Ask Joey: Interdependence day

Joey cherishes her freedom.

Women tell me I’m too nice. Should I change into a different person? If I were a gangster, that might work, because females flock to gangsters as if those men were God. I am baffled because great females are attracted to men who aren’t nice. Why is this? Also, I know that there is more to a person than how he or she looks, but if a female has a beautiful smile and long hair, if she has it all, will I screw it up by being too nice? I offer to do everything for a lady if I’m interested in her. I’m willing to do things for ladies that no other man will. Am I too nice?

One of my personal talents is translation. Not of Spanish, French or German, but of emotional language. I’m particularly skilled at deciphering the real meaning behind pseudo-courteous phrases such as “too nice.” Being “too nice” is not about being nice (good, kind polite) at all. No, it’s an indirect way of calling someone codependent.

A codependent doesn’t love; he or she becomes attached. That means an entangled, hopelessly complicated relationship in which the codependent person engages in actions that seem generous, but actually serve to create and perpetuate a power imbalance. Some codependents do this by becoming mother-father-therapist-handyman-secretary-chauffeur-babysitter-bank-housekeeper to their adult love interest. Sadly, that love interest is mostly incapable or unwilling to reciprocate, often because of addiction or self-created catastrophes or dramatic bouts of sadness, bitterness and anger.

A healthy adult relationship is possible when two independent people get to know one another gradually, and, through that process, learn to depend on one another. It is interdependent: equal and reciprocal. So, no, becoming a gangster won’t help. Actually, that personality type can be codependent, too. He or she just expresses codependency with aggression and violence. (You can see this clearly in relationships that are mired in domestic abuse.) The real answer is to be yourself. A codependent fears that he or she is not loveable without becoming indispensable. But as the desperation to be seen, appreciated and loved grows, so does the codependent’s resentment of not being seen, appreciated and loved as expected.

You can begin recovering from codependency by observing yourself while dating. Spend three-quarters of your dating energy determining if you and your date share a foundation of true friendship. Once you know that love is possible, offer to do one thing for her. Notice whether she reciprocates by offering to assist you. Carefully determine how you feel about the transaction. Continue your recovery by attending a 12-step program (Alcoholics Anonymous or Codependents Anonymous) and reading books such as Melody Beatty’s Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself. And remember, your willingness to lend a helping hand is not bad. Your fixation on doing too much is the problem.

How much time should pass before it’s OK to date a friend’s ex-girlfriend? My friend dated this girl for six months. They broke up two years ago. He is seeing someone else but is really possessive about his ex, even though she doesn’t talk to him at all. She and I really like each other. Is this cool?

Completely. He doesn’t own her. It’s not moral or legal to possess another human being. If he tries to control either of you, it’s a sign of his insecurity. Don’t let him bully you into arguing or fighting with him. Plenty of time has passed to process unresolved feelings. That means this situation is simply an opportunity to stand your ground while facing someone who is irrational. That’s good practice for life. One last thing: Under the circumstances, not dating this young woman is being disloyal to your heart. Full speed ahead, please!

Meditation of the Week

“I’d like to make a motion that we face reality,” said Bob Newhart during an episode of <i>The Bob Newhart Show</i>. I second that motion! And you, dear reader? Do the institutions you affiliate with perpetuate the dark fantasies of fundamentalism? Or a brilliant and loving reality?