My therapist just told me she read some of my blog. She said it was difficult to read for two reasons. One, she said she knows me and likes me and it’s hard to hear that someone you like has gone through that kind of treatment. But the other reason was my response to that treatment.
It’s hard not to feel ashamed at not only putting up with all of the “F-yous,” verbal violence, and demeaning behavior, but still wanting to embrace you.
Even as you were shouting at me that you were going to call the police and that you hated me, I reacted without anger or hurt and just tried to calm you down, saying things would be okay.
Yes, there are obvious problems with the cruel behavior in this situation. But there are just as obvious problems with a person who willingly accepts the abuse:
You have probably heard the term “codependency” used a lot, as it became a popular term in our vernacular sometime after the Alcoholics Anonymous twelve step recovery program was established in the late 1930s. The concept of codependency has been discussed and written about a lot in recent years, and you may run into various definitions of the term.
The original definition of codependency was the set of responses and behaviors people develop while living with a partner or family member who is an alcoholic. It is now generally accepted that codependency may develop in anyone living with someone who is an addict, regardless of which substance is being abused, or may even develop if you live in a household with someone who has a chronic mental or physical illness.
There are multiple “codependent” behaviors that can develop in a non-alcoholic, non-addict or non-ill partner or family member as a result of living in a home where alcoholism, drug abuse or other problematic issues are present. Over the years, the definition of codependency has expanded to encompass any dysfunctional pattern of living and problem solving that may have developed as a result of dysfunctional family dynamics.
While my codependent characteristics likely formed as a child, they were certainly triggered back into action in our relationship that was wrought with addiction, narcissism, and other troubled dynamics.
I’m still quite sad that everything went to pot between us. As you can read, I understand more and more why it did, but somehow it’s not making it much easier to accept.
I do want to take the time to appreciate the many friends, family members and some complete strangers, who have connected with me through this blog. To quote a great actor in a great movie, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist.”
I had questioned in my mind how bad the environment really was for me in our relationship. You convinced me that I shouldn’t be talking with anyone about this. As the therapist pointed out to me today as well, you also started using your own family members as barriers between us, and prevented us from figuring out what exactly was causing our demise. I was deliberately kept away from family members (as I had been kept away from the couples therapist) and isolated not just from my own friends, but eventually your circles as well. You began to ignore and brush off my requests to meet with my friends socially — friends with whom we had previously spent holidays and other special occasions.
I guess her theory is that you were trying to keep under wraps something pretty important to you that you thought I would reveal. Looking back (in my rearview mirror) I realized that you weren’t all that happy when I would text your cousin Debbie pictures of us at dinner, or text with her son when he was traveling through Europe. I realized you acted strangely when you discovered that I sent your niece a couple of books as she laid in bed recovering from a nasty soccer accident.
It is clear that while most people would be happy if their romantic partner were interacting positively and being accepted by their family, you were unsettled by it and started setting me up to fail. You actually began to sabotage my interactions with your family members in order to be able to scream at me how I wasn’t “fitting in” with your family and how I was “so weird” in regards to them.
I do think that as most everyone else who knows me can attest, I can very easily get along with many types of people, and win people over because I do care about and like people for who they are. I do see the good in people — and have many times defended people you were complaining about, including your own family members and coworkers.
So there may be some truth in the theory that you couldn’t have your family members trusting me, liking me, and thus, even meeting me — because somewhere down the line I might have forced the issue of your drinking problems and addictions — and your subsequent abusive behavior. You had to isolate me from them and delegitimize me in front of them so I would never be able to go to them for support in regards to your substance abuse or emotional problems.
You began to systematically torpedo any chance I would have to building up a real relationship with any of them — and eventually, even meeting anyone, including members of your family I’d already spent quality time with.
I wonder what you could have told your daughter and mother to make them be so hostile to me they wouldn’t even acknowledge my presence or say hi to my face as I was inches away from them at a family function. I wonder how much of it was accurate.
Because the greatest trick an abuser pulls is to hide their behavior to their world, and make everyone else who loves and cares for them never see anything but normalcy.
So thanks to those friends who reminded me how not normal this was. Thanks to John’s relatives who supported me and didn’t treat me like a pariah. Thanks to the readers of this blog who said that they went through this and legitimized the fact that abusive behavior did take place.
That support allows for me to take the next step to deal with the hurt I had been dealing with alone, in silence.
Hoping for healing,