Codependent Cinderella

I have two ambitions with this post: (1) to be honest sharing my story and the research I have gathered helping myself get out of the codependent life I was drowning in (2) and to help in some way anyone that finds themselves in an unhealthy codependent relationship.

The first time I laid eyes on him, I remember it unblemished and distinctly clear.

Not so much the place, time, or people around me…all that seems to fade out like something in a bizarre teen-drama movie.

I heard his voice and was instantly stunned by his gripping charisma. And in those few short moments, I immediately wanted to learn more about this person – because I knew something was distinctively different about him unmatched to anyone I had ever met.

…and I was right.

Laying there next to him in his small studio apartment on the first morning of the New Year, not even 3 weeks into dating, and I whispered, “I love you”.

“From there a flame was sparked within the crushing depth of an emotionally sadistic ocean.
Clutching the impossible, impractical, unimaginable: The unending cycle feeding an ego.
A flare that burns so hot as to turn all my adoring, worshipping water into blinding, sweet haze. A fog that left me mystified as to how such as relationship ever was yielded.”
(Excerpt from my own poem “To Speak of Love” written in May 2015)

Narcissism in a Nutshell

Oh, the charm and charisma. The love of your life. Yes, at times, he seems to have anger problems often without notice, but he’s the one that makes you dream and captivates your imagination.  You've never met anyone in your life like him but interestingly, you've also never sacrificed more.

Your “unique" ability to understand and forgive him is the reason you stay; waiting for him to change that never materializes. Captured in a dream, you learn to forgive him more and lose yourself, your goals, all to support him and his dreams. You remind him of your need for him to be honest to you although you remain alone at home, restless dreaming about him as he is often "out with friends."

You know "in your heart" that he is a good man and only needs a stable partner that won't leave him so that he grows to love you more.

They sleep very well at night while you are tossing about in emotional and psychological agony. When you try to set some boundary, you search frantically to find that he has a new love and you are left with shock, confusion, sadness, and after the wake of despair, a huge financial loss somewhere.

It was one of those beautiful March afternoons where it’s warm enough to pretend its summer. On days like that it was easy to think how blessed you are, especially when you have someone that loves you and only you. I was on such a high that day.

We met up at the mall and I looked for a dress I’d be wearing to his cousins upcoming wedding. Afterwards, I took him out for sushi at one of my favorite restaurants. And after dinner, he looked me in the eyes, told me he loved me and kissed me. You know, those intoxicating, passionate kisses that make your mind go completely to mush. He mentioned he wasn’t feeling good so he headed to his place to rest and I went home alone.

The next day, I was confronted by a girl who spewed cold evidence all over my phone that he was cheater and a liar. Screenshot after heart-murdering screenshot. I felt like I had given everything to him just to score some small sentiment of love – and this girl was being unloaded with it all. Undeservingly.

Even after all that, after my heart was obliterated, a week later I forgave him. I wanted what that girl was given. And now it seemed like I needed it more than ever before.

I told him I wanted to give him 500% of myself. I moved him into my home with my two daughters knowing he didn’t have anything to contribute monetarily – all I wanted was him.

Current studies show that approx. 1 out of every 10 people you meet today has NPD.[*]

Below are common traits held by people with NPD: [*][*]
•An exaggerated sense of one's own abilities and achievements
•A constant need for attention, affirmation and praise
•Persistent fantasies about attaining success
•Exploiting other people for personal gain
•A sense of entitlement
•Feeling envious of others, or believing that others are envious of him or her
•A lack of empathy for others
•Very sensitive to criticism, often viewed as a personal attack

There is significant paradox that occurs within people that have NPD, they demonstrate a combination of self-centeredness and worthlessness. They often appear arrogant, exploitative, and entitled. HOWEVER, despite their inflated sense of self, below lies low self-esteem and intense envy of those whom they regard as more desirable, worthy or able. [*]   
Codependent Cinderella Loves to Dance

After my divorce, I noticed myself consumed with the needs of others. I wanted to help as much as I possibly could even at the expense of myself and my own children. I was completely detached from my own healing.

It was as if I was unable to emotionally avoid a romantic relationship with a person who was selfish and harmful to me. I was attracted to a perfect partner who was a flawless counter-match to my passive, submissive approach to life, despite manipulative game-playing and unfaithfulness.

When we came together our exquisite and inherently dysfunctional “codependency dance” unfolded immaculately: My partner (taker/controller) maintained the lead and I (pleaser/fixer) followed.


Codependency symptoms include: [*][*]
•Being a people pleaser and lacking assertiveness
•Being indirect or untruthful about your feelings
•Avoiding your feelings or denying your feelings
•Having low self-esteem
•Over-controlling, such as perfectionism or hyper-cleanliness

We shared the most amazing August afternoon together, we laid in the green grass together listening to music at a lovely winery. We drank and laughed about how we got lost on the back roads trying to find our way in Amish county.

But something went wrong - After the benefit concert he was livid, enraged with me because I had asked his friend to talk to him and ask if we could stay longer. He hated when I went around him like that. Truth is, I found confrontation with him insufferable. The contrast in moods was always sharp and striking.

That night he looked at me and told me I was dumb. I denied everything in myself at that moment because I knew I was not dumb at all. I knew exactly what was going on and I was screaming inside. I didn’t get angry. I didn’t feel anything. Instead of standing up for myself, after re-running it in my head 100 times I started to believed him.. I thought of all the ways he was right: “Maybe I am dumb. I’m dumb to stay in this relationship. I’m dumb for not being honest with my feelings. I’m dumb for letting him stay in my house after he cheated on me (and my daughters). I’m dumb for paying for everything….”.

Did I leave that night? No. Of course not.

I cried until he fell asleep next to me and then I quietly snuck downstairs and sat on the couch… in the dark… alone… thinking how dumb I was.

What I needed was to get angry.

I never thought anger served me any purpose, its only destructive – I thought.

But eventually, over time – I began to feel the emotion more and more. What I eventually realized was this growing anger I had inside was an excellent indicator that a personal boundary was being tested or infringed upon.

Boundaries are not only needed in life but they are essential for any healthy relationship –with friends, coworkers, strangers, significant others, etc.
Welcome Aboard the Emotional Merry-Go-Round
In the beginning you are put on a pedestal, the queen of his world, no one can be more perfect. He can’t get enough of you. And within a short time suddenly you are being criticized, called dumb, crazy.[*]
A swing from total idealization to complete devaluation.
One day you are the greatest person on earth, but when you don’t do or say something they want you to, or you ask something of them that they don’t want to do - they demean you.
This is repeated over and over, for as long as you are willing to take it. [* 
While in the manic phase, he is talkative and gregarious. In the depressive phase he is passively-aggressively silent and distant. He wavers between being imaginative and being dull, being social and being antisocial, being obsessed with achievement and lying in bed for hours. [*]

There seemed to be some special super human power he had. A way of turning everything around so I begin to question myself. He would do something mean or cruel and by the end of the conversation, I was the one apologizing for some reason.

I ended up feeling incredibly confused most of the time. I tried to talk to a close friend of mine about it and she mentioned a term I had never heard before: Gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.

I looked it up and EVERYTHING made sense. I spend days researching, writing, journaling. That is when I realized how exceptionally toxic the relationship had become.

In the End

In these situations, knowledge is power.

No matter how things were going to end, I knew that I would be made out to be the villain - and being someone that strived to please everyone, all the time – this idea was crippling.
I didn’t want people to hate me. I needed people to love me. I needed him to love me. I needed him. HIM.

That first encounter with him, lovely and epic, bestowed within me an immense gift. In the end, I chose to love me first. I chose to need me first. Not him. No longer did I value everything and everyone over the love I deserved. I didn’t want to hurt him and in doing so I hurt myself, every day.

I wasn’t in a toxic relationship with him – I was in a toxic relationship with myself.

I gave my love to him and in the moments I felt valued by him it was intoxicating.

But it was all a charade. I recognized that he would give of himself only if there is something to be gained. Once he was out of my house, he was looking for someone else in less than 24 hours on dating sites and social media.

Your instincts are your armor. Use them. Trust them.

Realize, you can NEVER please someone that may have NPD. No matter how hard you try. No matter how much you give.[*]

If you feel valued by is a wonderful experience - realize that you are a lifeboat…and that they eventually find another lifeboat to be carried by another and another…

            That which is behind you cannot hurt you, my friend. Let your heart not be troubled. Believe in this and you too will become free. It will happen, I promise you.