This painting. It conveys shock and amusement and embarrassment and disbelief in a single strayed streak of lipstick. The idea that she thought she had it all together, and then her pride was handed to her with her daily espresso. Here you go, Miss. And you’re welcome.
Yesterday, my Higher Power flexed His funny bone.
The theme of the day was: Agency.
My sponsor bluntly pointed out that my feeling unable to plan the weekend because he frequently cancels said plans in deference to the kids’ whims–was my shit. My therapist wisely suggested that our argument last Saturday–was a verbal one-two punch. Later still, my sponsor would remind me that by not clearly setting expectations, I’m not giving him a chance to rise to the occasion–again, agency.
The damn Triangle strikes again.
Let’s be clear: Having agency is not the same as having fault. Recovery requires new language. We’re not categorizing by good or bad. Rather, healthy and unhealthy.
When during our argument Saturday, he expressed that he often felt unsafe in our relationship, my first thought–always a codependent thought–thrust me into guilt and shame. Was I the monster he accused me of being? The ‘creator of codependents’? The manipulative partner?
If arguments have natural pauses, this was one.
I wish I had been in a better place mentally, emotionally, and physically to address this. In. This. Moment. But I wasn’t, and I let it go. I let go the opportunity to say, “me, too.”
Moments later, I would express a way I did feel unsafe. And he would respond in a healthy way. But I missed my cue to healthfully respond to his expression of vulnerability.
Last night, as we were working a flooring project together, it occurred to me that perhaps–if we’re both codependent as my sponsor suggests, if he, too, feels insecure behind the bravado, if we are trauma-bonded, and similarly triggered–perhaps–perhaps he’s feeling similarly about our relationship.
If I think about it, many of my emotions are mirrored by his own. Perhaps not as intensely or as frequently, but I am beginning to recognize them.
When my kids tested his boundaries and he expressed, “They’re being mean to me,” I took offense. When his kids criticized meals I prepared and I expressed how unappreciative they were, he took offense.
When my kids wanted to sleep over at our home and he was unwilling, I felt he was putting me in a corner. When his kids come to our home and I tense up about unspoken fears of the mess and lack of food they’ll leave, he feels put into a corner.
When he made comments about the cost of activities during our recent trip to visit the kids, I felt he was criticizing my wanting to spend money on my children. When he complains about being broke and still agrees to pay for clothes, snacks, gas, and other kid must-haves, I want to roll my eyes.
Yes, I accept that he feels unsafe.
I accept that the unhealthy behaviors I bring to our relationship would make him feel uncomfortable and guarded.
And I accept that because that, too, is my own experience.
Unhealthy behaviors of one partner make the other feel unsafe.
Inconsistency from one partner makes the other feel constantly guarded.
Frequent criticism from one partner makes the other feel devalued.
And we both bring unhealthy behaviors to this relationship, that–in tandem–have begotten unhealthy patterns.
This vicious cycle that most recently took a year to fully play out, is of our own devise. Our shared traumas have become the Achilles Heel of our relationship, while our separate traumas are the knives we each yield–most often at each other.
If he is the shark closest to my boat, I am his.