Alisa Valdes was living the dream. She did her undergrad at Berkley and received her Masters of Journalism at Columbia. She landed columns writing for The Boston Globe and later The Los Angeles Times. Her first novel The Dirty Girls Social Club was a huge success and landed her on the New York Times Best Sellers List. She was voted one of the top feminist writers under 30, by Ms Magazine and was even highly touted by feminist icon, Gloria Steinem. By all accounts Valdes’s career had taken off and the future was looking pretty bright…that is of course until she met him.
In 2013 Valdes released a memoir entitled The Feminist and the Cowboy: An Unlikely Love Story.
This memoir depicts the real life romance between Valdes and a rancher named Steve Lane. In it, she discusses the joy she found submitting to this alpha-male, which caused this feminist to make statements such as:
“Never expect anything; instead win him over ‘by giving and giving and giving until it hurts.”
“If an alpha-male cheats, let him. I would share him if I had to.”
The problem wasn’t that Valdes fell in love with an alpha-male; it was that she had become addicted to a Narcissist. As soon as the book was released, the relationship was over and details of abuse surfaced. She revealed in a blog that, “I set out to write a memoir that was a love letter to a man I was deeply in love with, a man who challenged me in myriad ways, a man who changed my life profoundly, a man I respected and honored greatly at the time, what I actually wrote was a handbook for women on how to fall in love with a manipulative, controlling, abusive narcissist.”
It’s all there – putting him up on a pedestal, the need to make him feel special by “honoring” him, by making him her primary focus and by giving up her ideals to please him. Only to later suffer abuse at his hands. In a blog she wrote, that has since been deleted, at the behest of her publisher, she said that she had told him she was pregnant and upon that revelation, he left her – she later miscarried the baby. She opened up about how he constantly criticized, berated her and even raped her. She also spoke about an incident where she had to jump out of his moving truck, because he had threatened to kill her.
This woman who was highly decorated for her feminist writings and had accolades up the ying-yang was now a literary laughing stock. She has been sliced to ribbons by her critics; some have even gone so far as to say that she must suffer from bi-polar disorder and others have called her an out and out liar. Whatever she is, she has certainly paid an outrageous price for love.
But she’s not the only one. This author was brought to my attention by a reader and the story so fascinated me, because it embodies the extent that sufferers of Narcissistic abuse are willing to go to, in order to maintain their relationship. I’ve heard stories from hundreds of women about things they have given, or given up, all in an effort to please someone that was never capable of loving them in the first place. Some have given up their children, their spouse, friends, others their jobs, homes, dreams, money, gifts, vacations, cars, their reputation and even themselves – all just handed over to someone that wouldn’t cross the street to say hello if it wasn’t part of their agenda.
We’re all guilty of it. I had a reader just last week write to me about how she got evicted from her apartment, because of the noise and the behavior of her Narcissist. She was the only wage earner and still had to take care of their child. She had to move back home to her parents, out of state and he still kept asking her for money and even though she was struggling and was raising their child without his help – she still gave it to him. She later found out that he was giving her money to another woman. I’ve had dozens of readers tell me that they have left their homes, their jobs and family and moved to the other side of the country to be with the one they thought they loved, only to find out a short time later, that it had been a colossal mistake.
So the million dollar question is: Why are we so willing to give and give up things till it hurts, all in the name of love?
We believe we aren’t good enough
There’s a deep seeded belief that many people, that give and give up way more than they should, carry around with them and that is, that just being themselves isn’t enough, that they’ve got to add more to the pile, to please and be chosen by the one they love.
The problem is that in all abusive relationships we are always left believing that if we gave just a little more, then they’ll love us and it almost seems to work for a while. We even get a high off of giving, because we get to feel special for a while – then it runs out and they revert to their old behavior. They grow colder and pull away and we don’t hear from them for a while. Then the phone rings, they need something and we feel compelled to give it to them, because we’re just so damn happy they’re back and the give and take cycle continues.
Sometimes we are able to convince ourselves that by giving, they will choose us – somehow it makes sense in the moment, that their asking is a symbol that they can count on us – that we mean something –that we are the ones they turn to – that they trust us – but in the aftermath, we always end up feeling duped, foolish, and used again.
The giving isn’t always about gifts and things, sometimes it’s a lifestyle. Often Narcissists become experts at doing nothing, so they look for just the right target that will go to work, pay the bills and put up with their crap, while they live a life of leisure. These types are so adept at keeping this up, that when one woman gets tired of it, they find another to replace her at the snap of a finger. And it’s usually one who has been faithfully pining his return ready and willing to fulfil his every need. They will have a slew of reasons why they can’t contribute, but the bottom line for an inverted Narcissist is, why work when someone else will do it for you.
We learned in childhood to put other’s needs ahead of our own
Many of us grew up with parents that were less than healthy. When children are taught to fear the consequences of acting like children and are always told to, tip toe around daddy, he’s had a bad day. That child learns to suppress their feelings and their reactions in the name of keeping the peace and making others happy.
We’ve discussed in previous blogs how neural pathways form and are strengthened by repetitive behaviors and beliefs, so if we grow up putting the needs of others ahead of our own it becomes our normal way of being.
Sometimes it’s not so overt, sometimes the taking is much, much more subtle. The gifts we give aren’t always tangible, sometimes the thing we give away, is ourselves. This is the slow degradation of our wants, our needs, our beliefs and of who we truly are. This is the essence of complete surrender, when we hand over control to another. This is the most dangerous and damaging form of taking, in part, because it’s slow and methodical, but mostly, because it’s not done by force. It’s given freely. We are willingly making the choice to give ourselves away bit by bit. The fact that we surrender our power, so readily, is our downfall – this is the outcome when we abandon ourselves in the name of love.
The Compromise Trap
We’ve all been taught that you’re supposed to compromise in relationships, but we get tricked into thinking that we aren’t entitled to our feelings, that perhaps somehow we have misinterpreted their motives and behavior. This misinterpretation comes in different forms; it can take the form of doubting what you are sensing, because what you are suggesting is pretty horrible and no one could be that horrible, so you gladly deny the obvious.
The second part of the compromise trap, is if you’ve been around your abuser long enough you’ve been trained to doubt your senses. It just becomes a gradual wearing down of not just your defenses, but your entire individuality. Very quickly in this type of environment you become a yes person, it’s a subtle form of brainwashing, where you come to believe that giving everything you have is normal and taking only abuse is a fitting punishment, because somewhere very deep, deep down there is an unspoken belief that this is what you deserve.
Somewhere along the way, the belief that relationships are about compromise morphed into a belief, that relationships are about being a martyr – the ever suffering nymph that feels her only worth is in the giving.
The Love Conquers All Trap
It is all part of the fairy tale that we buy into, this ‘love conquers all,’ concept. There’s a billion dollar romance industry that feasts off of this deep, primal desire we all have. Just about every romance novel has the same concept of beautiful, unaware girl, falls for Mr. Emotionally Unavailable and he completely changes his life and who he is because he has become so enamored with her. What we don’t seem to grasp is that this is fiction. It makes such a great story, because this kind of thing doesn’t happen in the real world, but it gives us all a great fantasy.
The Unconditional Love Trap
We talk about unconditional love and deep down we like that concept – of loving someone with no expectations. We even tell ourselves that it’s Godly – that it makes us a good person. While I’m all for the notion of unconditional love when it comes to your loved ones and sure, humanity in general, let’s all love everyone, but I think the true concept of unconditional love gets lost when loving someone means that we also, can’t love ourselves at the same time.
If we can learn anything from Alisa Valdes’ story, it’s that, it doesn’t matter where you come from, what education you have, what you look like, or what you do for a living – anyone, under the right (wrong) circumstances and when just the right buttons are pushed, becomes ready and willing to give up everything in the name of love.
If you find yourself in a relationship where you are doing the lion’s share of the giving you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- Is it reciprocal? Do you get back as much as you give?
- Do I feel duped or used afterwards?
- Am I depriving my children, other dependents or myself, to satisfy the desires of someone who is capable of taking care of themselves?
- Do they only come around when they need something?
- Is there a history of you giving and them taking?
- Does this make logical sense for your life?
- Is there an uncomfortable level of risk?
When we have been in past relationships where there has been abuse at some level, we always have to ask ourselves if our behavior defies common sense. Does it make sense for you to go to work and support a partner that is fully capable of working, but chooses not to? Does it make sense to drop everything in your life and move hundreds of miles away, in hopes that your fantasy works out, with someone you met on-line? I’m not saying don’t take risks, but I am saying make sure you’ve minimized those risks, because if you’re the only one making deposits in the love account, you better rethink your investment strategy.
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