Yesterday at the gym I finished reading a book called When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You by David Hawkins. Guess what I learned? I learned that sure enough, I DID contribute to the sickness of my marriage! Huh……all those times since my divorce, when I piously said, ‘I admit that I was complicit in the breakdown of my marriage’, but I didn’t really mean it because I didn’t see what I did wrong except putting up with so much garbage for so long. Well, what a comeuppance I had with this book! As it turns out, all the times that I didn’t cry “foul”, and all the times I told the kids ‘Your dad works hard, and so that’s why he’s so __________’ (fill in the blank with whatever adjective comes to mind: distracted, tired, grumpy, busy with other things, etc. ). Every time I said something like that, I was encouraging a controlling person to further belittle, abandon, and emotionally abuse me. In fact, it was an invitation for him to continue in that vein.
Here’s the other shocking thing that I learned about myself. Buckle your seat belt, all you other co-dependents. I learned that I was controlling and manipulative. I had an idea in my mind of what a family should look like. Then, I set my mind on making that Norman Rockwellesque picture appear at my dining room table. And if someone didn’t comply with my picture, I pretended that he did, and I made excuses for him. What a crock I was. And all the while, I was patting myself on the back for what a Good Wifey I was, and what Well Mannered Children I had (what a Good Mother!), and what a Good Cook I was. See how I manipulated and controlled?! And that was just part of my dysfunctional, co-dependent way.
The book talks about all kinds of relationships that the co-dependent finds herself buried in. Like the co-worker who asks for “just one more favor”. (Kathy: remember returning from a weekend oration competition , when everyone was exhausted, and walking through the line in a restaurant, and that one “friend” said she was too exhausted to get her own food, and you got it for her? Why didn’t you speak up for yourself and tell her that you were as tired as she was?). Dr. Hawkins in his book talks about relationships at church, where 10% of the people do 90% of the work, and they do it because they feel that they’re doing the Lord’s work. (Thank you, Mom. I always am grateful that you sat in the pew with us when we were little, and waited until we were older to sing in the choir and become an elder. I escaped this particular co-dependent tendency due to your good example.) And Hawkins talks about friendships, and how co-dependent people can be chewed up and spit out for the benefit of others. While I’ve quickly shed friends who take advantage of others, I do have the tendency to help others and never, ever ask other people for help from them. The way I neglect myself in order to help others is a co-dependent tendency. Well, actually, that used to be the way I was. This evening, I invited a friend to dinner at Chop Stix, and then I lingered to listen to a man in the mall play Cat Stevens. I shed my “what will others think of me” and my “maybe I look like a fool” and my “I should probably hurry home” and just sang along with the keyboard player/singer.
Here’s the happy ending of this story: I’m learning to be myself, and not sweat it when other people are messy or uncoordinated or dysfunctional. I just sit back and let them be. It’s a very freeing, lovely way to enjoy the company of others. In fact, I am becoming more the person that I want to be. I posted (in a Martin Luther at Wittenburg sort of a way, but with tape, not a nail, and on my kitchen cabinet, not on my doorpost) my declaration of what had previously been wrong, and what I had been complicit with in my now-ex in-laws:
Portrait of Martin Luther as an Augustinian Monk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Here are the things that will NOT be allowed in my house: (taken from page 21: thank you, Dr. Hawkins). They are the tendencies of a co-dependent family:
1. Don’t feel or talk about feelings.
2. Don’t think.
3. Don’t identify, talk about, or solve problems.
4. Don’t be who you are–be good, right, strong, and perfect.
5. Don’t be selfish–take care of others and neglect yourself.
6. Don’t have fun–don’t be silly or enjoy life.
7. Don’t be vulnerable.
8. Don’t be direct.
9. Don’t get close to people.
10. Don’t grow, change, or do anything to rock this family’s boat!
It’s only through seeing clearly what is wrong that we can fix it. So, I’ve identified (with the help of this book) what was wrong with the way things were done in the past, and I’m crying “FOUL!” and not allowing it in my future!!! Oh, happy, silly, vulnerable, direct, close & loving, growing, rock-the-boat day!!!!
LET’S ROCK THE BOAT!!! AAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!