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Dear Chump Lady, Do I just like drama?

bubbleDear Chump Lady,

I contacted you back in September of last year when I had just discovered my ex-boyfriend from a year ago had found a new partner (or as you wonderfully described — his new hypotenuse). Your reply and this community really were instrumental in my handling of that acute relapse into ex-land. I printed out your reply and every time I thought about re-inserting myself into his life I read aloud all the truth you had listed. I managed to stay strong but I have a slightly different issue now.

In the now two years it’s been since I broke up, I have dated a couple of guys, nothing serious really and nothing where things developed particularly far. There was however one a few months back who pursued me strongly for a week or two, slept with me, then backed out faster than a cheater being chased by a cheetah. For some reason, after not having overly strong feelings for this guy, I immediately wanted him more when he disappeared. He intimated that he wanted to stay friends (I never texted him again because I know better) but I felt quietly and suddenly devastated.

This idea of a sulking kid having a tantrum when he doesn’t get what he wants hasn’t left my head since. Why did I feel so low when he left? Why did I want him when a week earlier I was uncomfortable with how much he wanted me?

Now I’m currently dating someone who seems really nice (as in considerate, generous, never leaves me wondering nice), but I don’t feel a spark with him. Things are going well but I don’t have that lust for him that I had with the others. I did get it briefly when his phone died and he didn’t text back for quite a long time, which was a rather telling afternoon (yes, it only took an afternoon). It has made me acutely aware that I’m the guy who wants a) what he can’t have and b) to be mistreated. I think I want commitment and consideration, but when I’m offered it I’m telling myself there’s no spark. I’m confusing love for passion, I’m looking in all the wrong places.

And really this is leading me back to the ex cheater. I’m wondering if this is some damage mark he’s left on me. Or whether it was something pre-existing in me to begin with, something that drew me to him and the pain. I stayed in that relationship for awhile after I had enough reason to leave, and actually wanted to stay more when I found something I thought I needed to fix (but obviously couldn’t). How do I get rational with myself? Is it right for me to be seeing this guy I’m not sure about, just because I think he’s nice? Because he won’t cheat on me? Is that enough? Am I trying to settle with someone nice because I’m scared of not finding a better fit? Am I ready for a relationship or will I yearn for drama because it’s all I know?


Dear James,

Life gives you enough drama. You don’t have to manufacture it, by which I mean date it. (Or worse, marry it and have children with it.) A preference for drama and poor treatment is something to work out with a shrink.

I’m not a shrink, but I’ll give you a few educated guesses about what I think is happening.

1) This crap is familiar to you. Explore your FOO issues (family of origin). When you don’t run from abuse, chances are you grew up around it.

I had enough reason to leave, and actually wanted to stay more when I found something I thought I needed to fix (but obviously couldn’t).

HelloOo codependency. Other people’s problems are NOT your responsibility. You cannot mold and shape adults (and I’m not even sure about children, ask me after I’m done raising a teenager…) You should come to a relationship as someone’s equal — not their general contractor. People are not projects. If a person is shitty, but “full of potential”? Next!

For some reason, James, the drama and chaos and lack of consideration feel acceptable to you. You’re probably used to making your needs small in service of the Great One. You’re not running away from that “deal” like a healthy person would. Go explore that.

2) It’s a power dynamic. Essentially, this whole chase and recapture and now I’m interested in you is just another variation of the Pick Me dance. The least invested person has more “power” in the relationship. You put value on the powerful prize guy who is withdrawing from you. When he makes a power play like that, you then ascribe him more power, more centrality, than when he’s just your average boyfriend. I thought you were just okay, but you abandoned me? You must REALLY be powerful! Okay, now you have my attention!

Take a big step back, James. Anyone who can walk away from you so casually is not someone who was connected to you that deeply in the first place. This person is not a prize. He’s not All That. Sure, we’re sad when any relationship ends, but please don’t chase, don’t compete.

When you pick me dance, you give your power away. You’re just a bidder, you’re not an equal. You’ve accepted a lopsided relationship and not one based on mutuality — of interest, values, and respect. You deserve a full partner.

3.) Narkles feel great. When narcissists sparkle (aka “narkles”), you feel like you’re in a great shining beam of light. The Great One picked me! This fabulous confident person, who only sparkles for a Very Privileged Few! has deigned to choose ME! I’m so special! I’m WORTHY!

Hey, when the disordered people want something, it’s a total charm offensive. Such flattery, such sex, such a feeling of being the Chosen Special Consort. The highs are high, James, and the lows are low.

Because once they’ve got you on the hook for kibbles, you’re then devalued as a source. But the chump is hooked on the narkles. Where’d they go? I need my fix! Tell me again how you love me!

Nope, then they withdraw, and it’s the pick me dance. After that comes the cycle of abuse, where you have the honeymoon, and the tension build up, and then the explosion, then the hoovering you back, and then the honeymoon… rinse, repeat.

There’s actual brain science that this shit is addictive. Intermittent love scrambles the reward centers in your brain. OMG! A kibble in the dispenser! Anyway, check out that study in the link.

4.) You’ve got your own intimacy problems. As Groucho Marx said, “I wouldn’t want to be part of a club that would want me as a member.” James, perhaps you’re looking for a fake, junior high kind of cool kid exclusivity, because you lack a core authenticity in yourself. Instead, you’ll take the reflected glory of a narcissist, being of service to the Powerful One.

I don’t think you actually want to be treated like shit, you may just be attracted to the “power” that these assholes convey. The power to detach, to not care, to be above it, when you struggle with the opposite problem in relationships — being so far in that you lose yourself.

But look, neither of those roles lead to intimacy — being the narcissist who doesn’t love or the chump who serves and sublimates their needs. To be intimate you have to be authentic, to know who you are and what you will and will not tolerate. Go figure out who that guy James is. Go have a love affair with him for awhile, get to know him better.

You need to get your head straight before you date. Because it’s not fair to the Nice Guys out there — the people who would be decent and kind to you. Don’t waste their time and break their hearts.

I don’t know if the nice guy you’re currently dating is The One, but don’t put that kind of pressure on a relationship anyway. Not every nice person will be a perfect fit just because they’re nice. Good relationships build organically over time, no narkles. This is not a version of “eat your vegetables” — that healthy relationships are like eating kale. No, you still get lust, and love, and excitement — it’s just reciprocated. And you appreciate it.

Nice guy qualities are the baseline, James. Don’t accept anyone into your dating pool who is NOT a nice guy. Try it out for awhile with the kind fellow. I promise in time, you won’t miss the rollercoaster chaos of the disordered.


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  • James, I’ve been sorting through some of my mum’s things this morning; she died last year. I found her old passport. Who I thought, looking at the old photograph, were you? Well she wasn’t a narcissist but she was unavailable, through depression, drink and then dementia. I was ALWAYS trying to get her attention as a child. Look, I’m over here; I bought you flowers, chocolates. I was quiet, tidy. I didn’t bring friends home. I watched her like a hawk- for a throwaway bit of attention. When I occasionally got some, I thought I’d cracked it- got the mother I wanted. But then it went again, so I kept trying- that intermittent love is a terrible hook. And there was drama, there’s always drama with alcoholics. I also learned not to like her. When she did ‘show up’, I realised she wasn’t really what I wanted (or needed) and when she was destroying herself I hated her.

    So I guess I learnt Foo style, that this is love. This is how relationships go. Not all of my ‘romantic’ relationships had all of these components but the one with Cheater XH did- unsurprisingly he was a recovering (and then relapsed) alcoholic.His affection was on and off like a lightbulb until he found OW and then he was really gone. I realised early on after D-Day that my attempts to ‘fix’ XH and then the eventual abandonment terror was linked right back to childhood.

    I’ve since worked hard on this and continue to do so. I literally faced my demon and returned to be with my mother before she died, an ordinary, frail woman in her eighties, worn away by her own troubles. I’d spent most of my adult life avoiding her (and getting involved with the Mr Unattainables) Two months later; my divorce (propelled by Chump Lady) became final. I was freed from the two people who had hurt me the most. And I’m doing just fine. I understand now, what happened and it’s over and I can finally be myself.

    • It’s amazing that after the demon leaves them (and us) that we realize we’ve given so much power over to these small hurt little creatures…

      • I know that I don’t like drama (not one damn BIT) but it was thrust upon me during my entire upbringing and my marriage, by my in laws, and then by my XBF. A legacy of narcissists and I don’t say that lightly. Once you become accustomed to it in childhood (and don’t know anything different and that it’s NOT normal) you might not seek it but you accept it because it is familiar.

        My entire life has been spent accommodating/tolerating and sidestepping and making excuses for the whims/bad moods and bad behavior of others.

        I am not a boat rocker, trouble maker or drama queen but I sure encountered a lot of them–all of whom imposed themselves on me.
        I did not do the same to them.

        I am sick of reading about ‘we attract’ these people. Bullshit! You meet someone, a relationship begins, it’s all going fine and then they drop the mask—we are unsuspecting victims, stuck in their sticky spiderweb.

        If you are familiar with the phrase ” ‘come into my parlor’, said the spider to the fly”, you might not be surprised to learn this is a fable about narcissism.

        I apologize if I am coming across as pissy……it’s not my intention. But I DO feel a lot pissy about people who cause drama and consternation 😉 😉

        • I think there’s something to be said that we “recognize” the familiar screwed up dynamic and may be working out all that old FOO stuff with an adult partner. At least I think that is how it worked with me.

          • Exactly how it worked for me. I only realized recently that Love and Pain mixed together felt familiar to me. Its all I ever knew. I have been abused ny narcissistic men my whole life, and never saw the abuse for what it was. The worst was by my adorable handsome husband of 36 years. Behind my back, passive aggressively. So very sad. We need to become champion FOO Fighters!

  • Dear James – I know how you feel. I think I’m cut from a similar run of cloth.

    One thing I do know. I grew up with a Narcissist parent. So that is what I’m used to.

    Since I’ve divorced, I’ve gotten SO much better – but there are things I watch myself do, and I think, “Oh boy, I’ve got a LONG way to go”.

    I agree so much with CL. Go explore YOU. Do A LOT of reading. You’ll get better James and as a result, you will make better choices.

  • The line that resonates the most for me in Chump lady’s answer: “Anyone who can walk away from you so casually is not someone who was deeply connected to you in the first place”. My narcissistic cheater ex devalued me for years, not just in the few months, before his affair. It’s impossible to be connected to someone you are constantly devaluing. Devaluation is emotional distancing. As my cheater ex said quite succinctly before he left: “Our relationship has gone flat”. Flat = not deeply connected. How hard can it be to leave a flat relationship? Not hard at all, any emotional investment in the relationship was gone long ago.

    • Yes, This! “It’s impossible to be connected to someone you are constantly devaluing.” My ex in a nutshell. Love bombed our entire early relationship, such a “nice” guy. No wonder it was so easy for him to walk away from his wife, family, and financial responsibilities to blow us all up financially, emotionally, spiritually, and sell it as “I only stayed married [and in our twenty eight year relationship] because of the children….” I am working on me and am able to spot a Narc a mile away now. Am aiming for someone whole, it is what I deserve.

      • Still working on my “spot the narc” skills. I think I’ll be able to spot love bombing in the future. I’ve got to admit it still really appeals to the lovestruck teenager in me though. If only I had her looks and boundless energy, but no, I get her poor decision making skills instead.

        • I’ve always been suspicious of people who “love bomb.” That’s why I could never take a show like “the bachelor” seriously. You just met this person and now you want him to father your children? No, you just want him to pick you, so you can prove you are better than these other women. Daddy issues!

            • As I’ve said before – that vapid shitty show is a massive example of a multiple person pick me dance.
              I have never watched that show, nor will I ever – its fucking disgusting.

        • I started making so many observations of couples after the narc downgraded this summer. To spot the narc I noted many mannerisms these married men and women displayed that felt familiar. Men who are mindful to their partners walk side by side. The narcs walk a few feet behind and freely check out women as if they were alone. Another is when woman does most if the talking as her spouse looks around vaguely interested and agrees with a head nod now and then while checking out the landscape. From my narc I realized his goals were grand and he could never achieve them. If we worked toward something he would suddenly change his mind. A simple thing like buying a house was a nightmare. Nothing could ever be nailed down. Pure mindfuckery. Narcs always BLAMESHIFT. When he left he told me he never could get anywhere with me! Narc nice is NOT nice and can be detected. Actions need to match behavior and this is very difficult to maintain. Also negativity is another red flag.

          • Agh! My narc (long legs) always walked ahead, and it was other people’s job to hurry to catch up to him. Entitled ass!
            One day when the kids were small he tried earnestly to explain to me that it was ‘torture, literally torture!’ to walk at their pace. I remember looking at him and wondering what planet he was from. Still took years to realize that he was not from mine, though….

            • KarenE, I always had to run after mine. He was at least 20 steps ahead. I attributed it to his long legs and my short ones. Then again, if we had to leave for a party together, he would take hours grooming himself in the bathroom while my make up was 3 minutes. He would finish and be out of the door with no consideration of other people in his life. I recall how I had to fully dress my 3 year old and sit on a chair and entertain him while his dad was leisurly taking his time. And the we had to run after him. Arghhh.

          • Negativity and pessimism are red flags because if they find fault with everything, they will most certainly find fault with the relationship and their partner.

            Even if a negative pessimist does not cheat, it will be still be a boring, exhausting relationship.

  • James,
    Yup… You are a drama queen. I think you know that. And your approach is ‘ I can’t help myself’ … hmmmm… Not so sure of that. At some point you will have to seriously look at what you are willing to change in yourself.
    We all want love. And the blind trust that goes with unconditional love. Its the fairy tale. Everything comes with conditions, compromize… And dirty socks. Thats real life love. Dirty socks, garbage day and its your turn to do dog poop duty. Nothing is unconditional.
    Date… And date some more. Dont give it all away… And learn about yourself and your worth. Travel… Be apart of something that bigger than you… Volunteer. Get a bucket list. Grow. Work on you.

    • James… I do not think you are a drama addict. I just think you ambitious. You want the best relationship you can have & a bit of heart yearning. Life is complicated. We all try to simplify it. Being rejected stimulates our “mystery” alert… And we give people who reject us a lot of attention. I do not think you are looking for rejection… I do think it keeps you stymied.
      One day a decent person will be such a beautiful mystery to you that they will capture all your attention.
      If you dig deep enough & put enough attention into the one you’ve got… I do believe you might be able to cultivate an enchanting garden. It takes work & perhaps a little settlement and investment.
      Good luck!

  • As far as finding “nice guy” qualities, I want to share my experience and the confusion it caused me. I always thought my ex was so “nice.” He was so charming and friendly, known as a great guy. He was fun and playful with the neighbors’ kids and would go out of his way to help people he didn’t know very well. Nevermind that the great guy wasn’t so great at home. Somehow, I thought that was because of me. Now, I understand that the “nice” I was seeing wasn’t coming from his heart, but rather from a hole in his ego. By being “nice,” everyone liked him, he got lots of kibble. My kibble wasn’t so valuable, I guess, so he wasn’t so nice at home. I think looking for “nice” can be so confusing. Make sure that he is the nicest to those with whom he is the most intimate rather than those who help form his public image.

    • I’ve come to see that “nice” and “charming” are tools of the devil. I’d always thoughts my STBX was nice, and have been surprised by how many people have told me since this has all been revealed how “charming” they always found him to be. Um hum.

      I just watched “Into the Woods” and two quotes, and overriding themes from the movie stuck out:
      “Nice is different than good”(about the big, bad wolf) and “I was raised to be charming, not sincere” (from Prince Charming).

      • My ex was also nice and was very, very charming. Final OW even told me how charming he was. She is right: he’s a charming guy who is great fun and appears to be very nice. Until he’s not. When he feels hard done by someone – and his reasons can be anything from someone telling him they didn’t like some work he did to they questioned his opinion – he would dislike that person intensely and not get over it.

        His mother, who taught him how to be an asshole on her knee, is exactly the same. She will go after people and YEARS later will still fume and stew about something they said. Not for a few weeks or even a month or two, when you feel someone has behaved badly and you need to process it, but for years and years and years.

        It’s pretty weird to look back on that and realise just how fucked up the dynamics were and are in that family. I’m sure that even though we spent 20 years as a family I am now the one who gets the full steam of their scorn, because I walked away from the whole thing and have nothing to do with them. I won’t play their game and I won’t pretend they behaved well. They’re pretty butt-hurt about that, apparently, so they smear me, even to my kids.

        They’re assholes.

    • I finally figured out that I was projecting my niceness onto my cheater. He wasn’t nice at all, but when he let up on the emotional abuse I would think wow – he’s being so nice, what a great guy. He didn’t get angry when I parked too close to “his” spot on the driveway and he didn’t get angry for me cooking Mexican food twice this week. Problem is that normal people do not get angry with a partner over those things.

      Since my DDays I have realized that most of my life I have chosen lovers, friends, colleagues and bosses who are selfish and abusive. If there is an asshole in a room of 300 people I will wind up talking to it. As a kid I deliberately pissed off teachers — yeah being yelled at and humiliated in front of peers pushed the buttons. Until I figure this shit out I have narrowed my life to little beyond basic work, school and child functions.

      • I figured out the same thing and I can’t believe it took me so long to get it. I think most of us chumps project our goodness, kindness and big hearts onto our partners and that’s why the betrayal is so utterly shocking. We know we could never do what they did to another human being and we think everyone else is the same way.

      • Yeah, ca-chump, I too have had to work to recalibrate my thoughts on what it is that “normal” people get angry with a partner over. BF has said before, when I have confessed that I was worried he would be mad at me over something that the X would have been, “Why would I be mad about THAT? That’s crazy!”

      • My ex would get mad at me for getting his Wendy’s order wrong!! To the point of me getting anxiety everytime id order food anywhere!

        • My XH was rage filled. One day as we were returning back from a trip, we decided to get a to go order at a restaurant near our home. I called information, got the phone number and wrote it down on a section of newspaper that was in the car. When it came time to call in the order, I was unable to find the section of the paper and locate the number. The more he yelled, the more nervous I got and became totally unable to concentrate and find the number. My eyes were unable to focus it was so overwhelming.

          He had to pull over to the side of the road so that I could vomit.

    • “I always thought my ex was so “nice.” He was so charming and friendly, known as a great guy.”

      Moony, this describes my ex as well, and was a tremendous source of confusion for me when the marriage blew apart. So difficult to wrap my head around the horrible things he did and said to me, while he was so “nice” and wonderful to everyone else. He still is a master at maintaining that nice guy image, and those who are not really close to him think he is a wonderful person. As you wrote, he really isn’t nice or good at all, but that image gets him a HUGE helping of kibbles.

      I learned the hard way that “charm” is often a tool of the disordered. I really love the quote Expatchump wrote, “Nice is different than good.” I’m going to have to internalize that one as well.

  • James, first of all–you need to know that you are not alone. Not whatsoever. Although this fact may suggest to you that GEEZ–is EVERYONE damaged? Maybe I should just take whatever I can get and be done with it?

    Don’t do that. It’s not true that everyone is damaged. Everyone has baggage, yes. It’s how they DEAL with that baggage is what makes a person worthwhile to commit to.

    That being said. You do seem to have abandonment issues, just as many of us here did and still do (because of cheater and because of FOO issues). You can try to pinpoint the origin, and that’s laudable–but you’ve already done the hard part—you have REALIZED that the the problems might be more self related.

    Nobody gets to abuse you, James. Someone who cheats on you or hits you or harms you knowingly in any way–is not okay. And guess what….that goes for you too. You have this inkling that perhaps you “like” this drama–that may be absolutely true. When you realize it, see it, are distressed by it–there is an amazing opportunity to change it and heal from it.

    I have another theory to add to Tracy’s list. In modern society, we are hammered constantly with images of what we are supposed to “want” and “need”. I believe that anyone born after 1970-ish…are so abused by the commercial media and a very confused set of parents (late 50’s early 60’s)–that they don’t know WHAT to think. It’s a chaotic and narcissistic barrage of images and ideas and shiny new things that you are told that you MUST HAVE!! The age of youtube, selfies, constant and instant communication–how could anyone ever have the time to be quiet and develop a sense of WHO THEY ARE in this cacophony??

    I am probably a little older than you are, as many of us on this board are (I may be wrong, so correct me, please)—I grew up in a time with no computers, no cellphones, no youtube or snapchat, no facebook. My father took the car out on Sundays–to take us to my Grandfather’s farm so that we could help with his 2 acre “personal garden” (good god. how did we ever do that!). I spent all of my summers there at my Grandfathers’ place–HE HAD NO TELEVISION!!

    I had time and the limited company of those who loved me to develop my ideas and my personality.

    Now…that doesn’t mean that my mother wasn’t bi-polar and my father completely absent because of her antics. That’s exactly how I got nipped with the “push me pull you” power dynamic that Tracy outlined above. My mother was so erratic and it was always a value/devalue cycle with her—my Dad couldn’t stand it and stayed at work as much as he could. My mother cheated incessantly, with everyone who was willing.

    I fell back on my “early” life on my grandfather’s farm–I remembered that it’s okay to want simple things, to do simple things, to BE HAPPY just being on my own without any type of modern interference. I cancelled my cable (best thing I ever did besides divorcing the cheater). I bought a farm. I garden. I spend my time off of work (seeing people at work is enough) reading, being with my kids, being with my dog–and being with myself.

    Some younger people have told me recently that they feel like they will “miss something” if they don’t stay hooked in to this constant noise. What are they missing? The manufactured drama of “reality tv” with it’s Kardashians and OJ live time car chase and OMG what was Beyonce wearing to the basketball game?

    Isn’t is a wonder that this up and coming generation isn’t a little more than distressed and lost when what’s important is signing onto social media to find out the latest on the size of Kim’s butt?

    /screed on social depredations

    Listen, James. You traveled this long road to enlightenment about the reasons behind why your life might be the way it is. I think you are amazing and insightful—and if this situation is unacceptable to you, then you change it. You have the tools to do it, or else you would not have had the ability to reflect on the source of your unhappiness. Find a good therapist and work on YOU. If this guy you’re with is The One—then he will stick with you through that process and you will come out stronger, together. You may get to the end of that process and find out that he isn’t. And that’s okay too. You need to be healthy before you can have a healthy relationship with someone else.

    Luck to you, James.

    • You’re living my dream. Once the youngest kid gets his life figured out and is well-launched, my divorce drama-rama is wrapped up, I plan on finding my own farm. Over the next four-five years I’ll work, get my house market ready and gone, and work on getting the farm launched: develop a garden (not two acres, though, thank you very much) and a swimming hole and fruit trees and nut trees and berry bushes and a chicken shed and build a little house that meets my needs. By the time I’m ready to retire, I’ll have a place to go that already feels like home. Music, art, books, pets, tending my little world. Can’t wait. Thanks for the confirmation that life like that is possible.

      • EA, my XH was a “city kid”–dragged me all over creation before we had a family, but only to land in places that he’d lived before I met him–places where he’d “had a blast” as a teen/20-something. He was simply reliving his youth. We’d live in the loudest location in the crappiest apartments imaginable (even though we could afford much better if we’d just live outside the inner city)–when I realized what he was doing, I put my foot down. I was sleep deprived, nasty, irritable, losing my sense of self. He hated me for that, which is part of what these NPD/sociopaths do (I believe he is socio/psychopath).

        He would tell me (and still does) that my need for this farm is a FOO issue/living my past!! And guess what…..IT IS. The most happy and secure I have ever felt in my whole life was when I was living on my grandfather’s farm, doing the work of the earth, alone with my thoughts, building my inner strength (I just didn’t know it at the time), being at peace. You bet your ass I retreated to that–and I wanted my kids to know that too. Not that bullshit noise of trains and sirens, fearing the neighbors’ craziness (who will move in next??). Convenience is one thing, putting yourself in the middle of chaos is another.

        It’s a dream, yes–but the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life. Absolutely worth every blister, every weed, ever broken drain, every time a chicken gets picked off by a coyote. I have everything you listed–it’s taken me 8 years to accomplish. Don’t let anybody tell you it’s easy, don’t get discouraged—and NEVER, EVER let the “allure” of “what you’re missing” make you give it up unless you feel you just can’t live the country life anymore.

        I wake up to birds. The wind. The occasional raccoon or ‘possum up on the deck looking for tasty morsels or warmth. My dog runs the property without a leash–no crazy neighbors screaming at him for being a dog. My kids help in the garden–they’ve learned how to create good soil, have respect for the land itself, empathy for the animals (no hunting allowed thankyouverymuch) and best of all a sense of responsibility. Are they deliriously happy 24/7? Nope. Neither am I.

        But that’s real life. I feel safe, secure, and as happy as possible, without unnecessary drama. From anyone.

        You’ll get there, if this is what you want. You’ll make it happen, because you’ve been to hell and that’s not a very nice place to live, is it.

    • “That being said. You do seem to have abandonment issues, just as many of us here did and still do (because of cheater and because of FOO issues).”

      ^^^^Exactly that.
      I have abandonment issues too, as many here likely do. James’ particular issue sounds a lot like my sister. We have a narcissist father and borderline mother, abandoned continually by both in every possible way.

      My siblings and self all turned out with various forms of anxiety, boundary, abandonment and intimacy problems (and “broken pickers”, in different ways).

      My sister turned out waif-like with no boundaries and a penchant for choosing very abusive types of partners (dating for a few weeks, sleeping together, then the partner disappearing & sister being devastated, etc…); my brother (the youngest) turned out very cold/distant/lack of empathy and is showing more narc/PA qualities as time goes on; and I turned out with severe anxiety/agoraphobia/avoidance/hypervigilance problems.

      All of our issues -and we have three totally different personalities- I believe stems from the abandonment issues from childhood.

    • Living a simple life is far, far more authentic than the pointless trash that so many yuppies these days pride their lives on – and I say this as a 20-something year old woman – I live the simple life (as simple as you can – when you’re in suburbia surrounded by people who can’t think for themselves or have an intelligent opinion on world issues that are NOT about some random celebrity), and couldn’t give a toss for any of the ‘popular culture’ crap that’s rampant.
      ‘Facebook’ this? Who the hell cares – I don’t even have a Facebook or social media account in any form.
      Smartphone? I have a mobile phone for emergencies only – to call and text – and its not a smartphone.
      Being glued to the phone? Not for me – got better things to do than to be a phone-zombie, thanks!

  • James, you do raise some interesting themes, both in and out of the context of codependency, of the differences and similarities of “spark” and “healthy, nurturing, non-toxic relationships.” Can you have both? Or do the “sparking” relationships tend to eventually have toxic side effects? I don’t know the answer there, but I think regardless, the smart thing to do is to empower yourself – to be your own creative force in life, where you set your own direction, where you attract others into your life. So, instead of you always being the one who is attracted and trying to be included in someone else’s sphere, you are the one who is attractive, and you welcome others into your inclusive sphere. You are the leader. You decide you gets to join you. You are on your own creative journey, leading the way. When someone else likes you and your path, and they give to you and support you on your path, you graciously accepts their gifts, but you still get to set the rules if they want to stay included in your world. And if they respect your rules and boundaries, then a wonderful relationship can develop (whether platonic or romantic, doesn’t really matter).

    But the point is that I am really just writing this comment to myself. I know this is what I need to do. I need to learn to feel comfortable being a leader, manifesting my vision, being inclusive but still making boundaries and rules for my world. I need to learn to be attractive, where others want to join me and feel comfortable with that. I think part of this is being vulnerable, since you are saying “this is my world – take it or leave it” and if they choose to leave it, we risk rejection. But part of this empowerment is saying “fine, I respect you don’t want to be in my world, but I’m really don’t care. I’m too busy doing my thing.”

    I think us nice guys (and gals) feel uncomfortable being the One Who Attracts, the One Who Sets The Rules, the One With a Vision, etc.

    • Buddy, thank you for this excellent insight. Really well said. This is what I’m trying to do, six months post-D-day. Even though I’m not ready to date yet, I’m trying to be the leader in my life and attract good things.

    • Bingo Buddy. So well said, and the mind set I am getting to. Thank you for your empowering post. Exactly on point!

  • James, I think a good number of Chumps were attracted to the charming and exclusive-seeming energy that narcissists exude. You maybe feel somewhat inadequate and want to be part of something that seems more exciting than yourself. It is purely weak, disrespectful to yourself and as mental health professionals would say, “fucked up”. By the way, that had been my standard operating procedure.

    This indeed is where the average Chump has got to drop the (earned) victim role and take look in the mirror. We might have gotten cruelly played by our cheaters, but we willingly signed a weird relationship contract where we voluntarily supplied compliant adoration without demanding what we deserved.

    • Chumpion – this is absolutely brilliant – ‘We might have gotten cruelly played by our cheaters, but we willingly signed a weird relationship contract where we voluntarily supplied compliant adoration without demanding what we deserved.’

      Tells me I fucked up big time putting up with this for as long as I did. Yep – weird relationship looking back…always hindsight.
      I will never compromise for a life of my own ever again.

  • I had a borderline personality mother and as a child learned the lesson of constantly trying to please the most important person in my life. It damaged me as a partner because I clung on desperately trying to please my husband despite being treated like shit. However I’m glad to say that it did not damage my ability to be a good mother as I’ve raised children who do not grovel and kowtow to parents or partners because they know their own worth and are confident that my love will not be withdrawn. Personally I’d rather do without than have either a high drama relationship where I’m treated badly or a relationship where there is no spark.

    • “I had a borderline personality mother and as a child learned the lesson of constantly trying to please the most important person in my life. It damaged me as a partner because I clung on desperately trying to please my husband despite being treated like shit.”

      Sorry you experienced a BPD mother. It is almost worse than a narcissist, because BPD individuals do have bursts of intense empathy at times, which makes their abandonments or devaluations all the more painful, and being reared by them all the more confusing.

      • I had a bipolar mother, who adored my younger sister and cast me as the scapegoat, and a narcissist actor father. Love and abuse were tied together. I was perfectly “tuned up” for my narcissist, sociopathic spouse. With a crazily high tolerance for his subtle, escalating abuse. It took me 38 years, and a year apart after DDay with lots of therapy to wrap my head around it. Yowza.

  • James,
    I see many parallels with you & myself, about 8 years ago. I understand your mental struggle and you constant need for love & affection.

    I agree with CL that this habit likely forms from your childhood/past, mine sure did. I was an only child in a violent/chaotic/unstable household out in the middle of nowhere, with nowhere to run for safety or solace. The moment I was able to date, I did. But I knew nothing of what a healthy relationship looked like so from 15-19 I found myself in awful relationships (I’m not talking about your typical young high school crap…I’m talking boyfriends with substance abuse/violence and rage issues/controlling). I too was a complete mess….so I took myself to therapy and worked with that therapist for 2 years. But this was just the VERY BEGINNING of my transformation. She gave me the tools to better my life, cope with stress in a healthy manner, expect a certain level of respect, and so on but it was my job to put all that into action. I was in and out of relationships (some good, some bad) until I met my STBX at 24. Long story short; he’s a narcissistic sociopath, found that out 6 years later, but he was wonderful in the beginning (narkles, as CL mentioned) and we had the healthiest relationship I had ever known for years….but sadly it was only one sided (also referencing what CL said above).

    So I echo all CL has told you and add this; relationships are a complex dance of so many factors as it is, especially if you’re looking for long term commitment. Don’t make that any harder than it already is by adding in dependency issues, chaos, intensity and insecurity. Please do yourself and any one else you come into contact with the favor of getting yourself healthy. Do the hard work on you, spend time alone and learn to love it, learn how to make YOURSELF happy without any other person assisting and LOVE YOURSELF! You’re SO much more likely to find a great mate when you’re an equally great mate! Think about it…we attract what we are…if you’re not healthy you’ll attract not healthy people. That’s a toxic dynamic.

    I’m no professional at this, I’m still learning, as well. But I will tell you that for people like us do have a tough time staying with the “good guys” at first, I used to get disinterested when there weren’t fireworks and things were calm…but at the same time I hated being stuck in a relationship that was pure chaos. But I was more likely to stay with the latter because I needed the constant stimulation and the roller coaster ride kept me engaged. I don’t know your age but perhaps this will also work it’s way out as you mature. I’m 31 now and have a young child and understand and appreciate the nice guys that don’t bring shit storms into my life and just genuinely want to cherish my daughter and I.

    Hugs to you! I hope you find some peace!

  • James,
    EMDR is a therapy that can help us tap into the unconscious programming that drive certain behavior patterns that are most often caused by unresolved issues or traumatic experiences from our early childhood or at some point in our past experiences. Sometimes even the smallest past trauma or unresolved issues can create blind spots in our awareness that can cause us to act in ways that confuse us. If your logical mind knows better yet you find yourself compulsively driven to act contrary to what you know is in your best interest then there is often unresolved issues of some sort behind this. EMDR resolved old patterns for me that I would of never been able to even touch via talk or cognitive therapy. If you find yourself triggered to act in ways that are contrary to you own common sense and known best interest then looking into this type of therapy can be very helpful, effective and fast.

    • Martha, thank you for this info. I have been researching EMDR therapist in my area recently. I am glad it worked for you, your very descriptive words are strong encouragement for me to try it.

      I am OVERWHELMED with PTSD from my divorce (the circumstances of which I have never addressed in my comments here) and the cheater XBF. Two men in succession that I did everything for ripped my chest open and shit on my heart,

      I have been stuck in inertia for over 3 years self sabotaging my finances and future. I should have put my house on the market during this time but haven’t—pissing away an incredible amount of money on a outrageously high mortgage my XH left me with. Money that should have been for my ‘golden years’ and will not be recovered when I sell my home.

      You words “triggered to act in ways that are contrary to your own common sense and known best interest” describe what I have been doing to a “T”. I am being triggered to stick my head in the sand therefore not facing reality and doing the hard things that need to be done.

      I am nothing like the person I used to be. I am a multiple world champion equestrian and upon reflection, that doesn’t seem remotely possible. How could I have had such drive and dedication, spending tireless hours to achieve such accomplishments and now I can’t even get my shit together enough to get my ranch on the market? Everything seems impossible and an insurmountable amount of work. Winning a world championship used to seem impossible but I made it happen–twice. Very hard to reconcile with where I am currently in my life.

      I used to be a champ—now I’m a chump.

      • You can get yourself back. One step at a time. Start with what you and the one thing you know you need to do–sell your house. Or just re-finance! Go talk to a branch manager at your bank. If that one isn’t helpful, try someone else. You will fall off the horse now and again, but you know what to do about that. And if you are being triggered, sit still and look at that. What’s triggering you? What feelings do you have? We get stuck because the feeling state we are in seems permanent. It isn’t. I got my “Inner athlete” back, I got my body back, I got my ability to handle fast cars in bad weather back, I got my confidence in most things back–one minute at a time.

        I’m still stuck in some ways too–paying the utilities is an ordeal for me although I have the money, for now. But I forge on (to quote ForgeOn!) one step at a time. You can do it. You can. You are a world champion.

        • I would imagine selling your ranch would be a very tough pill to swallow as a champion equestrian. I am fighting hard to get and keep mine, even with a only couple of old quarter horses in the facility. It can feel like the end of a dream. Ive thought about renting it out short term and living in the guest house, and all kinds of options. My heart goes out to you, be strong. That champion still lives within you.

      • Oh wow, you are stuck because you do not want to sell – your heart and your head are at odds. Sit down and write down what you need to do and go one step at a time. I know it’s hard. And I too was helped enormously by EMDR therapy – and my ex almost shot me so I can attest it is helpful for PTSD.

  • Having a “spark” can mean a things. Flirty banter, shared sense of humor, a shared intellectual pursuit or interest. But I think too many people confuse drama and instability with having a spark or passion. Yeah, it’s exciting to have a guy who will challenge someone to a fight over you or stand outside your door in the rain, screaming your name after a fight, but those can also be signs of a seriously sick, abusive relationship.

    I agree that OP needs to examine her past/previous relationships to determine why she’s chasing someone who has done everything short of taking out a billboard ad to tell her “I DON’T WANT YOU.” And learn what she needs to do in terms of emotional homework to adjust her expectations.

  • Just wanted to add, from my experience and that of others I know, it takes TIME to build a non-sparkley/narkley relationship. Narcs know how to love-bomb us, make us feel special, and make the sex fantastic. It feels RIGHT, right away!

    And we like that great, special, zingy feeling, and new relationships can feel flat or lacking when it isn’t there. So we may not be addicted to drama, but still be looking for the zing!

    REAL people take time to get to know, to explore the interests and values you may have in common, and to build a good sex life through good communication. You shouldn’t settle, but you also shouldn’t drop someone right away if there isn’t that sparkle. Ask yourself instead; do I enjoy talking to this person? Are there activities we like doing together? Am I at least moderately attracted to them, sexually?

    I now consider that super-zingy feeling as a warning sign!

    • Wow, KarenE–this is EXACTLY what I needed to read right now. I am struggling with “I can already tell without even meeting him” that I won’t feel the zing with a man that has asked me out.

      Actually, right now I have three men who want to meet me but I am pre-emptively ‘eliminating’ each of them by making a comparisons of my XBF’s physical attributes. He was very handsome, tall, full hard of dark hair and very fit. None of these guys are that. I know I need to widen my horizons but am reluctant to do so. I feel like ‘why bother?’ I have been struggling with this for over 3 yrs and it’s not getting better.

      • Curb, my narc ex is also very handsome, tall, dark hair and green eyes, very fit (because I managed the kids’ mornings so he could get to the gym – made him slightly less crabby!). And the cherry on the sundae for me – baritone, with a French accent. Ooooooh that voice! And did I mention 9 years younger than me (I was 38 when I met him)?

        But I look at him now and wonder what the hell I saw in him. He’s an asshole, a selfish entitled jerk, bad husband, bad boyfriend (tried to cheat on Schmoopie with me, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he’d cheated on her w/others as well, since it was a long-distance relationship, and cheated on the girlfriend before me, too), bad friend even to the VERY few friends he’s ever had, bad son in many ways, terrible brother, AWFUL FATHER! A very negative person, unpleasant to be around, and takes no responsibility for anything. When I look at him now, and especially when I really listen to what he has to say, I find him disgusting, not attractive.

        So these days when I meet guys, I am looking for CHARACTER! Smart, funny, caring, interesting, fun. compassionate and respectful. At my age, hair is a bonus, and a six-pack would actually worry me. I’m not interested in people who really neglect themselves (smokers are out, sorry any smokers!. yeah, they need to have a decent hair cut, make some effort in how they dress for a date, be fit enough to be active, and take care of their teeth!), but my range of ‘attractive men’ is a lot wider! It’s actually not that hard to see beyond the looks.

  • Every time I think, I might have learned every thing I need to know about this subject (hubris) and I have been on a crash course for about 8 months now… reading everything I can get my hands on. CL writes an essay like this. About really looking at yourself and how you got yourself into this mess twice. I knew I had FOO issues but it is hard to develop the framework on how to conceptualize them. This essay helped.

    1) This crap is familiar to you. Explore your FOO issues (family of origin). When you don’t run from abuse, chances are you grew up around it.

    That is me to a tee. Mildly narc mom, savage stepdad and wildly narc bio dad.

    3.) Narkles feel great. When narcissists sparkle (aka “narkles”), you feel like you’re in a great shining beam of light. The Great One picked me! This fabulous confident person, who only sparkles for a Very Privileged Few! has deigned to choose ME! I’m so special! I’m WORTHY!

    Yup I am a Narc’s paradise… FOO issues? Smoke’m if you got’em. Time for me to get to work.

  • From experience…

    Initial “can’t keep our hands off each other” “feel like we’ve know each other our whole lives” fireworks always turn into house fires for me. Every.single.time.

    So, I decided to give a non-fireworks guy a chance several months ago. We got to know each other over about six weeks. No sex, just finding out who we were together. He’s not the physical type or the personality type I’ve been drawn to in the past, but boy is that a good thing.

    He is calm and steady and thoughtful, treats me very well and is understanding and supportive. Wow. This is a new experience and wonderful.

    So when we added sex to the mix, guess what. Fireworks…lol But a different kind of fireworks. It is amazing because we really feel connected in a deep way. I’ve never felt as connected to anyone before and the sex is mindblowing.

    So what I’ve learned is that sometimes the initial fireworks comes from dealing with personality disordered people like BPD and NPD people. They are chameleons and conform to what they think you want to “get you” and then once you are hooked they change – and never for the better.

    FOO issues are a huge thing. Get a therapist. Not kidding.

    In the future, for any type of relationship, my focus will be on do they treat me well, are they consistent, are they steady. Honesty and openness are my main focus for allowing people into my life. I also plan to build relationships more slowly. That is where you find out if someone is really interested.

    If you are with someone who lies or is guarded or stonewalls you, run. Sure, everyone has issues and relationships are sometimes difficult to navigate. However, the person you are with should be able to talk to you about things, even if the conversations are messy. If they won’t even have the conversations that need to be had, dump them and move on.

    Really, get a therapist and read some books on codependency and relationships. John Gottman’s work is great for figuring out relationship issues.

    Once I decided I would rather be alone than deal with relationship crap my decisions and my life got much easier.

  • Agreed that it is possible to look to our FOO for guidance when we don’t feel complete alone. or feel in the presence of the Narkly DemiGods we must tap dance like a demented grinder monkey to feel the sweet rain of coins and peanuts.

    I’ve shared this bit of tender mother love before- I was an unplanned pregnancy in the time before legal abortion. My mom liked to remind me of this. That I came along and ruined her perfect family and they could not afford me. My dad loved me, but that was a time when Dads worked and slept and mowed lawns and spanked my pathological thief of a brother, Whom mom adored.

    I tried to be that pretty weed in the sidewalk crack. strike the impossible balance of being both perfectly behaved and invisible. Straight A’s, scholarships, full time job in high school, bought my own clothes by the time I was 14, All I would dream of at night was rescue. Someone looking me in the eye. Someone seeing me as an intentional human being. I excelled in school mostly because I was bored being ignored all the time. I was not trying consciously to get my mom’s attention, just to stay off her radar.

    By my early 20’s my life was hitting on all cylinders, Doing great in uni. paying for all of it myself. Having work shown in galleries, getting recognition from the causes I was passionate about. It enraged my mom. She began to question “who the hell I thought I was.” and if I was “too good for this family.’

    Me, now. I should have kept running. I should have carved the little ditsance between us into a bridgeless canyon. Who do I think I am. I thought I was small. I thought I was a choking vine. I thought, I’d better take myself down a few notches. I’d better spend most of my time three chess steps ahead predicting the behavior and what would please someone who cannot be predicted or pleased.

    The only guarantee was rejection and pain. The first person who showed me the time of day, I married, dropped out of school.

    I’ve finished now, I’ve sorted much of this out. But what lingers and I am trying to eradicate is to, as Madea says in the clip a few have posted, “I’d rather be in a corner by myself with a puppy and a goldfish and be happy than be sitting around with somebody up in my house and I’m wondering what the hell they’re there for.”

    This doesn’t mean you live the rest of your life celibate and lonely. You want a fling? Have one! you want to flirt? Doooo EEET! But first, above all, like being you. Look in the mirror and see an intentional human being. Get so into the things you’re good at you forget compliments and remember the joy of process. Dance to dance, and don’t dance for eels. Catch your own eels. (

    You do you for a bit. And when you welcome a new dance partner, it’s going to be the kind of sparks that don’t die.

    • Luziana – I might need you to record those last three paragraphs so I can just hit “play” when I need a pep talk! So great.

    • Luziana

      I am returning some days after reading this because it struck me as so beautiful and apt.

      Our parents and upbringing are very similar. My father was never around, and when he was, he reminded us of what burdens all of us kids were. Our mother figures were chosen by him to be intentionally very weak, and thus I figured that I would try to minimize my needs and wants as much as possible because that would help the family.

      I also have done very well in life – something which my idiot father whom I do not speak takes credit.

      We are beautiful inside because as sidewalk flowers we are supposed to be crushed underfoot, but we persevere, and are resilient and succeed despite all of the sabotage. You are a great writer and I believe you make good art – and they truly hate this creation of artistic beauty because they know they can never repeat it.

      They are eager to put us back in our places, and they take over our lives to do so. If we feel and describe ourselves as sidewalk flowers, then we see ourselves as beautiful and full of potential and we think that we find someone who sees that and appreciates the uniqueness which is why we often marry these narcissist/sociopaths.

      When a few of my friends turned out to be disordered – I removed them from my life, same as my wife and prior serious girlfriend. It is different with family because we love them and we do not think that a parent that is supposed to put their kids first are entirely selfish and therefore evil, because one cannot be good and be a selfish parent.

      So family strings us along a little longer than most, but eventually we catch on and let them go like these things that try and take over our lives.

    • If you do a ‘pick me dance’ for an unfaithful partner, you are telling them (and yourself) that you accept that you don’t deserve to be respected and cared for, that you must always work harder and be ‘more’, to keep their wonderfulness. You’re putting yourself in a position of low power next to someone with high power (they get to decide whether your pick-me dance is good enough). In a healthy relationship, you share power, nobody is less deserving of respect or care, nobody is in the ‘one down’ position, with the other ‘one up’.
      The ‘not fully committed’ part I’m not sure what you’re referring to. Walking away from a sick relationship is the healthy thing to do! If your partner walked away when you were treating them well, or without attempting to make the relationship a happy one, they weren’t fully committed to you or the relationship. Is that it?

    • Iceman, it’s a moot point to ask if someone who has been betrayed is “fully committed.” The cheater has broken the vows, broken the trust, broken the partner’s heart, broken the relationship. The “not fully committed” comment should be applied to the cheater, not the partner who was abused and betrayed. And before any discussion about the wronged partner recommitting ensues, the cheater needs to own the betrayal and commit to making amends, as indicated in Dr.Simon’s work on remorse. And of course, we are not talking about Genuine Imitation Naugahyde Remorse (I hope I got that right) where the cheater strives to re-established the status quo, including the cheating.

      Chumps either do the “pick-me dance” or they stand up and say that cheating and abuse won’t be tolerated and until there is evidence that the APs are all gone and the cheater has done the work, Chumps should go about the business of building their mighty lives, even if the Cheater is still temporarily in residence. Once the cheater breaks the commitment, it’s not up to the Chump to fix what the Cheater broke.

      • LAJ, I have read your responses for a long time–as a lurker and now as a contributor—and I am finally going to tell you what I think of you.

        Good Lord, woman. You have the most wonderful mind–I cannot think of an attribute that I appreciate more in a person than their ability to think critically. You are so damn articulate and cut straight to the heart of the matter–pulling people back from extraneous nonsense trajectories time and again. That is an amazing gift!! Thank you for sharing your insight with all of us, LAJ, I am not sure I could have gotten as far as I have without CL since 2012—her humor and the occasional 2×4 upside the head–but your comments and advice are consistently spot on and well taken.

        This response to Iceman is typical of your ability to see to the core problem and gently, but firmly lead someone to see it.

        I see Schorn/LovedAJackass 2016.

        • Thank you for the lovely compliment. I’m a teacher and I guess it shows sometimes. 🙂 (Though I try not to pull out the “teacher voice”–“PUT THAT CELL PHONE DOWN!!” And let me say I’ve read every word of every post on this blog as if I were preparing for Ph.D. comps. It has helped me tremendously.

  • I love this site. “You’re probably used to making your needs small ..” Yep. I was born almost 2 years to the day before my severely disabled sister. I had pretty great parents, but when she was born, our entire family’s mission became her survival. And I was 2. My older sister both raised me and resented me, because she had to take on a mommy role at the age of 5. Her astute observation (she’s been in a terrible marraige for over 25 years) was “my childhood ended the day xxxxxx was born.”

    Our needs were small indeed. Our parents didn’t intentionally do that, but it was our reality. Then mom had a baby brother – the only boy – and it compounded. We had the incredible gift of wonderful, albeit out-of-town, grandparents, and my happiest childhood memories are of the time I spent with them. There, I was real. My grandma told me I was beautiful and precious. My grandpa just sat with me on the porch swing and listened. It was heaven. I’ve taken that “love language” survey, and my languages are quality time and physical touch. My parents were NOT affectionate – they’re old school German…lol – and there was no time for my older sister and me. So we did everything good we could do to try to garner a bit of attention – the straight A’s, music, activities – I even tried getting into trouble a bit – but little sis was still sick; still dying. So I gave up and become invisible.

    I moved away, and stayed invisible. I’d gained weight in college, and learned the crushing truth that even though I was a better person than I’d ever been, getting noticed as a heavy girl was difficult. So when my super narcky/sparkly exH NOTICED ME! and told me I was beautiful and wonderful and he wanted to marry the 29 year old desparate-to-be-married-and-have-kids-fat-girl…it was over. Except he didn’t really give a shit. And our whole 10 year marraige was about him, his needs, his pain – and I got to play out the familiar, “I’m invisible” part. So very predictable and pathetic.

    He’s been gone almost 7 years now. I cried every day the first 2 years, and then things settled down a bit. I’ve been working at making sure my two little ones know, every single day, that I see them. I wanted them; I want to hear their stories and hold them close. They are doing well, and now I’ve been focusing a little more on me. Trying to remember who I could have been, if it had mattered. Trying to remember who that little girl was that my grandparents thought was so very special. I’ve started working with a personal trainer, and even though I’m almost 50, I’ve lost 25 pounds of body fat in six months. I’m almost starting to believe I can do this…but that’s still the struggle for me. Believing that good is possible for ME. That I”m not some sort of intrinsically flawed person who doesn’t deserve the good things; that it’s not too late for me. There are still bad days, but please believe that you can find peace. That the people who don’t see you don’t define you. That God sees you, loves you, and finds you precious. That’s going to be enough for me.

    • That’s a powerful story, Redefining. Thank you for sharing. I understand what you mean about making your needs small and not being seen. I also have a sibling who took the majority of our parents attention when we were young, leaving me mostly to fend for myself and struggle to be “seen” by my parents. And just as with your experience, my FOO issues left me vulnerable to the first guy who acted like he saw me — what a lie that turned out to be.

      It’s been five years since my marriage ended, and I feel a lot like you do — still struggling to feel like I matter, that I am lovable, that I deserve more than crumbs of attention. It’s gotten better, but it’s still hard.

      You rock, Redefining, and your strength and courage shine through your words. Keep on keepin’ on.

      • Glad – you are such an inspiration to me. I sometimes feel like I should be further down this road, but real work takes time. Hugs to you – and thank you all. RDM

  • James, I think your struggle is part of overcoming “chumpdom” or “chump hood”–whatever you want to call it.

    We are fond here of talking about how many narcissistic cheaters love the exciting sparkly part of “falling in love.” They are hooked on the first stage of relationship, the attraction phase, but they hype it up in a couple of ways.

    First, they move quickly from meeting you, skip the “get to know ya” part and move straight love bombing and possible sex. They want to move in with you in a month, talk about marriage in 90 days, etc. Some of them may get bored after the sex begins or may be playing more than one person at a time. But in any case, things move fast. That’s an immediate red flag of trouble ahead. (Yes, there are stories of people falling in love at first sight and staying together a life time, but the probability is much greater that you are involved with a narcissist or other disordered person.

    Second, there is that “overvaluation.” You are the greatest! You are the love of the person’s life! All in the first two weeks!

    Third, you are in such a heightened emotional state that you are barely functional. This euphoria is unsustainable and requires a lot of willful blindness to the real person with whom you are relating (i.e., speckling things like criminal history or job issues or a trail or romantic debris or alcohol abuses….etc.).

    That’s infatuation.That’s limerence. That is not love. Now your problem is that this unhealthy state (for many or all of the reasons discussed ably above) is how you define “love.”

    Of course it’s OK to date the nice guy. Have fun. See where it goes. Tell him you’ve come out of a bad experience and need to get to know yourself as you go. While you are at it, work on getting past being hooked on the chemicals produced by instant love. Don’t have sex right away with anyone; I don’t know how it works for men, but for women, intercourse produces powerful attachment chemicals in the body. So when women have sex right off the bat, their bodies are saying “Attach! attach!” when the partner might be all wrong. So slow down. Get to know yourself as a single person and you’ll be less vulnerable to disordered types who want to get you into a hurry-up romance. And for what it’s worth, I’m taking my own advice. As Taylor Swift said after the Grammys, I go home to my cats. And if I find someone I want to date, I am going to take it very slow.

  • Thanks James for sharing your story and thanks to CL and CN for all of the advice on picker fixing. Over the past couple of months I have thought a lot about how I ended up with a narc cheater and yeah – some of it was because he sparkled and love bombed – but now I realize that part of the problem was me. After the sparkles wore off I was OK with being devalued. In fact, that is probably what hooked me on him. I didn’t really feel that I deserved better and how he acted felt normal, maybe even exciting. I was good at spackling – I grew up with an alcoholic father. I distinctly remember breaking up with previous boyfriends because they were “too nice.” Wow, I wish I could go back and tell the 23-year old me what I know now.

    • Lizzy, I can relate completely. The only difference with my life is that both parents were very violent alcoholics and mum was schizophrenic and she hated me. My ex husband appeared to be so opposite to my dad that I assumed I would have a wonderful life. That is where it all came undone for me. I was like a lamb to the slaughter, however, I am still standing and I have learned so much from CL and CN. I understand why I made the choices I did which will never be repeated. So at the grand old age of 63, you are never too old to learn. 🙂

      • Maree, our wisdom is sometimes hard-won and long in coming, but it’s still wisdom!
        I’ve been joking around lately that, at almost 56 years old, I figure I’m almost ready to start living. Who knows, maybe there is reincarnation, and I can bring some of the things I’ve finally learned into a new life!

      • Hey Maree; I am also the child of two alcoholic parents and a mother who hated me on top of it….and I was trying to be perfect for her, but it never worked out. After she died, my brother and I were going through her wallet & found a list of things she was holding against me from my childhood 50 years later! I gotta say, I thought I was over it, but that hurt. One of the things was they (my Mom & Dad) sat my brother & I down to tell us they were thinking about getting a divorce and what do we think. I was 11, and I said “well maybe we should try it because this isn’t working out.” They ended up divorced and she blamed me for saying that when I was a child! Also, my brother was the golden boy and could do no wrong in her eyes.
        All in all I turned out pretty well, I sure have a conscience. But you know, I don’t think I know what normal is. Oh well, better luck next time around. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I have hopefully bumped some shit off my list of karmic repercussions!
        Maree I am so sorry you had to endure this too!! Talk about nowhere to turn! No one in my Mom’s family wanted to deal with it, so they acted like the problem didn’t exist. Very strange.
        I realized I was very alone very early in life, and I believe why I was so devastated by cheating. How better to convey you mean absolutely nothing to me??.

    • “After the sparkles wore off I was OK with being devalued. In fact, that is probably what hooked me on him.”

      And being a determined stubborn kind of person, I went full on to do what ever it was that I needed to do to get the narkles back… It was incomprehansible to me that the narkles could have gone, ‘poof’. There was not some awful trauma, just they daily grind of life. So I danced on for years and years… every now and again he woudl give me just a little taste to keep me dancing. Having wonderful kids, yup, greateat cook, working full time, successful career, nada, nada mattered.

      Eventually, I learned that I was all alone in this marriage. Eventually my mantra became, ‘That’s ok ring, single mother’s do this all the time.’ And then one day I had had enough… he had had an affair early on in our marriage, so I feel like I have the credentials to be here. (I did the flaminco after that for 30 years.) That wasn’t what did it. It was getting unknowing support from friends and co workers who valued me. Then one day when he had ruined yet another family event, I was done, stick a fork in me done. Even then, I told him things in our marraige had to change. Our house was my tomb and I wanted him to get a hobby and make just one friend, just one because I wanted to be able to talk to him about something, anything. You would have thought that I had suggested the boiling in oil form of therapy. The shit hit the fan, even more rages, even more sullen sulky silence and coupled with a marriage cousellor who didn’t think the rages were such an issue just wanted to desensitize me to them. (I kid you not) we separated and I have never looked back. Still working in my issues… trying to heal my kids, but learning how to be happy with me.

      You know what has change the most my fear… that inchoate fear and anxiety that comes from constantly being devalued, from always being blindsided with rages, anything happened or I stood up for myself his pat answer was, “this marriage isn’t working, I am outtahere.’ He always knew that was a show stopper for me. I backed down.

      • LOL and when he left, he only took a 9 month lease, thinking that I would be begging him to come back. Ha Ha.. joke is on you.

      • Eh, ring, it doesn’t matter how far back the DDay goes. It just took you a while to figure out that YOU could say “this marriage isn’t working.” My best friend was married to a cheater who would announce he was leaving the family and then sit down on the couch and stay there.

  • I know you are a guy but I think if you read “Women Who Love Too Much” by Robin Norwood, you will at least get something out of it. It really changed my life (that is, reading it started me on many changes, all of which–unfortunately–take HARD WORK to change our “hard wiring.” But her book pointed me in the right direction and led to many changes in my life. I recommend that book highly.

    • Lulutoo,I saw myself as I read each chapter. It opened my eyes to see the how I was similar to my selfless mother I had to protect from my verbally abusive narcissistic father. Another great book is The Verbally Abussive Relationship. I was strong and independent when I met my Narc. He oozed ‘good guy’ to the point that when he slept with his whore in my bed my mom said,”but he’s a good guy”. I made up my mind that I would educate myself so I would never have to tolerate abuse ever again. He downgraded as my mother died in my arms. I am determined to overcome what I accepted as ‘normal’ and live a life Narc free. The gift my mother gave me was the strength and determination to recognize how these narcs will consume our souls if we stay too long.

  • James, I haven’t read all the posts yet but I’ll throw in my two cents.

    Growing up, my family was pretty dysfunctional — okay, lots dysfunctional. As adults, we have a tendency to stay in dysfunctional relationships for a number of reasons. 1) trying to “win” this one, trying to get it to work out this time. It’s a longing to right the wrongs we couldn’t fix as children. It’s as if we can somehow make up for all that “losing” in the past. 2) we spend our entire childhood trying to make the best out of a bad situation (because as a kid, you don’t have a choice). Screwed up people are nothing new, so we tolerate a lot of crap. 3) you are emotionally unavailable. It could be the result of FOO issues, or a temporary inability to connect because of the experience with a complete jackass. Only you can find the answer to that.

    While you may be addicted (unwillingly) to drama, I don’t think you enjoy being emotionally abused. There are reasons people tolerate it, but it isn’t what people choose.

    You need some time (alone!) to figure out what your issues are….life gets pretty simple after that.

  • It’s always been my theory that jerks who are players get cut a ton of slack that most people don’t. The attraction to “bad boys” is the most obvious manifestation of this. But I’ve noticed it over the years in a lot of more mundane ways. There were a couple of guys I knew that would be out all day Saturday doing whatever while their wives were putting a dinner or party together. They would show up late, after everyone else was there, and then act like returning heroes when they grabbed a beer and threw the burgers on the grill. The wives would shake their heads, laugh, and then say, “I told you he’d get here!” It wasn’t unusual for these guys to do it, it was just part of their program.

    Not quite sure what the woman counterpoint here is. I know a couple who are bad drinkers – a few wines and they can turn really nasty. And they typically don’t get called on it – it’s sort of shrugged off as just their “persona”.

    As best I can tell, if you behave badly and are kind of cunning in picking your spots, when you decide to be decent and responsible, people are so thrilled not to be dealing with your BS, folks notice and you can seem like a good guy.

    James, I wish you the best. But I think this drama, game playing, and manipulation, carried to their extremes, are part of the lethal cheater cocktail. The guys who did this were cheaters, as it turned out in the long run. Only thing I can say is be who you are and try not to get sucked into the vortex and competing with them or outdoing them in trying to wrest control. Someone ends up hurt, and anyone who hangs out here knows it’s not a hurt like a hangnail.

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