I got home really late on Friday. When I pulled into my driveway, at about 1:00am, I noticed a familiar vehicle in front of my neighbor’s house. It belonged to her ex-Narcissist. The same ex-Narcissist that lied, cheated and used her, the same one that kept coming and going from her life. The same one that kept hurting her and tossing her aside when someone else waltzed by and the same one that she said she was, ‘so over,’ it was ridiculous.
What is she doing I wondered? This man had her expectations sanded down to nothing and yet she still jumped to do his bidding whenever he called. She seemed numb to how disrespectful and offensive his behavior was and how desperate she seemed, yet she still wanted…needed to hang on to him.
She and I have had this conversation dozens of times. It’s the one where she tells me she’s not a codependent and she doesn’t expect anything from him and that there are certain things about him that she really likes. She will explain to me how he’s not bad all the time, sometimes he’s helpful – like that time he helped her move a piece of furniture, and that he’s funny. He makes her laugh and he’s fun to be around. She’ll tell me too, that he’s a great person to talk to and that he really gets her. She’s single, he’s single, they’re both adults, so why not spend time together?
When you let someone, who has mistreated you, waltz in and out of your life, with no boundaries and no repercussions, it weakens you. It perpetuates that core belief that you don’t deserve any better. It keeps you in that low emotional energy field. It keeps you addicted and dependent on the substance (in this case the narcissist). It keeps you stuck there, not growing as a person, or healing inner wounds. It stops you from seeking out someone healthy that would actually be a better and healthier fit for you.
The ability to justify so much abusive and disrespectful behavior is very telling about how we feel about ourselves and the level of our self-esteem. It shows us that our brains have become accustomed to glossing over the obvious and how easily they allow us to enter into the land of make believe.
I received an email last week from a reader that said, “He wants to see other people and he told me that he’s going to move and not tell me where he’s going to move to.” She asked me what I thought that meant.
I told her that she was trying really hard to create something that she wanted to hear out of something she didn’t want to hear. What did he mean by I want to see other people? It means he wants to see other people – you can’t morph that into, ‘he still loves me and won’t give me up’ – unless of course, you’re really good at deluding yourself. His meaning couldn’t be any clearer. If someone is threatening to move and not tell you where they’re going to there is no further explanation necessary.
Even if they say it one week and then next week they’re asking you if they can come over – there is something really wrong with the relationship.We can all be really good at deluding ourselves – especially when we’ve received mixed messages in the past. When we’ve had to solve the riddles they’ve thrown at us to keep us off balance and away from the truth, we can become accustomed to looking for hidden meanings, even when there are none.
Sometimes a statement is just a statement and needs to be taken at face value. Here are a few common phrases and behaviors and their definitions:
When they say I want to see other women/men: They mean I want to see other people. It means they don’t want to be exclusive with you. You’re not their girl/boyfriend. If you’re crazy enough to stick around they will still do you on occasion, but make no mistake they are being very clear that you should not expect anything from them.
When they say you can do better than me: They mean you can do better than me. They aren’t being humble or sweet. They recognize that they aren’t treating you very well and that you do deserve better and they are kind of shocked that you’re still around.
When they treat you like crap most of the time: It means there is something wrong with them, and that there really is no special connection between you. You’re not soul mates. They’re not going to eventually figure out that you’re the one and start treating you great because you’ve stuck around the longest, or because you’ve sacrificed the most for them.
When they say they want to be friends: It means they really like all the benefits of having you in their lives, all the resources you have to share and how much you sacrifice for them, but they want you to know that while they will continue to use you, they are under no obligation to treat you with a modicum of respect.
There is no guess work that needs to be done here. People that suffer from codependency tend to have a magic wand where they can just wave it over the truth and pretend it’s not there, or they pretend there is a hidden meaning or a riddle that they will spend days, weeks, months even years trying to figure out.
Another big issue for codependents is their willingness to put another’s life, needs and interests ahead of their own. When a lover tosses us aside and they are gone from our lives we are lost – we don’t know what to do with ourselves. There is a real physiological hole to fill because we don’t know how to focus on ourselves and become invested in our own lives.
Because our self-worth is so low we’ve internalized the message that we can’t do any better, or that no one else will want us, but this really is just a prison we’ve created to keep ourselves stuck. We’re used to the prison and in a sadistic kind of way it feels natural to us. Sure we had help creating the prison, but it’s really just a mirage. We only think there are bars there that are keeping us from moving on and breaking free.
Getting involved with a Narcissist is complicated. They can’t all be painted with a single, evil stroke of a brush – sometimes they are funny, sometimes they are helpful, sometimes they show concern, (whether it’s real or not is another matter), sometimes it feels like you’re in a real relationship, sometimes it feels like you mean nothing to them. If they were awful all the time it would be a hell of a lot easier to spot them and walk away. One of their special gifts is the amount of doubt they leave in their wake.
When enough time has passed and we think we’ve figured them out, we may think we’re capable of having some involvement with them without it completely destroying us. If this is where you are right now, you need to ask yourself why you want to be involved with someone who will never be able to give you what you want the most? Just because you have healed somewhat doesn’t mean that you’re in control. Always remember that any relationship will always be on their terms and that the law of addiction is still in effect.
A big part of conquering codependency is learning how to love and respect yourself enough to know when you are not acting in your best interest and that means walking away from anyone or thing that causes you harm.
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