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Old 05-31-2006, 10:34 AM   #1
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Please help! Need advice re codependent friend

Hi all...new to the board and I've come here in a desperate search for advice. My dearest friend, Callie, whom I've known for 23 years needs help. Let me first give a little bit of her background. Callie is the youngest of two girls. Her mother is like a child - she married an older man who could take care of her and she has always been dependent. The woman cannot do anything by herself. Callie's father was a Holocaust survivor. As a result, I believe, Callie has always mde sure her parents didn't have to lift a finger. I'm not sure what came first - the chicken or the egg, but this has been Callie's conditioning. Even when we were young teens she ran around for her parents. She wouldn't even let them bend to pick something up. I'm not exaggerating.

Now, let me preface that her older sister somehow got out of this. She escaped to college and Callie was left with the brunt of the caretaking.

It got worse as Callie got older. Even when she managed to go away to college and have some semblance of her own life, her life still revolved around her parents.

Unfortunately, her father passed away a few years ago and now she lives for her mother. She goes with her mother on vacations, she reminds me of the "old maid" characters in those Merchant-Ivory films who go on holiday with their mothers. When she is not with her mother she is a workaholic. She never does anything for herself. All her energy is spent worrying about other people.

As for love, you know how co-dependents get addicted to bad relationships? Well she's kind of the opposite. She has had two brief relationships, the last was several years ago already. Most of the time she can't seem to get past a few dates with a guy, but on the rare occasions she found someone who liked her, she always sabotaged things and called it quits (and let me preface here that she is still a virgin) She can't get close to anyone. She doesn't allow anyone to get close to her, and when we say things like, "Don't you want to meet a guy?" she'll say self-depricating things like, "Oh no, I'll just be Aunt Callie all my life." I don't think she thinks she deserves love. She never allows herself to meet a guy, I believe because he will take away from her time with her mother. And her mother certainly isn't going to encourage her, that would mean losing her daughter.

But then if she does actually allow herself to go on a date with a guy, she hold him up to this high standard, like she expects a lot from him and when he doesn't deliver she dumps him. I think she expects the guy to fill in the hole in herself that she gives to her family.

Here's the thing about Callie: she thinks all this is normal. She's grown up this way her whole life so in her warped world she WANTS to do these things. Her mother might be able to do things by herself if Callie would actually let her. Altho her mother is so used to Callie's behavior that she has become co-dependent on Callie. She treats her mother like a child. She recently mentioned going away with her mother and she said, "I have to make sure that when my mother gets off the bus she is fed and goes to the bathroom." What? Is her mother 6? The thing is, I'm sure her mother is quite capable, if Callie ever let her do things herself. So they kind of have a bad give-and-take codependent/enabler thing going on. Furthermore, the older sister never lifts a hand for anything and I believe, over the years has learned to take advantage of Callie's willingness to care for the mother so she doesn't have to. The sister managed to get married and have 2 kids. But natually Callie makes excuses for the sister, too. "Oh she's so busy."

Callie is a total enabler. And it isn't just her family. She's like this with work and friends. She goes into work on holidays. She spreads herself way too thin with people. She always makes excuses for work or people who "need her." She always "feels bad" for people over the littlest - and strangest - of things. Her aunt who can't find a dress for an affair, her cousin who is working toward a real estate license, her sister (who's 40!) traveling by herself on a train from one town to the next (she had to run and meet her to "make sure she got home ok") Her favorite line is, "I feel so bad."

Callie is now 35 and totally obsessed with her family. It's gotten out of control. They're all she talks about. What's worse, she can't make a move without asking them and she calls in to her mother and sister several times a day to check in on them. If we actually manage to get her out she will call them during our meal. And not just once. I believe she wants to see if they are falling apart so she can be there to rescue them, or maybe she secretly hopes they are. If we mention future plans, she can't tell us right away whether or not she's free - she has to check with her mother.

The thing is about Callie, she never, ever, ever gets angry about this because she WANTS to do it. She lives for it. She sees absolutely nothing warped about any of this. Her being needed must validate her.

I've tried talking to her gently about this but she doesn't want to hear it. She got angry at me. She can't - or won't - see it. She has no perspective. And I am not the only friend who can see all this, there are several of us worried about her. We've talked about having an intervention but we're not sure she'll even listen. I'm just afraid she is throwing her whole life away. Recently she told us she wants to move closer to her mother. If you think we were worried before...

Is there anything at all that we can do? We really care about her. I know I can only do so much - you can lead a horse to water, as they say. But I wonder if there is anything I can do that I haven't thought of. Maybe I just needed to vent, because sometimes I look at her behavior and I can't stand it anymore.

Thanks for listening, and any advice is appreciated.

 
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Old 05-31-2006, 11:24 AM   #2
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Re: Please help! Need advice re codependent friend

I really don't see where you should step in here. You want her to be happy, right? If this is what makes her happy, and you say it is let her be. If this situation was making her "unhappy" then I would see the need. I spent from the time I was 13 until I was almost 18 raising a younger sister then from 17 until the present taking care of my grandmother. While I still have a "life" I would be very offended if someone came in and thought they could change it. If I for a second thought a man was getting in the way I would break it off as well. My grandmother gave up her entire life for me, the least I can do is take care of her now that I am able. I understand where your friend is coming from. If taking care of people is what she lives for, it isn't some kind of drug, that you need to as you said have and "intervention".

 
Old 05-31-2006, 12:55 PM   #3
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Re: Please help! Need advice re codependent friend

Thanks Curls, but forgive me for saying this because I don't know you, but I find it strange that you would say, "if a man was getting in the way I would break it off as well." It is one thing to care about someone so much that you want to take care of that person, it is another to sacrifice your own happiness. If a man came into your life while you were taking care of your grandmother - a man that you could see a future with - you honestly tell me that you would break it off because he would take you away from your grandmother? I don't see how THAT is healthy, IMHO.

But back to the situation...the thing is, my friend's mother is not even sick! The woman is fine. She has been thru a lot, granted, but the woman is quite capable of taking care of herself. She is involved with a senior group and goes on little trips and stuff. At the same time, she is totally co-dependent on my friend. She asks her constantly to buy things for her - paper plates, stockings, paper clips. During a major blizzard where they were warning people to stay in, she asked my friend to take 2 buses and a train to travel out to her just to keep her company. True, my friend may be "happy" but I don't see her BEING happy. She complains to me that all our friends are getting married and having kids and moving forward, but yet she stays in the same place because she doesn't allow herself anything. And it is more than her mother. It is like this with every aspect of her life. She is a classic enabler. She overworks but doesn't tell anyone about her extra time. She feels the need to FIX everything. She frets over other people, co-workers, friends, other family but never gives any energy to herself. She doesn't have "life" as you called it. Her life consists of work and her mother. Her whole identity seems to revolve around worrying about everyone else but herself. The girl never takes time just for herself, she doesn't even take a bubble bath once in a while. All I see is how she deprives herself.

 
Old 05-31-2006, 06:15 PM   #4
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Re: Please help! Need advice re codependent friend

It's kind that you want to help her, but she first has to want to change. If she is unwilling to change, all the great ideas, in the world, won't help. So, does she want to change?

 
Old 06-01-2006, 05:06 AM   #5
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Re: Please help! Need advice re codependent friend

Quote:
Originally Posted by moongirl0719
Thanks Curls, but forgive me for saying this because I don't know you, but I find it strange that you would say, "if a man was getting in the way I would break it off as well." It is one thing to care about someone so much that you want to take care of that person, it is another to sacrifice your own happiness. If a man came into your life while you were taking care of your grandmother - a man that you could see a future with - you honestly tell me that you would break it off because he would take you away from your grandmother? I don't see how THAT is healthy, IMHO.
Well I guess we differ in opinion... Yes if he was taking me away from my grandmother I would break it off. It isn't a secret to anyone that my life revolves around her and her health. They know that from the start and if they can't deal with it they can move on. I'm not sacrificing my happiness, but I am not going to change for someone else either. Some of us have a different out look on family.

Last edited by lovethoscurls; 06-01-2006 at 05:13 AM.

 
Old 06-01-2006, 11:02 AM   #6
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Re: Please help! Need advice re codependent friend

Well Curls I also give it to you that you mention your grandmother's failing health. But as I said, her mother is FINE. There is nothing wrong with her mother, certainly not physically. This behavior with her parents has been going on since she was a young girl, and now that her father is gone I believe she has a lot of guilt for her mother being alone and it has gotten worse. I really see serious co-dependent behavior in her. It comes out in many aspects of her life. I realize that there is not much I can do, but I just get so furious at her sometimes when I hear her say that she wants to move closer to her mother. It's more than that - her life revolves around her mother and sister, she babysits for her sister's cat while her sister and brother-in-law go traveling all over the world. When we ask her to go out, she says, "I can't leave the house, I have to watch the cat." Come on! She runs around everywhere for them. Now her mother wants her to take her to Romania because she always wanted to visit there. SHE is expected to pay for this (with what $$ I don't know) And of course she is thrilled to take her mother. I realize she is probably happy to do this for her mother, and there is nothing wrong with that, but there are no boundaries and she never gets upset enough to take a stand for her own life.

I know there is nothing I can do unless SHE sees it and SHE wants to change. But I appreciate the advice, thanks.

 
Old 06-01-2006, 01:51 PM   #7
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Re: Please help! Need advice re codependent friend

Hi, I'm just adding a little addendum here...basically a question. I realize there is not much I (or we, her friends) can do unless she sees. But I was just wondering, is there any advice anyone has to GET someone to see?

 
Old 06-04-2006, 05:50 AM   #8
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Re: Please help! Need advice re codependent friend

I'll be really honest -
There is nothing you can say or do to change another person... whether that is a man in your own life or a female friend.
The only thing you can do is be there for your friend - because at the rate she is going (and that her mother is allowing) she is going to really really need you when her mother dies (as all parents do) and she has no one to "do" for and she is essentially alone.
I don't know what she does for a living, but I'd strongly suggest she get into one of the "giving" fields...

 
Old 06-05-2006, 08:58 AM   #9
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Re: Please help! Need advice re codependent friend

Thanks Betsy...yes I know, when her mother dies she will either a) break down or b) start living or c) both, in that order. I hate saying it, I know I'm going to go to hell, but when her mother dies it will be the best thing.

I asked her to go out this past weekend and she said "I can't, I have a date with a 7-year-old." (her exact words) She was taking her nephew out for a special day. Now that's fine, there's nothing wrong with that, that's very nice, and that would be cute IF she were going out with 35-year-olds, too, but the fact that she doesn't makes that statement kind of sad.

I know that she feels that her life is fulfilled, and it probably is genuinely in her mind. But everyone else around her (it isn't just me, it's a whole bunch of us that are concerned) sees how truly unhealthy her behavior is. I wish I could explain it, it isn't just running to her mother, it's like a need to fix things, she gives to everyone else but herself... her whole life is a mess, the way she conducts herself. You can't even walk thru her apartment, it looks like a hurricane hit it, and she still has her childhood bedroom furniture, it's like she never grew up, she doesn't behave like a normal 35-year-old woman. You can't talk about sex with her, she's never even been with a guy. She runs from guys. I just see lots of things that tell me that something inside her is messed up. We (the girls, her lifelong friends) wonder if she was abused as a child but I really don't think so. I think her parents told her things that messed up her head about sex and men. All I know is something in her needs to be validated and the need to be needed - particularly by her family - is obsessive.

I know I can't make her SEE any of this. Right now her life is full and happy and she doesn't seem to want anymore for herself. What she has is obviously enough for her. She would have to really hit rock bottom for her to see just how warped her perspective is. That's not going to happen any time soon. I don't know if it will ever happen. I just feel terrible for that she is missing out on all life has to offer. This isn't a dress rehearsal, you know what I mean?

Ok, I'll stop now. I know I am only human and I can only do so much. I just really needed to vent. But if anyone has ever been in a similar situation where they successfully held a mirror up to someone, any advice is appreciated.

 
Old 06-05-2006, 10:49 AM   #10
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Re: Please help! Need advice re codependent friend

Quote:
Originally Posted by moongirl0719
I hate saying it, I know I'm going to go to hell, but when her mother dies it will be the best thing.

I know that she feels that her life is fulfilled,

Right now her life is full and happy and she doesn't seem to want anymore for herself. What she has is obviously enough for her.

That has to be the worst thing I have ever heard anyone say. What kind of "FRIEND" says when the mother of a "friend" dies it will be the best thing? Why is her life so "messed" up, because it isn't what YOU think it should be?? You said yourself she is Happy....she likes taking care of people....what is so wrong with that?

Maybe she does have a problem, but as a friend, I don't think you have ANY right to say anything to her that you have said here. If it truly is a PROBLEM then hopefully she comes to see it and changes and gets the help she needs. I think it is HORRIBLE that you would basically wish death on her mother because of this though. Wish death on a women because her daughter loves, needs, and cares for her too much?? Maybe you need to reevaluate as well.

 
Old 06-05-2006, 12:23 PM   #11
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Re: Please help! Need advice re codependent friend

You are out of your mind. I NEVER, EVER said I *WISH* death on her mother! For heaven's sake! First of all, you are putting words into my mouth. Where did I write that? Secondly, I know her mother since I'm 12, I would never wish that on her, or my friend, or anybody! Third, what I said was WHEN - I didn't say I wanted it to happen - I said *WHEN* - her mother dies my bet is that she will finally allow herself to LIVE a little. Good grief, READ what I wrote.

It seems to me, Curls, that you, a person who has spent her life taking care of her grandmother, are taking what I said waaaayyy too personally. Chill out!

 
Old 06-05-2006, 12:32 PM   #12
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Re: Please help! Need advice re codependent friend

You said as I quote.....
Quote:
Originally Posted by moongirl0719
when her mother dies it will be the best thing.

The best thing?? You are right that isn't at all a horrible thing to say....I'm sorry, guess I was wrong...........If someone said that about your mother you would think that it was ok??

I am not taking it personally just trying to get you to see the other side....

 
Old 06-06-2006, 09:06 AM   #13
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Re: Please help! Need advice re codependent friend

I said WHEN her mother dies. I never said I WISHED that to happen, any time soon or ever! I don't WISH anyone death! I think it's pretty obvious what I meant.

 
Old 06-08-2006, 12:24 PM   #14
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Smile Re: Please help! Need advice re codependent friend

Hi moongirl0719,

I can see that you do care about your friend. You came to the board for advice and I think you are getting well-meaning feedback. I have some more honest and well-meaning feedback to offer you.

No, there are not things one can say to change another person. We can only change our own selves. If you are bothered by your friend's choices, why not stay away from her for awhile and get involved with other people whose choices you do respect?

I just have to mention, with all due respect, that it was you that said "I hate saying it, I know I'm going to go to hell, but when her mother dies it will be the best thing", so your own words indicate that you think it is an awful thing to believe or say that a mother's death would serve a good purpose.

Your other words indicate that you know that judgement is not anyone's place to make. So, while you may FEEL like it would help out your friend, you know you should not have expressed the idea that death of the mother will help your friend. Can you foresee whether she will sink into depair or depression when her mother dies, or know if she could ever come out of it? Can you forsee whether knowing she was there for her mother until the end of her life would cause her to be confident and liberated to look forward to caring for a man? Do you know what in her heart makes her choose not to give herself to a man? None of us know what another person really needs or why, do we?

The mother may take advantage and like the attention, but that is not a crime. The daughter loves being available to her mother and that is not a crime. I don't believe that it is abusive or sick on either side. I may be wrong about you, but you seem rather codependent yourself and obcessed with this lady's life. Her life is not your/our business to run. She is just a friend, not your personal responsibility.

Not everyone needs to date or to get married. No one needs a mate to be complete. Your friend's comments about men and marriage may be from outside pressure, not from her own heart. You, her friend, and society in general cannot take someone being happily unmarried. Try telling her you are sorry for pressuring her, and that you support her decision not to date, and try staying out of it. You might learn more about who she really is.

Actually I have to agree that if anyone expects the other to choose between family and him/her, he/she should get dumped. That is not the right thing to expect from any relationship. As trust grows, attitudes change naturally. No one should request that the other make those changes for them. The new person can simply join in the family events, as invited. You could do that too, and learn to value your friend's family like she does, rather than to critique it.

Your friend has a life, the one she chooses, at least for now. I think you need to respect that. If it makes you feel bad, you need to look at where you are coming from not where she is. I am married, and I have to say it can be very hard work, which some people simply do not want to do. I have two sisters and a brother and several friends that do not date and remain unmarried by choice (though they tried it in the past some), because they have not ever met anyone they wanted enough to change their ways. I have a daughter that is 31 and has never been married, by her own choice. She would like to find a special guy someday, but won't date around at all while she is looking. This last year she met a man that likes her the way she is and they are getting closer. She may or may not end up with him. She is not in any hurry. Maybe they all will meet someone someday they think is worth it. Or not.

What one chooses to do with their life is not our business to judge. You don't know what is in your friend's heart. I think it is a sign of healthy thinking that you judging her life angers her.

You just might stand to lose this friend if you meddle. I'm telling you these things, not to criticize you, but because you asked for feedback.

Last edited by friendlione; 06-08-2006 at 12:30 PM. Reason: checked spelling

 
Old 06-08-2006, 02:10 PM   #15
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Re: Please help! Need advice re codependent friend

Thanks Friend, I appreciate you taking the time to write and I can tell that your words come from caring.

I would like to address a few things you bring up -

I do not wish my friend's mother death. I do not think it will "serve a good purpose." I never used those words. What I meant when I said it would be "the best thing" is - I think when my friend's mother does finally pass away - whenever that is - long off in the very distant future - I hope my friend might finally allow herself to live a little. Whether she will or not is a) not up to me and b) unknown until that day. I did reclarify this in after-post for anyone who might have misunderstood my meaning.

I do care about her but I am hardly co-dependent on her... I do realize that there is not much I can do. Believe me, I don't spend my nights unable to sleep because of my friend's situation. I simply came on here bc I wondered if anyone on here has ever been in a similar experience, I thought that perhaps there was something that I could do that I haven't tried. Believe me, I already tried and after her getting angry and defensive I learned never to being it up to her again. That was 2 years ago.

I'm not sure what you meant by "if anyone expects the other to choose between family and him/her, he/she should get dumped." I am not in a romantic relatinship with her, this is my best friend since childhood. I don't expect her to dump her family for her friends, or for anyone. In fact, as far as a guy goes, she shouldn't have to choose. She should incorporate a guy into her life. The problem is, she doesn't even let a guy in. She complains that she can't meet anyone but she doesn't even try. She never goes out! She stays home on the weekend with her mother. Her words say one thing and her actions say another.

If this is the life my friend has chosen, that's fine. I have lots of friends who do not need a guy to feel fulfilled. And there is nothing wrong with taking care of a parent, I never said that it was. But I think that if that's ALL you do with your life, day in and day out, then that is a problem. She never allows herself anything. Of course I want her to be happy, and if this is what makes her happy, of course I realize that that is her choice.

I don't mean to sound defensive, really I'm not - I'm just trying to explain that I know this girl for 25 years, and I see things up close and personal that are hard to put into words on this message board. This isn't something that suddenly came up out of thin air, I have watched her get worse and worse over the years. And like I said, I am not the only person in our circle of lifelong friends who is concerned about her. We ALL see her behavior, it isn't just me. Believe me when I tell you, I'm not crazy.

I know there is nothing I - we, her friends - can do. Believe me, we know this. We are just concerned about her because she is getting a little out of control.

 
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