Archive for co-dependency


Posted in fiction, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2012 by kimmy

He hadn’t known him long, but liked his wry sense of humor.  It helped lessen the otherwise suffocating atmosphere at work and made the time confined within the white cubicles more bearable.  It was over their shared wall that he first heard the suggestion that changed his life.

“Why don’t we have a few beers after work?”

They stopped at a local tavern later that afternoon.  A grizzled man was playing the piano accompanied by a sultry vocalist dressed in red.  She seemed out-of-place, like a cabaret singer from the 1960s stuck in a college dive.  It didn’t hinder her performance however, and by evening’s end, he was enchanted.

“You like her?” slurred his buddy.  “I could hook you up, you know…”

After her last set, she joined them at the bar and he knew, despite the beer fog, he was on dangerous ground.  She had a wide, little girl smile and smelled like cinnamon.   His pal lurched to his feet and kissed her directly on the lips.

“My friend here wants to meet you, babygirl…”  He squeezed her for a moment before offering his chair.  “I think he likes you.”

She sat down and looked up at her admirer.  “Is that so?”  Her voice was like a bell.

He took a swig from his bottle before answering.  Maybe his new-found friend was more of a dick than he thought.  He shrugged it off and changed the subject.  Compliments were easier to manage.

“Why, thank you, sir,” she said, a little more coyly than he expected.  “I didn’t think anybody was paying attention to my set list.”

They exchanged opinions about composers and old standards.  She was more intelligent than he’d hoped.  And before the night was over, he secretly planned a return engagement, one that didn’t include his mouthy friend.

“I saw the way you looked at her, bro,” said he, the very next morning.  “You know, I think the two of you would be perfect together.”

He slurped his coffee.  “No, I mean it.  She’s like my little sister and I want to see her happy.  Better you than that douchebag she’s with…”

With that, he sketched a brief synopsis of her life.  Married at eighteen, she was saddled with two worthless children and a dysfunctional husband who spent most of their marriage in rehab and on the dole.  She had a couple of stints as a back-up singer for national acts, but couldn’t spend any time on the road because of the demands of her family.    Eventually she gave up her dream and settled for local shows that paid enough to keep her home out of foreclosure.

The more he heard, the more anxious his inner white knight became.  Rescuing past damsels in distress had not ended well for him, but he itched for the chance to try again.  Besides, he was bored and needed a project.  He agreed to meet privately with her.

Naturally, she was everything and more than he had dreamed: Sensual, articulate, with just a hint of long-suffering that made her irresistible.  Coffee dates were followed by long phone conversations that dragged into the night, complete with sighs and confessions.  Even more exciting were those illicit moments of being alone together, her languid and warm in his arms, wondering if her silk promises would ever manifest.

He often thought about ending the affair.  He tried on several occasions, but was always met with her resolve.

“Don’t break my heart,” she begged.  “Don’t crush me underfoot like a grape.”

So he stayed, hoping rather than believing she’d keep her word and leave her husband.  He even saw the wretched man once or twice, a faded shadowlike man nursing a line of empty shot glasses at the local sports bar, and wondered what would possess her to stay with such a creature.  He listened to her stories of neglect and abuse, each one more horrifying than the next, until his ire rose and he longed to smite her foes.  Even those who resided under her roof.

One morning at work, the phone rang and he knew it was her.  He needed no caller i.d. to warn him that the voice on the other end called with bad news.  He could have scripted it for her:  I’m sorry.  It’s over.  I’m staying with my husband.  I owe it to him.  Goodbye.

He hung up the phone and stared into space.  Another botched quest for the hand of Dulcinea. He should have known better.  This princess preferred the dragon.

The office mail clerk rolled by, dumping a sheaf of envelopes before him.  He opened each one slowly with a silver opener, cutting through the paper like a knife across his throat and poured their white contents across his desk in a heap.

“What the hell are you doing?”

He looked up absently into the face of his cubicle cell-mate peering over the wall.

“What’s with you trying to meddle and bust up her marriage?” he whispered angrily.   “Why you do me like that, bro?  She’s family! She’s got kids and an old man at home who really loves her!”  He looked at him with contempt before sliding behind the wall.  “You’re the douche now….”

He sighed.  It seemed all would-be heroes become villains in the end, so he sold his condo and transferred to San Diego with the hope that his bad luck wouldn’t follow.  The sunny climate suited him and so did the office.  One promotion followed the other until he became regional manager and started travelling.

One trip brought him full circle, back to his hometown and smack into a storm of gossip and suspicion.  He learned that in the months following his transfer, he had garnered an unsavory name as a player and homewrecker.   Calls to old friends and acquaintances went unanswered.  Even his old office drinking buddy avoided him.  He was treated as a visitor and nothing more, as if his previous life never existed.

It was only during the flight home that he realized how he had been outmaneuvered.  Only the ruthless sacrifice others for gain. He smiled sadly to himself, recalling false promises made in the dark. It wasn’t enough that he was misled; he must be assigned the fault as well.

He reclined his seat and gazed at the clouds passing by his port window.  There would be no more quests in his future, for he had finally learned that not all fair maidens play fairly.



Posted in writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2012 by kimmy

If you had to tally it all –time, money, effort, heartache- how much have you spent just to possess it?

Sally and Tom were the type of couple that, in my estimation, would surely beat the odds and have a reasonably happy future together. They were in their early fifties when they met and presumably long past the impulsiveness of youth. He was a retired union pipe-fitter who had just opened the business of his dreams, a café; she was a speech therapist dividing her time between several local elementary schools.  Both divorced and familiar with sting of being deceived by others, they were as brutally honest as possible with each other.  This transparency worked well for them, as they both had considerable baggage from the past.  Tom was a recovering addict, a 12-Stepper, determined to start his life anew.  Sally struggled with co-dependency all her life, but after jettisoning a long-absent husband and spending countless hours in therapy, she too was ready for a brand new life.

Initally, they were only friends and spent most of their time hanging out with mutual acquaintances.  Before long, they discovered they had more than intellectual interests in common and became lovers, much to Sally’s delight.  It was, for her, the end of a years-long sexual dry spell and she welcomed her newly found womanliness with enthusiasm.  Tom, being handsome, fit and middle-aged, never experienced such a famine and had his pick of many eager ladies.  However, he was honest and respectful of Sally.  The numbers of interested women gradually dwindled to only one, and within a few short months, he moved in with her and they began a quiet domestic life.  Content at last, the years passed in serenity…

…until Sally sent me a blunt message on Facebook a couple of weeks ago saying that after four years of apparent contentment, she had ended the relationship.  We met over breakfast last Sunday.

“He finally moved the rest of his stuff out of the garage,” she said calmly, taking a bite of omelette.  “… and I’m only forty grand worse off.”

The restaurant was crowded and noisy.  “Forty what?”  I asked.

“Thousand dollars,” she shouted.  “With all the back rent, groceries, utilities, dinners out, plus all the money I gave him to keep his business afloat, I figured he owes me about forty thousand dollars.”

I nearly choked on my egg-whites.  “You can’t be serious, Sal.”

She was.  She had bankrolled him, personally and professionally, for years and was uncertain when, if ever, he would repay her.

“He gave me a check for fifty dollars last week,” she said with a sigh, “only after I hounded him and threatened to get an attorney.  At this rate, I’ll be dead before it’s all repaid.”

For a woman out 40k and her man, she was remarkably dry-eyed.  Over the next hour, I learned that Tom’s money management skills were almost as bad as his weakness for women.  He had never turned a profit from his business and relied upon Sally’s monthly handouts to pay his employees and supplies.  She, being a generous soul, gave freely and didn’t even ask him to pitch him for their home expenses.  He, being a consuming soul, took freely and never volunteered to split expenses.  Neither would he follow Sally’s business savvy and did nothing but watch his business founder and eventually close.

It was only after months of idleness and unemployment did he finally return to pipefitting.  His union paid him well, but he never offered Sally a penny.  And so it would have continued indefinitely had not Sally wearied of the burden and demanded that Tom pitch in for their mutual expenses.  He decided to move out instead.

“He said his mother needed him, but I suspect he needs her more,” she said with a wink.   “I found some cancelled checks in the trash piles he left; his mother has been giving him money, too.”

Her remark was cavalier, but I’ve known Sally for years.  She has a big heart and it’s easily bruised.  “Your attitude is amazing.  You seem so calm.”

“I wasn’t always like this,” she admitted.  “I spend a lot of time drinking wine at night.  But I heard a song on the radio when I was driving over this morning and it really made me smile.  Remember that Beatles’ song, Can’t Buy Me Love?”

Of course I did.

“I think I was trying to buy Tom’s love and look what it got me.”

I reflected upon her words during my long ride home.  Did Sally think so little of herself that she had to purchase companionship, or was it symptomatic of a deeper ill, maybe a collective fear?  Who among us hasn’t gone above and beyond for someone who wasn’t worthy?   We’re hurt, we’re ashamed, but the fault does not lay with our exploiter.  Until we truly believe we merit the very best, we will be confounded by the less-than.


Posted in relationships, social commentary, writing with tags , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2009 by kimmy

After witnessing the collapse of yet another friend’s long-term relationship, I wondered what all these women had in common.  Aside from shouldering the lion’s share of the work involved, it seemed that all of them were exceptionally giving and tolerant women.  Strange, then, that they were assigned the unfair moniker of fickle.

We gathered one night to discuss our mutual woes.  It was ironic that even after bolting, they were still concerned with the welfare of everyone else but themselves. 

“My priest says I’m going straight to hell if I don’t take him back.  Do you think he’s right?” 

I couldn’t help but laugh.  Only a celibate man would have the balls to make such a statement.  I asked her if Father Flannigan knew about her husband’s infidelities.  She confessed that he did, but advised her that since a man’s needs were so much greater and important than her own, she’d best turn a blind eye for the sake of the children.  Savvy advice indeed.  Of course he failed to mention than if she contracts HIV from her wayward husband, the kids will have to do without a mother. 

“I don’t want to be a single parent.  The kids need a father.”

Lots of guilty tears accompanied that one.   It seemed ironic that despite her remorse, she didn’t realize that for the last 10 years she has been the defacto parent while Mr. Right travelled the world.  She was absolutely correct; the children do need a father.  I suggested that she go out and find a suitable one immediately.

“I’m terrified of being alone.  Isn’t the devil you know better than the one you don’t?”

Sure, if you don’t mind selling your soul.  I couldn’t help but wonder why she rued leaving her alcoholic boyfriend.  Did she think she could love him into sobriety?  I thought that after his third DUI, she would finally gather the courage to leave.  Pity she waited until he actually broadsided another vehicle.  Now she can add the guilt of a stranger’s injuries to her list.

As the self-blame fest continued, it seemed odd that the shortcomings of their (now former) partners were not mentioned.  It seemed that no matter the circumstance, each woman assigned herself the responsibility of failure, a choice eagerly endorsed by their errant lovers. 

“Greg’s telling everyone that I had a nervous breakdown.”

Of course he is.  That way he’s completely excused for his behavior, assumes none of the responsibility and is free to commit the same blunders with another woman.

“Marv told the kids that I’ve become a lesbian.”

When all else fails, try character attacks.  If it works on the campaign trail, it can work for any resentful dumpee.  Just describe the opponent in the worst possible light and then feign innocence when questioned.   Simply blame those tear-filled, late-night calls to her girlfriends for any misconception, and walk away.  It doesn’t matter if her reputation is besmirched.  This is war! 

Now logic dictates that these behaviors are co-dependent.  A clear-thinking woman would notice it and make the necessary changes to keep her sanity.  But what of those who are so caught up in fixing others that they don’t even know the damage wrought to themselves?  My grandmother once told me that if you don’t want others to tread on you, you must stop acting the doormat.

Maybe it’s time to put the welcome mat into storage.