My son was telling me of a horrific psychology experiment where a dog is in a cage, one half of the floor is electrocuted. The dog moves to the other side pretty quickly. They then locked the dog in the electrocuted side, after a while they remove the partition but the dog doesn’t move to the non painful side – it stays in pain.
I have been bothered by this for days. Has the dogs will been broken, is it getting something from the pain? Why doesn’t it move? Am I the dog who had got so used to pain that that’s what I chose? After more than 45 years of codependency am I unable to even freely choose to move away? If they moved the dog away from the pain would it crawl back to it? Can it be saved?
I am a codependent but I strive not to be in a codependent relationship. I believe my nature (DNA) is codependent reinforced by an abusive childhood and hammered home by marrying a narcissist. No medical training just my experience talking. Better not Broken blogged about a checklist with some very strong ‘tells’ such as ‘does your partner use the choke hold in sex, does he own a gun’ and I felt my personal checklist was a little more subtle and promised I’d try to write it. I do hope I can separate the two things, although I will always be a codependent, I am trying very hard to not be in a codependent relationship so there are two checklists. So here goes.
Are you a codependent? Are you told often you are too nice? Do you love to solve people’s problems? Do you shrink if people around you get angry – even if it’s not at you? Are you always offering to help and then wondering why you did because it will make things difficult for you? If anything goes wrong even if not your fault do you take the blame? When you book tickets for friends do you pay the booking fee? Do you find your days todo list is mostly what other people have asked you to do? Are you unable to let yourself go and think about what you really want to do? Do you have time for hobbies? Do you think your lack of hobbies makes you boring? Would you give up your meal for someone else and hide the fact you haven’t been able to eat? When someone lets you down do you strive to make them feel ok about it? Do you excuse and defend others their bad behaviour? Do you pick up the dog poo on a dog walk?
Are you in a subtle codependent relationship? It was a whirlwind romance and you were swept off your feet. If you are doing something together like cooking and it goes wrong, you take the blame and he lets you. When you try to help with something they should be doing and it isn’t perfect they have a tantrum and make it your fault. If you book a holiday on orders to their chosen destination you get anger and derision at your spending when the bill arrives. Money, you are given an allowance it’s not equal despite your partnership. They are not open about their income. They hide things from you. They have more than one mobile phone. Your codependency is assumed – ‘I’m going out Friday’ Not ‘can you look after the kids please’ They conflict, in that they want a stay at home mum for kids but also a wife with a great job and respect. When you get a job it is undermined. If your boss is kind and you enjoy your job you must be having an affair. They talk of support but they don’t do it.
They talk love but they don’t do it.
You are ostracised from your family. You get the silent treatment. They don’t feel the need to explain why they are late, you just have to accept. If you try to ask (you suspect an affair) the response is if you ask again I will have an affair. The home is never clean enough. You are made to feel stupid, you watch the wrong tv. You start looking into plastic surgery to make yourself better for them. You are scared to get counselling because underneath you know the councillor will see what you are, and your partner doesn’t want you to. They suggest you are depressed and you start to believe them. They withdraw from sex. You find the occasional sex is only ever about their pleasure, and if you fail to make them come it’s your fault. They withdraw completely physically. They tell you you are too needy. You are always defending them, to your kids, family and friends. They are too important to do menial tasks. You have to sign documents without reading them. You have to entertain all their important people and do all the work but they take the credit.
You feel small.
By no means an exhaustive checklist and entirely from personal experience. I am so hopeful that by knowing what I am I can change how I behave. Happy, healthy new year everyone!
My new partner and I were cooking pizza after a hard day. I had pre heated the oven, he unwrapped and I placed them on the shelf un be known to me he set the timer on his watch. We were cold and sat in the next room by the fire and were enjoying a discussion on a recent political event. Suddenly I smelt the burnt pizza, we both rushed in and they were both burnt to a charcoal mess. I looked at him as I apologised waiting for the onslaught I was used to in my marriage to the Narcissist. You idiot, what on earth will we eat tonight, why didn’t you time it, what a waste of money… Blah blah blah. Instead I got, I’m sorry it’s my fault, I set a timer but was so enjoying our discussion I forgot. Seamlessly we both apologised and moved on to scrabbling a few left overs together and a makeshift meal, continuing our discussion and reflecting how our respective ex’s would have been angry or stormed out and blamed us – who were only too ready to take full responsibility. So if you are in a new relationship I strongly recommend a burnt pizza test before you commit, just to find out who/what you are dealing with.
Father Christmas, The Book Thief and positive male role models
Last night I sobbed through the film of the The book Thief. As her dear papa died I wondered what it must feel like to have had that sort of relationship with your father. I can see how I am shaped by a childhood of fear from those closest to me and that love and fear have been totally screwed up in my head. My father used physical abuse and I moved on quickly, to marry early into emotional and verbal abuse, being grateful and misguidedly wrong in my belief in how lucky I was to have found a man who didn’t hit me.
He never hit me and rarely even shouted at me but I was tortured nonetheless, the gas lighting, the total removal of any power in the relationship, he held the purse strings. An example from many, he would order me to book a holiday (obviously he chose where) on the joint credit card then when the bill came in he would cold shoulder me as the bill was high and I had been extravagant. I was punished for doing as I’d been told, mocked in front of my peers, this behaviour over 25 sends you a bit crazy.
But what I wanted to explore is the importance of a loving positive role model in a child’s life, recently my daughter asked if I would marry my partner as he’d make a really cool grandad, I would love to break the mould and give my grandkids a sweet and loving man in their life. But I can’t marry again. I think it would be an incredible feeling to have that certainty behind your every move in life that a positive male role model could give. I hope that more dads this year lay off the office networking party booze (at least every weekend and most weeknights!) and think about how their children perceive them on the weekends as involved fathers enjoying their family instead of hungover angry bears that we have to step around carefully so as not to wake the monster.
To have a father who has a pillow fight with you, who takes you shopping for a gift for mum and struggles beside you with wrapping paper and sellotape. Who gets involved in decorating the tree instead of ripping it down in a drunken rage. A dad who watches the Christmas play or stays up late to fetch you from your first teen party. To have a father that can show you how much he loves you must be the biggest gift Father Christmas could give a child this year.