Hi. My name is Clint and I’m a codependent.
How do I know this? An entire adulthood of crappy, dysfunctional relationships that’s how. It’s something anyone who has been stuck in an abuse/neglect/enabler/addict relationship will have to confront at some point in their lives. The worst part is that eventually, somehow, it will probably kill you unless you get help.
So, years of therapy, books on the subject, websites, discussions with friends and family later and I can definitely say I am aware of the signs of codependency, and hopefully ways to avoid them safely.
But do you know what is absolutely hilarious about this? People are more than willing to step up and intervene when it comes to empowering you to end an awful relationship where you are giving everything and the other person is more than happy with taking it all.
“That’s bullshit!” they might say. “You’ve got to get out of there!”
Lately the information I have compiled in my brain as an early warning system for potential bad relationships has been working overtime. My alarms have been ringing like crazy.
Only this time it isn’t about trying to build my happiness from another person. Nope. It’s the day job.
What I find ironic is how we are cautioned against codependency with a partner in a romantic relationship, but all of the elements that make that relationship unhealthy are expected in a work environment. Hell, they are celebrated.
Ask yourself this: If you had a spouse who made you feel inferior, told you that you weren’t good enough, and they could easily replace you with someone better who would do anything they asked them to do and more and not have to deal with your “requests” what would you think? What would your friends think?
Or what if they brought a new person in who was younger, less experienced, and began the same process of exploitation and gaslighting they inflicted upon you, what would you think?
What if they continuously told you that you were not doing enough, or using their time, or not worth what they were giving you in return, what would you think?
What if they made you afraid to leave them? Like you would starve to death or die or lose everything you’ve built in your life if you suddenly just walked away. And don’t even think of going somewhere else! Who would want you?!
And what if you walked around all day telling everyone how underappreciated you were, but did nothing about it. What if you enabled them for a modicum of power, because for a fleeting moment your suffering gave you leverage in life?
What if you weren’t allowed to have boundaries? Your opinion didn’t matter, even though your relationship counted as over half of your waking hours every day.
My workplace is an unhealthy relationship.
There, I said it. If it were my girlfriend, I would run screaming from it. But the qualities that constitute an abusive relationship are conditions most people just shrug and say, “That’s just how it is.”
The funny thing is that it is a true codependent relationship, where we give and give to enable the addiction of money for our employers. Money is their drug of choice, along with power. When we give them all of our power, they just want more. And as we lose things like benefits, job security, living wages, and ways that they sugar-talked us to work for them in the first place. They can remediate asbestos in the next room, and when we complain, they just tell us everything is fine. The people in positions of authority over us don’t give a damn. And we get to suffer with our other codependent friends who just say “It’s a living.”
Today I realized that after 17 years here, I can have a meeting with HR and be told the complete opposite of reality. I can be told my perception of my work ethic is diametrically opposed to those in charge of me. People who aren’t ever in the office anyway, but cruising all over the world on trips that are paid for by the institution that hasn’t given its employees a raise in nearly 20 years (unless they were upper administration). I hear that I’m not engaged or busy enough.
So what’s the option? I can do more work than I was hired to do for no more pay. I can feel like I’m not good enough for this job because reasons. I can see that the work is getting done, just as it always has been, but someone’s opinion of me can change all of that, and I’m supposed to give more and more to make them love me.
Wow. Sounds familiar.
Sounds like something that will probably wind up killing me if I don’t get out soon. For now, I need to eat. I need to pay my rent and bills. I need to pay child support to a woman who won’t work (and takes the kids on vacations every other week). Like my awful marriage, I will stay as long as I have to. But once I’m gone, I won’t look back at this place, and I will eventually heal from the regret of having wasted so many years in an unhealthy relationship.
No. Life isn’t fair. But it can be so much greater if we let it. Why do we make interpersonal relationships the focus of just letting people treat us like shit in general? As though relationships with other people are just the grease that keep us happy enough to deal with work?
I don’t get why we have to have a double standard. It’s fine for a job to treat us as less than human, but not a significant other. Seems smart if we expected more out of someplace we spent more time at than with our loved ones.
But maybe that’s just me.