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.

Narcissistic Behavior 13: Monopolizes Conversations

Narcissists not only tend to make all the decisions in their relationships to others, but they also monopolize every conversation and turn you into a silent listener. They never seem to get tired to talk about their achievements, their problems, their life story, their jobs, and they don’t really seem to be that interested in anything we might have to contribute to the conversation. While we might, at the beginning, still try to participate actively in our conversations with the narcissists, we soon begin to abandon the attempts and accept our roles as silent listeners, nodding along smiling to whatever they have to say. The narcissists’ tendency to be the dominant part in every conversation might seem like a harmless little quirk – especially when compared to such harmful modes of behavior as their deceitfulness, inconsistency, triangulation and manipulation. However, after a certain amount of time, being degraded to silent listener can also take its toll on us. We get used to swallow our own contributions and begin to feel that we have nothing important to say. We might even end up feeling neglected and losing touch with ourselves as a consequence of not being taken seriously.

Some might argue that we are partly to blame if we allow others to be so dominant, because we apparently just don’t try hard enough to bring ourselves into the conversations. This might partly be true for some of us. Especially codependent people and people pleasers accept their role as passive listeners without much resistance. We usually have low self-esteem and as a consequence tend to believe that what we have to say is not as important, interesting or relevant. Furthermore, out of a deep wish of being polite and of pleasing the narcissists, we don’t dare to interrupt their never-ending flow to bring in our own thoughts. We are convinced that whatever they have to say is much more interesting than anything we could contribute to the conversation. We also soon come to the conclusion that it makes the narcissists really happy to talk about themselves and to have found such patient listeners in us. Because we want the narcissists to be satisfied, we stoically accept the role given to us and maybe cling to the faint hope that one day they will run out of topics and then our turn will come. As is the case with so many hopes we nourish with regard to the narcissists, we at one point have to let go of them. I have come to realize that narcissists never run out of topics and never get tired of talking about themselves. Our turn will likely never come.

The narcissist I dated monopolized almost every conversation we ever had (apart maybe from the ones on our first date). It would be unfair to suggest that all he ever talked about was himself, as he could indeed also talk very enthusiastically about a bunch of other topics. However, he clearly enjoyed presenting his life story over and over again. During the few months the two of us dated, I learned a lot about his unhappy childhood, his job, his college years, his existence as a lone wolf, his achievements, his talents, his relations to his exgirlfriend, sister, parents etc.

At the beginning I was thrilled by it. I was an ardent listener, convinced that everything he had to say was interesting, important and special. I could listen to him for hours and never get bored. I was used to being the dominant part in my conversations and interactions with others and it somehow felt nice to be the listener for once. Listening to his extraordinary stories, I got the feeling that whatever I would have to contribute to the conversation would seem boring, trivial and uninteresting in comparison. As a result, I often kept my mouth shut and contented myself with being the passive listener. However, after a few months I began feeling frustrated as a result of my conviction that I had nothing interesting to say and that I was passive and boring. I also was frustrated because I sensed that the narcissist was not really interested in anything I had to say, and that I would likely never become an active participant in our conversations. Because I got so used to swallow my own thoughts and views, I began to lose touch with myself. I was so obsessed with keeping the narcissist satisfied that I completely pushed aside my own wishes. At times, I felt as if I had completely lost my voice. Being degraded to the role of passive listener can after some time have you doubt your own value.

There was one instance where I seriously began to doubt my role within my relationship to the narcissists. We met at a café in the afternoon for a few hours and I didn’t get to speak more than a few isolated words during all that time. He talked for hours without pausing for more than a few seconds, and I don’t think he even asked me one single question. It was an eye-opening experience. On earlier occasions I had always accepted my role as passive listener without questioning it or feeling neglected. Now, for the first time, I began to realize that I was allowing him to silence me and that almost all I ever did was nodding along smiling to whatever he had to say. Of course, this realization also made me question the genuineness of his interest and affections for me. It’s not that I never tried to bring myself into the conversation. However, I soon began to be convinced that whatever I had to say was not nearly as interesting as the stories he told me. I therefore lost the courage to open my mouth and began to feel frustrated about being silent and uninteresting. He didn’t really seem to mind.

At times he would encourage me to talk more and assure me that he felt really bad about monopolizing our conversations. He said that I had lots of interesting and intelligent things to say and he would therefore want me to contribute more to our conversations. However, I began to realize that this interest in anything I might have to say was rather short-lived and superficial and that he would take over the dominant part again after only a short time. He was not only dominant when it came to our conversations, but also in every single part of our interaction. When he was at my place, he took my computer to show me youtube videos – often a seemingly endless stream of them. He seldomly asked whether I was even interested in seeing them or whether I had something I would want to show to him. After a certain amount of time, I often got tired of watching those videos. However, out of my desire of keeping him satisfied, I never protested and instead watched whatever he had to show to me.

The same behavioral pattern could also be discerned in our email correspondence. He almost never answered any of the questions I had asked him, but instead rambled on about completely different topics. Whenever I dared to complain about feeling low, he never addressed the issue but instead diverted the topic back to himself, complaining about how low he felt. He then often went on for pages about the reasons for his sadness, and about the many problems and crises he had to deal with at the moment. He would give me detailed written accounts of his daily routines, even telling me the most trivial things – such as for example that he went to the dentist (of course with a detailed description of what the dentist thought about his teeth). Of course he would sometimes ask how I was doing and assure me that he wanted to know what I was up to. However, when I told him he never would show any real interest in it and often even completely ignore it. When I, for example, told him that I had finally found a topic for my Master’s Thesis, it took days for him to even ask me what my topic was. I began to feel really frustrated about his apparent lack of interest in anything I did or had to say.

Whenever he talked about himself, he tended to do so in very favorable terms. He said, for example, that he could sing pretty well, that he knew he was a good teacher, that his students adored him, that certain women had crushes on him, that lots of people depend on him (his sister, his exgirlfriend) and that he was very good at motivating others to make the best out of their lives. In the beginning, I was impressed. However, it didn’t take long for me to become tired and skeptical about this kind of talk. He also seemed to be in constant need of positive affirmation. He wanted me to comment on his clothes or his art. He liked to make collages and would show many of them to me, almost forcing me to comment on them. I loved to look at his art. However, I soon also began to understand that he, first and foremost, showed it to me out of a deep need for positive affirmation – and that was also what he expected to get from me.

I could ramble on for pages, but I think you all got the gist: Being with a narcissist can be a frustrating and self-alienating experience. Everything always seems to be about them: They are the dominant agent in almost every aspect of our relationship with them, making all the decisions, dicating the terms, and monopolizing conversations. We begin to accept our part as silent and passive listeners and in the process we lose touch with ourselves. We want to keep them satisfied and as a result swallow our own thoughts, wishes and needs. We end up feeling frustrated due to our passivity and develop the belief that we simply have nothing interesting and intelligent to say, and that no one is really interested in whatever we would have to contribute. The narcissists might fake interest at times, but we soon begin to realize that it is short-lived and superficial, and that all they are looking for is someone who is willing to listen to whatever they have to say. We smile and nod along for months, and our self-esteem and emotional well-being shrinks. If someone just loves to talk a lot (and especially about himself) we should interpret this behavior as a clear red flag and be very alarmed. Having to fight for attention is not healthy and doesn’t do our self-esteem any good. In a healthy relationship, our partner is genuinely interested in what we might have to say and will offer us enough opportunities to bring ourselves into the conversation. We should never allow someone to silence us. We also have interesting things to say and no one should have the power to make us believe otherwise.

Narcissistic Behavior 12: Dictates the Terms of the Relationship

When you are in a relationship with a narcissist there is always this nagging feeling of complete powerlessness, of losing touch with yourself and of having no say at all in what is going on. The reason for all of these feelings can be found in the fact that the narcissists tend to dictate the terms of the relationship, and you silently agree with those terms – often without even being aware that you are the one being chased around, suppressing your own wishes and desires in the process. After a certain amount of time you start feeling tired and dissatisfied without really knowing the source for those feelings, because you do not allow yourself to reflect too deeply on your relationship to the narcissist. You want things to work out so badly that you content yourself with the little breadcrumps they are throwing you and you follow their terms and conditions obediently. This obedience forces you to suppress your own needs and leads to a feeling of loneliness and helplessness. You think that by following their lead you are keeping them satisfied and that soon things will change for the better, that one day your wishes and desires will also matter. As I have already pointed out countless times, those wishes are often in vain, and the increasing awareness of this fact will only increase your helplessness and despair.

Narcissists are particularly prone to have things their way. They want to be the one in power in their interactions with others. They make the decisions within a relationship and withdraw their attention and affection whenever they feel like it. As soon as they feel that you are getting too close, they manage to create a certain amount of distance to stay in power. You have no say at all, but are ordered around and start feeling completely empty and powerless. However, it often never really occurs to you that you are played like a puppet on the string and that you are following the narcissist’s terms and conditions. With their assuring, affectionate and soothing words, they manage to make you feel as if your feelings, wishes and desires greatly mattered to them. You therefore believe that you have an equal say in the relationship and that your wishes would be taken seriously by the narcissists would you ever dare to give a voice to them. After a certain amount of time you may begin to become fully aware of your powerless situation within the relationship. However, out of a fear of losing him and being on your own again, you often still don’t find the strength and conviction to rebel against it and start voicing your own wishes and desires.

From the beginning until the end of my interactions with the narcissist he dictated the terms and conditions. He dediced when to meet, where to meet and for how long he intended to meet with me. I don’t think I ever once proposed a time and date for a meeting. Everything always went according to his schedule, and I just accepted it silently as if it was a sort of written law that he was the dominant person, making all the decisions. I often didn’t even know when I would see him again. Whenever I dared to ask him, I got an unsatisfying answer from him, as he told me that he didn’t really know when he could make time again due to his busy schedule. Sometimes I had to wait for days for him to propose a new date and time for a meeting. It was absolutely nerve-racking and depressing, and sometimes I had the feeling that I was slowly going insane from his tactics of keeping me waiting in the unknown. I so desperately wanted to be with him again and couldn’t stand the fact that I had to wait for days for him to be available. He not only decided when and where to meet, but also often took the liberty to cancel on me last-minute, or the inform me that he would be late.

He was always in complete power and even determined when we would talk on the phone. I never dared to call him spontaneously or to propose a time for a meeting out of a deep fear of being rejected. He called me whenever he felt like it and often even had the nerve to ask me to call him back, so that the phone bill of the phone plan he shared with his exgirlfriend wouldn’t be too high. I was stupid enough to call him back every single time and stoically accepted the fact that my own phone bill was getting higher and higher. The absolute low point of my interaction with him was reached when he sent me home after sleeping with me in a hotel room out of a fear of upsetting his exgirlfriend if he didn’t return back home to her for the night. Of course I felt humiliated and used. I already dedicated an entire blog post to that incident and don’t intent to point out the details again. I just needed to mention it as a prime example for the fact that I was played like a puppet on a string and that things always went according to his wishes, needs and conditions. My feelings were never really considered and my acquiescence was just taken for granted.

During the entire course of our relationship I agreed to his terms and chased after him like a dog. Whenever he proposed a time and date for a meeting – often after being silent for several days – I would immediately jump at the opportunity to see him again. I would make time for him and if necessary cancel the plans I had already made with others. I was so happy to finally be able to be with him again that it never occurred to me to question my own powerlessness. He threw me his little breadcrumps and I just happily accepted them and completely forgot my own value in the course of doing so. I often spent hours on a train just to see him for a very short amount of time. After a few weeks of chasing after him I started feeling tired, exhausted, frustrated and dissatisfied. I was beginning to question my role within the relationship and to realize my powerlessness within it. When I finally dared to voice my feelings, he promised me that things would get different soon and that due to his very busy schedule he didn’t really have time at the moment to see me more often. I wanted to believe him and therefore it never occurred to me that he dictated the terms of the relationship to keep his distance and stay in power.

As you can probably imagine, things never changed for the better. I was never really asked what I wanted or if I was okay with an arranged time and place for a meeting. He just assumed that I was okay with whatever he proposed and I swallowed my doubts and anger. Right until the end of our relatinship he was always the one in power, deciding on every little aspect of our interaction. I had no say at all and silently agreed to his terms and conditions. As a result of my silent consent, I often felt extremely powerless and dissatisfied. On some level I began to realize that my own wishes and desires never really mattered, that I had no say at all, and that I was following him around like a dog on a leash. It took me a very long time to become aware of my own powerlessness, because by feeding me little breadcrumps of affection and attention he convinced me that my feelings mattered to him. Even after I had finally realized that I was completely passive in our relationship, I did nothing to change anything about it. I thought that if I just went on agreeing to his terms and conditions, I would keep him interested and satisfied. I so desperately wanted to be with him that I swallowed my wishes, accepted my powerlessness and debased myself to keep things going.

The whole extent of my silent consent and powerlessness only revealed itself to me after the end of the relationship. Back then I was so busy considering his wishes and his needs and keeping him satisfied that I completely forgot thinking about my own well-being. On some level I always knew that something just wasn’t right, and that I was not getting what I needed. I just never allowed myself to think to deeply about it. A misguided wish to hold on to him made me accept his disrespectful and uncommitted behavior. Now I know that in a healthy relationship no one should be required to debase himself the way that I did to keep things going. I never again want to suppress all my feelings, wishes and desires just to keep a shitty relationship going. If you are with a narcissist with an urge to always be the one in power, you certainly won’t get what you want, and you will end up feeling frustrated, powerless and exhausted. Do yourself a favor and stop holding on to the illusion that things will get better. We deserve to be taken seriously and to have our wishes and desires met.