Codependent, Still

Because woman cannot live on antidepressants alone, I went to a therapist this week. My previous therapist, whom I’d stopped seeing a couple of years ago because I thought I had it all figured out, has retired and moved to an artist community in the Southwest. The Indian Earth Mother had given me a referral to someone new, whom Dr. McEnroe subtly pooh-poohed and steered me in the direction of someone new, and younger. Someone who didn’t dress in long skirts and cowboy boots, bejeweled from head to toe in turquoise. Which is good, because I was getting tired of the Indian Earth Mother perspective. I wanted someone a little less bohemian looking. After Mack, bohemian was a source of irritation. So now I have a younger woman (seemingly my age) who dresses in black skinny jeans and black sheepskin UGGs folded down so the furry fleece shows. I don’t get UGGs, except that when I see someone wearing them, I think, “Uggggggg.” But they suit my new therapist (I’ll call her Annie), and kind of made me want to try a pair.

Annie proceeded to delve into my ridiculous family history, segueing into what brought me there that day. I told her I’d had a semi-recent breakup with a man who was bad for me, I had kept going back to him even though I knew he was bad for me, and I was drawn to him in the first place, even though I knew he was not good for me. I told Annie I wanted to move past the whole thing, and make sure there isn’t a repeat. And if I couldn’t make that happen, I was going to stick with cats. Or maybe branch out and add a dog to the family.

I told her about Mack, about the fact that he has no income and lives off the fruits of others’ labors. I told her he’s a musician, and a writer, and claims he can’t make a living at that, and it’s not his fault, it’s society’s for undervaluing the arts. Annie said, “That just pisses me off when musicians think they’re given a pass at earning a living.” As it turns out, Annie is married to a musician. And guess what, he has a day job, too. He works to contribute to the support of his family and his relationship with Annie. Annie then made a great point, which is one of my big takeaways from our first meeting: “Mack can’t even take care of himself. Which means he certainly can’t take care of a relationship.” Well, when you put it like that.

Then we got into the reason I was drawn to Mack in the first place, and why I found it so difficult to get out, when I knew the relationship was knocking my whole world off kilter. And turning me into someone I don’t like much. Of course it goes back to my family history; the alcoholic father who was mostly neglectful, and when he wasn’t, he was abusive and violent; the manipulative, controlling, codependent mother, who loved to portray herself as the put-upon martyr. Blah, blah, blah. Apparently because of this history, I’ve been involved with a number of shitty men. I’ve also been involved with some good ones. But the majority have been alcoholics or abusive or mentally unstable. Or perhaps, all three.

Mack is a binge drinker and is prone to other addictive behavior, based on what he’s told me about the different 12-step groups he’s attended. He’s also never been faithful in any of his relationships. Except with me, he claims. I know why Mack is this way. His father was a gambler who kept the family in dire financial straits. His mother was verbally and physically abusive. She left his father for someone more stable, financially and otherwise. Mack and I both come from some pretty extreme family dysfunction. This is why I was drawn to him. Why I felt sorry for him. Why I wanted to help him have a better, happier, more productive life. I think Mack wanted that, too. But he just couldn’t pull it off. I kept thinking he might, which is why I kept hanging on even though my life was unraveling.

After all these years, I still can’t say: Codependent, no more.

Knowing why I got involved with Mack is not much help. In fact, it’s rather alarming. After all the years of therapy (individual and group), journaling, EMDR, SCT,  Alanon, antidepressants, exercise, sunshine, and moving away from my fucked up family to a different city. After all that, and still I find myself mixed up with the same old mixed up men. Does therapy even do any good?  Can people ever really change?

While I was dating Mack, I once told myself this is how it’s always going to be. I either had to be alone, or be with someone like Mack. For a brief time, I chose Mack. Now, I see I’m better off alone.

Is this it? Is this the choice I have to make?:

1.  Alone (with cats); or

2.  Toxic codependent relationship


Hopefully, a third choice will emerge:

3.  Healthy relationship–a partnership–with a nice guy (yes, nice!) who likes cats.


Otherwise, I’m sticking with #1.

About UB Ella

UB Ella (f/k/a Unconfirmed Bachelorette) is a 50-something recovered lawyer who left the practice of law to embrace a full-time writing life. Never-married, child-free Ella resides in Austin, Texas and Ontario, Canada with her four bad cats.
This entry was posted in Better-than-nothing, Depression, Getting Unstuck, Love, Marriage, Mid-Life, Moving On, Relationships, Settling, Starting Over and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Codependent, Still

  1. 18mitzvot says:

    I love this post.
    “I told her I’d had a semi-recent breakup with a man who was bad for me, I had kept going back to him even though I knew he was bad for me, and I was drawn to him in the first place, even though I knew he was not good for me. I told Annie I wanted to move past the whole thing, and make sure there isn’t a repeat. And if I couldn’t make that happen, I was going to stick with cats.”

    If you could just tell me everything you learned in counselling, then I wouldn’t need to go! Can you do that?


    • I could, but then you might decide it’s safer to forgo romantic entanglement altogether. I’m guessing that’s not where you’d like to end up. But if so, I can definitely help.


      • 18mitzvot says:

        True. I still want the fantasy and tonite I am feeling very optimistic.
        But I am missing my cat more than my ex!
        (Kitty’s still in Israel, waiting for me.)


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