The Waiting Room

For-a-woman-to-be-safe Co-dependents could be called patient because we can wait – for hours and years. When I look back my life feels like a waiting room. I waited for him to stop being angry with me. I waited for him to love me again, and to recognize my worth. I worked at getting it and waited for the time to arrive that he would finally acknowledge me. I waited for him to come home and see the labors of my day. I waited for the time that he would stop lying to me and stop taking calls in the garden. What I wanted above all else was that he would see that my particular brand of loving was superior to all others.

My love was superior because I could sit vigil and wait for him – when he was angry, drunk, or just plain missing. I could get over anything and forgive anything. Who Else would love him enough to do that? I could understand his needs and anticipate them. I had no idea how unhealthy I actually was. I could see that intellectually but emotionally I felt my love was noble and superior and with time he would see that – and so I waited for that time.

Today I understand that the particular brand of loving of the co-dependent is not noble but the ultimate paradox.

On the one hand my self-esteem was so shattered that I could be sworn at and beaten, dismissed and lied to constantly but I would go back. I would accept an apology as though it was the first time I had heard it – with relief not reservation. I didn’t think enough of myself to refuse to accept that treatment. I didn’t fall out of love and I didn’t re-evaluate respect for myself or him. I was a complete victim and lived at his mercy.

On the other hand I was a martyr. My love was not self-serving the way other people loved. Mine was self-sacrificing and noble. My forgiveness did not have limits the way other people’s did – it was endless. Only I could understand his depression that lead to his brutality and I was strong enough to endure the scars of his childhood. I was the one who would prove to him that love is strong and that no matter what he did to me I would be there – loving and forgiving and willing to help him. I was the cure to his past disappointments and I was the woman who would not leave him as the others had done. When I felt like the martyr my sense of self was at an all time high. I was strong enough for both of us and I was his crutch and person he loved enough to abuse. I was the only person he could be totally honest with. It was so perverse that his beatings were the secret we shared for a long time. The payoff here was only obvious to me with hindsight. When I was the martyr I felt like I had a purpose and I hid behind that purpose. He was my purpose and I could hide safely in that role and not attend to the challenges of my own life.

So as the victim/martyr I sat in the waiting room of my life waiting for the recognition and appreciation that I thought I deserved. My noble self-righteousness prevented me from seeing that I was nothing more than an abused wife. While I was being bludgeoned on the head I was patting myself on the back for enduring this.

I am very relieved that the misogynist is a mean-spirited beast. Had I been given just enough acknowledgement and appreciation I might still be there thinking that my particular brand of loving was superior to all else. Fortunately they lack the generosity of spirit to give just the little bit more I needed to keep me stuck in the waiting room of my life.



I was married to not one abuser, not two, but three. I fled from South Africa and from an extremely violent and traumatic marriage to a very well-known Johannesburg personality and resolved to learn a lesson and be more careful next time. In America I met a man who, on the surface, was everything that my second husband was not. Until I owned her own contribution to the dance of abuse I was destined to repeat the pattern. My story exists as proof of this. I am driven to help abused women as I know all too well what it feels like to be misunderstood and ashamed of my inability to let go of a relationship that was killing me. “It’s like wanting to hug a shark – why on earth would anyone do that?” I understand because I have been there, emerged damaged and broken from there and then – heaven forbid – went back! I know what it feels like to yearn for the love of a man who pulled out your hair, spat in your face and tried to choke you. I know what it feels like to tell people you are back there and watch their faces and see them thinking, “then you deserve what you get!” By telling my story, I hope to lift the veil of shame off abuse and encourage women to do the same. Un-silencing the voice is where true healing begins.

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Posted in abuse, codependency, domestic violence, healing, relationships
3 comments on “The Waiting Room
  1. hopefulstarr says:

    i have a very similar story of life…it is very very painful to know that as wife we did what ever on earth we could but on the other hand we did not even receive the status of a wife…


    • Yes, it is painful but please know that with healing the pain does evaporate. It is precisely for this reason that we wrote our manual, Abuse ends when you love yourself – a codependents guide dog to recovery. It will be available 11/11/2014. If you would like any further information please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      Warm regards,


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