Abusers don’t like boundaries. They hinder their progress in getting what they want. Consequently, they choose their targets very carefully. Children make excellent targets because they don’t have many options, they’re eager to please and require the love and attention of their caregivers. Children of abusers grow up not understanding their worth, or the concept of boundaries in relationships.
When these children grow up you have adults stumbling around their romantic relationships not understanding what they’re doing wrong, why they’re unhappy and why things don’t work out.
It’s amazing how our brains get hard wired to believe that we have to work hard for love, that it doesn’t come easily and that or worth is dependent upon the approval of others. When we run into an abuser in our adult relationships we will try to make excuses for their poor treatment of us, we’ll take responsibility for their actions and we’ll miss clues that would be obvious to others. When it comes to dealing with our worth in romantic situations it’s like we live in a perpetual fog, never being sure where we stand or what we deserve.
It really is all about self-respect and knowing what is acceptable and what is not. When we figure it out it’s about living by these rules even if they don’t feel quite right at first. When we learn to treat ourselves with love and respect and we practice it consistently, it becomes habitual and we stop tolerating anyone, or thing, that doesn’t match up with our new self-perception.
I’ve listed a few mandatory boundaries you should be incorporating in your relationships. Like anything with practice they become habitual and you’ll stop settling for less.
The Separate Entity Rule: I am not an extension of you. My purpose isn’t to please you, or serve you, or do what you want me to do. I am my own person. I’m allowed to have separate interests separate friends and separate hobbies. I’m allowed to pursue whatever makes me happy.
If you have to give up any of these things to please your partner/parent, you are in a dysfunctional relationship. Healthy people are interested in your happiness and growth and encourage these things. Unhealthy people seek control and sameness, through isolation and condition their victims into making everything all about them.
The Reciprocity Principle: While it’s never a good idea to keep score in relationships, healthy ones, generally consist of equal amounts of give and take, with both partners making a consistent effort. If you find yourself in a relationship where you are doing the lion’s share of giving and the doing, you are not part of a partnership you are part of a servant/master dynamic. This means you are doing most of the traveling, spending, calling, texting, planning, cooking…..If you feel like you’re being used, you are. Know where the line is and if you think you’re being used end it.
The Option Paradigm: If you know your partner is seeing other people and that’s not what you want – get out. Forget about all that nonsense that’s going on in your head like – I can’t do any better, no one else will want me, I really love this person, we have an amazing connection….. if what you want is not on offer – get out. Anything else is madness and will perpetuate the hurt and prolong your suffering.
Staying will not make it better, it won’t change anything – except it will wear down your self-esteem and your objections. This is a dangerous place because if you do continue to tolerate your partner seeing other people it will continue and your own well-being will be at risk. This is where your line must be drawn.
Too Busy Rule: If you think you’re in a relationship and there are large periods of unexplained absences where you can’t get a hold of your partner, you need to head this warning. No one is ever too busy to shoot off a quick text to explain what’s going on and why they aren’t responding to your attempts at contact. Everyone has sparse moments of being off the grid, but there’s usually a pretty good reason. If you are a priority your partner will make sure you know what’s going on with them. If you’re not, they’ll ignore your calls and texts and make excuses. Never leave more than one or two messages or texts – and don’t tolerate being ignored. It’s not okay. Draw the line.
The Mixed Message Dynamic: You should never be guessing where you stand in your relationship. If you keep getting vague replies, or your questions keep getting ignored, or deflected you instantly know where you stand. Wanting to know if you’re on the same page is not a difficult question and one you have every right to have answered. Being in a relationship is a serious thing and if your partner isn’t taking it seriously it’s time to move on.
The Responsibility Principle: You are not responsible for the behavior and moods of other people. It’s a common dynamic of dysfunctional people to blame others for their actions. This is a misnomer. The most common statement you hear after man physically assaults his wife is, “Look what you made me do.” It’s ridiculous, don’t ever allow yourself to feel responsible for another’s actions. You’re responsible for you and your partner is responsible for themselves. If someone is trying to pass responsibility to you, pass it right back and move on.
The Paradox Principle: This is where a person’s words don’t match their actions. A typical example is when someone claims to love you and then behaves like they don’t. if you’re sitting there in a tizzy trying to figure out what someone really means always follow the behavior. People often lie to get themselves out of trouble, to deflect or get what they want, but they almost always do what they want. If words and actions don’t match up don’t be afraid to call someone on it. It’s your right.
These are very common points of confusion for codependents. Because of early programming and repeated patterns of behavior codependents get stuck trying to decipher through the confusion and uncertainty of what’s right and what’s wrong, when it comes to our most intimate relationships. The bottom line is that you should never be guessing. Your job isn’t to please and serve – it’s to live your life for you and to become the best you, you can be. Anything else is servitude and you were not put here for that. Know where the line is and respect yourself enough to know when it’s been crossed and do right by you.
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I am so glad I found this sight. I struggle with codependency and this article was spot on. I was doing the whole I’ll never find anyone better thing and I am just starting to snap out of it. I am sick of the selfish narcissist who try and throw me off my true path with there own issues. I had a friend of 15 years who started playing the pathetic I can’t call i can’t respond I take no responsibility for myself. Once i woke up saw what was going on I am so glad this person is out of my life. I am not anyones caretaker. I was programmed by my narc mother. I spoke with someone and it caused me a lot of triggers and I started to have the behavior where I start acting like someone who can’t think for themselves and that I have to run to my mother like an immature child. I’m working on my boundaries and I believe I will get there. I am learning how to be aware of my emotions in the moment. Sometimes I have to take a step back before I take some big steps forward, I hope I am taking some big steps forwards. I’m healing and I need to drop the perfectionism. Mistakes happen and I’m okay. Deep breath. I am still hurt but I know that I will get better with time.
I miss myself…
whoever that i
Alright. Fair enough.
Don’t understand why almost all your answers to my questions are about some kind of a relationship, when I am asking truly beyond that concept.
Anyway, tank you for your time and effort, and all the info here was much appreciated.
You have my email, and at one point if you can share answer to some of my unanswered questions please do.
Thank you Savannah!
Vlad: Because relationships are the problem – relationships with the self and relationships with others. That’s what’s broken. That consists of things like self-esteem, self-worth, self-care, confidence, boundaries, battling things like the critical parent voice, shame attacks, doubt, confusion, the need to take responsibility for everything that’s wrong, the need to fix and over-give, sacrificing your own needs and wants in favor of those of others…
You say, “Before you date anyone new, you need to make sure that you have gotten to the bottom of your childhood issues, learned new coping mechanisms, learned how to be mindful of your own thoughts and behavior and learned how to reprogram your brain, so that you aren’t consciously and subconsciously looking for that abusive partner that reminds you of the relationship you had with your primary caregivers. If you don’t fix this you will continue to exist at the same low emotional energy and you will continue to attract other low emotional energy people and events to you.”
Then you said, “The last thing a codependent wants to do is look at themselves. They’re so good at turning the spotlight on other people and giving their assessment of what’s wrong with them, but they’re terrible at turning it on themselves. Hooking up with someone else is a great distraction that allows them to keep their focus off of
what’s really important – healing themselves.”
And finally, “Distracting yourself from your issues doesn’t make them go away. One could date 100 different people and the same issues would keep coming back. The thing that all your relationships have in common is you. You are the common denominator and until you get you healthy, dating is the last thing you should be doing.
When you’re dating, you’re vulnerable and I’ve said it before – You can’t recover from your heroine addiction while you are still using heroine.
Healthy relationships require trust and an ability to be open and connected to your feelings. If you keep ending up in the same kinds of relationships,
with the same kinds of people stop dating, get you healthy, because when you are healthy, your world will be healthy.”
My question goes like this:
Now, since 90% of us here on this blog are either in an unhealthy codependent relationship that are looking for a way out, or freshly out of one, basically not going into a new relationship goes for mostly all of us, then how come your approach is more on “dating” then on “healing ourselves fist” issue, which you say stuff that I think it takes quite a time to go through all that with ourselves, making the date talks kinda misplaced, on irrelevant at the moment.
So, if you consider this period of self healing short, which I don’t, but OK, then how short in your experience app. is this?
In that case, I can come back when I heal myself, so I can get help here when I start dating. Since both you and I know, it won’t be now for sure. I just got out of a 3 year brain-damaging relationship with a chess master psycho freak woman of my dreams 🙂
Vlad I have written over 400 articles on this site. How on earth do you come to the conclusion that I’m only writing about dating? My approach most definitely is on healing yourself. I write about various parts of the codependency issue. Sometimes it’s to enlighten someone that they are in a dysfunctional relationship – other times it’s on steps they need to improve on and learn. I have never stated that healing yourself is a short process. I have a lot of readers and they are not all in the same place at the same time, so my articles tend to cover a variety of topics and are not in any kind of order.
Thank you for your reply!
Slave to whom? To the abuser?
Who is this person, isn’t us?
Who let this person in?
Also, why is your approach on such an issue concerned so much about relationship with others and dating, when you as well say that it is our own thing we have with ourselves that keeps us reserved for abuse, by being co-dependent?
Vlad it’s a dysfunctional symbiotic relationship. What a codependent seeks out is also the cause of their own destruction. Being in a relationship is a big problem for a codependent especially since they don’t know how to have a relationship with themselves. I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking me but I’ll say this – take an example of an alcoholic. Alcohol is a problem – for those who have a problem with alcohol. Do you catch my meaning? Being in a relationship is a problem for someone who doesn’t know how to be in a relationship. This blog is about learning the important little steps that we were not taught as children -things like self-worth, boundaries, self-care…..
Hi Savannah, I got this stuck in my mind that you said: “Your job isn’t to please and serve – it’s to live your life for you and to become the best you, you can be. Anything else is servitude and you were not put here for that.”
For sure it is to become the best of you, but isn’t that a specific thing for a specific person only in a specific moment?
Servitude can be part of your best at the moment, right?
Also, who says that we are not put here for that reason, or that we are put for a certain reason?
if we carry the presence of parasitic emotional relationship that we were in as children,
although we are physically detached from that specific parasite, we still do have a reserved emotions for this type of relationship, and do have a lower level of emotional energy since we anyhow spend it on an imaginary parasite, so does that mean that being with one won’t hurt us since we do it ourselves all the time anyhow, and us being with one can only lead to final emotional resolve and true transformation, meaning we exist for them and they for us while we are in this emotional state by ourselves?
is it that we are what we are while we are, until we become somehow different so that by having different needs we will be realistically detached from our need of having another parasite in our lives, or just having one imaginary all the time?
is it possible that we can transform with or without being with one, more or less based on our acceptance of that emotional presence within us, and the acceptance of our need for that emotional state, so we can furthermore, go into depth of what this need is really about?
don’t see how being emotionally hurt from such a person as a parasite can be more personal than the reality of a parasite knowing that doesn’t have an ability to nurture his/her own existence on an emotional level, so it has to find any kind of way to get inside someone else’s life to feed off their emotions.
putting themselves at one point in their life in a position to become emotionally disabled people, don’t make them really smart or in a better position then us. much more emotionally weak I guess, but not that they are someone to be humiliated by having a pity for them, as we know that it is an emotional discrimination.
so somehow we end up with only ourselves and our way of loving ourselves, which is basically everyone and everything. I mean, god is there anything relevant when we are talking about our emotional pattern of self abuse and co-dependency to a parasitic person that only reflect it to us, and by doing so, it feeds off of our emotional intensity and levels, or whatever is the essence of their emotional thrust that gets satisfied, whatever they are hungry for.
I even ask myself how can a parasite be emotionally disabled and still feed off of someone else’s emotions, when it is not capable of intercepting this frequency or whatever. What exactly they are capable and not capable of, or is it only an alibi to con someone into providing existence for them while they don’t emotionally feed at all?
But I am pretty sure that their existence is as same valuable as ours, and that we simply correspond to each-other when cross paths.
Vlad – don’t take it out of context. We are talking about servitude in relationships. When you are constantly giving and your whole life is about someone else and there is no reciprocity you are a slave. Your previous comment I didn’t agree with. This blog is all from a Codependent’s perspective – when I say love only those that love you I am not talking universally. Codependents have a habit of seeking out romantic partners that mirror their core beliefs about themselves. They seek out partners that perpetuate the feeling of being unworthy of love and not good enough. So when I say love only those that love you I’m talking about being with a partner that also loves you. That’s the only statement I’m making there. You mention parasites in both comments – sure parasite must have a purpose in the universe but I sure don’t want to date one. “Healthy” relationships are not about one person giving and doing all the work while the other lounges and feeds off the other.
He won’t stop contacting me, even though I do not respond. I blocked his #, but texts still come through; need to contact the phone company about that tomorrow. So I’m 99% narc free. Besides the healing and learning to live in a healthy way again, my brain is a mess. He kept me so busy – physically, emotionally, sexually. Now that he’s gone, I’m having difficulty relaxing. Anybody else experience this? Since I don’t have to constantly be on my toes to please him in every single way he required I don’t know what to do with my time. Working on it with small projects around the house and pampering my self in small ways. I haven’t seen anybody else mention this, just wondering if you all experienced this too.
Thanks for all of the support and encouragement!
Suzy I just did a massive face palm. Are you kidding me right now with the, “I haven’t heard anybody else mention this,” bit. I talk about it all the time. What do you do now? Focus on you, focus on you, focus on you, focus on you……. CoD’s are so uncomfortable focusing on themselves but it is something you have to keep practicing. Get out a paper and pen – write down your goals…. your wants…needs…what makes you happy…where do you want to be by the end of the year… in five years …. create the map (how do I get there) …. take little steps everyday that bring you closer to you goal.
My narc and yours sound like they could be great friends . Exactly the same 🙁 its amazing reading everyone elses experiences and its like reading my own life story .. my N has cheated on me so many times i have lost count and they are the ones i know about . He doesnt wear protection , loves porn , always asked me to have a threesome .. a few months ago i found out he tried to have sex yet again with somebody else through social media .. i found out and contacted her .. not her fault. He said he was single and available . He also told her that him and i ( he referred to me as his ‘ex’ ) would have threesoms all the time and that i loved it . Absolute rubbish . Such lies . Please dont believe him . I have spent the last 5 years believing his lies and now am never going to be the woman i used to because of this persons diapicable behaviour towards me . They dont realise the devastation and trauma they cause . Hes now still trying to get me back . Tells me he can fix us and bring the trust back . Tells me hes done with other woman . Its so hard i know .. but we have to be strong .. and not go back . Its all lies . We are the only ones to take control and power to say NO more! Get our self respect back and move on .. otherwise there will be nothing left of us .. i understand .. please be strong ..and walk away and dont look back ..
Great learnings here Savannah..
Recently plucked up the courage to join an online dating site.. woah .. plenty of sad, sick and needy N’s. It will be a short-lived experiment I think!
Well here I am again. In desperation and anxiety. I can not stop. I feel as though I want to jump out of my skin. Miserable because I am not strong enough to stop this insanity. Though I do believe he is truly done with me. A fresh supply a new game is in play. He actually said go home to your family, live well and be close to your babies(grand babies). He actually said save your self from my nature.The closest he has ever admitted there is something wrong with him. I have called him a N among other names.My addiction is our love making. He says he has not slept with anyone else since we have been together. Always asking me how many men I have been with. Am I clean? I hate that word. He wont use condoms. Are all N’s like this? I hear they sleep with so many. Do they think STD’s And HIV is not a possibility? He claims he doesn’t sleep around. Though he wanted a 3some asking me to find a clean friend….ugh. I would never, he is also addicted to porn. I have been tested for all. All negative. thank God. Though I have slept with him once after. I am so very sad and lonely.
As to your question whether they are all the same: the patterns are very similar. E.g. it is known about narcs that many of them often have sex without protection (mine too), not caring about the risks they put you, others or themselves at; it is all about excitement, whatever the cost. And they like danger, and don’t like any restriction. They do not take life seriously, everything is a game to them, so why bother? Just fun and entertainment is all they care about, there is no real value, no meaning to them in their lives. The only meaning is in getting their needs met, from moment to moment, from experience to experience, from situation to situation.
About them sleeping around with many, yes most of them certainly do, and lie about it. The thing I came to think of is: it does not even matter if they actually do that or not, the fact that you have to wonder about this and can never feel safe and let your guard down, says it all. You never should have to question this or live in a constant worry in a respectful and meaningful relationship.
I have gone through all of this, got discarded one year ago without any warning. Felt that something was going on but until today I still do not know for sure if a new supply was the cause of the sudden break up. Have strong suspicions but realized after the discard that I was done with living in a constant state of being alert, insecure, restless. Have gone no contact immediately and kept it up until today. An awfull year of trying to recover and get my own relaxed state of mind, my sanity back. Now, exactly one year later, it is finally going to work out. Would strongly advise everybody to keep the no contact rule, it is the only way. Which was not too difficult for me because I do not do social media which helps a lot. Savannah’s blogs also have been very helpful, she often cleared the fog.
Good luck to everybody who is suffering from this. A scarf on your soul will probably remain, the past cannot be altered but the future is in your own hands. I am not completely there yet, but getting there. Stay strong and listen to Savannah.
Their is no reward in breaking “no contact”. Only continuing the circle of abuse. He will never be a better man, just the same one he has always been. An illusion, nothing more. Bless you on your journey of self discovery. Sending good vibes.
you put so much light on the confusion Narc got us codipendent into No teraphist ever made things so clear to me . You use words with such a clarity that dissolve any confusion those people and our desease keep us trapped in.
There’s an old saying: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again — and expecting a different result.
The Paradox Principle. My ex says he loves me. Sends me money. Calls/texts/emails often. BUT he is still with his current woman. He says as soon as I agree to live by his rules we can be back together. I can reflect on our life together and know logically that I would not be happy for more than five minutes. But the desire to have our old life back is still there. I was devastated when he moved on from us so quickly. I am NC for five days and I want to “reward” myself by responding to his recent message. The song ‘Better Man’ by Little Big Town sums it up. I just miss him and I just wish he were a better man.
Thank you for this article! It’s so powerful! I’very been reading blogs and articles about codependency to help me heal!
Writing this to stay strong. He Just texted me that this was his last try to stay in contact. It’s only been 3 days that I have not replied to him. Rereading all my fellow victims blogs. Our stories are all so similar. A cycle of abuse that will never end. I have to stay strong and know I am more then this man is making me to be. Gave him my heart, soul and body. He will never change. I pray we all can stay strong and not cave. So very hard not to reply. Yes I should block. 1 I want to see how far he will go to tempt me to answer. 2 I want to prove to myself. I can do this. I am strong. Yes I know no contact is the best way. I have to see his words. And overcome his attempts.
Be careful with point 1 though. I’ve been caught up in curiosity abou what he’ll do next and it always leads to trouble and a good hoovering. If he works hard it gives you a false sense of control and the temptation to dip your toe back in the water is strong. I’ve done it twice and (naturally) have come off worse each time. Even when you know it’s a game for him, the temptation to keep playing is strong, especially if you’ve been playing for a while.
I read this recently and although it’s no news, the way it was put affected me quite profoundly. “You are in it because he knows that he has controlled you before and that you have ‘played’. Remember, he is not a good learner of ‘failure’, he just knows you played.”
Thank you so much, although I have had no contact and have been doing a lot of self work he is still emailing me (I have not and will not respond) and is still very much in my head. Everyday I told myself all I have to do is not go back!! It’s been months since I’ve seen him and the dog is lifting!
After thousands time of reconciliation attempts…I finally left the Narc Ex.
The problem in the relationship was always his string of other women.
The last time I even moved to another city, only for him to reel me back in the maddening cycle. He promised marriage, that he will be faithful and he is a change man…bla bla bla.
Less than one month, after i noved back in, after i really relocate again to his city, i found that he has been contacting a thai woman. We fought…and within the same day of our fight, he had a date with an african german woman.
He was furious that I found out, calling me all sorts of name, his sweet words vanished and I have to face again the monster side of him. The cruel heartless monster that have no care whatsoever of how i felt, my sacrifices, my well being…I was once again banished. I was once again have to uproot myself and packed my stuff.
I will stay strong with no contact.
Brilliant reading , and inspiring thank you.
Toward the end of my relationship with my N I started saving text messages that showed the presence of the Too Busy Rule and the Paradox Principle. I knew I was compulsive about needing her approval and attention, so I saved the messages to read whenever I was tempted to break No Contact. This post led me to go back and read them over. Now when I see them I just have to laugh — Ns are so full of shit and so absurd that once you get a little distance you can just laugh at their games and tricks. We would be texting back and forth and then she would just suddenly not respond and I would not hear from her for eight hours or so. Her excuses were classic! Too tired, fell asleep; or something important came up; or my sister texted with a problem; etc. What I would do, what we all would do, if any of those things were true, we would at a minimum send a text saying “falling asleep, so sorry, love you talk to you tomorrow” or the like. We would NEVER leave someone we care for just hanging. But she did that all the time during the devaluation stage. In fact it was VERY devaluing to be just left hanging like that with no explanation. Then when I showed any annoyance or distress she would roll out the paradox — you’re the most important person to me, I love you, etc.
As someone once said, words whisper, but actions SCREAM. Her actions said very clearly “I have you on the shelf I’ll take you down and put you back whenever I damn well please.”
Thank goodness I gathered enough strength to cut off my relationship with the N. And I’m glad I saved those texts, to remind me of what I will never accept from anyone ever again.
I left my Narc on Friday. But he doesn’t know it yet; he’s currently giving me the silent treatment because I ‘crossed’ him. I went back to him four times. Four times he beat me down until I had no choice but to get up by *building* myself up. Will I stay strong? Sure hope so. I’ve never felt so relieved & so refreshed after cutting ties with someone as I do with him. I’m free. No more bonds. Quite the Christmas present. God is good.
It has been over 4 years since I woke up to the fact that I couldn’t fix the problem in our relationship. Since then I have fixed myself and the relationship is distant history. It was so hard but I am now strong and confident, alone but not lonely, and finally in touch with who I am. So much growth. So I think of my path and the people who helped me, and I am thankful for having the courage to follow my gut feelings one after another to get away from the places and people where I didn’t feel right. And how amazing is it that it was because I did what my mother had taught me not to do. She taught me to never listen to my feelings because “feelings can’t be trusted.” And I got out, away, and strong by going against her advice. Not surprising at all if you think about it! It is a path and it takes longer than we can ever imagine to be healed, and yet on the other hand, we can reach an unbelievable spot: health and strength–something we could not imagine I ourselves in the past. So keep on struggling. Listen to your gut. Surround yourselves with any friends who encourage you to listen to your gut. Get a good therapist. And do the work in and on yourself. Because, after praying the Serenity prayer for years, it suddenly became so obvious that the “wisdom to know the difference” is that “I can change myself and nothing else.” That also implies that I accept myself just where I am first–accept that I am a codependent–and then choosing to do the work to change.
Thanks, Savannah, for this column. There were months when looking forward to a new article on Monday mornings was what kept me going through the weekend. Now I only read it sporadically, but I certainly am glad to know it is there every monday day morning to help if we need it; it is good, too, to remind me of “where I was.”
It has been an amazing journey this past 2 years. Beginning with my leaving my narc. Ex. Followed closely by putting in place boundaries for my narc. family. My 2 sisters are currently not talking to me…(after I walked out on verbal abuse, hung up on abusive phone calls – the sort of thing that has happened for years!). Even my narc. mum leaves me alone (unless she wants something!). It feels a bit lonely out here…but I am finally learning to recognise the narcs. Re-building my almost non-existant self-esteem is two steps forward, one step back. But I am getting there. I look at my ex’s family and see the same long history of abuse there too. It is a sad thing. But the buck stops here.
I keep reading the stories and help from this site…it keeps me going. No. I am not alone.
Thanks for understanding.
Profound. So simple to read and makes so much sense on every level – so difficult to put into practice. I always look forward to your words. – Sondra
Great post, this is relevant for everyone!
Recently, I was interested in a man, saw each other a couple of weeks, one day he had a silent fit about my not responding as he wanted me to. I say silent because he did not contact me for 3 days. On the 3rd day I said bye-bye!
Finally appreciate myself and expect respectful behavior. What a great feeling to send him off, without contacting him, begging, etc!