Perhaps I didn’t give myself enough credit in my last post. And certainly not the post before that. I’d driveled on about snakes and failure, respectively, but I hadn’t truly shed any light on exactly how far I have come.
All it takes is a look back. If knowledge is power (and it is), then reflection is wisdom. Take the time, dear ones. I’m glad I did.
Had I not, I wouldn’t have realized that codependency is indeed a trait (a set of traits, really) that can change. Codependency is heal-able. It’s a process, not an event, so it’s wise not to expect overnight miracles, but there is indeed hope. And if you’ve got hope, everything else becomes possible.
Longtime followers, please forgive me; I’m about to re-trace some old ground. For those of you new to this space, you may or may not know I’m coming up on a few anniversaries, more than one of which would trace lines in sand for me, forever demarcating Before and After. Some events change your life such that nothing will ever be the same again afterward, and there’s a “New Normal” to get used to from here on.
A little over a year ago, shizz started hitting the fan, in stages. Every piece that hit was like a nail in a coffin. What did that coffin symbolize? Who knows. But in answering that question, why stop there?
It definitely symbolizes the marriage I’ve been in. It’s no longer working. It hasn’t for a long time. I dare say it never should have started. It’s time to let go. And in that, I’m a willing participant.
It also symbolizes my old life. That one is a little tougher; I had learned to make it work. While I could do without the marriage (particularly certain aspects), I had learned to make peace with most of them, and there were other elements that weren’t even bad at all. I obviously had no issue with the kitties, the apartment, the daily routine. Our income was (barely) enough that we got by; we had what we needed. We could never get ahead, but we never got deep in the hole, either.
But to give up one (the marriage to the psychopath), I must give up the other bits, too. It’s a package deal.
The aforementioned coffin also probably symbolizes a significant part of me. That’s okay; it needed to die. The rest of me, the better bits, are still here–probably in too full a glory. I can safely say that I have truly begun–and continue–to heal from codependency. And that, dear ones, is a beautiful thing.
How do I know that I’m healing?
I know that I’m healing when a situation occurs in which I find myself getting emotionally triggered in some way, and I stop to ask myself what I’m feeling. In reality, two miraculous, very non-codependent things are happening here:
- I’m realizing I’m getting triggered.
- I’m honoring and respecting that by pausing to consult with myself about it.
I’ll ask myself questions like:
- “What just happened?”
- “How do I really feel about that?”
- “Is there anything I can do about that?”
- “So what’s the best course of action here?”
- “Do I need to talk/say something/bring it up to (a person who triggered me, if there is one)?”
I’m also being honest with myself in my answers to my own questions. Questions do no good if answers are lies or simple placations. It’s not like I’m actually off the hook if I ignore my gut instinct or tell myself everything is fine when it’s not. Issues percolate, and eventually come to a head if not dealt with properly.
Instead, I know that I’m healing when I trust that intuition (unlike before). When I don’t ignore those nagging feelings, shove them under the rug, or banish them to a shadowy corner and pretend they don’t exist. The biggest elephants are the ones in the room, dear ones. When, instead, I respect that intuition, and that part is easy: simply listen. And then respond accordingly.
Is your gut telling you that he might be cheating on you? Go with that, in whatever way suits you best. Investigate further, because you’re probably right. Do you keep getting nagging feelings that he’s fallen off the wagon and is hooked on his addiction again? You’re probably right about that, too. Run with it, and assume it’s true.
I know that I’m healing when my ex-turned-roommate (“it’s complicated”) gets into a snit and I just meander off and Do Me while he does him. Or I’ll tell him (sometimes rather insensitively, although not rudely) “there are worse things” or “oh chill, it’s okay”. (For the record, I do make every attempt not gaslight him inadvertently; it’s just that some things really aren’t worth doing anything but chilling over.)
I also know that I’m healing when I realize that I’m not seeking to monkey-bar-leap into another relationship. I know to my core that I Am Enough, by myself, without having to be part of a relationship in order to feel legitimized or validated. I’ve learned to self-validate, and even to self-love.
Learning to self-validate is usually easier. For me, it went something like this:
- “I don’t need someone to tell me that I produce great material at work; I already know that I do.”
- “I don’t need (my ex) to compliment me on how good my cooking smells; I can smell that too, and it smells damn good.”
- “I don’t clean the kitchen for his compliments or approval or appreciation anymore; I do it for me.”
- “I don’t expect him to read my (other!) blog(s) and give me pats on the back; I already receive those elsewhere (thank you!!), and I know that my writing is at least halfway decent.”
In a snap of the fingers, I already validated myself. It really is that easy, so long as you genuinely feel what it is you’re telling yourself. If not, the “fake it till you make it” adage is legit; I have had to resort to this, feeling fairly cheesy and sheepish about it at the time, only for it to end up working in my favor over time.
Self-love…yeah, let’s talk about that. That one is tougher. Or maybe it’s not actually tougher, but it’s probably at least a longer time coming.
First, you have to get past the term – “self-love”. It sounds so self-serving, and after you’ve been in a relationship with a pathological narcissist and/or psychopath, it’s only natural to rail against it. One could even say it might be a trigger.
I had to take it in baby steps. I couldn’t jump straight to “self-love”. I had to start with intermediates like “self-respect”, “self-support”, “self-like”, and “self-friend”, in no particular order.
Then, one day, I realized I wanted to hug my knees to my chest. I also realized that that felt like giving myself a hug. I refused to feel any shame in hugging myself. If no one else was going to do it, and if I was indeed Enough, then I was sure as hell allowed to show myself a few good vibes.
Then I started standing up for myself where it counted. If someone was behaving a little too over-the-top or stepping out of bounds, I pushed back gently-but-firmly, driving the stake of my boundaries further into my soil. I would be okay standing for X, but I would not stand for Y.
I have indeed told people, rather bluntly in a straightforward manner (heh) that I won’t tolerate This kind of behavior or being treated That way. Or, I have told them what I want or need, in a way that conveys just the right amount of gentle authority while steering why of being bossy or appearing vulnerable.
State your business, dear ones. No qualms.
Let’s see…what else have I done in the past year? I’ve taken other steps. The divorce is old news, but newer readers might not know exactly why.
The reason I filed for divorce was actually multifactorial–meaning, there were multiple reasons. There was the financial deception issue (there often is, dear ones, narcopaths are infamously married to Their Stuff), the lack-of-affection issue (don’t get me started), and last but certainly not least…well, we’ll just call it the Interest In Children and leave it at that. To my knowledge, that’s as far as it goes anyway. I still can’t say much more for reasons of my own.
For many who wish to dissolve their marriage, but especially for those involved with narcissists or psychopaths, it’s extremely important that you take steps before filing–even before seeking the divorce attorney–to protect yourself. You need to know that the narcissist/psychopath is going to play hardball of some variety, so you need to play hardball back, albeit very subtly. You want to make sure they don’t know what hit them. It sounds harsh and underhanded, but actually it’s not. To put it simply, “you gotta do what you gotta do”. And trust me on this one: you gotta do it.
I managed to scale a steep learning curve, catching up on everything from electronic banking to ordering merchandise online. I opened my first CashApp and Amazon accounts. I downloaded my first online banking apps. I learned to organize a household. I also managed to learn to cook several excellent dishes for myself and figure out a(n eventual) path to financial security. And many other skills, too.
Knowledge is power, and scaling learning curves is empowerment.
Learn new information; amass more knowledge; gain more power.
I got this, and if you’re in a similar situation, so do you ❤