I had made of list of all the things I wanted in a man. It was great advice given to me by a close friend. “If you know what you’re looking for, you’re more apt to spot it when you see it,” she told me. I was online dating, a place where people were as interchangeable as clothing, when I met him.
He was tall, good looking, had a good job, his own home, nice car. He was intelligent, kind, respectful, charming, family oriented, all the things on my list. And he liked me. He wanted to get to know me, to spend time with me, to talk, to share and to make me laugh.
After our first date I went home and called my best friend. I said, “This guy is perfect. He’s everything I’m looking for.” Four weeks later it was Valentine’s Day. I went over to his place and he had cooked me an elaborate meal. We drank wine and talked. It was wonderful. But in my unhealthy mind something didn’t feel right.
He would call when he said he’d call. He was eager to share news of his promotion at work and I…. well I started to want out of the relationship. I started looking for reasons, because really there wasn’t anything wrong with him at all. I came up with foolish things like – he was too heavy (and he was a little overweight, but it wasn’t a big deal to me). I told myself that now that I was at a healthy weight I couldn’t be around someone who wasn’t. I told myself that I wasn’t attracted to him and when he kept calling me one night to tell me about his promotion I kept ignoring his calls, getting more and more irritated at his attempts to reach me.
Shortly thereafter I broke up with him via text message. It wasn’t until much later that I realized what I was doing and why.
He really was/is a great guy. My need to break up with him had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me. You see, I was not comfortable at all with the idea that someone could actually want me, like me, find me attractive. It was such a foreign concept and so against my programming that I was scrambling for any reason to get the hell out of dodge.
On top of that, I had a history of high risk and high intensity relationships. I was used to having to really work for affection. I was used to soaring and crashing in my relationships. I was calling those high intensity peak feelings, love and they were anything but and they made any normal relationship appear boring and lacking in excitement or feeling. They were an unhealthy high I got from getting back together with an emotional manipulator. They are those peak moments when they chose you and for a very brief moment you are soaring, because they want you and you feel validated. It’s equivalent can only be compared to as receiving a hit of heroin (not that I’ve ever done heroin). But it’s a good comparison because as soon as the light of day hits, everything goes back to the way it was before and you’re in the same relationship you were in before and nothing has changed except now your heart is broken again, you feel like a fool and you have to crawl around in the valley again, waiting for the next peak..
If this is what I was calling love, it was no wonder that when the potential for the real thing approached I mistook it for something else and ran the other way. Because I was used to jumping through hoops for love and this came easy and felt comfortable I called it boring. Because someone was actually interested in broken and flawed me I kept thinking, “If you’re interested in me, there must be something seriously wrong with you.” When a healthy man tried to have a healthy relationship with unhealthy me, I looked for any reason to run and I did. I’d use phrases like, boring, I’m not attracted to him, no chemistry, he doesn’t do anything for me,…or I’d make up any other number of excuses to explain why he wasn’t evoking those intense feelings in me that unhealthy partners did.
What Does Healthy Love Look Like Anyway?
It took me a long time to learn what healthy love really looks like, to understand that I didn’t have to dim my own light or change who I was to be liked. I couldn’t have a healthy relationship with anyone until I learned how to have a healthy relationship with myself. I had to accept the things about me that I didn’t like and couldn’t change and when I came into contact with someone who thought I was….take your pick of my flaws… too short, I stopped jumping up and down trying to get them to like me regardless and instead found someone that was ok with my height and accepting of me how I was.
Real love looks like this: It’s respectful – knowing that you are both valued and worthy of good treatment. It’s trusting – knowing that you can predict your partners behavior and that behavior will have your best interest at heart. It’s reciprocal – both partners are contributing equally to the relationship. It’s consistent and stable – there aren’t peaks and valleys and periods of hot and cold behavior. It’s supportive of individual growth and development. It’s accepting of each other having other close friendships and activities outside of the relationship. It evokes feelings of security and contentment – you are not always guessing where you stand and where your partner’s interests lie and you’re comfortable and trusting in that knowledge. It’s about self-care – making sure that both partners take time for themselves and take care of themselves. It’s about accepting each other as they are and not trying to fix or change the other. It’s about living in reality where you are fully aware of all aspects of yourself, your partner and the relationship. That’s what real love looks like to me.
Battling Codependency in a Healthy Relationship
Trying to get to the place where my relationship actually resembled something like that was no easy feat. When you are ready to start dating again keep the following in mind:
Ultimately this is about you and your relationship with yourself: The more you learn to respect and value yourself the more others will follow your lead. You do this by repetition – keep treating yourself with respect and as a person of value – this is how the subconscious mind learns and how thoughts become beliefs. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
Be mindful of your codependency at work: Your codependency wants you to continue to get involved with people that evoke feelings of,” I’m not good enough. I’m not worthy. There is something wrong with me. Nobody will ever love me.” Be aware of this and notice the thoughts and feelings when they occur. Know that this is your disease trying to keep you in a place of hurt and stop listening to the voices that are trying to steer you in the wrong direction. Instead label them as your disease and dismiss them. Until you have reprogrammed your thoughts and feelings, use logic as your guidance system.
Learn the difference between real love and toxic love: If you are calling the intense peak and valley feelings, that a toxic relationship evokes, love, then you’ve got to rearrange your thinking, because that’s not what love looks like. Those peak feelings are akin to a drug high and they are not normal or healthy. They’re obsessive and addicting and you need to eliminate them from your life. In contrast healthy love is all the things I have mentioned above and maybe they aren’t as dangerous or thrilling in a twisted sort of way, but when you have real love, you’ll wonder what the hell you’ve been doing all this time.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable: Get comfortable with the idea that you are worth being in a relationship with. That people will actually find you attractive, interesting, fun, intelligent and a variety of all the other great things that you are. Get comfortable with letting someone get to know you and get close. Get comfortable with showing someone the real you. These things will feel uncomfortable at first because of the fear that someone will see who we really are and that they will judge us and find us lacking. Be ok with not being everyone’s cup of tea. Even if we do let someone get close to us and they, for whatever reason, decide they don’t want to continue the relationship, that’s ok. Not everyone is going to like us.
Know Where the Line Is: The biggest problems codependents face is with the cut off point. Anyone can get duped by a narcissist, but the difference is that healthy people have a line and when that line gets crossed they end it. They don’t stick around jumping higher and higher, putting up with poor treatment, all in the hopes that someone will see their worth and choose them. They walk on continuing to accept themselves and be ok with who they are.
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Everything you said is spot on. Me and the N broke up in March 2016. Up until a month ago (April 2017) I was single, by my choice. I’ve met many friends as friends, and I kept I t very clean as friends, clear boundaries, and they all respected it. I knew I had to heal and completely get over it.
And, I think reading your blog taught me that I needed a long break to get away from the “peaks and valleys”, so that I won’t think a normal, healthy minded man is boring.
And now, a month ago I’ve met someone who is emotionally available, healthy minded, and his love is exactly what you describe, trusting, consistent, etc,, exactly what you said. And I find him exciting, I’m not looking for drama or peaks-and-valleys. He says what he means, and does what he says he will do, and I feel safe and very happy. Feeling happy and knowing we have a future without manipulation, jealousy or drama is very exciting.
I adore your blog! It’s like discovering a gold mine ha ha. I also have a blog about toxic relationships in particular (it’s not often updated) so I love this subject.
Anyway your post felt like a veil came off my eyes. You know that veil that sits on our consciousness and does not allow us to grow? OK so I realized that the reason I can’t find a healthy relationship with a man is because of how I still have unhealthy and unhappy parts in myself. I still think like you did that if a guy who you described (the one you went out with) likes me, he must have big issues.
See because my narcissistic mother abused me and used me for soooo long time, I think that no healthy man can love me. Mother left a mark in me (the mark of the devil maybe ha ha) that of being unworthy of a great man. I am in no contact with entire narc family and in therapy too.
I help others get help through my blog and another support group YET I can’t help myself overcome that dreadful mark.
It is very hard. ..
Anyway thank you kindly for the amazing work at esteemology.com. I have quite many other posts to read and it’s exciting.
let’s say that love is universal and much more than just an romantic emotional attachment to someone specific, but rather a state of being. so if this is correct, then when you say you are looking for someone to love, isn’t it that you are capable to love anyone, and you do love more than one person at the moment, but what we are looking for is in fact, to find something in someone that we need, something like let’s say a vibration or whatever, and while you end up being a lot more with this person, you invest more love into it, or just simply happens to have greater exchange by being together more frequently. We anyhow do search for a way how to love more and be loved more, which I think in fact is the same think. When I feel how my partner loves herself, I feel like I am loved. And the opposite of-course. When we say healthy, we say this from a personal perspective based on our wants/needs/etc, since everything is healthy in one why or another. I mean, parasites are here for a healthy reason, like the orchid species that are parasitic are not just an error, I mean, we are not questioning god/nature/cosmos here right? In nature, if me instead of living 80 years without a parasite, and living 60 years with, buy giving the rest of the energy for that parasite to leave 20 years more, is not considered something unhealthy. It’s simply called balance. But for me to be the host, I have to have a need first for a parasite, I have to have some emotions I need to resolve in such a manner in order to look out for that trouble, same way that parasites needs you to resolve their situation. Some parasites in nature are not full time in their whole life cycle.
I mean, it is something that is easily changeable and adaptable, like in our case, if we resolve our emotional state and gain higher level of emotional consciousness, we have a chance of evolving into something that has a different emotional needs, because the needs evolve along with everything within our transformation. So in fact, is it possible that we are giving ourselves a bit of a hard time evolving, while we hate a specific type of group of people, when we know that the main ingredient in order to resolve our emotional state is
love in itself. I was just wondering, how actually aware are we of what is going on here. Like, is it possible that we are putting too big connotation on dating, when in fact, has nothing to do with it. I mean, love certainly has nothing to do with dating, it occurs with or without it, and within and out of dating. Just wonder, how can we evolve if we are fixed on dating, and waiting for the day.
I don’t thing there’s should be a concept of such a day, in order to truly find love within yourself, cause that’s what we are all here on this blog for, or I don’t know. I was just thinking..
As a codependant, I have a real hard time with “cut off lines”; or how far to go. I always want to please too much it seems. So far I’ve struggled with this; I just can’t seem to discern how far is too far before I end up being a “just friend” and then used.
This is the stage I am at right now, and describes why I was with a narcissist psychopath for almost 2 years. My gut said NO from the first time we met, but that made the challenge for him exciting and all I did was run and be chased until I finally fell for him, then the cruelty started and it was too late, I was addicted to him. It has been the worst 2 years of my life. I’m 52 days no contact and am starting to stop analyzing him, now that I know the abuse I was in, and start looking inside of me, why I put up with it and as many say, liked it. I know from my parents this was the way I was taught love – and was married to someone for 25 years who treated me this way, then went into a few relationships that were good and pushed them away. Oh my word I had no idea why. Then bam the last one the ultimate psychopath who drained me to the bottom of the pit. God has pulled me out and I am not wanting to be who I was before I met him, but the strong beautiful healthy woman I know I am. Reading this today was perfect timing on my journey to healing, thank you.
You are absolutely awesome! After a year and a half long relationship with someone who has so many narcissistic traits I am finally, in the last month, discovering all of these things you’re writing about. It feels so good to finally have that moment where it all clicks and you’re able to let them go and be free again. You absolutely hit the nail on the head with every one of your posts I’ve read so far. It’s like you are speaking to every detail of my life in the last year and a half. Keep up the awesome writing. I hope and pray you will be as much of a blessing to others as you have been to me!
StrongerNow – I got EMDR therapy for the awful shame memories I had. The military in UK and US do this for people traumatised in wars but it works on all post traumatic stress causes. I told them I had relational trauma and they helped me evacuate the whole lot – my ex N, and both parents 🙂 I cannot recommend enough just make sure you have enough planning sessions !!
brilliant, flawless wisdom
Food for my soul! Thank you!
Thank you Savannah. Please can you tell me how to manage a ‘hiccup’ in a normal relationship. Only previous relationship was with a narc since I was 14 years old (he is 14 years older than me). Now I am with a genuine decent chap like you describe above and I don’t have a working model of a healthy relationship to refer to. What do you do when they forget something? They say they’re sorry. It feels so different to with the narc. How do you move on? Be sure it’s not a red flag? Make up?
Thank you for creating this space Savannah, bless you.
Thank you Sav. Needed to read this. Your blog continues to inspire and heal.
Great article. I plan to re visit this often. Question: When do the images and memories go away? I have sexual memories that disgust me. I’m haunted by all the awful experiences i had with my N. I don’t think of him in any positive manner any more. I don’t miss him, Walt for him, i don’t even want the good parts any more. Due to all the hurt and pain, I’m hard pressed to recall anything in a positive light. Now I’m just haunted by all the manipulation, lies, sexual deviance, etc. It’s been 2.5 years since i left him, coming up on a year of NC. All the crap is still so vivid. I want that pen from men in black to erase my memory!
But Lola, Isn’t the point that if they had wanted you, they wouldn’t be the guys you wanted?
Perhaps, but the narcs give off this ‘attractive, exciting’ vibe that the healthy guys didn’t. They also give off this idea that they are looking for something ‘deeper’ and imply they want a nice, steady relationship like the one desc. above.
Yet of course, their interest was feigned and this was their way of future faking.
Nice, healthy guys are not going to love bomb you and put you on a pedestal, and those that do are hard to resist for that unhealthy person.
(Now were a guy to do that I could run away.)
It’s odd but now that I think of it, when the narcs were in midst of love bombing me, I wasn’t addicted to them or that into them at the time. In fact, I felt like I was the one in control. It wasn’t until they began pulling away and blowing cold that I came to feel that desire for them.
Hmm. I think I just answered my own question.
I have a question. Did you ever wish to have this sort of relationship with that boomerang narc who kept you hanging for 3+ yrs? Did you find yourself wondering why you couldn’t have what you describe above with him? Several times I’ve asked myself that. Why can’t I be pursued by [insert narc asshole] rather than ‘nice guy’?
I kept thinking if only the guys who I really wanted also wanted me, then I’d be happy.
And yes, both my narcs were like heroin to me.
Our love is a scarce, and very valuable, commodity in this world. I wasted a good deal of mine on my narcissist. She drew it out of me, it made her feel attractive and valuable. But my relationship with her left me empty and emotionally fatigued. In those days when I was desperately seeking her approval (or sometimes, just a little of her attention), I did not treat my love as a precious thing that must be earned and deserved.
How did this change for me? Just as Savannah says: by learning to truly love and value myself. When I no longer needed the love or admiration of a woman — needed it; craved it; *had to have it* to feel ok — things changed for me.
Now I feel ok just on my own, by myself. I have really internalized this idea: I am enough. I don’t crave or need or demand approval or acceptance from anyone. I accept myself and love myself as I am, however I am, wherever I am and whatever I am doing.
The love of others is not a desperate need. It is not the basic substance, the life-giving essence. It is icing on the cake. I am the cake — nourishing and filling and solid and substantive.
When others love me that is cool — they see in me what I see. They get me. They mirror me. When they don’t — or when I think they don’t (which is much more likely) — that’s cool too. I am enough, I am ok. I like being loved. But I don’t crave it or seek it out in ways that devalue me.
Loving and being loved are rare and precious gifts. I deserve to be loved as we all do, every one of us. But my love for myself is sufficient to carry me through. The love of others is a great treat. But I let it come organically and naturally, in its own time and in its own way. I live more fully with it. But I won’t die without it.
I look forward to your insight on the topic of post. Always adds to the clarity of her well written information. This site has been so helpful in my recovery and journey to a healthy and happy new life!
This message is talking directly to me at this exact moment in my life!! I’ve been involved with a Narc since 2008, and after the first two honeymoon years, it has been pure hell. I’ve recently met the most wonderful guy, and it seems he has ALL of the personality traits, goals and values I’ve always dreamed of in a man. And I’m TERRIFIED that I’m going to ruin my fabulous new friendship for the toxic one I’m still mixed up in off and on, off and on. So everyone reading this PLEASE keep me in your prayers, because you of all people know what I’m going through. I have a hard time hurting anyone, even my Narc who has hurt me more than I care to remember. But I know me and my new friend are an almost perfect match for each other.
I loved so many things about this blog, thank you Savannah! You saved my soul over 2 years ago when a narcissist brought me to my knees and I have been following your blog ever since.
You have articulated so well what I have always struggled to understand – the absolute repulsion of somebody actually wanting me. Particularly in my younger years I met a lot of men that seemed normal, successful, considerate and kind people and I was interested in them, until, they expressed interest in me, and that is when I would run 100 miles! Understanding that this was not normal I would try to force myself to be with them and this would evoke a physical reaction; anxiety, nausea, it was kind of like fight or flight! As a result of this time and time again I would chase the guy that never really wanted me, that treated me terribly and thus began the peaks and valley’s that for a long, long time I believed was love.
I also made the list of what I was looking for in a man and then when I found one that reflected the attributes on my list, just as you explained, I found reasons/excuses as to why he was not good for me. It has only been via reading your blog that I have been able to see this awful cycle of abuse directly attributed to the overwhelming belief that I am not good enough. In particular I learned that the absence of peaks and valleys is a wonderful thing even though sometimes I see it as boring. I have to be careful as my reaction to this is to create an argument or some sort of drama.
Finally, I think you hit the nail on the head with your final point, ‘know where your line is’! Just because I had to “work really hard for affection” when I was a child does not mean I have to subject myself to the demoralising, soul destroying behaviour as an adult. The power is all mine!
I think I was a codependent without realizing it but I did make the decision, followed my gut, and walked away. Thank you for making me realize that I did a good thing. The only trouble, challenge (?) is that since that time, I’ve suffered from doubt and depression. But deep in my gut, my heart, I know that what I did was the right and healthy thing for me. It’s the ‘picking up the pieces’ adjustment that I am learning to live. Thank you.
This was so what I needed to read! I’m there with your thoughts of what love is! Scared to death but I agreed with every bit of it! Thanks for sharing!
So the way you dumped and treated the nice guy was completely a narcissist style! We have to be very careful of that when finding a good love. I battle that in myself, now when I finally found and chose a healthy relationship after a whole life around narcissistic crowd. I am working hard and probably forever will be on reprogramming my thinking and emotions. And thanks to your guidance Savannah, I know the direction.
Sometimes I catch myself thinking:”omg, I just reacted to this nice man like a narcissist would!” And I hurry to fix it. And I get a healthy reaction under love and patience consistently.
I remember 3 years ago looking at my close friend exhaustingly and saying: “I shouldn’t look for love anymore because I don’t know what love is. Thus I mess up every time I chose.” He said: “Meditate on this: Love is PATIENT, love is KIND. It is NOT SELF-SEEKING. It is NOT EASILY ANGERED. It keeps NO RECORD OF WRONGS. Love does NOT DELIGHT ON EVIL but REJOICES IN TRUTH. It does NOT ENVY. It does NOT BOAST. It is NOT PROUD. It does NOT DISHONOR OTHERS. It always PROTECTS, always TRUSTS and always HOPES. It always PERSERVERES. Love NEVER FAILS.
So there. This meditation and you Savannah turned my love around. Thank you! Much love and support to all of this community. You are a light and life always reaches to heal you.
Awesome post. So accurate. So happy I am doing this stuff and on the right track!
I have read many of your blogs and have said to myself “yes that is me”. Since I have stopped trying to push the issue with dating and dating online, I am very comfortable in my own skin. I tried online dating earlier this year with bad results BUT I was able to recognize the N behavior and leave the relationship with me intact. I truly believe The man whom I am meant to be with, will find me and that may take a while. I am doing well on my own and continue the inner conversations with myself to keep me working on “me”. that I am worthy of love when the right person who truly loves me comes along. I am enjoying life. I feel I have found the “real” me after all these years. Thank you!!!
Thank you Savannah. Thoughts will become beliefs when repeating over & over that we care about ourselves as people of value & worthy of respect. Needed to hear this today. You are always so intuitive with your articles. Much love to everyone
Thank YOU Savannah. I could never quite put this into words but you have captured the insanity PRECISELY. Incredibly validating.
“On top of that I had a history of high risk and high intensity relationships. I was used to having to really work for affection. I was used to soaring and crashing in my relationships. I was calling those high intensity peak feelings love and they were anything but and they made any normal relationship appear boring and lacking in excitement or feeling. They were an unhealthy high I got from getting back together with an emotional manipulator. They are those peak moments when they chose you and for a very brief moment you are soaring, because they want you and you feel validated. It’s equivalent can only be compared to as receiving a hit of heroin (not that I’ve ever done heroin). But it’s a good comparison because as soon as the light of day hits, everything goes back to the way it was before and you’re in the same relationship you were in before and nothing has changed except now your heart is broken again, you feel like a fool and you have to crawl around in the valley again, waiting for the next peak.. “
Yes, I will read this over and over. Thank you. Perfect. I am worth nothing less.