Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)

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DistanceNotDefense

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Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« on: February 10, 2021, 06:00:26 PM »
This has been on my mind a lot lately and coming up in multiple different ways - this is only one. I may post about the other ways this theme is popping up at another time to avoid overwhelming the forum....(heh) I’m getting stuck in my head with a certain friendship lately. I just can’t tell if I’m seeing things clearly or not, or if I’m paranoid, seeing things that aren’t there, etc. or if the co-dependency is really there. My gut is giving off warning signs like crazy, while I’m trying to “stay in it” and learn more about my trauma responses with this person I’m getting close with.
 Insight, advice, clarity, experiences would be great from all you lovely people….and sorry for this long message, I just get long-winded, and I can’t seem to be able to leave out details….

A friend of mine messaged me a long list of things worrying her recently, out of the blue, and how down and depressed she was about them. Her messaging me was kind of overwhelming, especially since she's been seeming sort of distant for months (plus it was a huge list of stresses – 11 different things!), so it was a little surprising and caught me off guard. Still, I sent her a few supportive and reaffirming messages back despite how out of touch and a little avoidant she's been.
Whenever she’s worried, I make sure she gets an abundance of loving messages because I know how it feels to be depressed…and how good it feels to have someone there. She’s better at returning that favor in person when we talk, but by message however (lately the state of our friendship mostly re: pandemic, and we also actually live far apart), she is hard to read, and seems like she doesn’t have much to say at all regardless if I’ve been down too or just trying to chat her up (while she has * lots * to say when  *she’s * down or when she’s in the mood, will chat me up vivaciously).
Sometimes, when we are having a message correspondence, she won’t respond to messages at all – or she’ll just leave an emoji/emoticon. I don’t remember messaging with her always being this way, it seems to be different, but I’m just not sure.
This friend and I have really connected over the past year or so (pre-pandemic) because we both come from abusive and dysfunctional families. We’ve shared our experiences and been there for each other a lot, and got a lot closer recently. That said, we’ve been friends for almost ten years, and all throughout she has come off as a touch unreliable, flaky, and passive aggressive, but I’ve overlooked this.
Overall, she has seemed genuinely very caring, generous, and attentive and we share spiritual interests, and that’s what I’ve noticed. But now, she’s starting to do things that seem unconnected, subtle, maybe passive aggressive, very covert, but when all connected set of some alarm bells….sound familiar?

With getting a lot closer over the past year though, I think this behavior is causing some whiplash. We seemed to get a lot closer quite quickly when we found out about our similar backgrounds, and then suddenly I’m dealing with her periods of distraction/unavailability/distance, and it is kind of jarring, especially this recent spell  going through NC. At one point she mentioned to me that she can be that way, years ago in our friendship, that she might not be responsive sometimes…I overlooked this, too, though I’m wondering if this was a red flag that I sacrificed since she seemed so warm and genial.
As time goes by I’ve realized she's a little hard to read and very enmeshed with her family still. The last heartfelt conversation we had, she spilled the beans to me that she was pretty much getting scapegoated. I explained what could be happening to her, she felt it was a real eyeopener. But after it seemed like she had “smoothed things over” with her family, that’s when a noticeable distance with her set in, and I wondered if I overwhelmed her with the harsh reality of that advice (given out of love, of course).
I don’t think she’s a narc/PD or even malicious; if anything, I think she has an enormous amount of baggage and healing still yet to do, and as I said, she is enmeshed. But still, fleas from her family…possibility?

I have also started to notice a pattern. When her family seems to be scapegoating her, that’s when she seems to make herself more available in my life, and she seems less distracted, but I really can’t be sure. Maybe more time will tell. The last few get togethers we’ve had, she will seem like she’s bursting at the seams to talk about the latest round of cruel treatment from her family—that in turn kind of goads me to talk about my own family issues, but also be honest with her and tell her, that that's not OK.
When things are going well with her fam though, there is a lull of contact/getting together; every time we’re together on the other hand, her family is a topic, and I don’t mind (though she won’t necessarily ask me about mine always). Otherwise, she is flaky and somewhat inaccessible, unless I do all the initiating in our friendship, and even then she has a penchant for cancelling plans last minute. This doesn't make her a bad person of course, it's a struggle, but so far not worth worrying about too much.
Around the time this distance started was also around the time I told her about how I was cutting off contact with my family (going NC) for now, owing to how they were treating me: citing their stalker-y behavior, and spreading rumors about my DH. At least it was very different and more extreme than how her family treats her, so I thought she would get it, be appalled and revolted. She seemed supportive though a little hard to read on that, and gave very vague advice about “letting go" - but looking back I actually don't even know what that means: let go of family, or let go of my issues with them to "get along" (like she does)?
I wonder if my option of cutting off contact made her see options that she didn’t want to see. Again, maybe that overwhelmed her, and she was just drawing some boundaries subtly. But then I think to myself, hmmm, if she can't draw boundaries with FOO, how is she comfortable to draw boundaries with me....?

This distance was a little rough for me, to be honest. I think I was expecting her support, but owing to her own FOG I think she just can’t be a strong support for me, as maybe it makes her think too much about her own FOO. Regardless of why she gets distracted, that means I’m not on her mind and not a priority to her. And I should have known/seen that her enmeshment could be a factor. Or maybe I should have stepped up and asked for more support directly? I never do this, and it feels so scary to me. Regardless I have sensed that she can't be relied on.
Nevertheless, I offered both to visit her or for her to come up here sometime this winter (social distance style) but neither option she responded to, and she acted avoidant. I even told her about a really fun board game I was getting into, suggesting I could bring it down and we could play it together sometime, no solid plans, of course because of the pandemic, this would be a possibility sometime far in the future. Her response was strange: she ignored my offer to get together at all and instead told me she bought the game herself for her and her family to play, then gave me feedback on it. Kind of missed my point of bringing up the board game, but OK.

Weeks would go by and then when I wasn’t initiating hangouts, she’d say very vague things like “let’s get together sometime”/”let’s connect” which, with practically all my friendships, I have learned is code for “you make the plans and *maybe* I’ll show up, but hanging out isn’t forefront on my mind right now.” I stopped trying to initiate get togethers after a while.
I tried not to take the distance to heart. I focused on other friendships, hobbies, etc. and have felt happy, and have moved on in a way like I don’t really need that support from her anyway (and I don’t think I do, though it would be nice)—even though I supported her with her issues and expected reciprocation, I’ve told myself that I can’t always expect that, perhaps that is co-dependency and control issues, and that we can still be friends, maybe it will just be on a different level and we’re drifting apart a little. It happens.
I also tried to just chalk it up to her being busy with family stuff, kids, and the holidays (and quarantining in between) and tried not to project – and just cut things down to sending her funny articles, videos, etc. by message here and there, and she did the same thing in return. We just kept things light. That started to peter out too, on both ends, moved along with her style of unresponsive messaging. I started to respond a little less with slower response times, like she was— though looking back at our messages over the last few months, it still seems like we generally messaged often, and in a healthy way and amount.

Then, I got this message of hers very recently that was bursting with all the problems in her life right now. It was…overwhelming. As the messages came in, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. And there it was: a message saying she felt like she couldn’t talk about stress with her M because her M judged her too much. Maybe she was being scapegoated again.
The tone changed drastically from the unresponsiveness/avoidance/short messages to showing a very good ability to describe all the dark thoughts on her mind right now. She sounded wildly depressed and stuck in her head. She said she thinks there is something wrong with her, that she does something wrong that always makes it so she ends up alone and alienates people, that she’s insecure about this, that it’s a recurring pattern, she’s always alone, she’s unlikeable and unlovable— that it must be something she’s doing that this happens. I comforted her on all these things, and just affirmed that she's a great person, and that it does seem like she's stuck in her head. (Though now I'M stuck in my head...)
She also surprisingly apologized for her behavior and said “I feel like I’ve offended you and I want to clear the air.” And listed several of our communications that, looking back, seemed a little passive aggressive and sort of insensitive or strange (kind of like the board game thing), but they did not offend me necessarily. And it was a long list of things she brought up that she thought offended me!

However, I really don’t think I acted or genuinely felt offended at any point. I just responded by respecting her distance.

She said she feels bad and like she has been a neglectful and distracted friend. Since there were so many messages, it was also based on that exact moment I was sort of unavailable (I was working) that I couldn’t address everything. I only addressed that she was okay, likeable, and loveable, and that we’re going through hard times with this pandemic, and that nothing she had done had really offended me at all. I also threw in that I really appreciated our friendship and the times she had been there for me, she could message me anytime, and I'm glad to do the same for her.

That said – I REALLY don’t know about this friendship with her anymore, and at the very least relegating it to another level of, well, non-closeness. It honestly feels like it has a “sucking back in” effect after her self-imposed distancing (it even feels like she’s trying to chalk it up to * my * emotions etc. that the distance began....), and that’s when I start thinking about hoovering and things like that, and these kinds of things are especially triggering to me right now.
This doesn’t feel quite like Narc Abuse, though the passive aggressiveness, flakiness, and non-transparency just feel icky to me and are reminiscent of my co-dependent, enmeshed family I broke away from. But maybe it is just really covert? And it could ramp up? (I missed it ALL MY LIFE with my FOO).
I even think sometimes: she’s enmeshed with family, could she even be subtly scapegoating our friendship? (Coldness/avoidance/etc. when things are good with her FOO, needing me when things are bad?) Maybe she has fleas?
So, I just don’t know what to do. My instincts are saying to put up distance and keep away, though not to cut off the friendship, just kind of keep emotional matters off the plate. I don’t really want to lose this friendship, though now I have no idea where to put her in my life, so to speak.

The thing that’s really getting into my head though: is there something about me where I attract these types of people in my life? Has anyone else gone through something like this, had these realizations, made a change, and then had really good friendships with people that seem healthier and more balanced?
I really like to be there for people, support them, give them advice....but maybe I'm offering this too quickly up front, no matter the situation, and it just attracts people who want that and nothing else. It seems like people in the past (friends and family, and now my DH is doing this to me a little now) put me in this emotional caretaker role, but can’t give that same exact type of caretaking to me in return? (I’ve had to cut off other friends like her in the past, though they were waaay more overt, so this is not the first time).
Worse: when I withdraw from that caretaking it seems, even if the withdrawal is mutual, I'm wanted me back in her life as her sort of “back up” caretaker position when things with family weren’t going well. Or am I just paranoid with all this? Am I seeing things, connecting things I really shouldn’t, and this is just a natural back and forth on figuring out where things sit with a friendship?
I don’t think I would be over-thinking it this much, unless I felt this nagging sense that there is something I need to look at closer to grow more from and learn about my own co-dependence, the types of friendships I attract and get into, how I contribute to that, if there really is something off with these friendships - or if it’s all me, my trauma issues, projections, etc. maybe I SHOULD have brought up that I was "offended" (though that's not what I felt exactly), and all that as I heal in NC.
That’s where I think everyone here on this forum would be wonderful to hear from— I need clarity! Sorry again so much for this long message, and thank you in advance for reading and listening.

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SparkStillLit

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2021, 10:42:11 AM »
I don't think you have to worry so much what's the matter with HER, as how this friendship is making you feel.
It sounds like you really feel a bit used. It doesn't have to be this giant narc abuse thing. You're not getting reciprocity out of it. You put a bunch into it, your friend sucks that up and then goes away. She's not giving you much back.
It's perfectly fine to cut way back on your level of input here. I think Mintstripes said something like this, in reevaluating their friendships while healing, they only put into it as much as the other person was willing to also contribute.
There's no sense in these things getting all lopsided, that just leads to huge resentment, and yes, it's a bit caretaker-y of us. It's just how we're built, and we need to keep an eye on it. There's nothing wrong with our super kind and empathetic natures, but don't jump off the deep end with people who don't want it, or worse, get hooked by a nasty. Make sure we're Caring, not Caretaking.
It's easy to fall into Caretaking when you're healing. SO EASY!!!! It feels familiar and normal. Caring feels weird. Plus any pds in your life will rave and scream at your Caring and try to force you back into Caretaking. This shizz is hard work. Be nice to yourself. Go slow as you work on weeding out ickier friends and replace with better. It's not like you were gathering them up on purpose, it's just that your kind nature was appealing to predacious people.
Go with love as you do this.

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Hepatica

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2021, 11:24:31 AM »
I really like what Spark said. It's not about her, it's about how this is making you feel. I would feel all over the place myself, being that this friend is all over the place. It would be confusing for me. I'd have to remind myself that it wasn't my fault.

Something that I think I am beginning to get a slight understanding of is, those of us who are on forums like this know a lot. We read. We educate ourselves and we go to therapy. I mean we've all probably got a degree in Personality Disorder management. And once you know things, you can't unknow them.

I think your friend is not where you are. She is stuck and enmeshed with her FOO, letting them take her down and doubt herself and hasn't found what's right for her to help her get stronger. Also, it's COVID times and I have to admit I'm a bit flakey and unreliable right now. So there are two things there.

Bottom line: from reading this I think you are okay. You are being a good person. You are being so kind and patient and you have to feel good about that. But if you feel drained or used then, that's something to note. She's using you as her therapist I think, rather than getting the help, or seeking information about the issues she is dealing with in her FOO, herself. That's not right. I had to pull away from my cousin when she continued to bang her head against the wall and engage with her FOO, rather than take care of herself. There's only so much I can take listening to a twist on the same story. She isn't seeking any information on PD's and thinks she can manage and fix these things. It was draining and disheartening listening to her engage in it again and again and again.

Again Distance, you are okay. I admire your kindness. There is nothing wrong about what you are doing. I think just stepping back and monitoring your own self-care is important and perhaps offer her a book you've read that changed your thinking and improved things for you????
« Last Edit: February 11, 2021, 11:40:01 AM by Hepatica »
“There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there's
still a sureness in you, where there's a seamlessness in you, and where
there is a confidence and tranquility." John O'Donohue

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DistanceNotDefense

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2021, 04:38:00 AM »
Thank you so much Hepatica and SparkStillLit - this advice definitely helped ground me! I really couldn't tell what was what.

I feel a little more confident now that this is a friendship I may need (and want) to step back from a little and to become generally less available. Y'all saying that that's a fine thing to do is a relief. I'm trying to learn/figure out what is codependent (am I exerting passive control over the relationship by backing away? Is that not a good person thing...is it avoidant/dismissive? Is that not being "genuine?" Do I then address the slack in things right away? How scary!), and what is not.

It does seem like I am a back burner caretaker. But I don't want to be a caretaker for someone who feels I am in the lower tier in their life, or pour tons of energy into it. That's my FOO all over again.

SSL - I totally agree about it not being a Big Narc Abuse Thing, so much of it is just so triggering and reminiscent of my FOO. I think that's where I get clouded. At the very worst I think she has some fleas.

Just like you say Mintstripes said, I deal with friendships and relationships the same way. If I sense a friend withdrawing or not giving as much, I start to match them with that. It often seems that once closeness is established with some people, though, I do all the initiating of the friendship afterwards. There is a feeling of openness and excitement and mutual giving at first (this friend seemed really giving for a long time and different than most other people) but I'm starting to think most take it for granted that I'm giving all the time with my energy and focus, and then they feel like they don't have to work as hard for the friendship to function at all and can step back (ugh why do people do this?!?)

I soooooo wish I had a friend who seemed to keep delivering that level of care, consistently, over a long period of time. I would continue to meet them at that level! I have never found such a person. DH is the closest. I think I just need to find healthy people.

Hepatica - I think you're so right. I feel like I'm some sort of "graduate" of the PD university. And watching others grapple with these things is like seeing high schoolers freak out about popularity, drama, classes, etc. that that's where they're stuck at mentally in life, when they don't realize there's so much outside all that.

I do think we had different perspectives of our "bonding" over FOO issues. I wanted to see the truth, evolve, grow out of the problems, move on. I think she is in denial, has incredibly low self esteem, and is still stuck in that cycle of "this is what my family loving me looks like because it has to be love because it is my family."

Thank you for thinking I am kind and good. It is hard to really feel that sometimes. I had a FOO that would occasionally tell me I was incredibly sweet, kind, and caring, but when I had complaints or negative things to say I was told I was cutting, moody, and an unpleasant person, or even that I was mean. I think a part of me feels like I have to make up for an inherent meanness/unpleasantness by being kind. That I was never being kind enough.

Thanks again everyone. I did message her again to check in, and did address her distance indirectly, specifically about hoping my NC issues weren't overwhelming her into being distant. She said they weren't. If she felt any differently she had her chance to be authentic....so if things start to feel weird and passive aggressive again I will continue to reassess.


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Hepatica

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #4 on: February 12, 2021, 09:23:41 AM »
Hi Distance,
I am a kind, caring person who is also moody, cutting and unpleasant!!!  :blush: I am learning to love all of it. That's the thing about PD families is they take that unpleasant side of who we are and put it under a microscope, like it is something to be ashamed of, when in fact, throughout the day i move from one emotion to the next and all of them eventually pass. I finally get it. It's being human. We are perfect in our perfect imperfection. And some days I am finding I can love that moody, mean, unpleasant me finally. What did Jung say? Something about loving the dark parts of ourselves, because often they are the parts that hold the best of us?
“There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there's
still a sureness in you, where there's a seamlessness in you, and where
there is a confidence and tranquility." John O'Donohue

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SparkStillLit

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #5 on: February 12, 2021, 10:41:29 AM »
Hahaha!!!! I'm moody, mean, and sharp, too!!!!
So is my YA female kid!!! But others find us very kind and caring. HMMMMMMMM.

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Hepatica

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #6 on: February 12, 2021, 10:55:28 AM »
We can be them all, that's how good we are.   :-*
“There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there's
still a sureness in you, where there's a seamlessness in you, and where
there is a confidence and tranquility." John O'Donohue

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JollyJazz

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #7 on: February 12, 2021, 11:30:29 AM »
Hi Distance not Defense,

From what I've read, caretaking is a very normal reaction to narcissistic abuse. It's a survival tactic that so many of us developed growing up, as tiny children we had to put our own terror, feelings and even self interest aside to cater to the feelings of a raging, unpredictable, unstable parent.

I don't think you should beat yourself up about noticing a pattern like this.

Quote
The thing that’s really getting into my head though: is there something about me where I attract these types of people in my life? Has anyone else gone through something like this, had these realizations, made a change, and then had really good friendships with people that seem healthier and more balanced?
I really like to be there for people, support them, give them advice....but maybe I'm offering this too quickly up front, no matter the situation, and it just attracts people who want that and nothing else. It seems like people in the past (friends and family, and now my DH is doing this to me a little now) put me in this emotional caretaker role, but can’t give that same exact type of caretaking to me in return?

I think it's so empowering to notice patterns. I'm a recovering caretaker myself. I'm so so glad to recognize and to continue to work on things I can do to get away from abusers. It's very empowering when we can take a step back from the satisfaction that we get from caregiving when it's being taken and taken from us (without enough back in return).

I know it hurts to go through these upsets but I think caregiving is a key dynamic that puts us in abusive and let's say, emotionally exploitative relationships!

Have you read 'stop care giving the narcissist or borderline? ' - it might be something of interest if you would like to read more.

Anyway, I'm sorry that you've been through some pain recently. But I think you've nailed a lot of things with your insights and working through the issues will definitely help you get happier and more fulfilling relationships as well 😊

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DistanceNotDefense

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2021, 11:47:42 PM »
Thank you all - Hepatica, SparkStillLit, JollyJazz - it's such a comfort to write in here. And it's been incredibly enlightening!

Yes Hepatica - Jung's Shadow Work has appealed to me quite a bit! And the general concept (kind of buddhism-influenced) of emptiness, too: we need to have some emptiness within to hold the joy. (Empty vessels make the loudest sound - grief carves us out to become better vessels for more joy)

Y'all make such good points about being both cantankerous AND kind! Of course we can be both?! So many people I love and adore are like this. I fail to make that same exception for myself often I realize, without even noticing it, and that's been a huge realization after posting this. I need to stop compensating for what I think is bad with what I think is good!

Since you brought up the whole concept of "caring vs caretaking" in your first post, Spark, I'd never heard of it and got curious - I've been looking it up and reading tons of articles about it. It's a HUGE eye-opener.

A lot of my life I think I have falsely thought (and told myself) that what is called "caretaking" is deeply and authentically connecting. Being a good listener, asking lots of questions, trying to help another with their issue, making it less about me for the time being, putting the focus on them. Of course they'll like me if I do that! Always this feeling like "wow I had a real connection with that person. But why did they stop reciprocating? Why did things die off? Why didn't they do that for me?"

Then I feel disappointed and hurt when they drop the slack. That's the co-dependence! But when I was caretaking it felt so gooooood. It feels good to be needed. It feels good to be helpful and supportive. It's almost like an oxytocin drug.

But what I haven't been doing forever is *using that caretaking energy to take care of myself.* Otherwise I wouldn't feel that sting of rejection or guilt, ever!

I think I have unearthed an addiction of mine I never knew I had.

I realize now that when I was caretaking was the only time I felt validated by family. My younger enabler sibling, who I had always thought we were "best friends" and so close for a decade.... I'd been caretaking her all along! And my older PD sib, even my M to some extent. What a mirage it all was. For some stretches I think we both were caretaking each other (me and younger sib), and then drama with FOO changed the dynamic when I finally asked for that care in return. It's at the foundation of everything: I stopped caretaking and started drawing boundaries, but to be part of my FOO means I am everyone's therapist and counselor, otherwise I am shunned.

Just "caring" DOES feel weird. I feel guilt almost immediately. It feels like I'm not doing enough. I feel genuinely troubled, like I can't get the other person out of my head, and like I need to go soothe the other person immediately.

I have been dealing with this a little with DH, as I've been trying to get tons of alone time for healing and dealing with NC grief this winter (plus tons of migraines) with reading, comforting hobbies, etc. and he's seemed discombobulated by how I'm paying less attention to his day-to-day, stress, and interests. I've told him that that sounds like a personal problem to me! (He admitted that himself so that's good, though the shifting dynamic is a struggle.)

I have so much to work on - wow. This pretty much exploded a new door into my life.

JollyJazz, thank you for the book recommendation! I will have to look into it, and I have heard of it.

And thanks so much to everyone again, I can't thank you enough.

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Hepatica

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2021, 10:22:02 AM »
Distance, i have the exact same "Issue" to work on. I am overflowing with this lovey feeling of caring for people.... my rescue dogs and wanting to rescue the world, pretty much. I think it is because i struggled so much as a child with the disorder of my parents and I so wished for someone to rescue me back then.

I identify when others are struggling easily and I want to help them. The gift of feeling for others is also the part of me that is a problem.

And I am very aware now that I am out of balance. I can really see that but it's a habit and if I don't notice it, I fall into it.

I've been really working on my bad a$$ self-respect this fall and winter. This means being mindful of how many times I say sorry, or even feel sorry and how often I just set "my self" aside. It's getting pretty obvious to me the more I notice it. It's really hard for me to find myself in relationship with my Dh and child. Working on this big time.

Definitely comes from my childhood. It's like an out of balance, limp or something that needs a little doctoring to bring me back into balance so that my life feels more fulfilling for ME.

I'm really glad these conversations have helped you (and me.)  ;D
« Last Edit: February 14, 2021, 10:27:16 AM by Hepatica »
“There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there's
still a sureness in you, where there's a seamlessness in you, and where
there is a confidence and tranquility." John O'Donohue

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DistanceNotDefense

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2021, 05:40:44 PM »
I identify when others are struggling easily and I want to help them. The gift of feeling for others is also the part of me that is a problem.

It's so crazy, living all my life thinking that the more I let this part of myself "off the chain," the better... and the more people will probably like me. How could they not? Only to really start realizing it is a problem.

Maybe even in the eyes of some (whether they realize it or not) it's a sign that I don't respect myself! (Like in the case of my friend, she feels OK showing some passive aggressive disrespect from time to time.) Or, they think I'm strong enough to not need anything back.

That slow backing away after taking what I have to give...I give of my emotions and time too freely. I think I'm too available. I also attract people who need support and want someone to "play therapist" for their mental health struggles, and I'm repeating the relationship dynamic with my family all over again.

Wow I'm having a real time of it today. A friend of mine also had a beloved animal pass away and I'm a flood of tears all morning. What a realization. I feel so much. It's a new layer of grief. I'm learning a lot.

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Hepatica

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2021, 08:54:32 PM »
Distance. I get it. And what I'm trying to do now for myself, is redirect that care and attention back to the parts of me that still grieve all of the losses from my past. I hope you were able to give yourself lots of TLC today.  :yes:
“There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there's
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there is a confidence and tranquility." John O'Donohue

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Pinkos

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2021, 05:46:12 PM »
Distance - I’m so glad you made this post and that I found my way to it today after not being on here for a while! I totally feel you in everything you wrote and your thought process. I’m dealing with a very similar dynamic and having the same struggles.

I think everyone who’s responded has been really kind and thoughtful and I don’t think I have much more to add.

But I guess for me, I AM offended. I get offended and angry at what you so aptly called ‘passive aggressive disrespect.’ I get excited thinking and wishing that this person will reciprocate, surely, I mean, it just feels selfish not to, right? Don’t most people operate with that basic give and take mindset? I ask myself. I think, ‘well eventually I’m going to meet someone who has that mindset surely.’ And it just seems like I end up in the same ole rut. And I think ‘well it must be my caretaking behavior that makes this person see me as less than and decide they don’t have to try with me.’ AND that offends me deeply! It cuts me to my core.

And I’m totally with you when you say that you feel like you’re controlling or being passive aggressive if you withdraw. But I am trying to remind myself over and over that I have a right to “control” my time and energy. I am not obligated to respond the way this other person wants me to or to give them my time and attention if I’m feeling injured by the dynamic. And that’s what’s happening to me - I feel emotionally injured and perhaps that phrasing resonates with you as well? I also think that any kind of change in behavior is likely to be viewed as controlling by the other because of course I AM trying to change the dynamic. So in that sense I am trying to control the outcome for myself. I know I have an aversion to being perceived as controlling because I have been unfairly judged as being mean and controlling by my FOO for expressing myself and just being. So now I feel like I sort of stay in these injurious dynamics with people long past my awareness of the injury. Partly, hoping for change from the other person. But partly fear of changing the dynamic on my end because that brings up all kinds of other fears. Fear of loneliness being the main one. That I will never find someone who reciprocates and that I will be destined to repeat this pattern forever! I know that’s drasticizing but it’s there and I feel like that’s the core issue that I have to confront to break out of this pattern early enough and reduce the injury to my self-esteem.

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Boat Babe

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2021, 08:10:18 PM »
This is a great thread OOTFers, really enlightening. Yeah, caretaking. A close relative of People Pleasing and twice as dangerous.

I learnt caretaking at my mother's knee. It was less in return for love, more an attempt to keep her from emotional meltdowns and general weirdness.   :dramaqueen: You can imagine how safe I felt.  This programming went into overdrive when I met exuPDbf. (I was one of many like me I eventually found out).  He could pity party like no-ones business and, at first, I bought it and went into full caretaker mode. Embarrassing on my part, looking back on it.

It's a very good thing to be aware of though. If we find ourselves tending towards any type of caretaking, we can stop and examine our feelings around this, and follow those feelings (loneliness, abandonment, fear, confusion etc. )  back to the core belief that triggers them. Once we find the old script (I have to caretake because ........) we can then begin to rethink the script and self soothe and honour  the emotions that arise.

I will probably always have a tendency towards caretaking and people pleasing but it no longer dominates the scene in my relationships. I spot it relatively quickly. I have even experimented with not doing either in my current relationship and, guess what, nothing has gone wrong and he still really likes me.
It gets better. It has to.

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DistanceNotDefense

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2021, 02:01:50 AM »
Thank you Boat Babe and Pinkos for chiming in on this thread. I'm glad you find it so relatable! And it's been really eye-opening and formed a next big step for me in recovering from my dysfunctional family role. I've never been addicted to any substance in my life, never had a vice ... And it's because I've been addicted to caretaking all along! (And attracted a set of people who I got that fix from, while they got theirs). It was my secret addiction I realized (codependency) and it's like I'm trying to come clean.

Yes I totally relate Pinkos to feeling extremely irked by the passive aggressive behavior. It's really validating to me that you see that, and I'm really sorry you've gone through similar (my heart cries out a relatable "ugh!" in your direction). I also listened to a podcast that made me realize how "ungiving" her communications were, especially in comparison to mine. I thought the stark contrast was all in my head ... apparently it is not! They talked about examples that were literally identical to what I was dealing with in this friend. She really hasn't been giving much and just constantly seems distracted.

On the one hand, I think my friend's behavior is wrong generally speaking, especially if she is conscious of what she is doing (on this I am not clear so the most I can do is try not to project). And it's universally just "off" to not give what you get in a friendship, right??? I always feel this way. I give, why am I not getting the same in return? What about my needs and soothing those (abandonment issues, fear, etc.?) (Especially when I'm going through something so rough right now like going NC with my family, and I expect that same level of support if not more...wouldn't that be obvious? Instead she pulled away.)

By laws of fairness yes, I think she was in the wrong in that sense. On the OTHER hand, it's knocked me over the head realizing that *I gave her so much right away thinking it would always be reciprocated.* Without testing the waters, or even really knowing how she'd handle something like this to begin with. And that that was my uncommunicated expectation, that she'd reciprocate (which is kind of subtly controlling actually, passive-aggressively). But if she didn't have to work in the beginning to get unconditional therapy-like support from me, she just got that automatically...what would make her work for that and want to reciprocate that at any point in the future? She got it "for free" from me right away.

Whether consciously or not, she put two and two together that I'm a caretaker that asks for nothing in return and I don't really have boundaries, so she doesn't need to put in the effort. When it came to be my time to be in extreme pain and grieving, with all the complexity of that (and how it was all too similar to her own family's issues), she found it both too uncomfortable and too easy to just step away with no consequences.

I've been listening to a podcast called "Crappy Friends" which is incredibly enlightening about female friendships. The hosts say that friendship should be just like dating. You should be wary of "insta-connection" and feeling like you met your BFF overnight (I'm so guilty of this). You need to have boundaries in place, and not give too much (or give too little). It's only when trust has been established, sometimes even over years of getting to know someone, that you adjust boundaries and give unconditional care and support when you feel it has been earned and will be reciprocated.

Me? I've always mistaken caregiving for "insta-connection." Of having a deep bond with someone right away and that it must be compatible if it's even happening. Wrong!

If you feel lonely and desperate for a friend (which I have done all my life and not realized it - had real struggles socially in my youth so anyone bonding with me, I would lap it up, even if it's one-sided) it's only a sign that you need to work on yourself and learn to take care of your own needs and not be willing to accept the first person who blows through the door. And chances are, if you have that sense of desperation, the people you will attract will be drawn to that feeling that you "want to be needed to feel validated"....and you will feel like the only people who would accept you and be friends with you are the ones who will latch onto your giving, and giving, and giving nature until you are depleted and hurt all over again.

Anyways I'm rambling! Thank you for sharing your own experience with caretaking Boat Babe. In my own FOO situation, the only time I was strongly validated was when I therapized and put all my issues aside to take care of M and siblings and their supposedly "much worse issues." If I had emotional needs or expression I was punished. I get a "high" off helping people and giving advice, etc. Yikes. I was trained to be this way. If this is the only way I feel I can get close to others, I have lots of work to do. (Oh and yes, I've stepped back on caretaking my DH....wow, he still loves me, turns out!)

As for this friend of mine, I'm currently changing the dynamic. Making myself less available, not responding right away. I initiate communication by sharing hobby-like stuff with her and I think that she'd like, that's all I'm going to expect for now (and that's where I think the friendship should be). Whether she realizes it or not I do think she subconsciously distanced herself from wanting to support me emotionally because my family issues are too much like hers and she doesn't want to look at the hard truth of what she's enmeshed in (don't blame her). I just can't and don't want to even try, or to even be blunt with her and say "I would really like this support from you." She can't give it.

I've noticed a sort of shift with her too that she is trying to be more giving, attentive, and helpful to me in messages, but in kind of superficial and unsolicited ways. And she sent me a very unexpected but big package in the mail (late Xmas presents she claims...a little odd?) She senses a distance I think and this feels like she's saying "See I'm very generous and nice to you! Pay more attention to me!" But for what? The most attentive responses I get from her are when she's down and needs a sounding board - and on her end it has almost felt like she doesn't want to communicate or message at all when things are going well.

I'm interested to see if the distance grows even more if she feels I'm not as available or attentive (or if it starts to get VERY passive aggressive on her end). And like you Pinkos I worry about how close this borders on passive-aggressive control - my focus in doing this is not to get some kind of results from HER, but results from ME, if that makes sense. Her behavior is making me feel a certain way, so I'm just trying to channel the energy away from her and back to me, that is all.

 I'm prepared to let her know, if she brings up a feeling of distance again, that I have simply been trying to put a lot of focus on myself lately during a really tough period of my life and don't have a whole lot of energy reserves I can give to others.

OK done with the rambling for real now  ;)

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Boat Babe

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2021, 04:48:14 AM »
Insta-connection. Love the new word!
It gets better. It has to.

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DistanceNotDefense

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2021, 03:05:09 PM »
I wanted to share a very interesting tidbit/realization on this thread that I just had.

I have this friendship in this thread, my FOO, and even some other friendships elsewhere in my life that feel/have felt very codependent and "caretaker-y".

In learning this about myself I have thought "I need to switch focus to other types of friendships." Ones where we have just shared interests, hobbies, etc. Maybe have fun or something.

I just kind of realized a running theme in the more co-dependent ones: I have noticed a very obvious (now that I examine it) lack of interest in *my* personal interests, hobbies, tastes in movies/music/art etc., even when I express interest in theirs and wanting to share in that.

I have even picked up on subtle jealousy or downright distaste in or derision towards my interests (in my PD FOO this was the worst, if you didn't like something they didn't like you were treated like a horrible, mean, abusive person)!

This has been another epiphany. It's clear to me now that these types of individuals (both FOO and friends) only value the part of my personality that emotionally caretakes for them. The rest of my personality is not valuable to them it would seem, or it is at the very least secondary to may value as a giver.

If someone at the very least doesn't value or respect my personal interests, my life, etc. I think that's a new red flag for me.

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DistanceNotDefense

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #17 on: April 23, 2021, 07:42:22 PM »
I have a funny yet a little irksome update to this whole situation...

I've been giving some distance to this friend over the last couple months, kind of in the same manner as her distance and mirroring her so things don't feel abrupt. Still messaging here and there but that's slowing down, I'm OK with that. (I'm thinking I should probably stop sending her messages altogether maybe that gives the wrong idea).

During that time it's sunk in more and more for me that this is not the friend I need right now. That has felt right, and that has felt OK with me.

But the opposite effect has happened. Instead of mutual distance, this friend is now pushing visits and hangouts on me one-on-one, and is really trying hard to connect (I invited her to a group setting though which would have been preferable and I thought would satisfy her, but she passed on it.)

She's also tried to message my husband about visiting which is strange. They're not close.

She is also still friends with my family on social media, and interacting with their posts, come to find out from others, when she knows I've blocked them in NC.

My M and enabler sibling have been trying to hoover a few of my friends and I can't help but wonder if she is one of them.

I brought this up with my T if it's paranoid thinking. She said, no, considering everything you've told this friend, her staying in your family's circle strikes my T as odd and something to keep an eye on.

Just today she is saying she wants to video chat with me now (haha I don't video chat with anybody....) Says nothing about "hope you're well with your family stuff" (the last thing we kind of deeply touched on, and I told her I've been keeping to myself and working on myself), just "hope the weather is treating you well!"

Obviously my troubles are not on her agenda. Which is OK. But....

I'm completely wiped from the second COVID vaccine shot on top of everything else going on (including shifting out of caretaking for biz partner and DH).

I'm trying to change my habits and obviously I set the totally wrong tone with this friendship.

I'm trying to think of what to tell her. Like sorry, I have a lot going on and I won't be free for a while? The idea of chatting with her is draining. But she's not getting the message. I know somehow that she has a lot to talk about re: her own family and maybe her ex, and I just don't have the bandwidth.

Why do I feel cruel doing this? Ugh.

The answer is clear. Old habits, including caretaking and co-dependence, die hard.

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1footouttadefog

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #18 on: April 24, 2021, 11:04:00 AM »
Seems like you are needed as a friend when her family is not fully enmeshing her.

That she disregarded your offers then later insists that you all meet is a bit telling.  Sounds like a hoover by a pd.

I have a couple such friendships left but I let the other person set the pace and realize they will not be there for me regularly.

I have found that managing expectations if half the battle and makes these things less apt to be painful. 

I have noticed that not jumping in right away in a new situation helps filter out these relationships. 


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DistanceNotDefense

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Re: Am I a Co-Dependent Caretaker? (Friend Edition)
« Reply #19 on: April 24, 2021, 12:49:27 PM »
Thank you for your input 1footouttadefog - I agree with a lot of it!

Yes, without missing a beat the last few times we've talked, she goes straight into family grievances - a family she can't seem to un-enmesh from, but wants regular advice/support over and someone to regularly vent at and nothing more. She's the SG and it's rough, and I told her that point blank. She's in denial unfortunately.

She acts like she can't see what a weird situation that puts me in, but has apologized for similar things (like messaging me social media content from my mom showing memories of us together). So I feel like she is aware of these things bothering me, but does it anyways.

Then she hardly makes room for my own issues in the conversation, or will even kind of shrug it off ("maybe it's just time to let go?" was the only real thing she said about my NC). And I'm well aware that everything is relative and no issue is greater in value than another's, but come on - is she really going to skim over my complete loss of family, when hers is so similar to mine and she refuses to break free? I think I'm her free therapist! Which is what I was for my FOO - and funnily enough, something they were accusing me of being towards the end, even though I was already in therapy and they were critical of my therapist ("it's clearly not real therapy if you're coming to these conclusions"  :roll:)

I really don't know/think she is PD. Perhaps narcissistic, perhaps fleas from her family. What is jarring me so much is she was an extremely supportive person at first and that has almost seemed to have dried up overnight, and became a one-way emotional friendship, right around the time I decided to go NC and told her about it.

Yes, I jumped into being close to this person too soon, in my yearning for FOC. I 100% agree. Falling back into the old habits of what's familiar and settling for the people who are drawn to me, rather than finding and focusing on what's good for myself.