Have you ever slipped back into old codependent behaviors and didn’t even realize it until after the fact and the damage was done? I denied and ignored my needs and wants for many years to take care of the ones I loved. I thought their needs were more important than mine. Can you relate?
I felt guilty and selfish for wanting/needing something. Consequently, I felt afraid to ask because I didn’t want to be rejected and be disappointed. Rather than being assertive and asking for what I wanted, I expected others to read my mind and used the “silent treatment” or dropped hints to what I wanted. It never worked!
For many years, I was out of touch with myself and didn’t know what I felt or what I wanted. But I knew what others wanted and became hypervigilant because I wanted to please others. For example: when a friend would ask “Where do you want to go for lunch?” I would often say, “I don’t care. What do you want?”
In our book, “It’s Never Too Late for Love”, I write “Do you think that asking for what you want or need makes you feel less than? I think this is an old belief that is born out of lack of respect for myself and love for myself. A lack of self-respect can lead to feelings of unworthiness, or feeling less important than others. It will cause you to subordinate your own needs, and not ask for what you want.”
With the grace of God, I have been practicing asking for what I want, receiving and feeling deserving, setting boundaries and saying no to unacceptable behavior for many years.
I didn’t practice what I know and BLEW IT on Valentine’s Day. Here is what happened:
Larry asked me what I wanted for Valentine’s Day. I really didn’t think I wanted anything. I asked him to write me a poem in a card, which he did and he took me out to breakfast.
The day before Valentine’s Day, I realized I would have liked flowers. Larry has always bought me flowers on this day and I didn’t know if he was going to surprise me, so I didn’t say anything.
Since Larry’s fall a couple of months ago, and the pandemic he doesn’t get out often. He just started physical therapy last week and his leg and back were in pain.
Of course, I felt bad for his pain and didn’t tell him I wanted flowers. It felt selfish and not important, so I ignored what I wanted. It wasn’t a big deal and I planned on sharing it with him when he felt better and after Valentine’s Day.
A few days after Valentine’s Day, I brought it up to him that I would have liked flowers. Here is his response: “I’m disappointed you didn’t tell me since I asked you what you wanted. I feel like the bad guy again. Why weren’t you honest with me?”
Yikes, he was right. I really felt like “I blew it” after all these years of practicing speaking up and asking for what I wanted and needed. Clearly, the old codependent behaviors of taking care of others and putting myself on the back burner was rearing its head. Here is what I learned:
- I denied myself what I wanted
- I judged what I wanted was not important and selfish
- I denied Larry the opportunity to give to me
- I wasn’t honest about what I really wanted
- Larry felt like the bad guy
Larry and I discussed the situation and worked it through with love. I didn’t beat up on myself and understand I will fall back into old behaviors that don’t serve me or anyone else. What is important is the awareness and willingness to be honest with him, rather than holding onto a resentment.
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