Human beings are a lot less complicated than you might think . The great motivators for most people, are the desire for survival, sex and love, and power and money. There are other motivators too, like revenge, but usually when you find change, it’s being driven by one of these.
Introspection is the ability to look deep inside and examine your own feelings, thoughts and motives. It’s necessary for growth and change. Surprisingly, not everyone can do introspection. Many either lack the ability, or the desire.
When we don’t look inside at what drives us and others, you’ll feel a sense of disconnect and a separateness that makes us feel alone. Not being in touch with ourselves, can keep us stuck and in a state of denial.
For most of my life I didn’t do introspection. I walked around believing that I was a normal girl, from a normal family, doing normal things and I believed that in my relationships, I was the normal one, I just always seemed to pick the wrong men. I even remember throwing around the statement that, ‘You can’t stereotype people. Everyone’s different.’
I came to realize later on that a stereotype happens, because at it’s essence it’s a behavior that keeps repeating, so yes you can stereotype. As I learned more I came to believe that behavior patterns were just like physical symptoms for the mind. If you go to your family doctor and say I feel dizzy, have blurred vision and trouble speaking, he might say, ‘You’re having a stroke.’ Well the same can be said for mental and emotional conditions – they have symptoms, that manifest in our behaviors.
It’s usually not until a tragedy happens that we start to really question things and look for answers. It’s far too easy to get carried away and preoccupied with life. I could have spent decades with my Narcissist, just watching the years go by and continuing to lie to myself and everyone else. I was really unaware of what was wrong with me, until I was forced to see it and I came across something that made me start to question everything I thought I knew.
I had no idea what being emotionally healthy meant. I didn’t know what emotionally healthy even looked like. I certainly didn’t have any role models to follow. After my Narcissist left me I was so lost and such a mess, I started to believe that something was seriously wrong with me. I didn’t understand why I was so afraid and why I couldn’t just get over it. And what usually happens when we are desperate and lost? Something fell onto my lap – it was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it.
It was a list that differentiated between healthy relationship behaviors and unhealthy relationship behaviors, compiled by the greatest minds in the co-dependency field at the time, and it was the first stepping stone of my recovery. I had no idea who these authors were, or how important they would become to me later on in my research, but when I stumbled across their list, I had such a shock or recognition, that it literally brought me to my knees. It was such a powerful moment and it changed me and the way I looked at relationships forever afterwards.
This list forced me to get really honest with myself, because as I read it dawned on me that I hit every single one of those toxic love components and none of the healthy love components. It was a huge eye opener and it scared me because I realized that I had nowhere else to go but inside.
I printed the list out and I posted it on my cork board and every time my relationships would cause me grief, I was able to look at it and see, how and when my behavior was off and when my partner’s behavior veered toward the unhealthy. It became my guidance system, my point of reference, that showed me when I was on track and when I was off track.
Unfortunately, after a few moves I lost the list. I found it unexpectedly this week, after years of searching and wanting to share it, in hopes that it’s as eye opening for you, as it was for me. Print it out and paste it to your fridge or your cork board.
The list was compiled by Melody Beatty author of Co-Dependence no more, addictions expert and author Terence Gorski, author of Dance of the Wounded Soul, Robert Burney and a few tweaks from me.
This list was so helpful to me, in so many ways and it started me on my path to healing. I hope it does the same for you.
|Love: Development of self first priority.||Toxic love: Obsession with relationship.|
|Love: Room to grow, expand; desire for other to grow.||Toxic love: Security, comfort in sameness; intensity of need seen as proof of love – may really be fear, insecurity, loneliness.|
|Love: Separate interests; other friends; maintain other meaningful relationships.||Toxic love: Total involvement; limited social life; neglect old friends, interests.|
|Love: Encouragement of each other’s expanding; secure in own worth.||Toxic love: Preoccupation with other’s behavior; fear of other changing.|
|Love: Appropriate Trust (trusting partner to behave according to fundamental nature.)||Toxic love: Jealousy; possessiveness; fear of competition; protects “supply.”|
|Love: Compromise, negotiation or taking turns at leading. Problem solving together.||Toxic love: Complete domination/submission or power plays for control; blaming; passive or aggressive manipulation.|
|Love: Embracing of each other’s individuality. Accepting other as they are.||Toxic love: Trying to change other to own image.|
|Love: Relationship deals with all aspects of reality.||Toxic love: Relationship is based on delusion and avoidance of the unpleasant.|
|Love: Self-care by both partners; emotional state not dependent on other’s mood.||Toxic love: Expectation that one partner will fix and rescue the other.|
|Love: Loving detachment (healthy concern about partner, while letting go.)||Toxic love: Fusion (being obsessed with each other’s problems and feelings.)|
|Love: Sex is free choice growing out of caring & friendship.||Toxic love: Pressure around sex due to fear, insecurity & need for immediate gratification.|
|Love: Ability to enjoy being alone.||Toxic love: Unable to endure separation; clinging.|
|Love: Cycle of comfort and contentment.||Toxic love: Cycle of pain and despair.|
Thank for this article, the book references, the list, and for creating this website. It is incredibly validating. I have felt so lonely and confused for so long. Your site helps to put my thoughts into words that I can read and make some sense of. Hopefully, I will be able to come out of this fog with help from people like you! I’ve been so desperate to understand what is going on inside, even been hastily jotting down quotes during movies that put these imprisoned feelings into words.
I’m really struggling, I’m married to man who seems to have no empathy. He is so very “nice.” Everyone loves him, he even played Jesus in our church dramas. And he is “nice”… and that is the most crazy-making part because I just can’t wrap my head around how he has neglected my feelings for so, so long. He is happy and “nice” as long as I don’t bring up anything negative. Then it is the silent treatment. Anyway, I would like some advice because, I am married and have two amazing kids. If I didn’t have those kids…
Thank you, thank you again. I’m sorry you had to go through the pain in your story, but I’m grateful you are using your story to help others.
Thank you so much, not only for this post, but for the innate comments it generated from others who are working on their inner healing. I’m in the middle of that “5-year recovery period” and I still have more shitty days than good. But, an extremely loving, reliable, safe, supportive, beautiful person came into my life a few months ago and ever since, I’ve been trying to figure out “why” I can’t develop the same kind of “love” and intensity for them that I had with my narcissistic, abusive ex. That’s how I stumbled upon this post tonight…because, despite how “boring” real love can seem compared to what I’m used to…something within me has been convinced that it’s MY version of love that needs to be changed – not this amazing new person who has come into my life. I feel like I should be “over the moon” about finding the kind of person I’ve found, but there really is something intoxicating and more alluring for me in toxic love, it seems. Hopefully, I can remember that it’s a struggle many of us have and that it IS possible to fall in love with real, healthy, safe people. That it’s worth trying to…
After reading this post, I asked myself how many people do I know who have been in a toxic relationship like in Column B of this list. I can actually say with confidence that nearly every single one of my friends — women and men, gay and straight — has been in at least one relationship that was emotionally abusive, toxic and extremely damaging. Either a controlling and manipulative or a cheating partner seemed to be the most common. Almost every single friend has experienced this! And this is a diverse crop of people: Some had emotionally healthy parents and good self-esteem, whereas others, like me, had tumultuous childhoods.
Many of my friends experienced their abusive, unhealthy relationship during their late teens and college years, for some reason. But those of us who struggle with self-esteem and co-dependency issues have repeated this dating pattern well into our 30s, whereas the “healthier” people did not repeat this mistake as they aged.
Is it just me, or are emotionally abusive relationships more common than we think?
Maybe I’ve been in my head too much lately, but it seems that everywhere I look there is a toxic relationship serving as a form of entertainment. Movies, TV shows, novels, celebrity gossip sites, music. It seems to be a tale as old as time. Infidelity and love triangles have been a central plot to plays for thousands of years. Many indigenous peoples have cheating gods and vengeful goddesses in their creation stories. English sonnets are filled with feelings of longing and despair for a lover, or talk about the pain of loving someone who does not want them. Hell, look at the Twilight series – it was a story that CELEBRATED being in a bad relationship, and teenage girls adored it. Over and over again, we see that love is supposed to hurt, depress us, ruin us and take over our lives and sense of self. That all of these negative feelings are really just “passion.” And we eat these stories up.
I understand that Hollywood’s goal is to sell us an escape and fantasy, and that toxic relationships make a much better story than real relationships. Think Stephanie Meyer would have made any money had instead, Bella told Edward to shove it and went off to college and lived her life for herself? Would “Scandal” be as interesting if Olivia Pope wasn’t having an affair with a married man? Of course not.
We don’t see any stories about healthy relationships, because an actual healthy relationship and real love could really be called “boring” through this lens. There is no drama and roller coaster ride when both parties are confident with themselves, trust each other and want the best for each other. Healthy people don’t sacrifice their lives or give away parts of who they are to be in the relationship. There’s no sense that your world or life is over when the relationship ends.
Love is not supposed to hurt.
Great list. Thank you for sharing. Your comments about looking introspectively are so on target. It is consistent with therapist recommendations/observations that it takes 5 years to truly heal from a divorce/serious relationship. I am on year three. My first year was shock recovery, wah-wah-wah after 128 years of marriage, the second year was back and forth negotiating in prayer and owning his as well as my behavior. The third year has been I did not force him to make the choices he did – narcissist that he is. I did fall into the co-dependent stuff. I do like me. I like me a lot better without him. By the end of this year, I hope to be practicing a lot more of what I like about me. Playing tennis, my crafts again, etc. Sometimes I would like to not be alone… but after what I have been through I will never compromise again. And it is ok to heal self first. No one else needs this stuff I am trying to sort through. It is a process and I am worth the time it takes. Your list is so helpful.
I am so glad you found ‘the list’.. this could not have come at a better time for me… I want to become indifferent to him so badly.. but can’t seem to take the leap of no contact..
This is a great list. Thanks for sharing. I also read recently this book called – When he’s married to his mom. Mother enmeshed men. It was a book about how certain mothers enmesh with their sons emotion and psyche and cause damage to their bonding ability. After i read that book i noticed some of my male friends who were raised by their mom usually having problem committing, and have some kind of addiction issue. I dont mean to generalize (not all of them) but there were some interesting insight with how some parent use their kid for emotional support and stability when the other parent is not around much and not emotionally available. I think its not only for dysfunctional moms to have their sons to rely on his emotional support codependents could be the result of earlier dysfunctional enmeshment with one or either parents if they were narcissistic, or codependent themselves. Anyways that book was also an eye opener for me and helped me undersand some of my ex’s behaviour. And i could see i have been having problem with committing because of my dads demanding narcissistic bahaviour as well.
Thank you for the list. It will definitely be printed and posted.
I have to read the book Oranj mentions in her comment. I am obsessed with the thought that my teenage son will become his Narc father in the future. I am doing everything I can to prevent this. Thank you Savannah and thank you all the bloggers for sharing these invaluable posts.