Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Balance between Independence and Interdependence

I wrote this post a few days ago about our need for human connection. But how much need is unhealthy? When does interdependence turn into a lack of independence, or, that common “buzz” word, co-dependence?

Having been married to a drug addict, I’d see people get that look, if not even just say it out loud, “aah. You’re a co-dependent.” And maybe it’s a lack of self-knowledge on my part, but I’ve pondered this and pondered this, and still can’t believe that I am.

It’s just so easy to slap a label onto someone, and leave it at that, but I just can’t – not surprisingly I guess, but particularly with myself.

I consider my relationship with my ex to be a labor of love. I didn’t go into the relationship, knowing that he was a drug addict and thinking, “I can save him.” I had already fallen in love with him before I knew the extent of what he was doing (crack, I finally learned). I don’t necessarily want to drudge up all of the details of the story, but the best answer I can give is that I believed that you don’t walk away from love just because it’s not easy.

I had a conversation recently with a friend about why I hated the movie, “Knocked Up,” which I didn’t actually hate, but I had a problem with the ending. [Spoiler alert] The movie is about a woman who gets pregnant from a one-night stand, and not anyone’s idea of an ideal father. He smokes pot every day, his “job” is putting together a website with friends about where to find celebrities’ breasts in movies, and he’s basically still living like a college frat boy (another generalization, but it gives the picture I’m trying to create here, so please forgive). By the end of the movie, he “grows up” and is a good dad.

I wanted to scream like Kathy Bates in “Misery”: “BUT THAT’S NOT HOW IT WORKS IN REAL LIFE!!”

And I suppose I was living in some kind of fantasy world where I did believe that somehow, actually having the girls would change him somehow. And, to both his credit and mine, he did try. But it would always end up falling apart. First, I stopped believing in him. Then, I stopped loving him.

Does that make me a co-dependent? I didn’t necessarily believe that I could change him, but I did believe that offering him the right kind of support, and sticking by him would mean something. And I guess eventually I did have to learn that I had to “accept the things that I cannot change,” but I also don’t feel like I’m in any danger of going through something like that ever again.

Now, having said that, I still depend on others. Co-dependent? Too dependent? A healthy balance of interdependence? You decide.

Sometimes, I think that I do need other people too much. Sometimes, I do need to reach out and have someone there.

I’ve been having a bad time of it the last couple of days. I had car issues, which led to money issues (putting it mildly), which led to me just feeling overwhelmed, bitter, and depressed. I reached out to a few friends.

I just thanked one of them for “giving me permission” to take some time for myself. We talked about how we both need validation (which was a constant theme of mine I learned through therapy), and both commented that it was probably an unhealthy need.

But the more I think about it, the more I don’t think it is unhealthy.

We are both single, working mothers. We don’t have the benefit of a spouse to go home to at the end of the day, who will talk us through stuff, help us unwind, help the kids with their homework, make the dinner for us, take out the trash for us, listen to our workday woes, make the coffee for us in the morning…

At the same time, we both pride ourselves on our independence. We have to. We both have deadbeat exes who don’t pay their child support so it’s up to us to take care of everything; from car issues to the parent teacher conferences. We do it all. Our way of accepting this is to pat ourselves on the back for being able to do it all. And, heck, why shouldn’t we?

You think back to the ‘50’s, not only did all moms get to stay home, they also had friggin’ maids to help them around the house! And not just upper class homes, either. Middle class homes had them, too. So we’re essentially doing the job of three people as single moms. And yet we still have to defend ourselves against politicians who bemoan single parenthood as one of the “problems” of this country. I am not the problem. But I digress.

My point is that I probably shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for needing someone to talk to on occasion, someone who gets me, someone who will help me when I can’t figure out what to do. Yeah, sometimes I need validation. Well, you know what? I’ll live if I don’t get it. But is it so terribly wrong of me to want it sometimes?

When you consider the amount of time I spend being completely independent, I probably shouldn’t feel guilty for the times that I do need to connect to human beings (other than my kids). Every now and then, is it so much to ask for a little counter-balance of interdependence?

1 comment:

LunaNik said...

Hmm the druggie ex...I have one of those also. Mine had an addiction to cocaine that started a few years after we got together, we were together for 6 years (the last 4 of them were hell). In the end he lost me, his job, his house, his car, and he had to move back home into his parents basement. Thankfully, I was very young and children were never part of the picture. Being a single mom must be tough, I can't even imagine. I hope you do find the balance that your looking for in life. =)