I read this book on love addiction called Facing Love Addiction by Pia Mellody after watching an interview that Oprah did with Alanis Morrisette. Of all the things that I have read about alcoholism, addiction, and codependency this book by Pia Mellody spoke to me like none other has ever spoke to me in my life. There is a chart that shows the phases of relationships of love addicts and I almost cried when I saw it. It was like looking at the phases of every single relationship that I’ve ever been in. When I saw the joy that Alanis was radiating I knew there had to be something to this stuff, because let’s face it, she was the man hating poster child. There was a reason why I loved her music. We were fellow wounded birds.
There are a lot of things happening at once in my life. First, I have an official spiritual director for the first time. Fr. J was like a spiritual director for me when I went through my conversion, but it wasn’t official and I was learning how to be Catholic from being a pagan. It is easy to discern good from evil, the hard part comes when you are discerning the greater of two goods. That is what I’m working on now, kind of. Second, I have been in therapy for eight months. I tried therapy a few times before and it was always helpful for me, but there is something about this therapist and my weariness of pain that makes us a power duo. I am getting a lot done and overcoming a lot of things, but there is so much more to deal with. Finally, I’m taking a class at my diocese on the Catechisis of Human Love which is going awesome. I really feel like God is talking to me every single day in huge ways. Also, I’m no longer a newlywed. I’m sure some of you seasoned spouses get what I’m saying. My head is no longer in the clouds (or up my ass) and I actually am facing the humanness of my husband. Not to mention learning a lot about myself and how I’m not really a ball to be married to either. There is a reason God made marriage a Sacrament, because any husband would need a lot of Grace to be married to me.
All those things combined have really had my brain on overload. I think that there is an epidemic of codependency in our country right now. I believe that it started a long time ago and is getting worse. All stemming from broken marriages, fatherless children, parents with no concept of how to parent, money causing stress, and the good old sexual revolution which made us all think that the orgasm is a god that we need to worship. Now, unlike most secular views of codependency, my theory is that really it is caused by the breakdown of the family which causes the breakdown of relationships which harms our relationship with God and leaves an open door for us to create idols of things. If we cannot relate to God as Abba, Father, then it is very hard to have a relationship with Him. Elizabeth Scalia’s book Strange Gods was probably the beginning of my newest conversion. I’ve look at my life and see that I just plug in one idol for another and have no idea that it is even happening.
For me, the language of Catholicism worked because I was looking for somewhere where giving my entire self for love was the norm. Most of my life people have said that I am to “intense” and that they can’t handle that. The way the Catholic Church talked about marriage made me think that when you get married you become one with your spouse and for me that meant being with him 24/7, knowing everything he was doing, losing all my friends, never doing anything on my own and never expressing any of my needs or wants because that was “selfish” and I was trying to die to my “self”. WOO HOO! Finally I felt validated in my idea of what love is. The problem is that 1. That isn’t what the Church means by any of that and 2. That isn’t love, that is codependency and that isn’t healthy. God’s first and foremost concern is for our wellbeing which includes our mental health, our sense of self and for our ability to care for ourselves. That means that even though I thought I was hearing that to love my husband my world needed to revolve around him, that was not what was being said. Love means working with someone towards the same goal and I was not doing that. I have not been working with my husband; I have been acting like a helpless child while he carries the weight of this family all alone. I have a distorted way of thinking of love and because of that I have not been able to really be in a relationship with anyone, including Christ. Yes the crucifix is the perfect symbol of Love, but even then in that moment Jesus didn’t lose who He is, He always kept His dignity and identity. God is a relationship of three distinct persons who make up one God, not mesh into each other.
I also made an idol of my own terms. I created the idea of what I wanted my husband to be like, what we would do as a married couple, how he would act in certain situations, and just what our overall life would be like and I expected everyone around me to play their part and get with the program. I never allowed them to be themselves and I never respected their right to have opinions that weren’t the same as mine. I was full of unrealistic expectation and I expected everyone to meet them. When it started to fall apart I started thinking that it was time to get a divorce. That is the normal progression in marriages these days. For a lot of reasons, that isn’t the road I even wanted to go down. By the Grace of God I ended up in the office of a Catholic divorce lawyer who looked at me and said “You don’t want a divorce, you just have no clue how to build a marriage, figure it out”. Any other divorce lawyer would have just drawn up the paperwork and taken my money.
After reading Elizabeth’s book I began to ask God for two things: to make His Will obvious to me and to take away anything that was standing between me and Him. He has been doing just that. It’s been humbling and it’s been hard. I’m in the trenches so deep that new converts, newlyweds and motivational speakers make me nauseous. But I’m here. It is where I am supposed to be. I am not supposed to live in the past, it’s over and I can’t live in the future because I need to get rid of my expectations which are all rooted in dreaming about the future roles of everyone in my life. All I have is this moment, right now, to do the best that I can to be who God made me. Detaching myself one idol at a time is how I will slowly be more of my true self and less of this wounded bird that I’ve been my entire life so I can truly love God, my husband, my kids and myself. I love being this man’s wife and the mother to these kids. They are worth all this work and so am I.
Isn’t this the case since the beginning? Man trying to connect to God again.