I had a discussion with my spouse today about being inconsiderate. I did not mention that my spouse does things daily that I would categorize as inconsiderate, except that I know how much inattention and obliviousness are part of the disease, and not something a person would choose to have. I draw a distinction between not knowing and not caring, and that’s helps me keep a neutral perspective.

My spouse has expectations of consideration and gets offended if people fail to show it. Sometimes one of those people is me. I know there’s not much I can do about my spouse’s expectations. I can only affect my attitudes and behavior and make sure they are aligned with my own principles and recovery.

Part of the problem for me is telling where the line is between consideration and codependence. One of my parents and several of my step-parents raised me with a lot of faulty teaching about what consideration is, and I engaged in wildly codependent attitudes and behavior. It’s taken more than one set of 24 hours in program to veer away from that kind of thinking. I don’t want to go back to that kind of misery.

So today I am trying to think of examples and analogies that help me tell the difference between consideration and codependence. I’ve come up with one so far:

  • If I am going to the kitchen to make a sandwich, it’s considerate to ask any others if they’d like something too. 
  • It’s considerate to ask if they’d like a sandwich, or possibly something else while I’m up. 
  • It’s codependent to act on the suggestion that I cook a meal, if I don’t actually want to. 
  • It’s codependent to make them a sandwich (or meal) without asking and become offended if they don’t want it. 
  • It’s codependent to make them a sandwich (or meal) without asking, if I don’t actually want to, whether they wind up wanting it or not.
  • It’s considerate to make a sandwich without asking, if I accept that they might not want it, and I make a back-up plan, like sticking it in the fridge for my lunch later.
  • It’s codependent if they say, “No thank you,” and then I take on guilt because they are hungry. (Or I believe they are hungry but lying to save my feelings, and I feel bad about that.)
  • It does not violate consideration to say no if they ask for something I’m unwilling to do, but it’s more considerate to counter that with something I am willing to do. “No, I won’t cook spaghetti right now, but I’ll make you a ham sandwich too if you like.”
If someone expects me to do a codependent thing and I don’t, the question of consideration isn’t mine and I don’t have to take it on. I can love the person and let the whole thing go. The rest is up to them and their own Higher Power.

Syd speaks in Nothing to give about reaching that place where it’s necessary to let someone go. This kind of situation is sad, but what can ya do? The phrase that really caught me was “negotiating with reality”.

I too love someone with whom I negotiated with reality for a long time. They were sick and destructive, and I believe they still are. It took a long time to realize that I don’t have to be involved in their sickness or their secrets. In fact, it became imperative for my serenity and likely my survival that I don’t.

When maintaining a relationship means spending as much time in someone else’s head as my own, that’s a sign I’m negotiating with reality. When describing a relationship with an objective third party, if I have to include a lot of caveats and explanations, that’s another sign. If my friend or partner tells me something that makes perfect sense at the time, but is confusing the next morning, that’s a blatant sign. If I use the phrase, “… but it’s okay because …” I might be trying to justify something, and that’s a sign.

My sickness is insidious, and so is the sickness of the alcoholic. This is one of the ways these diseases can harm us. I very much appreciate the experience, strength, and hope that have been shared with me to thwart it.