The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the category “codependent”

One Hand Clapping

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sad-couple

Car

For many years — far longer than it should have — it mattered to me if he loved me. I gave a lot of thought and put much effort into pleasing him, into being a good and caring wife.  I believed my own success was measured by how happy I could make my husband.

It was difficult to know if he was happy.  He was not much for casual conversation. He hoarded his words the way a miser hoards his silver.  I looked for signs that he was satisfied. When other women complained that their husbands criticized or tried to control them,  I felt lucky to be married to a man who let me be; who never said harsh words or pointed out my faults.   However,  he never praised me, either.  He did not recoil from my touch, but neither did he seek it out.

When my father passed,  it was a time to take stock of my life, of my marriage.  I stopped acting out of habit and paid close attention to any change in our dynamic. I suppose I always suspected the truth, but it was at this time that I finally came to terms with it:  I was in our marriage alone.    He was physically present but emotionally absent.

He was never purposely cruel, but neither was he particularly loving, and there was a kind of cruelty in that.  He made few demands of me, but neither did he notice or appreciate my efforts for him.  Whether I made him his favorite dinner or let him fend for himself, it mattered to him not at all. He could be just as happy eating something small and simple, just enough to satisfy his hunger, as to eat a meal that took me hours to prepare.

If I attended to the small things for his comfort and convenience or if I was lazy and selfish, he cared not one whit.  If I made our home nice and cozy, or did not bother to clean or neaten up for days, he didn’t seem to notice. If he wanted to sit and read but there was something on his chair, he wordlessly moved it.  He asked for nothing and did not complain when he didn’t get it.  Sometimes, he’d say or do something to please me because it seemed expected of him.  Initially, I took these small scraps as appreciation but I came to understand he was simply making the minimum effort he felt he could get away with. We coexisted civilly, politely, but without intimacy.

In the early years, my duties as a wife and homemaker defined me, gave my life focus and purpose.  I played my role, day after day, putting one foot in front of the other, not paying much attention to where I was going. Or why.

But eventually I realized that he neither saw or understood my feelings, and that any effort on my part in that direction were for naught.  He moved through life without engaging.  He was quite happy to exist inside his own head.  Emotionally, I was superfluous.

It was then I began to consider if there weren’t more fulfilling ways to spend my life.

And that was the beginning of learning to love myself.

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To Conquer the Beast

NEWcoalmine

Thra

There are all kinds of men who abuse women. I recognized them everywhere,in all their forms, because I saw in them a reflection of myself. Such men need someone needier and weaker to counter our own weakness and insecurity. Such men live with the fear that our deepest secret – that we are wholly inadequate–will be revealed.

The formula is simple. First, find a woman who holds herself in even lower esteem than you hold yourself; someone consumed by doubt The game begins with flattery and attention to make her feel special, to buoy her self-confidence. Continue this until she views you as the single source of her happiness and well-being. Once this has been accomplished, systematically separate her from her family, job, friends, until she becomes dependent on you, until she looks to you for confirmation on everything. Now, begin to undermine her confidence and her resolve until she is convinced she cannot exist without you. At this point, if you have played your hand property, no matter how badly you treat her, no matter how much you demand from her, she will feel unable to leave you.

I have seen many men whose lack of self-esteem is for good reason. They have little to be confident about save perhaps a useless skill or two. Their women are even more needy and pathetic than they are.

I despised such men. I put myself high above them.

For me, conquering such a woman neither proved nor satisfied anything.

I had unflagging conviction in my own intelligence, in my business acumen, in my power in the world. Others saw me as confident, sure of myself. But deep inside was a secret cavity gnawed hollow by the beast of self-doubt. Said beast was fed by the belief that no matter what I achieved, I would never be good enough. I will spare you the psychological gibberish about my discommending mother. Suffice it to say, a hole this size in a man such as myself can never be filled by easy conquest.

The only way to keep this monster inside of me from consuming my soul was to feed it the volition of a strong, independent woman; to press her into subservience. This took considerable charm, charisma, subtlety, patience, and a deep understanding of the female psyche. To conquer such a woman unequivocally demonstrated to the beast who was the master.

I subjugated a few such women during this lifetime. But in the end, they always managed to break free, abandoning me in ruins, leaving the monster laughing and more ravenous than before.

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Going Under

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drowning hand

On

There are people who take genuine pleasure from making other people happy.   They will work to coax a smile from a stranger.  They will try to solve the problems of others as if they were their own. They will cry for the sorrows of loved ones; take on their suffering, if they could. Their joy comes from knowing they reside deep in the hearts of those whose lives they touch.

I was not that kind of person. But I knew many of them.

People like me seek out people like that for our survival. We crave and cling to any mode of escape from the torment that has barricaded itself within us.

Drowning in the inability to navigate our own emotions, we gratefully grab a hand offered in salvation.    Now we are filled with hope! We splash around, happy to have found a savior!   We wait to be pulled in.   We do not swim. If we could swim, we wouldn’t have been drowning in the first place.

At first, the ostensible rescuer works hard to reel us closer, but we are of little help. We have no natural buoyancy; we are dead weight. We take on water. Our flailing threatens to drown our savior, too.

I saw that look in the eye many times: the one of pity, of sorrow, of relief as they cut me loose. And I went back to the business of drowning.

Each time it happened, I believed I would be saved; my sins washed away; my wounds healed. I wanted that with all my heart. And yet, ultimately, I could be only what I was: someone who didn’t know how to be saved.

In the end, we all have to save ourselves.


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