The Beginning of Something Else

On June 1, 2007 I found out my husband and partner of almost two decades had been unfaithful to me since before our marriage, and had been having intercourse with prostitutes for 3 1/2 years. This is what happened next.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Why accept the label of codependency?

At my first S-Anon meeting, one of the things I really didn't get was all the talk about MY recovery. I didn't have anything to recover from...I wasn't the one who had been lying to my partner for over a decade and sleeping with prostitutes for the past 3 1/2 years. I was the unsuspecting...well, not victim...but certainly there was NOTHING wrong with me. I disregarded that stuff, because there was lots of other stuff that was hitting the nail on the head, and it felt so good to walk into a room where I could talk freely without having to explain.

Probably a month or so ago, I asked my therapist what exactly co-dependence was and how I would know if I was codependent. She recommended the book I'm reading now, Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself. The title kind of says it all. My sometimes obsessive need to know details, often accompanied by feelings of anxiety or urgency, is a form of trying to control something I can't control (the past.) And it definitely comes at the expense of caring for myself, because I can easily spiral into heart-pounding anxiety or deep sadness when I engage in this stuff.

More importantly, though, I have a whole other life. I have a full-time job, I have my son, I volunteer as Marketing Director for a non-profit, I write my blog, I go to S-Anon and therapy, I exercise regularly, and I write and perform sketch comedy, improv and theater when I can fit it in. In other words, I have a big, full life that doesn't deserve to be consumed (subsumed) by maintaining spreadsheets, searching phone records and bank statements, and worrying about what Husband is doing every moment of the day. I have a life. I will not be defined by Husband's betrayal, I will not sacrifice my life, my self, the things that give me happiness and satisfaction, to try to figure out the details of my husband's betrayal and lies. Enough damage has been done already. I don't want to do more.

That being said, it's definitely a balance. Not only do I have a different future now than I thought I would. I have a different past. And that is jarring. More accurately it's a devastating, major mind-fuck that made me feel completely disoriented and adrift for a while. It's a past that I did not knowingly participate in creating and something that I can't change. So I feel I have the right to know as many details as I want in order to restore my sense of reality. What was I doing the afternoon Husband was fucking Ashley at the Four Points Sheraton in Marina del Rey? I think I have a right to know what was actually going on in my life while I was living in my alternate reality.

The point is, I think I have the right to whatever information I want, but when the need to know starts to disrupt my life and cause me pain, I'm stepping into codependent territory. Nothing wrong with that, but it helps me to be able to distinguish what I want to do to help myself heal vs. what I feel compelled to do because I let another person's behavior affect me and feel that I can do something to control that person's behavior. (I can't.)

The final clue that broke the camel's back was that there are 10 pages in the book that describe codependent characteristics and - those of you who also identify with being codependent will probably laugh at me - I was shocked to see that I had at least 75% of the characteristics listed. It's very subtle. I don't cover up for Husband when his addictions interfere with his life, I don't secretly follow him, I don't submit to physical or emotional abuse. But there are lots of things, some might call them "nice" traits: I try to say what I think will please people; have a difficult time asserting my rights; avoid talking about myself and talk about other people's problems instead; try to fix and prevent problems in other peoples' lives; fear rejection; am afraid of making mistakes. The list goes on.

In my experience, recognition and awareness have been the first steps toward freedom from ways of being that leave me unhappy. So that's the value I find in accepting the codependent label, and accepting that my journey is to recover from that way of being. I want to be free of the anguish and anxiety that result from my codependent thoughts and behaviors.

Free my mind, and the rest will follow.

1 comment:

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

Great post! I too had difficulty accepting the codependent label and didn't understand why S-Anon was focused on my "problem." I wasn't the one that had a problem; I wasn't the one lying and cheating.

I actually still have my problems with the codependent label, and more than four years in still don't see a lot of what I did as a problem. Hm, I need to blog about this...

I do think it was helpful to me to get details and reconstruct my past. I never gave it the thought you have, I just couldn't move on until I knew everything -- and in the end, the details helped. I recall that there was some research on infidelity that suggested that this was the case. I should find that too...

Lots to think about!