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.

Dating: do you have too many rules?

Dating is such an enormous challenge for people coming out of bad, toxic relationships.  We get signals crossed, often don’t pick up on subtle clues and,  because we’re still a little flinchy, we try desperately to dodge any future problems by creating a set of dating rules or expectations, just so as not to get burned again. And while a certain amount of protection in the form of guidelines or boundaries is always a good thing, too many will insure that you pretty much never date again. here’s how to cut back on a few of those iron clad rules…

Don’t make assumptions about people before you know them: My mother used to say, Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see. And that especially goes for dating. Dating between two healthy individuals is tricky, tricky, tricky, but for those who come from abusive or dysfunctional families, or are newly healing from a bad break-up it can seem hopeless. Many of us come from a world where our circle of friends or family members didn’t teach us healthy dating. We’ve learned to mistrust people, we’ve learned that people can be unreliable, and we’ve learned to protect ourselves from people who might hurt us. So, when we come out of unhealthy and try to find healthy, we tend to bring with us all that mistrust, fear and skepticism about the world, and often, we make  blanket assumptions about people that lean toward the negative because that’s all we know.  Here are a few examples:

  • Assuming all people lie
  • Assuming you will be rejected because, “he’s too good” for you
  • Assuming he’s not the one because of the way he dresses or looks
  • Assuming he/she will be boring because of their [job], [lifestyle], [interests] (fill in the blanks)
  • Assuming you should not date someone who has only be single for a few months
  • Assuming you should not date someone who has been single for a few years
  • Assuming you should not date someone because they don’t “seem” like your type

When we pull information about people from our fantasy-brain, we may or may not be correct about our assumptions, because, like I said, your assumptions come from what you’ve learned in the past.

But keep in mind that the healthier you become through self healing, the better quality people you will meet and attract. And so, you don’t want to write off someone for the same reasons you wrote off past partners. Why? Because, YOU’VE changed. Because you’re different. And because the process of dating is getting to know someone first, before making decisions about them. Remember, you’re not looking for perfect. Mr. Perfect doesn’t exist. You are looking for shared values, attraction, compatibility, kindness, respect and so on. And because you’re not omniscient, you are unable to know who people are until you actually do the work of getting to know them.

Don’t be a Seinfeld: There’s a great episode of Seinfeld where he breaks up with a woman because he doesn’t like the fact that she eats her peas one at a time. In fact, part of the humor of that show is that all the characters on Seinfeld all suffer from the same neurotic attribute of fault-finding in others. No one is ever good enough for them; and so, they’re eternally stuck with just themselves. Perfect for a sitcom, horrible if it’s your real-life situation.

Extreme pickiness is an unhealthy state. When you find fault in everyone you meet you are either a.) attracted to and pursuing the wrong type of person, or b.) you are unable to accept people and relationships as they are. We all have faults. You do too! And usually, extreme pickiness comes from a place of insecurity within ourselves, and fear of commitment. When we do not accept, tolerate or forgive our own faults, how can we do so in others? When we cannot tolerate little things like the way a person eats, or the way they laugh, or the length of their fingers, we need to ask ourselves if we are creating these barriers to attraction because we’re really not attracted to this person, or, because we are afraid of being available and vulnerable in a relationship. If it happens once in a while–say, you meet someone and they have an unappealing laugh, then, most likely, you’re not picky. You really just don’t like their laugh. If it happens all the time, and you always seem to find something wrong with people, then you’re picky. It’s you.

Remember too, that there’s a healthy level of pickiness. We want to have relatively high standards of people, we want to make sure their values match ours as close as possible. We want to take it slow, get to know people and not dive into something too quickly. And we certainly want to be attracted to our partner and like who they are. But we don’t want to be so extreme that we dump a really great guy simply because he has a crooked smile or wears baseball caps sideways. Don’t let pickiness be your way of over-protecting yourself from a relationship.

Don’t give up too quickly: People are strange. They hold back. They don’t always make good first impressions. A while back, there was a friend of mine who would date a guy and if he didn’t impress her, or say the magic words (who knows what they were!) by the second date, she would not go out with him again. In her mind, she didn’t want to “waste” her time. In retrospect, she was lazy. Dating is work. It takes time. It takes effort. You have to be willing to put in that work, time and effort if you want to successfully find someone right for you, and that means hanging on through a few possibly awkward dates, to see if there’s anything deeper there. If you find yourself breezing through men the way you skim through Instagram, you’re probably doing it wrong.  And keep in mind there’s always obvious moments where giving up quickly is a good thing–if you find yourself really turned off by someone, that might be a good sign that you don’t need to give this a second go. But, think of your friendships. I am sure you have friends that you didn’t click with right away, but eventually grew to love. It’s the same with dating. Don’t set your expectations so high that no one can reach them. Dating is absolutely NOT about clicking and falling in love on the first date. It’s a slow, somewhat awkward, but exciting process of getting to know someone. A good rule of thumb is three to five. Three dates aught to tell you whether or not this person is worth investing in. Five dates is usually the amount of time it takes for some of the more glaring red flags to make themselves known.

Don’t hang on for dear life if it’s time to go: Watch out for your own red flags. Don’t let “don’t give up too quickly” turn into “hang on for dear life.” Remember it takes two to date. If he bails out before you’ve determined whether he’s right for you, then, he’s not right for you!  You don’t get to go chasing after him in a moment of “Wait, we could be perfect together!” He has his own ability to determine if someone is perfect for him or not, and you need to respect that, just as you would hope he’d respect you. Dating is not a game of trying desperately to hold on or convince someone of your worth. You are worthy! Your worth has nothing to do with someone wanting to continue dating you or not. And vice versa.

Don’t create impossible hurdles to your heart: While protecting yourself is very important and, let’s face it, we all want to avoid the dreaded broken heart, we cannot get back in the ring and expect to win if we don’t throw a few punches and get knocked down a time or two. Wanting and needing love makes us vulnerable, but just as we cannot impulsively spew out all our emotions and hope to instantly click with our soulmate on the first or second date, we cannot operate from behind a steel barrier either. You need to let people in. Trust me. Letting down some of your walls will not rob you of anything. Your beauty and energy and spirit will all still be intact. You are only sharing it. Leo Buscaglia, the famous “Love Doctor” used to say, I can love and love and love and love and the more people I love, I never lose the power to love. On the one hand this sounds like a recipe for spreading yourself way too thin, but, the truth is, we can share ourselves without losing ourselves. Protect yourself, yes. But, don’t entomb yourself in a bomb shelter with 10 feet thick steel walls. Not only will you hurt yourself, you will deny others the beauty that is you.

Bottom line: dating is all about balance. You need to be able to negotiate your way through the dating world by using your logic brain and your heart, and quite often your gut too. When we only use our emotions (never a good idea), or haven’t yet learned how to trust our brain, we fail to approach dating in a healthy, holistic way. So, we need to give people time and not make quick assumptions about them either for good or bad. We also need to remove the “fantasy” idea that dating is all about love and sex. It’s not. It’s about learning. Having fun. Experiencing the world with this one particular person. No quick investment. And no quick write off. And lastly, we need to take a look at our own behavior and our own level of pickiness about people. If you’re finding fault in every potential partner, you’re doing so for a reason: to protect yourself from a deeper,  more intimate connection with someone for fear of getting hurt. If that’s the case, it’s time to do a little more work on yourself before heading out into the world of dating. It’s rough out there!

 

 

 

Break Up Journal: Season 2

shutterstock_119808373Hey Everyone,

It’s been a full year since my last post in The Break Up Journal. Without warning, two key people in our family business left and I had to fill in. I was just too exhausted and had no time for my blog, and so, I apologize for leaving you hanging at a really great “turning point” in the story! But, I suppose you can look at this like Season Two of The Break Up Journal series. And like all good series’ the writers and directors really know how to leave you in suspense so you come back.

Well, I hope you come back!

To give you a quick synopsis, I am at the point in my relationship with P where red flags are getting too obvious to ignore and I am on the precipice of making a life-altering decision…to stay or go. P is a classic avoidant, and his avoidance has been getting worse. The words are all the same (“I love you,” “I still feel the same,”) but the actions are starting to change. And, as I celebrate 10 months no smoking (cigarettes), P starts questioning whether or not he wants to return to a life of smoking pot again. If you remember, that’s a big no no for me. It’s a deal breaker. But I am still unsure if I want to take the love addict route (stay with him, give up my value of not dating a pot smoker and just deal), or the healthy route (choose my value over the relationship and be alone, but pot free).

So…stay tuned! Season 2 of The Break Up Journal begins Monday January 16 @ 7am!

 

The Break Up Journal: Let’s talk about sex

August 15: I dreamed that P and I took the Audi and drove over to Carmela’s house into the driveway and saw her working and saw her husband with his long hair and John Lennon glasses. We looked around, but didn’t get out of the car to stir anything up. When we left, we realized her husband latched onto the bumper and was riding with us, asking what we were up to. I was quite surprised but I told him, “Your wife cheated on you with someone I was in love with. She threw herself at him.” He said he was aware, but told me not to gossip about it. I said OK and he left. I looked at P afterwards and we said, “That was creepy.” …Read More

The Break Up Journal: Closeness

August 13: I have to say that yesterday was the closest I felt to P in a long while. He touched me all over, and massaged my neck, and took care of me, all because I had an excruciating headache. And I mean excruciating. He called me in the afternoon and asked if I could come down and eat with him since he didn’t have to be at work until 10:30pm. I said sure, but once I got there, the headache turned ugly and I felt horrible. And yet, it felt so nice to have his hands on me like that. He even insisted on driving. We ended up at Applebees eating bad food that we regretted eating. Before that, I…Read More

The Break Up Journal: Cranky

August 11: Cool, damp, cloudy. There were thunderstorms all day yesterday except while we were in Brigantine. The sun and sky were beautiful over the ocean and I got some sun. Elaine’s house was beautiful.  Joe really did a lot to it. Nice materials too—stone, granite, tile, etc. And he did it all himself. If only P were so handy. How nice would that be. Well, he’s got his beautiful garden.

Mom and I talked a bit about my relationship to P. She said that my personal emotional issues are probably not as bad as I make them out to be. That I have good reason to be mistrusting and scared in a new relationship (based on what I experienced in my past relationships) and that any man who loves me needs to understand…Read More

The Break Up Journal: Quitting C

shutterstock_130886966
August 10:
Ten months no smoking! I can’t believe it’s only been 10 months. It seems like a lot longer. I feel like, on the one hand, I made great strides in the quitting smoking department, but on the other, I relapsed and returned to my other addictive behaviors. Now, I have to start all over. Of course the “C” addiction is not yet (and hopefully will never be) full blown. Yet, I leave P and go back to C and entertain fantasies of marrying C. Dear Lord. What happened to that strong Quit Mentality of 10 months ago? And the genius of applying it to all other addictions? I can’t just say, “Oh well.” I have to reestablish my boundaries and reaffirm my commitment to quit C once and for all.

C IS a cigarette…Read More

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

Rejection (psst…it’s a good thing!)

Rejection.

Let’s start here: rejection scares the hell out of most of us. Agreed? It’s what keeps us from going up to strangers and asking them out on a date. It’s what keeps us from going on stage and speaking publicly, for fear we’ll be boo’ed. And it keeps some of us from doing the things we love, for fear that we will be rejected by others who might be doing them better. But the worst kind of rejection is when we are rejected by whom we consider to be the most important person in our lives–our spouse, our partner, our love interest, our crush. Rejection from this person is the absolute worst, because let’s be honest, he or she is the one who defines and validates us and gives us our worth. When he reject us, we feel worthless. And this is where things go wrong. No one defines us. And no one validates our worth, except us. 

But, back to rejection. It happens. And there’s virtually no way on earth to avoid it. So…how do we handle it?

For starters, we need to change our perception of what rejection logically, actually is, not what we “feel” it is. So, take the gut-wrenching, terrible, awful, dreadful, unbearable feelings you feel about rejection and switch over to using your brain. Are you in brain mode now? OK, read on…

1. Rejection is neither good nor bad. It’s neutral. And yet we typically assign it as something negative. But, just for argument’s sake, let’s start to look at it as a positive force in your life. First off, it won’t kill you. It’s not a disease which can make you ill. It doesn’t take any money, clothing, shelter or food away from you. It doesn’t physically beat you up. And it doesn’t change you in any way shape or form other than help redirect you towards a new life. It’s often disguised as a loss, only to, later down the road, be a gain, as most people will tell you. So, no matter how you “feel” about rejection’s evil powers, try to keep things a bit more clear. Rejection, is neutral. At best, it’s a positive force that pushes us to redefine our lives and move on.  The more we stay focused on the neutrality or positivity of rejection, the better.

2. Rejection isn’t personal. This concept is tricky, and one that people have the hardest time understanding. Let me say it again: rejection is NOT PERSONAL. I’m sure you believe that if you were personally rejected on the grounds that your boyfriend doesn’t like you anymore and even left you for someone else, then this is personal. But it’s not! He’s not rejecting you as much as he is opting to choose another life for himself. She’s not rejecting you as much as she is selecting a different path to walk down. And while that may seem like rejection from your end, there’s actually a much deeper issue at hand. People come together, and ultimately move apart based on their set of Values.  A value is a thing (a principle, a belief, a standard of behavior) that we regard as essential to our being, so essential, in fact, that without it, we feel lacking or wrong or worthless. It’s a MUST HAVE, not a want or a wish. And when you reject someone, or they reject you, it’s typically based on values, and not much else. When people’s values are not aligned, the healthy response is rejection of the relationship. This of course, doesn’t happen in unhealthy relationship for love addicts. Why? Because love addicts tend not to know their values, and because the idea of holding onto the relationship is far greater than any personal values. So, even if someone is completely wrong for a love addict, they will still stay–out of fear, desperation, loneliness, whatever. So, start to see rejection as a healthy thing, a gift the other person is giving you by setting you free to make another choice for yourself. Remember, no one validates you or defines who you are. Only you do. So, get cracking! Figure out who you are. The more you know you, the more you can find others like you, who are less likely to reject you, based on shared values.

3. Rejection is a huge part of nature. Animals select one mate over another based on instinct to help perpetuate their species. Animals don’t take rejection personally or cry if they weren’t selected by one over another. Instinctually, they know that rejection from one frees them up to make more natural selections with another. They don’t feel the pain of rejection because rejection is not painful. Remember number one? It’s neutral! To animals, it’s a signal to start looking elsewhere for a more appropriate mate.

When we think of our own bodies, think of all the things it rejects on its own. If you drink too much alcohol, say, or eat contaminated food, the body rejects these things by vomitting or getting sick. If we catch a virus or a bacterial infection, the body rejects these “bugs” by getting a fever. If we have a foreign object inside our bodies (like a cancerous tumor), the body uses all its resources to either get rid of it or protect against it by building a calcium encasement around it. A miscarriage is also nature’s way of rejecting a fetus that may not be able to sustain life outside the womb. Even when an apparent good thing enters our bodies–  a flower, a diamond, a particularly beautiful object, a heart transplant, our bodies will have an extreme reaction to it and reject it because it doesn’t belong in our system.

When we think of rejection in this way, and remove the emotional, negative feelings we associate with rejection, it helps us to understand that rejection is not personal. It is simply nature’s way of redirecting you and letting you know that you do not fit in this particular person’s world–not because you are bad, no good, worthless, ugly or unlovable. It simply means you fit somewhere else. And that’s a good thing. Rejection is a gift that allows you to consider new options– a more natural, organic path that you are currently denying yourself, if you hang on.

Case in point: I dated a pretty nice guy. He was attracted to me; I was attracted to him. So, we tried to have a relationship, as is the natural course of attraction. But soon enough, after the initial high of us being together started to wear off,  I started to notice his avoidance of me. Why was he rejecting me? I’m a great catch! 😉 To make a long story short, he started to feel uncomfortable with me. He was into smoking pot, and listening to the Dead, and I was so not into that stuff. He felt I had little respect for his lifestyle and in a way he was right. When he mentioned this, I actually tried to change, to be more open and understanding of his likes. I so desperately wanted the relationship to work that I was willing to become someone else! But it was only a matter of time before I started to feel uncomfortable and untrue to my nature. Even though we both wished it would work between us; even though we were both highly attracted to each other, our lifestyles and personalities, in the end, didn’t really mesh. No one did anything wrong. No one was worthless or unlovable. We simply were not meant for each other. Period. And yet, I still felt rejected until I was willing to accept that that’s what dating is all about. It’s a risk we take to decide whether we should remain with a person or move on. And it was clearly time to move on in this case.

You can think about it like this too: how many of you have had multiple relationships? How many times have you said, “This is the one!” only to find that someone better has come along? If you or your ex had not rejected the relationship, it would not have freed you up to be where you are today. Rejction is natural! Try to imagine yourself as a salesman. Even if you had the greatest product in the world, you still can’t convince every person on the planet to buy your product. No matter how great it is, not everyone will think so!

We don’t have that much control over who will like us and who won’t. We might find someone attractive, but they might not share the same feelings. We can’t take this personally! How many times has someone shown interest in you and you’ve turned them down? Maybe you didn’t find them attractive. Maybe you didn’t like their style or their personality. Just because you rejected them doesn’t mean they are unlovable or unattractive or worthless. The same logic applies to your situation.

Rejection is not something you can control. So,  you might as well stop sweating the natural selection that is happening. What you can control, however, is how you perceive your self worth and whether or not you are selecting a mate who is more in line with who you are and what your values are. Are you kind, friendly, honest, loving? Are you family-oriented, or do you prefer hanging out in clubs every night? Do you believe in loyalty? Are you religious? What are your values? Now is the time to get to know yourself . The more you do, the better chance you have of finding someone less likely to reject you.

The Break Up Journal: Lies

shutterstock_339231617
August 6

Drab and humid.

I’m supposed to go down to my sister-in-law’s tonight. I almost want to drive up to Brooklyn to see Marie. It very well might save me from doing something destructive like calling C.  Every time I get pissed off with P and think he’s lied about something, I want to run to C where all my problems were apparently resolved. I don’t believe P worked last night. I think he wanted to make sure I didn’t expect him over. Then again, he’s usually able to voice that and say, “I need my sleep tonight,” or something else. Maybe he wanted his excuse to seem out of his control. Read More…