This topic is something that I just haven’t been able to find the right words for. I am independent, and I pride myself on that. So how, at the same time, can I also be codependent? It’s something that I struggle with because the codependent side of me is not welcome. It’s not who I want to be.
I don’t want to control other people. Even though I am independent, and can do it all by myself, I also don’t want to feel like I have to. Far from it! I want someone to tell me that they will take care of things, that they will do what needs to be done, that I don’t have to do it all. I want that person to be my husband. At the same time I’m afraid to let go before I see that he has the wheel. What if we crash? He hasn’t exactly proven to be the safest driver.
History has taught me that when you rely on someone else it doesn’t work out. I have been hurt, let down, betrayed. Not just by my husband, either… The only person I have been able to fully count on is myself. My family is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. If I was ever in a position where I needed help and support, they would be there, without a doubt. I have worked hard for everything in my life, though, and had to prove myself to lots of people.
I was the oldest and felt like I had to take care of myself and be independent so my parents could focus on my brother and sister. My Dad worked, and my Mom stayed home with us, and I knew how hard that must have been. I was also smart, so I was expected to achieve great grades. I let my Mom focus on helping my sister through school, since that wasn’t her forte. If I got all A’s then that took the pressure off them to worry about me. I was talented, so I was expected to perform and be spectacular. My Dad loved sports, so I put everything into playing softball and making the all-stars team every year. The list goes on and all.
I was also home-schooled until 6th grade, which I have talked about (See Pink), and was the odd-man-out once I got into private and then public school. I am an introvert (See Being Complete Opposites), so I’ve never been one to have an entire gaggle of friends hovering around me at all times. That sounds exhausting to me. I have always marched to the beat of my own drummer, zagged when others zigged, and done things my own way. I left home to live on my own the day I turned 18 – no free-loading for this girl! Instead of going straight to college after high school I took off across Europe with money I had saved while working as a file clerk at a local company after school. I still think that is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I bought my house at 19, and established myself in a career early on. When I did go to college 4 years after high school I still got a full scholarship because my prior academics were very strong and my essay about my world experience and desire not to just follow the pack must have impressed them.
When I met my husband I was living very well on my own, thank you very much. I was several years into home ownership, I almost had my car paid off, and I was in a very good job. I was nearly done with my degree, which I finished in 3 1/2 years while working full-time. I had a 4.0 GPA, which I kept all the way through graduation. I was comfortable. My credit cards had very low balances or were almost paid off. My credit score was through the roof. I didn’t need anyone.
I think that is part of why this relationship seemed to start off on a good foot. I’m not needy, for the most part (although who doesn’t love to feel loved?). I was doing my own thing. I think that was very attractive. He wasn’t doing so well on the financial front and was just starting a new job, but I could understand that. He was about a year out from a very bad breakup. I was coming off a 7 year relationship. I could definitely relate to how difficult it can be starting your life over. Even though he wasn’t in as good of a place as me, he also didn’t seem like the clingy type. He was sweet, but was more than comfortable taking things slow and giving me my own space. That was what I wanted at that point, so the emotional distance was something I readily accepted.
When I look at where we are now and everything that we have come through I sometimes wonder where that independent woman went. What happened to her? I am still a homeowner, I still have amazing credit, and I could definitely still handle all of my responsibilities and bills by myself. So why am I worried about rescuing him? Why did I cling when there was barely anything in it for me? Why did I sell myself short for those first few years when I knew something was off and didn’t demand that he get therapy? Part of me thinks it’s because I thought we had something great and maybe we can have it again. He does have strengths where I am weak and vice versa. That seems like a pretty thin excuse, though.
Another part of me wonders if my independence is just a shell, another coat of protection to shield me from being hurt. It is easier to do it all than to open myself up to being disappointed or wounded. It is easier to be strong than vulnerable. It is easier to take charge than put things in another person’s hands. It is easier to focus on someone else’s problems than my own. I think that is really the heart of the issue. Maybe it’s also why I love turtles so much. Once someone has gotten through that shell to the heart of me, it is very hard for me to push them away. It is easier to “help” than watch someone fail and reap the consequences. I want the people I love to have the best life possible, even to the point of taking on their pain as my own and taking away from my happiness.
So here I am, a strong, independent woman who is also attached to a lying husband who has cheated on me multiple times. I’m in a codependent relationship. What an oxymoron! I am starting to become more and more self-aware at the same time that he is beginning to take responsibility. I want to continue down this path more so I can fully realize the joys of being cared for and nurtured as much as I do for others. Letting go of that control and peeking out of my shell is a requirement that I continue to work on. I think I’m getting better at it every day. I look forward to truly being the independent yet vulnerable woman that I know I can be.