Showing Up

Self-Care is Hard

Last week, I signed up LA Fitness and went through the fitness evaluation. I did not sign up for personal training, but I told the guy who evaluated me that I would be coming to the gym and working out on my own.

I haven’t really started doing that yet.

Why?

Because I realized that if I go to the gym every night during the week immediately after work, the only days I will see John are Saturday, Sunday, and Monday because he leaves for work around 6:30p and gets home around 8:30a, after I have left for work.

And I felt guilty. Or felt like if I go, I am abandoning some part of my marriage by choosing to do something for myself over seeing my husband every night before he goes to work.

This is not even close to the only time I go through these thought cycles.

My issues and struggles in our marriage that come up every time we have a fight are that I am resentful because I am putting him first and trying to meet his needs and expect him to do the same, and he doesn’t and really, honestly, can’t. Not because he’s a terrible husband, but because a lot of my frustrations I am putting on myself. I do resent him at times for my perception of him as unavailable and closed off, but I mostly resent myself because I see myself as doing all of the work, getting nothing in return, and I am putting myself and my needs on the altar to be sacrificed for the sake of our marriage.

It has always been way easier for me to put all of my focus on my relationships and trying to make other people feel wanted and needed than to focus on my relationship with myself and my needs and desires. It is ingrained in me and has been from the very beginning.

In college, I saw my first therapist who listened to me tell her about my family history and everything I’d been through – and was still currently going through – and she listened, took notes, then recommended a book for me by Melody Beattie called Codependent No More.

I think I need to read it again now, some 17 years later.

Catching up on Shameless last night, I heard Fiona and Lip talking about the questions for Al-Anon, and one of them was about putting the needs of others before yourself. I went to see if I could find the actual questions online and I found Codependents Anonymous instead.

On their website, there is a list of patterns often seen in codependents, and I can check off quite a bit of them. Here are the ones that I know I do:

 

  1. Denial Patterns:
    • minimize, alter, or deny how they truly feel
    • think they can take care of themselves without any help from others
    • mask pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation
    • express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways
    • label others with their negative traits
  2. Low Self-Esteem Patterns:
    • have difficulty making decisions
    • judge what they think, say, or do harshly, as never good enough
    • are embarrassed to receive recognition, praise, or gifts
    • value others’ approval of their thinking, feelings, and behavior over their own
    • do not perceive themselves as lovable or worthwhile persons
    • seek recognition and praise to overcome feeling less than
    • have difficulty admitting a mistake
    • need to appear to be right in the eyes of others and may even lie to look good
    • are unable to identify or ask for what they need and want
    • look to others to provide their sense of safety
    • have difficulty getting started, meeting deadlines, and completing projects
    • have trouble setting healthy priorities and boundaries
  3. Compliance Patterns:
    • are extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long
    • compromise their own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger
    • put aside their own interests in order to do what others want
    • are hypervigilant regarding the feelings of others and take on those feelings
    • are afraid to express their beliefs, opinions, and feelings when they differ from those of others
    • accept sexual attention when they want love
    • give up their truth to gain the approval of others or to avoid change
  4. Control Patterns:
    • have to feel needed in order to have a relationship with others
    • demand that their needs be met by others
    • use blame and shame to exploit others emotionally
    • adopt an attitude of indifference, helplessness, authority, or rage to manipulate outcomes
    • pretend to agree with others to get what they want
  5. Avoidance Patterns:
    • act in ways that invite others to reject, shame, or express anger toward them
    • judge harshly what others think, say, or do
    • avoid emotional, physical, or sexual intimacy as a way to maintain distance
    • allow addictions to people, places, and things to distract them from achieving intimacy in relationships
    • use indirect or evasive communication to avoid conflict or confrontation
    • suppress their feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable
    • pull people toward them, but when others get close, push them away
    • refuse to give up their self-will to avoid surrendering to a power greater than themselves
    • believe displays of emotion are a sign of weakness
    • withhold expressions of appreciation

 

A lot, huh? And unfortunately, John bears the brunt of a lot of this behavior. When we had our fight and I finally said a lot of the things I had felt unable to say, he asked, “Why don’t you talk to me like this to begin with?”

Because I don’t know how to. Because I’ve never felt allowed to. Because I feel like I will be judged or rejected for it. Because I still feel like a burden and too much and like I can’t ask for what I want or express how I feel. I just expect eye rolls, heavy sighs, and projections of shame, resentment, and anger like I always received growing up. “You’re the one with something wrong with you, not me.” That sort of thing.

I don’t speak up soon enough when my feelings are hurt or when there is something I want or need. I want sex but I don’t initiate so the only time we have sex is when John initiates which isn’t as often as I’d like to have sex. My reasoning for not initiating is that I fear rejection and I struggle so much to feel like I deserve sex and pleasure or like I am desirable because I still have such deeply rooted issues with my body shape, size, and weight.

But yet, I push all of that down and continue seeking validation, affirmation, and acceptance from John. I also don’t talk about what I really think or feel with my mom because if any of it goes against how she thinks or feels, a fight ensues and I feel completely powerless and feel like I have to earn my way back into her good graces so I continue to feel loved and accepted by her.

I am someone who desires being known wholly, but who is also afraid of this if it means by doing so, I create conflict with the people who want me to be who they want me to be. To believe in God the way they do. To have the same political opinions. To go against this creates a backlash, and I find myself scrambling and pretending to agree and pretending to believe something I don’t so I’m not once again rejected and abandoned.

During our fight back in January, I told John I too often try to meet his needs and ignore what I want. That year and a half that I lived on my own before I met John was the one brief time in my life where I had only myself to worry about. I could move freely. Go where I wanted. Do what I wanted. Sit in my pajamas all day, all weekend long and not worry about being seen as lazy or unattractive or boring. I ate what I wanted. Went to bed when I wanted. It was quiet, I was alone, and I really grew to love it.

Being married with two small, very needy dogs, life is a lot different. I love both of our dogs (and I loved Louie, who recently passed), but oh my god, they need so much. Sometimes it is sweet, and I like being on the couch with them on each side of me. Other times, it feels like way too much, and I want to go into another room, and I can’t stand the idea of anyone or anything touching me.

So much of this is because I spend so much energy trying to meet others’ needs and keep others happy that I am overwhelmed. I know no one has asked me to do this. John doesn’t want me to be his mother. He knows he has a great one. I have dug into my maternal instinct for so long, I don’t know how to dial it back.

I know I’ve seen myself as a martyr and victim to this, I still do sometimes. I know why I do it. I know it can be manipulative as well as controlling. I also see how I use it to avoid taking care of myself.

Self-care is hard. It has always felt selfish and like I’m not supposed to do it but allow someone else to do it, though that is way too much to put on another person. I’m not saying I shouldn’t allow someone else to be there for me, listen to me, or help me. It’s not black or white, and John shows up in so many ways to do those things. I lose sight of it sometimes because I still carry a dysfunctional view from my dysfunctional family of what it means to be in a relationship with someone and to love and be loved by them.

I told John last night how I felt torn about going to the gym after work and not seeing him. He said, well, you can get up and go early in the morning. I said, yeah, no, I value my sleep and don’t want to go to bed early. He said, well, just go after work then. Simple as that, I guess.

I don’t think he worries about our marriage the way I do, but maybe he also knows I’m worrying so much about it he doesn’t have to. He also doesn’t seek validation or approval from me, which I just realized it this week.

I love John and want to be married to him, of course, but I also want to get back some of what I stopped doing (of my own volition) when he and the dogs moved in. I am not the sole guardian of our marriage nor the sole gatekeeper. I don’t have to do all of the work. I need to understand that I am safe to speak up and I will be heard even if I don’t always get the response I want. I am still figuring this out.

I’m going to go to the gym after work. I need some exercise for my self-care. I also need to learn to differentiate self-care from the diet mentality, but that’s another post of its own that is likely coming. I need to put my oxygen mask on.

I put in a request for that Melody Beattie book so I can read it again.

I know I need to try therapy again as well as see a HAES/IE nutritionist to help me work through my dysfunctional history with food and my body.

I know I need to work on my relationship with myself and stop doing my own projecting on others, especially John.

It feels so uncomfortable and difficult, but I know it is necessary. This is just another level of all of the work and healing I’ve already done. I guess the closer to the center of the pain I get, the harder the layer is to peel off. This feels like the hardest one thus far, but I guess so did all of them as I progressed through them. Healing is the hardest thing we can do in life.

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