“We walk into the restaurant and sit down and right away I’m in trouble. My mother — she always does this — wants to switch tables. And my husband absolutely refuses to move.
“And I’m in the middle. They’re both looking at me, and I can’t please both of them, and I feel like a wishbone.”
She turns to me.
“What do you do?”
“Leave them at the restaurant, go to McDonald’s and get a cheeseburger,” I say.
The group laughs. But I’m not kidding.
Often the only way out of such dilemmas is what I call healthy selfishness.
Healthy selfishness — listening to yourself, and putting yourself first at least occasionally — is indispensible practice for any codependent serious about recovery.
Without it you live a kind of wishbone existence, perpetually suspended between the pull of your own needs and preferences and the pull exerted by others.
You may hate hearing this, though. Because if you’re a codependent you probably see selfishness as some sort of sin.
But here’s the thing:
Most people who see selfishness as sinful were taught to do so by selfish people.
By parents, maybe, who preached unselfishness but at the same time made it clear they expected you to put their preferences first always. Or by partners, who delivered the unspoken but persistent directive Don’t take care of your self. Take care of my self instead.
Sinners in sheep’s clothing.
So in recovery your choice is between continuing your wishbonish existence or become honestly, courageously sinful yourself.
Guess which I’m rooting for?
Enjoy your cheeseburger.