The Lovely Addict

Are you a Situational Narcissist?

When I was at my lowest point, I complained incessantly to anyone who would listen. I bemoaned my unhappy marriage and struggled to figure out why I was “doomed” to relationship failure. Poor me! I obsessed over my husband’s every action: if only he were more loving, if only he didn’t avoid me so much, if only he helped out more, if only I could teach him to be more attentive to my needs

One day, my mother invited me out to lunch. Just us girls. Within five minutes of me getting into the car, I began: “You’ll never guess what my husband did,” and “I’m so sick of this,” and “Why do I put up with these crumbs…” and…

She slammed on the breaks. “Enough!” she said. “This is supposed to be a happy, peaceful, fun day out for you and me. And your complaining is making me sick. If you don’t like your marriage, then get out, but stop complaining and dragging me and everyone else down with you.”

I sat there stunned for a bit. It felt like someone dunked me in a tank of freezing cold water or slapped me hard across the face. The sting of her words cut deep.  And, as I sat there mildly processing what she said (at this point in my life I had a very hard time listening to anything anyone said that didn’t fit into my toxic worldview), the first thing that came to mind was a defense against my own behavior. Hey! I’m going through a really rough time. My husband is avoiding me and his responsibilities in the marriage and treating me and the kids horribly. I don’t have a job. I have two babies I have to take care of. I don’t even have a Bachelor’s degree to go get a job if I wanted one. Worse, this is coming from my mother. I thought she was supposed to be supportive. If we can’t depend on those who love us, on who can we depend?

As I sat there crying and grumbling back, “You don’t support me!” her response, yet again, shook me. “I support you and will always support you. What I do not support is excessive venting, whining and complaining. You’re not taking any action to support yourself. You’re not doing anything to improve your situation. You are simply drowning in a pool of toxicity and you’re pulling everyone else down with you.”

I guess it took someone to finally yell at me and put me in my place so that I could hear what I needed to hear. My mother was right. I was doing nothing to help myself so, why did I expect everyone else to to help and support me? More than doing nothing, I was so wrapped up in my problems I couldn’t see that I was harming my relationships with others. Not just my mother, but my friends and family as well. In my miserable, obsessive state, I could not see the world around me. I didn’t care about anyone else’s problems but my own. I never asked how anyone else was doing. I was enraged, depressed and needed excessive amounts of approval. The only thing that mattered, was…me!

This is called acquired situational narcissism. The term first appeared around 2001 and it was applied to famous wealthy individuals who had “acquired” narcissistic tendencies once they became wealthy or famous. Classic narcissism didn’t apply to them because they had not always been narcissists. Their situation, being their fame and fortune, was what brought on the tendencies. Remove the fame and fortune, and they should function without narcissistic behavior.

The first time I heard this term applied to love addicts was from Susan Peabody, who writes about her own experience with it here. The situation for us is the relationship, or the person of addiction.  In this case, my crappy marriage. Not only was I fraught with pain and suffering as I remained in a relationship with a man who treated me so poorly, but I also used my suffering as a narcissist would–to gain excessive amounts of support, attention and comfort from others even if that meant that I was dragging them down with me. I used the support of others to elevate me. And when I didn’t get support someone, I blamed them for being cold and heartless, and quickly found others who would listen.

Of course, this tale ends on a positive note. This was one of the greatest lessons of my life, which ultimately led me to realize I needed to stop venting, stop dragging other down into my personal misery, and start taking action that could actually change my situation for the better. Once I did those things, little by little, my perspective changed. My level of neediness changed. And life was no longer just about me. I had room in my brain and my heart for others.

So, here’s a few questions for you to help determine if you might be a Situational Narcissist:

  1. You are severely wrapped up in your own problems and have been for six months or more.
  2. When you are with friends and family you find that you always seem to make the conversation about you and whatever issues you’re dealing with.
  3. You have a hard time recalling what others have said or done lately, or what interests or activities your friends are up to, and you haven’t participated fully in others’ events.
  4. You recognize that you are venting and complaining a lot/ You have been accused of venting and complaining too much.
  5. You have lost friends who you claim don’t “support” you, or you blame others for not supporting you
  6. You are not exactly taking any concrete action to fix your problems but rather, wallowing in the situation as if you have no control over it.
  7. You feel incredibly hurt and judged when others give you advice or suggest you might be wrong.

The good news is, situational narcissism is only situational. It will not last. It is typically dependent on the situation. And situations tend to be temporary, malleable, changing. The bad news is, YOU are the one that needs to fix it. And until you harness all that energy you’ve been wasting by dragging others into your drama you will remain helpless and wrapped up in yourself. Create real solutions and stop depending on friends who are complicit of your narcissistic behavior. The ones–like my mother–who yell and feed you a dose of tough love might be the ones to listen to.

Healthy problem or toxic one?

My life has been somewhat chaotic for the past several years. In 2013 I quit working with my brothers at our company because I felt I was being treated poorly, and so in July 2014, I started my own business (a smoothie bar inside a fitness center). But, after a year, I felt trapped and wanted to do more with my life. So, I sold the business in September 2015. From September to the beginning of November I had no job and so, my goal was to return to grad school to get my Master’s in Counseling. During that time of no work I was sick almost every day, fought with my husband, felt depressed and was bored out of my mind. But, on November 6, the president of our company died, which thrust me right back into having to work with my brothers. While I was once again in a situation where I was being bullied, mistreated, ignored and hated, I eventually felt as though I had a greater purpose–to save my company. All the whining I did in between jobs, all the panic attacks and anxiety and yelling at my husband, all vanished once I had a huge problem outside myself–once I had something to overcome.

I see my love addiction the same way, and you, as well, should consider the idea that your love addiction, or, at the least, your PoA (person of addiction) may fill a much needed purpose. He or she might be helping to distract you from yourself, so you no longer have to deal with JUST YOU. So often we create problems or hold on to problems as security. No matter how bad they get, they seem to offer a painful “thrill” to an often humdrum existence.

I don’t know how to resolve this need in me to have a “struggle” or a problem. And, I am not so sure it’s an entirely bad thing IF I work towards solving the problem and making the problem my life’s work. Despite the pain I must endure from my one brother who regularly attacks me,  I am struggling to help rebuilt a company. And when I focus on that, I feel good about myself.

So, ask yourself, if your problem or struggle is a dead end or has a worthy purpose.  What parts of it are you in control of? What is out of your control? If you are struggling to convince your PoA that he should love you but you continuously find yourself being ignored or neglected, this may not be a “healthy” problem to solve, but rather a toxic one that could be draining you.

If my only problem was to fight with my brothers, I would say this problem of mine was a toxic one. In fact, that’s how I felt in 2013. I was unable to make any changes in the company (because the president was still alive), and so, the problem of dealing with my brothers was mostly beyond my control. This time around, my brothers are still beyond my control, but I now see a PURPOSE hidden within the problem. I only see this purpose because I am able to see REAL AND POSITIVE  RESULTS from the work I am doing. So, for now, I will take on this problem as a healthy one. Yes, it is distracting me from myself, but it is also giving my life purpose.

Is your love addiction giving your life purpose? Or is it sucking the life out of you? Choose your problems wisely.

The Break Up Journal: Anniversary Blues

henry-cavill-supermanAugust 8

Long day yesterday. Spent the morning on the computer. Got the boys lunch and then my sister-in-law was over by 1:30. We were at the airport by 2:30. We waited two hours until they finally cleared customs at 4:30. We didn’t get home until almost 7 due to traffic. We had a quick dinner while Abuelo and Abuela played with the kids. They left by 7:30!

I talked to P a bit at night. We laughed. I tried to just keep things light. He so resists help though. He’s cutting back on cable and I said, “Well, you can always come here and watch TV.” He said, “Or just go down to the bar and watch.” Dear Lord.

I feel like telling him that he is so out of touch with himself. And almost completely incapable of handling a relationship [Irony?!]. It’s sad. It’s sad when a man holds on to…Read More

The Break Up Journal: unresolved issues?

ocean healsAugust 5. The ocean cures.

I talked to C in the morning. Then to Kathy. Did more yard work. Tried to get out of seeing P but couldn’t do it. Waited for him at home until he showed up and then we all went down to the shore together. The water was amazing and clear and calm and I went in past the breakers with P. He stayed out there and road the waves with the boys and aside from a southwest wind that brought a few greenheads the day was perfect. We laughed the entire time and I called P “Puddin’ Bear” as a silly joke and got in trouble for it, and then we ate greasy food at Scooter’s. We flew home late in the afternoon and then P left. I made sure the boys took showers and then we all headed to Kathy’s where I dropped the boys with the babysitter. Kathy and I then went to Fisher’s where we talked and talked and talked. She thinks I need to go back to therapy because of all the unresolved issues with C.

But I know what’s going on with those unresolved issues…Read More

The Break-Up Journal: Love hurts

August 4: I so need a life, a career. Something to distract me from my obsessive thoughts. I’m getting my period and I can’t sleep. I’m jittery, and I’m making unhealthy choices like seeing C yesterday morning and calling him back at night after seeing that he called me. Not wanting to see P today either (what’s the point if it’s only for a few hours). I want to push him away. Go! Get out! You are hurting me. So, I’ll go back to someone else who has hurt me a little less.

And how is P hurting me? It’s so subtle but it’s happening. He’ll come all the way out to my mom’s house for dinner but he won’t come back to my place, which is right around the corner. He has to “run.” Or, he’ll offer to come tomorrow while he has a half day at his day job and work at night. That’ll only leave us about two hours. How convenient. And he won’t come today on his day off because he has “doctors” to see??? Nope don’t want it. Tracy say no. I think I need some Tracy time. Definitely. Because right now I am hating a lot of stuff about P. Here’s the list of what bothers me most…Read More

Definition of insanity or love addiction?

Why do we continue to believe that our partner or love-interest will take us out to dinner or buy us flowers or call when he said he would or make himself available at the spur of the moment, or any of these things when, habitually, he has proven not to do them? Why do we continue to expect a certain level of intimacy when it rarely happens? And why do we continue to make an effort to convince him or her to love us, when we have never yet received the love we so crave?

Sounds like insanity to expect something different when all you get is the same lack of interest over and over again. Right?

Well, you’ve heard the cliche that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. And while this definition doesn’t exactly define true insanity, I think it’s safe to say that for some of us who repeatedly put up with the same situation from the same type of people and never seem to see the results we hope for–but we stay anyway–it surely defines love addiction.

In fact, I think it’s also safe to say that this type of behavior is what separates love addicts from healthier people who refuse to put up with things like avoidance, neglect, apathy, abuse, unavailability, lying or cheating. A love addict puts up with these things. But why?

  • She thinks this is the best she’s ever going to get
  • She hopes that things will change and eventually he will come around
  • She doesn’t know that there is a healthier way to relate to people
  • She has become dependent on the relationship, to meet most if not all of her needs
  • She is living in fantasy

If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired and want change, you need to stop repeating the same behavioral patterns and stop accepting them from others. You need to step out of habitual actions and do something different if you want different results. One of the best changes we can make toward better health and healthier relationships is to align our words and our actions.

Here’s an example. Often, we say one thing with our words: “If you flirt with her again I will leave.” Then, we don’t back it up with our actions. Time goes by, things are good. And he flirts again with another woman. And yet,  you don’t leave. Instead, you create excuses. Well, circumstances were different, or He didn’t flirt with the same girl, or This time he seemed sincere in his apology.

The truth is, you sent the following message: I SAY that I don’t like you’re behavior at all, but, MY ACTIONS ARE THAT I’m willing to put up with it as long as you stay in my life. Not only does this send mix messages it sends the wrong message! It teaches people that you don’t mean what you say. It teaches people not to trust you. And it teaches people that you are WILLING and TOLERANT of inappropriate behavior, despite being hurt by it.

In order for the insanity to stop, you need to stop repeating the same behavior patterns and stop accepting them from others. When you say, “I no longer accept this behavior,” you need to back that up with appropriate action, or nothing will change. Just yelling at someone, or complaining or crying or shutting them out for a while doesn’t do the trick. Sincere action must take place. And love cannot be more important than safety, security, dignity and respect.

This may or may not mean a break up. But loving yourself and valuing your personal worth demand that you be willing to accept the consequences of your newfound self-respect. If your current partner doesn’t like the “new you” or the new conditions, then you need to find someone else who does.

The Break-Up Journal: Period brain

Georgy Kurasov ~ Cubist painter

August 3--Very sad. Period brain, hurting. I think he loves me but he doesn’t know how. And I think what crops up in its place is egocentricity. I think I give too much like I did to C. I think he now thinks I’m an easy catch. He can do anything or nothing and still feel loved. That must be a great feeling because I don’t feel it. Sometimes when I’m in this mood I can’t see the forest through the trees. I only see the end as being the only way. Why do I always see it that way? Gosh.

I dreamed of C last night as if he’d have the answers. As if life was so much better with him. I so badly want to introduce the two. I want both in my life. C’s communication skills were indisputably the best ever. But P is clean and good-looking and dresses well and has a warm heart. But C was a work workhorse and I loved his pioneering spirit and passion for building, working, hauling, digging and being part of the earth. But P has more time for me. But C was less self-centered and a better listener. But P doesn’t smoke pot. But C… oh, the list goes on.

C hugged me more. So, I dreamed of C hugging me and I so desperately want to call him right now.

But, what will that do? Where will that get me? Especially after last night’s ordeal with P. Read more…

 

10 Relationship Red Flags Not to Ignore

Most people know a red flag when they see one. And I don’t care how healthy and grounded you are, responding to subtle signs of incompatibility once you notice them is really hard to do. And yet, that’s what sets healthy relationship seekers apart from unhealthy ones. A healthy person will ultimately choose to walk away from a potential partner if the “signs” warn danger. An unhealthy person will most likely see the signs, but ignore them. The reason we do this is because being in a relationship–any relationship–is often more important than the quality of the relationship, and, because being alone is perceived as far more unpleasant than being in a relationship with a mate who might not be good for us.

That being said, here are 10 warning signs, or red flags to look out for when dating. When you see them, detect them, notice them or confirm them, he (or she) is most likely not the best catch. Move on!

  1. They have one or more episodes of cheating in their past Many people are on the fence with cheating. Some say, once a cheater always a cheater. Others say, people can change. I’m not sure which side I’m on. Personally, I’d like to know that the guy I am about to date has never cheated and has my same values.  I think if they mentioned that they cheated in their distant past but they have proof of a long-term stable relationship where no cheating took place, there may be hope. Keep an eye out on this one.
  2. They’re married If you meet a hot guy out at a club who is clearly giving off “the vibe” only to find out he’s married, this is the red flag of all red flags. Honestly, unless there’s proof that they moved back in with their parents, or have completely severed ties with their ex and divorce/settlement agreement has already been registered with the courts, this is one guy or girl you need to stay away from. Heck, if he’s interested and you think there’s a chance, tell him, When your divorce is finalized, then you can call me. 
  3. There’s more secrecy than you feel comfortable with She said she’d be going out for the weekend, but wouldn’t tell you where. You’ve never met her friends. You don’t know where she lives or, for that matter, where she works. Red flag, red flag, red flag. People who are available are engaged in sharing and opening up to you. Maybe not all at once. But, enough for you to feel like there’s definitely a willingness to be somewhat vulnerable.
  4. They do not speak well of their past relationships, and/or it was always the other person’s “fault” that the relationship ended. One of the things that I loved about my current husband when we were first dating was how kindly he spoke of his ex, even though she had left him. She was, in his mind, the mother of his children and even though he was hurt by her, she still deserved the respect of not being talked badly about. Granted, this hurt a bit. Sometimes we want to clearly be the center of someone’s world and we want to be elevated while everyone else is demoted to bitch, or monster, or most hated. Some of us feel “safer” when our love interest speaks badly about others. It’s as if we are the only one they love. And yet, the way your date speaks about people is a direct clue into his own personality. So, unless he is putting his ex on a pedestal (not good), you don’t want to date someone who trash talks his ex.
  5. They continue to impose strange restrictions after a decent amount of time dating (i.e. “Don’t call me at the office,” “Don’t show up unannounced,” etc.) People who like you typically want to be around you. And, unless you are coming on too strong and showing up unannounced all the time (not good), this type of restriction is a bit strange. Case in point: I was dating this guy for five months. By this point we had slept together, said, “I love you,” and we were even leaving clothes and toiletries over the other’s house. I had very clear boundaries (never showed up unannounced, never called his office, unless he specifically said it was OK). At any rate, one afternoon, I happen to be passing by his house and thought, “Let me just pop in.” Bad idea. He opened up the door, barely let me in and I felt immediately uncomfortable. No, no one was there. He wasn’t cheating on me per se, but he was smoking, something he said he had quit. Anyway, you don’t want to ever just “show up” unannounced. Not a good dating move at all. But, you also don’t want to date some guy who imposes those types of restrictions when it’s not warranted.
  6. They fall in love with you almost immediately Most people don’t see this as a red flag, although, heck yeah. It’s a biggie. People who value their heart and know the seriousness of commitment don’t “dive in” so quickly. That’s not to say they won’t feel passionate or hugely emotional towards you. But they will refrain from things like moving in, saying I love you, proposing marriage, or even having sex.
  7. They’ve never had a longterm, committed relationship. OK, so, anyone around the age of 25 might not fit this particular red flag. But, if you’re dating someone 30-years-old or older and they have not had a longterm committed relationship this could be a sign of social anxiety, intimacy issues, avoidance, emotional unavailability and so on. One of the best signs of a healthy partner is that he or she has had healthy, relatively successful relationships, or it’s something he or she is working towards. People change, there is hope. But, for love addicts, you want to stay away from people who cannot commit. It’s too much of an oil and water relationship.
  8. They say one thing and do another; they lie This is a classic move of Miss or Mr. Unavailable and a red flag if ever there was one. It is essential that a healthy relationship be built on trust and honesty, and  the only way for that to happen is if a person’s words align with their actions. If you are detecting lies, then, you are most likely embarking on a lifetime of distrust and feeling hugely distance from your partner. When a person lies, they want to put distance between you and them. When a person tells the truth, they are seeking closeness.
  9. They do drugs; drink too much Whether you partake in recreational drugs or drinking or not, you definitely want to stay away from someone who does to excess. What’s excess? That’s up to you to decide. But here’s the bottom line: drugs and alcohol use is a relationship barrier. While “a few drinks” may loosen you up and help you relax, it ultimately keeps you from experiencing true reality (especially the uncomfortable kind) and worse,  true, deep intimacy. Not only that, but no one has EVER had a serious conversation when they were stoned, drunk or on drugs. You need to see and experience people as they really are, and if your date is always drunk, then, who are you dating? You’ll never know.
  10. They treat people poorly, take pleasure in hurting others (including animals) or express an unusual amount of hate and anger toward people, placed or things. Always be on the look out for subtle clues of a potentially violent, sadistic or disturbing past. These are the types of red flags that, when ignored, can be very dangerous.

When our desire for a relationship, love or sex overcomes our capacity to think logically, rationally and to take care of ourselves, we may be a love addict. Take a look at the people you’ve dated in the past. Can you clearly see their red flags? What did you do when you noticed them? Ignore them, or leave? How does your current partner sum up? Does he or she have red flags? Are you just “dealing with” those red flags in hopes they go away, or are you working toward getting out of the relationship? Red flags are warning signs. If a potential partner or date is waving a red flag, pay attention and take action. That doesn’t mean work to change him. It usually means moving on to someone with no red flags.

Mr. Unavailable

So, you met him in your hiking club and he flirted with you incessantly until you finally caved and gave him your number. You thought nothing of it until he called you a mere 8-hours later. With a little timid flirting, you agreed to a first date. You were giddy. Already the wheels were turning. He could be the one.

Your date was a dream and you had three more magical ones, each better than the next. You learned that he’s a physician, he drives an Audi TT, takes annual trips to the south of Spain and is a fabulous lover. During sex (yes, you’re having sex already, of course), you stare deeply into each other eyes with an unmatched intensity.

And then…suddenly, you don’t hear from him. Not even a text.

WTF? You were on the high of your life only to have it all taken away in an instant. It’s killing you to wait to see if he calls you back (maybe there’s a logical explanation), but, on the third day you panic, and reach out. A quick text to say, hey, remember me? He casually responds that he’s working overtime. But, something in the back of your mind says, No way. You recall a conversation in which he said he didn’t have to work this week. Something inside you twists. Like your heart is an aluminum can being crushed under foot into a flat, discarded piece of metal. You switch from rational to rationalizing. OK, maybe he got called to work at the last minute and failed to tell me.

A day after that, you decide to push. You call him and gently tug at him to come out with you and your friends to a party. You think, If I’m casual about it and just pretend like I do this all the time he’ll bite. And he does. After a bit of coaxing, he comes out, looking as hot as ever, but something’s off. It’s not the same. He seems distant and this is the fifth time he’s checked his phone. He apologizes and says, “Work.”

You decide to confront him. What you’re really doing though is looking for reassurance. Do you still like me, you ask. He smiles. For a second everything feels weirdly awkward. “I really think you’re amazing, but I live with someone. We’re kinda broken up. But, she wanted to get back together, and, well, I told her no. It’s all good,” he says. “I just want to be up front with you.”

Instead of seeing this for what it is: a huge red flag of unavailability and narcissism, your mind is racing. All logic has been thrown out the window and your emotional brain has hopped in the driver’s seat. What does this mean? He said they broke up. He said, “It’s all good.” Does that mean he’s free to date me? You play back his every word. He thinks I’m amazing. He smiled. He did, after all, come out. You also play back all those hot scenes on dates one through three, the deep kissing, the passion, the intensity, the laughter. He’s so hot. I want him. We’re perfect for each other, you think.

But, here’s where you need to get your head out of the clouds. He’s not perfect for you. He’s not even partly acceptable. He’s completely, unequivocally Unavailable. And instead of hanging on to only the positive information you’re receiving from this guy, you need to be a big girl and see the whole picture, which means looking at the real, not-so-pretty, fantasy-busting facts he’s feeding you. You need to acknowledge the following signs and start to understand that these signs typically mean UNAVAILABLE.blog2 copy

  • His impulsiveness to date you
  • The intensity and rapidity with which your relationship started
  • The sudden disappearance and or lack of interest in you
  • His excuses for not calling
  • Catching him in a lie, or not being able to back up what he says one day, versus the next
  • His ambiguity and lack of attention paid to you
  • Constantly checking his phone
  • His ambiguous, confusing story that seems to leave too many open-ended questions
  • The fact that he probably lives with his girlfriend who most likely doesn’t know he’s out with you.

In a sea of romantically passionate and fantasy-fulfilling moments, these several negatives don’t seem to weigh too heavily. And yet, they weigh heavier than you are willing to acknowledge.

An unavailable man or woman may come on strong and show great intensity, but they are not emotionally invested in the relationship, nor do they plan to be. And while they may see you every day, or call you, or be slightly more available than the guy described above, there will always be something keeping the unavailable individual from committing fully.

Unavailability also looks like a lot like avoidance. An avoidant may verbally commit to a relationship, but then avoid intimacy, conflict, romance, communication, whatever triggers him to “avoid” and seek safety by turning inward. You then feel “neglected.” An unavailable person, on the other hand, typically does not verbally commit, but instead, may be more prone to engage in sex, communication, and romance, but only partly, thus leaving you feel confused, with mixed messages, as though he is only marginally invested in the relationship.

Unavailable people have myriad ways in which they remain unavailable. They could live far away.  Work, family or other responsibilities might keep them from ever being able to move closer.  They could have a job that keeps them from going out on dates, or they could live with someone, be married, or be in a previously committed relationship. Subtler but no less significant signs of unavailability might be that they blame you for having a trait or a lifestyle or a habit that makes it impossible for them to commit to you. I once dated a guy who told me after a year of us dating that we could never be more than just lovers because I made too much money and it made him feel “emasculated.” Whatever it is that keeps him from getting closer, it’s usually an insurmountable obstacle that he will not be able to overcome in order to be with you.

In The Break-Up Journal this week P’s unavailability is getting more noticeable, and yet, I only seem to mention it as if it doesn’t relate to me. I don’t yet see how staying with an unavailable person makes me unavailable also.

You heard right. The bottom line when it comes to unavailable individuals is that if you continue to pursue one or stay with one, YOU become unavailable as well. Why is that? Because you are choosing to commit to someone who only half commits to you. If you are serious about love, intimacy and relationships, it means that you are willing to find a partner who is equally interested in love, intimacy and relationship.