When we talk about starving we’re usually referring to food. Imagine if you will, that you are stranded on a deserted island and this island is barren of anything edible. You are ravenous and you start to wonder what sand tastes like. Suddenly, you’re rescued and the only thing on your mind is food. A meal is placed in front of you, do you grab a knife and fork and daintily cut your food into tiny bite size pieces, or do you just start shoveling it in? You probably would want more and more until you’re ready to throw up and you’d probably even lick the plate too.
When we have been deprived of love and affection as children, where there has been neglect or abuse in some fashion, we generally grow up to feel like we are starved, but not for food – for love.
As a young girl, I grew up in an environment where both of my parents worked evenings, nights and weekends. Our care was left to older siblings, or elderly and feeble relatives. This neglect, paired with an emotionally unavailable and highly critical mother, who never showed affection or uttered any words of love or support, molded me into someone who was ravenous for love and attention and I went looking for it outside the home, at a very early age and with no real idea of what love was supposed to look like.
When I was a teenager and well into my twenties, I exhibited what psychologists would call a clingy type of attachment style. In his book, They F*** You Up, Psychologist, Dr. Oliver James, describes the four types of attachment styles as follows:
Avoidant: I am comfortable without close relationships. It is important to me to feel independent and self-sufficient and I prefer not to depend on others or have others depend on me,
Clingy: I want to be completely emotionally intimate with others, but I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. i am uncomfortable being without close relationships, but I sometimes worry that others don’t value me as much as I value them.
Wobbler: I am somewhat uncomfortable getting close to others. I want emotionally close relationships, but I find it difficult to trust others completely, or to depend on them. I sometimes worry that I will be hurt if I allow myself to become too close to others.
Secure: it is relatively easy for me to become close to others. I am comfortable depending on others and having others depend on me. I don’t worry about being alone or having others not accept me.
Throughout my healing I can honestly say I have exhibited every one of these attachment styles at different times. As we mature and heal I think it’s normal to go from one to the other, as one tries to achieve autonomy and eventually learns to open up again and trust. Some people remain in one attachment style throughout their lives, jumping from relationship to relationship with always the same outcome.
Many of my readers and clients now find themselves as Avoidants, not looking for anyone or ever permitting themselves to be vulnerable again. Pema Chodron, Author of When Things Fall Apart, warns of the dangers of closing ourselves off, “ When we protect ourselves so that we won’t feel pain, that protection becomes like armor, imprisoning the softness of the heart.” It’s ok, a good idea really, to avoid relationships as we recover, but the end goal should always be to achieve a level of healthy attachment.
As a clingy teenager, desperate for any showing of love and affection, it made me quite susceptible to the love bomb. I can recall countless young men lathering me up with compliments and wonderful feelings that I was loved, cherished even, feelings that I had never experienced before.
I recall one particular day my father had forbidden me to see my first “true love.” He was waiting for me in the park and I was grounded, not allowed to see him. What did I do? I snuck out the window of course. No amount of punishment could ever match the intensity of feeling that I, as a love starved child, was being offered. I loved and respected my dad, but what he didn’t understand was I needed what this young man was offering. I ate up everything he said and everything he promised. I had never seen the likes of these emotions and there was nothing my dad could of said or done that was going to keep me away from him.
My need for love at all costs, inexperience and complete lack of any idea of what love was really all about, exposed me to some pretty shady characters. James says that Clingers and Avoidants seem to be drawn together, because the Clinger forces the Avoidant to open up and the avoidant exhibits the typical distant behaviors of the Clinger’s childhood.
“(As Clingers) our relationships are subject to highs and lows, to jealousy, conflict and dissatisfaction. We are liable to mother our partners, protecting, feeding, smothering, We are looking for unqualified closeness, eager to move in with new partners and to share their life as soon as possible.” James
Although James never uses the word Codependency in his book, I’d say that’s a pretty good description. Most Codependents typically start out with a Clingy attachment style and this makes them prime candidates for emotional manipulators who use love bombing as a technique.
As a child of emotional neglect grows and starts to get their needs met outside of the home, the intense emotions can become like a drug. The Clinger so desperately wants to be loved, but they subconsciously keep choosing partners that are incapable of ever giving them what they need. My sexual experience started early at 15. Before I hit 20 my sexual kill count was up to 6. I kept searching for love and because I had no clue what actual love looked like I kept looking in all the wrong places. Each partner was distant, and had varying degrees of emotional unavailability. They all hurt me desperately and I had definitely established an unhealthy preference for unobtainable men, who had no interest in meeting my needs.
Because I didn’t know what love was, I was mistaking it for sex. I thought that if I gave myself to a man and quickly, it meant that we shared a bond. It wasn’t until years later that I realized the glow of love I was feeling was not shared by my partner. He was feeling the walls closing in and a need to flee the premises and my life. Early on, I would put up with any kind of misbehavior, just as long as they came back to love me. They usually did come back, not to love though, but to hurt.
I have been in relationships where my partner’s commitment was so obviously not there, but I so often refused to see the very noticeable signs. I would make mountains of out of crumbs of good behavior and molehills out of real relationship crimes. I would imagine that if I could only be more this or less that, then my partner would truly want me.
I even had a long distance relationship that I pretended was real. It went on for a long, long time. I met him on line, we shared pictures, we talked, or texted, or emailed every day. We planned a future together. We even said, “l love you.” All of this and we never even met. I pretended it was real and he would repeatedly stop talking to me when he came across another girl in his hometown. I would get upset and freak out like I was a real girlfriend. I’ve since learned that long distance relationships aren’t real, especially if you’ve never even met. You need to be geographically close to someone to know who they are and how they operate. When you are so desperate for love, you would be amazed at the lengths you will go to obtain it.
After that relationship ended I spent a lot of time as someone with an Avoidant attachment style. I was done with relationships and I wanted nothing to do with men. I had been hurt too many times and I created my own space where I was safe and happy and where nothing could touch me. Staying away from relationships and not letting people get close to you is a good idea under certain circumstances and situations, but it should just be a stop over while you get your act together and not somewhere you want to stay permanently.
Our attachment style is learned early in life. Our relationship with our caregivers from 0 to 6 months of age will have a lasting effect on us as we mature and start to have adult relationships of our own. Even if our parents were distant, or inattentive, or even abusive, the effects doesn’t have to be a life sentence. We can rewrite our own scripts and we can change how we relate to people and the type of behavior that we deem acceptable in relationships.
I always advise people to stop dating while they are healing. It’s imperative that you learn how to be whole all on your own, without the interference of someone else. I know some of you have entered into relationships with loving and caring individuals and healed while you were involved, but those are the exceptions, not the norm. Move through the different attachment types, avoid relationships as you heal, become autonomous in every aspect – learn how to meet your own needs, financial, emotional, physical and spiritual. When you don’t need anyone to make you feel like you’re enough, then you’re ready to slowly open up and start trusting again.
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Of the countless self-help journeys, books, therapy and “work” I am invested in, I’ve never read anything that described me so accurately. I have been in CODA and acknowledging my codependency but seems to have limited gains or depth. It occurred to me today that the root of all my behaviors and unhealthy emotions and relationships comes down to be starved for love. Hoping I can work on this now that I have found this resource.
For me, I gratefully found SLAA. CODA group I was in, the people were not doing stepwork. They were canting their stories over and over again…one step forward, two steps back. SLAA has helped me in numerous ways. I know all about avoidants, love addicts, love anorexics and love avoidants. The things I watch out for in a relationship are an inability of the other person to be authentic, a man trying to rush intimacy which it comes from intensity (this is not a real relationship and the give/take phenomenon. I still make mistakes but I have huge network of other sisters and brothers in the program to help me one day at a time. Savannah thank you for your articles. I read and see the old me, the transforming me and the future me. Thank you. God bless us all.
I wouldn’t say that long distance relationships aren’t real. I live in Vancouver Canada, and I’ve had a couple in my life, one with a girl from Melbourne, Australia for several years that was rewarding for both us, a little frustrating at times for her I know, we talked about going to meet the other but it never happened. She’s with a good guy now, has a child with another man who turned into a psycho and is cut out of her son’s life. Courtney and I talk once in a while. it’s not like it used to be when it was hours-long MSN conversations several times a week. But it still counts as a relationship, just a bit lightweight and trivial and in no way meeting her need for love or mine. Maybe we can just call it a friendship then.
The other was, or should I say is, with a woman from Delaware going on eight years. We do love each other, and we tell each other this, we value each other and respect each other and share many interests and passions, But I was not prepared to go over to see her in a timely fashion. When she realized this she was like enough, I’m not talking to you anymore. But she came around and changed her mind. She eventually got married about four years ago and at that time, decided that was it, we wouldn’t talk anymore. But she came around and changed her mind. It’s a relationship of sorts, not a full one, not fulfilling our deepest desires for love and intimacy, but it certainly does count for something, and that’s what sustains it. Although her cat did just die and I haven’t talked to her much for the last two weeks, but a few breathers can be good overall for a relationship. Her husband is a bit of manchild, psychologically maimed from a horrible upbringing and I have lost track of the numbers of times she has said she wishes he would just die. But she no longer felt safe after someone tried to break into her home in Delaware, so she figured I better shack up with a manchild who can protect me rather than get raped and murdered in my own home by some drug-crazed psycho.
I left my wedded N of 25 years after he took a new/younger supply immediately I left him. Now its been 3 years with nil contact on my side. I decided to let go and live alone and my children followed me after seeing drama from him after living with him for 6 months – (bringing another woman who is their age after their mom left with nothing except her clothes). My children are grown ups. Now he is trying to contact me thro text, WhatsApp,third party etc after he got news that I have acquired a lot, but I am staying put with the help of my relatives. Reason – he is retiring next year and it seems he has squandered all his savings and there would be no more supply. Phew! What a karma!
I think this is priceless advice! It is amazing how genuinely intelligent (both academically and emotionally) people can be but when it comes to their own emotional background they can’t seem to step back and break the cycle. Of course I’m referring to myself 🙂 I just hope that I can understand that I am good enough to choose who is right for me, instead of reverting to the habits of focussing on proving myself to someone and then realising that they aren’t right or are feeding off my disease to please them. I hope for less hindsight and much more foresight to come!
HC, your response was brilliant. I agree with you. My N feels horrible anxiety. To deal with it, he has to seek out anyone of any caliber to admire him. He is like a crack addict. Sure he seems to have it all, big house, numerous admirers, decent job (which he will lose eventually). He always seems to manage to find a new job, a really good one after losing one. Same with women. But it is all temporary and he knows it. His biggest fear is ending up like his dad. Alone and poor. Everyone sees he is heading that way. I can tell you from stories that in his younger years he did win. But his life is catching up with him. He’s losing his financial picture which will attract less supply. He’s losing his sexual prowess and he’s losing respect of his family. Karma catches up with them. I believe that 100%.
I would much rather be me than him. I’m a winner he’s not. He might have a few finer things than me right now. But those are things. I have my emotional and physical health. He will never have that. His anxiety had gotten so bad, I’ve heard he’s having to wear a heart monitor. The Universe is fair, it’s just a matter of timing.
I am currently in a marriage with a good (but very boring) man. We went through a few periods where things got bad and we almost separated or divorced. I found myself befriending and then falling in love with a narcissist. Of course, I wasn’t aware of who he really was until it was too late. Now I’m torn between loving him and loving my husband. No matter how wrong I know it is, my heart doesn’t care. I have been through hell and back due to this situation. He is pressuring me to leave my husband for him. I am struggling to get over him and it has been very difficult. The whole situation has caused me nothing but pain. I’m trying my best to let him go and heal so I can work on my marriage but I see a long road to recovery ahead. Thank you for your articles. I see myself (and him) in every one.
A message for ‘Time to Heal’….You can change boring people but you will never change a narcissist……You DESERVE to to be happy with the RIGHT person. Good luck, I wish you all the best. 🙂
I am happy that I am out of a relation with a narcissistic and beautiful man-eater. Since June 2016. I was with her for 18 month Jan 2015 and broke up after two month bc I felt emotionally drained. However she phoned me and I thought it will get better. All the roller coaster emotions went worse. But on the end I saw her lack of empathy – her lack of not being responsible for nothing it was my fault. She knows all – never answered question – never talked about past – (her answer; this was yesterday) and for me I think we can learn from yesterday bc past determines future. She humiliated me with words – and she is better than anybody aso.. Wants admiration and has tons of male “friends” which serve for that purpose. Men fall for her wherever she goes. Get’s outraged and aggressively loud when she thinks she deserves better bc she is the top! Believes if otherwise she is the victim and can’t deal with that at all. No criticisms allowed – not even; have you thought of that? No dialogue possible – it always falls back on her view.
Luckily my analytical mind sets in when my emotions want to control me. I was an enabler and became victim when I served my purpose .She has in the background a new enabler which will become her next victim. It was an interesting ride! I blocked all contacts bc I know she hates if she is not in control – one time when she has the new enabler under her control – she will phone me. I bet on that! Because she has to win!!!!
To cut of the narc from your system. 2 things are necessary to realize. Those are HOPE and Emotions.
WHY: Because with hope come emotions and that is the circle you have to interrupt! That will set you free!
When you give up HOPE that the narc will change when hope is really diminishing – out of your system – The emotions will follow to leave you and you are free from the Narc. Forever – AND never let him/her contact you again. Change phone number – and if you can move!
Savannah, thank you so very much for your posts. They have gotten me through some rough patches and have aided me in my growth. You mention codependency and elements of love and sex adfiction. I’m wondering what your take is on 12 step programs like CODA and SLAA? Thanks again! Peace
Thanks for the response and the encouragement. The thoughts.
This isn’t my first rodeo though. Hopefully it will be my last. Past the point where I have any faith in “people”. Some get lucky. Some have no luck. It’s a crap shoot it seems. Sure. Heal yourself. We are accountable. Understanding why we chose them helps. But only to a point. At the end of it all regardless of the reasons behind it it was still a lie. A deception. A facade.
Very few of them end up alone. And fewer regret their ways. And they sleep well at night. As I said. No justice.
Is it right to assume that N are avoidant? Also she never said make love – she said, I want sex.
And since I am clinchy ( born Pisces) and she 2x Leo (Sun and ascendant) I tried to open a N up for feelings – Boy that was Mission Impossible!! I still have to figure out why I still love her even I broke up 2 times and now final! I am done – I have to take care of me first! I look for answers in Astrology which I am good at. I have Neptune ( planet of Illusion) in my 7th house ( ruler of relationship) in Pisces. I fall during this time, which will last a long time till 2024, in love all over again and again and even the time is beautiful – but it’s always the wrong person. Awakening is brutal. But hey let’s enjoy the ride which calls life!
Don’t think anyone here is disputing all those things are needed. And wanted. Just and I may be reading all these posts wrong but the prevalent theme seems to be we all seem to want those things in the package of one person. The Narc appears at first to be that package. When in fact when the package is unwrapped they actually are none of it. The package is empty. The “gift” recinded. I personally am not ashamed to be a sexual being. But and again I am interpreting here the lament seems to be sex without the rest makes us feel kinda empty. And used. To each their own though.
I am discovering that we need love, sex, and companionship from our mates. We have a spirit, soul and a body and our relationships function on a.l those levels. The spirit needs love, the soul needs companionship and the body needs sex. We should not be ashamed to have those needs since that is how we are created.
My problem with all this is why and how the universe allows them to get away with all of this. You physically kill someone you eventually are caught (some sooner than others). But yet you can emotionally “kill” someone and get off Scott Free. And go on and do it over and over. Where is justice? Enough to make ones faith waiver and wilt. Most here I am sure value honesty and being fair. Probably have lived their life extruding their beliefs in those things. But to what end? Seems to me “they” win. Oh I know. Some will say “but they are empty” “they have no substance” but honestly they seem to do okay. Ofc we can not know their internal pain but sometimes I doubt they can have that much. No accountability. And that one thing alone keeps them moving forward.
Anyone who has suffered narcissistic abuse can relate to your point “where’s the Justice?” It seems cosmically unfair that we are in so much pain and they are on to the next victim with no apparent feelings of any kind.
Two things might help you when your thoughts turn to the fairness of it all. First as you suggest they are empty. But this does not mean they never feel anything. They do. Mostly it’s panic and horror. They are terrified because without fresh supply they feel they will stop existing — psychic death. They also feel horrific self loathing and hatred because at some level they know they have sabotaged real relationships and lost the chance to experience real love. Most narcissists realize they will die abandoned and alone some day. The fact that they can skip onto the next victim quickly does not mean they have successfully avoided paying their bill. The bill keeps getting bigger and it will eventually come due and many Ns realize this — their rush to find fresh supply shows they are desperate to medicate the deep pain of being who they are.
Second, when you focus on fairness you’re not focussing on yourself. Remember it takes two to tango; the Ns in our lives did not put a gun to our head and force us into commitment, at least in the vast majority of cases. In the beginning we chose the N. I know, our choice was based on a lie. But still we chose. So our work is to figure out why and commit to recovering do *it never ever happens again.* We focus on our part, on why we bought what the N was selling and how we learn to never make the same mistakes again.
Cosmic justice will come to the N. But the best revenge is for us to learn from the N and grow after all the pain. To turn this horrible abuse into a springboard for progress and healing abd wholeness.
#noonesfool, It has been over 7 months since I went No Contact with my ex narc with Savannah’s help. I was VERY lucky to stumble up on this website when I was in the process of breaking up with my ex after 2 and 1/2 year relationship. I was confused and could not figure out what was going on. Although I was not so sure about Savannah’s interpretation of my ex’s behaviors at that time, I followed her advice of NC and changing my number last December because my gut feeling agreed with those suggestions. Last 7 months have been quite a journey to understand this mental disorder and educate myself about Cluster B personality disordered people. I am so glad I went NC and changed my number once I had a proof that he had been dating other woman behind my back while telling me lies and gaslighting me. I experienced the moment when I was seeing the real person after his mask slipped off and a wish to warn his next “partners” about this man. Then I’ve reached the point where I could understand this powerful urge for narcissistic supplies my narc always pursues is involuntary force ruling his life at all cost and I am glad I was able to make a lucky escape when I was confronted with his 1st deal breaker behavior. As far as your question of “where is justice in all this”, watching Sam Vaknin’s Youtube video on “Old-age Narcissist” answered that question for me. My ex’s mother is a malignant narc and he and I had been witnessing how her life has ended up in real-time as Vaknin described in this video. I can see my ex has been making the same kind of choices his mother made in life in so many areas. Learning about this brain disorder let me release my initially intense anger shortly after finding out his cheating. Knowing his upbringing and hearing a lot about his parents and grand parents, I feel he never had a chance to develop as a normal person and he knew it. My Skype sessions with Savannah and her writings have been instrumental to start my journey of healing and education about character disturbed people like narcs more than 7 months ago.
Good thoughts here. However I am 68 and was abused by a narcissist for many years. There is not enough time left anymore to “progress” through the stages you refer to. I feel like I’m at a dead end.
After surviving a bad time with a narcissist damages you towards relationships. At first I thought never ever again, but you can’t put all people in the same category as the heartless user robot Narcissist. I really think they haven’t a clue about love or being in a real relationship, but it has made me stronger and way more independent. I would like to meet someone fun and kind and caring, but it’s tough. That trust thing is hard to get back.
I realized a few days ago that this summer will make it three years since I left my N live-in lover (well, I lived in–it was his house) and that seemed like a long time to have made such slow progress. I really related to what you said about going through all the styles toward healing. I am going through a cautious dating phase which tips back to avoidant. I, too, equate sex with love and have recently found myself in a lover relationship with an emotionally unavailable man just to have sex. I thought I could be detached and that this was a sign of progress but the knot in my belly says otherwise. I am reluctant to go back to being all alone but I am going to have to. After only a month I can’t “unknow” my own gut feeling. You are a wonderful writer and are really helping me. I noticed recently that I am just so tired of the struggle to relate in a healthy way — or to relate at all. People take so much work!
Talk about hitting the nail on the head!
I’ve read this three times (so far) and It’s ME.
I’m going to read it a few more times then have a think!
thanks so much Sav.
Wow! What an insightful and spot on explanation of my own life experience. Savannah, your words of “I would make mountains of out of crumbs of good behavior and molehills out of real relationship crimes. I would imagine that if I could only be more this or less that, then my partner would truly want me” hit me to my core and I found myself sobbing while reading and re-reading them. Of all the articles, blogs, books, emails and other materials I have read on this subject, those sentences are the most profound for me. Thank you, as always, for sharing and posting such an insightful article.
Ive been treated badly by a so called official where it has left me feeling unworthy anda bit of a chip on my shoulder.Around same time met a narcissist and trying to recover from that also. Have been in a low place for a few years. I love this page and very slowly I am trying to recover from what these people have done to me..Dont know if its connected but had 2 recent holidays where I was bullied and treated badly Also trying to come to terms with that.x
Sawsaw, I can totally relate to your situation. It seems like all within 3 years or so, I ended a bad ‘friendship’ with a N, I can’t call it a relationship because like Savannah wrote, it was ‘so obviously not there’, but I am now married and I am still working hard to get over the N. Then last year I was heinously bullied on FB by people I’d never met and did not know. It was so bad, they actively ruined my career, stole my cat for 3 days, and forced my husband and I to be freaked out enough that we sold our house and moved to another nearby city. These 2 events have completely torn me apart and I have very little faith in anyone anymore except very close friends and family. People can be so hateful, and as my husband says, FB is the devil. I really don’t know how I broke my ability to attract narcissists by meeting and marrying my husband, but what I’d like to know is whether there is a connection or similarity between attracting N’s and being bullied?
Thank you Savannah for your weekly words of wisdom and everyone here for sharing your experiences. I have come a long way and learned so much since finding this blog in January.
Thankyou for helping me see that i was in a narc relationship. It has broken my heart into tiny pieces when i found out he was still with his wife but forbade me to go home to mine. When i found out the truth he cut ne dead- after 6 years!!! but what hurts even more is knowing he simply does not care and feels no responsibility for it. This site helped me to stay strong and stay focussed. What you say about ling distance love is so true. Also being hungry for love. Sadly my narc was also in that boat dur to his mixed up childhood and so was i. he took but it was never enough and i gave and gave until i couldnt give anymore. I miss him every minute of the day. He txtd up to 50 times a day so he was constantly there with me. Logically i now realise that was part of the web he was spinning but i feel lost and lonely now and so heArt broken. I will never trust again . At 55 if i am atill being sucked in by men i clearly am too damaged toovulnerable to be able to attract healthy love. Thankyou for helping me recognise what was going on and having the guts to call him out.
Thank you Savannah, perfect timing once again. Secure attachment – easily get close to others, able to depend on others and be dependable, but not worry about being alone or if others don’t accept me. Katherine Woodward Thomas talks about the healthy, natural response to someone who isn’t actively showing up consistently for you is to lose interest. I’m learning autonomy and strengthening social connections to not feel love-starved, but rather abundant and lucky in love. Your posts help me a lot. Blessings to everyone here.
Wonderful insights, as always! I’m now more than 2 years post-N and have enjoyed taking my time to heal and not involving myself in a relationship (other than with myself)! I feel as healthy as I’ve ever been in my life, so naturally I’ve started to open myself up to the possibility of dating. Your post (once again) perfectly describes what I’m seeing out there. The last few guys I’ve briefly dated seem to exhibit either clingy or avoidant behavior. One guy I especially liked had been hurt by his last relationship (who could understand that better than me?), but I soon realized he was not ready to open up to me. At least I eventually saw it and was able to walk away. I’m starting to worry that there aren’t a lot of healthy, available men out there! In his book, does the author estimate percentages for each of the attachment groups in our society? Thank you for your weekly installments of sanity, Savannah. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to reading your posts each week!
Been waiting for a new post being new here but not to Co dependency and the narc thing. Funny. I’ve been living the avoidance phase for years. It’s does help but only to a point. I know there is something missing. A void. Given up hope of ever being whole again. Not truly whole. Financially independent. Never ask for a thing from anyone. I have to wonder after such a dysfunction childhood and a narc marriage and “other” deceptions if this is the only way I can survive. And is just surviving enough?
I’ve had 2 promiscuous periods in my life. First one in high school, 2nd after my divorce. Both times looking to fill the love void. I wish my kill counts were single digits. I’m so lucky to not have permanent damage or illness from those episodes. I even knew at the time i was mistaking sex for love but i couldn’t stop
I’ve always said my mom was a loving person but she was not really. She maybe could have been but she was dealing with incest and sexual abuse. She felt unworthy of love and you can’t love someone else if you have such low self esteem.
So consequently i grew up feeling also unworthy and unloved.
My goal is to be sure my Daughters feel love from me. To be healthy on my own, independent, strong and very worthy
Every one of these articles contains an aha moment for me. Describes my life so well and provides much needed understanding.