get a good one, there’s good ones and bad ones like in all professions, but at least take the 10 minutes and write your list of what you don’t want, do the opposite and that’s what you’re then looking for in that relationship. And whenever the don’t pops in, check yourself right away.
Mary Joye: The end, and I’m not plugging, I’m just telling you that at the end of each chapter in my book is they don’t want and do want list. And then at the end of the book, they get rid of the left side of the list so they’re only left with what’s right for them. Seriously, that is how I did it.
Seth Nelson: We’re going to have Pete plug you anyway, so you can plug away. Go ahead.
Mary Joye: But it is, it is that simple. That is exactly what I did. I go, this is what I don’t want. And your don’t want list is going to seem ridiculous to other people. Don’t let anyone else read it. I won’t even tell you what was on my list because it could offend someone out there. I didn’t want this behavior in a person. It wasn’t a bad thing, it’s just a personal, I don’t agree with it. You do and don’t want, and that deductive reason, it is so scientific deductive reasoning. If this, then that, it’s straight out of a logic textbook.
Pete Wright: I feel like it’s a pretty useful 10 minute investment, especially if you have been in this relationship and the first time you are being confronted with the fact that this behavior might be unhealthy is from your lawyer. If I’ve never thought that this behavior is damaging in any way and Seth tells me, "Hey, I think you might be codependent," that’s a jarring awakening for me. That’s a hard get.
Mary Joye: Yes.
Pete Wright: That’s going to take some adjustment.
Mary Joye: That’s what I like about Seth. I told my lawyer, I was co-dependent he didn’t believe me and he didn’t know what it meant. I’m like, "You don’t understand, you got to help me out here. You got to fight for me because I won’t fight for me. You need to fight for me."
Pete Wright: Yeah. Right. That’s why you need the council part.
Seth Nelson: And part of that fighting for you though, that clients don’t understand is they always perceive the fighting against the other lawyer or the other side.
Mary Joye: Right. Fighting for someone is not fighting against the other person.
Seth Nelson: Right. And sometimes it’s fighting against you, the client.
Mary Joye: Yes. Oh, it can be.
Seth Nelson: Don’t do that.
Mary Joye: Right.
Seth Nelson: Don’t go doing X, Y, and Z. Do not text your spouse about anything before talking to me.
Mary Joye: Thank you.
Seth Nelson: And they’re like, "Well, that’s running up a bill." I said, no, it’s saving you money.
Mary Joye: Do not get a restraining order and then go to lunch with them.
Pete Wright: Oh my goodness.
Mary Joye: That’s pathological altruism.
Pete Wright: Oh my goodness. Well, do we need to talk about specific issues that come up in mediation. Both of you are mediators and we’ve talked about this set of behaviors around codependency, pathological altruism and divorce. Is it any different in mediation or have we pretty much covered the basis
Seth Nelson: Pete, before we get there, because Mary might want to add something. I think Mary just said something very important almost jokingly. And we got Andy, our producer, who’s also on the screen, he’s our silent partner. And he just dropped his head like how could that possibly be that you get a restraining order and then go to lunch with the person?
Mary Joye: Yes.
Seth Nelson: Think that through for a minute. You might called the cops. They might have gotten arrested. You might have gotten the restraining order, not in the criminal side, on the civil side of the case. And then you have these protections and then you reach out to them or they call you and you respond. How does that happen, Mary?
Mary Joye: It’s the trauma bond. And I’m glad I was aware of all that stuff. You just don’t do it. In fact, my attorney did, in Florida, they just automatically will put restraining orders. And I said, "I can’t be a counselor and have restraining order against me, even in a civil way. I just can’t." I said, "I don’t have no intention of seeing him. I have every intention for you to talk for me, with me through me. That’s your job as my attorney." Yes, please. Everybody realize, listen to your attorney. I cannot tell you how many times a week I tell people to listen to their attorney and to help your attorney to listen to what you really do want. And not in all the details, I tell them bring your details to me and then I’ll help them with lists to help their attorney to help you help them Seth. I will touch on things that matter. And I tell them also you may disagree with this or not, but I tell them to read the statutes and the state that I live in. I open up the statutes and I say, read the Florida statutes. It’s not rocket science.
Seth Nelson: Oh my God. You’re killing me now. I’m going to get back to Pete’s question about mediation, Pete. I haven’t forgotten about that. Here’s the deal.
Mary Joye: Because it helps in mediation too, it helps.
Seth Nelson: I tell people don’t believe anything you read on the internet unless it’s on my website. Because a lawyer, we always have an exception to the rule. But that’s one. And when you go to read the statute, if you’re getting them from your lawyer and you’re sitting down with your lawyer and going through the statute, I’m a hundred percent. I’m not okay with my client’s playing lawyer.
Mary Joye: Oh no, I agree.
Seth Nelson: Because what they’ll do is they’ll read the statute, then they’ll go to the case law and then here we go, Pete, check your local jurisdiction you’re talking to me about a case out of New York and I’m in Florida.
Mary Joye: I don’t tell them to go to case law.
Seth Nelson: It can get diced.
Mary Joye: I do not do that.
Pete Wright: You guys, I’m an avid self diagnostician with WebMD. Are you telling me that’s wrong too?
Mary Joye: Well, I know. It’s perfectly fine. He says she’s just [inaudible 00:41:15].
Seth Nelson: Yeah, no. I mean, seriously, when I go on WebMD, they’re like, obviously you’re a basketball player. And I’m like, "Something’s not right here."
Mary Joye: Right.
Pete Wright: Well, let’s get back to the mediation question. How does settle in?
Seth Nelson: I think a lot of it, Pete, isn’t in mediation, it’s preparing for mediation. You have to have these conversations before you get there. You have to meet with your client. And if you’re the client, you need to meet with your lawyer and understand the different potential settlement options and how we might need to pivot. You’re not going to get everything you want, but what is important to you in prioritizing it and if you can get some of those top priorities, we can let the other things go or if they give me more alimony, maybe I’ll give up on this piece of the retirement account. That’s a little bit in question of how much is mine or how much is his or how much is marital or not marital. If you have these conversations about your different options, it’s all preparing you to end the litigation and hence the relationship.
Mary Joye: Yes.
Seth Nelson: But you can’t just do that in the moment. And some people will say, "Well, Seth, what’s the longest me mediation you’ve had?" I’m like, "Well, in one day it was 12 to 15 hours." And they’re like, "Oh my God." And I’m like, "That was day one of the same mediation, which then got continued to a day two or a day three." And I’ve had clients who have become self-aware of through the process, Pete, that have told me, there’s no way I could have settled these issues a year ago because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to do so. But it took the year of actually being physically separated from their spouse to break the codependency because in that year, got a job, got a raise, got a second job. There’s all this independent stuff going on that has helped over time break it and now we can settle. It’s not going to happen just in that moment in those two to four hours or eight hours of mediation, you got to be prepped for it.
Pete Wright: Mary, anything to add?
Mary Joye: Well, and I agree with everything Seth said. I do. And please don’t go to case law. You can read statues, but I send them to the statue so they can talk to you so they don’t an attorney down with details, tell them this is what the state goes.
Pete Wright: And I appreciate what you’re saying on that, Mary. But my point on that is you should be meeting with your lawyer to go through the statute.
Mary Joye: Exactly. Listen to your lawyer, I probably say, listen to your lawyer maybe 15, 20 times a week.
Pete Wright: He doesn’t need to hear this Mary, it’s okay.
Mary Joye: I know. I’m just feeding the ego. I [inaudible 00:44:17].
Seth Nelson: I was about to say, Pete, you know what you’re saying?
Pete Wright: I’m not going to ring that bell. I’ve been taught.
Mary Joye: Ding ding.
Seth Nelson: He’s like, let me get back to the junk that’s hanging on my wall.
Mary Joye: Well, I’ll get to the flip side of it because what I see in it and really it is a tragedy when I see it and I almost did it. So it’s a tragedy and I did it in different respects when I went through the divorce. But when I see someone and I did it in areas where I should not have, they give up everything. I spend a lot of time with codependents telling them just because you wanted over and just because you’re scared of him or her because there’s sociopaths women too. I tell them, please don’t give up everything. They say, "No, I just want it over with, I just want to get on with my life." I said, "Yes, but you’re entitled to some things and you’re willing to take nothing in order to expedite it." And I don’t know if you’ve ever been in that process, Seth, but it’s horrible.
Seth Nelson: In that point, just to close on this, Pete, I think is important is part of it is I just want to be done. I don’t care. And I tell them, you can be done today and you might have buyers remorse tomorrow or four or five years down the road and I’ve heard that from people that have come to talk to me and later on they’re like, "I wanted out so bad, Seth, I really wish I would’ve hired you in hindsight." But here’s what I tell them when you’re actually in that feeling. I said, "It’s easy to say, hard to do. Live your life, not your divorce."
Mary Joye: Beautiful.
Seth Nelson: Your phone is there for one reason only. We all have cell phones for one reason only, our own convenience. Don’t make that align to let them start pushing your buttons.
Mary Joye: Exactly.
Seth Nelson: You’re not hiring me to carry these rocks for you. Go see a counselor. I’ll carry these heavy rocks for you. I’ll get you through this process as quickly as I can, which is I can only go as the slowest person or entity which usually is the court system or the other lawyer or the person on the other side but we can keep moving it forward but let me do my job.
Mary Joye: Yes.
Seth Nelson: That’s just a choice you have to make and cases settle when they’re ready to settle. Most cases get resolved within six to 18 months. I ask for that time, I’m clear on that time, we keep moving forward, hey, this is the step we took. Here’s what’s next. And if you keep them informed, they feel better that okay, especially if they just stop reading the text.
Pete Wright: Stop reading the text. That’s a title.
Mary Joye: Exactly. I actually have people put stop signs on their screensaver on their phone because I say your cell phone’s not a leash because it’s a visual aid. We all know what a stop sign looks like. It’s red. It’s huge. Even if you don’t have the word stop on it, I have them put that on their screensaver and thank you Seth, because I do tell people, please, I always tell them, because they’ll come to me for legal advice I’m like, no, I have an invisible lawyer stand to me that tells me I can’t give you legal advice.
Seth Nelson: I like that guy.
Pete Wright: I like that guy too. He looks like Seth, to me.
Mary Joye: I’m aware of him all the time. I guess growing up a psychiatrist home because I did work for my dad when I was younger, I was always aware of that invisible lawyer in the room, the ethics, but I do tell people please, I can’t give you legal advice, but I can tell you that your lawyer has it and I’ll give you emotional advice to help you through the legal process to push them forward. And sometimes the best thing to do as you know, when you’re in heavy litigation is nothing, continuances are made for that.
Pete Wright: Do nothing.
Seth Nelson: Sometimes my client calls me, what do you think we should do?
Pete Wright: Nothing.
Seth Nelson: Nothing.
Mary Joye: Nothing, continue. And that’s when everything good happens when they do nothing everything good happens. That’s true. I actually heard that from my brother who was an attorney and other attorney friends that I grew up with that are attorneys now I didn’t grow up with him as attorneys, but they all say the best thing to do when you don’t know what to do is nothing. It’s like a retreat in a fox hole. When the battle gets too intense retreat, recoup, regroup, if that makes sense.
Pete Wright: Absolutely. And on that point we should wrap it up. Mary Joye, you are fantastic. Thank you so much for joining us. You got to tell us about the book, Codependent Discovery and Recovery 2.0.
Mary Joye: Yes. I pretty much told you about it. It’s what you do want, deductive reasoning from what you don’t want in your life and it gives neuroscience, financial abuse, Seth will like that because there’s a whole chapter. Also, I have a closet codependent chapter that has lawyers, doctors, therapists. There are closet codependents that will just burn out. You give out till you burnout out. It’s good information and it helps you just assess it. If you don’t want to go through your childhood, skip that chapter and just go to the end. I even have meditations, guide an imagery, not really meditation and they’re on YouTube for free so don’t buy the book. They’re there on YouTube. And it helps people discover and recover, basically.
Pete Wright: We will put a link to all of your resources in the show notes. Please check those out either in the podcast notes or over on the website. Thank you so much, Mary Joye. You are fantastic. We sure appreciate you.
Mary Joye: Thank you gentlemen. I enjoyed it. I did. I love good banter.
Seth Nelson: Awesome.
Pete Wright: Seth is good for that. Thank you everybody for downloading and listening to this show. On behalf of Mary Joye and Seth Nelson, America’s favorite divorce attorney I’m Pete Wright. We’ll catch you next week right here on How to Split a Toaster, a divorce podcast about saving your relationships.
Speaker 1: Seth Nelson is an attorney with Nelson Koster Family Law and Mediation with offices in Tampa, Florida. While we may be discussing family law topics, How to Split a Toaster is not intended to nor is it providing legal advice. Every situation is different. If you have specific questions regarding your situation, please seek your own legal counsel with an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction. Pete Wright is not an attorney or employee of Nelson Koster. Seth Nelson is licensed to practice law in Florida.
Seth Nelson is a Tampa based family lawyer known for devising creative solutions to difficult problems. In How to Split a Toaster, Nelson and co-host Pete Wright take on the challenge of divorce with a central objective — saving your most important relationships with your family, your former spouse, and yourself.