It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

On my way back...

Just a brief update...

The bronchitis developed into a cold and between the two of them they triggered an asthma attack that has been going on for nearly a week. I have been on three kinds of cortisone (pills, inhaled powder, and nebulized mist) since Saturday, as well as the antibiotics and if it doesn't start clearing up soon, I am going to have to go to the hospital for chest xrays in case I'm incubating a case of pneumonia.

The worst part is, the meds make my hands shake uncontrollably so it is difficult to type. It is a special kind of torture to have things rolling around in your head that your hands cannot spit out onto the keyboard! I'm not too bad right now...it has only taken me 15 minutes to type this...but I haven't taken my mornings meds yet. Once I do, I won't be able to type for 8 to 12 hours due to the tremors.

So I am here, I'm not ignoring you (I read every email and comment that comes in), and I am SO wishing I could write back or post something new. As soon as my hand tremors resolve, I'll put up something new. In the meantime, I am becoming acquainted with daytime TV (can't even hold a book steady enough to read!) which, as far as I can tell, is total drek!

I hope this finds you all well and on the path to happiness.

Hugs to you all

Violet

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I will be back...

Sorry I haven't been around much lately...the lawsuit with the Tenants from Hell heated back up and I've been stuck in the computer and filing cabinets dragging out all our evidence and responding to a litany of the most outrageous lies and speculation you have ever heard.

The stress has taken its toll and I have come down with a serious case of bronchitis...I can barely breathe, so I'm not sleeping well and, of course, that affects my ability to think and write.

I promise that when this is finally over (I sent the materials to my lawyer yesterday so now I just have to get over the bronchitis), I will be back.

Hugs to all of you!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Swan Waters

I still have 10 free memberships left for the Swan Waters forum for adult children of narcissistic parents (see my previous entry).

If any one is interested, please email me using the email form at the bottom of this page (MUST be via email) and I will be happy to send you a coupon code you can use when you sign up.

Cheers and Hugs to all of you

Violet

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Finally! A forum for us!



The other day I got an invitation to join a new forum…a place where we can interact with other people who share our experiences with having Ns in our lives. What excited me about it was that it was founded by a small group of women who were left abandoned when Tracy Culleton (Danu) shut down her DoNM forum.


Like all new endeavours, this new forum needs members to make it work. The core group of founders are looking for people to join and they asked me to pass the word. I thought I would go one better: I offered them a guest post on this blog and asked if I could distribute some free memberships to people who were interested. And to my delight, they said yes!



Here is the story of this exciting new forum:

The SwanWaters.com Fairy Tale

The story of the Ugly Duckling tells about the duckling that is attacked and abused by the other ducklings in his Duck Family for being different. When he leaves the duck pond he feels horrible and thinks that something is wrong with him. But after the winter is past, be finds out he has grown into a beautiful gracious swan.

Our own fairy tale started with 10 women that connected online in an effort to understand the troubled relationships they had with their parents. After the website they connected through crashed, a lot of women who depended on that site for validation and advice got abandoned. The 10 founding Swans were lucky enough to have exchanged emails before this happened, and were able to re-establish contact. We moved their healing journey to Skype, where we were able chat and post and continue their journey to healing.

We realized the power of journaling thru a forum and comparing experiences.We cheered each other on and empathised with tough situations. We became sounding boards and reality checks for one another. And we began to understand the power of a community to support us when our FOOs fail--the power of a community to comfort, to teach, to assist with compassion.

Another thing we have realised is we don't want to stay stuck in the mode of just sitting around griping about our terrible mothers. This allows us to move forward with a focus on our lives and our healing. We realised we wanted to share this growth with others and offer them a path to healing, just like we had been able to share.

It has been a year now, and the changes in our lives and attitudes have been breath-taking.  During that year, we decided to start the website community www.SwanWaters.com to provide a platform for the healing journey back from what we call Trouble Parent(s) or Toxic Parent(s) or Emotional Bullies.

The realisations and coping skills to heal from many types of abuse are similar. We have strived to make our articles positive and focussed on the victims, on our personal stories and experiences, while focussing on coping and healing advice. With a membership, we also  offer chat and a forum ready for your writings.

SwanWaters.com is not intended for profit. That commitment is strong. At SwanWaters.com we are not trying to sell you anything, and the only reason that membership requires a nominal fee is because we want to keep out trolls and other nosy people. We happily supply Swans who struggle to pay a membership with a sponsorship. All we want is to help other Swans find their way on the Swan Path.

I am Nova, one of the founding Swans. I stumbled onto The Narcissist’s Child blog (which I read and re-read) and introduced myself to Violet. Although we are new acquaintances, I feel we already understand each other because of many shared experiences.  Through her, we are happy to invite you to join the Founding Swans over at SwanWaters.com with a coupon for a one-year free membership. I think you will find that it is place where people “get” you, where we all understand where you are coming from.

As we are a new website, our forum is just beginning. We would appreciate your participation in the community and look forward to getting to know you. In return for your free membership, we ask only that you advise us of any technical website issues or suggestions for improvements at support@swanwaters.com. Thank you Violet, for allowing me a guest post!

Fly free and live in peace,
Nova

If you are interested in joining this forum, please send me an email using the email form below, telling me you want in and I will email you back with a code that you use when you sign up for the forum that will give you free access for a year. I only have 25 free memberships to give away, though, so if you are interested, contact me right away! If, at the end of the year, you wish to continue your membership and cannot afford to pay the membership fee, let Nova know and she will chat with you regarding a “scholarship” that will allow you to continue as a member at a reduced or even no cost.



I have joined and I think this is a wonderful opportunity for all of us. For those who were burned in or banned from Danu’s forum, this is a particularly good opportunity because these people have learned from her mistakes: nothing to sell, no hidden agendas, and as far as I can tell, no over-inflated egos running the show.



I look forward to your emails



Hugs and healing wishes to you all,



Violet

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Scapegoat’s Daughter Revisited



Back in October I published a guest post by a young woman named Eve entitled “The Scapegoat’s Daughter,” a post that very poignantly revealed the suffering our children can be subjected to when we allow our toxic FOO to be a part of their lives.

This morning I received a lengthy comment on that post, a comment that bears repeating here, so that no one who is struggling with the idea of cutting their kids off from their dysfunctional families has any doubt on what you can do to protect your kids from damage and why you should do it. Unfortunately, the commenter didn’t leave even a nickname for us to call her by, so we’ll just have to call her “Anonymous.”

Herewith our correspondence for your enlightenment:

Anonymous: Abusive FOOs are no different from poisoned wells. You wouldn't knowingly take your children to drink water from a poisoned well so why would you expose your children to your toxic FOO?

Violet: Your analogy is apt...but if you don't realize the well is poisoned, if your children keep getting sick but you don't recognize that the water is causing it, you keep returning to that well.

Once you know it is the water, you might still go there, because you are in denial. Or it may be just you getting noticeably sick...the effect on the children not so evident, so you don't think it really is the water...or maybe it is just you, there is something in that water that only affects you and everyone else is safe.

That is the kind of thinking Ns grind into their children: YOU are the defective one, not me. YOU are the one with the problem, not me. And if the child believes it (and a lot of them do), then they think the abusive relationship is their fault and the Nparent will be a lovely grandparent.

Even the courts fall prey to this kind of thinking: in a situation where there is an addicted or otherwise unfit parent, courts will award custody or guardianship to the very person who raised that unfit parent. It makes no logical sense, but it happens every day.

You only stop giving your children water from a poisoned well when you truly realize and accept that it is the well itself that is irretrievably poisoned and even though the children may be asymptomatic, it is still bad for them. And sometimes that realization takes a very long time to come.

Anonymous: Apologies for only posting the bit about poisoned wells. This was actually the end bit of my long post to give you a context for my remarks. I will make my post in several parts as it was too long to post in one go.

Part One

I was lucky to have moved away after getting married. It meant, when my children came along, I was able to keep them away from my FOO. I was the child born out of wedlock and my mother put all her shame on me. I was the child who had to be grateful she hadn't aborted me and had kept me after giving birth to me. My mother's siblings and their children all treated me with contempt. Things got worse when my mother got married to my stepfather. She kept threatening to send me away if I caused problems for her by not accepting her new husband. I ended up being sexually abused and raped and was too afraid to tell because I would be blamed and sent away. My mother only got out of that marriage when her husband started to abuse her. Lucky for me, she sent me to boarding school, to get me out of the way as she had nowhere to put me during the time she was hiding from her husband who was looking for her.

I forced the issue to connect with my biological father and met with the same shaming treatment at his hands. Turned out, he had been married the time he had an affair with my mother, with several children at home. In the time, I was being rejected and humiliated at my father's house, not just by him but his other children and his second wife, I met my future husband.

I thought this man wanted to marry me for me but later found out, it was because he wanted to be connected to my biological father, who had money and status. My saving grace was the fact that we moved away after getting married.

My husband picked up where my family had left off but having my babies woke me up. Watching a lot of Oprah’s abuse discussions and reading about toxic families and scapegoating provided me with the means to process my past and make some decisions about the future. I decided early on that I had to protect my babies from what I had suffered and I didn't want them to be poisoned by my toxic family dynamics. I kept my children away from having form of contact with my FOO and made sure my children grew up knowing exactly how mean and cruel my family had been to me. It was pretty clear my FOO were looking to recruit my children to join them in abusing me. My mother wrote a letter addressed to my SEVEN year old daughter, telling her how mean and horrible I was, for not allowing them access. Who does that? Sick and twisted people who can never change do such things. They don't know when to stop and cut the c*ap. They can never accept that their target of hate has woken up to their generational abuse, cut the cord and walked away. They want the situation to continue because it works for them. They will keep coming back and will destroy your relationship with your children if you let them into your life. Even now, when my children are now in their twenties, my FOO keep trying to establish a connection with my children. The door is firmly shut. One of my half siblings found my daughter via facebook and started trying to draw her in. My daughter put an end to that by no longer using facebook.

Part Two
PS: Lucky that my ex husband was mean really to me and our children during the marriage. Our children were relieved to finally be free of the misery he inflicted. He had his own difficult childhood but never got angry at the stepmother who had been so cruel to him nor his father who let it happen. Instead, my then husband turned all his hatred and mental/emotional cruelty on us, his own family. I thought he would see it as a second chance to have a loving family of his own but he never saw it that way. He kept chasing after everyone else's approval while saying horrible things about me where we lived. I only found out the extent of the lies he had told when I filed for divorce and his co-workers got themselves involved. The only way to escape him, and his lies, was to gather me children and move away to another part of the country.

Leaving my marriage enabled me to cut off any token contact I had with my FOO. My FOO took my ex husband's side in the divorce and encouraged him to not give me a thing. My own family wanted me to remain trapped in an abusive marriage due to lack of money or to leave and face destitution. Lucky there is such a thing as free initial legal consultation and being a joint owner in the marital property meant lawyer's fees would be deducted from the settlement.

My FOO's continued relationship with my ex husband has made it easier to leave him behind and not look back. When our children were at university, my FOO tried to use my ex husband to infiltrate our children by passing on contact details. He even tried to bribe them with money but again we were saved by his own damaged nature. He couldn't sustain being nice and his mean side kept taking over, making him someone whose intentions, our children couldn't trust. My FOO had chosen the wrong person to do their dirty work.

So far, we have had a few years of absolute peace, until last month when news came through that my biological father had died. My FOO sent a message through my ex but I never responded. All I felt was a sense of relief at the closing of that chapter and didn't want to get drawn back in.

Part Three

Sorry for writing all this but thought it might help someone else to realise, you can and you must protect your children, from the family dysfunction that blighted your childhood. Nothing good can come from playing nice and letting them have access to your children. I think it is Oprah who said, "when people show you, who they are, believe them". When your family of origin have shown you time and time again, they mean you harm and your pain is their joy, believe them. Nothing good will come from sacrificing your children to such twisted people. Your children are nothing more than pawns in their power games against you. These people want you to serve a life sentence of being c*apped on and will use any means necessary. Take a stand and refuse to have your children recruited into the cult of generational abuse. Draw a line in the sand, pick up your babies, keep walking and go make a life somewhere you can give your children a loving and supportive family experience.

Get counseling to help you get strong enough to do what is right for you and your children if you can afford it. If you can't afford counseling, start to self educate by reading online and using books about toxic families, narcissism etc. The more you know, the stronger you will get at realising what you need to do, to protect yourself and your children. If you are lucky enough to be married to someone who is supportive of you then you are truly blessed. Use this support to make a new life as far away from FOO as you can manage. Remember your children are counting on you to keep them safe from being emotionally and psychologically abused. Your children are also counting on you, to show them what it means to be a loving, protective, supportive and nurturing family. You can't do any of this if you allow your children to see you being abused and ganged up on by your FOO. Teach your children how to stand together and be united from those with "divide and conquer"

Part Four

agendas. Dysfunctional family dynamics depend on compartmentalised relationships. Bullies in families rely on the favoured family members treating the suffering of the scapegoat as something happening to someone else and therefore not their problem to address. Make sure your children grow up knowing it is not OK to ignore the hurt and humiliation of your immediate family member. Just so they can fit in with the bullies. If your children are older teens and you are moving towards waking them up to your FOO, have them sign up for anti bullying campaigns at school, so they can appreciate the damaging nature of bullying. Once a child has woken up to the injustice and dynamics of bullying, it does not take much for them to wake up to the same patterns in the family dynamics. The important thing is not to suffer in silence. Silence is not golden when your family is at risk of being destroyed by your FOO. You can't afford to experiment with your children finding out for themselves that your FOO are toxic people, whose main objective is to turn your family on itself, so the FOO can continue to abuse their chosen scapegoat.

Abusive FOOs are no different from poisoned wells. You wouldn't knowingly take your children to drink water from a poisoned well so why would you expose your children to your toxic FOO? Your children are your second chance to have a family of your own where you can love and be loved unconditionally. Protect your right to have a toxic free family because your future is with your children not your FOO. Your siblings will have their own families and their own lives and you are entitled to yours. I know everyone is at different points in their realisation, deciding the way forward and the process of recovery. I can only speak from my own experiences and from what I have seen so far, nothing good comes from allowing your toxic FOO, to have access to your children. If they can’t turn your children against you they will turn on your children in addition to whatever they have been doing to you. Never compromise once you get it, protect your children at all costs. Only you know how much your FOO has hurt you. Listen to your pain and refuse to allow your children to be corrupted by your FOO.

Sorry for the long post but hope this helps someone going through this

Part Five

Came back to add a clarification about when to encourage your children to sign up for anti bullying campaigns at school. It should be from pre teens and onwards. Mine advocated at their school from middle school until graduation. It is invaluable in teaching your children to see bullies for what they are and how the actions of those around the bully enable the bullying to continue. My children were really helped because they picked up the language to articulate what was going on when someone was being targetted and the emotional and mental coping tools to deal with bullies (toxic people). Support your children by encouraging them to talk to you and to each other about whatever is going on in their lives. Start early and the teenage years though challenging will be a lot easier on them and on you as a parent.

Each of us has our own unique story but we come together as the Adult Children of Narcissists because even though our stories are unique, there is a common tragic, dysfunctional thread that we all share. We are all comforted by knowing we are not the only person on the planet who has had to deal with the traumas and tragedies that are an ordinary part of growing up under the thumb of a narcissist. But there is more to it than that…coming together with other ACoNs gives us an exceptional opportunity to learn what has worked—and not worked—in the lives of other people who are struggling to cope with the same issues we are, and even issues we may not yet have become aware of. It is an opportunity not only for solidarity and comfort, but for raising awareness and learning. And Anonymous, in sharing her story, has given us much.

Thank you, Anonymous, for your revealing and heartfelt comments. I am sure I am not the only person who appreciates the effort you have expended on our behalfs.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Scapegoat Picks a Partner


It’s a bitch, growing up the scapegoat in a household headed by a narcissist parent. In addition to all of the other trouble we have to deal with, we are denied the opportunity to know what a healthy relationship feels like, how it feels inside to interact with emotionally healthy people, and how to recognize them when we find them. Worse still, we too often reject eminently suitable potential partners because we do not emotionally respond to people who don’t push our buttons.

This, of course, is of little assistance to us in finding emotionally healthy partners and engaging in fulfilling relationships. It is well known in psychological circles that the victims of abuse often find themselves replicating their original abuse dynamics with new partners, acting out the drama over and over again. But I don’t think very many of us do it consciously…I don’t think many of us say to ourselves “Oh, now there’s a guy just like my abusive mother…let’s see if I can change him into a loving, caring partner…” But on the subconscious level, that’s just what a lot of us do.

Why? Well, I think there are a couple of reasons. First of all, there is that feeling of familiarity, the recognition of his behaviours which give you clues as to how you are expected to act, react, behave, and feel. We are all creatures of habit, after all, and just like a song or a scent can invoke feelings of warmth and comforting familiarity, so can the behaviours of others. Secondly, I think that we subconsciously recognize the similarity to our childhood abuser(s) and hooking up with this person offers us an opportunity to engage the abuse and “get it right” this time. What “right” means is as individual as we are and could mean anything from prevailing over the abuse to somehow getting the abuser to have some compassion and empathy to us to even retaliating against the abuse. Whatever the definition, the whole premise of the relationship is unhealthy and pathological.

Emily Yoffe, writer of the “Dear Prudence” column on Slate.com says “…it’s a strange psychological quirk that people often unconsciously end up re-creating the situation they are seeking to escape. It is sadly common for people raised by abusive parents to find themselves involved with abusive partners…Of course you want to run away from your childhood and the people who populated it. But without exploring what happened to you, you may find yourself running around a track and ending up back at the starting line. You want to feel you’re moving toward something good in life, rather than forever fleeing the bad.”

Some of us are lucky (or subconsciously wise) and manage to find healthy partners in spite of our own dysfunctions. Unfortunately, I think people like that are in the tiniest minority and even they still have to deal with dysfunctional people in other aspects of their lives. Most of us, however, tread a treacherous minefield in seeking a partner, a minefield of our own subconsciousness and lack of awareness. And all too often we end up back at that starting line…

How do you find a healthy relationship with an emotionally healthy partner if you don’t know what it feels like or looks like and you seem to be attracted to people who end up bad news? Marni Battista (CPC, MA), who bills herself a dating coach, recently published an article entitled “6 Signs that he is ‘Mr. Boyfriend Material,’”and had the following to say: [my comments in violet].

1. He is truly in a place where he feels confident and secure in his ability to provide. Men are typically most confident, secure, and ready to be in an exclusive long-term relationship when they feel “settled.” They have spent time building their career and have the time available to invest in a relationship. They are financially secure. Remember, men who are not in this place in life are still worth dating; they are just not likely to be good candidates for a long-term partnership. If you are dating someone who is still climbing the ladder to emotional maturity and financial security, you will likely need to be extremely patient as he moves through these phases of manhood.

Basically, if the guy can’t support himself, he’s not a good bet for a long-term relationship; if he is only marginally self-supporting, he’s not a good bet for a long-term relationship; if he’s in a low-paying career, he can’t or won’t hold down a job for very long, if his lack of a job is somebody else’s fault…he’s not a good bet for a long-term relationship. Are there exceptions? Yes. Is the guy you’re eying one of those exceptions? Given our unerring proclivity for picking the wrong kinds of guys, probably not.

You are not a one-woman rescue mission. Your job in life is not to shore up some guy’s sinking self-esteem, to motivate his lazy ass, to be the patient, loving, uncritical other half…that is his mother’s job…or it was while he was a kid. Now it is his job to motivate himself and make himself into a secure human being able to provide well for himself and his (eventual) family. You don’t have to settle for less, so why even waste your time dating men who don’t meet the most basic criteria for self-care? (Rhetorical question: we waste our time on men like this because it distracts us from working on our own issues…)

2. His words match his actions. A man who is capable of a long-term relationship has integrity, and as a result his words and actions match. He will call when he says he will call. He will ask you out a few days in advance. He will follow through on the promises he makes. This is one of the most crucial signs a man is ready to be your boyfriend. If his words and actions match consistently, it is clear he is ready to play in the big leagues—possibly with you.

Augh! This was my big bugaboo! He’d say something nice and do something rude and I would believe the words…and excuses…and lies. I felt guilty if I didn’t, like I wasn’t trusting him. I felt I owed him the benefit of the doubt. Guess what? I was wrong!

I was so stuck in this, my therapist actually had to say to me, in blunt language, “If his words don’t match his deeds, believe the deeds…they don’t lie.” Any many who habitually says one thing and does another is not to be trusted…and no healthy relationship can exist without trust.

3. He doesn’t play games. He doesn’t apply the “Three-Day Rule” to the women he dates, wait twenty-four hours before returning your phone call, or “vanish” to draw you into his world. When he is interested in pursuing you, he will let you know in an appropriate way. Conversely, if you play games with Mr. Boyfriend Material, he will politely decline the opportunity to get to know you, and dismiss you as possibly immature, or worse, “psycho.” Don’t over-text Mr. Boyfriend Material with idle chit chat messages. Be gracious, kind, and authentic, because Mr. Boyfriend Material is attracted to a confident woman who, like him, is past playing games.

This is addressing his authenticity: not only does he not play juvenile, manipulative dating games, he doesn’t play the kinds of games you find in Transactional Analysis books…no manipulation at all, just straightforward (but not rude, crude, or insensitive) communication.

Yes, we have to make allowances for personality types…some guys tend toward shyness and reticence, others are more outgoing. But regardless of personality types, if he is being manipulative, using pick up lines, ignoring you to see how you will react or overwhelming you with too much too soon, the smart move is to move on. He’s not the last man on the planet, you know…

Too often, we succumb to a feeling of desperation and think this one guy is our last chance for love and then make unwise moves as a result. First of all, no man at all is better than one who manipulates, abuses, or ignores us. Secondly, until we love ourselves enough to become our real selves (not the love-starved survivor of a narcissist), just what kind of man are we going to be attracted to…or attract? Emotionally healthy people tend to be put off by the emotionally needy because they want a partner, not a responsibility. So, in our own desperation to find love and be love, we actually drive away the very people who would be best for us. If you aren’t in a good place emotionally, find yourself a therapist and get there…then start looking for a boyfriend.

4. He knows how to express his feelings directly. Mr. Boyfriend Material will not manipulate you with silence or criticize or judge you. When he has a need, or feels like he must discuss something pertaining to the relationship, he does not hesitate to bring it up. He will also be honest in telling you when he needs to spend time with his friends, needs to work, or wants to go to the gym. He will expect you to respect his needs and not see his independence as rejection.

Like everything else, there is a balance needed here. Direct communication is not rude or insensitive, although sometimes it can be hard to hear (and if we are hypersensitive to criticism or implied criticism, we may hear insensitivity or criticism were it does not exist or was not intended). Showing your insecurity through clinginess, monitoring him (his phone, email, location, time on his own, etc), constantly checking in, sulking or being hurt when he wants time to himself all are relationship killers. Conversely, if he spends a lot more of his free time alone with the TV or his video games, or in the company of his buddies than with you, then there is a message in his behaviour that you should be listening to.

Too often we “reinterpret” what people say to us, including people we love. A message that might be painful when taken directly can lose its sting when we reinterpret it: “He didn’t mean that,” or “He’s just reacting to a bad day,” or “That’s his mother talking, not him,” or whatever we tell ourselves to avoid hearing the real message. It is important not only for him to express his feelings directly, but for us to really hear him when he talks to us and not reinterpret his message to be more palatable to us.

5. He is single. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning that a man who is worth your time is not in a relationship, going through a divorce, or in a relationship with someone who “just doesn’t seem to understand him like you do.” As a result, he is emotionally available to pursue a relationship with you. He does not have to hide you until the divorce is final, “call you later” under the guise of running an errand, or meet you in a hotel, his art studio, or at your place because he hasn’t yet moved out of the home he shares with his partner.

This is important for a number of reasons in addition to those cited above, especially for us. We are groomed from childhood to be victims, to be passive and wait patiently for whatever crumbs will fall from the table for us. Less-than-scrupulous men whose relationship attentions are otherwise engaged just love us…we are ready-made, pre-programmed playtoys! We so want to be loved, we will put up with anything, believe anything, forgive anything, just to believe we are. We make the ideal “other woman” because we are trained to wait…and wait…and wait some more, and to live on hope. And there are a lot of men out there who will take advantage of that.

We avoid being exploited by such men by absolutely refusing to get involved with a man who is already emotionally involved elsewhere…and that includes men who are separated or going through a divorce, and men who have recently experienced a breakup. Allowing yourself to be the other half in a rebound relationship is a guaranteed one way trip to heartbreak. And if we happen to find the man we are dating has lied to us and he already has a wife/girlfriend/fiancĂ©e/live in female that he did not tell us about, we accept no excuses or explanations, we cut our losses and move on.

Why? Because a man who lacks integrity in the dating stage will not suddenly find it when he becomes your official boyfriend/fiancĂ©/husband. He will still be a man who lies to you when it serves him to do so. The old saw about “if he will cheat with you, he will cheat on you” is absolutely correct because it means this is a man who has a mindset that says “it is ok to cheat under certain circumstances” and he gets to choose what those circumstances are, when they have arrived, and whether or not you deserve to know.

6. He does not expect any kind of physical intimacy sooner than you are ready.
While Mr. Boyfriend Material finds you incredibly attractive, he does not expect you to kiss him at the end of the first or second date and he does not expect you to have sex with him until the time is right, once you two have gotten to know each other and determined that you’d like to advance your relationship to the next level. What’s more, if he does angle for physical intimacy early on (say, after the third date, for instance), he won’t mind if you refuse. In fact, he will most likely apologize profusely, respect you immensely, and be impressed by your self-respect, dating dignity, and confidence—all huge turn-ons.

This is something we need to get a grip on…not just him pressuring you for intimacy too soon, but us feeling the need to “clinch the deal” by getting him into bed (surely I am not the only ACoN who has ever felt/done that, am I?). It has to do with respect and boundaries.

If he respects your boundaries, he won’t pressure you. If he respects you, he won’t pressure you. And if you respect him and the possibility that a real, lasting relationship might be possible with this man, you won’t rush things, either. Emotionally healthy people are not interested in the needy and desperate…and rushing things may be interpreted as just that. Rather than planning the wedding after your first date, maybe you can slow things down and just learn to enjoy his company, spend time observing him and how he handles things, and discovering what kind of person he is. If you take your time and you are honest in your observations, you may discover he wants to control you, change you, or remake you into his fantasy of the ideal woman…and that would be a guy to jettison. The time to start fantasizing about your wedding gown is when he pops the question, which shouldn’t be after dating for just a few short months.

Some of you may be thinking “yah, but this is just about picking a boyfriend, not a husband. Why should we have such high standards? Well, the vast majority of husbands (and ex-husbands) were, at one time, introduced as “my boyfriend.” My husband introduced himself to my coworkers as “her [meaning my] boyfriend.” Achieving boyfriend status is the first step on the path to husband status, so why let unsuitable candidates even step on the path? If he won’t make a good provider, if he doesn’t treat you with respect, if he is immature or plays emotional games…why do you want to associate with him in the first place? Because you are afraid he is the best you can do?

Well, if you think that way, then consider this: every night you spend with a man who belittles you, denigrates you, invalidates and disrespects you, mooches off you, lies to you, is a night you are not available to meet a man who would love, respect and care for you.

When you pick a partner, shouldn’t it be someone who is actually good for you just the way he is?

Friday, January 31, 2014

Self-sabotage: Parts 12 through conclusion



Continued from yesterday:

“12. Glorify or vilify the past. Glorifying the past is telling yourself how good, happy, fortunate, and worthwhile life was when you were a child, a young person, or a newly married person—and regretting how it’s all been downhill ever since. When you were young, for example, you were glamorous and danced the samba with handsome men on the beach at twilight; and now you’re in a so-so marriage to an insurance adjuster in Topeka. You should’ve married tall, dark Antonio. You should’ve invested in Microsoft when you had the chance. In short, focus on what you could’ve and should’ve done, instead of what you did. This will surely make you miserable.

“Vilifying the past is easy, too. You were born in the wrong place at the wrong time, you never got what you needed, you felt you were discriminated against, you never got to go to summer camp. How can you possibly be happy when you had such a lousy background? It’s important to think that bad memories, serious mistakes, and traumatic events were much more influential in forming you and your future than good memories, successes, and happy events. Focus on bad times. Obsess about them. Treasure them. This will ensure that, no matter what’s happening in the present, you won’t be happy.”

Exercise: Make a list of your most important bad memories and keep it where you can review it frequently. Once a week, tell someone about your horrible childhood or how much better your life was 20 years ago.

We all know they guy who was the star of the high school football hero or the Prom Queen whose life peaked during high school and has gone nowhere since. Rather than address their lack of forward progress in life, they dwell on their glory days and make excuses and blame others for not having achieved anything they consider noteworthy since then. In extreme cases, thirty years down the road she still dresses and wears her hair and make up like she did when she was 16; he is still laddishly enslaved by sports on TV, beer in hand, and behaving like he was still 17 and about to throw that winning touchdown. It isn’t so much that they’ve never grown up as it is that they’ve never moved past those moments of glory and have never moved on.



Their opposite number is the person who had a childhood devoid of “crowning achievements” or whose achievements went unacknowledged. Such a person may have suffered abuse in her childhood…and then again may not have suffered abuse but simply didn’t get what she wanted: when we grow up feeling entitled and don’t get what we want, we feel ill-used (this explains GCs who think their lives were as bad or worse than the SGs in the family). When we grow up abused, also feel ill used. When we are miserable in our present life and a good part of that misery is focussed around our history, whether is it to glorify that history or to vilify it, we sacrifice the present. We fail to live in today as we re-live yesterday. And that is not healthy, whether we were abused in truth or not.



For ACoNs, this can be tricky to negotiate because in order to heal, we must address and resolve our unhappy pasts. But we must also be careful not to let the study and redress of yesterday’s wrongs keep us from moving ahead today. We must not obsess or allow our past to overwhelm and control our present or yesterday’s misery overwhelms today. Resolve the past, yes, but don’t continue to live in it.


“13. Find a romantic partner to reform. Make sure that you fall in love with someone with a major defect (cat hoarder, gambler, alcoholic, womanizer, sociopath), and set out to reform him or her, regardless of whether he or she wants to be reformed. Believe firmly that you can reform this person, and ignore all evidence to the contrary.”

Exercise: Go to online dating sites and see how many bad choices you can find in one afternoon. Make efforts to meet these people. It’s good if the dating site charges a lot of money, since this means you’ll be emotionally starved and poor.

I have to wince at this one because I can’t tell you how many times I have done this…and how hard it was to stop picking partners I perceived as “needing” to be reformed. “He just needs love,” I would tell myself. Or “His ex just didn’t understand him.” Or “He wouldn’t do it if he just understood how 1) much it hurts me or 2) much I love him or 3) it affects the people around him…”



First, this is self-delusional: this requires that you delude yourself into believing you have the power to change another person when, in fact, you only have the power to change yourself. It requires you go into denial when faced with the truth of another person’s inability or unwillingness to change. It requires you to buy into whatever pop-psychology or New Age or old-fashioned rubbish that promises to give you what you want rather than face the truth that this other person does not want to be who or what you want him to be.



Second, it is distracting: this was my hook…if I could focus enough on rescuing some other person from him/herself, I wouldn’t have the time or energy to focus on fixing my own problems. The more screwed up the man, the greater a challenge he offered me, the more distraction…and the more volatile, offering me ample opportunity to have justifications for my explosions of rage. It did nothing to help either of us, ever.



And third, it is very disrespectful! I really didn’t realize this until, after therapy, I hooked up with a guy who was constantly “doing things” for me…like answering questions that were addressed to me...and generally usurping my autonomy. After dumping him, I hooked up with a guy who, it turned out later, tended to say things like “People would like you more if you would…” or “You’d be more popular if you…” My reaction to this was to be affronted. Who the hell was he to pick me apart and then try to remake me into the image of what HE wanted me to be??



It was then that I learned to look for men who didn’t need fixing. Oh…maybe in somebody else’s eye they might need fixing, but what they took as faults (like my extremely shy-with-strangers geek husband) I found endearing. And guess what? In the 20+ years since I ended therapy and learned this lesson, I have had two good, solid marriages to two really great men (the first one died after 9 years). I am no longer emotionally attracted to the walking wounded because I did take the time to focus on myself and I learned, through experiencing it myself, just how intrusive and disrespectful it is to presume I had the right to tell someone else he needed to change into MY version of what he should be.



People are not lumps of clay to be moulded into our vision of what our mate “should” be: they are human beings with the same right of self-determination that we have. So, rather than delude and distract yourself with a partner remodelling project, the smart money is on spending that time finding someone who doesn’t need the remodel…someone who is perfect for you just as s/he is. And the smartest money is on fixing yourself before you even bother hunting up that perfect partner...

“14. Be critical. Make sure to have an endless list of dislikes and voice them often, whether or not your opinion is solicited. For example, don’t hesitate to say, “That’s what you chose to wear this morning?” or “Why is your voice so shrill?” If someone is eating eggs, tell them you don’t like eggs. Your negativity can be applied to almost anything.

“It helps if the things you criticize are well liked by most people so that your dislike of them sets you apart. Disliking traffic and mosquitos isn’t creative enough: everyone knows what it’s like to find these things annoying, and they won’t pay much attention if you find them annoying, too. But disliking the new movie that all your friends are praising? You’ll find plenty of opportunities to counter your friends’ glowing reviews with your contrarian opinion.”

Exercise: Make a list of 20 things you dislike and see how many times you can insert them into a conversation over the course of the day. For best results, dislike things you’ve never given yourself a chance to like.

This, too, is a two-edged sword for ACoNs. On the one hand, we have to be critical because we have to set boundaries…we have to redefine right and wrong, good and bad, healthy and unhealthy because the definitions we grew up with were skewed towards the benefit of the Ns in our lives and away from their objective definitions. Some of us grew up in households so repressed, we even have to learn that it is ok to disagree with an authority figure, and then how to do it. So, for many of us, learning to be critical is an essential part of our recovery.



But, like glorifying/vilifying the past or rumination, we can get stuck in criticism and let it become a way of life rather than a useful tool. Hardest for me to learn was balance…when it was appropriate to criticize, even in my own head, and when it was not. And learning to not hear negative criticism when it was not intended. And how to deal with kindly mean but poorly delivered criticism.



There is a difference between criticising when necessary and appropriate and being critical. Nobody likes a critical person…but people tend not to trust “yes men,” either. There is a balance that has to be struck. What kind of friend are you if you don’t speak up when your BFF hooks up with her fourth alcoholic boyfriend in a row? What kind of parent are you when you find out your child is behaving like a bully and you look the other way? What kind of spouse are you when your other half is behaving irresponsibly with money? Criticism and recognizing wrong are necessary parts of life, as is sometimes having confrontations…but being critical is NOT a necessary part of life any more than turning blind eye to wrong is.



My grandmother once told me that every person has something about them that you can compliment if you just look hard enough. I found she was correct and in making myself look for that something in everyone…my co-workers, my colleagues, my neighbours, my friends…I found I was generating more positive responses from people. Something as simple as “cool tie!” or “you have such a great laugh…” just perks people up. Even if you have to say something critical to them later, they are in a better frame of mind if they don’t perceive you as a critical personality.



It also benefits you: when you are critical, you feel critical…and negative. Nobody like a wet blanket, a balloon buster, a moaner and complainer. Perhaps you need to read more, get out more, come up with some new topics…and perhaps you just need to adopt a new habit, like not allowing yourself to be critical without first acknowledging something positive and uplifting.



Remember, criticism has a valid place in your life…but it doesn’t have to be your personality type!

Madanes closes with: “I’ve just listed 14 ways to make yourself miserable. You don’t have to nail every one of them, but even if you succeed with just four or five, make sure to berate yourself regularly for not enacting the entire list. If you find yourself in a therapist’s office—because someone who’s still clinging to their love for you has tricked you into going—make sure your misery seems organic. If the therapist enlightens you in any way or teaches you mind-body techniques to quiet your anxious mind, make sure to co-opt the conversation and talk about your misery-filled dreams from the night before. If the therapist is skilled in dream analysis, quickly start complaining about the cost of therapy itself. If the therapist uses your complaints as a launching pad to discuss transference issues, accuse him or her of having countertransference issues. Ultimately, the therapist is your enemy when trying to cultivate misery in your life. So get out as soon as possible…”

This is the game of “Ain’t It Awfulin which the person “…overtly expresses distress, but it is covertly gratified at the prospect of the satisfaction they can wring from their misfortune.” By avoiding or repudiating the therapist’s suggestions, the person gets to cling to those misfortunes and their misery and even feel righteous about it. It perpetuates the misery in a way that the “victim” feels that she doesn’t have to take responsibility for it.



I can’t address what you are doing or have done in your life but I can address what has transpired in mine and I can tell you, this article is dead on. I didn’t want to take responsibility for the unhappiness in my life because I didn’t feel that I had created it. Why should I have to all that hard, painful work when all would be well if my bitch of a mother would ’fess up to the abuse, apologize, and start behaving like a real mother? What I was refusing to acknowledge was that even if my mother did do that, it wouldn’t fix a thing! It not only wouldn’t take away the years of hurt and humiliation, pain and anger, it probably would have made me angrier still…for making me suffer for so long before the acknowledgement came. And even after that, it wouldn’t be gone…the work still would have to be done and it would have to be done by me because nobody can change me but me.



So if you are miserable…even if you just have miserable parts to your life…the first place to look for relief is inward. What are you doing, what kinds of choices are you making, that aren’t bringing you the joy and happiness you deserve? Only you can change your life.