We know that codependents develop the tendency to put others ahead of themselves. When they are faced with the prospect of having to focus on themselves it becomes a very daunting task, first and foremost because they have little practice doing it. It’s something they avoid and it’s a big part of why they stay in abusive relationships.
Codependents often choose their partners because they see them as a project. The thinking behind it is – I know what to do to fix you and when I’m done with you, you will be the perfect partner for me. And thus the partner and all of their problems become the object of fixation for the codependent, to the point where the codependent loses touch with their own reality – their own wants, needs, and desires. They become obsessed with the relationship and the fairytale that they are creating.
As children codependents were powerless to change any of their circumstances. They had to sit idly by, unable to do anything significant to change their reality. Now as adults and faced with the same type of abuse the codependent will create elaborate plans to help and change their abuser. Their partner’s healing, changing, and morphing into their perfect prince or princess becomes their sole focus. This feels so natural to the codependent and so they wrap up all their hopes and dreams into another, only to become disappointed again and again, as an abuser’s natural tendency is to exploit and frustrate.
People in general resist change, Narcissist’s exponentially more so. The most important thing anyone can do is spot areas in their own life that need healing or mending and work on those areas. One can’t want someone else to change enough for the both of them. Change is an inside job and can never be accomplished by another. Codependents seem to forget that there are other fish in the sea that don’t require so much work. If they find someone that shows interest in them, because of their low self-esteem, they will attach themselves to that person, regardless of the monumental task at hand and all of the obvious risk present.
The majority of this stems from the core belief that no one else will want them as they are, because they are not perfect, not good enough, and not worthy. Cognitively they know their partner isn’t right for them and their partner’s issues are more than apparent, but their emotions take over and they think if I could just mold this person into what I need – into someone who would be good enough for me, then all would be well. They mistakenly believe that their partner will be so grateful for their help that they will stick around forever dishing out piles and pileS of gratitude. They also seem to have the impression that having someone, anyone, regardless of how inappropriate, is better than being alone. The obvious course of action would be for the individual to work on themselves and then seek out a partner that is on the same level and page, but when the codependent is unaware of their own codependency they seem to think that there is nothing wrong with them and only see the flaws in their partner.
Get Obsessed With Yourself
Codependents like to focus on other people because, pick a reason – it’s easier than fixing themselves – it could be because they believe that they’re not important enough to focus on – or they’re so used to ignoring their own interests they don’t even know that they have any – It could be because they’re afraid of looking at themselves –or that they’ve become really good at avoiding all of the ugliness of who they’ve been taught to believe they are.
They do it because they’ve been conditioned to do it – it’s a pattern and like all patterns it can be broken, but It takes practice. Just like mastering any new skill. It will feel unnatural and it will be hard but it’s something you’ve got to do to break the codependency habit.
People want a quick fix to things and there is a really simple quick fix – you end your abusive relationship and you start thinking about yourself. You stop thinking about them and you start thinking about you. This is the grind – this is the how’s of how do we do it? I get asked this question all the time and the answer is really this simple – you just do it. People want some kind of magical formula, but it’s just about controlling yourself – controlling your thoughts – controlling your behavior. It’s about discipline – it’s noticing when you are going off track and steering yourself back on track. It’s keeping the focus especially when you don’t want to. You break the pattern by breaking the pattern.
When we make the decision to fix ourselves it’s important to be outside of a relationship. We need to be alone because as codependents we will jump on any reason, any excuse, not to focus on us. I always say you can’t kick a heroin habit by continuing to use heroin. You can’t kick the behavior of needing to be with someone who needs fixing by being with someone who needs fixing. Some people say they have met a really wonderful person and are healing while continuing to be in this relationship, I would argue though that sure it may happen in some cases, but for the majority it would just be a matter of distraction and since most codependents attract Narcissists, how do you know that you’re not with another?
For a codependent the issue lies in our relationship with ourselves. We need to learn how to be in a relationship with us first. This means stripping off all of the layers of dysfunctional beliefs and behaviors that were stacked on us as children. It means learning who we are and what we need to feel happy and complete. It’s learning how to react as adults and to stop letting the wounded child in us, steer our ship. It’s learning how to properly protect ourselves. It’s learning and enforcing proper boundaries, and practicing self-care, which leads to increased self-esteem. It’s about being mindful of when our codependency is at play in our lives, so that we can recognize it and dismiss it, which takes away its power and control over us. When we can do these things, we become fully autonomous individuals. When we are fully autonomous we don’t need other people and so we make better relationship choices – not out of fear or need, but because we want to and because it’s in our best interest.
I get it that most people will have just broken up with someone they’re addicted to. I get it that it’s painful and that it feels natural to sit and wallow in agony. Understand that the alternative to focusing on you and getting better is to keep hurting and focusing on someone that isn’t thinking about you. You can pine away and think up strategies for getting back with your emotional manipulator so he/she can kick you some more, or you can get up, dust yourself off and take control of your own life. Those are your options.
When you put your energy and your attention into being the best you, you can be, you will get results and when you start to see results they will inspire you to work harder. It’s the snowball effect and it allows you to gain momentum and to put more energy and more attention into your goals and when you do that you gain more success …. Which causes you to put more energy and more attention…
Most of my clients will say to me, ”Cognitively I get all that you’re saying,” then they pause. Keep getting it cognitively – is my answer. It’s the most important step. Eventually the rest of you will catch up. Maya Angelou always said, “When you know better you do better.”
The next piece of the puzzle is about recognizing when something isn’t working and creating a new strategy, but we’ll talk about that next week. Sav out.
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I just loved what you said about the only alternative to doing the work of healing is to work on fixing someone who isn’t even thinking about you! That REALLY hit home. You are so wise and you help so much.
It’s been 6 years since the Divorce of 30 years to a super N.
My Mom was a super N as well. I married to get away from her!
I’ve been trapped in bad relationships my whole life.
I’ve read so many self help books, and while they are so helpful, and I get it, it’s so hard to apply it and do it.
After 6 years, I finally kicked my Ex’s Ass in Court with a good lawyer. Most of the money went to the Lawyer, but the feeling of finally beating my Goliath helped me to rise up from the pit.
Being alone is painful, but it will make you stronger AFTER you go thru it. God will be there for you, just call on HIM.
We are Narcissist Magnets. I stopped any person who was too friendly and nosey at my new job right off the bat. I just wanted to observe and be cautious before getting mixed up with more toxic people. I’m glad I did. People are not what they seem, or, as being a codependent, I used to think everybody was better than me. Not so anymore. No longer desperate for friends. There are more weeds than roses out there. It takes time to find a rose. And I need to be a rose myself.
You and I are responsible for what we bring into our front door. People will either build you up or take you down. Watch the Discovery ID Channel for a month. Be careful who you let into your life…..male or female. Don’t be desperate for any relationship, that’s how you become a victim.
We will overcome. Because we are strong and we are worth it.
Stronger Today,Milie and all of you. You really touch me. I feel you all. We all have same experience. Stay strong,stay positive. We will be fine. All the best dears.
Being alone is my default. Self diagnosis suggests that relates to attachment issues in early life. I can’t imagine “dating” – have never done it – and it’s difficult to believe in really loving anybody. So easy to get hurt. As I get older, I have more of a protective shell and the narcissist didn’t help that one bit! Afterwards I felt sick and disgusted and lost a lot of weight.
Stronger Today, please don’t blame yourself. Stuff I found useful, Savannah’s blog obviously but other ones about dealing with obsessions have helped. I did the writing it all down – all the nasty things he said and did – think I got it all now so don’t need to go back to it because I recalled anything else. Pieces of paper around remind me to say “Git” or “Get out” when I find him in my head. Being in the car is great because I can yell “Obsession!” and feel it leaving me.
Bizarrely, another thing that helps when tempted to go over the madness again is to focus on any “normal” couple that I know. Then I feel calm and much better about my own life which suits me.
I didn’t get on with some of the books recommended here but I do like the idea of focussing on the “now” and have tried to do that more. Was just contemplating a potted plant. Much more satisfying than thinking about Mr Narc.
The “relationship” was two and a half years then about four with boomeranging before events seven months ago meant I took myself in hand. I think have stopped dreaming. I wouldn’t want or expect any apology or acknowledgement of wrongdoing. Even challenging that when I knew it was happening would just have led to more lies and omissions.
Like others here, I’m looking forward to reading the next blog.
I know even after only an 8 year relationship, I’m not ready to date. Friends just want to see you happy but they may not understand the work you need to do before you get back in the dating scene. Someone in your life or a date here or there isn’t happiness.
I look at my N so different now too. Now he disgusts and sickens me. Now that I’m healing i see how much was wrong in my life when i was with him. My daughter was impacted too. We are both PTSD. And seeking a good counselor.
I wouldn’t even want an apology from him. I do not trust a single word that comes out of his mouth. Everything is either a lie or has a hidden agenda.
Nearly every day i go over and over the craziness that i went through. Reliving some conversations, events, conversations, etc. I will be glad for that to stop. Is it a matter of time to heal or a sign I’m not focusing on me. Probably both. These articles are critical to my healing. Thank you so much.
beautiful beautiful article as usual. Thank you so much Savannah.
@stronger Today, I have same problem here. I don’t really know when the nightmare stops. Its frustrating. I just don’t want to dream about that cruel Narcissist. How can I stop a dream :-). I already moved on with my life. Thanks to Savannah.
I absolutely love your blog and the comments. I have followed you for over year and have learned so much. Your posts have helped me so much. Just when doubt creeps in about the no contact, which is the hardest thing at times, I have to remind myself I just can’t. It honestly feels physically painful but I’m not sure what good it would do. I’m looking for closure for myself. But I might not ever get that, and maybe that’s best. The cycle is terrible. Thank you. As isolated and alone as I feel, it’s good to know there’s support.
Thank you once again Savannah, for helping me see myself and my issues. The narcissist and her abuse were just the latest (and worst) effects of my codependency. You nailed all the things I do to sabotage myself: focus obsessively on others; ignore myself, my feelings, needs, and values; and fail to believe in my own self worth. The narcissist in my life hurt me very badly, but I am the one who opened the door and let her into my life. If I don’t get to the roots of my own behavior I will be back there again — and I really do not want that!
One thing I would add, about the causes of codependency: yes, it’s about that message I received as a small child that I was not worthy. And yes it keeps me from looking at myself, directing my attention outward to others. But for me it was also caused by my crazy and scary early environment. Dad was a drunk, Mom was stressed out and pissed off much of the time, so I had to be very careful to read the signals of their behavior. I never knew when I might get hit or yelled at, out of the blue, for no good reason. So I became very sensitive to those around me, reading their expressions, sniffing the wind for trouble. I was (and am!) what the therapists call “hyper vigilant” — on the lookout for trouble, anger, and potential conflict. This programmed me to put other people and their feelings ahead of my own, for my survival. The narcissist just took extreme advantage of this tendency. Part of the healing for me was going back through the early memories and feeling the fear, and then reminding myself that I am strong and able and mature now — I can protect myself, there is no need to worry so much about what others might do. Knowing that I don’t have to head off trouble, that I can handle it if it comes, allows me to “keep the focus on myself,” where it belongs. This keeps me from falling prey to another narcissist, and just makes life so much better all around.
HC this is exactly what I mean by the child is still steering the boat. When faced with an adult situation a codependent instantly reacts the same way the frightened child would – using the same defense mechanisms. A big part of the healing is learning that there are different ways to cope and that the child is no longer in danger and that the adult in you is in charge.
Wow, this article is so spot on and so very easy to relate to. I just cut loose after 7 years! It’s been 3 weeks and not a peep from him. Helps me understand that someone that could intertwine their kids, family, friends, etc with you and can just walk away with no communication really never loved you. I am going to stay strong and re-think my way back to “normal” where I cared about how someone treated me!
This is fantastic. Your words are feeding my soul; I don’t think I can wait a whole week for some strategies! 🙂
This article is so good and so right on time. Should you apply this to a Narcissistic job? In other words, just end it (take the time to manifest healing) and then get back in the job market? What if there is no immediate job to go right into? Should you stay even if it is toxic until you find something else?
@EBK I never got an apology either. He danced around it and could never give me a reason why he did the cruel things to me. I’ve learned that apologies from a narc is just him telling you what you want to hear. No apology will ever come, he’s too busy pointing the finger at you. 😉
You’ve described me to a “T” !!! I am 1.5 yrs into a separation from my Narc of 35 yrs. I’m working so hard to free myself. He fights me at every step. Does not co operate with the legalities, knows every trick in the book to drag things out. Every day is a struggle for me and getting out is taking a toll on me. I’m forging ahead though and am so greatful for your articles. My life will eventually come together and I will get through this.
You astound me every week with your articles! Almost like every Sunday at church, when you feel like the preacher is talking to you and you say to yourself “Wow, how did he know this, is he talking about me?” Yep you’re talking to me! I’m so there now. I no longer pine for him. I’ve learned that he is a jackass and will never change. I too, am guilty of trying to “fix” him. So now he has a new girlfriend in his life that will learn the lesson too. Yes I do still think about him but look at him differently than before. His true character has shone through and it took me a while but I can honestly say that he only loved himself and just used me. Karma will eventually come around but until then I will wait patiently. Can’t wait to tell the other girlfriend “I told you so!”
Savannah, Thank you for all you teach me. You are a life saver, Im practicing loving myself and my ex narc is losing it, YAY!
Perfect article for me because I am still focusing on him, even though he is long gone. I don’t know how to turn off that switch- from focusing on him to focusing on me. My friends are urging me to date- after a 35 year marriage where he was cheating for 8 and left me almost a year ago- but I am uncertain if I am ready or if dating will be the catalyst to turning my obsession away from him. I keep going over events in my mind, things he said to me. I have to stop. I know that I ‘need’ to have him made a full heartfelt apology in order for me to fully move on. I also know that I will never get an apology unless his gf kicks him out and he has nowhere to go. I have to learn to accept the apology that is not given.
Excellent article, thank you.
Thank you! Working on myself finally! So grateful to get these articles each week.
Waal what a wonderful post thank you so much iam one of those who made a decision to let go someone whom i was addicted to sometimes we need to let go.Right now iam hurting but one thing for sure i will be fine.
Sav, when do the nightmares stop? I’ve been no contact for 6 months now, broken up for 2 years and i keep having dreams where we are still together, i come home and a “friend” has moved in. Or a “friend” comes to visit and i catch them in an intimate conversation. I get the usual response. I’m being jealous, insecure. They are just friends. I want these feelings and memories to go away. They are so disturbing. Is this a sign I’m not focusing on myself?
Wonderful article, thank you so much. I am now at this stage in my recovery after my husband left our 37 year old marrage. And I am discovering myself and beginning to feel true happiness for the first time in my life. As you point out in the article, just do it. I may do things for others, but in the end, I need to feel good about it, it’s all about me now and, what a change this is!
Amazingly strong, encouraging article. Right on point for recovery. Focus has to be on SELF; otherwise, no forward movement. Oh, and the addictive component of the codependent/narcissistic relationship – it truly is a sickness! Thank you for your wonderful wisdom!
Sav. Your articles are so very enlightening. I get it now. Thank you.
Superb article – thank you.
Thanq for the article, the first article cought my eyes are the one that talking about red flags. And my ex have it all… since then I read your article everyday. All of them help me so much to understand more about my self and focusing myself more. The most important is, I know what to do so I can avoid the Sam mistakes 🙂