I am dating a man who is friends with his ex-wife. They divorced five years ago, and she is now divorcing another man. A few months ago, she left the keys in her new car, and it was stolen. She asked to borrow my boyfriend’s car. I said she was a woman of means and could rent one, so he took her to rent a car. When the stolen car was found, she called my boyfriend and asked for a lift to pick it up. He left immediately.
Months earlier, she borrowed his vehicle for an afternoon, kept it four days and then returned it filthy and without gas. He saw no problem with this. Recently she asked him to pick up a prescription. She was at work and not sick. He forgot; so, on our way to dinner, we drove out of our way to pick it up.
My boyfriend also invited her for Christmas (I was cooking for him and his daughter) because she had no plans. He didn’t think she would come. I don’t invite people expecting they will not come. It’s phony.
She betrayed him in marriage, used him financially and comes between us. Friends say that no one should spend Christmas alone, so he is doing the right thing and I need to get over it. I feel that it was inconsiderate and that he should have talked to me first. She called at noon on Christmas to say she forgot about the invitation and would stop by with gifts. My boyfriend wanted to wait for her. I said let’s go on as if she is not coming. She called at 4:30 p.m. to say she was not coming.
I can’t find any love for her inside me. My boyfriend is patient and understanding. I feel that I have been measured and find myself lacking. Help!
I wish that the world’s religions were truthful about the human nature of those they declare holy. If they possessed this courage, humans would not confuse unconditional love with codependency as you and your boyfriend do. In other words, if you understood that Mother Teresa was often darkly depressed and angry or that Buddha occasionally hit his disciples upside the head for not grasping key concepts or that Gandhi possessed a manipulative, controlling streak, we might have more compassion for ourselves and thus more compassion for others. And you would not believe that the drama between you, your boyfriend and his ex-wife proves you are lacking patience and understanding.
In his book How to Be an Adult: A Handbook on Psychological and Spiritual Integration, David Richo writes, “Codependency is unconditional love for someone else that has turned against oneself.” Your boyfriend’s ex-wife plays the damsel in distress, and your boyfriend rescues her. This pattern allows him to pretend that he loves unconditionally when he is actually mired in codependency and sabotaging her opportunities to be an adult. If there is no mutuality, if she takes without giving, there is no friendship.
That said, he must ensure that his daughter has a safe and healthy childhood. If his ex-wife needs to rent a vehicle so their daughter has a ride to school, he must assist in securing transportation. Children come first in divorce.
Just because you dare to state options (“Your ex can afford to rent a car”) does not mean you lack virtue. If you are angry, it is probably because you resent rescuing your boyfriend. He needs to learn how to establish healthy boundaries, and so do you. You can also gain compassion for his ex by remembering times when you wanted to be rescued. If no one saved you, be grateful. You gained skills in self-care or learned to ask for help without a trace of the neediness that defines codependency.