In 2013 I started Celebrate Recovery. It was starting this program that I realized I was a hardcore codependent and my codependency was keeping me a prisoner. I had no idea what I liked and disliked, what I wanted and didn’t want. I thought I knew, but I didn’t. When Dean would ask me, “where do you want to go to dinner?” I would think, “Hmmmm, does he want Mexican or Italian tonight? Where does he want me to say I want to go? If I say ‘Mexican’ will he be excited about my choice?” It wasn’t really a conscious thought, but subconsciously I was dying for my husband to think I made a good decision. I wanted his approval so badly that I stopped making decisions based on facts and started making decisions based on assumptions.
This usually resulted in me being disappointed because:
- I never felt like my needs were heard (because when asked where I wanted to go I didn’t give an answer to where I wanted to go…I gave an answer to where I thought others would want me to want to go. So months later when I never felt heard it was really my own damn fault…)
- If Dean had a bad dinner I would take the blame for it. I chose the place so it was my fault his dinner sucked (that’s ridiculous! But I couldn’t see that)and I would desperately try harder the next time to pick a place that he would love, so I could be loved by him. (As if his love for me depended on the restaurants I picked…)
When I started confronting this issue I started to realize that I didn’t even know what I liked and disliked. I had no idea what I wanted to do on the weekend, because I always just did what someone else wanted to do. I thought I was being selfless by letting everyone else make the decisions. But really my motives were totally warped. I was only letting other people make decisions because I wanted to earn their love and admiration. That’s not being selfless, that’s being selfish. I was depriving the world of who God created me to be, because I wanted love and admiration. And whatever love and admiration I received was never enough. I wanted more and more and more. I strived to be like others to gain their admiration. And often I fell short, because God didn’t create me to play sports, or work in construction, or handle spicy food every night. My body was different and I was different and I had no idea that that was ok. I had no idea that my differences were what would draw people to me. I had no idea that my differences brought variety to the body of Christ. I had no idea that my differences were valuable, and I blamed others for not caring what I wanted to do, but I never was able to say what I wanted to do, so how could I blame others for something I didn’t know myself?
I started going on Liz Dates. I’m serious, I started dating myself. I took off every Tuesday and I tried all different types of activities. I started painting, hiking, yoga, running, drawing, floor hockey, playing instruments, etc. Somethings I loved to do, like hiking and yoga. Other things I would not choose to do again, like floor hockey. But I tried it, and I allowed myself to feel and experience and like or dislike regardless of what other people thought. It was uncomfortable. It was hard. It was scary, “what if I play floor hockey and totally screw over my team and everyone hates me?” It turns out, I sucked at floor hockey, but I loved playing on a team with my husband, my two brothers, and my good friend, Royal. I stuck the season out because I loved the comradery and social aspect and then I never played again, because I didn’t have to. I learned that I was allowed to enjoy the social part, even if I didn’t bring much to the athletic part. I was still accepted as part of the team, not because I scored goals or played awesome defense, but simply because I was on the team. Because I showed up and was me. I still wasn’t able to see that my presence was valuable to others; I simply saw that my presence was valuable to me and that was enough.
And then God took it a step further and taught me that me being me was really valuable to others, especially my husband.
It was my birthday, and my husband said, “Where do you want to go out to dinner?” I knew where I wanted to go, but I knew he wouldn’t want to go there. I wanted sushi, but my husband had a bad experience with sushi and couldn’t stand even the thought of it. But I reminded myself, “He asked me where I wanted to go. He can always say he would like to go somewhere else, but I owe it to him and to me to be honest so then we can compromise based on facts rather than assumptions.” So I said it, “I really want to go get sushi.” And to my surprise he said, “Ok, let’s do it.”
Then came the hard part: enjoying the sushi without worrying whether Dean was enjoying it or not. I had to keep reminding myself that he made a decision to say yes and it’s not my fault if he has a bad dinner. Turns out, we had a fabulous dinner! Dean found a new love for sushi; a love that has carried through the rest of our years together and has influenced a lot of our dinner parties and experimentations of homemade sushi. We were wooed by our friends who taught us how to make sushi and then used those new skills to woo a young couple into becoming our friends! It has become something special we enjoy together, and I keep thinking, if I didn’t say the truth about what I really wanted, that may never have happened.
It seems like such a small, simple thing, but it lead to so much more. And it gave me the confidence to plan an entire vacation based on what I wanted to do. Dean was working so hard he didn’t have the energy or time to plan anything and he asked me if I could plan the vacation, and he said, “Plan the vacation based on you, not on what you think I want to do. You plan it, and I’ll just do it with you.”
Man, was I nervous. What if my husband realized I was not the girl he married? What if he didn’t like the real me? To this day, that vacation was my favorite vacation. We stayed in a cabin with a hot tub that looked out over the Smoky Mountains. We hiked the chimney tops. We yelled, “Jesus loves you!” from the tops of the mountains. We went moonshine tasting and played mini golf. We saw a black bear, and played in a waterfall. It was awesome. And we both enjoyed ourselves, and I realized that I had value, my likes had value, my decisions had value, and my brain was capable of making decisions. And because I knew the value of the decisions for myself I was no longer looking for the admiration from someone else; which ironically, opened my eyes to the admiration others had for me, especially my husband. It was on that trip that I saw that my husband loved me for me.