Published on October 5th, 2012 | by Healthy Gay Lifestyles2
Co-dependent to (Insert Name Here)
In March of 2000 I escaped the small mid-western city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa to start a new life in Omaha, Nebraska. After being laid off from my marketing job of ten years, through a series of crazy buyouts, it was time to start my new life as a gay man. I was too well known in this community and knew I needed to re-discover myself elsewhere for who I was. I was sure moving to a larger city would allow me to live under the radar, and begin a new life.
Within minutes of arriving in Omaha I was racing downtown to check out the gay bars. Since my hobby was horse barrel racing there really was only one choice for me. All the “masculine” men and “cowboys” hung out at DC’s, and it was where I felt I belonged.
Literally the first ever Saturday night I went to DC’s I met him. He had me at “eye contact” from across the bar. I can still recall the mental picture of that moment. We had a few beers, talked and he walked me to my truck. I remember asking him if he was a “good kisser,” a moment we would often reflect on in years to come.
Co-dependency, by definition, means making your relationship more important to you than you are to yourself. It also often involves placing a lower priority on one’s own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others.
To say I was swept off my feet would be a dramatic understatement. This guy owned half of the town, made me laugh every day, was handsome and sexy as hell, had a strong work ethic, and we were perfectly matched as lovers. The next few months were truly a dream come true. I fell in love, hard and fast.
Two months into our relationship I still hadn’t been invited to his farm. It made more sense for him to come into town to my place, so I hadn’t really questioned him. When I persisted why we never stayed at his farm he finally had to let the cat out of the bag.
The truth was he lived on a farm with his Ex-lover. It was a duplex house and they each had their own separate home. He claimed they had not been committed as boyfriends, or had sex, for over 15 years, but since bringing guys home in the past had been problematic, they had agreed not to bring other men out to the farm.
Of course I was devastated, crushed and angry and told him he would have to change their agreement or I would be forced to end our relationship. He promised to change the living arrangement, but requested a few months time. I knew then and there that if I stayed with him it would take from who I was as a person.
Co-dependency occurs when two people form a relationship with each other because neither feels that he or she can “stand alone.” Neither person feels capable or self-reliant. It is as if two half parts are trying to make a whole. Both partners are seeking to become psychologically complete by binding the other partner to themselves.
Months, and then years went by, but nothing changed. I was invited to the farm a couple of times, but it was only during the day when his Ex was at work. I continued to address the issues from time to time and he would always say he would change…he just needed time. But he never did. In my heart I know he really wanted to change at times, but when it came right down to it, he just couldn’t. Later on I would learn that his Ex cooked for him and did his laundry. Why would he want to change that, when he could have his cake and eat it too.
It sounds crazy to me now, but I now know why I settled for less:
- I truly loved him and wanted to spend my life with him.
- I believed he loved me and would change to keep me.
- I had moved to a new town and had no friends or family there.
- Sex was great…every time!
- I was just coming out when I met him and was learning to like me as a gay man.
- Although he was wealthy he never really helped me much financially. I had employment issues a couple of times and was afraid to be alone and end up out on the street. He owned hundreds of apartments and twenty some farms.
- He manipulated me by making broken promises of changing, building us a house to live in together and retiring at fifty-five.
Many co-dependent partners report feeling “let down,” “taken advantage of,” or “trapped” by their needy partner when they are really “trapped” by their own overwhelming neediness. This kind of interaction is grounded in desperation and often spawns abusive and obsessive relationships grounded in neediness and control rather than love and respect.
After nine years, things were changing. I was doing better financially and my confidence was at a heightened level. After so many broken promises it simply was too self-defeating for me to endure being with him any longer. I never stopped loving him, but I knew my needs were never going to be met.
One way to end a relationship is to find and start a new one. I met another man and didn’t look back. It was through this new relationship that I ended up in counseling and learned about Co-dependency. You cannot imagine how angry and embarrassed I felt once I realized I had just been giving in to his control and never insisting my own needs be met.
Unlike being gay, co-dependents are made, not born. Hiding from ourselves and depending on things outside for our self-esteem were lessons taught in childhood. Because our co-dependency is something learned one lesson at a time, we can unlearn it one lesson at a time.
Even after learning why I stayed in an unhappy relationship as long as I did and that I was co-dependent, I still find myself falling back into old habits at times. Sometimes I find myself seeking approval from someone and catch myself. It always surprises me, and is frustrating to keep repeating bad behaviors. But at least I catch myself now and I know I cannot enter into a co-dependent relationship again.
And sometimes I find myself searching for a romantic partner to give me all the love my family couldn’t. However there is no way that other people, no matter how much they love us, can make up to us for an unhappy childhood. Before we can love others, really love them, we need to learn to love ourselves.
The cure for co-dependency comes from the inside. I am the only one who can teach myself to live from the inside out and fill that empty space inside of me. Once I am able to stop trading my time and affection for positive self-esteem in return, I’ll be free to discover caring based on mutual trust and emotional intimacy.