I’m Dani Ward,

and I do lots of things.

Codependent avoidance.

Content note for mention of domestic violence and rape.

So, I’ve been going to counseling at the local domestic violence shelter, for reasons I shall largely leave unexplained except to lump everything together under the moniker of The Incident (though we’ve been discussing my childhood trauma as well). My counselor and I get along quite well, and I think it’s been helpful to have someone to help me unpack experiences and thought processes and things I generally keep in my own head until I break down.

The biggest things I’ve learned, that I sort of already knew (and close friends sure as hell already knew), are that I have codependent tendencies and my approach to dealing with trauma is complete avoidance of dealing with it.

The codependency thing bothers me more than the avoidance. I’ve been developing strategies for confronting hard things rather than avoiding them, and these strategies have been quite helpful (though very painful). But being codependent…that’s more difficult to pinpoint how or what to change.

I mean, I lived with my parents until I was 22, when I moved out and got married and lived with my ex until early February of this year. I’m living alone for the first time in my life. It’s hard, but helpful. I’m learning how capable and strong I am, as well as learning that asking for help isn’t bad or childish.

But also…I struggle so much with knowing how to relate to people. My very first instinct in any situation is to diffuse it. Remove tension. Make it better. It usually looks like me trying to smooth things over, or keeping quiet when I’m upset, or downplaying my feelings. I’m afraid I’m explaining this poorly…it’s like I don’t know who I am or what I actually think or what I actually want, because I’m so focused on making sure everyone around me and in my life doesn’t have a reason to be upset with me or have negative feelings about me. Which, of course, is hilarious considering the topics I write about and the fact that I’m an atheist and in the middle of a divorce.

It’s been helpful to have people close to me recognize this tendency and ask me what I’m actually thinking, how I actually feel, about any given thing. It forces me to stop and evaluate why I’m doing or saying or accepting something. And it’s scary, because too much of the time the answer is I don’t know or I just want you to be happy.

Not that I’m a selfless person by any means. More that I would rather be inconvenienced or squashed than endure disagreement or friction.

So…I’m spending a lot of time just sort of sitting with myself. What do I want? What do I think? What am I willing to give, or ask for? Why? Am I just trying to placate others for my own comfort and ease of anxiety, or is this something I’m genuinely willing to agree to or compromise on? If so, why?

Mom likes to laugh about how my favourite question as a small child was why. I’d follow her around the house, asking question after question, and she would tirelessly answer. (My mother should be a goddamn saint, y’all.) In many ways, I’ve never stopped asking why, which is partly how I’m where I am in the first place. But…recognizing that “because I don’t want to upset anyone” isn’t a healthy answer most of the time is a good first step, I think.

  • After a divorce from a narcissist largely caused by my codependence*, which in turn came from wholly swallowed complementarianism and fundamental/evangelical principles ALMOST FIVE YEARS AGO, I am in a truly healthy relationship for the first time in my life. I am 30. All I can do is say–there IS a middle way, after the agony has lessened, and it does not involve either prostrating yourself to avoid conflict OR swearing off romantic relationships forever.
    * I am not saying that I “deserved” his mistreatment, but that if I had known my identity then, I would not have stayed with him for as long as I did, let alone have chosen to marry him in the first place.

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