Co-Dependency: I’ll Scratch Your Back If You’ll Scratch Mine

Co-dependent: I’m quick to use the term. It’s not so easy to define, though. I’ve been trying for better than a decade to find just the right words. It seems most psychology publications are in the same boat as me.

PsychCentral defines it as “a person belonging to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship where one person relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self-esteem needs. It also describes a relationship that enables another person to maintain their irresponsible, addictive, or underachieving behavior.” So really, they provided two definitions, not just one.

GoodTherapy.org breaks it down with a good ol’ list (because we love bullets) and explains that the “old” way of thinking was that everyone’s feelings were centered on one person’s addictive behaviors. Now co-dependence is recognized in much broader terms to include the role of caregiving, denial of personal problems, low self-esteem, feelings of guilt when offered help or attention from others, sensitivity to criticism, perfectionism and fear of failure, a projection of competence and a need to control others.

But the definition from GoodTherapy.org doesn’t make clear that there has to be at least two people in the relationship to make it co-dependent. At least one of the parties has to have low self-esteem and be sensitive to criticism and project a false sense of competence, and have support and attention from another party to continue carrying on with those behaviors. And let’s be clear, here: both or all parties can be co-dependent upon each other. Mothers and daughters, friends, teachers and students, lovers. Of course, some relationships are much more intimate and lasting than others.

Here is a comprehensive list from CoDA.org (Co-Dependents Anonymous.org):

Patterns and Characteristics of Co-Dependence; Co-dependents often:
• have difficulty identifying what they are feeling.
• minimize, alter, or deny how they truly feel.
• perceive themselves as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well-being of others.
• lack empathy for the feelings and needs of others.
• label others with their negative traits.
• think they can take care of themselves without any help from others.
• mask pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation.
• express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways.
• do not recognize the unavailability of those people to whom they are attracted.

Low self-esteem patterns; Co-dependents often:
• are extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long.
• compromise their own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger.
• put aside their own interests in order to do what others want.
• are hypervigilant regarding the feelings of others and take on those feelings.
• are afraid to express their beliefs, opinions, and feelings when they differ from those of others.
• accept sexual attention when they want love.
• make decisions without regard to the consequences.
• give up their truth to gain the approval of others or to avoid change.

Control patterns; Co-dependents often:
• believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
• attempt to convince others what to think, do, or feel.
• freely offer advice and direction without being asked.
• become resentful when others decline their help or reject their advice.
• lavish gifts and favors on those they want to influence.
• use sexual attention to gain approval and acceptance.
• have to feel needed in order to have a relationship with others.
• demand that their needs be met by others.
• use charm and charisma to convince others of their capacity to be caring and compassionate.
• use blame and shame to exploit others emotionally.
• refuse to cooperate, compromise, or negotiate.
• adopt an attitude of indifference, helplessness, authority, or rage to manipulate outcomes.
• use recovery jargon in an attempt to control the behavior of others.
• pretend to agree with others to get what they want.

Avoidance patterns; Co-dependents often:
• act in ways that invite others to reject, shame, or express anger toward them.
• judge harshly what others think, say, or do.
• avoid emotional, physical, or sexual intimacy as a way to maintain distance.
• allow addictions to people, places, and things to distract them from achieving intimacy in relationships.
• use indirect or evasive communication to avoid conflict or confrontation.
• diminish their capacity to have healthy relationships by declining to use the tools of recovery.
• suppress their feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable.
• pull people toward them, but when others get close, push them away.
• refuse to give up their self-will to avoid surrendering to a power greater than themselves.
• believe displays of emotion are a sign of weakness.
• withhold expressions of appreciation.

As I revisit the definitions, I evaluate first my own behavior, but also a few specific relationships near me (that I have to be careful not to become too invested in, though I tend to become protective and outraged when I spot misbehavior). I think that the actual name “co-dependency” will be adjusted within the next 5-10 years, though what it will morph into will be a great mystery.

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Missed Opportunities Brought To You By Creeptastic

This is another post from my MySpace days.

The Sick and the Dating:  The Weirdo in Mesa  4/17/07

Back in high school, I had a friend named Rachel who was a plus-sized girl that liked to wear trashy clothes.  She had bleach-fried hair, and wore those day-glo green colored contacts because she wanted her eyes to stand out.  One day we went down to a store on Hennepin Ave. (where all the hookers hang out, if you’re not familiar with Minneapolis) to visit a trashy outfit store, and a guy held the door open.  He said “There you go, Green Eyes” and she said “Oh, they’re not real” and he looked her up and down like she was his next meal and said “I bet the rest of you is”.  Thankfully, I didn’t get his attention – I certainly wasn’t going to pipe up that MY eyes were green naturally.  Sleazeball who hits on teenagers, get thee gone!

I’m telling you this story because I found these postings in the “Missed Opportunities” section of the free alternative paper, Phoenix New Times, and it reminded me of THAT GUY.  You know, the weirdo that you laugh with while he says something really disgusting and overt, and you’re planning your escape.  This is the same guy posting these ads.  They are all in Mesa, and he keeps imagining these hot encounters with random women.  Notice how his age changes.

Friday, March 9th – Circkle K main and greenfield mesa – 43 (Mesa)

you are a gorgeous gal driving a station wagon with 3 ribbons on the back! you buy Marlboro reds 100’s between 730 and 745 weekdays!! in am. You have gorgoeus auburn longer hair!! and great body!! I drive a white Ford ranger and parked next to you on this past thursday!! I get smokes too! could I get some fries to go with that SHAKE? hope you read this!! its an older wagon you drive! and you wear tight jeans!! hope you are there monday am! hit me back if you think your it

Location: Mesa
Poster’s age: 43

 

Thursday, March 22nd – circle K on lindsay and baseline Mon. 7 pm – 41 (Mesa)

you were driving a white blazer was at the pumps! you bought an 18 pak of Bud! and asked for a pack of THESES? I bought keystone lite! you have longer auburn hair and tight LEVIS!! that looked so goo around your hips!! no ring seen on your finger!! WOW!!!!

Location: Mesa
Poster’s age: 41

 

Thursday, April 5th – circle K at main and val-vista wed at 4;45 pm mesa – 38 (Mesa)

you were a gorgeous blonde coming in the store as I was leaving!! you held the door and I said thanks! you said anytime!! think u drive a red grand am! wow!! long legs and beautiful hair!!

Location: Mesa
Poster’s age: 38

 

Monday, April 9th – circle K on lindsay and baseline Mon. 7 pm – 38 (Mesa)

thanks for gettin back to me!! but your e-mail address does not work!! or the phone number!! please get bak to me

Location: Mesa
Poster’s age: 38

 

Monday, April 9th – circle k on main and val-vista last week 445 pm – 38 (Mesa)

hey get back to me!! you e-mailed me but yuor e-mila wont go thru!! nor the number you gave me! gorgoues blonde!! jengirl??

Location: Mesa
Poster’s age: 38

 

Sunday, April 15th – hot brunette at Macayos on fri nite in parkin lot – 38 (Mesa)

I was walkin out out with another couple and you were outside with a nother gal havin a smoke!! you said Where do I know you from!! you have a smokin body and great smile!! wished I would have stopped!

Location: Mesa
Poster’s age: 38

 

Okay, buddy, none of these chicks are writing back to you – at least not with legitimate phone numbers or e-mails – because they can smell a lunatic a mile away.  Are you stalking all of the Circle Ks in Mesa?  I knew there was a reason I didn’t like that city. Everything bad happens at Circle K. I remember that from my court reporting days.

‘Scuse Me, Are You The Lady With Some Honesty?

A week ago I received a message from a guy on OKCupid who seemed pretty sane. What I mean by this is that he typed complete sentences that included all of the proper punctuation, he didn’t call me “sweetie,” “honey,” “dear,” or “beautiful,” and he didn’t simply say “Hi.” He did tell me right off the bat that I had a lot of negatives in my profile (as in, “Don’t send me dick pics”) so it was hard for him to get a true sense of my personality.

I wrote him back and thanked him for contacting me. I told him that I wrote my profile in that manner because in the past, it never mattered what I wrote – every guy who contacted me wanted to get right down to showing me his penis, so I had to immediately make my personal boundaries known.

I also told him that I wasn’t really in top form for dating for the time being; my time and attitude are both being consumed by medical stuff and I am not the best company right now. His response was, “Hey, I understand on both fronts – it’s gotta be pretty frustrating to be a woman on this site and fighting off all the trash, and if you have stuff going on that is too much to deal with, I won’t take it personally if I don’t hear from you again.”

I wrote back and said, “Hey, thanks for understanding! I don’t want to be one of your “stories” because of the stuff I have going on, so I think it’s best if I take a time out right now.” So…crickets. He’s being a gentleman and taking no to mean no at face value, which I appreciate to no end. It’s times like these when I really, really feel cheated about the body I currently dwell in.

From another guy an hour ago: “Hello! I love the profile. Very Intelligent way to let people know you are a no-nonsense, straight forward woman, who know what she wants. And I like that.” However, he’s a holy-rollin’ Christian and I’m not at all attracted to him physically, so I’m going to have to thank him and turn him down gently. I’m going to stay on hiatus for now.

And I just saw someone from the town where my mom’s business is located. There’s only 1,000 people in that town on a good day, about 80 miles from here, and I can’t figure out if I know him…I’m afraid to click on his profile. I guarantee you he’s a Trump humper and we’d have nothing in common anyway, but it creeps me out that I’m back to being in the same state as the place that I ran away from two decades ago and I’m going to keep running into people I know exactly in the same manner.

Showing Up is Half the Battle

Update: This morning, November 23rd, he sent me a text message saying that he was sorry because he fell asleep, and then he went to church and turned off his phone. He offered to show me the logs “where it proved he was in church.” I told him that all he had to do was text or call and tell me it wasn’t going to work out, not wait two days, and that it was time to live an authentic life and stop making excuses. Seriously, I am so done raising men.

_____________________________________________________

Yesterday was a good day for me, health-wise. I had vertigo and fatigue but not a facial droop. I thought I was undeniably lucky – because a friend from the past had offered to pick me up and take me out to karaoke, and rather than having my face paralyze by the time we arrived, there was a good chance that I would be able to be upright for a few hours.

He and I had talked about my limitations and what to expect to happen, which is to plan for the worst and hope for the best. All week he was telling me how excited he was to see me after all of this time. Then he started talking about how it has been a long time (in the neighborhood of 15 months) since he had dated, or been close to someone physically. Because we are so different on the religious front, I warned him that we wouldn’t be a good match because church is such a big portion of his life and I am 1,000% a non-believer.

I texted him Saturday afternoon to find out what time he was picking me up so I could plan accordingly. He told me that he would be by at 6 pm. Then he started texting that he was nervous about his teeth – he knows that I like it when men take care of their choppers. (I didn’t tell him that it’s because I had had boyfriends who had let their teeth rot and it was horrible kissing them.) I told him I knew it was expensive to get them fixed and that I was aware that he was making an effort, I just didn’t want him to have to get dentures in a few years at such a young age. I also told him that I had my own insecurities, but we should both try to work through them and enjoy our time out and catching up.

At 6 pm, he didn’t show – but he sent a text saying it had been a hell of a day and his roommates were fighting. At 7:30 he was still a no-show, so I texted him to ask if he was still on his way over or if we needed to figure out a different day.

Crickets. Nothing. Absolutely nothing, not even this morning.

There weren’t any stabbings or shootings in his area. I know this because I checked. With this in mind, there is no great mystery surrounding why he is still single. He has my cell phone number, my email and for Pete’s sake, my street address. I’m really struggling to find a place in my heart that will allow him the benefit of the doubt if he does come back to me, sniveling about something or other happening that prevented him from telling me what the deal was. It’s the kind of behavior that I would expect from a stranger but not at all what I want in a friend.

And if I sometimes sound bitter or disillusioned through the course of all of these blog posts, it’s because I am. Nearly every man in my life has let me down, with rare some exceptions. But rather than allowing this particular night of waiting needlessly to get my blood pressure up, I’m calm, as if he has never existed in the first place. As the daughter of an alcoholic, disassociation comes easily to me. But men should know that every time they do something like this, they break women’s hearts, even if it’s just a tiny bit; it all adds up.

While writing these few paragraphs, one of my favorite Anberlin songs came up on my streaming music. I’m sad they broke up in 2014 because I’ll never have the chance to see them live, but thank goodness for the permanency of YouTube.

Get Me to the Greek!

Back in 1999, I was working at a very large law firm in downtown Cincinnati that specialized in representing mortgage companies where borrowers had filed bankruptcy or fallen into foreclosure. I was in the accounting department for the first year, and was responsible for providing payoff and reinstatement figures to borrowers, their attorneys or their prospective new lenders. We handled around 11,000 cases a month, so as you can imagine, it was a fairly large firm and we were very busy. It was a horrible place to work because of both the premise of working for the “enemy” (mortgage companies) when borrowers had fallen on hard times, plus the office manager was a tyrant – there were about 325 of us paralegals who worked under her eagle eye, and she had no qualms about firing people she didn’t like. Do you know how we knew someone was fired? At 4:45 pm, she would announce over the loudspeaker that she wanted to see a particular person in her office, and then immediately after that she would announce that she wanted the supervisor in charge of computer access to call her too. It was hell.

But on the flip side, my co-workers and I had quite a bit of fun. I made some long-term friends who I am still in contact with now. Oh, and if you didn’t know it already, attorneys know how to PARTY. We took over a lot of happy hours. There were all kinds of shenanigans.

One person that I became close with, whom I will nickname Marry Me, was a very pretty young woman with DDD breasts (she didn’t want to lose weight because they would deflate) who did a lot of partying. She was also hopeless when it came to men. Marry Me would spend a night or a day with a guy, and either he wouldn’t leave her place or she wouldn’t leave his, and within a week and a half she was convinced she was in love and they were going to get married. At about the two week mark the guys would dump her and she would be a wreck, and she missed many days because she would call in sick after a breakup.

It’s difficult to imagine now, but back in 1999, we still only had email and Yahoo or MSN messaging. To get a picture from a camera onto a computer was a major feat. Internet stalking wasn’t a “thing” yet – and neither was Google, so she or I would have had no way to figure out just how many of these guys were felons or drug addicts, etc.

We would field about 70 calls in the course of a workday, and Marry Me received a call from a broker whom I will nickname Nice Try. She was between men at that point and decided she liked his voice, so she immediately started flirting with him. She would find excuses to call him (normally we would only talk to borrowers or third parties once, twice tops), and very quickly they started emailing and calling during off hours. Marry Me quickly progressed to phone sex with this guy. Nice Try told her that he had a daughter that did not live with him, and he described himself as being a little overweight with hair that was thinning on top. He was older than us by a good 15 years, but she still felt very connected with him. Unfortunately, he was living in Cleveland, which is a four-hour drive from Cincinnati.

Marry Me started talking about moving in with him and becoming a family with him and his daughter. This was over the course of three weeks. I finally convinced her that before she kept making plans, she ought to meet Nice Try first. I also thought that she shouldn’t go alone (especially since she didn’t have the best track record with men). So we made plans to go up to his condo, and encouraged him to invite a few friends so we could get a feel for his life in general.

All the way up there, we sang Ricky Martin’s “Living La Vida Loca” at the top of our lungs while Marry Me tried to calm her nerves. She was convinced she was meeting her soul mate. I think she may have even told him she loved him. When we finally pulled up to the condo late that Friday night and knocked on the door, we were greeted by Nice Try – who was about 400 lbs. and bald. I’m not even sure if he was honest about his age; I think the only thing he was truthful about was his address. Marry Me was devastated. She was also immediately grateful that I didn’t allow her to make the trek alone and made me promise not to leave her side. Nice Try did successfully round up a few friends to join us, so we immediately did some shots at the condo before going out and toasted to “new friends.”

We went to a bar to dance and drink. Marry Me was gulping down shots like they were Kool-Aid. Nice Try kept trying to grab her hands while we were dancing and pull her close, but then she would grab my hand and hug on me. One of Nice Try’s friends was The Greek, whom I previously mentioned in Three is a Crowd. He immediately understood the situation and offered his support to us. At the end of the night, Marry Me had lost count of her drinks. When it was closing time, we stood outside to regroup, and Nice Try was trying to force Marry Me to make out with him – he was very grabby with his fat fingers and sloppy meaty lips, and Marry Me managed to get out of his grip and run for the side of the building. I followed and she sobbed that she had made a huge mistake. I told Nice Try that she was feeling sick and that he shouldn’t try to make out with her anymore. The Greek stepped in and said that we were driving with him in his car and he would take us back to the condo.

The Greek had obviously not planned on this – the car he brought that night was his Porche, which only had a small little shelf as the “back seat” which was the ultimate middle finger to any couple contemplating having children. Marry Me was in the front and I was wedged in the back sitting sideways. The Greek told us that he wouldn’t leave our sides and that he would sleep on the floor of our room so that nothing happened, and that because we had already planned to be there the whole weekend, he would love it if we stayed the second night at his place in one of his spare bedrooms and he would take us out in style. Of course we jumped on it. Marry Me and I were relieved that the weekend wasn’t a bust after all.

Nice Try was very, very disappointed that Marry Me wasn’t going to sleep with him that night. Instead Marry Me and I shared his daughter’s full size bed and The Greek slept on the floor, as promised. There was another woman in our group who was friends with Nice Try and The Greek and she slept in his bed with him – she was 90 lbs. tops and didn’t take up much room, but by the next morning, we were all sorry for her. Nice Try had horrible sleep apnea and snored loud enough to rattle the windows. He sounded like he was choking and gagging all night and none of us got restful sleep.

I jumped into the shower the next morning while everyone else went downstairs for breakfast, with the exception of Marry Me – she was nursing her hangover. Unfortunately Nice Try saw this as his opportunity to make his move. About five minutes into shower time I heard this loud crash, but I just thought someone had dropped a pan or something while whipping together the food. When I came out of the bathroom, Marry Me was awake and watching me closely. I absentmindedly sat on the bed to put on my socks, but something didn’t seem right…and then I realized that I was not sitting on a flat surface, but one that was slanting. Nice Try had sneaked into our bedroom and climbed into bed with Marry Me and tried to kiss her and feel up her triple-D’s. The bed broke. He BROKE HIS DAUGHTER’S BED. After laughing so hard we were crying, Marry Me and I hurriedly packed and told The Greek we were ready to leave.

The Greek was true to his word. Marry Me and I were given the largest guest bedroom which featured a king size bed. He took us out that Saturday night to a Portuguese restaurant with excellent food, and then we went down to The Flats to party the night away. We were relaxed and relieved. No one tried to grope us, including The Greek and his friends.

When we were ready to leave Sunday to drive back to Cincinnati, The Greek asked if he could keep in touch with me. Our many calls evolved into a long-distance relationship for about nine months, and I drove up to see him or he visited me in Cincinnati on a regular basis. I always chuckled to myself about scoring a boyfriend from that trip.

Unfortunately, our relationship was not destined for the long term either. Being a more worldly and older man (late 30’s at that point), he was always looking for something better, including how to satisfy his appetite sexually – he felt like he had done it all already. I certainly learned a lot from that relationship.