If you’ve been labeled as a “co-dependent”, you may have been set up.
What??? Set-up??? You’ve got to be kidding, right chely???
But I’m not. I’ve basically been groomed my entire life for this role. The role of giving too much and losing myself in the process. I didn’t know it or understand it. However it is now glaringly apparent to me. It was a set-up of sorts.
I am in my early 50’s, considered the tail end of the baby boomers generation. Growing up in the 60’s was during a time of a lot of change in society. Music, free love, hippies and drugs, demonstrating against war,and women gaining independence for themselves. We thought we were going to change the world and the people in it with our openness and freedom of expression. But there were few role models to look to for guidance. TV was still filled with programs about “traditional” marriages and families. Mom’s took care of the house and Dad went to work.
Only my life wasn’t like that. My parents divorced when I was five (after the second time my Mother became pregnant from an affair- I didn’t know that at the time). So it was just me, Mom, and my two little sisters in our home. Saw Dad every other weekend until mid-teens. When I looked around at others, most of them still lived in traditional family settings. There were not a lot of others (that I could see) in a single parent household.
I realized my life was different but not in a bad way. And my Mom had a decent job and took pretty good care of us. I was proud of her, looked up to her. Wanted to be her. She was making it work for us. But being the oldest, I was looked to, “to help” with my siblings and a lot of the other responsibilities because my Mom was working. She never was able to attend anything that had to do with school or after school activities. So my Gramma did a lot. But I cooked, I cleaned, did laundry and took care of my sisters. Sometimes too much- I was required to give up doing some of the things I would have liked to participate in because I had to help out. It didn’t seem wrong to put so much responsibility on a young person, and I was proud of myself for doing it and thought I did a pretty good job.
As a single woman, my Mom loved to go dancing. Just about every Fri or Sat night she would head out to dance. I would sit in the bathroom with her as she dressed, put her make-up on and chat . Sometimes I wished she would just stay home with us. She always was at work and tired when she came home. Sometimes didn’t have enough patience with us. I in many ways wished I had a traditional family, like most of the other kids. But my parents were divorced.
I had always wished I could go with her dancing, couldn’t wait to be old enough to do that. I was happy that she was happy. I missed her but it was okay because she was happy and still spent quality time with us girls. (Gramma lived with us and was there for us when Mom was gone).
Then she would meet some guy at the bar, and if she liked him, bring him home. I never knew if Mom’s bedroom door would be closed when I got up on weekends. They weren’t like one night stands. Generally they would begin to live with us. Our home life would change. Now everything seemed to revolve around these guys. We had to watch what they wanted on TV. Had to change what we had for dinner because he wanted something different. We did different stuff on the weekends because he liked to do that.
Most of my Mom’s attention now went to him. She didn’t really neglect us, just focused on his needs as her main priority. And I was old enough to know what was going on behind the closed-door. Maybe all of this wouldn’t have been so bad if they were nice guys, or good-looking or good to my Mom. (Mom was very attractive). But they weren’t. They were users for the most part. And Mom was different when ever one of them was around. But then they would eventually break-up and life would go back to normal for us.
On the weekends she would go dancing again. Until the next one. I don’t want to make my Mom sound like a slut at all. There were probably only four maybe five “boyfriends” growing up and it was the time of sexual freedom for women so how could that be wrong-right?
But one morning, after L had moved in, Mom came down stairs and she had a black eye. I heard them arguing the previous night. But a black eye, that was not cool. But I was young what was I supposed to say? A few weeks went by and then one evening they were arguing right in front of us. It was escalating, and then I watched in horror as her punched her in the face. I freaked out, went screaming at him and jumped on his back attacking him. No way was I gonna stand there and watch him do that. It was quite the scene.
He was there about a week more after that. Then one afternoon, tells us girls that he is moving out and did we want to help him? You never saw three girls move so fast, finding boxes throwing his stuff in and dumping it into his car. We wanted him out of our life.
I knew I would NEVER accept any physical abuse in a relationship, ever. But no one ever told me that you could be abused with words too. That never occurred to me really, until way after I married my husband.
So my role model of how to have a relationship was shaped by what I saw. When you’re in love with someone you focus on their needs and give of yourself to make them happy. That’s how it worked. Whether a lover or family member, you give up, you and do for the greater good. I didn’t realize at the time how much I had given up so my Mom could be happy. She seemed happiest when she had a boyfriend. The message I was learning was if you loved them, you change things to suit them, move in together (usually after only one date or two) put aside your needs for them and had lots of sex.
I never realized how this would impact me and my relationships for the rest of my life. My brain told me, that to have romantic love is to give yourself away to another completely. Sacrifice for them, show them how much you love them. Do the things they like to do, cook the food that they like. Have sex with them, often.
I was being taught to be co-dependent. I didn’t know it was wrong. Mom didn’t either. So I followed in her foot steps when I began to go out with guys. If they liked me and showed me attention I would give them my all (including sex, not old enough to live together yet ) make my focus them. I would stop seeing my friends or doing other things I liked very much. It was all about them. They would eventually break up with me and move on. I would be devastated (like my Mom) then keep my eyes open for the next one.
I had no idea that this would someday be labeled as dysfunctional. It is called co-dependency. It is considered not a positive trait and actually seen as somewhat of a mental illness. Isn’t that special? To find out, now that I’m in my 50’s, everything I learned growing up about relationships is wrong. This is what has led me to where I am now. Ugh! This could have been one of the catalysts that contributed to my husband having an affair. I gave too much!! Never considered my own needs.
I give my all to him (career, friendships, literally my whole personality was sucked away), He has an affair, but it’s my fault because I’m co-dependent? According to psychology experts, I’m the one who has the problem, never mind that my spouse encouraged this all along. Never mind that my husband has definite narcissistic tendencies, and has no empathy. That’s okay with society. Because I’m the one with who is screwed up.
That is so fucked up!!
All I ever wanted to be was a good girl, loved by all. I always tried to please others. I was taught to be helpful,giving, kind and a hard worker and you will be loved. In my opinion, the world has forgotten about the golden rule of do unto others….
So if through this journey out of infidelity you’ve been called co-dependent and treated like there’s something wrong with you. I say BULLSHIT!! It is not our fault that we’ve been groomed growing up. Basically set-up because they NOW have changed how this game of life is done. A lot people today don’t give a shit about others. It’s all about them and their needs. And what they can gain from you, without reciprocating.
I should have been selfish and self-centered growing up I would have been fine.