Women with alcoholic husbands: ambivalence and the trap of codependency

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University of North Carolina Press, 1992 - Family & Relationships - 223 pages
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In this important new study of women with alcoholic husbands, sociologist Ramona Asher vividly describes the process of coming to terms with a profound crisis in one's private life. Her interviews with more than fifty women, all participants in family treatment programs, enabled Asher to assemble a composite picture of the experiences shared by wives of alcoholics. How they came to see the crisis in their lives, and how they began to recognize their own very mixed emotions--that is the dramatic story Asher presents. The testimony given by these women illustrates the steps each must take to regain hold of her life. The first step, as Asher shows, is confronting "definitional ambivalence"-- figuring out what is happening and deciding what to do about it. Asher argues that the current vogue of using the label "dependent" may actually hinder rather than facilitate emotional health. Because the concept of codependency reinforces the idea that women are compulsively vulnerable to men in need of nurturing, Asher argues that it prompts women to feel incapable of becoming assertive, independent individuals. Led to think of themselves as addicted to their husbands' addiction, the wives of alcoholics may be persuaded that their own problems can't be overcome. Asher shows that they can take command of their lives. Asher's analysis breaks through popular notions about wives of alcoholics and presents a whole new understanding of denial, control, and other so-called symptoms of codependency. Her book raises important questions about how society views women who are married to alcoholics.

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Outlining the Moral Career i
Recognizing the Ambivalence

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