I originally wrote this post in 2014 but thought it was a good time to bring it up again.
I had an interesting conversation last night with a friend of mine who seems to feel another friend we have in common (though I haven’t seen her for a few years) is “stuck” in her marriage. He went on to tell me how he basically interrogates her to see if she will tell the truth because he feels all she does is lie about her situation. This struck a nerve with me and catapulted me into my own little tirade. Well, the tirade was in my mind but I tried to explain my point of view as calmly as I could, but there was certainly a burr under my saddle and I was bucking inside.
My first question was, “why do you feel the need to interrogate her?” to which he responded, “Because she lies”.
Oh here we go!
Of course she lies! Why in the world would she ever want to open up to someone who only points out the problems in her relationship? Why would she tell you the truth of what is going on, only to have you give her that, “I told you so” attitude? Why would she tell the truth only to open herself up to your disappointment? He made the point that he knows she is not happy and she just won’t admit it. Well…Of course she won’t!
Here’s is my experience as a “flaming” codependent:
I made some stupid choices in my life and for stupid reasons. They were my reality at the time so I will cut myself some slack there. However, I already knew I made the wrong choice and I was beating myself up inside, all on my own. I didn’t need any help there. I didn’t need to hear what others thought. I suffered from my own guilt, shame and disappointment; I didn’t need anyone else’s. Do you know what it does to a person struggling with codependency and people-pleasing issues to hear that someone is disappointed in them or how they are handling things? Why, oh why, do you think we need your opinion about our lives? We know it sucks! We know it’s unhealthy! We know, we know, WE KNOW!
I personally, suffered from pride. I didn’t want anyone to know what was going on in my relationships. I wanted to be seen as a woman who could handle life and everything that was thrown at her. I wanted people to see that I had it all together. I didn’t want them to see the pain in my heart or the guilt and shame I suffered from the choices I had made. I didn’t want to acknowledge my own disappointments and I certainly didn’t want to hear yours. I KNOW MY LIFE WAS A WRECK!
Of course I lied about it! Of course I avoided people because I didn’t want to see their disappointment in me and my choices! Of course I suffered alone! That is what I did! It has been my experience in dealing with other codependents that this is not uncommon, so I feel safe enough to say, she may feel the same way. I tried to explain this all to him as best I could without all the anger and frustration that I felt inside, not only for myself as someone who wants to be understood, but for her as well.
I offered the suggestion that the next time he sees her and can see that she is not happy, don’t ask her questions. I told him to tell her, he can sense something is wrong and that if she ever wants to talk, that he would be there to sit and listen. LISTEN being the operative word. Don’t offer your opinion. Don’t tell her what to do. Don’t judge her and rub it in her face that you know she is unhappy. All that stuff just pours salt in an already deeply open wound.
I am going to generalize this statement as I feel my past dealings with other codependents allows me to: We need to feel safe to open up to someone! As I stated previously, we are already suffering from pain and disappointment in ourselves, we don’t need it from others!
If you feel someone is struggling and unhappy in their relationship/life, be the safe person they can open up to. All you need to do is reinforce that you are there whenever they are ready to talk. Be willing to LISTEN and not fix. Be gentle and encouraging in your words. It may take a while but they may eventually open up to you if you make it safe for them to do so.