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.

Real Change: your addict doesn’t need to die, she just needs to shut up already

We often think that big change is black and white. That for growth and change to occur, one must become completely different. This isn’t exactly true. I watched some silly Lifetime movie on love addiction the other night and the character who played a counselor says to the love addict, “the addict must die, so that the healthy person inside can live.” I’m not sure I believe that. For years now, my addict has lived side by side with my healthy self.  Thing is, my addict changed in order to live in peace and harmony with healthy me. Addict Me now defers to Healthy Me because it knows that Healthy Me makes better choices and there’s less pain than when Addict Me was in charge. So, the addict inside has transformed itself; it has become subservient, tamed. But she’s still there. And while she no longer has the power she once had, she can still poke her head out of the ether and demand attention. Addict Me makes herself know when I long for “longing.” She rears her ugly head when I am ladened with anxiety and panic, or when I allow myself to turn completely co-dependent with my kids. She sometimes keeps me from making adult choices, and is always there when I can’t cope with stress. Most of the time though, she is a shadow self that follows me around dutifully and stays out of Healthy Me’s business.

Anyway, my point in relating this is that change doesn’t have to be so massive that a part of you must die. Unhealthy behavior can act like a shape-shifter. It is malleable (hello brain plasticity!). It can be taught to do better. Addict You doesn’t have to die. But it does have to be put in its place and told who’s boss…

1. The biggest and most successful change I made in my life was to grow up. That’s something I never really wanted to do. Being an adult scared the pants off me. It meant being responsible, working, being accountable, taking risks I didn’t want to take and facing fears I didn’t want to face. And while becoming a mom helped me to overcome some of my resistance to growing up ( a lot of it actually), I still remained emotionally anchored to my youth. That all changed in 2008 when the pain of remaining immature finally outweighed the fear of becoming a grown up. And I have news for you, while being a grown up is hard, it’s not that hard!!! :) The longer you do it, the better at it you become. Stunted growth happens when we AVOID ourselves. Period. We use relationships and sex (and drugs, money, shopping, food, you name it…) to avoid. Once you realize that, it’s over. Your love addict can take a back seat, because you now know that the one thing she can’t have in order to be all-powerful, is self-growth.

2. The second biggest change was facing my fear of intimacy. In the past, I had always dated emotionally avoidant men who tended to be mentally, physically and emotionally unavailable. I did this as way to protect myself. I did this because I was unavailable. As much as I wanted love and a relationship, I was too immature and too afraid of exposing myself to someone who might have high expectations of me, to someone who might demand too much from me in the way of intimacy. I’m not a very intimate person. I can go “deep” every once in a while, but typically, I prefer to have very superficial relationships that don’t tie me down. I am this way because I have entrapment issues. My fear of entrapment ultimately led me to hop into relationships that were overly simplistic, where there was no real communication or intimacy (but lots of intensity). Getting over this meant finding someone who could love, respect, and show kindness to me, but didn’t trap me. Knowing yourself means knowing how much intimacy you are comfortable with. The more you experience intimacy with others and recognize that they will not “trap” you, and that YOU are in control to move about the cabin, so to speak, the safer you feel and the more intimacy you can handle. You also don’t want to confuse intimacy with intensity. Two different things. I could always handle intensity because it was a high that surged temporarily and gave me that feeling of connectivity with someone, but then it was over and I was free to remove myself from the intensity and recover. Many women experience this “roller coaster” of emotions. They experience the intensity of love and sex, then they crash and burn. I believe I subconsciously chose mates I knew would be this way (run away from me or neglect me) because I needed that recovery time to heal from the intensity. Surprisingly, I am still this way. Instead of a partner putting me on this roller coaster, it is my health and workout routine. I become intensely healthy and run and bike and workout to an extreme, and then I crash and desperately need to lie on the sofa and do nothing but recover for three weeks. Very strange! My mother puts it this way, “We’re sprinters, not long-distance runners!”

3. I learned what it meant to really love myself and have self-esteem. And while I don’t have nearly as much self-esteem and confidence as I would like (believe it or not you don’t need a slew of this to have a successful relationship) I found out that having just a little more than I had before was just enough to create beauty in me to the point of becoming attractive to a healthy partner. How much self-esteem did I find? Well, enough to know these few things: I’m not perfect. No one is. I have a right to a good life. I have a right to be respected and loved. I may not be the most beautiful woman on the planet, or the smartest, but I am the ONLY one on this planet with this particular combination of traits that make me unique in all the world. That means that I am a gift to others and that it is my job to surround myself with people who appreciate my gifts and see me as a gift. Being a “gift” to the world has very little to do with superficial beauty, intelligence, color, class, etc. It has to do with recognizing the importance of that unique combo of traits that only you possess. What do I lack? I don’t think I’m very pretty, or smart. I sometimes feel fat (although I only weigh 125 lbs at 5’4″ and am fairly athletic), I make a ton of mistakes as a mother, friend, wife, sister and daughter…I don’t always believe in my knowledge and experience…I feel shame a lot, and it is still hard for me at times to be intimate with my hubby and kids. Oh well! Like I said, I changed just enough for it to matter.

4. I said goodbye to fantasy and put action in its place. What does that mean? Well, to a love addict, it means that for most of my childhood and adult life I was very fantasy driven. I would dream of becoming a writer but not write. I would dream of falling in love with a Prince, but I wasn’t a princess. I would dream of great careers as a movie star or public speaker, but I would’t go to college. I had zero experience, I built up no wealth of knowledge in any field, but my dreams and fantasies about what I could be were enormous and elaborate. My rich fantasy life comforted me, UNTIL I was about 25, and UNTIL I actually had to socialize. And if anyone remembers back to being 25 what’s the one thing we all talked about? Or, rather, I should ask, what’s the one thing that HEALTHY people talked about? Their education. Their careers. Whether they were going to go on to grad school or if they were trying to find a job. Me? I was waiting tables at a beer and shots joint and trying to hop into bed with the first man that paid me any attention. This was not action. This was stunted growth. This was a refusal to grow up. My marriage was also a refusal to grow up. I felt protected from having to grow up while I was married. My husband would go to work and I could have babies and continue to feed my rich fantasy life. I could AVOID life. Trouble was, since I never did anything or became anything or gained any experience in any particular field (because I never invested in myself), I had a very limited pool of men to choose from who would want me as their wife. Who wants someone with ZERO responsibility and stunted growth and an inability to be intimate and mature? Well, someone who is EQUALLY stunted and immature. It wasn’t until I was about 36 years old that I realized the whole fantasy-world wasn’t sustaining me. And it wasn’t until I was 40 that I finally said goodbye to fantasy and was able to stand on my own. I went back to college, got a degree, even invested one year in graduate school. I rarely, if ever fantasize now. What I do now (duh! I could have been doing this all along) is make goals. Making concrete goals where action is required is the adult’s version of fantasy. You dream it, you plan it, you prepare for it, then you DO IT. Wow. What a difference. Since I gave up fantasy and became goal-oriented instead, I have had many accomplishments. And all these accomplishments are investments I have made in myself. :)

5. I realized that my failed relationships and the bad boy-avoidants that broke my heart did not CAUSE my love addiction. I did. The bad boys were a symptom of my love addiction. We often think that love addiction is  about love. Not getting enough of it, wanting too much, etc. It’s not about love. It’s not even about other people. It is about self-avoidance (torchbearing keeps you from living a realistic life; ambivalence keeps you from making important decisions; straight up love addiction keeps you from growing up). It is about using love and relationships as tools to help you soothe, cope, defend and avoid. Therefore, the object of getting healthy cannot be found in solving the issues of your current relationship. When the torchbearer’s dreams come true and she finally has the object of her fantasy, the reality will never be as rich and she will need to hold a torch for someone else;  if the ambivalent love addict ever makes a decision to stay or leave a relationship, more ambivalence will follow, etc.)  As I’ve written about before, your unhealthy relationship serves a perfectly functional dysfunctional purpose: to keep you from avoiding yourself and growing up. When you “fix” it (without fixing yourself), the relationship will no longer serve its purpose and the PoA must go and another put in its place. This is why I continued to repeat the same patterns and be attracted to the same character over and over and over.

6. I finally determined that I no longer had to “date daddy.” This was a big change for me as my idea of a perfect mate was wrapped up in who my dad was. Freud was right. A daughter’s first love is her father. And whether that love is reciprocated or not, betrayed or not, healthy or not, it doesn’t matter!!! A daughter will still see the combination of traits in that man as ones she must look for in a man of her own. If she gets along well with her father, respects him, and has a healthy relationship with him (and vice versa), her chances of finding a healthy partner are high. If, on the other hand, he neglects her, abandons her, does drugs, lies, cheats, steals, etc., and she loses respect for him and learns to mistrust him, her chances of finding a healthy partner have been sabotaged. I knew the psychology behind daughters dating their father. But I honestly thought that if I avoided men who did drugs or were alcoholics, I would avoid the problem of being stuck with a man like my dad. Wrong. It didn’t occur to me until much later that I was picking men with much subtler comparisons to my dad. Men that avoided me. Once I learned this lesson, I was able to finally recognize the avoidant and…avoid him 🙂

7. Equal in weight and importance to numero uno, was that I learned what values were and I made them more important than anything, even my relationships. Values are the most important thing in your life.  Well, at least they should be. If you want to say goodbye to love addiction learn what your values are and choose them over anything else. When you do that, you change. You become healthy. You become true to yourself. Eight years ago, I could not tell you what a value was if it came up and slapped me in the face. You know how all those self-help books tell you “you won’t ever find the perfect man” and “you need to learn to tolerate a few bad traits” and “no relationship comes without problems”? Well, those books are right. But, they are preaching some very dangerous information without full disclosure. Let me explain: as a woman who learned that info, I never knew which traits were acceptable and which weren’t. Sure, I knew to stay away from big ticket items. I wouldn’t remain in a relationship with a serial killer. But there’s an equation to this information that I had all wrong. I thought that if I “loved” this man, and he, in turn “said” he loved me, and if I could write down more positives about him than negatives, I should stay. And yet, using this equation caused huge amounts of ambivalence. I would see on paper with my very own eyes that this guy only had four problems and about 100 positives. What was wrong with me? What I never in a million years understood until much later in life, was that the groupings of positives and negatives that we all come with are weighted. Picking your teeth at the table might be a negative but it may only hold a weight of one point, compared to smoking pot, also a negative, but that weight might be worth 50 points. This system of weights is not arbitrary. It comes from one source and one source only: your value system. You have a system of values already in place that you either use or don’t use. Either way, it’s there and it’s functional. And it weighs things all the time. For example: every time your PoA cheats on you and you feel like your whole body is on fire? That’s a value speaking directly to you. It’s saying: this is a quality or an action that I do not like and which causes enormous pain. Wether you listen to that value or not is the key. And when you don’t know your values or that you have to choose them over a relationship, you lose. A value you tells you if certain qualities are acceptable or unacceptable. If some traits weights one point or one hundred. If it is, in fact a value, or simply a want (not a must have). It tells you this through your emotions and through your logical brain–if you listen. When I realized what my values were I was no longer ambiguous. I was able to clearly see that while some guy only had four problems, their weight was too enormous for me to bear and they went against my value system. Once I learned this, enormous change occurred. I operated in a different way. My old ways of figuring out if someone was right or wrong for me became outmoded. This new values-based way of determining someone’s staying power in my life was a much healthier approach. It taught me to look for people who SHARED my same values. Once I did that, relationships became less painful.

Our inner love addict may be part of our true self, but it is the part of us that just doesn’t get it. It is the hungry, lonely, tired, angry, scared side of us, that makes unhealthy decisions out of fear and self-protection as opposed to health and happiness. It is the yin to our yang. The Mr. Hyde to our Dr. Jekyll. It is Pygmalion: the bedraggled, vulgar, uncivilized flower girl that I believe we need to educate in order to turn her into a duchess–not just on the outside, but the inside as well. So, no, your Addict doesn’t have to die. But she definitely needs to move over and let Healthy You drive from now on.

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!

 

 

 

The Break-Up Journal: A great influence

001-a-woman-under-the-influence-theredlistAugust 17: Problem solved. I laid in bed and felt sick all day and then P came and brought me lunch, a huge chocolate chip cookie and Harper’s magazine. We talked some more and played. And then after he left, he called me to tell me something really wonderful, and I returned it with something mean. He said, “I really love the way you interact with Jackie. I think you’re a great influence on her. And I hope that if you ever decide to leave, you’d remain in her life and mine.” Read more…

Look for a partner who Does this…Not that

Sometimes we lose sight of our priorities. Or maybe, we don’t exactly know what our priorities are. Especially when it comes to dating. We can often meet a really good looking guy who lavishes a mound of attention upon us and, poof! Just like that, we forget what we’re looking for, what we need and what will ultimately serve us well in the long run. Worse yet, we can easily get caught up in a fantasy of what we think we want and need. For the sake of immediate gratification, we forget all our values and fling ourselves into what we hope will be the relationship of our dreams.

For love addicts, we tend not to know our values. We tend to have a very immature, superficial idea of love that is not so much based on health, as it is on neediness, an urgency to fill a void, and a desperation to use people and relationships as a way to cope or worse, to avoid the reality of our lives.

But having a healthy relationship takes patience and the courage to say no to the wrong people. It takes a strong sense of self to be able to recognize good qualities in others, and not so good qualities. And above all, it takes the determination to love yourself to the point where you want healthy people, places and things in your life.

So, how do you know good qualities from bad? How do you recognize healthy people versus unhealthy? Well, you look for people who do this…and not that…

  • DOES THIS: Asks you out on a date. NOT THIS: Waits around for you to ask him out on a date
  • DOES THIS: Calls you and/or calls you back  NOT THIS: Doesn’t call you or call you back, and if he does it’s five days later.
  • DOES THIS: Makes time for you, wants to spend time with you. NOT THIS: barely has time for you and when he does it’s usually in the bedroom.
  • DOES THIS: Lives a clean, healthy life. NOT THIS: smokes, drinks to excess, does drugs, doesn’t face or deal with his health issues, eats poorly, etc.
  • DOES THIS: Takes care of himself financially. NOT THIS: Still lives with parents, borrows money, in debt, doesn’t work, or doesn’t have a stable job where he can pay his bills and pay for a roof over his head without depending on others.
  • DOES THIS: Communicates well.  NOT THIS: Bottles everything up and won’t talk, or communicates only minimally, refuses to face emotional discussion, poor listener.
  • DOES THIS: Lives an honest, respectful life. NOT THIS: Cheats, lies, is evasive and deceptive, dishonest in business, in personal matters or with strangers.
  • DOES THIS: Treats you (and others) with respect, care, kindness and dignity NOT THIS: treats you poorly, ignores you, avoids you, repeatedly unkind to you, controls you, etc.
  • DOES THIS: Enjoys you and likes you for who you are, not what you could or should be NOT THIS: Expects you to be something or someone you are not.
  • DOES THIS: Is a genuinely happy person NOT THIS: is a genuinely unhappy or angry person
  • DOES THIS: Feels and acts passionate towards you NOT THIS: doesn’t feel or act passionate towards you, withholds sex, love or affection, cold or inappropriate behavior, fear of intimacy
  • DOES THIS: Is a grown up and acts like one. NOT THIS: is immature and refuses to grow up.

 

 

 

Rest in peace, Prince

prince-purple-rain-ws-710I have to say something about Prince’s death yesterday because, honestly, he was probably my first PoA. I remember when Michael Jackson died and everyone went crazy. People were crying. I thought, “Are you kidding me? You act like you knew the guy…” Well, now I understand.

I think I cried all day yesterday. No, I mean, I sobbed. I had devoted so much fantasy time to that man for a good ten years–I had every single solitary one of his albums, his 45s, his cassettes and his CDs; I knew every song, I could tell you which album each song came from; in high school, my walls were painted purple with the big EYES from the Purple Rain album; I even lost my virginity to Purple Rain with a kid who I believed was the closest thing I could get to Prince–I devoted so much emotional time to that man that when I heard the news, I felt I had lost an old love. I lost a part of my identity that took years to build.

Aside from my father, Prince was probably the man who influenced me most, good and bad, and fueled my love addiction. Everything I was running away from, everything I wanted to be, everything I couldn’t attain was wrapped up in that man. He held all the answers for a girl who was clueless and afraid of love and life. What’s more, I think he changed the chemistry of who I was the night I first saw him in concert. As he sat at his piano, screaming the lyrics to The Beautiful Ones, “I gotta know…Is it him or is it me…” Prince reconfigured my DNA that night, and there was no going back. Without him, I couldn’t tell you what I would look like today, what I might have become.

Ironically, or coincidentally, both my father and Prince died at age 57. And ironically, or coincidentally, they both died on the same exact date–April 21. This is significant. There has always been a mystique about the world for me–an innocent belief that the universe aligns certain major events in your life–as if someone behind a curtain is trying to tell you something–I may be invisible but there’s a purpose and a plan, and I’m going to drop little clues to keep you guessing. I may or may not have picked that belief up by stitching together a myriad of the lyrics Prince wrote–but, his spirituality imbued with sexuality was the perfect message of inspiration and validation I needed to ultimately know that it was OK to be me.

Thank you, Prince.

Reports are trickling in. They think the “flu” scenario was a hoax. They think, instead, that he overdosed. And that when his plane made an immediate landing last week, it was not because of dehydration, but rather, to be rushed to the hospital to receive the “second shot” (Narcan) because of opiate overdose. If that is the case, then both my father and Prince died in a similar fashion. My father’s addiction to prescription opiates was well-known. We just didn’t think it would kill him at 57. Like Prince, my father was iconic to me. Immortal. It’s a little shocking to lose someone when you’re belief in them is so unrealistic. Yes, that’s a direct message to the love addict in us who believes the guy we’re with, the one who emotionally ignores us, treats us poorly or even abuses us is not who we think he is. He’s no prince of perfection. He’s no god.  That is to say, it’s time to get real with your perceptions.

A girlfriend of mine sent me a poignant quote. I leave you with this:

Prince was so utterly, effortlessly enshrouded in mystique that he seemed other-than-human, to the point where mortality never figured into our calculations.

Amen. I’ll leave it at that.

Love addict’s wishful thought #47: if only he went to therapy…

Who hasn’t had this thought pop into her head: If only my boyfriend saw a therapist, everything would be different.

I can’t tell you how many times I wished this exact thing. And why did I wish it? Because I believed that after all the self-help books I’d read, therapy was the answer.  Not to my problems, of course, but my boyfriend’s. And if my bf would just go to a therapist, said therapists would back me up and convince my guy that he needs to change, (just like I said he should) or he would risk losing a relationship with me.

Looking back over all the men I dated, only two were willing to go to therapy “for me,” my ex husband and G. Both therapy sessions went horribly wrong.

The first time my ex husband and I went to a therapist he lied about his cheating and had no real interest in changing his behavior. He merely did it to appease me, and probably because he felt bullied by me and just gave in. I was desperately trying to save my marriage, singlehandedly, and the only advice we left with was “You two need to date again.” This didn’t exactly resolve anything. But, it did delay the inevitable. And the inevitable came with a flip flop. It was now me who wanted out of the relationship. And so,  the second time we went, it was on his instance to save the marriage. But, by the time I got to therapy, I was completely unable to be “convinced” to stay in the marriage and we divorced shortly after.

When I dated G, I was in therapy because I was unable to accept G’s “flaws” and I was trying to figure out why I was always so frustrated and depressed. He always said he loved me, and he called all the time. What was my problem? Well, my problem was he smoked pot and never wanted to have sex with me. So, I thought if I could get him to meet with a therapist, she would convince him these things were interfering in our relationship and he should change his ways to save the relationship.

This didn’t work. He liked smoking pot and he had an extremely low libido (most likely because of the pot), and he had no desire to change.

So what did these men learn from therapy? Probably nothing. What did I learn? That’s more important here. I learned that just because a well-educated relationship specialist understands what it takes to have a healthy relationship, they could not convince someone to love me or to BE what I wanted them to be. Just because my therapist and I agreed that my boyfriend’s behavior was not acceptable, it didn’t mean he also agreed or even cared. And therein lies the problem.

Therapy doesn’t convince anyone to love you, especially if they don’t want to be convinced. And believing in therapy as a way to “fix” a relationship that is founded on neglect, disrespect, avoidance or any other ingrained behavior is wishful, unrealistic thinking.

Therapy ONLY works when two people are committed to each other and when those two people share the same value in working on the relationship. More importantly, what we learn from therapy is often something we don’t particularly want to learn: that we cannot control or convince others to love us. And the “everything will be different” fantasy typically comes when you ditch the guy who clearly doesn’t love you and replace him for one who does. And, surprise! When that happens, you typically find yourself not needing therapy at all!

You are your best investment

investmentOne of the clearest signs of an unhealthy, addictive relationship is when you invest more time obsessing over your partner than you do focusing healthy attention on your own life. Investing in, analyzing, obsessing, and fantasizing over another person to the point where you are exhausted, suffering and in pain is like investing money in typewriter stock in a computer world. You’re not going to get much return on your investment.

YOU are your biggest and best investment (as well as your children). And when you start to really understand that, your entire life will have more meaning, purpose and worth.

 

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.

Trust

Having little trust is not such a bad thing. We think we have to immediately begin trusting people as soon as we meet them. Phooey! Being suspicious (especially after what we’ve all experienced) is a way to protect ourselves.

You don’t want to trust people right off the bat. Trust must be BUILT slowly and let me tell you, it’s a very delicate construction. You can start to build trust in someone and you’re going along and everything seems to be building OK, and then, one day,  you catch him or her in one little lie and the whole foundation of trust crumbles. Is that you being over-reactive? NO! Should you learn to be more accepting of “little lies”? I think not. You’re in recovery. You need time to heal and grow. If a flower pops out of the ground in early spring, it will die instantly under the effect of one night’s frost. You too may lose something you have worked hard to build if you remain with someone who cannot respect the basic tenets of trustworthiness, reliability, dependability, sincerity. Let’s be honest, in order to be stronger, happier and healthier,  we all need honesty from others to thrive.

Before D, I had NEVER met or dated a man who didn’t lie. I thought it went with the territory. I thought every man lied (this is toxic thinking that comes when your trust has been violated most of your life, by the way). So, when I met D, I proudly exclaimed that one of my best talents was that I could sniff out a lie in a matter of seconds. I had become such a pro at this that I was proud of my talent. His response? He looked at me with a rather blank stare. “Um, I’m not sure what you mean. I don’t lie,” he said plainly. And I laughed. “Every man lies” I said.

“Well, think what you want…” he responded.

And I did. I didn’t trust him at all. I remained alert. On the look out. I called him on things that I didn’t understand. I asked him to explain events that in my mind, seemed like perfect opportunities to lie.  I kept my eyes wide open. And I was on high alert. Thing is, he never lied. All his stories backed up. His actions matched his words every day, every week, every month, every year.  ANd it wasn’t until maybe a year into the relationship when I FINALLY started to believe that maybe he was right. He doesn’t lie. This, in fact, caused me to mourn my marvelous talent for sniffing out lies. It was a talent that had been rendered obsolete. In its place, I finally felt SAFE and able to trust again. Of course, now that we live together, I am still triggered by him staying up late at night (my ex would stay up late at night and chat with other women). But every time I wake up and seek him out, he’s watching TV, or reading, or exercising. It might take a while to begin trusting in this department, and toss out my old triggers. But I am being patient with myself and with D.

Love addicts need to find someone with high morals and ethics. SOmeone who believes in honesty and respect of men and woman. It’s not that we need PERFECT. It’s that we need conscientious. Because our process of recovery is a delicate one. And remember that trust equals intimacy. Without trust there is no intimacy–only intensity.

So don’t rush in and expect yourself to start trusting others right away. Bad idea! Take your time and mistrust everyone. Let them prove their worth and honesty to you by their actions first. Not just a day or a week…but many, many months. And be willing to walk if they don’t meet your high expectations in this department. Here’s a great article in learning to build trust in others AND, equally important, being a trustful person yourself.

Lastly, remember that trust will not come from just you. It is build between two people. It will come at a point in a long relationship (romantic or otherwise) where you finally feel comfortable again based on one fact: that your spidey sense for deceit and your superhero radar to sniff out lies or betrayal has not been used in a very long while. And while nothing is ever certain, you will at least be moderately content knowing with good probability that you are in a safe relationship. 🙂