Romance

I am in an emotionally healthy relationship!  One that does not trigger codependency, anxiety, or clinginess in me!  This is a new thing.

I’m beginning to realize how much I appreciate the small things in a relationship.

  • A man who wants me in his life, is not afraid to say that to me and to the world, and goes to great lengths to pursue me.
  • Being able to text “I miss you” in the middle of a workday, without stopping to wonder if that’s too clingy.  Every text from me is welcomed wholeheartedly.
  • Pacing the relationship properly:  being able to enjoy the early stages of a relationship without jumping right into bed with someone.
  • Getting two or three phone calls a day from a man who wants to talk to me and hear all about my day.
  • Sweet texts at unexpected times.
  • Roses.
  • Being treated to lots of dinners, movies, and concerts, with no expectations of anything from me in return.
  • Holding hands in church.  Holding hands at dinner.  Holding hands on a walk.  Holding hands at the movies.  I love holding hands!
  • Two-hour phone conversations.
  • Being able to be a bitch accidentally, realize it, apologize for it, and move on, without it ever turning into an argument.
  • Not having to check myself for codependent, approval-seeking behavior.  I already have his approval, and he verbalizes that approval regularly.
  • Hearing every day that I’m beautiful.

I was not looking for this.  After the fairly recent pain of a broken relationship, there was no way I wanted to put myself out there to get hurt again.  However, looking for it or not, I found it, and it’s wonderful.

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Choosing Differently

I’ve been thinking a lot about this “I break relationships” mentality I have carried around about myself, and I’m coming to a new conclusion.

I actually don’t break every relationship I find myself in.

Rather, I find myself in lots of unhealthy, breakable relationships.

There is something about people who, like me, were raised in dysfunctional homes, which is attracted to the “addict” personality.

Regarding alcoholics, the Big Book says:

Selfishness–self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt (Page 62).

I have found this to be true of alcoholics and addicts of all types, regardless of whether they are choosing to use their given substance at any given time.  The using might stop, but the self-centered behavior remains.  This is only my personal opinion, of course, backed up by the experiences of my Al-Anon friends to the man.  It has also unfortunately, been widely tested by me over the years, as I seem to have an attraction to people such as these–friends, work situations, spouses, and lovers alike.  But still, it is not empirical data, just personal opinion.

I have historically been attracted to people who are predisposed to attempt to manipulate my emotions and cross my boundaries.

How can I blame someone for hurting me, when I have a proven track record of putting myself with such people who are likely to hurt me?

What happens next is the broken relationship part.  I place myself in a relationship with a person whose behaviors are triggers for my unhealthy, codependent behaviors.  I then find myself constantly monitoring myself, working the steps hard, calling my sponsor frequently, and journaling for hours in an attempt to not react with unhealthy codependency when faced with those triggering behaviors.  I do not resent this, because it is good for me to practice intentionally relating in healthy ways.  However, I’m beginning to see that these types of relationships are going to be way more likely to fail.

Wouldn’t it be easier to simply not become emotionally entangled with such individuals to begin with?

Well, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  So I’m doing something different this time around.  I’m at the very beginning, getting-to-know-you stages with a very nice gentleman, and interestingly, I’m finding his emotionally healthy, non-controlling ways strange and foreign!  There is no game playing!  He’s attracted to me, wants to be with me, and shows it by calling me regularly, either to talk at length or to simply have a two-minute “how’s your day going?” conversation.  He doesn’t disappear when I show any desire to be with him (though I don’t really have much opportunity to test this, as he calls me before I have a chance to miss him!).  He doesn’t run hot and cold.  He doesn’t try to manipulate my emotions.  I so far feel no unhealthy desire to do the “right things” or win his approval, as I have in the past with family, friend, and romantic relationships.  In short, I do not have to work hard to fight off my codependent tendencies.  They are simply not being triggered.

Obviously, I don’t know yet where this relationship will go, and I’m taking it very slow, of course.  Snail’s pace, really.  My breakup was tough, it was only six weeks ago, and I have no desire for another broken heart.  My heart still hurts from this one.  But if you’ve read my blog, you may know that I like to analyze myself, and to learn and grow from my mistakes.  It will be very interesting (and fun) to see what happens as I continue to spend more time with a man who does not tend to trigger my codependent behaviors.

God is good, all the time.

Father has pursued me lately, and I like it!

I have been so, so, so very sad lately over a tough breakup, and Father has gone out of his way to make sure I know I am loved.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of spending 72 hours with my best girlfriends on earth – friends who have been in my life for more than 12 years and still love me!  They loved me really hard last weekend.  A wonderful reminder that I don’t break every relationship I touch.

This weekend, Father brought a new friend into my life.  I’m looking forward to experiencing what else He has in store for me.

I love you back, Dad.

Sometimes the meetings are hard to process.

I go to meetings to process my stuff.  But sometimes the meetings are hard to process.  Tonight I met a woman whose 5-month-old daughter was killed by her alcoholic husband, 4 weeks ago.  My heart breaks for her.  My pain seems petty and selfish in comparison.  Also, I wish my own children were in this state right now so I could hug them hard.

Then, a newcomer shared about being in a relationship with an alcoholic in recovery, and how she didn’t like how the relationship was changing her.  How she seemed preoccupied all the time about winning his approval.  How she sometimes caught herself trying to manipulate people and circumstances to win his approval.  How it made her feel desperate and dependent and unhappy and not herself, and she wanted to stop, because she really loves him and is afraid she is going to fuck it up.  I don’t even know where to start processing that one, except to say, sometimes you serve the newcomer, and sometimes she serves you.

Pain and Anonymity

Some people who write about alcoholism, codependency, and recovery choose to keep anonymous blogs.  I’m realizing there is wisdom in that, and I should have considered it more seriously when I started this blog in January.

During that time, my thought was that transparency is a good thing.  The more honest I am about my sins and my struggles, the more light is cast there.  The more helpful my experiences will be to others who read.  The more Father triumphs over Satan in my mundane, day-to-day struggles.

I still believe this.  But here’s the snag.  Codependency is like alcoholism in many ways, but is unlike alcoholism in a very important way:  it’s a dependence on control and an addiction to people, not a substance.  As a result, when I am writing about my struggles, I end up referring to other people.  People who may read my blog.  People whose friends and family may read my blog.  No matter how obliquely I refer to people, I often wonder whether I’ve said too much.  Whether I’ve been hurtful to a person or fanned the flames of any conflict that is happening.

In fact, sometimes I don’t even have to wonder.   Sometimes, I know I shouldn’t have posted what I post about other people.

Father has prodded me to think harder about this, to open myself up to changing in this area, and to make amends where I’m aware I need to.  Yet I have sinfully been trying to ignore this prodding.

I still have a lot of thinking and praying to do on this issue.  I’m not sure whether I need to simply be more careful, wait 24 hours after writing before posting, stop blogging altogether, begin blogging somewhere else, anonymously, or some other adjustment.  In the meantime, I have unpublished two recent posts that I, without a doubt, should never have published in the first place.  I owe the thinly-veiled subject of those posts an apology, and will do so in person when I have an opportunity to do so.

There may be other things I’ve said here that I should unpublish.  There may be other actions I need to take.  I’m hurting, I’m angry, I’m broken, and no matter how much my mind knows I can trust Father to get me through this, my flesh wants to take over, control this, and do something–anything–to stop the pain.  Because of this, I have made several terrible, hurtful choices over the past few weeks.

My constant prayer of late has been for my pain to go away.  I still can’t help but pray that, but now my prayer is also that I will get better and better at surrendering everything to Father, even my pain.

Abandonment

a·ban·don  (-bndn)

tr.v. a·ban·doneda·ban·don·inga·ban·dons

1. To withdraw one’s support or help from, especially in spite of duty, allegiance, or responsibility; desert: abandon a friend in trouble.
2. To give up by leaving or ceasing to operate or inhabit, especially as a result of danger or other impending threat:abandoned the ship.
3. To surrender one’s claim to, right to, or interest in; give up entirely. See Synonyms at relinquish.
4. To cease trying to continue; desist from: abandoned the search for the missing hiker.
5. To yield (oneself) completely, as to emotion.

Abandonment is a central issue in my life.  I don’t want it to be, I didn’t ask for it to be, but there it is nonetheless.

Many important people in my life have abandoned me over the years.  Some of them fall squarely into definition #1 of abandon:  “To withdraw one’s support or help from, especially in spite of duty, allegiance, or responsibility; desert.”  A prime example would be my biological father.  Also, my second husband falls into that category.

Others really fit more into definition #3:  “To surrender one’s claim to, right to, or interest in; give up entirely.  See Synonyms at relinquish.”

When I say people have abandoned me, it doesn’t need to mean they are at fault, or that they had any sort of duty to stay.  The vast majority of my failed relationships – family, friend, or romantic – were abandoned in a very benign way.  Nobody was abdicating any sort of responsibility by walking away.

Regardless, to the one abandoned, #1 and #3 feel largely the same.  As a result, I don’t abandon (#5) myself to a relationship very often.  I don’t trust that someone won’t leave.  I don’t trust that Father will take care of me if he does leave.  I live with walls built, and very seldom let anyone inside the walls.

I make a good show of pretending to let people in.  I’ve conducted entire relationships from within those walls.  I seemingly tell secrets.  I have intimate relations.  I serve and care and remember.  But in reality, I have not abandoned myself to the person or the relationship.  I very carefully maintain emotional distance, so that when I am abandoned, it will not hurt badly.  Because in my 40 years of experience, abandonment is an inescapable fact of life.

This learned behavior, this coping mechanism, does not serve me well.  For example, I irrationally feel abandoned when my children visit their father out-of-state for several weeks at a time.  My children have not even remotely abandoned me!  While they are not physically present, they still love me, we communicate frequently, and they are most definitely coming back to eat my food and mess up my house again in the very near future!  It is not logical to feel abandoned when they are not physically home in their beds.  There is no reason to let it color my moods and actions.  And yet, I do, and it does.

Recently, I was in a very close relationship where I did not expect to be abandoned (#3).  I have no explanation for why this one was different.  I always expect relationships to end eventually, because in my world, they always do.  Forever is a myth, or something that happens to other people.  I have no explanation for why I felt that this one was different, that I would not be abandoned.  There was no stated commitment.  It was not a marriage, where people actually verbally commit to forever, nor was it anything like one.  I did not make a conscious decision to believe the relationship would not end.  This all happened on an entirely visceral level.

Resultantly, I was completely surprised when it, in fact, did end.  Shocked.  Floored.  Did not see that coming.

So much so that at first I did not even believe it was ending.  I had no category for that; therefore, it must not be happening.

It’s one thing to be smacked in the face when you expect it and are braced for it.  A sucker punch is something completely different.  I was completely and totally unprepared for the blow.

I’m not sure I have ever been more angry with myself.  The tapes playing in my head are that I should have protected myself from the pain.  I should not have gotten so close.  What in the world was I thinking? Why did I allow someone to get close enough to hurt me?

This is worse than my sinful self-reliance of the past.  This is berating myself for not having sinful self-reliance!

When I think about moving forward, about learning to relate healthily to others through the grace and mercy of Father, I can’t wrap my head around what that will look like.  I’ve lived both extremes, failure to trust and utter, complete trust, and neither of them has worked for me.

I think the takeaway is that I don’t get to control it.  Father drives this bus, and I’m to hold on, go where he takes me, and follow his lead.  I don’t know who will stay and who will go, who I can trust and who I cannot, or what my life will look like tomorrow or in ten years.  I can’t count on people to stay, and yet I can’t withhold myself from them in an effort to self-protect.  Both avenues are sinful.

The key, I think, is to take my eyes off the people entirely, and focus them on Father.  Simple, but definitely not easy.