Are You Codependent?
I never ask for what I need, I put others’ feelings ahead of my own. There’s a name for that.
-Melina Gerosa Bellows
I feel sorry for the clothes in my closet. I’m talking about the clothes I really don’t like. Every time I open my closet, they look at me forlornly because they don’t get out much. So I spend time, time that I don’t have, trying them on yet again, only for the mirror to tell me what I already know: That 90s power suit really does look horrendous. But instead of banishing these offenders from the crowded space, I replace them apologetically. “Maybe next time,” I say without conviction, as if they’re contestants on American Idol. Meanwhile, the clothes that work are totally compromised, because I can’t find them mixed in with all the dreck.
You think it’s nutty that I worry about clothes? I’ve worried about soda. In high school, my friend Karen and I were having Diet Cokes, and we both had a little bit left in our glasses. I finished mine, because that seemed like the obvious thing to do, but Karen did not. The inch of Diet Coke just sat there in her glass. The sight of it made me anxious.
“You’re not going to finish that?” I said. “No,” she said. “I’m not thirsty any more.”
“But what about the soda??” I felt like asking but didn’t.
That’s when I realized a huge difference in our perspectives: While Karen identified with the feelings inside herself, I identified with any object, living or not, outside myself. Back then it was the soda in the glass; these days it’s the clothes in my closet, the driver blocked behind me while I’m taking a left, the dog who wants to be petted outside of Starbucks, and pretty much every single member of my family if they have a need greater than my own. Considering the needs I project onto inanimate objects, you can image the response that real people elicit from me.
Meanwhile, what am I feeling? What do I need from other people? Somehow, that doesn’t seem to matter nearly as much.
There’s a name for this condition — “codependence.” Basically, people who are co-dependent are excessively concerned with others’ feelings, believing these feelings to be more important than their own. (The classic codependent get-well card: “I feel bad when you feel bad. Please feel better soon.”)