The Codependent’s Constant Urge to Apologize

While I was in a relationship with the narcissist, my ability to assess my behavior rationally was greatly impaired. Looking in retrospect at some of the things I did while being with him, I can often only shake my head in complete disbelief and horror. However, while I was still being with him, I didn’t waste many thoughts on my complete defenselessness and blind deference. I did whatever it seemed to take to keep the relationship going, and it never really occurred to me that I was completely debasing myself and allowing him to overstep almost every boundary of decent behavior. It was like being on a drug. I was addicted to him, to getting his attention and his little breadcrumps of affection. Nothing else seemed to matter to me anymore. My entire being revolved around him, almost every single one of my thoughts was dedicated to him, and whenever I sensed his distance and detachment I felt as if I was dying inside. This addiction, of course, impaired my ability to think rationally and to question my behavior. I was so fixated on him and his inconsistent and ambigous way of treating me that there was no more energy and brain capacity left to question my motives, my desires and my deep unhappiness.

One of the consequences of my love addiction and my desire to keep things going was a highly developed tendency to apologize for almost everything I did. Even when there was no reason at all for me to actually be sorry, I apologized over and over again. It seemed to be the most natural thing for me to do when things didn’t go well and a conflict was on its way of developing. As a result, I went through my days, constantly feeling sorry and submissively accepting the blame for everything. I basically apologized for wanting the most basic and common things – such as for example being treated with the bare minimum of respect and consideration. I felt like I was asking for too much, when in fact I often only asked for what should have been an essential part of every human interaction. Of course this had a very negative effect on my self-esteem. If you are constantly feeling sorry, and are convinced of your own guilt, even though you didn’t really do anything wrong, it can make you slowly lose your mind. You have subconsciously accepted the fact that the relationship can only keep going if you take responsibility for everything that is going wrong; because sure as hell the narcissist won’t accept any blame or feel sorry for the ambiguous and inconsiderate way in which he is treating you.

I could list numerous instances in my relationship with the narcissist when I was feeling sorry and accepted the blame, even though I was the one being mistreated and neglected. He often promised he would call me later and then didn’t follow through with it. He once promised me – while he was gone for the weekend to visit his sister – that we would Skype the following day. Of course I didn’t hear from him all day and he didn’t even apologize for not keeping his promise. As it was not the first time he didn’t match his words with actions, I sent him an email in which I (calmly!) complained about feeling pushed aside. I told him he could at least have informed me about not being able to talk to me on Skype. I got a very defensive email in which I was accused of overreacting and of causing him stress. And what did I do? I completely accepted the blame and apologized, even though my accusations were completely valid. Of course he would go on not following through with his promises until the end of the relationship. I allowed him to push me aside and keep his distance, and he learned that he could treat me with inconsideration and get away with it.

He kept our relationship a secret from his exgirlfriend for a very long time to keep her from freaking out (as he told me). Of course, I was not satisfied with being kept a secret and I told him it would be the better solution for everyone if he would just be honest. When he finally told her, she apparently completely lost her mind and threatened to throw him out of her apartment. I felt extremely sorry for what happened and apologized to him. There was no reason at all for me to feel sorry, as the conflict was completely theirs to solve and I didn’t have to carry any blame for what was going on between them. Still I accepted the blame for the trouble he was in and felt very bad about myself for seemingly bringing him into that situation.

I once dared to send him an email in which I gave voice to my deep dissatisfaction. I told him I could no longer bear to be treated with ambiguity and that I had the nagging feeling he was not being honest with me. I got an angry and defensive reply in which he told me that my email had not been appreciated and that it was unfair and evil of me to accuse him of dishonesty. He also told me I should leave his exgirlfriend alone and not try to cause her stress by contacting her. I never once tried to contact her. I wanted to completely avoid her, while she was the one harrassing me with calls and text messages (which I mostly ignored). I felt completely helpless, angry, misunderstood, hurt and confused, but I somehow managed to swallow all of those feelings. Instead of telling him to go to hell (what I should have done!), I apologized submissively and nearly begged for his forgiveness. I assured him I was ashamed of my behavior and that he was right. As had been the case before, all of my accusations were valid. After the ambiguous and inconsistent treatment I had received from him on a daily basis, it was only natural for me to give voice to my frustration and sadness. He was, however, unwilling to accept any blame and in my desire to keep things going I apologized and accepted the blame for everything. I was completely losing touch with myself, debasing myself, and stoically accepting his neglect and disrespect, because it was the only way to not lose him. I soon began to realize that he would likely never take responsibility for his faults and that I just had to forget about them, if I wanted the relationship to continue.

I found myself constantly apologizing and feeling sorry for things I shouldn’t have felt sorry for. Sometimes I felt genuinely sorry, at other times being sorry was just a way for me to avoid conflict and to keep him from getting angry. On some level, I sensed that I submissively felt apologetic for just giving voice to completely valid feelings and desires. Whenever I had mustered enough strength to finally stand up for myself, I immediately felt sorry afterwards. Being faced with an angry and defensive reaction, i caved in and turned back to being silent and submissive. A huge heap of dissatisfaction and frustration was building up inside me, because I sensed that I was not the one to blame and that I was debasing myself by being sorry for things I shouldn’t be sorry for,

My codependency and love addiction, as well as his unjustified anger and unwillingness to accept blame, always made me feel apologetic. Being sorry was my way to solve conflicts as fast as possible, because I knew he would be unwilling to solve them. I learned to accept that he would never be prepared to change his behavior due to my frustration and anger. His only answer to every single one of my complaints was getting defensive and providing me with lame excuses. He would often respond by saying things like “What do you want from me?” or “What am I supposed to do about it?”. He was always the blameless victim and I went along with it, thinking that it was wrong of me to bother him with my anxtities and needs. I basically learned to accept that I was not allowed to have any hopes or expectations. Whenever I allowed myself to give voice to them he got distant and defensive and I apologized for daring to stand up for myself.

Being in a codependent relationship with a narcissist can therefore be enormously damaging to your emotional well-being. In order to keep the relationship going and avoid conflict, we often too readily apologize and accept blame for asserting our most basic needs. After having been with the narcissist for a certain amount of time we learn to live with the fact that he will never take responsibility for his shady behavior and ambiguous way of treating us, and that he will never be the one to solve a problem by accepting the blame and changing his ways. The only solution left to us is keeping quiet, swallowing our anger and frustration and accepting the blame for what is going wrong ourselves. In the end, our sense of self worth is completely shattered, because we are constantly being submissive and feeling sorry, even though we did nothing wrong.

Narcissists are extremely talented when it comes to shifting blame to others. After a certain amount of time we are deeply conflicted and confused. We sense that we are not treated rightly and that there is really no reason to constantly be sorry, but still we readily accept blame to hold on to an unhealthy relationship. Our submissiveness is not only damaging our sense of self worth but also allows the narcissist to go on treating us with neglect – because he knows he can get away with it and even get us to apologize for everything that is going wrong. Being with a narcissist is therefore emotionally crippling. They are not empowering us, but they are keeping us down and allow us to debase ourselves for them.

For me, the tendency to accept blame was particularly developed, because I have always been a so-called people pleaser. I can’t bear it when people are being angry with me. I can’t stand my ground in a conflict and I often end up apologizing to appease others. This character trait obviously makes me the perfect bait for narcissists: They can disrespect me all they want and for as long as they like. I will probably not find the strength and courage to stand up for myself. Additionally, my self-esteem has always been rather low, and therefore I am more likely to believe and accept that I am actually the one who is wrong, and that the narcissist is right in shifting all the blame to me. Being with the narcissist was an eye-opening experience for me. I have finally managed to discern those behavioral patterns in me and can begin to work on them. I no longer want to submissively accept blame for asserting my basic needs just to keep a shitty relationship going. It’s one of the most emotionally crippling experiences ever to be treated with disrespect and still be convinced that you are the one to blame. I don’t want to feel that way ever again.

10 thoughts on “The Codependent’s Constant Urge to Apologize

  1. As usual, good and informative post – narcissists cripples us emotionally and blame us for everything, and when we’re far enough in the relationship we do accept the blame, even though deep down we know we have done nothing wrong. Hence why narcissists are soul destroying and why it takes so long to recover from a relationship with one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally agree. It is emotionally damaging to always accept the blame. You really begin to lose touch with yourself. After the relationship ended I was completely shattered. And once I began to realize how submissive I had been within the relationship, I doubted my own sanity. Thank you for your comment! It’s always encouraging to see that others can relate.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Being with a narcissist is ravaging. I just posted something I wrote a year ago: it’s about finally coming back to life months after the relationship with the narcissist ended – it might be of interest to you :)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I think all of your posts are about me. LOL j/k Yes that is me. I was constantly apologizing saying sorry, feeling awful. I have a temporary break now from my husband, but then my anxiety levels just skyrocket whenever he strikes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can totally relate. It’s so hard to disentangle yourself from a narcissist. Sometimes I got so angry at him that I refused to apologize. But after only a short time I got so anxious about losing him that I gave in and apologized…sometimes I didn’t even know what I was apologizing for. It is frustrating as hell.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hugsy, you have no idea. I have experienced most of the things like you have. It is completely dumbfounded to be in such a relationship, where voicing your turmoil or just saying your point can lead to conflicts. I really cried after reading this. All the memories of my relationship, came back to me. For all the reasons I got hurt, I got upset. I really cried after reading this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very true. This is exactly what a narcissist does and yes, we are “narcissist bait.” Good description. We will always have to be vigilant about not becoming so again.

    As always, a very honest and compelling piece. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! You are right: Now that I’ve finally understood how much I degraded myself for someone who didn’t value me, I intend never to allow something like this to happen ever again. Unfortunately it takes a lot of pain to finally wake up and notice what you have been doing to yourself all along.


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