One of my latest reading kicks has been to learn more about boundaries-setting, in order to start to counteract some of my codependent tendencies.
For long time I’ve been someone who has put her own needs aside in order to “help” someone else. I’m especially bad at this when it comes to intimate relationships. Too often I’m willing to put aside what I want (or need) in order to be there for my partner — and what ultimately results is that I end up feeling resentful and frustrated that there’s no reciprocation in the relationship (when really, if I had set some boundaries and had been clearer about what I needed, so much of it all could be avoided).
Anyway, it’s funny, now everywhere I look I can see shades of codependency. For example, a few weeks ago I re-watched the Julia Roberts film, “Runaway Bride” — only this time, I watched it with eyes that were looking for codependency. And sure enough, I found it.
Roberts’ character is a bride who is known for leaving grooms at the altar — and Richard Gere is a smartass reporter who comes into her town to find out the reasons why she runs. Blah blah blah, romantic comedy hijinks — but there’s some good bits in there that really stood out to me.
For example, in a pivotal scene, Gere points out to Roberts’ character that she doesn’t even know what kind of eggs she likes to eat — because she usually tends to eat her eggs the same way her partner prefers to order them. It sounds small, but that’s a total codependent move. It’s sometimes easier to not assert what you like, and just blend in (chameleon-style) to someone else’s preferences. It feels more “safe” to a codependent to not risk the rejection that could result from someone not accepting what you need/want.
But the one scene that stands out the most to me is this one, that comes at the end of the film. SPOILER: of course Gere’s character asks Roberts to marry him, and ultimately she also leaves him at the altar. At the end of the film, she finds him, months later, and says this:
Maggie Carpenter: I wanted to tell you why I run – sometimes ride – away from things.
Ike Graham: Does it matter?
Maggie Carpenter: I think so.
[takes a deep breath]
Maggie Carpenter: When I was walking down the aisle, I was walking toward somebody who didn’t have any idea who I really was. And it was only half the other person’s fault, because I had done everything to convince him that I was exactly what he wanted. So it was good that I didn’t go through with it because it would have been a lie. But you – you knew the real me.
Ike Graham: Yes, I did.
Maggie Carpenter: I didn’t. And you being the one at the end of the aisle didn’t just fix that. [link]
That part about “someone who didn’t have any idea who I really was” — this line hits me, right in my codependent heart.
While I like to think that I’m this strong, independent, assertive woman who doesn’t take crap — when it comes to being in a relationship, I know I don’t assert my needs or wants nearly enough. I know that I will often (metaphorically) order my eggs in ways I don’t care for, if only so I can — like Maggie Carpenter says, do “everything to convince [my partner] that I was exactly what he wanted.”
Those days are ending for me. Over the next few days/weeks/months, I’m going to solidify what it is I need and want in a relationship, and I’m not going to settle for anything less — even if it means I’m eating eggs (over-medium with hot sauce) on my own for the foreseeable future.
A big part of that journey will be to clarify my boundaries and expectations, and learn how to manage taking care of myself while in relationship with someone else.