When you’re used to having to work for love you tend to be someone who doesn’t give up too easily. You’ve been trained to believe that just being yourself isn’t good enough, so you get really good at going that extra mile to get people to like you.
Codependency is a coping strategy we learned to help us cope with traumatic events in childhood. The problem with that coping style is that it’s other person focused. It requires us to suppress our needs in favor of those of others. It makes it normal for us to tip toe around the moods of abusive people. The profound message that we keep receiving is that everything is our fault, because we’re not good enough. The side effects of that are insecurity, low self-esteem, low self-worth, shame, anxiety, guilt, fear and feeling uncomfortable in your own skin.
When this coping strategy is what you take with you into your adult relationships you are bound to run into all heaps of dysfunctional behavior.
Codependents tend to:
- Internalize rejection
- Make everything their fault
- Feel responsible for other people’s moods and behavior
- Give too much/put in the lion’s share of the work/effort
- Feel like they have to convince someone that they have to like you
Healthy relationships are about two autonomous people, who choose to come together to create a life together, while at the same time, they continue to be themselves, be responsible for themselves and they continue to have separate interests outside of the relationship.
A codependent tends to lose themselves in relationships. They generally choose people who have problems and they become fixated on those problems, while neglecting their own lives in the process.
The problem with codependency and dating is right smack dab in the middle of this problem. Most of my clients have a very serious problem with rejection. For a codependent, rejection often doesn’t mean it’s over. What It means to them is that they have to try harder/that they’ve done something wrong/that it’s all their fault and they spend an enormous amount of energy trying to make it right and be chosen.
If it doesn’t work out, even after only a short period of dating, the codependent is devastated. They’ve made the rejection all about them. They believe that if only they had done x,y or z differently then they might have stood a chance. They keep trying to impress their, would-be partner, by trying harder, by giving more, by being nicer… ‘if they weren’t them, then they would have been chosen,’ is the message they take away. They want to be chosen so badly that they over give to the point of being exploited, except they don’t notice. So fixated are they on changing their partners minds they can’t see how their behavior is being perceived.
Even when faced with a statement like, “We want different things, “ many a codependent won’t give up there. They will keep hanging on waiting for their opportunity to change their potential partner’s mind. Letting go doesn’t even resonate with them, because somewhere in the recesses of their mind they believe that if they are finally chosen it will make everything else in their life okay.
They require external validation. So being chosen will allow them to feel good about themselves. “As long as you see me as a good person, worthy of love, then and only then can I believe that about myself too,” they believe. It may also be a chance for redemption for them to prove to their disapproving, abusive parents that they were good enough after all. When they get rejected again it just confirms all of their worst childhood fears.
What the codependent seems to miss are that repeated attempts to get someone to like them only weaken them in the eyes of would be suitors. If you stick around and keep putting up with disrespectful behavior, in the hopes that they will see how much you care about them, through your suffering, it isn’t going to get them to change their minds about you. In fact, they will start to believe that there is something wrong with you and that you do not respect yourself. Your long suffering presence in their lives doesn’t mean they owe you a front row seat.
When you show someone that you don’t respect yourself enough to walk away when you’re being mistreated, you open yourself up to being exploited if your love interest just happens to be an emotional manipulator. It gives them the message that you do not have boundaries and that they can treat you however they please, because you will still be there, regardless of what they do.
They aren’t going to wake up one day and realize, “Hey that Heather is a real catch. I’ve ignored her, treated her like crap many, many times and she’s hung in there. What a great girl. I think I’ll make a commitment.” Sure they might call you once in a while, but it will never be for anything of a serious nature, because they’ve stopped taking you seriously. If you really want their attention – leave and don’t come back.
By staying you are inadvertently telling them, “I accept this relationship on your terms and I’m willing to put up with copious amounts of your crap for a few scraps of your affection.”
Here’s what your behavior is really saying:
You: I want to be with you.
Them: Yeah I know, but I don’t want that.
You: (Internalizing this as a rejection of you) Why don’t you want me?
Them: I just don’t. It really has nothing to do with you. I don’t do intimacy. It’s me, not you. (It really is them)
You: But I’ll do x and y and z – if only you’ll love me. Let me prove to you that I’m good enough.
Them: I’m sure you’re great, but I’m still not interested and I will give you a ton of clues that tell you so, but if you’re still not getting the message I’ll take what’s being offered and everything will be on my terms. I might chase you a little if and when you’re not available, but that still won’t change the dynamic between us.
Dating Rules for Codependents:
- When what’s being offered isn’t what you want – that’s your cue to leave. When you realize that you are not on the same page don’t try to change their stance or yours – you accept it and you move on.
- When you are being treated disrespectfully it’s time to go – no excuses no minimizing and rationalizing. Just go. Pay attention to your feelings, if you are feeling hurt, or disrespected – if you’re being ignored, ghosted – that’s your cue to end it.
- You don’t have to try so hard to be liked – if being you isn’t good enough – stick a fork in it. If you sense them pulling away, be mindful of your emotional state. Battle the desire to put on a song and dance for them to spark their interest. Relationships only work when both people want to be in it.
- Learn to pay attention to the situation. Listen and don’t just hear what you want to hear. Sometimes the cues are subtle, sometimes your partner will actually say the words, “I don’t want to be in a relationship with you.” Hear what they are saying.
- You won’t be regarded as a person of value if you don’t regard yourself as a person of value. Treat yourself with respect and others will follow your lead.
- You cannot have a healthy relationship and neglect your own needs at the same time. Make sure that you are not doing all the work – doing all the driving, planning, paying for everything, making all the sacrifices… if there’s no reciprocity there’s no relationship and your setting yourself up to be used.
- You cannot have a healthy relationship if you keep choosing unhealthy partners. Heal yourself before you travel through the dating jungle – it’s dangerous out there.
- Your leaving says a lot more about how you value yourself than your staying ever could. Always practice self-care and make sure that you are acting in your own best interest.
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This post describes me completely. When I shared with my friends, they were like ‘this is YOU!’.
It is scary and also saddens me. Regardless of the issues I have, insecurity, look for validation of love etc. at the end of the day, I did fall in love with the person, I allowed myself to take the leap of faith, to be vulnerable, and that part of me is not coming back. There are a lot of questions, unfairness, hurt and pain. This article helps me analyse and realise the situation and understanding of my behaviour, so make the mental note I will be more aware of what I do or react when I am in the situation like this. But it is still sad and hurting, who doesn’t want things to work out? Who doesn’t want to have a happy ending? It’s not like you fall in love with someone everyday right? So you thought the ‘right’ one came along, you wouldn’t want to let it go, you tried hard and hoped for the best. I don’t know how some people can detach so easily. I envy those people. Cause I am not that kind, I believe in marriage vows, through thick and thin, for better and worse, etc. it is so hard to draw the line: should I stay or should I go?
And I believe a lot of people struggle with this.
I want to thank you so much for your blog. You words ring so true. I’ve found myself in a situation where I had a relationship with a narc. He ended it. Then would randomly reach out in inadvertent ways on social media. It was like he didn’t want me, but he didn’t want me to move on either.
He blew hot and cold. Would contact and then disappear. And always say things like “I miss you” or “Don’t disappear again”. What? You were the one that left.
Recently he contacted me out of the blue. The typical, “hey how are you?” And continues to blow hot and cold. Of course I’m high and then low. He cares about me, why else would he come back?
I’m so tired of this rollercoaster and know I need to get off before I lose my mind. I just can’t seem to take that first step.
When I do I freak out…I obsess. I’ve blocked before and unfollowed, but it almost makes it worse. All I do is wonder if he’s tried to reach out.
Need some direction and encouragement.
Oh my gosh Laurie! You were confused like me. I just got out of a 4 year relationship with a narc. Believe me, those dark clouds will pass and you will see the light. The burden on your shoulder will be lifted. Here’s another post from Savannah for more encouragement: https://esteemology.com/breaking-free-why-breaking-up-with-a-narcissist-is-not-your-average-break-up/
I am afraid that this post describes me completely. I am almost ashamed to admit it. I came across an old boyfriend online 9 years ago and we have been having a relationship ever since. I have realised through my need to understand that he is a true Narcissist. A year ago he met someone else and in true Narcissist fashion, he discarded me. It devastated me but I have been unable to let go. Your post Savannah has helped to understand why I cannot let go. He insists that he ‘still needs me in his life’ but of course he is just using me. I am a codependent, I am 60 years old (as is he) and yet I still cling on to the hope that he will leave his new supply and come back to me – but of course I know I HAVE to cut him out of my life completely! I have known him since I was 17 and the attachment I have to him is so strong it overrides any attempts I have made to walk away. Your post do give me hope however! Thank you.
I am so glad that I have found you Savannah! Unfortunately, This article is me to a T.
Thank you so much from me too Savannah. This has my full attention. Well spoken and very needed.
Thank you so much for your invaluable insight. You sharing this insight is such a gift, thank you again!
You’d be proud. I am. I went mountain biking as friends with this super cute guy. Second time out biking I invited him for a burger and things got a little playful and we realized feelings were there. He told me he was moving in two months and I though “great.” I’ll practice at being in a relationship, except it’s only a friendship. And it was actually really nice. The chemistry was amazing (even though I know I jumped in physically too quick), and I didn’t feel manipulated, because I knew the context. In fact, I was learning about myself, my wants, and relational criteria for the future “real deal.”
You’d be proud because one morning, I saw my “friend” off to military guard duty for the day after a very passionate night. We agreed we would have dinner that night. Well…come dinner time I text and ask if he’s coming over here or should I come over there. I get a text back that says “actually I’m out with the guys.” So THAT is what I would have been able to expect had I chosen to see this thing further than friends.
Well…as attracted as I am to this guy physically, I was NOT impressed by this action on his part. 4 days went by with no communication, no acknowledgment on his part. I knew I had not the legitimacy of a “girlfriend” to address this (because of the non-committal context), so I didn’t say anything and was ready to write him off. BUT…when he texted me 4 days later saying “hey, hope you had a great week. would love to see you once more time before I leave if that’s ok with you”…I said “it would have been, but I felt blown off by you and I don’t know.”
His first words were “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel ditched, especially on my last week here. I go out with the guys every weekend and I’ve been stupidly busy getting ready to move.” And he actually wrote a pretty sincere sounding text (even though his actions were not up to my standard of respect). I then spelled out that his actions were inconsiderate of my time.
He elaborated more on this being “his mistake” and seemed sorry. So…I did give him one more chance, knowing he was leaving (so he wouldn’t have a chance to repeat his mistake), and I decided to get my physical needs met once more and then send him off to his new life 5 hours away.
I mention the 5 hours away thing, because I am NOT going to travel to see him even though he asked me to one night while playing cards. That was BEFORE his little stunt.
So funny, though, now that I’m equipped with a brand new set of values for myself, I will not be tolerating things.
I chalk this up to practice, because I know I could have perhaps not jumped in so quick on the physical end. And the thing is…I learned that I DO want a man who can communicate better, and who wants to be in a healthy relationship. It’s not going to be this guy, though, because too many red flags popped up already.
I DID end up asking him what he and the guys do when they’re out, and asked what he was so stupidly busy with that he couldn’t communicate for 4 days while we sat on my porch before he left. He said that guys just eat wings, drink beer and talk “guy shit.”
We only saw each other with just the two of us. There were no social occasions to see him interact with others. In my mind this thing is OVER. He hasn’t contacted me since he left last Saturday and I haven’t reached out to him, and won’t be.
It’s been good practice in communicating my needs, though, and it’s kind of good that he left. Makes things easier, since deep down, I know on some level, I gave the prize away too quick, and guys don’t respect that. It’s ok for THEM, but somehow, there’s a double standard for women.
Anyway…hope all is well on your end.
Another great one, thank you. I identify with all of it. It’s almost like, as a codependent, with no boundaries, we have to first analyze and weigh their disrespectful behavior from their standpoint- why are they behaving this way, what did I do wrong? At least that’s what I did. Instead of from the standpoint of how it makes us feel, what we think about that behavior, how we deserve better, and they are being abusive. I say “did” not “do” because I won’t do that anymore… Not after my last experience of letting someone treat me horribly, wondering why and holding on for the person I thought they were to come back. That person never existed, I had to admit, which really helped in kicking him to the curb and not looking back. From now on, if someone does or says something shitty- I’m going to cut it off right there and then! No need to wonder why or worry that there is something wrong with you! There isn’t! Their behavior tells you all you need to know about what’s going on. Anyone who treats someone poorly has a problem and should be avoided. Seriously.
OMG! its me all the way…..
This is exactly what I needed to read!
The list of codependent traits describe me perfectly. As I read them I recognized each of those behaviors in myself. Thank you for your honest information.
Im beyond lonely. Not only is the man I wanted to spend my life with not there (over a selfish adultress), now my own children are acting like strangers (unfortunately I have evil people in the family circle. Im so humilated). Right now I want my children and our relationship to heal. The man I stood by made the choice to be with an adultress. He changed from the great guy I knew (he lowered his standards).
Have the courage to be who you are, the wisdom to be unconcerned with the opinions of others and the strength to continue setting your own definition of who you should be.” – Savannah’s Creed
For me it was learning all I could about healthy relationships, including with myself. Asking myself, “do I like this” does it generate happiness? And or paying attention to what I don’t like. Learning red flags and retrain your brain to quickly pay attention to your intuition.
How will you know???? You just will, it clicks you feel better happier more confident than ever before…..in yourself without a need for approval from others.
Canuckit- NC you don’t owe anyone an explanation, that guy is bad news right out of the gate. If you must say something I have found “this isn’t going to work for me” works great and leave it at that. Block the number if you need to to gain strength that’s it, done.
Thank you again Savannah for all you do.
Thank you for this post, it’s a good follow up to your last. Although I will need to reread it my first very strong reaction was that of being back in time and remembering how it felt to be surrounded by my mother, sisters and eventually my ex husband. It was a horrible feeling of hurt, shame, worthlessness and wondering why they were so nasty? What did they get from it? Well we know it’s called projection. Logically, it’s their problem but when you are raised in that atmosphere you do internalize it and you drag it with you into adulthood unless changes are made beforehand. I think I’m at a turning point whereby, logically I know these people have no right to treat anyone like that and I can think it when they are acting out but I’m still not at the point whereby I feel confident enough in myself to react, note the word ‘react’ properly. I still have this feeling of, I may look sweet but deep down inside of me there’s a horrible monster that I can’t control and you don’t want to meet it and I can’t allow you or me to see it because if you do you won’t like me anymore! Does that resonate with anyone? Obviously I need to do more work on myself but I find it to be such a long process and feel I get stuck along the path. I’ll keep reading 😉 thank you Savannah.
Damn this is good, right on time and right on. Went on a date Saturday night. The guy said he can not love because he is like that Dr House episode where the alcoholic genius dummied down with booze to stay married to his beautiful wife – otherwise she was just too much like an ant intellectually and bored him. Same reason my date offered for having left his wife. Also the song by the Who, Behind Blue Eyes, may as well have been written about him he says. So I figured that anybody who would reveal all that about himself is not looking for anything further with the one he revealed it to. Nope. When he called yesterday I said I wasn’t sure about further contact he said given time that shall change and I shall be calling him naturally. Just so many ‘I deserve better than you have to give a person’ revelations about this otherwise nice guy that I needed to read this today. He also bragged about how he has stripped stupid people to their bare minimum soulwise and then had to move because he was married and the woman he stripped down soulwise became obsessed with him because he built her back up again to be the human being she could be. God do I ever deserve so much better plus his life is compartmentalized where he has a male partner with whom he has a business so why is he chasing me because according to people who introduced him to me the male partner now has moved on to be living with someone else. I don’t know how to politely tell him am not interested and deserve someone who knows how to love.
Canuckit, I am shocked by what this man revealed to you in just one evening! He sounds absolutely awful, run for the hills girl. You’re asking how can you politely refuse him? Think about it, once you have refused him he will be out of your life and he will move on, hopefully, so why do you care? If he was a nice person that would be different but this man is quiet obviously an ogre, go NC. Put yourself first , find something else to amuse your thoughts.
As for me..I know my monster is anger towards those that try to manipulate me and most definitely towards myself for allowing myself to be in this situation. I know this at a deep level but still can’t seem to get over it. I think it’s a case of, ‘The Comfort Zone’?!
This guy sounds horrible. I had a somatic say somewhat similar things, where he told me he ‘enjoyed making others feel stupid,’ told me off the bat that he ‘could not commit’ yet now he’s 39 and involved with a 24 yr old with no education, she left her husband for him and had 2 kids prior and now one with the somatic, all within a 1.5 yr time span. So 3 kids she now has all by the age 24.
Now he gets to appear like the ‘great dad’ on FB, snapping pics of himself holding her kid from the other guy, in addition to his newborn.
He and I were the same age and he claimed to ‘love my intelligence’ and that I was a ‘challenge’ because he ‘was not used to meeting women who matched him intellectually or was his superior.’
I found out later that he was a truck driver with no college degree and a criminal past.
Yet he’s with a naive, very young girl with 3 kids who has no education and no career goals, etc. Granted, he doesn’t have any himself. On one hand these narcs complain they are ‘bored’ with average girls yet if they find someone who ‘challenges’ their minds, they can’t handle it.
And ‘male partner’? I wasn’t sure if you meant strictly a business partner or gay relationship but judging by all the other crap he said, it doesn’t really matter at this point.
Thank you for writing this blog! I read over all of these from time to time. I am unfortunately a codependent. I hate it. I need to learn some boundaries and voicing my own thoughts more clearly. Not taking someone not liking me so personally.
When you’re on, you are dead on! This piece was so insightful and so full of truth and understanding. You really have seen it all. I feel like you’re writing just for me. I love that you are iffereung very specific direction here to help me recognize the pattern. What I’d like to know is 1) how do you recognize what your own needs are – and that they are healthy needs and no codep needs? 2) how to you get yourself healthy before you get back out there and repeat your mistakes? Thank you again for your powerful, clear, and actionable insights. You are a treasure!
Thank you Savannah for the advice i think knowing one’s worth is very important because if you have self respect people will also respect you because if you dont they will treat like crap.
As always great timely advice. Thanks Savannah
As a lifelong codependent this particular essay describes me exactly. It stings to read but deep down I know it is me; Sadly, I also know that the advice is right on the mark.
I’ve been involved with N for three decades (on and off). She is definitely a manipulator and I believe has most all of the characteristics of a narcissist. Time and again she has hurt me-left-then “hoovered” back and I always fall back into the same pattern of accepting her nonsense. Over and over. I know this is very toxic, I know of my codependency and yet I love her. Or do I? It’s funny, she has all the characteristics externally that I value, yet internally there are psychological problems. That I know. She’s hurt me so often I’m frankly embarrassed to relate how much. Like many manipulators she speaks with such authority about “knowing” how relationships really work and yet she has no clue! Exasperating. Yet I still fall into the trap of trying to please her. I know I shouldn’t but it’s as if I’m powerless.
The real problem I face however is that I’m near 70 years old as is her. There just is not time to “date” (hate that word) someone for the length of time it takes to find a companion to grow old with at this late stage. The energy that would take is daunting at my age. And it is near impossible to find anyone even close to her caliber. (yet she’s a crazy maker!). I’m alone, codependent and frankly stuck. I don’t know where to turn. I’m so tired of always being alone without anyone to relate to meaningfully. And yet I have so much to give.