the writing and photography of Neil Kramer


I was reading a little about codependency after an IM conversation with Juli Ryan, a blogger living in New Zealand, who was kind enough to say, “I think you might be co-dependent,” in that blunt manner that Kiwis are famous for, or at least I imagine them to be.

How long can this status quo continue with Sophia? Why does it scare me to bring up the word divorce, as if the very sound of these two syllables will cause a major earthquake on the Californian coast. The fear of change is so palpable, the walls of our home are already cracking from the vibrations.

My first reaction to Juli’s diagnosis of codependency was to make a joke. How typical of me!

“Finally, I can blame my mother!” I said.

Later, I thought about the parental influence on my life in a more serious, searching manner. And then it hit me. It wasn’t my mother.

It was my father.

Written on the iPhone


  1. Dana


  2. Becky

    Keep going, Neil. You’ll get there.

  3. Juli Ryan

    A real Kiwi would not be as blunt as me. Also, I hope that I didn’t come off like I was trying to diagnose you, Neil. I meant to suggest that I have found some books on codependency (like Pia Mellody’s Love Addiction) quite helpful. I don’t know if codependency is applicable to you, or not! (I’m not a psychologist. I just play one on the internet.)

  4. headbang8

    Are you bringing up the word “divorce” here, and not face to face with Sophia? Why, or why not?

    A disturbing thought, but it might need to be said. Do eldest sons become husband-substitutes for their mothers? Did your relationship with Sophia begin to deteriorate after your father died?

    Sorry if that question is out of line. But bluntness is the theme of today.

  5. surcey

    I’m enjoying the shorter posts, but please finish this one. Such interesting possible insights.

  6. Anne Arkham

    You are totally co-dependent.

  7. Twenty Four At Heart

    So you’re co-dependent (lots of married people are IMHO) … now what?

  8. Finn

    Oh Neil… it’s time to decide.

  9. MQ

    You need to let go, divorce and start over.

    • Neil

      MQ, t isn’t that one person is bad or good. It just is.

  10. Joe Crawford

    Brother Neil, I emailed you in May 2008 and suggested CODA to you.

    Check it out, seriously.

    • Neil

      Joe, I remember. And never did anything.

  11. Annie

    Just do it. Move on, let go, it is past time. xoxo

  12. Karl

    I’m with Finn here. Seems you’ve been on the fence for years. And the codependent thing shouldn’t come as a shock. Most of us are.

  13. churlita

    It’s really hard for me to let go of people too. I have HUGE abandonment issues that I can blame both of my parents for. It’s always good to have a scape goat…Or several.

  14. kristy

    Here is my one piece of advice/wisdom, that you may find to be neither, but that has helped me personally, immensely:

    After finally being able to put a label to some of my own crazier behaviors, tendencies, whatever, I felt relief. Having a term I could look up helped a lot, and steered me toward some good readings.

    But it was really important for me to also ask, “Well, and, so what?” Be careful not to just accept that being something (like “codependent”) is inherently or completely bad.

    (Again, I say this only because I had to say it to myself.)

  15. Loukia

    I don’t think it is an issue of co-dependency so much as a fear of change, real change. Divorce is so final. So many people stay in relationships because they are scared of change, because even though things are NOT good, change is even scarier. It freezes people, makes them weak, and not able to move on. It is the hardest choice you’ll have to make.

  16. Titanium

    The common denominator in my failed relationships: me.

    Just sayin’. No matter where you go, there you are.

  17. Blaiser


    the same is true of the good relationships in your life – friendships, individual triumphs etc.

    In order for the glass to be half full you gotta at least start with a glass! Or maybe a sippie cup. Or Something. Just sayin’

    Neil I think deep down you already know the answer to which you are slowly arriving.

  18. daysgoby

    And I think back to all the tweets and posts where I thought there might be an echo of something, a frisson in your landscape, but I blew by that and just concentrated on the now – the latest crisis, the big stuff going on.

    I feel very small. I’m sorry, N, and very glad you have friends around you.

  19. Titanium

    Well, duh, Blaiser. Obviously, I was substituting “my” and “me” for a “your” and “you” that would have been just rude, in this context, considering Neil’s open-handed approach.

    My cup runneth over. You?

  20. ozma

    Tell us more.

    But my husband and I are horribly co-dependent. And it totally works for us. In other words, I am not sure codependency is such a bad thing.

  21. Amy

    but you knew you were before she pointed it out, right?

  22. Bon

    i wonder. what exactly is it that scares you?

    you guys were separated for awhile. has divorce never been formally on the conversation menu?

    when someone is vulnerable – as Sophia would be now, and you too, likely, given all the intimacies of dealing with FIL – it’s hard to broach endings. yet, if you get the sense that there would be cleanness in actually breaking these bonds and only guilt is keeping you where you are, you’re doing neither of you any favour.

    you will survive her wounds. and any accusations of betrayal or disappointment. the question is, how will YOU survive without being needed by them? that’s where the codependency question gets answered.

    good luck.

  23. Joe Crawford

    “Co-Dependents Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healthy relationships. The only requirement for membership is a desire for healthy and loving relationships. We gather together to support and share with each other in a journey of self-discovery — learning to love the self. Living the program allows each of us to become increasingly honest with ourselves about our personal histories and our own codependent behaviors.
    We rely upon the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions for knowledge and wisdom. These are the principles of our program and guides to developing honest and fulfilling relationships with ourselves and others. In CoDA, we each learn to build a bridge to a Higher Power of our own understanding, and we allow others the same privilege.

    This renewal process is a gift of healing for us. By actively working the program of Co-Dependents Anonymous, we can each realize a new joy, acceptance and serenity in our lives.”

    It’s never, NEVER, NEVER EVER too late to make forward progress on the stuff that makes life unmanageable.

    And upon further reflection Neil, I am very sorry that I came off like, “I told you so” — I feel like that, but really, it’s pretty much an asshole move on my part to think of it like that. Co-dependent, even.

    Take care of yourself Brother Neil.

  24. Slow Panic

    Divorce is huge and scary — I think lots of people put off the ineveitable because the whole process seems so huge and terrifying. well, is huge and terrifying. i hope you find your way to the place ou are truly supposed to be.

  25. this new place

    I had a realization a long time ago about things I deal with, and always thought it was my dad and I realized, shockingly, it was my mother!

  26. Jillian

    Wow, I’m overwhelmed just by reading the responses to your short post.

    It seems like you have a lot of people who obviously care for you and want to help you.

    Without knowing you I say, stick to the humor and do your best to let go of your painful past.

    We are all codependent in some way so please don’t beat yourself up over it, unless of course you do truly have a problem in which case I say, listen to your friends. What am I saying exactly????

  27. Headless Mom

    So dark lately. I hope you two can figure it out. Best done together in my opinion. Sometimes I think that we over-think things. Also hoping that you find some peace with all of this.

  28. sizzle

    Read: Anxious to Please. It seriously changed how I am. And I am a recovering co-dependent.

  29. Sondra


    You are an amazing writer and I have no doubt that you are able to articulate your thoughts and feelings just as beautifully to Sophia.

    No matter what happens, may I remind you that Sophia had a say in your decision to marry and I would hope that she would have a say in a mutual decision moving forward.

    I’ve been in your shoes, walked on the same path, carried a similar burden.

    You are a strong, loving and gracious man. I know whatever happens will be for the best.


  30. melissa

    divorce is a huge, scary step. but really? life is short. if you’re that miserable, hold your nose and jump off that high dive. it will be fine. you’ll surface, gasp for air and swim to the shallow end. i’ve been there. and i’ve done that. and it will be fine.

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