Usually the terse summary of an article comes at the very end, after I’ve blethered on for 1,000 words or so. Ah, but this article is going to be summed up at the beginning. So, how do you summarize a very codependent marriage? I steal it shamelessly from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen:
“You are each of you so complying,
that nothing will ever be resolved on;
so easy, that every servant will cheat you;
and so generous,
that you will always exceed your income.”
Now comes the blethering part because I’ve been codependent from the age of four and I very much suspect my darling husband is a codependent too. We are both, after all, Adult Children from narcissistic, abusive and, in my husband’s case, alcoholic homes. How could we not be codependent!?
Now codependents are very nice people indeed and when they marry all goes splendidly, except for one thing. “Nothing [is] ever resolved on.” Here’s what I’ve learned from six years of a very codependent marriage indeed.
Let’s say one us is cold. Now, a normal person would say, “I’m cold, dammit. I’m turning off the blasted air conditioner” and do just that.
Not in a codependent home! Oh dear me, no! This is how our conversation goes. The person who’s shivering starts off by asking…
“Arrrrre you ccccccccold?”
“Oh, okay.” There is then a pause. The warm partner looks up from their reading after realizing all-is-not-well-in-the-kingdom and says mildly, “Well, if you’re cold, turn off the air conditioner” and goes back to their book.
“Nnnnno. I don’t want you to be hot. I’ll just put on my bathrrrrrrrobbbbbbe.”
“Turn off the blasted air conditioner.”
“Oh, alright. But let me turn on the fan for you so you don’t get hot.”
And so it goes.
Sometimes, despite being nicey-nice-nice people, one of us will inadvertently say something we think will hurt the other’s feelings…only it doesn’t. The conversation then goes something like this.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I’m sorry if it hurt your feelings.”
“Oh, I didn’t mind it a bit.” This is honest. The other person either didn’t hear it or didn’t mind it in the least. But that doesn’t stop the guilt.
“I shouldn’t have said it. I was just frustrated at the moment.”
“I wasn’t hurt. It’s fine.”
“I should’ve just kept my big mouth shut.”
“Okay, now I am getting mad. Just drop it, will you!”
And so it goes.
As I see it, a marriage between two codependents will probably work out very well. Compromise is second nature to both of them already. They’re already gentle and careful of wounding other people’s emotions.
But sometimes, it can go too far because there’s an inherent kernel dishonesty in codependency. We say what we assume the other person wants to hear sometimes. Sooner or later, the other person gets wise to our kindly-meant prevarications. Here’s a great example. This morning, I noticed my husband was pushing his fried eggs off his buttered toast and eating the toast separately.
“Oh! Do you want jam for that?” I asked.
And I didn’t believe him!! Was he saying “nope” because he really didn’t want jam or “nope” because he didn’t want me to jump up to fetch him the jam? I really didn’t know if he was being codependently nice or perfectly honest. That’s where the difficulty in a perfectly codependent marriage between two perfectly codependent codependents comes into play.
My inclination was to fetch the jam anyways, but I stopped myself. It was hard but I did it. Ah, a triumph!
The other day, I asked Michael if he wanted to attend an upcoming cultural event. By the time he got done speaking his piece, I’d heard “yes,” “no,” “maybe” and “well, what do you want to do, Lenora” all in the same run-on sentence. It was frustrating. Then I said my piece, “Well, it’d be fun but we don’t have to. I don’t care either way. Whatever you want to do.” Ah, the pot calleth the kettle!
As you might imagine, nothing has been resolved on and I’ve no idea whether we’re going or not!!! This is what is jocularly known as “Playing it by ear.”
Adding codependent, nicey-nice-nice friends to the mix doesn’t help either. Oh how frustrating it was just trying to decide what restaurant to frequent when Michael and I went on double-dates with another couple. No one would be honest. No one would come out with a firm opinion and stick to it. Everyone was yielding. Everyone hinted at where they wanted to eat, but concluded “I don’t really care. Wherever y’all want to eat is fine with me.” Oh! I made me want to scream!
It reminds me of that hilarious scene in You Can’t Take It With You where Jimmy Stewart is dating Jean Arthur and says to her…
“We had a date, don’t you remember?…Yeah, we ought to discuss where to go, don’t you think? We can’t just pop out of the building with no place to go. That’s a very bad idea. I knew two people that did that once. They went out of the building. They were uncertain, so they just walked and walked, and finally they died… …of hunger. You wouldn’t want anything like that to happen.”
I was usually the one who got fed up first. Hey! My blood sugar is mercurial and this tummy’s gotta get filled on time. My stomach doesn’t have time to be “nice.” So we’d all end up eating where I wanted to eat.
And then I felt like a jerk! Like an obstinate, opinionated jerk when really I was just the only honest person in the bunch and someone had to make a decision before we all starved to death.
Do I have a magical solution to a codependent marriage? No, not really. After all, a marriage between two codependents is probably one of the kindest, gentlest, happiest marriages on the planet.
All I’d say is: “Honesty is the best policy.” Just speak your piece, then compromise. Don’t compromise before stating your true opinion by assuming you already know what your spouse wants and trying to please them instead of being honest about what you want. Being so “yielding that nothing is ever resolved on” may be the only source of angst and doubt in an otherwise very happy, trusting marriage.
My husband always says, “When you ‘ass+u+me’ you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.” Catchy, ain’t it.