Toxic Love: I Need Her, Don’t Leave Me, I Can’t Live Without Him
Love shouldn’t hurt. It shouldn’t feel like it’s your lifeline – that you will fall into a million pieces if someone else doesn’t do what you want them to.
This kind of chemical bond is similar to that we universally associate with High School romance: hormones are high and we reach an addictive level of chemical intoxication. But that’s not how it should feel when you grow up: when you pass the hormonal bump. Past the initial courtship stage, love shouldn’t be an intensely devastating and all-consuming obsession. If you experience it this way, it occupies your focus and removes you from dedicating yourself to the rest of your life. It’s also when love can make you to do things that don’t align with your values - putting your needs aside for those of another. If you find yourself all-consumed by the actions or thoughts of another to the degree that it dictates your happiness, then this is an episode for you. It’s about the particular reasons that this kind of attachment happens to you, that you might not be able to see are operating behind the curtain. To you it probably just feels like “you” and who you are, not some other powerful unseen force. Because most people who love like this think of it as a measure of how passionate they love, or something they attribute to an exceptional ability to adapt to situations. Not so. This is an unhealthy form of attachment that can be tweaked, once understood.
This is a blog to educate more than fix, because awareness is the first and most important step to creating change. So read this with the goal of simply taking it in. I want to help you begin the process of learning how to love from a safe and balanced distance. It’s a way of being that will allow you to protect yourself, create healthy boundaries, and choose mates who are capable of loving you. It will also help you be more capable of receiving love in return. Because truly, we teach others how they should love us, by how we love ourselves. If you are not protecting your needs and giving yourself care and gentle loving attention, then you’re also telling others not to. With that, here are the three parts! Part 1 is the what, Part 2 is the why, Part 3 are some steps to take now.
Part 1: The What
Feelings of powerlessness – like you can’t hold yourself back from diving head first into love and affection once you feel attracted to someone. Almost like a drug, a person can occupy your mind and your heart, to the point of obsession. It can also be the opposite – where you know that a person is not right for you, but you try to talk yourself into liking them. Like you’re willing yourself to be into them, when you really don’t like them. Like when you start smoking cigarettes – it tastes like poison and you just have to keep at it until you’re addicted.
Maybe you find that you’re drawn almost by a magnet to the worst human at a party – the one person who’s a cheater and untrustworthy. Maybe you fall in love with people’s potential instead of who they really are, now. Maybe you fall in love with anyone – like even a friend who’s helping you get over your last partner– it’s just a matter of time based on whoever’s in proximity.
Maybe when you like someone, you feel like you’re under a trance: everything else loses importance in comparison to this relationship. You are not interested in hanging out with friends or family when you’re in a relationship – you’d always rather be with your significant other. Maybe you try to please this person and slowly you become the person they want. You have spied on your significant other more than once, and you feel painfully jealous.
And maybe when you are in a relationship, you’re disappointed again and again by your partner, and you allow yourself to accept treatment that no one else should tolerate. Maybe you find yourself unable to imagine letting go, even though you hate the way they treat you and you know you deserve better. Maybe you to hold on despite the fact that they have proven they are not who you want them to be, nor will they ever be – and maybe they have even told you that – but you still only see the glimpses of hope. You almost feel attached by an unseen tether– like, it’s never going to be bad enough that you could let go and say goodbye. The fear of losing this person still outweighs the negative, because you want them so much and you are terrified of feeling the emptiness of their absence.
Maybe the loss of a relationship makes you feel so devastated and destroyed that you can barely take care of yourself. Or the loneliness in your life makes it almost not worth living – you don’t know who you are without a partner.
Maybe love and relationships feel more like a need in your life – without it, you’re hollow. Maybe you feel like you both need each other and that makes you feel so soothed, to know that without you, they would fall apart. Maybe you feel trapped by an invisible wall: you love them and you can’t imagine life without them, but you want more for yourself, desperately. You long for more. Yet, because you’re strong you’ll bend for as long as you have to. So you live in constant dissatisfaction and anxiety over what they’re doing, and can’t seem to see a way out.
Part 2: Why am I like this? How does this start?
What I have described has different names and varying degrees of severity, but they all stem from our family dynamics during childhood – specifically our caregivers. These traits in love are symptoms of codependency, love addiction, the children of alcoholics or addicts, and anyone neglected or abused during childhood. The reason there are overlapping traits that come from such diverse backgrounds, is the way a family will organize into roles and the way a child (you) will rationalize this order, is very similar. We humans all cope and try to make sense of things when we’re trying to survive and take care of ourselves. In the families of alcoholics or addicts, everyone in the family will take on a different unhealthy role to cope with the addict. So the children – as a result – will create unhealthy terms for how to get and give love, which sets up their dynamic with future relationships. The same goes for a child with a depressed parent or an abusive parent.
We all have some unhealthy patterns related to our attachments, and that’s because it’s rare not to. Most parents have unhealthy habits because their parents had them, and with each generation, a person plays a specific role within their family unit. You figure out your place in the world based on the role you play in your family, growing up. For example, if you get attention for being your parents helper and consoler, you will take this on as a part of your identity. You might become the “saver” in your family structure: the one who doesn’t need help, who really keeps everyone together – who does it all.
So what happens over many years of this reinforcement – is you begin to read all other people in this way: you see them as other characters playing opposite your role. You almost “cast” them in their roles, like it were a play. You might cast someone as “the baby” or “the broken-but-full-of-potential-type” and based on this reading of this person, you will interpret their actions. It will encode your expectation and interpretation of everything they say or do. In short, it over-writes them as they are and you begin to color in what they mean and how they feel – based on your unique perception. Life becomes like a constant reenactment of these roles vs. an authentic experience of what is happening.
Your role takes over your interactions with other people in your life, because it’s the role you assume even in your own mind. It’s how you feel hurt, it’s how you tell your life story, it sets the tone for the narrative of this play that is your life. There are so many plays that can be activated again and again via this old trained in system of thinking – with family, especially. You might find that when you return home after many years, you find yourself back in the role of the petulant child who no one listens to – when away from there, you are strong and successful. Suddenly you forget who you are. That’s because roles are powerful! They can trap you into loops, unable to understand how you got stuck. So that’s the first part of the why: the roles that we encode into others and into ourselves.
- The second part of the why is the building block for the pain: the roles we play shape an unhealthy relationship to our understanding of self-worth.
A parent who’s a codependent, an addict, neglectful or abusive instills in a child that they have to work hard to receive love or attention; that they are not lovable as they are. This can be extremely subtle and hard to identify – even for you, today, as an adult. For example, a codependent parent might make YOUR success and worth a reflection of THEIR success and worth. They might live through their control of your life, and because of that, you become their pleaser. What this does, unbeknownst to you and your parent, is make your worth as an individual – something you have to EARN and keep up with – lest you make they disappointed. Meanwhile, your needs as an individual are not important, therefore your value is nil just as you are. You become invisible: how you feel, if you’re hurt or tired – it’s not as important as if they are hurt or tired. You have to try harder if you want to be loved, because it’s about them and their life, and if you don’t work hard enough you are creating their failure. Your existence is built around your power to make someone else happy, not by simply being who you are.
Here’s another totally different example of how a broken sense of self-love is created: if you have an addict parent, they will create a dangerous and hostile environment for their family where each person will take on a different coping mechanism. So the addict might make one person their favorite – and that person will enact the role, feeling they are special. Another kid might in turn take on the role of the truth speaker – then act out by fighting the addict, which will in-turn invite more abuse – creating a belief that they are truly bad and unlovable because they have been told this by the family dynamic.
Whatever form it comes in, anytime a kid is trying hard to be loved, they will beneath that feel they are not good enough without the trying part. This element of their role is powerful, because it’s an unhealthy relationship to their identity that becomes the foundation for the future unhealthy relationships. The relationship we have with our family is the foundation for how we relate and cope with others, so we don’t grow out of it – it operates in us unconsciously. When we’re young, we create patterns that we repeat when we get older. So if you notice yourself becoming overly invested in the thoughts of others – unable to stop yourself from obsessing – that’s something that likely started much earlier in your life. It’s the way you feel comfortable loving – because it’s a part of your role.
Now I want to talk a little bit about what types of roles I see in family dynamics, specifically the ones that get you into the most pain when it comes to romantic relationships. This is so that you can spot the patterns in yourself that you might want to change. It doesn’t mean that if any of this rings true for you, you need to see a doctor – I’ll leave that to your judgment. Look at this as an invitation for you to delve further into your own personal investigations.
- The Martyr
If you take on the role of the martyr, to suffer for others is virtuous. You find yourself running yourself into the ground to go above and beyond for those you love – and this is where you feel most comfortable. It’s unconscious, but you’re actually seeking the validation for going so hard for others, while neglecting yourself: this is how you formed your role (seeking love from cold parents, or learning from a parent who was a martyr). Ironically, this role is what keeps you empty-handed in the love department, and eventually, resentful, because you never get enough love and validation to fill the void. You also destroy yourself in the process, which is not self-loving or sustainable for your mental and physical health.
How this acts in love:
You choose others who will take and take without giving in return. The appeal is that they need your help, the downside, is they will always need you – and you will forever be the victim of a thankless bond. The martyr wants to be suffering for others because it ensures they are owed love – it’s a system of controlling another’s affections. This SUCKS for a partner because it’s like a hostage situation: you always have a way of making them feel bad about themselves, bad for you, and thus – the unhealthy cycle goes on. Selflessness is what you focus on, “I give you everything!” however that’s a veil for control. So while you believe you’re seeking love and reciprocation, you’re actually telling others, “No – i’ll do it for you, just like I always do...” They, in turn, will feel your gestures as caked with expectation – and therefore they’ll resent each gesture. You will feel increasingly alone and unloved because the work is one-sided and the other person doesn’t appreciate what you’re giving. It’s like creating a spigot for the love that you want on the side of a person’s head – and when it doesn’t give you enough, you feel angry and unrewarded. BUT this is a relationship created by your role. The relationship relies on an unhealthy imbalance: it’s like keeping one person a baby, and one person their care-giver. It’s not rewarding or equal as a relationship. It prevents growth in both of you and neglects your needs as a human (you deserve care, too).
2. The Savior
This is the role you take on when you identify with the codependency of your parent. Meaning, in the face of all the struggle they are going through – you become the one who can save everyone and become the solution to everyone’s problems. You might believe this is your role and embrace it with all of your being – but unbeknownst to you- you are neglecting your needs as a human as the baseline for your actions. You say, “Yes – I can and will do what you want me to, and I will be the best version of the person in everyone’s mind!” But that’s not your job – to be the person who others want you to be. Your job is to just be yourself.
How this acts in love: You tend to choose mates who are broken or need you, just like your parents did. This keeps the role active and soothed. It also puts an inordinate amount of pressure on you at all times: if something is wrong, it’s up to you to solve it. If someone is upset, it’s up to you to make them feel better. This dysfunctional relationship keeps you neglected in your need to be cared for and protected. It also keeps you isolated and alone in any suffering you might face. You can’t have a relationship that doesn’t allow for you to be weak when you need some time to rest or you’re going through a rough time. What about when you’re sick, or stressed? Both parties in a relationship need to take the lead at different times. The savior will believe they are the only one truly able to fix a problem, which is actually their need to have control over the situation at all times. For them, to be taken care of by another or to be given love themselves, is to lose control. So the feeling is similar to falling: very uncomfortable and not like what they’re used to.
3. The Baby
This is a person who infantilizes themselves as a way to get others to give them love an affection. You might literally act as a helpless baby who can do nothing, or subconsciously enact it via a refusal to live like a grownup – using your incompetence as a way to make others help you or feel more confident around you. The baby refuses to grow up, and therefore they will keep themselves broken and dependent on their parents in many ways. The baby, however, can also be an expert manipulator. The baby can be adoring when a martyr wants to be validated. The baby can be helpless when the savior wants to feel all-powerful. The worst part about this role is they are trapped as a baby in the rest of their life: their habits reinforce a lack of investment in their own abilities, therefore they might choose to give up early when pursuing a career or never take stock in their own worth. Why? Because they grow to believe their lack of ability after living the role for so long. Not to mention, their role creates an imbalance in the misalignment between the baby and reality. A baby might thirst after career success but their emotional role makes them stuck.
The baby will also refuse to acknowledge the value of what is given to them by others, because this is a way to vent the anger of not receiving love. They will refuse the gestures of parents and others who recreate the parental role, throwing tantrums because it’s not enough to soothe the void.
How this acts in love:
Because this is a role designed to milk the love and attention from others, it relies on a consistent need being acted – a Blanche Dubois style helplessness and incompetence. For most, this act quickly gets old: once you’re in a relationship and start asking to be taken seriously – you’re told your feelings are invalid. Why? Because you’re a baby! Your needs don’t matter because your opinions are worthless. The role backfires when you want to be treated as an equal (for example, after a major life milestone or a self-work growth-spurt). When a person plays this role, they might keep themselves in the submissive and invalid role in a partnership (while they’re insecure) but then once they’re able to witness their own power and competence, they feel resentful and filled with rage toward the partner who doesn’t see their value. It’s like hiring a babysitter and then asking to have your car-keys back so you can go to work. Confusing and frustrating for both parties, but necessary nonetheless. The partner is trying to care for the baby, the baby is full of rage for how much they fall short.
4. The Teacher / Therapist
The teacher is the one who knows best and is readily available to guide the lives of others but never look at themselves. They likely foster the strength of others in their family – investing in their future and well-being, heavily. This is a person who feels best solving the problems of others, and yet this is a method to bolster their own self-esteem. It is another form of creating the need to be needed. A pad for the void.
The teacher might also be cast as the family therapist while growing up: being used to solve problems of their parent and even filling in for a parent part of the time. This dynamic solidifies their belief that they are great at helping others, and it also becomes the only way they can receive their parents love.
How this acts in love: You choose someone insecure and weak, who you can control. You ignore yourself and all the issues and work that need to be done for you. You pilot their life for them. This ends up making both people unhappy because in one way you’re robbing someone of the right to live their own life and make their own mistakes, while undermining their abilities. You are also neglecting yourself and avoiding looking at your own life- by closing off to the possibility that someone other than you can help you. This also hurts you when you really do need help – because it builds a sense of hopelessness and isolation. The teacher believes only they are the source to any knowledge, therefore if there’s a problem in the relationship, the teacher will feel very lonely – like they are bearing the weight of the world on their shoulders. It is by focusing on what’s wrong with this other person that you ignore your own issues and hide from self-work.
5. The Truth Speaker
This is the person that calls out the craziness of everyone else’s bullshit – and refuses to engage in the game of crazy. The downfall of the truth speaker is they evoke a response from the others – so they will then internalize the reactions as “I’m not loved.” For example, an alcoholic will target the truth-speaker for more punishment if they call out the wrong doing of the alcoholic. They will then be shunned by the other roles because of their refusal to obey the structure.
How this works in love: You can cope with crazy and hateful – so if someone likes you, you likely immediately like them, too. Because deep down, you believe yourself less-than as a mate. You likely choose others who treat you poorly or give you less than you deserve or want. Why? Because this is safe and therefore attractive: you can feel comfortable as your own “screwed up” self next to someone kind of fucked up. Why? Because of your parents, a secret part of you believes you are messed up, lesser, and not good enough to ask someone to give you the kind of love you want – and to choose someone healthy and awesome would cause you too much anxiety. You might also believe you have a higher threshold for negative treatment and craziness. Therefore, because you’re “adaptable” you might not choose partners well – believing it’s not a big deal if they are untrustworthy or have a bad track-record. To you, it’s totally doable based on what you’ve lived.
With all of these roles, we can play one or more – but we then continue to play them in our adult relationships. We actively choose others based on the role we feel most comfortable in, and then we continually reframe the other person based on the system of our childhood. This is an unhealthy unconscious behavior because it relies on one person being weak and one person being strong. It maintains need. It maintains and hides the unconscious void inside and keeps you both “sick.” It stops you both from the growth you’re meant to do because it does not allow for both parties to ask equally or take the lead at one time or another.
A positive relationship is almost like a mutual agreement based on equal benefit: two individuals sharing their gifts. Why we look for relationships based in NEED and not based in STRENGTH is very simple. This is the crux of it: it’s a way to feel safe and secure. The control provided by need ensures we are going to receive love. Like a life-line to a drug. This terrifying fear of losing someone, being abandoned, or unloved - is something that was built into us at a very early stage – by the family that raised us. Love is like the medicine for the pain of what’s inside that feels empty: the, “we are not enough, we need more love.”
If you had to work to receive love or you had to create a bond with your caregiver by helping them feel loved, you lack the knowledge that you are lovable as you are – right now – without having to do anything at all. Love should not require anything of you – it should just be. It’s like a bonus in life! So this one brick is missing in your foundation – a simple understanding that you deserve to be loved just for growing up and being yourself and living your life, exactly as you are. The time spent with your parents is the part of life that shapes your sense of self and your understanding of who you are. It's like breakfast: without it you don’t get full throughout the day, but in this case – it’s your parents love and your adult self. Your parents love gives you that building block because it tells you that you are of value just as you are. It's what builds the "ouch" into you when something is not kind of loving from someone else. When you know you’re loved as a kid, you grow a healthy sense of self, and with that, you grow boundaries. "You're not treating me well, so I’m out of here," is a healthy reaction – one that a lot of us don't have, naturally. Instead we think it’s because of something WE did. "Maybe they’re being cold because they don’t like me that much…" Instead of self-protecting from the jerk, you might try harder to make them like you. You see it as your fault because it’s a familiar construct. It’s all from a feeling we are not enough.
This missing brick means you don’t trust that you will be loved as you are and therefore you cannot organically offer yourself to someone without trying to CREATE your value. Or CONTROL your appeal to them. Love can and should exist without manipulation or any kind of control. It should be completely invisible in terms because it’s an innate trust. It’s a mutually beneficial agreement that needs no proof at any given time.
Whether or not you developed these tendencies because you had addiction in your family or you had parents who were incapable, you can choose to retrain your mind and GROW into a healthy partner capable of safe and balanced attachment. Which brings me to…
Part 3: The Tools
This is very much a problem related to the way your brain is wired – so to rewire it, you must first grow your awareness. These are “light” tools, because this is more than anything a process of becoming aware – then moving from that place a little bit at a time.
- Introspective Journal Exercise!
This is to help you begin to look at what you want for yourself that you don’t have now.
Step 1: Setting Your Wants
I’d like you to start this process by writing to yourself in a journal! This is an exercise to think about what you’d like for yourself, this year – in your own life. So grab your journal or a paper – here are the reflection questions. Remember that this isn’t about what you want OTHERS to do. This is about what you want for yourself. Period. Let go of what anyone else will or will not do with their life.
- What’s one thing you want for yourself?
- What personality defect would like to grow out of or see removed from yourself?
- What problem would you like to see solved?
- What do you want to see happen in your relationship with your family?
- What’s something you want for your career path?
- What’s one change that you want to make in your life?
If your wants are too hard to see, minus another, then ask instead questions like this:
- What makes you hurt?
- What makes you angry?
- What feels good and rewarding?
- What do you trust?
- What makes you uncomfortable?
- What do you wish was different?
Step 2: Look at Your Boundaries
If you experience the kind of love that hurts you and drives you to extreme highs and lows, then you likely lack the ability to set healthy boundaries. This is a big factor in a lot of hurtful issues because healthy boundaries are the foundation for basic self-care. So if you didn’t grow them innately, that’s okay – you can learn them and foster them starting right now. It’s just like a muscle that is weak: it will grow with deliberate practice.
This might be vague and confusing so here’s where we will start. I want you to begin to look at the answers you have in Step 1. Let’s start with #1 (One thing you want for yourself). Let’s say you want respect from others. This part of the reflection exercise is to begin to find ways of honoring that want. YOU must be the one to begin to place boundaries on what behavior you will accept and tolerate from others: you are going to become the protector of your values. It might seem like a lot of what happens in your relationships is out of your control, but so much is within your power. You might not be aware when you have a choice to accept something or refuse it.
Okay – here’s a situation that will show you how you can set a boundary based on my example answer. Let’s say you’re with a significant other or at work – and someone begins talking about a date they went on– graphically describing the sex. This would be a time you might feel disrespected by the person’s conduct. One way you can draw a boundary is by leaving that situation. Removing yourself from it. If it’s a significant other, you might say, “Don’t tell me stories like this, they make me uncomfortable.” You don’t HAVE to tolerate it or let it slide, you can set a boundary for what you are okay with and then it comes down to HONORING it.
This process will start with just you knowing where your boundaries are: listening to that little voice inside you that says, “ouch – this doesn’t feel good.” This can be hard at the beginning, but know that when you’re ready – you will begin enforcing your boundaries with others, and you will feel strong and convicted about them. You and the other person will just KNOW you are justified to feel the way you do and that you’re not going to back down again. So don’t be upset with yourself if it takes you a bit of time to grow the courage. Don’t push yourself to set a boundary before you know you’re ready to honor it. Start slow and build an investment in what YOU want and how YOU feel. Grow to know that opinion and then eventually, you get to decide, “I want this for myself.” And you’ll start going for it. Whatever you want, you are valid to want it and you shouldn’t feel guilty or shameful for saying it. We are all who we are and the best thing we can do is be honest with ourselves about where we’re not listening to ourselves.
If you’ve been in a codependent relationship for a while, you will find that your partner feels you changing and growing and interprets it as a personal attack. You will also find them trying to pull you back in again by threatening you or seducing you. For example, if you’re a savior and you’re with a baby, they might call you a selfish cold-hearted person, then fall apart as a way to force you to take care of them. Be prepared, and take heart: you will know with increasing certitude that you are not wrong for wanting to protect and love yourself. Then it will come down to detaching from others, with love.
Once you start listening to your tiny voice, you’ll find yourself placing more importance in what you want. Eventually, once you begin acting as if you truly want something, you will become a person who deserves and then gets that something. So the things you chase will no longer evade you, once you start looking at why you always catch something else. You can change everything in your life just by changing yourself.
Don’t get too far ahead of yourself or freak out. Simply by writing your wants down, you will begin to grow in the right direction. Only you can choose your boundaries and only you can know when you’re ready to enforce them. You’ll decide them based on what you want and what you’re comfortable with. No one else can decide them for you or talk you out of them – they can only be decided by you, for you. So don’t let anyone tell you that yours are wrong or irrational. That’s just fear, in them. When you know you are able and ready to set a boundary you will feel very good about it. You will set it and know it deep down – that it’s in service of what’s best for you. Others might blame you are threaten you, but you will see no other option than to do what you’re doing – which is, to take care of yourself.
Here’s what’s magical about setting boundaries and enforcing them – when you begin respecting your own boundaries, you also begin to trust and listen to yourself, more. So you become more stable and confident. Once you start tuning into yourself, your needs and wants get clearer too, and this creates waves that change the rest of your life – because you begin to choose better people by default. Everything in your life follows, and it gets better and better – because suddenly you can sense when things are not aligning with what you want for yourself and you are choosing in accordance with that truth.
All you can do ever – in your relationships – is listen honestly to yourself, respect what that truth says, and let go. Let go of the outcome and accept that it’s out of your hands. Which I believe, is a beautiful relief. I don’t have to try so hard after-all. I can just be and not fix everything or save everyone. I can just accept who I am and know that I will be okay, no matter what.
Tool 2: Buy a Book!
Yeah, I know this sounds like a copout kind of tool, but it’s a really important part of growing this part of yourself. There will be a lot of moments that you feel confused and upside down, so you need something to tether yourself to the truth. A book can be a huge source of grounding – something you can keep with you and orient yourself. Books on my list include: Codependent no More, Courage to Change, The Language of Letting Go. The New Codependency. I haven’t read this one but it looks pretty good – called, Love is a Choice. But if not these, Google one and download a sample!
These kinds of books are helpful because the personality traits are very similar to addiction and those affected by it. So if you had a neglectful or cold parent you might grow these same symptoms. If you can't see why you're repeating your patterns, it can be incredibly helpful to get guidance from someone similar to yourself. So books are a great way to glean that perspective, if you can’t afford a therapist. I would say go to therapy if you are suffering. The money is worth it! Also, go to 12 step meetings. I recommend Alanon in particular. It’s a life-changing kind of support that helps you stay grounded on your path in the face of the overwhelming emotions. Like a room full of understanding and support! How awesome is that?!
Tool 3: Let the Leaves Fall in the Forest
Poetic, right? This one basically means practice letting things just be a mess or less than what you could make them. Practice letting go of outcomes and embrace that they are unknown and scary. Make this a conscious decision in yourself. So like many leaves fall in the forest, people will make many mistakes and that’s okay. Allow them to make their own mistakes without saving them or needing to insert yourself, every single time.
So much of this kind of relationship dynamic is about controlling what will be – wanting to intervene in the lives of others, wanting to know what they think, wanting to help them and control what they do. Practice refusing to step in and refusing to play your role. Simply witness what is and allow others to make their mistakes. It will feel like torture sometimes – but this is a practice that will help you to strengthen your muscle of SEPARATENESS. I think codependents struggle with things falling apart and watching messes happen that they could have prevented, but in the scheme of life – this fixation is a drain to our awareness. Remind yourself that your focus is more needed by you and how you can grow this new part of yourself.
Tool 4: Practice Being as Direct as a Translator
Practice saying what you want with very simple and precise words, almost like everyone else in your life doesn’t speak your language. One thing that happens when you’re overly invested in the mind of another, is you believe you know what they’re thinking and with that, how they are reading you. This is how we constantly set ourselves up for disappointment: we believe others can read us, because we believe we are reading them – both of which are false. These beliefs are manufactured by our “role” and our perception has been warped by the theater of the mind.
So as a rule for yourself, I invite you to only say the things you want, directly. Don’t imply them, don’t beat around the bush, don’t set up clues that you believe will point to the answer, and especially– don’t control the circumstances so that someone HAS to do what you want. Practice simply saying what you want and letting go of the outcome. “I want you to do this.” Or, “I don’t want you to do this.” “It makes me mad when you do this.” Say what you want as directly as you possibly can – like they don’t understand your language very well and your words count. I know from personal experience that when you start this process, it will feel scary – almost like you’re being too forceful. That’s to be expected. Just let go of the interpretation piece of it and state your want. Take the judgment out of it: it just is.
Tool 5: Practice Expecting Zero
This is one of the greatest practices I can offer and it’s great for everyone, not just if you suffer these kinds of relationships. Maintain ZERO expectations as a continuous state of being. Whatever situation you walk into, practice reminding yourself to have absolutely NO expectations, good or bad. Completely detach from the outcome. Do not guess what will be, do not allow yourself to imagine one outcome over another. Step back from your mental imaginings and let it go. Leave the future for the future: don’t jump there yet. Don’t try to solve anything. Remind yourself that you don’t know and you belong in this moment, right now. It’s actually a relief to practice this, because you will find that whatever the outcome is, you will be okay and it’s not as bad or painful as your expectations make it out to be. You will be fine, one way or another – no matter what comes to pass. It’s the build up and anticipation of an outcome that creates your reaction to it, so remind yourself to LET GO of what is yet to come. Embrace your powerlessness and ACCEPT all possibilities as though they’ve already happened. Literally, you can almost appreciate both outcomes and be equally accepting of them. DECIDE to embrace both, no matter what.
Real relationships mean receiving equally, and even if that sounds really uncomfortable now, or like something you would never want, this capacity grows quite easily, and before you know it – it will be a healthy, thriving, authentic part of you. Love that is equal is amazingly rewarding – it goes deeper, to your core. More importantly – when it comes to how you feel about yourself, it’s stress free! You feel confident and relaxed about it – you don’t have to cling: you’re allowed to fight and trust that things will be okay.
The reason I chose to write this episode is because I was a thousand percent a codependent. I had to learn, the hard way, that it wasn’t getting me into a healthy loving relationship and learn how to be whole and self-protective from scratch. I can say 1000% that it was worth it. It’s what I want you to have, too, if you struggle the same way I did. I know it feels like a far off concept from here, but just start by looking at what you want for yourself. And honor it as true. I wanted to end with a passage from a book of poetry called “The Prophet” because it sums up what I believe real love in a relationship should be. This is a book my grandma gave to me – she loved this as well. I feel like it’s such an awesome metaphor - I actually had my friend Jeremy, who married us, make it a part of our wedding ceremony. Because in my opinion it says all the right things about love. I trimmed some so if you like it, perhaps give it a Google.
“…But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.”
Love is deeply soothing when you come from a whole and positive place – one capable and open to receiving, equally. This receiving is the TRUE gift you give someone else you love, because it allows them to give the greatest form of their self. It’s the greatest feeling they can ever feel – giving their gifts to a worthy recipient. As you grow your love will change into something much different and more wonderful. Never forget that you are your own tree! Focus on growing and be the strongest tree you can be, and then you will find that your match arrives to greet you. I send you much love – smile!! Xoxo
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