Love and Codependency (Question of the Month)



This month’s question is done in conjunction with the Lost & Found: Valentine’s Day Edition, hosted by Arlee Bird, Guilie Castro-Oriard, Alex J. Cavanaugh, Denise Covey, Yolanda Renee, and Elizabeth Seckman


So, after all that hoopla, here at long last is the question…

When have you lost or found love?

Now, them of you what follows this here blog know that Mary and I celebrated 38 years of wedded bliss last Thursday, and that I wrote about our first official encounter for Linda Hill’s Just Jot It January, which ended yesterday. (By the way, thank you, Linda!) Rather than just repost that and say, “here ya go,” here’s a story about the girl I met before Mary.


  • The story you are about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
  • This is a true story, and not an especially happy one. There will be places in this story where I’m not especially kind.
  • I’m not sure this fits the theme exactly, but it’s the story I have.

My second year of college was not an especially good one. (My third, in contrast, was great.) I nearly flunked out of Northwestern, I broke up with the girl I had been dating since freshman year to pursue another girl, who then broke up with me; when I tried to re-establish my relationship with the first girl, she said “no thanks.” (That was the gist of it, anyway; this is a family blog, so I won’t repeat exactly what she said other than to say it rhymed with “truck flu.”)

Into this void stepped “Jenny.” She and I worked at Carson’s: I was in the young men’s shop, she was in a “leased” department that sold food like Hickory Farms. We knew each other well enough to say hello and exchange other pleasantries, but that was about it.

At the beginning of March, a girl who worked with her told me that Jenny was interested in me, and wanted to know if I was interested. Now, I knew nothing about Jenny, but I knew she was cute and pleasant, and I also knew she was a few years older than I. Nothing like Forty Carats, but still, older. But I said to myself, well, I ain’t doing much else; sure, why not? So I told the girl that yes, I’d be interested.

That weekend, Jenny told me that she and a few people from work were going bowling, and asked if I wanted to join them. I agreed, provided she could give me a ride, because I didn’t have a driver’s license. And she agreed.

We had a good time bowling, and went out afterward with the group for a cup of coffee. We were the last to arrive, because we spent a good fifteen minutes in the car necking before we left the bowling alley. There was plenty more necking when she brought me home, and when I got back into the house, I was feeling something like love for Jenny. At least intense like. The next weekend, I took her out. We had dinner and went out dancing, and when she dropped me off at home (at about three in the morning) I was thinking that, while it probably wouldn’t be an eternal love situation, she was certainly good company and I could see spending some time with her.

The next night, Jenny called and told me she had to see me. I was exhausted from working all day after having gotten to bed after three, I had a long week ahead of me, and it was Sunday night, when people go to bed early, and I knew Mom and Tex wouldn’t appreciate having company. But, like a fool, I said yes.

She got to the house and we went to my room, where she started questioning why I had taken her out the night before. I told her it was because I liked her and wanted to show her a good time. We went back and forth with this for a while, whereupon she buried her face in her hands and became unresponsive, almost catatonic. I tried talking to her, tried reassuring her that yes, I liked her and no, I wasn’t expecting anything more than being happy with someone I really liked, but she just kept sitting there with her face in her hands. My mother finally called on our second line (the one my brothers and I used) and, after ascertaining everything was all right (that’s what I told her, although everything wasn’t all right), she suggested I send her home. When I got back to my room, she was putting on her coat and told me she had to go, and walked out without a goodbye kiss.

I thought, okay, she just had a bad night, and things would get better, or she was telling me it was over and that was that. They didn’t, and it wasn’t. Jenny insisted on spending every free moment with me, meaning we went on break together, to lunch together, and when summer arrived, every moment from the time we punched out at work to the wee hours of the morning together. I told her one night that I was tired and really wanted to take a night off, and she agreed, but called me that evening and kept me on the phone past the time I wanted to go to bed. She managed to horn in on every family occasion we had at the house, much to the chagrin of my mother. The people in her family hated me; they treat me with disrespect every time I saw them, after which Jenny would tell me what they had said about me. When she was angry at me, she would threaten to drive off and leave me where I was. I think I told her to go ahead once and called a taxi to take me home, and she got all apologetic and talked me out of taking it.

It took many years for me understand that she was probably bipolar, and although she was 25, she had the maturity of a fifteen-year-old. I had found myself in a codependent relationship (Webster says that’s “a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition”), though I didn’t know what that was at the time. All I knew was that, as many times as I tried to end the relationship, I never could; she would talk me out of it. I think about it now and realize she could play me like a fiddle.

I don’t think I actually broke up with her. That fall, I transferred to Loyola and moved into the dorm, and found a new job with Marshall Field’s. She called me at the dorm once on the phone in the suite. My suitemates, being the kind and understanding gentlemen they were, spent the whole time we were on the phone making crude remarks, until finally she said “Call me sometime when you’re alone.” I heard later that she asked my old manager if he had heard from me, and he let her know that he had, and that I was doing well and had gotten engaged.

I have no idea what happened to her after that. I did an Internet search for her a few years ago that told me she was still living at her parents’ house, although I’m sure they’ve passed on. I hope she’s not still waiting for me to call…

31 thoughts on “Love and Codependency (Question of the Month)

  1. That you stayed that long with someone who obviously had a brain disorder is commendable. I don’t like saying mental because there is so much stigma to this and we simply don’t understand the brain the way we do the heart, kidney, liver, etc… This was not a good relationship and glad you were able to part from her since it was not healthy for either of you. I know you may be curious about her and care about her in some way but if you ever ran into her again, she would not leave. Stay hidden from her:)


    1. To be honest, before writing the article, I hadn’t thought about her much, apart from learning she still lives where I left her. Were she to find me, I’d probably tell her she had the wrong person. Last thing I need now is her hanging about…


  2. All things considered, I think you behaved as kindly as you could. And I also think you are verrrrry lucky to have escaped that relationship with all of your body parts intact. (Assuming you did…)

    Nah, I don’t think she’s still waiting by the phone for your call…


  3. That’s a common theme with some women. Sometimes they’re suffering from bipolar disease and other times they’re just nuts. You were spot on when you said she had the mentality of a fifteen year old. There was definitely a lack of maturity. It’s a good thing you got out when you did.
    I didn’t see that you did anything unkind.
    Whatever you do, don’t Friend her on Facebook! 🙂

    Michele at Angels Bark


    1. Geez, you said “don’t friend her on Facebook” and I immediately went out there to check and see if she was there. She’s not, thank the good Lord. XD

      Now that I think of it, I bent over backward to be kind, even when the situation didn’t warrant. I must have been out of my mind. I stayed in the relationship simply because I didn’t want to hurt her, which is a downright stupid reason to do it. I added the disclaimer because I was about to say she was koo-koo for Cocoa Puffs, but I never did…


      1. You weren’t out of your mind, you were simply being you: a nice guy! Be proud of that.


  4. If you’re bad, then I’m bad too. When I was young and relationships got weird (and yours and hers qualifies as weird!), I’d just sort of quietly walk away. It’s not like a marriage. There you exchange vows and owe people an explanation, but when you feel like you might be taking a ride on a crazy train, it’s all right to jump to safety.

    Or maybe I’m a horrible coward. But anyhow, I don’t think you looked bad at all.


    1. I know I would have been well within my rights to tell her “it’s over, you’re not my girlfriend, see you in the funny papers, put on your big girl panties and deal with it,” but by that time I was so worried about what she might do (kill herself, kill me, make my life hell, etc.) I felt to just wait until things changed and use that as my excuse to bow out of her life. Stupid, yes, but I was 20. If I had it to do over again, the relationship wouldn’t have lasted beyond that confrontation at home.

      I put that disclaimer in because I wasn’t sure what I was going to put into the story. That’s just a small piece of what went on. There was much more, and probably a couple of things I’ve blotted from my memory.


  5. What could she have said? I’m trying to think what rhymes with “truck flu.” Could it be muck stew? Duck stew? Luck sue? Buck too? Yuck Foo? Hahaha.

    Having been in my share of codependent relationships, I’ve learned the hard way the only way out is to go off the grid completely. It’s actually harder now than it was when it happened to you (social media and all that), but the gist is the same. Cut complete contact. Don’t respond to phone calls, emails, any messages. Nothing.

    BTW, having met some bipolar people, I’m not convinced she was bipolar from what you’ve written here. I think she had issues for sure. We must always remember that we can’t “fix” someone else. I think that’s where nurturing people get stuck. We want to make it better for the other person, but we can’t. Only they can make it better for themselves.


    1. I’m not certain it was bipolar, either. Severe depression, certainly. If I had to guess, codependence issues of her own. I’m pretty sure she had daddy issues. There was a lot more I didn’t talk about, and even more I’m sure I blocked out. Whatever the case, the only answer was to extract myself and disappear from her life.


  6. Whoa, John… “Creepy” only scratches at the surface of this. You were lucky to escape (relatively) unscathed; I’ve known people like Jenny, and it usually ends badly. You said at the beginning that you hadn’t behaved well at some points of the story… But I don’t see what you could’ve done differently, or better. Unless you already had a psych degree, you simply weren’t equipped—none of us are—to deal with this situation in any other way. What I know from psychologist / therapist friends is that the only way to end a codependent relationship like the one you describe is to cease contact, immediately and decisively. No calls, no friendly chats over coffee, no attempts to ‘leave things well’—just disappear. It may sound harsh—I know many people have trouble doing it—but it’s, quite literally, doctor’s orders. So if that’s what you think you did ‘wrong’, John, you’re… well, wrong 🙂

    Thank you for sharing this. Loved reading it. (Great writing, too!) So glad you joined the Lost & Found hop!
    Guilie @ Quiet Laughter


    1. Thanks! It’s a story I haven’t committed to paper (or whatever) until now, because I’ll be honest, I was embarrassed to admit I let myself get involved like that. But it’s been 40 years and I’ve since learned that there was no way I could have avoided it, and that yes, the right thing would have been to walk away, something I didn’t realize at the time.


  7. Hi John! I have nominated your blog and you for the Liebster blog award. If you take part in this type of thing you can see my post on 2nd Liebster award for rules. If not thanks and have a great day….Annette


    1. It is creepy, but I think much of it had to do with her psychological problems. As I said, the first couple of times we went out, she seemed perfectly normal…


  8. The sounds like having all the makings of some psycho thriller. At first a sort of dream encounter that turns into a nightmare relationship. I’ve known a couple ladies like this but didn’t let things get too far.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out


    1. Looking back, I really should have gotten out of it much sooner, and been more direct with her about it. She needed help, and I wasn’t the one to provide it. I think I was scared of what she’d do if I did more than anything.


    1. How so? Do you mean breaking up with the first girl? Maybe. Letting things peter out between me and Jenny? No. I don’t think what we had between us was love.


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