Being Kind to Yourself to Counteract the Negative Effects of Narcissistic Abuse

Being in a relationship with a narcissist is extremely harmful to our well-being – both physically and mentally. We are readily exposing ourselves to high levels of stress and drama in a misguided belief that our self-sacrificing efforts will one day be rewarded. We are, thus, not treating ourselves very considerately. We neglect our own wishes, needs and desires; we are bending our morals and modes of behavior, because we are so focused on the narcissists and are more than willing to do whatever it takes to keep things going. Even though it is often a futile endeavor to try to make things work, we are neverthess prepared to neglect and sacrifice our emotional balance, and end up feeling exhausted, frustrated and drained of all joy and energy. Generally speaking, one could therefore say that being with a narcissist makes us treat ourselves neglectfully and accept a high dose of stress and drama.

However, paradoxically, we also feel the need to treat ourselves with increased kindness when finding ourselves in a relationship with someone who is emotionally abusing us. It is true that I was neglecting my own needs and lost touch with myself while I was dating the narcissist. I allowed him to overstep my nearly non-existent boundaries thousands of times and I changed my morals and modes of behavior to make things work. Yet, at the same time, I also felt the need to be extremely kind to myself. One could say that I tried to counteract the narcissist’s neglect and cold indifference by giving myself the comforting and kind words and treatment that he was unable to give to me.

Being constantly confronted with disappointments and heartbreak you really need a survival strategy in order to not go completely insane. During the entire time I was in a relationship with the narcissist I was investing so much, giving all I had to give, dedicating myself a 100% to someone who never had a real use for my affection and commitment. I got almost nothing in return – just empty promises and words that were never followed by actions. I was repeatedly pushed aside, disrespected, ignored, lied to and turned into a secondary option, and this treatment was clearly taking its toll on me. I somehow learned that I had to give to myself what he was so unwilling and unable to give to me. So in order to be able to deal with all the frustration and heartbreak, I turned into the one person extending kindness to myself. I realized that if I wasn’t kind to myself then no one would be, and that, as a result, I would surely turn insane.

The kindness and compassion I extended towards myself became evident in my strategy to use positive affirmations. I talked to myself in a very comforting and affectionate way, saying kind things to myself as a way of encouragement. It may sound ridiculous, but at times I stood in front of the mirror, looked myself in the face and told myself that I deserved so much more than what I was given at the moment; that I was deserving of love and respect. I had to remind myself of these simple facts because the narcissist had me continually doubt them. He treated me with such distance and neglect that I, at times, was convinced that I was completely undeserving of love and consideration. To counteract the feeling of emptiness and frustration stemming from his distance and detachment, I had to cheer myself up by being kind to myself.

I not only talked to myself, but I also started writing a journal with some of the entries being composed as letters to myself. In those letters I complimented myself for my stength and tried to comfort me as good as I could. I sometimes talked to myself as if I were a vulnerable child needing comfort and positive affirmations. I felt the need to do so, because the narcissist often left me feeling vulnerable, empty and unwanted. To fill the inner emptiness and lessen the negative impact of his emotional abuse, I had to be the one being kind to myself. Whenever the situation became absolutely unbearable, and I was suffering from extreme depression, I would fall asleep in a fetal position, hugging myself to give myself the strength and comfort that I needed. As I said before, it sounds sad – almost pathetic – but narcissists can hurt you to such an extreme extent that we need to take such measures in order to prevent being swallowed by darkness and hopelessness.

I not only started writing a journal because it enabled me to strenghten and be kind to myself. It also counteracted the feeling that I was losing touch with myself. Through writing down my feelings, I was somehow reconnecting with myself, giving a voice to my wishes, my disappointment and the frustration that came with being a victim of emotional abuse. In my journal entries I was brutally honest and I could vent my anger and say nasty things about the narcissist. I never would have dared to say these things to his face, because I was still too afraid of losing him. In some of my entries I would directly address him and thereby I had the opportunity to let go of all the pent-up anger and frustration. In our interactions I kept swallowing my pain and disappointment – in my journal entries I could finally express what I so desperately needed to express and it felt like an enormous relief. If I hadn’t written those entries, I’m sure I would have lost control far more often and said nasty and hateful things to his face that I would have regretted later on.

During the time I interacted with the narcissist, I not only felt the need to be kind to myself, but also to others. In my everyday encounters with others, I was all the more friendly because their positive reactions gave me the affirmation that the narcissist couldn’t give to me. As others were responding to my kindness by being equally kind and friendly I got the positive reactions that I needed and that I was denied by the narcissist. I could put all my energy into being compassionate, kind and loving to the narcissist and I almost never got any feedback at all. It was extremely frustrating to give to the point of self-sacrifice and to never get any kind of validation in return. I therefore started to search for validation in my interactions with others. I needed it in order to see that I was not completely without value and that my efforts were indeed appreciated and could lead to positive feedback. I desperately wanted to feel appreciated, because the narcissist constantly made me feel small, pushed aside and unworty of any kind of positive affirmation.

I never felt truly loved or cared for by the narcissist. Not even in the most intimate moments that we shared did I feel carefree, satisfied and happy. I could lie next to him, caressing his face, looking deep into his eyes, and still feel empty and sad. Normally, in such moments, everything should be engulfed by an enormous feeling of bliss, gratitude and carelessness. That one moment of intimacy should be so strong and magnificient to erase all worries and doubts. In my relationship with the narcissist, I was never even allowed to feel true bliss. There were always dark feelings lurking underneath the surface and it was eating me up alive. So in order to not completely lose touch with myself and be swallowed by darkness I had to be the one being kind to and comforting myself. He constantly made me feel so damn small by lying to me and treating me like a secondary option that it really took its toll on me. I had to be kind to myself to stay strong and to not be drawn into an abyss.

It was a relatively new experience for me. I had never before felt so low and so down that I had felt the constant need to encourage myself. Never before had I felt the need to be so considerate and kind to myself. However, if you are constantly being faced with ambiguity, insecurity and distance, you really have to come up with a survival strategy in order not to completely lose your mind – and my strategy consisted of giving myself the loving words and signs of affection that I was denied by the narcissist.

Considering all the aspects mentioned above it really is a paradox situation: On the one hand, while being with a narcissist you are inflicting enormous damage on yourself by allowing the narcissist to repeatedly hurt you and by coming back for more long after the situation has proven to be hopeless. We tend to sacrifice everything for the narcissists; we bend our morals and modes of behavior and we put all of our energy and dedication into a relationship with someone who has no use for our affection and commitment. Consequently, one could well say that we are treating ourselves with neglect, pushing aside our own needs to keep the narcissist satisfied. However, on the other hand, time spent in a relationship with a narcissist can also turn out to be a time of increased self-awareness and self love. As we try to counteract the cruelties and damage inflicted upon us by the narcissist, we often extend an enormous amount of kindness to ourselves. We are so in need of positive affirmations that we need to give them to ourselves in order not to go insane. As a result, we end up talking to ourselves, writing journal entries in which we pour our hearts out and are therefore able to reconnect with ourselves. The narcissists make us lose touch with ourselves through their detachment, drama and manipulation, and we feel the need to counteract that development by taking those different measures pointed out above.

Whenever I look back at my relationship with the narcissist, I see a lot of darkness and despair. However, there is always also a glimmer of light, and it stems from the fact that I was able to stay strong through my willingness to give myself the comfort and kindness I needed to counteract narcissistic abuse. This willingness to treat myself with kindness and consideration has stayed with me long after the end of my interactions with the narcissist: I still try to be good to myself, I still am very keen to treat others with kindness and respect, I try to enjoy my own company and to keep myself busy with meaningful activities in order not to be swallowed by feelings of regret and emptiness. In a certain way, being with the narcissist has taught me to reconnect with myself and to pay careful attention to my own needs and wishes. I will never go so far and be thankful for the abuse and all the pain and heartbreak. But I try to see the light…I try to point to those little islands of positivity in order not to be swallowed by darkness.

Effects of Being with Mr. Unavailable 3: Losing Touch With Yourself

In my last post, I have already dwelled on the fact that people with codependent behavioral patterns often have low self-esteem and tend to continually doubt themselves and their decisions. Our lack of self-love and self-acceptance leads us to search for love, recognition and appreciation in romantic relationships (or even other kinds of interactions). As we are unable to be satisfied with ourselves, we need others to make us feel loved and cared about. Being on our own makes us feel worthless, undeserving of love and alone.

Connected to all of these issues is the fact that people with low self-esteem tend to not devote enough time to their own needs, thoughts and wishes. As we are generally not satisfied with ourselves, we don’t want to occupy ourselves with our own personalities. Consequently, we are continually on the look for distraction, and painful and dramatic relationships offer us exactly the distraction we so desperately crave. As we don’t want to be let alone with our own thoughts, lunging into dramatic relationships keeps us busy and enables us to keep on denying us the attention we need. We spend all of our time and energy into dealing with Mr. Unavailables, and our thoughts are occupied with thinking about the relationship, and the wishes, needs and behavior of the emotionally unavailable person we are dating. In the course of racking our brains over all of the pain and drama, we completely lose touch with ourselves.

This is exactly what happened to me in my relationship with Mr. Unavailable. I have a really hard time not being in any relationship, as I tend to suffer from low self-esteem and to question almost every little aspect of my life. Not being in a relationship makes me feel unloved, unwanted, alone and sometimes even depressed. I’m addicted to the feeling of being loved that a romantic relationship ideally provides, as I have difficulties loving and accepting myself. This addiction often made me lunge into relationships with shady men, because being in a relationship – no matter how painful – was always considered to be better than being alone by me. My relationship with Mr. Unavailable provided me with so much pain, drama and emotional exhaustion that there was no more time left to think about my own wishes, hopes, and desires. I was getting the full-time distraction I was looking for.

Given the fact that my Mr. Unavailable had many narcissistic tendencies, I was during the course of our interactions almost completely kept from engaging with my own self. Our conversations tended to revolve around him, his problems, his unhappy childhood, his achievements, his setbacks etc. I never really had to bring my own thoughts, experiences and opinions into the conversation. Sometimes he would pretend to be interested in what I had to say and even ask me a question or two. But I soon realized that his interest was not strong enough to surpass his narcissistic tendencies. Consequently, he was dominant both in our interactions and conversations. In the beginning, it was a welcome distraction. After some time I felt like I was completely losing touch with myself. Having to realize that you are never really a part of the conversation makes you feel like you have nothing interesting to say, that you are unworthy of being listened and given attention to.

Another factor that made me lose touch with myself was that in the course of our relationship I felt like a dog running after his owner. Every single aspect of our relationship went according to his terms: He decided when to meet, where to meet, what to do. He was the one who almost never made time for me because he was – as he repeteadly pointed out – so busy. I was almost always the one having to do all the travelling. We lived quite some distance away from each other, and it took me more than an hour by train to meet with him. Sometimes we would only meet for such a short amount of time that I spent more time on the train than actually being with him. It was depressing, exhausting and made me seriously doubt my own behavior. Why was I doing all of this? Was it really worth it? Chasing after him like a dog, always waiting for a call, always waiting for him to tell me when we would finally see each other again, kept me absolutely distracted from myself. I was so busy evaluating his behavior, running after him and dealing with all the disappointments and drama, that I lost touch with myself. I kept chasing him, because it prevented me from spending time on my own, thinking about myself.

Another major contribution to all of it came from the fact that I was consistently treated like a secondary option, while his exgirlfriend got his undivided attention and always had priority. Some days he would complain about her being mentally unbalanced, on other days he pointed out to me that he respected her with all his heart and wanted her to forever stay in his life. Whenever she got hysteric and insulting or put him under pressure, he would yield and stay at home with her. I was continually pushed aside. I wasn’t allowed to give him a call, he wasn’t allowed to spend the night at my place etc: All of it would make her freak out. She went so far as to harrass me by giving me calls and sending me tons of text messages. He never interfered, and always talked about being considerate towards her feelings. My feelings never seemed to matter at all. In spite of all of it, I continued meeting with him. I gladly let myself be drawn into all this drama and ridiculousness because it kept me from being alone and devoting thoughts to myself. Of course I doubted my own behavior: Why was I allowing him to treat me like this? Why do I want to be part of so much drama? Am I really so worthless as to be treated like an option? Don’t I deserve to be treated with respect, care and consideration? I was completely losing touch with myself and my self-esteem was dealt a severe blow.

As usual I could go on and on, pointing out further examples for how being with Mr. Unavailable made me lose touch with myself. I think you got the picture: I let myself be treated with disrespect and disregard because I craved the distraction that came with being part of a dramatic relationship. I kept chasing him and debasing myself, because it prevented me from being alone and devoting time to thinking about myself and considering my needs. My low self-esteem and self-respect were the reason for why I didn’t opt out and save myself. The treatment I received from Mr. Unavailable only further lowered my self-esteem: it was a vicious circle.

In retrospect, I’m shocked because I allowed him to be so disrespectful and inconsiderate. Had I been more confident and strong, I would never have allowed this kind of behavior. Maybe this episode of my life presented me with the wake-up call I so obviously needed. I need to treat myself better and spend more time dealing with my own ambitions and wishes, in order to become a part of a healthy relationship.

Effects of Being with Mr. Unavailable 2: Self-Doubt and Self-Blame

This is definitely going to be one of the most important posts I will write, given the fact that I’ve been dealing with self-doubts and low self-esteem for most of my life. It is the reason for why I often end up with shady guys who not really have my best interests at heart. I search for recognition and appreciation in relationships, because I cannot give these things to myself. I’m addicted to being loved by others, because I have difficulties loving myself. However, the shady guys that codependent people with low self-esteem get into relationships with only make matters worse: They will eventually disappoint us, leave us heartbroken and therefore make us question our own part in the relationship. More often than not, this will only lower our self-esteem further and have us wonder if we are not worthy of being loved and treated with respect.

The most ironic part of my last relationship with Mr. Unavailable was that he told me right at the beginning that he had the feeling I had rather low self-esteem and tend to sell myself short when it comes to relationships. He also told me to be more confident, that I had all the reasons for believing more in myself, and that I should apply a more “careful screening process” when it came to guys. I felt like I had won the lottery: Had I finally found a guy who would be attentive to my feelings and treat me with appreciation? How was I supposed to know that he would turn into exactly that kind of guy he had warned me against? Was he unconsciously (or very consciously) warning me against himself? Looking at it in retrospect I can’t help spotting the irony…

In the end, Mr. Unavailable did absolutely nothing to help me improve my self-esteem. To the contrary, he shattered it to pieces and left me feeling like an empty shell, doubting everything about me (and especially my part in the relationship). Almost everything he did had me doubt myself, my behavior, even my own sanity.

The strongest source for my self-doubts came from the fact that he would often not call, leave a message or contact me in any other way for several days in a row. There were times when I wouldn’t get to see him for several weeks in a row. For me this was just heartbreaking and agitating. I would have loved to spend as much time with him as possible and it was affecting me that he didn’t seem to be able to make time for me. Agonizing thoughts were constantly revolving in my head: “Why doesn’t he call or leave a message? If he really cared about me, he would have contacted me. Is he interested in me at all? He must be really detached to not call at all…Or am I maybe asking for too much? Am I turning into an obsessive person?” My friends and family would repeatedly assure me that he is not treating me fairly by not calling me and not seeing me in weeks. I didn’t want to hear any of it. I preferred to put all the blame on myself and suppressed the suspicion that he might not be that interested after all.

Another source of self-doubt came from his continually voiced desire to leave the country and fly back to the U.S. I constantly blamed myself for not being able to stay more emotionally detached. Why did I invest all my heart, energy and time into someone who might be leaving soon? Why do I blame him for being more detached than I am? After all, isn’t this the reasonable way to handle all of it? But why does he even bother seeing me then? Why does he insist on continuing to go out with me? Why did he want to meet my parents, if he wants to leave? I couldn’t make any sense of his behavior and chose to blame myself for everything instead.

The fact that he still lived with his exgirlfriend and often pushed me aside because of her also didn’t add much to my self-esteem. I’ve already dedicated two entire posts to his hysteric, insulting exgirlfriend who did not allow him to see me. I therefore don’t need to go into further detail at this point. Allowing him to turn me into an option while his exgirlfriend still had priority had me seriously doubt my worth as a person. Why do I allow him to treat me like that? Am I only good enough to be a secondary option? Am I not deserving of the same care, appreciation and attention that she gets? Are the two of them secretly mocking me? Am I just the person he goes to to load off the emotional baggage from his last relationship? My mind seemed to be obsessively occupied with him and his exgirlfriend, painting the most painful scenarios. I felt absolutely worthless, disrespected and unappreciated because my feelings just never mattered as much as those of his exgirlfriend. It can leave you feeling so small…like a real loser.

I don’t think I have to go on pointing out more instances that caused me to seriously doubt myself. Suffice it to say that being with a Mr. Unavailable can be absolutely shattering to your sense of self worth. Through their emotional unavailability they have you doubt just about everything about yourself. Instead of accepting that they are to blame for not being able and willing to give us what we want, codependent people blame themselves and see themselves as not worthy of being respected, cared about and loved. We question our behavior throughout the entire relationship and keep wondering where everything went wrong. Instead of realizing that Mr. Unavailables won’t even give us the bare minimum of what we want, we see ourselves as too needy, too dependent and try to be satisfied with the little breadcrumps they are feeding us with.

Even if we manage to see through their shady and disrespectful behavior and realize that they are unwilling and unable to fulfill our emotional needs, we still find ways to blame ourselves: Why can’t I find the strength to free myself from this painful relationship? Why do I keep allowing him to disrespect me? Why do I still feel so much for a man who obviously doesn’t really respect and appreciate me? We are just really good at addressing reproaches to ourselves.

I’ve finally managed to see through the patterns that kept my self-esteem on a very low level. It doesn’t mean that I turned into a confident and self-assured person over night. I’m still struggling with self-doubt and find it hard to accept my flaws and the mistakes I make. I tend to be too hard on myself. But at least I’ve finally managed to realize all of it and I guess it’s the first step towards improvement…So if there is anything positive I can draw from all that pain, drama and suffering, it is that it really opened my eyes to the fact that I need to change my mindset. Only if we are good to ourselves can we have healthy relationships with people who also genuinely want to be good to us.

Effects of Being with Mr. Unavailable 1: Nagging Uncertainty

After having dwelled for quite some time on the different factors that turn a Mr. Unavailable into what he is – namely unavailabe – I will now use the next few posts to deal with what the effects of being with such a person are. I doubt that there is one single woman out there who possesses the mental strength and self-assurance to not be affected by the constant ups and downs that come with being with a Mr. Unavailable.

Especially codependent women are lacking in self-esteem and strength and are therefore especially affected by those men on two levels: First of all they are more prone to fall victim to them, because as they are not confident and happy with themselves they often attract shady guys who will only further lower their self-esteem. Secondly, as we don’t have the strongest personalities and depend on others for approval, we often are blind to the unjust treatment we receive, we are unable to free ourselves from unhealthy relationships and we tend to blame ourselves for everything that goes wrong. We often have to deal with nagging self-doubts and low self-esteem and that’s why the negative effects of being with a Mr. Unavailable hit us the hardest. We lack the self-assurance to tell ourselves that we deserve better and to free ourselves from unhealthy relationships as a consequence.

The first effect of being with Mr. Unavailables that I want to deal with is what I called “nagging uncertainty” in the title of this post. It’s one of the effects that I had to struggle with the most. I’ve already written about how changeable and fickle my Mr. Unavailable was. One day he would make promises about a bright future together…the other day he would threaten to leave the country and go back to the U.S. One day he would tell me he intended to move out of his exgirlfriend’s apartment, the other day I had to look at intimate pictures of the two of them on social media platforms. I could go on forever at this point, but I’ve already dedicated several posts to his faulty behavior and don’t want to repeat myself.

The effect of his changeableness was that I never really knew where the two of us were headed. I was in constant fear of losing him, as he continually threatened he might leave the country soon. I was never really allowed to touch upon the subject of what the future of our relationship would look like…if there was a future at all. I tried to talk to him about it, but all I good were evasive utterances and nothing that even came close to a satisfying answer.

As a result, I couldn’t even enjoy the time we spent together…not even when he spent an entire weekend at my place (which was a very special occasion as he usually had to stay at home with his exgirlfriend). There were always nagging thoughts in the back of my mind. I constantly had to remind myself that I should never allow myself to enjoy the time spent together and his presence too much. He might leave soon and it would make the farewell even more heartbreaking and devastating.

It was emotionally draining. I loved spending time with him so much, but at the same time couldn’t allow myself to enjoy it to the full extent. I even felt guilty and weak for enjoying it. I knew I was too emotionally involved and spending too much of my dedication, time and energy into a relationship that could just go down the drain at any moment. It is nerve-racking to be hanging in the air like this, not knowing where you are headed, dreading that all of your dedication and love will not be rewarded in the end, but will have been completely in vain.

Adding to this was the fact that I often wouldn’t hear from him for days. He would leave me hanging in the air, having agonizing thoughts about when I would see him again and why he didn’t leave me a message or call me. Sometimes I didn’t get to see him for several weeks. It didn’t seem to be bothering him and when I complained about feeling pushed aside he wouldn’t address my concerns. I started to realize that he was far more emotionally detached than I was, that he didn’t really allow himself to be too deeply involved with me and therefore tried to keep some distance. It made me feel even guiltier for not being able to be just as emotionally detached and to not let our interactions affect me so much. As it turned out, almost my entire being revolved around him and it was hard to bear being pushed aside and treated with distance and detachment. I clearly turned a guy into my priority who treated me like an option.

I’ve often asked myself why he even wanted to keep seeing me, given the fact that he was obviously not allowing himself to get too emotionally involved and that he must have realized how much he was hurting me through his changeable behavior. Only too late did I realize that being a textbook narcissist he didn’t really spend much time worrying about how I might feel or how much I might suffer from all of it. All he cared about was himself and apparently he found that I was too nice a distraction to just let me go out of consideration for my feelings…

As a result of all of this, I’ve spent the last five months feeling on edge. I could never fullly enjoy the time spent with him. I was never sure of where the relationship was headed. And I felt guilty for not managing to be more detached and for allowing myself to be so emotionally involved. As codependent people often do, I blamed myself for everything and tried to find the rationality behind the fact that he would often ignore me for days and keep me hanging in the air. I thought he was handling the entire situation in a more reasonable and mature way than I was and that I was the one to blame for my own misery.

Looking at it in retrospect, I realized that while I was certainly responsible for my misery to a certain extent, there were no excuses for his cold indifference. I now know that it was wrong of him to allow himself to even start dating me, given the uncertain situation he was in at the time. He should have known that he was only hurting my feelings by drawing me into his vagueness and uncertainties. He couldn’t have expected me to handle the situation in the same detached manner as he did…especially not after he was giving me hope by making plans for the future and repeatedly assuring me of his regard, respect and serious feelings for me. He was blowing hot and cold and sending me mixed messages: One day he seemed to be genuinely loving and caring, the other day he was detached and talking about leaving the country. I never knew how I should feel about any of it…

So to let you know the outcome: he is leaving the country in a few days. I’m starting to realize and accept that this is the best option for both of us. When I learned that he would leave I was at the same time utterly devastated and strangely relieved. Relieved because the exhausting and emotionally draining times of nagging uncertainties and agonizing thoughts would finally be over. I was on the verge of having a break down, because I couldn’t take it any longer. I feel strangely freed from a heavy burden that was weighing me down. Now I can finally start the healing process, take better care of myself and leave the painful emotional rollercoaster behind.

Unavailability Factor 4: Depression

At this point I have already elaborated on three different factors that turned the guy I so ardently loved into a Mr. Unavailable. For some people each single one of these factors might have already been enough to make them opt out of a relationship. All of these factors combined would probably scare every person with a sane mind away. If you are a codepedent person, all of these difficulties won’t scare you away – on the contrary: we are drawn to difficulties and drama like a moth to the flame. So to sum it up, neither one of the three factors I’ve already pointed out made me flee from the relationship to save my own sanity and well-being. It doesn’t come as a surprise then that the fourth factor didn’t keep me from staying with him either.

On top of being immature, aimless, changeable, and still attached to his exgirlfriend, my Mr. Unavailable was at times also severely depressed. When we first started dating he managed to hide his depression quite well; he seemed to be jovial and high-spirited, had many funny and smart things to say, and there always was an unerasable smile on his face that made him really attractive and just fun to be around. I was immediately drawn to his easygoingness, his humor, the light in his eyes…Only later did it reveal itself that this was only one side of his personality – a side that would come to the surface only scarcely from a certain point onward.

With each following date I learned more and more about how conflicted his entire being was: he was severely sad because he lacked purpose in his life, because he was still so much entangled with his former girlfriend and didn’t manage to “entangle” from a situation that clearly wasn’t healthy anymore, because he didn’t know how to go on and what to do with his life, because he felt isolated in a country that didn’t offer him many opportunities and whose language he didn’t know at all, because he was, in general, a deeply anxious, worried and pensive person who took things to heart to such an extent that it was extremely painful and crippling, restricting him in his own personal development.

He was often completely distracted when the two of us met. His mind was somewhere completely else and I had to deal with the fact that I never got his undivided attention. I often lay in his arms, feeling completely content to be so close to him, feeling like nothing in the entire world could hurt me like this, only to have to realize that he didn’t feel the same way and that his mind was somewhere else. It was painful to realize that my happiness just wasn’t shared. He talked a lot about how sad and despaired he felt, about how unhappy he was as a child, how his parents screwed up, how he felt isolated and trapped in his current situation, how he felt responsible for his exgirlfriend but still wanted to get out of their shared apartment. I had to listen to his sad and depressing stories over and over again, and at one point I realized that those stories made up the bulk of the things we talked about when spending time together. I guess you can imagine that I was greatly affected by this…it saddened me to have to learn on a daily basis how unhappy he was with every little aspect of his life. And while I hoped in the beginning that I could have a positive influence by just being there for him and being loving, patient and understanding, I soon had to learn that I was completely powerless. It’s hard to accept your own powerlessness in a situation like this: it makes you feel useless, not good enough, to not have the power to lighten the mood of the person you love.

I would never turn my back on a person in emotional pain. I always feel a deep need to help them, to be there for them and lighten their burden. In this case I was without a chance. Nothing I said or did ever made a difference and it was incredibly hard to accept that. Still I was there for him, being all patient, empathic and understanding, thinking that if I couldn’t help him, at least I could be there for him and be a good listener. That I was getting depressed in the process completely escaped my notice. I was used to pushing my own wishes, feelings and desires away to be there for others, as it is a big part of being codependent.

As we don’t want to deal with our own pain and feelings, we immerse ourselves in the pain of others. It is a distraction that keeps us from having to come to terms with our own emptiness, our own deep-seated unhappiness. Dealing with the problems of others gives us the convenient opportunity to push away our own problems. It would be so much more painful to grapple our own conflictedness and so we plunge into the possibility to give all of our attention to someone else instead.

This is also true for my own case: I was so preoccupied with the sadness and despair of my Mr. Unavailable, thinking of ways to lighten his burden, that I totally forgot about myself. My entire being revolved around him and his problems and I completely forgot about myself in the process. Now that all of this is over I started to realize that I completely forgot myself, pushing my own problems far away from me, failing to deal with my inner emptiness and conflictedness. It is something that I now need to focus on.

Only if we manage to be good to ourselves first, to become strong and confident, and solve our own problems and conflicts first, can we be a part of a healthy relationship. If we aren’t good to ourselves we will always look for distraction in dramatic and painful relationships that keep us from engaging with our own problems and desires. It is perfectly noble to be there for someone in pain, but we should never lose ourselves in the process. So while I thought I was being a good, loving and caring human being, trying to lighten someone else’s mood, I was in truth trying to evade myself, my own emptiness and pain. It wasn’t healthy, it began to eat away at me and that’s why in the end, I must be glad that it’s over. Even though it is still hard to accept at times…