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.