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Reactionary

Mom: “You know that book you’re reading, Codependent No More? Well, I need it! I’m codependent and I’m enabling the two of you!”

Me: “I already ordered you a copy. You’ll have it on Wednesday.”

I’ve finished reading the book and intend to do the activities from the chapters about self-care as they call out to me. You’re welcome to read my post from last February about Detachment; ironically, I had written about wanting Mom to read this book and now she’s asked for it… literally only an hour or two after I decided to (be codependent/controlling and) order a copy for her.

Fox has also expressed interest in reading it, but wants the updated (2008) version – which I’ve already ordered because I’m thinking I might benefit from the updates. I’m tempted to send copies of this book to my whole family, but for now I’ll be happy to have the two people I live with detach from me. Maybe Mom will proselytize for me if she finds the book helpful.

In the meantime, I need to respond to the activity for Chapter Six: Don’t Be Blown About By Every Wind. It’s about the plethora of times “ze made me feel _____.” For example, “Mom made me feel guilty and question my decisions” or even, “Mom drained me of all my energy.” Talking Listening to Mom is often exhausting; my emotional life is, in general, a roller coaster; living with both Mom and Fox is a nightmare.

But it’s not just them, it’s pretty much everyone I interact with – in other words, it’s me. I can’t talk listen to someone without feeling strong uncomfortable emotions (e.g. anger) and/or feeling responsible for that person. I need to fix their emotions and problems. I need to watch what I say to avoid upsetting them. I walk around on eggshells and second-guess basic interactions like handshakes and hugs, thinking I might have accidentally done something to hurt or offend the other person.

For now I want to focus on my reactions to Mom and Fox, because they are the people I react to the most strongly and consistently. Best of all, I feel like they are determined to “protect” me from / pit me against each other.

I react to Mom by feeling defensive, anxious, frustrated, resentful, insecure, agitated, guilty, ashamed, and drained. I react to Mom by trying to help her solve her problems, offering advice (or my opinion of what whomever she’s talking about “should” do), offering to “save the day,” agreeing to do things I don’t want to do, doing something else while she’s still talking, shutting up and repressing my own emotions. I try to avoid or find ways to shorten the time I spend with Mom. I also try to withhold information from her; I’d probably outright lie to her if I could do it without her knowing I’m lying. Sometimes I withhold information to avoid hurting her, sometimes to avoid confrontation.

I react to Fox by feeling angry, resentful, disappointed, annoyed, angry, anxious, guilty, embarrassed, disgusted, angry, sad, and ashamed. I react to Fox by growling, roaring, baring my teeth, tensing my whole body, becoming a dinosaur, poking him, and biting him. I have hit him out of anger a couple of times and that terrifies me. I complain about all the things he does that I find annoying; the list just keeps on growing.

I react to Fox by interrupting him, letting him interrupt me, misinterpreting his intentions, criticizing the way he speaks, letting him oversleep and then giving him a hard time for sleeping so late, finding distractions when we’re supposed to be doing something together, telling him what to do, agreeing to do things I don’t want to do, agreeing with whatever he says, and silencing myself. I react to Fox by eating food I don’t want at that particular moment. I react to Fox by cuddling with him, saying I love him, trying to revive a passion I don’t feel, thinking he needs to learn how to kiss, wishing I were in a relationship with someone I found attractive, and thinking I would be happier with a female-bodied person. I react to Fox (and Mom) by feeling compulsions to self-harm or play video games.

So many items on that list are unhealthy! I don’t think continuing our relationship is healthy, or safe for either of us. I don’t see how we can fix this relationship; even if we could, I don’t really want to. Why does that not seem to factor in? Why do I keep feeling like I do want to make it work with him?

If I had a choice, I wouldn’t react to either of them in these ways. I would be able to talk to Mom and feel listened to and supported. I could receive her advice and wisdom without feeling like I have to act on it or I’m a bad person for not doing so. I would be able to listen to her and provide some empathy and support without feeling compelled to “save the day.” I would be able to be honest with her and not try to avoid or protect her. I wouldn’t feel responsible for her emotions, problems, etc. I’d probably spend less time suspecting her and other people’s motivations, too.

If I had a choice, Fox would have left when I told him he had to move out and I’d have the place to myself. And I’d probably be lonely. And my mother would probably be more invasive. And the kitchen would be full of dirty dishes.

If I had a choice, I could be fully myself and in love with Fox. I wouldn’t feel so angry. I wouldn’t be annoyed or embarrassed by everything he does. I’d find him attractive and fun to be with. I wouldn’t feel the need to tell him what to do. I could be honest with him, disagree with him, tell him I don’t want to do _____. I wouldn’t be aggressive or walk on eggshells or withdraw from him. I’d find our relationship to be a source of strength, vitality, comfort, and healing. I’d feel like we had a special connection I couldn’t imagine sharing with anyone else, like he understood me in ways no one else could.

He doesn’t understand me, and I don’t think he can. I like to think that I’ve got him figured out, but clearly I don’t if I keep thinking he’s doing or saying something for one reason and it’s really the opposite. I don’t think we’ve ever really understood or shared a special connection with each other. There’s always been something that felt “off” about our relationship – a way in which it was rushed and/or a little bit disappointing – but I wasn’t listening to myself enough to stop and consider what I truly wanted. I was reacting.

I wonder if my decision on Sunday to actually work on this relationship “for my growth” was reacting.

Can we learn to understand and have that special connection with each other and fill our relationship with healing energy that benefits both of us? Or was it a mistake to marry him? To get married at all? To want to be married at all? To want to be in relationship…

Who’s really afraid of relationships? Me? Or have I internalized my mother’s fear of me having other meaningful relationships because they pull me away from her?

We had this conversation while hugging:

Mom: “Remember, you come first. Well… after me.”

Me: “No, you come first for you. And I come first for me.”

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9 thoughts on “Reactionary

    • Thanks so much for pointing out the positive in all this. It’s very easy for me to get caught up in the negative, so it helps to have a different perspective. I am glad they are both interested in reading the book, growing & changing with me (and for themselves).

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  1. I totally relate to your feelings about your relationship with Fox. I’m working through similar feelings about my husband. I’m currently living with my mother because of the crap that has happened in my relationship with my husband. In living with my mother, I’m finding that my husband was basically a male version of her.

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    • Fox is basically my mother, too. My therapist has been pointing that out to me for months now. Apparently it’s very common: regardless of our or the other person’s sex/gender, we’re attracted to our mother.

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        • Yeah, my understanding is that we all marry our mothers, or possibly a combination of both our parents. There are ways in which Fox is similar to my father, too, but my therapist seems more inclined to focus on the connection to my mother. My father died 16 years ago, so my ongoing relationship with my mother seems a lot more relevant. Though, thinking about it, there may be some unresolved issues with my father that I’ve been subconsciously connecting with Fox; addressing those in therapy may also be helpful. The point is, we’re influenced by (and attracted to?) both our parents; any differences in which parent influences us more probably have more to do with us as complex individuals than with sex/gender specifically.

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  2. 😀
    It is so wonderful to hear that your mom is recognizing her role in your relationship issues.
    That is definitely an important first step toward changing things.
    I hope that that book is beneficial to both of you. 🙂
    Yeah, codependence is something that I’ve struggled with a lot myself, and is really hard! Cuz like…I don’t wanna be a hermit either, and finding that balance is tricky. :-/
    I aim for “interdependence” rather than “codependence”. This is not always possible, but is a goal worth working toward, in my opinion 🙂

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  3. Pingback: Listening to Myself – Part 1 | a day with depression

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