Hello…you've reached the Florence helpline. Press 1 for ego stroke, 2 for a shag, 3 for money, 4 for rehab, 5 for an affair, 6 for lucky dip...

In life I’ve learned through the pain of people pleasing experiences not to do stuff for shady reasons – it’s the silent, hidden contracts, the hidden agenda, the I’ve Been a Doormat For You So You Should _________ traps. ‘Help’ along with its sister ‘giving’ is what sets many people on the path of ‘Florence Nightingaling’ where they take up vocations in helping others by seeing themselves as solutions to Other People’s Business. Granted that helping in terms of genuinely providing assistance to others, making it easier for them to do something, and improving situations is something that we all very much need to do…but… you already know that I’m not talking about that kind of help.

If you feel bad after you help (or give), you’ve helped for the wrong reasons.

Sometimes we have to learn not to get involved in Other People’s Business by making ourselves the solution to their personal problems which are theirs to solve. When we see ourselves as the external solution to someone else’s internal issues, it’s because we’ve busied ourselves with diagnosing their business through our eyes and no doubt in the context of our own agenda, and then we’ve gone “Ding, ding, ding, opportunity to be needed alert” and prescribed ourselves as the ‘medication’. Even if you make something that’s none of your business your business, it still doesn’t make it your business. It’s like when the Other Woman/Man complains about the main partner – someone else’s marriage/relationship is none of their business!


If we dig a bit deeper, the truth is that we make ourselves the solution to the problems of others because we think that other people are the solution to our problems.

Some of us like to feel needed because like the typical people pleaser, we don’t know or assert our own needs and so busy ourselves fannying around and meeting their needs or what we think their needs are, and then somehow expecting to be fulfilled during the process. It’s deriving ‘worth’ from the approval of others and also gaining validation from having this ‘purpose’ or seeing what appear to be initial fruits of our labour. And note that I say what we “think” their needs are – sometimes we assume that the ‘help’ that we’re providing is the help that’s needed because we assume the problem, but it might not be the problem or even if it is, the person may not want or need your help or may not even see it as a problem.

All of this ‘helping’ is a distraction.

I’m not saying don’t help others but help isn’t help if you expect something back; it’s business. It’s an agenda.
If you feel crappy after you ‘help’ people, it’s time to examine your motives and what you truly expected. You also have to be careful of having an Overactive Sympathy Reflex – it’s where you feel pity, which is sympathetic concern for the misfortune of others and it becomes your ‘trigger’ for wanting to engage them whether it’s for friendship or a romantic relationship. Like and love don’t look like pity.

If you wouldn’t give the help if you didn’t think that you would get the perceived / expected reward for it, don’t do it. Don’t.

If you wouldn’t do the ego stroking, shagging, the lending a shoulder to lean on, the accepting shady behaviour, the keeping it zipped when you really want to speak your mind, if you didn’t think that you were going to get a relationship, a free pass on something or the opportunity to ‘collect’ at a later date, I’d restrain your ‘helping’ hand.

‘Helpers’ usually end up erupting over this sense of feeling taken for granted after being passive via people pleasing including Over-giving. If you’ve held back criticism, your opinion, boundaries, and have essentially avoided conflict, there’s a quiet expectation of “I shouldn’t be criticised because I don’t criticise him/her”, “Restrain that honesty with me because I’m not being honest with you”, “Do as I want because I’m letting you ride me like a doormat pony” and “Don’t make waves because I’ve practically broken my back to eradicate all possible opportunities for conflict”.


Helping others will not control their behaviour. It isn’t necessarily going to ‘make’ people do as you want or expect and it doesn’t mean that they ‘should’ meet your needs. If the type of help you’re giving involves assisting people in avoiding their own personal responsibilities or even assisting them in having the opportunity to bust your boundaries, that’s not help. If your idea of ‘making things easier’ for a person is pretty much wiping out all reason, responsibility, accountability and their contribution by being willing to attempt to row the boat with one oar or even taking all of the blame, that’s not help. If you’re ‘improving situations’ by enabling someone elses issues that’s not help either.

Ironically, when you try to fix/heal/help people who are already reliant on external solutions by attempting to be their ‘solution’, you’re actually trying to replace one unhealthy solution with another.


Just like I say to people that you don’t owe someone sex or a relationship because they brought you dinner or gave you the time of day, a person doesn’t owe you a relationship or whatever just because you’ve sold you short or you’ve ‘helped’ them. If your whole relationship is built on ‘helping’, it’s not a mutual relationship. You never have to feel like you’re chasing a debt or trying to create a tipping point of reciprocation if you only get into or remain in mutual partnerings. This will stop you from doing ‘stock takes’ and having people unwittingly getting into debt with you.

You also know true help when you help yourself, because at least then you know that you’re helping not looking for secret salvation on inappropriate sources.

We can feel guilty about not helping and yet sometimes we need to realise that we spend less time doing real help and too much time engaging in stuff that isn’t really helping anyone. If you’re helping people for the right reasons, you have nothing to feel guilty about nor do you have anything to feel bad about as a person. Sometimes when we attempt to help ‘everyone’ we help no one. Don’t try to save others by bankrupting your self-esteem – it’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Know your own line so that you know the line of others.

Your thoughts?

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123 Responses to If you feel bad after you ‘help’, it probably wasn’t ‘helping’ (Why it’s good to stay out of Other People’s Business)

  1. oc says:

    Marriage, at its best, is a partnership: Two people striving to create that which they cannot have or create on thier own. With all the fierce individualism being bred with the ideas in this blog (most of which I support) I often wonder at what point people are supposed to stop treating each other like nation-states and start relaxing and learning from one another which requires some merging of thoughts, activities, and yes, identities. My newfound sense of boundaries has me at best untrusting and on edge with just about everyone and I’m not sure where you draw the line and start trusting. Everybody wants something from everyone, that is the way the world works. If I help my buddy w something big in his life, he is indebted to me. That is not wrong or selfish, that is honorable. You have to know who’s on your team and sometimes do things that make you feel a little inconvenienced or uncomfortable. No one exists in a vaccuum where they don’t need anyone from time to time. If someone asks me for help, I will help them if I want to help them. Me agreeing to help doesn’t mean it won’t be a pain in the ass. Anything that doesn’t suit my purely selfish agenda I am going find a bit inconvienent. But I need friends, I need relationships, and sometimes I need help. . . And so I either choose to help or choose to be alone. . . Balancing the two is key and sometimes I think all the self-righteousness does more to drive us all further apart than bring us together.

    • I found this so interesting as I am married myself. I don’t feel indebted to him and I hope he doesn’t feel indebted to me. I spent most of my life feeling indebted to people for the wrong reasons. They gave me attention, I owe them everything. They helped me, I must help them ten-fold because I am worthless.
      He’s still himself, I’m still me and there are clear identities. We are two people, not one.

      I help a hell of a lot people through work and probably more than 90% of people approach me for free help. I help where I can and I don’t feel bad if I can’t. I am but one person. I’m not an island, who is? Nobody is indebted to me – I don’t ask them to do anything for me. I don’t expect anything. What have I asked you/people to do for me? Are you being bombarded with requests for help or money? (note I’m not suggesting that you’re suggesting I have!) Maybe I’m going wrong somewhere! I don’t have a purely selfish agenda so we are coming from two very different places. You’ve given me food for thought. I helped a friend on Friday because I love her and she is sad. She doesn’t owe me anything although she did buy me a mojito. Is it ‘convenient’ to talk about a guy for most of an evening? Probably not but then I never thought of it in terms of convenience. If all you can take away from this is boundaries are bad, nobody needs anyone, you probably need to shimmy on and live your life in the way that you want. If you’d be happier and more trusting without boundaries, that is your prerogative. It’s your life. If they were boundaries in the first place, you’d live your boundaries and trust them to do that work for you because you know your limits. You’re not supposed to be patrolling the perimeter.

    • Robin says:

      I love your point that balancing the two, your self-identity vs. your identity in any relationship or friendship, is key. I actually disagree that relaxing and learning from one another requires a merging of thoughts, activities, identities. I think it’s more of a team setting-you find you want to be together, it benefits the both of you, and then you work toward a common set of goals. Along the way you come across obstacles or even your own personality differences in the relationship, but you find ways to work that out. (Or, in some cases, not work it out, especially after you’ve tried everything you could at the time and nothing has changed.) I agree about the self-righteousness. If one person thinks he or she is always right and that other people have to do it their way or the highway, it’s really hard for the relationship to continue in a healthy way.

    • grace says:

      I do inconvenience myself for my boyfriend and he inconveniences himself too. But I haven’t done anything for him that makes me uncomfortable and I wouldn’t want him to do anything that makes him uncomfortable. I don’t feel indebted to him. When I used to try to match his giving he said “I do it because I want to”. It’s not transactional, we are both 100% in it. I don’t keep tabs on it anymore (he spent this, I did that, I spent this etc).
      We are separate people, there is no merger at all. that is what makes this relationship markedly different from my previous ones. Two do not become one.
      I know what Nat means by not patrolling the perimeter. I have limits, my boyfriend knows I have limits. He definitely has limits. There’s no need for us to eye each other suspiciously.
      A relationship requires trust, but I trust him because he is trustworthy and I trust myself to make that call. I myself have to be trustworthy too, which I wasn’t in the past. It’s difficult to trust when you feel that you don’t have a firm hold on your own values. Anything could happen (affairs, abuse, financial ruin, casual sex)!
      I used to be very guarded but boundaries have made me less guarded, not more so. At first I did think – ah, boundaries! No-one is getting through these. But they have in fact, allowed me to get close to people. The fear’s gone. Well, mostly gone. I still wouldn’t describe myself as happy-go-lucky but I’m much freer knowing I’ve got my own back.

      • Little Star says:

        @Grace, you recommended a book here called “Getting to Commitment” by Stephen Carter, I am reading it now and it is so clear to me now, who I am and what I am…THANK YOU!

    • Grizelda says:

      Well put, OC, and I do agree that there’s a difference between having boundaries and treating every relationship like a procurement exercise, with its Service Level Agreements and its Invoicing Procedures and its Getout Clauses.

      But then, leaning on that extreme example, the reason why we have procurement procedures in business is exactly because human beings are human beings, and left to their own devices often make well-intentioned decisions (largely emotionally-based) that are actually detrimental to the organisation. For each manager with a tidy spending budget who wants to create a symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationship with a good supplier, there’s a supplier on the lookout for opportunity to get their claws into an organisation/individual and tap it for all it is worth. One manager who ‘feels sorry’ for this ‘cute little struggling supplier who rings me up and makes me laugh and brightens my day’ could soon find their budgets emptied with little to show for it.

      For empathic human beings, doing something purely for the benefit of someone else feels amazingly good. And doubly so if it’s for the benefit of someone we happen to love. Damn our species! However there are so many of us with ‘charitable addiction’ who would go to any extent to get a mainline hit of this amazingly good feeling… oh and prop up our egos that we need to be needed and to further our hidden agendas that everything needs to be done ‘our way’ (aka the ‘interfering old bat syndrome’)… that yes it does really turn into a loser’s game akin to an honest supplier to a large company who never gets paid. What if he’s just sent scrappy IOUs in the post once a month tucked inside long emotionally effusive letters of ‘grateful thanks’ from everyone inside the company, the ink of their signatures streaked with tears of joy and thanks? Great if he can live by eating tear-stained stationery-salad, but not so great if he is a human being with human needs of his own.

      I think what I’m getting at is that people (empathic ones) will voluntarily sacrifice too much — everything — for diddly squat in return, other than the abstract assumption that the person they’re doing it for ‘understands and appreciates’ them. And that’s a dangerous assumption to make.

      I’m looking at you, BR ladies.

  2. amanda says:

    This is amazing and timely, although I think (I hope!) that I’m already on the way to figuring this one out. I’ve been griping here about how I used to be involved with a MM, and went from being his OW to his Chief Sympathizer. I wanted so badly to be the “helper” you describe, but each time I “helped”, I would feel terrible, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. One month ago, this MM went and did the incredible: he finally separated from his wife. BUT, he ran into the arms of ANOTHER OW! Wow. I howled and howled (to myself) for a couple of weeks there, but, I gotta say, he gave me a wonderful gift. He freed me from the temptation of being his little helper. We are barely in touch, and in the last couple of weeks, I have stopped thinking obsessively about it, stopped trying to throw myself into a “friendship” which doesn’t exist, stopped feeling abandoned by his silence, and am moving on. It feels wonderful. I no longer have internal conversations with him. I have real conversations with real people in my life. I have stopped having to feel like an idiot for wasting my time on this fantasy relationship. He separated from his wife, the other shoe dropped… into the lap of anOOW, and I am now free to move on. Hallelujah. And, thanks to everyone here for seeing me through some pretty tumultuous times… hopefully, those are in the past.

    • Ms Determined says:

      And THIS, is how you do recovery from ACs. Keep calm and ZOMG AMANDA THROW YOURSELF A PARTY WITH MARTINIS! (and if I’m invited, male strippers).

      • amanda says:

        Thanks for the support. It feels great. Yes, the party’s on me, and everyone here who knows exactly what I’ve been through (put myself through…) is invited. On the other hand, I’ve only felt “free” for going on 2 weeks. Can I trust that I have really made the shift? Hard to know. It really helps that he is no longer hanging out on my virtual doorstep, asking for emotional support (asking to wipe his feet on me, the virtual doormat), and I am no longer begging to be his doormat. That was always the trigger. I wanted so badly to be loved by this man, yet, I chose to remain stuck on an emotionally unavailable (MARRIED, fer chrissakes) man because something in me is afraid to face myself and face true intimacy. Now that he is receding, life feels a little empty, a little boring. I got used to having his drama, as painful as it was. I hope that I can sit with this emptiness, and see it as potential, rather than nothingness. I hope you all can, with your own versions of this, as well!

  3. Emerldeyez says:

    I think for me, it’s pretty simple, I don’t do for somebody something that they can do for themselves. Because then I am enabling them, to depend on me, and I am creating an emotional cripple. If I am doing it to feel needed, to feel good about myself, or better than the person I am helping, it’s like I have strings attached. I have had men try to guilt me into helping them financially, when it was their problem to figure out, not mine. We were a couple but not much else. And I learned that was their M.O. When I didn’t hand out the money, they found someone else to get it from, and walked from the relationship. I have always been there for my family, if they get jammed up, that’s different. If I was in a committed living together type relationship we would have combined account to pay for the joint stuff.
    I was in a relationship with a man that made 4 x’s the amount I did. He was selfish, that when we went on trips he said he wasn’t lowering his standard of living, and not go, because I couldn’t afford it. I got into financial debt before I wised up and left. That to me was wrong. And I look back over the relationship and have read some of Natalie’s translations ” I have nothing to offer”, this was one of his lines. He recently tried to get back together with me, three years after we have broken up and you know what he said the same thing. SO I said well, then keep on going…… It felt really good.

  4. Emerldeyez says:

    i don’t think this blog is creating self centered selfish, self righteous women. I think it is helping women who haven’t had healthy boundaries, and have been taught to take care of everyone else regardless of how it affected them, which has put many of us in very hurtful, vulnerable situations, with abusive men that prey on people to take care of their own needs without any feelings towards those they have stepped on. I can only speak for me.

    • Tracy says:

      Emerldeyez: I agree 100%. This site has really taught me the being the ‘helper/good girl’ does nothing for ME but cause me grief. Not that I shouldn’t help someone in need, but not everyone who demands or accepts your help DESERVES your help.

    • Lilia says:


    • R-Ral says:

      Hi OC,
      I totally agree with you. I repeatedly found myself in hurtful situations where I would be completely depleted emotionally from overgiving, absolutely vulnerable to all sorts of shady things due to a lack of boundaries, with abusive men who had no feelings towards me, simply because I allowed myself to be stepped on. Thanks for speaking for me too! I thank God for Natalie Lue and the good amazing life changing advice and guidance. She has saved me more than she will ever know. I now recognize signs that tell me when I am not acting in my best interest. I clearly recognize the signs of Fast Forwarding which is HUGE for me. And I recognize my own strength in making choices that reflect my personal strength, my growing self esteem, and my true self love. Thank you forever, Natalie Lue!

    • beth d says:

      I am sure most of us on here have somehow gotten into lopsided relationships. I am for sure guilty as charged with helping, and trying to fix. I know now that alot of my helping became enabling. Guilt and pity kept me from moving on from what I knew was a toxic relationship. One of the last things I said to my ex was I don’t want to fix you anymore. I have to either accept you or move on. I choose to move on.

  5. McKenzieM says:

    I have to agree with Emerldeyez. This blog is not creating self-centered, selfish, nor self-righteous women. NML & BR is about helping women who have lost themselves in one way or another find who they are through the setting of appropriate boundaries and other methods. I personally am extremely glad to have stumbled across it. It gave me the push I needed to cut ties with my EU AC and go NC. And I am sooooo glad I did.

  6. Paige says:

    Love this. So true. Would you please publish another blog on the no contact or not contacting them first? Feeling very vulnerable with valentines just around the corner and know he will make no effort to call or even send a card. I love your posts. It is true to become involved and occupied with something or someone else, preferably my own needs! The more i focus on that, as you say, they (EUs) are just not that special. It has taken me months of humiliating myself and being thrown under the bus time after time to figure out something that a second grader could understand. They are just not that into you. Period. No need to analyze it! If they are not making an effort, that is the only clue you need. I just need to read it over and over again.
    Thank you natalie.

  7. yoghurt says:

    Thanks for another great post Nat!

    I think – and I speak here as someone who spent most of their life genuinely NOT BELIEVING in ‘unhealthy giving’ as a concept (I thought it was an excuse for wusses whose haloes weren’t quite as bullet-proof as mine), the big lightbulb moment on this came for me when I managed to redefine love as an action, rather than a feeling.

    When the extent of my ‘love’ was defined by how woodly-doodly I felt around someone, and how much I tingled in their presence, it followed that in order to ‘love’ them I just had to be around them and do things that made both of us feel nice. This included (but wasn’t restricted to) letting them come round at 4am in the depths of drunkenness to complain about their terrible horrible lives, sleeping with them ill-advisedly and smiling nicely when I would’ve been justified in beating them around the head with a chair.

    Thing is, afaics these days, ‘loving someone’ really means that you act in their best interests whether you feel like it or not.

    The kicker to that is that it isn’t EVER in anyone’s best interests to let them ignore yours and gallop over you repeatedly while you lie on the floor and take it. I’ve probably said this before, but even if you don’t believe that it’s bad for their soul (and frankly I do) then it still gives them alsorts of erroneous messages about the world and their importance in it, it stops them from learning about real intimacy (based on care, respect and honesty) and it feeds whatever manky preconceptions they already have about their own behaviour. It’s damaging TO THEM as well as to you, and if you don’t care about that then there’s no point in pretending that you care about them in any other sense.

    • Revolution says:


      Your last paragraph. Pure gold.

    • amanda says:

      Amen. And, how many times have us codependent-helper-types had the frustration of watching someone leave us or break up with us, then do they very thing(s) on his (or her) own which we were bending over backwards to help them do when they were “with” us? We think that this is frustrating, but it should not be surprising. These unavailable-people who claim to need our help aren’t going to be able to change for as long as people like us try to do the work for them. They need to be truly on their own before they think to change from within. If part of you is sticking around with these UA-people because you think that you need to help them, truly, the best way to help them is to take a step back. Give them the tough love they need and crave. Go about your own life. Perhaps, in a few months (more like a few years) time, you will cross paths with them, and you will both be astonished at how much you have both grown up. Or, not. Maybe neither you nor he/she will change that much. Who knows.

      • yoghurt says:

        Amen back atcha, amanda :)

        As someone who is required to still have some sort of relationship with the ex-EUM, I’ve been thinking this over since this post.

        Actually, I think (touch wood, as no doubt I’ll jinx it by saying this and he’ll do something stupid) that me and son’s dad have a very healthy dynamic these days – as evidenced by the fact that it’s also very dull and I HARDLY GIVE IT A THOUGHT these days (woot!). We see each other often to pick up/drop off son, we are kind, appreciative, flexible and supportive of each other where necessary, we occasionally have a brew and discuss co-parenting or topics of general interest and now and then we are snarky with each other and row.

        Thing is, when you look at the contributions that I’ve made to this situation – and I’d like to think that I’ve made a few – the best and most helpful things that I did for him were also the most a) ungratifying and downright depressing b) difficult – like fighting-my-natural-inclinations-with-every-bone-in-my-body difficult and c) likely to actively prevent us from being together. Ie, I moved out of town when I was pregnant to stop him driving me loopdaloop, I’ve stuck around and let him be a father and I’ve (more recently) slapped down any attempts he’s made to have me on Team Son’s Dad Inner Emotions.

        The upshot is that he’s got a gf who gets all the benefits of the improvements to his character and I bring up his baby by myself but in his vicinity so that recovery has been difficult. I’ve finally got to the point where I don’t mind and am glad that things have turned out as they have, but the ‘tough love’ that you talk about has been probably the most difficult thing that I’ve ever done.

        There is no way I will EVER EVER put myself in that position again. I am not enough of a saint to know that I wouldn’t pushing people down the stairs second time around.

        • amanda says:

          Wow, yoghurt. You have awesome boundaries, from the sound of it. I hope that you feel really good about yourself. Let me tell you, you’re self-assurance radiates out of the page. It’s going to impress the hell out of the next available person (friend, co-worker, boyfriend) who walks into your life. They will have no choice but to treat you with respect, and by doing so, will give you the foundation of building that truly loving relationship you deserve. I mean… its already worked on one person… YOU! You know you kick ass, and you love yourself. You’ve done the hardest and most rewarding job.

      • Nikki says:

        So right, amanda. My first love was an EUM. I refused to renew contact after he stopped speaking to me/broke off contact for 9 months. Our friendship was not working because he wasn’t being a friend, he was just orbiting and opportunistically waiting to get back in. I spoke to him 20 years later, after I’d done a ton of work to understand my pattern of dating guys just like him. The funny thing is I’d changed and learned and grown and he is even further down the Assclown path in life. So odds are there won’t be a happily ever after with one of these douches. Best you can do is work on yourself to guarantee your love life will improve without him.

  8. willow says:

    I’ve been guilty of the ‘helping’ with a secret ulterior motive in the past, most of the time not even aware that I had an agenda and wondering why the lucky man was not eternally grateful to me! After a while, I began to see that the constant sympathy and support, beautifully cooked meals, free sex, last minute availability, tolerance of his drug habit,etc. was not reciprocated with the committed relationship I really wanted, with all the care and attention I craved. When I stopped giving him all of my attention and ‘help’ and started helping myself instead, life changed dramatically. Now, I cannot imagine being that person again. I had to become seriously ill to finally stop the whole charade. Because that is what it was, a charade. I was not being true to myself or really honest with him. There are some situations in life where it might be ok to help someone just for the benefits you expect, e.g. a difficult boss at work, but when you take this thinking into situations like personal relationships I think you end up tolerating people who deep down you don’t really like or respect, purely because you expect to gain something from them. The thing I realised towards the end of my three year ‘non-relationship’ with a separated-but-not-getting-divorce-yet EUM was that he did not respect me for ‘helping’ him and he found it humiliating. Nobody wants to feel helpless or indebted to someone else and nobody wants to feel forever owed and never paid. I was doing us both a favour by moving on and letting him work out his problems himself in his own way.

    • Victorious says:

      Willow, I did exactly the same. I also stayed silent when I should have been shouting “What the fuck did you just say?” in his face. It also made me very ill. Ill enough that I could not work and needed anxiety meds. I wanted the payback, although I wasn’t really aware of it. I wanted the relationship/man I had in the beginning and the more that fantasy drifted away, the more I gave, thinking I suppose that if I gave enough, the rewards would surely follow. Natalie, the tag at the start of this post, “Hello, you’ve reached the Florence helpline……..”I may as well have had this as my answering machine message my whole adult life.

    • Nancy says:

      Wow…I love this. That is me to a tee! I think after the second time I slept with him, I sent him a book. The fourth time I slept with him, I was planning a trip for us that I would pay for, more books, pictures, alcohol, TV, concerts, candles, CDs…..and then when I caught him with another woman, he reminded me that he told me that he could never be mongamous, and furthermore, he was uncomfortable with my gifts because that indicates a whole other level. I was totally humiliated and when I thought about it…I understood his point. I am still dealing with wanting his crumbs, but I’ve also quit giving and trying to “buy” his commitment.

  9. FollowURIntuition says:

    This is very timely for me too. Coming out of a bad and unhealthy relationship I feel Ive reached a new level of consciousness and see relationships around me in a different way. While this is great because I am now equipped with a new set of boundaries I am practicing day to day, it can also lead to you not minding your business with other people’s affairs. Oh I think i have my own stuff in order, let me tell you how to run your house type of mentality (although we never ever think of it this way, we think, hey I see my friend in pain, let me help her)

    I have a couple of girlfriends who are either stuck in booty calls that will never go anywhere (umm they are married to someone else) or a dude they were with for a long time (read more than 3 years) have cheated on them and they continue to stay with them. It upsets me that they make those decisions, but I am reminded that I too stayed in an unhealthy relationship until I finally saw the light (I basically had no other choice at that point that is how bad it was) As I was giving advice to a friend about her relationship (I saw her in pain and wanted to help) she kindly reminded me that it was none of my business and a good friend is supportive and thats that. I was angry for a bit, but reading this, I get it. I am not a solution to no ones problems. I am there to listen and to share if that is what they want. But ppl have to make their own decisions. Now I ask a lot of questions (I think its the teacher in me–you dont want to inculcate people with your belief system, you want to ask those questions to spark some thinking in them…like what do you think doing this means for you, how can you center you? what does loving yourself mean?) and I hope they figure out what is best for them. And isnt that what you would want for people in your life?

    • yoghurt says:

      “As I was giving advice to a friend about her relationship (I saw her in pain and wanted to help) she kindly reminded me that it was none of my business and a good friend is supportive and thats that.”

      I agree with your points and I think that the principle of Poking Your Nose Out is a generally good one, but I would be cautious of this one.

      Pre-BR days, I got caught up in a situation with a ‘friend’ who was basically fantasizing up an unhealthy situation and, tbh, just behaving badly. I was ‘supportive’ – I listened, analysed, sympathized, cared… and ended up completely drained. It was like pouring myself down a deep dark bottomless pit, until the day that I dreaded seeing her, I thought the whole situation was absolutely ridiculous/unlikely and I was being completely dishonest every time I didn’t say “Look, this is stupid, you know how you should be behaving and you’re choosing not to. So stop banging on about it and get a grip”.

      From the other side, the best friendship that I had during my own awful relationship was with someone lovely and sensible who, actually, didn’t encourage me to talk about it much. She wrote him off as a donkey, she wasn’t all that interested in hearing about him and, although she would always help and advise over practical things (like how to tell him I was pregnant, for example), she just didn’t want to enter into the murky world of our non-relationship.

      I’m sure that your friends aren’t as painy as my exfriend (or indeed me), but don’t feel that you have to be endlessly supportive if it means agreeing with whatever viewpoint they happen to have at that time (against your better judgement and at the expense of consistency) and listening about it non-stop. If you’re treating them as though they’re lovable and worthy, and supporting them practically then that should be enough.

      As I write this it occurs to me that beyond saying “oh, he’s lovely and we’re going to go to x on Saturday…” there shouldn’t really be much need to discuss your relationship with your friends at all – after all, healthy relationships don’t need the input of a third person and they’re nobody else’s business in either case.

      • Lau_ra says:

        I totally agree that “not poking your nose into smb elses business” rule should be taken with a grain of salt. I do believe that my friends can see some things that are happening in a more objective ways at times,c ause they aren’t emotionally attached to the situation, and they should give advice if they see I’m delusional of illogical. E.g. my bff had a relationship with an EUM 3 years ago and she was going through everything that many of us do in here, and I told her she should dump him, cause he doesn’t seem to care. She did and soon after that she met her now-husband. And several months ago she reminded me this advice of mine and said I should use my won wisdom that I happened to forget in several years. That actually made me realise I had boundaries not so long ago and made me start thinking what the hell happened that I lost them. So yay for those friends who are able to shake us when we need it, instead of being safely supportive with our illogical decisions.

        • yoghurt says:

          Fair point lau_ra – I’ve realised that I’m being really really harsh about all of these friends in need. Oh dear…

          But I agree with you, and I’ve had lovely friends give me good advice over the years – I’m also still a pretty enthusiastic and prolific advice-giver still!

          Having said that, I know that I’ve been the archetypal Vampire friend in the past. When I was pregnant and entangled with son’s dad and going out of my mind, that really was all I could talk about and although I (hope I) didn’t, I remember feeling disconnected from everything else. Either way I’m sure I wasn’t any fun.

          Good advice is a good thing and I was given it, but the thing is that you can’t keep giving it and explaining the rationale over and over. Some of my friends basically said “Look, I can’t help you if you’re not taking my advice and it’s upsetting for me to hear about how you’re letting yourself being treated. Please don’t talk to me about it any more”. I sulked and avoided them for a bit, but now that I’m better I appreciate that their input was the healthiest and the most useful.

          Ugh, this is depressing to remember – think I’d blocked it out before now!

          So I agree that advice is useful, but you shouldn’t have to give it over and over again, you should be able to be honest and you shouldn’t have to listen to never-ending analyses of the Next Instalment every time you meet up. If the friend can’t cope with that then that’s their business, but in the end it’s up to them to sort out anyway.

          • Lau_ra says:

            its not like I said that you (or they) should listen to that same talk every single time you meet when the opinions on a certain issue were expressed-no way. I think its a great way of oth giving your advice as well as closing the topic, that you’ve mentioned, if you feel that the person just wants someone to complain to instead of taking action in a certain situation.

            • yoghurt says:

              Hiya Lau_ra

              Sorry – I wasn’t being critical of your point, I was revising mine in the light of it, because I thought it was a good one.

              I don’t want to get taken for a ride by people who take advantage anymore, but neither do I want to be (or advise other people to be) cynical and without compassion or understanding for people who are going through what I went through (and I think that I tend to swerve in that direction these days).

              Just trying to get my own head straight on things :)

    • Allison says:


      When does one become a sounding board?

      I have had a few friends regurgitate the same problems – sometimes for 2+ years – to the point that I knew I was being used. They had no desire to make any positive changes, but were choosing to see themselves in victim role, and needed someone to vent to.

      Never again, as this does not make a healthy friendship, and would always be one-sided. Emotional Vampires!!!!

      Not saying this was your situation with your GF.

      • Emerldeyez says:

        One thing I have learned to say to some of my friends, ” so what are you going to do about it?” If they were stuck in the pity me loop, they would go find someone else to listen to them, and I was no longer the shoulder to cry on, hallelujah! But if they said I don’t know never thought about that, and then they would start brainstorming about what they thought they could do, I was there to cheer them on. I looked at them like energy robbers. I’d rather have someone plug into me that energizes me, not drain me.

  10. Amanda B says:

    Another article that was written directly for me. Thank you.

  11. miskwa says:

    I have gotten to the point where most of my giving is anonymous from donating to scholarships to giving food to the local destitute. I am giving without any chance of getting anything back and also not having to worry about folks reading anything into my generosity that isn’t there. A good way to be. I will give of my time to someone who needs to talk or help with lifting etc. but if it becomes enabling, I am gone.

  12. Magnolia says:

    Hmm. I don’t feel like a giver. I do feel like I have trouble asking for the help I need. I often feel put upon just being asked to go out to social events and don’t want to do what I imagine “normal” people would want to do without problems (I’m thinking at work).

    I keep telling myself that when I’ve given enough (or the right kind of care) to myself, then I’ll begin to have enough for other people.

    I still resent having been raised as my father’s emotional air bag, and only since BR and group/12-step therapy have I stopped looking (I think I have stopped looking!) for my very own Prince Emotional Air Bag.

    I was also raised to feel virtuous about denying my own desires (and guilty for having needs) so giving to myself still feels weird; and figuring out what counts as giving is a process I’m learning. Cutting out apple fritters and pizza for breakfast? Self-denial or self-care? Having apple fritter and pizza for breakfast? Indulgence of addiction or giving?

    In any case, I hope that as I learn the balance between indulgence, giving, and restraint that I’ll feel more comfortable extending those practices toward others. Right now I just want to focus on me, me, me.

    FWIW, not being an over-giver prevented me from beginning to clean the ex-AC’s toilet for him. I considered it and then was like …. no. I had to ask him to do it as it was starting to get gross to visit him (in his fancy house, no less). I swear he was waiting for me to start doing it as a gesture of how much he’d made me feel “right at home”! If I’d done it on the way out of the shower or something, he’d probably have snapped a pic of me doing it in a state of undress, as he once did a pic of me doing dishes in my undies. Gross, huh? I digress. But in any case I only clean the toilets of residences I own or rent myself!

  13. Ivana says:

    Natalie, you always wear some cool cardigan! :)

    • Revolution says:

      I agree with Ivana, Natalie. I also L-O-V-E that cheeky-ass smile of yours in your pic. It cracked me UP when I scrolled down and saw it.

  14. Magnolia says:

    Well – I’m feeling chatty tonight!

    This post, and oc’s reply, makes me think about some of the folks I’ve met who think of themselves as ‘givers’ but some of us know as ACs. Perhaps it’s coming from a background of poverty, but I never had anything someone would want right off the bat in order to offer certain kinds of ‘help’ prematurely.

    My ex-AC offered to fly me around places within days of knowing me. He gave me expensive pieces of used furniture when he was moving and donated stuff to charity. But the gifts came with unspoken strings, and the donations came with the expectation that he’d be a big man about town with grateful admirers.

    My ex-roommate, who was judgmental and not only couldn’t lift a finger to help when I was moving, but actively made things inconvenient, would get on numerous buses to volunteer as a personal assistant to a blind woman, and to work at the special needs library. I used to feel bad that she wasn’t nice to me because she’s a nice person, right, who gives her time to less fortunate people? When I saw the letter she left lying around, and then made a point of mentioning that she’d gotten an invite to a special lunch with the University President for volunteers who helped this somewhat famous blind woman, I understood. She’s a strategic “helper,” that one. I also noticed she refused a lot of my genuinely offered help throughout the time I lived there. It always made me feel weird because it was as though she didn’t want to accept anything from me. I don’t think she knew real friendly help, only charity, which means there’s a giver who is strong and a receiver who is needy, in her world.

    Finally, my colleague who has shown his bitchy side: he was always offering to help, to put me up, to take me out, etc when I first got to this town but something in my spidey senses made me say no thanks. I didn’t want to accept anything from him, not because I felt above it, but because I felt that weird vibe of someone who is trying to get you in their debt. Since then I have heard him refer to people like this, “Oh, I’ve been grooming him for a while,” I’m like, what does that mean? “Oh, you know, when I see him I’m nice to him and do little nice things like buy him a beer.” I thought, gosh, when I’m “nice” to people I’m not keeping tabs! What a terrible way to interact!

    I understand the concept of owing someone a favour or even calling one in, but all that, if it’s working well, is above board, out in the open, and discussed. Not some passive-aggressive tab-keeping on how many compliments I’ve given.

    With Mr. Colleague, my gut says that my not accepting his repeated offers of “help” has been interpreted as rejection, and so now it’s hostility time.

    The colleagues that I’m most comfortable with, ironically, are the self-sufficient folks who have asked *me* for my help in their various classes. Once I have helped them with something they actively needed, I feel more comfortable asking when I need something from them. For example, I asked many of these same folks to read a chapter of my diss to do a mock defense. I should add that I did consciously think about this, and asked a couple people for help that I hadn’t yet helped myself, having worked out that maybe some people, like me, are glad of the chance to provide real assistance.

    How much better I feel about that little risk, to ask for what I need, than to accept the weird-vibed, too-intense, unrequested “help” from someone who is grooming me to be indebted, or the “help” that can only come from on high with me on bended knee.

    • beth d says:

      Magnolia “But the gifts came with unspoken strings, and the donations came with the expectation that he’d be a big man about town with grateful admirers.”
      My Narc/AC showered me with expensive gifts as well. I wanted to see it as omg he loves me so much and he is trying so hard for me so I need to be patient with him. Later on I read an excerpt about Narcissists that explained it better.
      “He impresses others with his selflessness and kindness and thus lures them into his lair, entraps them, and manipulates and brainwashes them into subservient compliance and obsequious collaboration. People are attracted to the narcissist’s larger than life posture – only to discover his true personality traits when it is far too late. “Give a little to take a lot” – is the narcissist’s creed.”

      • jewells says:

        Oh bethd, that’s exactly the dynamic my exMM AC Narc got me on. I sometimes found myself doubting my assessment of him, but that paragraph just cemented it. THANK YOU! He really thrived on his ‘good guy’ giving personae, but it belied his disorder underneath, the true wolf in sheep’s clothing. He even said in our last convo that he was taught to put others first…nope, he just makes pretense of it and takes what he wants in exchange…

        • beth d says:

          jewells I thought mine was just oh so wonderful and look how he tries so hard to make me happy. They are the “great pretenders” Truly wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    • Revolution says:


      I’m glad you’re chatty lately. And I read your comment and kept nodding my head, because my ex-best friend of 14/15 years would do this. She would create this weird dependence by trying to give to me, so that I would be constantly in her debt. Then she would proceed to suck me dry. It’s not hyperbole to say that it took me about 3 years to recover from that “friendship.” She literally made me mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. My immune system was compromised for a long time afterwards. It’s amazing what people like this can do to you (if you LET them).

      The irony of that relationship with her is that she was a TAKER. But she liked to cloak herself, as the people in the examples you gave, as a giver. At the end of our friendship, probably the last 3 years of it, I would staunchly but politely refuse her smothering (I mean “mothering”–woops! ;)) attempts at “help” and she would react angrily. I remember not completely understanding the dynamic at the time, but just getting a sense of “WTF is going on here?” Always listen to the gut.

      Ironically, I LOVE to give to my good and healthy friends who are in my life now. It’s funny how giving to *them* actually energizes me, because it allows me to express my love to them without any strings attached on either end, and without anyone keeping tabs.

    • Liska says:


      I don’t usually post here but your ex roommate story sounds similar to mine.

      For two years, I lived with a female roommate who was a highly judgmental person.
      She offered me a “help” with my job search. She called my professionally prepared resume “a joke”. She went on “helping” me by telling me to be realistic and quit setting my hopes on my dream job.
      She frequently criticized my clothing for being too tight, too short, not good for my pear shape etc. All this, according to her, was a friendly advice. When I politely refused her “help”, she called me insecure.
      And yes, she was a volunteer! Once a year she spent one weeks giving free tax services to a low income population. Then she would often come home calling her clients lazy, uneducated and white trash. But hey, volunteering sure looked great on her resume.
      I was so glad for finding BR and finally standing up for myself, getting rid off my ex AC and my ex roommate. I learned my lesson.
      I help my genuine friends but I refuse to help or get help from EU people because there is always an ulterior motive. Always. I refuse to stroke someones ego, pumping somebody up, Florence after they are hangovered, playing an arm chair psychologist when ex wife has a new boyfriend,or be a free pet sitter for weeks in order to earn a position of narcissistic harem leader.

  15. teachable says:

    Magnolia. I’m reading this & get it. You go girl!

  16. teachable says:

    oc the type of help I believe Nat refers to in this post, is that offered in expectation of getting something in return (spoken or unspoken).

    Giving without expectation in return is healthy giving. We may help people in one area of our life & with all things being ‘swings n.roundabouts’ see similar generosity bestowed upon us from another.

    I’m.experiencing this now. I’ve dedicated over two decades of.my life to helping others in a volunteer capacity. It was ‘work’ which literally contributed to saving people’s lives (& this is OUTSIDE of my life long professional career helping others also). Now, I am to sick to work & not well enough to help others voluntarily either. Only three people I have directly helped in the past have offered to help me now, in my time of need. One I am continuing to help & support voluntarily, but she is the exception, as she has very little support otherwise. A fourth, whom I apparently have helped greatly, without ever even knowing it, has also stepped forward.

    Help is not flooding in but there is enough to keep me going. These people are literally keeping my spirits up & ensuring I have basic things like FOOD, during what is an exceedingly challenging time.

    I do not feel indebted to any of them, nor that they owed me anything. This lack of expectation, is the difference between healthy & unhealthy giving giving & receiving of help & support.

  17. teachable says:

    I say I do not feel indebted for if I was to say this to any of them (as indeed I have) the response would (& has) been thus:

    I have dedicated my entire adult life to helping others. It is now time to learn to sit back & let others help me for a change. The only ‘debt’ I feel is to knowing the great value of those who stay close in difficult times & never forgetting all these people are doing for me & to in time, ‘pass it on’.

    • Beth D says:

      Teach I feel so bad I could cry. I wish I could help somehow. One thing I have learned in life is that difficult times will bring out the best and the worst in people. .
      “The only ‘debt’ I feel is to knowing the great value of those who stay close in difficult times & never forgetting all these people are doing for me & to in time, ‘pass it on’” Profound teach!!

    • Revolution says:


      As you well know, it’s pure pleasure to be able to help others with no selfish agenda on our parts, and no “emotional vampirism” on their side. In that same vein, the people who are helping you right now sound like they are getting satisfaction out of being able to “pass it on” to you, after THEY’VE received from you and others like you. Sounds like a healty and encouraging interchange. I’m glad that you have that, and impressed that you can see and appreciate the dynamic so clearly.

  18. Tired says:

    Amanda i had same thing happen . I know it hurts when it first sinks in and youll get there at your own pace and speed . But the main thing is you can see it and your moving forward . Dont let the down days get you , you are as you rightly say free from a cloud of lies , mistrust and the mess of it all . If you ever feel them , feel them but keep moving forward there are lots of things you can do . There is someone out that will be there for you but be happy bout who you are to. Youll be amazed as time passes how more peace comes and how you strengthen . Dont worry if ypu have bad days we all do just ride em out and dont let anyone drag you down . Best wishes and be strong x

    • Victorious says:

      Aah Tired, and see how the Student becomes the Master. Good to see you feeling strong. Keep doing whatever it is you are doing as it is clearly working for you.

  19. Tinkerbell says:

    Hi OC. After all the responses to your post, I’m surprised that no on seemed to pick up on something you said. I was inclined to generally agree but had to vehemently disagree when you said this: “If I help my buddy with something big in his life, he is indebted to me, That is not wrong, or selfish, that is honorable.” It seems as though you are condoning helping others for a reward. Regardless, of how big the help is or the nature of that help, feeling “honorable” afterward is wrong. That is helping with a hidden agenda. It is helping on the premise that you are above that person and you deign to help him/her, condescendingly. Feeling honor or deriving a feeling of having been honorable by your actions is very selfish, and should be unwelcome.

    Also, please read what Emereldeyez said about this blog as that is what BR is based on and how it came about.

    • beth d says:

      Tinker Agree with both you and Emereldeyz! xo

    • BRwiserNow says:

      @Tinkerbell, I picked up on this too, but found the portion “he is indebted to me” to be the disturbing portion. To assume that ‘giving’ or ‘helping’ another they should be indebted to you for doing so IS selfish, IMO. I would certainly feel gratitude toward another for welcomed assistance, but by NO means would I owe them for their kind gesture. To give or help IS indeed “honorable” if doing so without expectation. The action itself is honorable, but does not automatically entitle the individual who ‘gives’ with respect, or honor.
      @OC, I’ve felt similar to this “My newfound sense of boundaries has me at best untrusting and on edge with just about everyone and I’m not sure where you draw the line and start trusting”. This was part of my growth process, once I became wise to MY contribution to the mess of my relationshit history (thanks to BR and Natalie’s experience/wise words). It’s almost an angry feeling…but not at others as much as it was at myself. I had to “draw the line and start trusting” ME…first.

  20. pinkpanther says:

    I told a lover that I adore getting love letters, so she wrote me one every single day. After a week, I didn’t bother to read them anymore. This went on for 6 mo’s. I felt terrible because I couldn’t bring myself to read them, but it made me feel like I was in jail, all her giving was oppressive.

  21. Revolution says:

    You know, I read OC’s comment and had the same thoughts as all of the rest of you. However, and please correct me if I’m wrong OC and everyone else, I think I have a slightly different understanding of what OC is saying. Now this is all based on the premise that, from what I recall in past comments, OC is a man.

    I’ve noticed, in my conversations with men in the past, that sometimes (ah, let me word this carefully, because this could be a sensitive issue and I don’t mean to pigeonhole or offend anyone of either gender) men tend to think of relationships (romantic or otherwise)in a tribal sense. A “this is my tribe and that’s your tribe.” They tend to find strength in numbers, in community. Therefore, they tend to see things in a structural sense, with a view of survival of the community in order for the individual to survive and thrive.

    Now, here’s what I’m NOT saying here: I’m NOT saying that all men (or ONLY men) view things this way. I’m NOT saying that this viewpoint is a heartless viewpoint, devoid of love. I’m also not saying that it ISN’T. It all depends on the individual. But I do think that *maybe* OC is coming from this perspective. I’m open to thoughts from him (?) though, as I never want to put words in anyone’s mouth.

    Hopefully I haven’t stepped into a hornet’s nest here as that wasn’t my intention.

  22. NK says:

    Yes this post reminds me of a recent lesson learnt, I tried to help a friend with her relationship issue. Realised that she is not open to help. She just wants someone to nodd and listen. She doesn’t want the situation to change. Frustrating for me I have been there myself – i was a broken record for about 6 months to a year about my ex narc and recently my ‘sex addiction’.
    A newish friend told me that she is seeing an old work colleague of mine. I knew this work colleague before her. When I knew him he did not seem to be the kind of guy who would do this, how things change….
    She is 35, he is 25. She says she wants a boyfriend. Yet she is his ‘booty call’. I didn’t say anything much about the situation at first. Then she gets pregnant. She tells him and he completely shuts her out and treats her with utter most disrespect (the words he used were fowl). She asks me to accompany her to an abortion. She speaks to me about him and I tell her that this isn’t something she should let go as it shows his immaturity, lack of respect and he has issues…he was a D*ckhead about the situation.
    She agrees, but when he comes round to pick up an object of his, he apologises and they make up. She tells him what she wants from him. When I hear about this I was actually livid. I was drunk one day and saw him out. I said something to him long the lines of ‘She loves you, you don’t love her. Just find another girl to mess round with. Its not fair. You don’t deserve a second chance wit her’.
    She finds out and is angry at me for saying something.
    I had a chat with her and told her about this site. But she replies that she doesn’t believe in ‘one size fits all’ advice and that every situation is different and how I don’t understand the connection they have. When I have spoken to her numerous times about the unhealthy relationship I had with my ex and how I just couldn’t let go and to this year I still had an unhealthy addiction to him (I’d say its almost gone, almost!).

    Her reaction was to not speak about him to me because she can’t handle my look that I’ll give her. They have continued their relationship, where he comes round when he feels like it for sex and she is not allowed to tell anyone about them in public.

    He routinely dumps ner and then comes back. After a while of hardly telling me anything she tells me that at the weekend, I invited her out with me she says no because she wants to relax. Then my other mate invites her to this place where he works. She goes there (he has recently dumped her). She sees him with another girl. My reply is that I am there for her but I do not need to tell anything as she alway KNOWS THE TRUTH. she doesn’t want to face it.

    I just hope that i didn’t apply too much projection on her – because she did act a bit suffocating a few times saying I sounded like her controlling mother :s
    I was just disgusted at the fact that I thought I knew this guy and she is 35 and been through some horror stories yet she clearly hasn’t worked out that she is attracted to unhealthy situations. Her reply is ‘You can’t help who you love’
    That statement makes me feel ill when I hear it.

    • BRwiserNow says:

      Ooooy NK! I can’t stand that statement either ‘You can’t help who you love’…right out of the Jerry Springer show…’Why do you stay with this f**kwit? Because I loooove him.’…ICK!

      Play a different record, love yourself more and the rest will follow.

    • yoghurt says:

      I hate that statement too.

      NK – I wrote a reply above to FollowURIntuition about this friendship issue that I won’t duplicate, but you might find helpful.

      The other thing that I’d add is look after yourself. I got into an incredibly toxic situation with a ‘friend’ (again, see above!) just as I was reeling from my own awful situation and it left me feeling about 10x more isolated, stupid and frightened of people than I already was, which is saying something.

      You’ve had a rubbish couple of years yourself and I suspect that this is likely to make you a) sympathise unhealthily with this situation and b) vulnerable to be hurt if either of them turn on you in any way.

      If it were me, I’d say something along the lines of “You’re my friend, I care about you, I hate to see you get hurt and I’ll be here to support you. Having said that, I’ve told you what I think about this situation and it isn’t doing either of us any good for you to talk endlessly about it if you’re not going to make different choices, so I’d appreciate it if you could leave the subject alone when you’re with me”.

      That’s not to say that your poor friend is as manipulative as mine was, but she needs to learn that one effect of CHOOSING to remain in these situations is that people can’t provide unlimited sympathy over it ad infinitum.

    • Lau_ra says:

      this woman clearly thinks she is an exception, if she says that she doesnt believe in universal advice in such oh-so-not-unique situation. Maybe its not her epiphany yet?
      It took me to experience 2 AC/EUM relationships in a year to get real. The first one included a 3y younger guy,being constantly lied to, being a booty-call, crying almost every single day (which is absolutely abnormal for me) and experiencing how a guy can vanish forever, though you agreed for the meeting the same day (had been wise enough to ignore him when he appeared like nothing has ever happened after several months).
      The second one included a 5 y older very successful, intelligent and handsome man, his chivalrious behaviour, yet also his passive-agressive reaction when I would hit some sensitive themes (past relationships,my place in his life), him freaking out that I would get pregnant and taking a precaution pill cause he asked me to, and then him vanishing from my life and ignoring any attempt to contact him-this time I wasn’t so wise, tried to “blame” his Aspergers, and to show him I can HELP to overcome his fears…yeah,right…
      At the end of the day its us who have to look for the answers and for the sollutions. Just like you said – she doesn’t want to face the truth, she likes being delusional.
      You did all you could, now its her turn to be responsible, though I seriously don’t get how she still wants him even after she had an abortion, which resulted into them making up, and not her kicking his selfish ass…:(

      • NK says:

        @Lau-ra Thats exactly what I think, I can see it in her face she gets lost in the ‘connection’ & the ‘sex’ – I can actually see that our friendship might suffer because she can’t go on about this guy or similar to me, when she could in the beginning. Her actions on saturday tell me this. Only thing i can do is place her lower down on my friendship list unfortunately, as she’s not open to much – with recent changes in my life, I am going back to being truly alone and sexless for a long time. Sounds odd. But my reliance on sex to pass the time or fill the void and not trusting myself to keep to important boundaries, I need to do this, properly this time.

        • Lau_ra says:

          No, what you are saying doesn’t sound odd to me – if you decided thats what you need, its a right thing to do (though I personally would find that very very difficult, so kudos for you). And it will act as a good “check” for your friendship as well – you’ll see if a friend values you only at times when theres a need to share sexy little stories, or if she thinks of you no matter how different your lives are at the moment.

  23. Revolution says:

    Ugh, okay okay. I hesitated on commenting yet because this subject is so close to home for me. I’m embarrassed to say that I, too, have been involved in this “giving” dynamic. And though it was NEVER a power move on my part, it still wasn’t from healthy and clear motives. Maybe not malicious motives on my part, but certainly unhealthy.

    Throughout friendships in the past (not all, but a significant amount of close friendships), I have tried to “save” and “rescue” others, because I always HATED the feeling of powerlessness in not being able to help those in need. And I always HATED the feeling that these people might feel the same way that *I’ve* felt in significant times in my life where I was young and pretty much abandoned physically and emotionally. That is something that a person doesn’t tend to forget. So the thought of someone else stuck in that type of predicament creates something visceral in me, moving me to ACTION.

    Of course, as Nat explains, it begs the following questions: Does this person even WANT my help? Can they help THEMSELVES? Would me helping them prevent THEM from getting stronger and doing things for themselves?

    I remember, at a sleepover when I was a young teenager, I got up really early before any of the other girls and I looked at them all sleeping and thought, “I wish I could be their mothers.” How weird is that? I was a peer of theirs! But all of them had some kind of weird dynamic at home, and I felt for them. Again, I wanted to swoop in and protect and save them. But I’m not, and never have been, the Patron Saint of Lost Souls. Something I have learned in these last several years is that when you try to take responsibility for someone else and their choices in life, you are actually ROBBING them of the knowledge and growth that is a result of them learning from the consequences of their actions.

  24. NK says:

    To add – I can’t seem to edit that comment. There are some terrible spelling mistakes in there!

    I have had experiences with friends who’ve not woken up yet in the past – but this one hit me hard because I know the guy. It always sucks when someone you thought you knew – acts like a dick.

  25. Tinkerbell says:

    Hey Rev.

    Thanks for revealing that OC is a man. I still feel the same about what I said, but I will go back and read his post again having that information. Men and women views a lot of things differently.

  26. Tired says:

    I think we all get there at our own pace , but it is true the more time you put btween you and the past , the more calmer and rational you become. I just wasnt smart enough to cut it dead i let it drip drip to a stop . I think its jyst learning to be happy on your own , and any attention is not worth peace of mind . Lesson in progress . :)

  27. Tired says:

    I dont know if this will help but i know bout the boring side you mention . But thats the bit you have to feel and learn to feel okay with . I can remember a time bf mobiles and i read and did gardening and listened to audio tapes . Oh the drama up down up down ,, and bit by bit you start to lije these boring bits . Fri night i veged out and did the sugar scrub and yoghurt white of egg fave pack . It works ! But im feeling okay spending tome on my own without crap negative attention . You will if you stick to it get there i promise . Im maybe a few steps in front of you and if i can do it and ive been a collossel doormat /cheif sympathetzier you can . Being there for them doesnt work they will just suck ypu dry to make them feel better . And go about doing what they want . Do what you want to make sure you feel good . Pick good over negative :)

    • amanda says:

      Thanks for the support. I’m bored and restless, but surprisingly, I am not all that sad or angry anymore. I have spent almost 3 years hopelessly trying to get a Married Man to love me back, which is impossible. I have already done so much time in the Temples of Sadness and Abandonment. I don’t miss him anymore. I’ve already mourned (the imagined) Him to pieces. Now, the main quality of the emptiness is boredom and restlessness, and I know from my reading on love addiction that this is exactly where I should expect myself to be. The fact that I am bored (rather than sad, desperate, angry) tells me that “he” is finally really leaving my head. As hard as it is, I am excited to see what this “boredom” has to offer. The last thing that I want to do right now is fill the void with another man. I have no interest in dating, and quite frankly, I don’t trust myself to approach it with sound heart and mind until I get to know this “boredom” a little better.

      • runnergirl says:

        Amanda, I finally got to the point of being bored/restless rather than sad/angry after 2 years trying to get water from a dry well and flogging a three-legged donkey. I finally started to implement all the amazing suggestions from Nat and BR and I started doing for me what I used to spend so much time doing for others, including the exMM. I wish Learner were here. After a few years as an OW, she discovered she was actually an OOW. The married guy had been involved with another woman for 10 years. Try the sugar scrub (a little water and some sugar), followed by one egg white whipped up with some yogurt, followed by a ton of witch hazel. Then heat some lotion and rub it all over. You’ll glow and feel like you spent a day at the spa for about 5 bucks. Then munch on what ever you feel like eating. Lather, rinse, repeat!

        • amanda says:

          Thanks for the spa tip. I will definitely pursue that. I’m feeling better (today), a little more grounded, and I am so thankful for the support I am getting here. I had a good realization yesterday. I caught myself mentally obsessing about the exMM, mentally drafting a letter (which I would never send) analyzing the end of our relationship to bits… and then, I got bored with doing that. I finally realized, “he’s not that special.” I’ve been telling myself that for a couple of years, but I never internalized it. For those of you who are struggling with convincing yourself that “he is not that special”, be patient with yourselves. No, you aren’t going to really believe it until your entire heart and soul is ready… but one day, you will be able to understand this. Its your job, between now and then, to open your eyes as much as you can to the rest of the world, gathering information about what it means to live life for yourself, and please, try to extricate yourself from this other person, via NC, via whatever, even if you don’t *want* to, but be compassionate if it takes you months to really *get* that he just isn’t that special. When you *get* it, you will feel fantastic.

          • Mymble says:

            This is so true but I have found that it isn’t a linear thing, you “get it” and then find yourself repining, especially if you give in to the impulse to either initiate or respond to contact. I am in a difficult and painful situation with my soon to be ex husband and that makes it a tempting fantasy escape hatch to crawl down into but I have to stay in the reality zone, painful as it is. And I know the EUM has nothing to offer as regards real support. I actually find it kind of comforting, in a strange way, to reflect on the fact that he has moved on and is probably seeing seeing someone else; it’s the “maybe if I ….” that’s causes me the torment. With most relationships, by the time it ends you know without the shadow of a doubt that there’s nothing can be done to save it; with these fantasy/EUM/MM things they were never properly worked out, most of it was built on fantasy and dreams (inevitably you spend little actual time with them)
            so it’s harder to break them down and reach acceptance.
            I had to laugh about you being the Chief Sympathiser; I also had that role thrust upon me, as he complained about his wires alleged closet lesbianism, neuroticism, career envy and I don’t know what. I never actually was very sympathetic though, so was a sore disappointment to him in that regard. Having heard my mother lied about by my father to all and sundry, I am fully aware that anything you hear in such circumstances is likely to be horse manure.
            No doubt he’s got a whole Greek Chorus of Sympathisers sighing and shaking thier heads over his mistreatment.

            • amanda says:

              Mymble, so true when you say “with these fantasy/EUM/MM things they were never properly worked out, most of it was built on fantasy and dreams (inevitably you spend little actual time with them) so it’s harder to break them down and reach acceptance.” Over the last year, as the distance grew between us in real life, he would say things (even as recent as a few weeks ago) about how lucky he was to have me in his life, and how much our friendship meant to him. I think that he, as much as me, wanted to cling to some kind of fantasy that you could gracefully exit a damaging affair via a healthy friendship. However, he wasn’t really interested in a friendship. He liked the idea of it. It made him feel like a more noble person. I didn’t have honorable intentions towards a friendship, either. I was the classic case in using the friendship as a means of positioning myself for a second chance. I saw the folly of that when he ran to the OOW’s arms after he finally left his wife. Which goes RIGHT back to the original point of this post; this strings-attached giving is only going to take from you. Here’s my latest analogy. the MM was like candy vending machine. There is one Snickers bar in the machine, but it is caught in a faulty mechanism. I could see with my very two eyes that it was broken, but I still gave it money, hoping that the mechanism would work and the Snickers bar would drop through the chute. Not only was the machine still stuck, but its internal computer would THINK that it gave up the candy, so, it wouldn’t return my change! I would cry, foul!, and then would reach into my pocket for more change. Maybe THIS time the candy will come out? Oh, dear…

              • Revolution says:

                Great analogy, Amanda. But unfortunately, unlike these assclowns, Snickers really satisfies.

                What? Somebody had to say it. 😉

                • amanda says:

                  Ha ha ha! Good one. Maybe next time I feel the temptation to break NC, I’ll treat myself to a Snickers instead.

                • runnergirl says:

                  Amanda, I liked the snickers analogy. I have to add that when the exMM got caught by his wife (during a suck it a see weekend after months of NC), I thought my snickers bar was going to drop down the chute after feeding the vending machine for two years. By that time, I’d been on BR religiously and I realized the snickers bar was rancid, not what I had imagined. There were a few days when I was in panic mode that I’d end up eating that spoiled snickers bar after all. I didn’t. He went to counseling with his wife but still continued to try to slime his way through my door.
                  You and Mymble are right. For me, it was letting go of the fantasy that has been difficult. Strings attached giving resulted in disaster in my case.
                  So Rev, not all snickers bars are satisfying…Somebody had to say it! Smiley face here!

              • Mymble says:

                Yes I suppose I have been throwing good money after bad, and waiting for for the chocolate to drop.
                Knowing really that it was stuck, and only empty calories anyway..
                I think I was just offered the friendship card, for the reasons you mention (wanting to feel noble) or perhaps as a fallback for a rainy day but haven’t responded and have lost any residual urge to do so. There’s no basis for a friendship only more hurt and humiliation. It would be a fake friendship, him patronising needy, sad little me, and me secretly resenting him when I wasn’t trying to get him to validate me. All the giving on either side would be loaded with ulterior motives and hidden
                agendas. A power struggle.
                Icky. What would be the point of it?
                Writing this – the truth of it – is helpful and very calming for me. As is reading what others have written.

            • amanda says:

              Oh, yes, Mymble. The exMM told me that his wife was an angry, passive-aggressive woman who was sexually repressed because of having survived a horrible trauma in her youth. She was cold and unloving, and what it boiled down to was that she was unwilling to have sex with him except when she wanted to get pregnant. Yet, she was also “the best thing that ever happened to me”, “the only woman I have ever loved and desired”, and that he was fiercely protective of her, given the trauma and other hardships she had lived through. Talk about mixed messages. This guy played the sad, sad violin as means of getting my sympathy for going on three years, and at my most entangled, I found myself feeling sorry for both him and his wife. I was the ultimate doormat / Chief Sympathizer. Now, I don’t doubt that there was a very complicated dynamic with his wife- that he felt protective as well as resentful, that he loved her, all the time that he was hurting her, but the damned fool should have worked out his problems with her, not through affairs with doormat Other Women. I’m going to be upset about being played like this / letting myself get played like this for quite some time.

    • amanda says:

      And, Tired. Thank you for being so honest about all that you are going through, as well. I haven’t followed all of your ups and downs. I know, seeing this all through the lens of love addiction (mild, serious, whatever), that when we feel/perceived that we are wronged time and time again by these avoidant people in our lives, we of course need good support right after the caca hits the fan and it hurts like crap. I felt so hurt that the MM chose another OW over me when he left his wife. But, I am beginning to see the extent to which I set myself up to be hurt repeatedly. I think that I receive some internal, unconscious message that love needs to hurt. We aren’t loving “enough” if it doesn’t hurt, so we unconsciously chose to stick around partners (real or fantasy) who are going to hurt us, over and over again. We feel that they tell us we are powerless, but, to some extent, we are the ones telling ourselves that. We are the ones telling ourselves that we aren’t worth better treatment. What’s it going to take? For me, I saw that in this final round, I let myself get physically compromised. I didn’t sleep or eat for two days, and that finally sent the signal to my brain that it was time to stop. That, and the MM is doing me the favor of leaving me alone since he’s all sucked into his new instant girlfriend/zero-rent-charging-landlady/babysitter, as portrayed by the other former-OW/Chief-Sympathizer in his life, the moment he decided to leave his wife.

      • beth d says:

        Amanda You are doing really well for the circumstances. I felt bad when I read your posts. The exact thing happened to one of my friends after a 7 year affair with a MM. Finally left his wife and then got a new girlfriend. My friend almost had a break down. Yours will leave this one he is with too when he gets bored. He sounds like a very malignant Narc. Typical devalue and discard. You sound like you have your head on straight so keep doing you!

    • runnergirl says:

      Yeah Tired, it sounds like you are turning the corner. The sugar scrub, egg whites and yogurt worked wonders for me during the down times. Still does. Don’t forget to steam the gunk out of those pores first. It’s like steaming him out. Once I disconnected my Florence helpline (for everybody) and put that attention into helping me, I got into a routine of helping me instead of him or them. Keep picking good over negative. Keep picking you. High five to you! Oh yeah, and eff that loser.

  28. Tinkerbell says:

    Tired. You are sounding much better, and I’m almost afraid to say it because I don’t want to know about you backsliding again with the same old song. We all backslide now and then but when it is all you know how to do it is very damaging to YOU. PLEASE continue your journey to improved self esteem, personal fulfillment and peace. Full speed ahead!!!

  29. Lochy says:

    What an interesting article and the comments have been so varied. Lots of different perspectives here so I thought i’d throw another into the mix!

    What I saw in OC’s comments is something I have always struggled with. What is it ok to expect from someone? It does appear that the world operates on this bartering basis? As I was growing up, I was without guidance due to an absent father and emotionally absent mother. I then began what has been a lifelong quest to find a ‘code’ to live by as it were. I never became particularly religious but explored some of them and some philosophy – just general ‘what’s it all about’ sort of stuff. There are many figureheads in religion and life who seem to able to live selfless lives. However, they are few and far between yet I’ve been measuring myself against them all and coming up wanting(of course!).

    My point is that I realised that there are some genuine Mother Theresa’s in the world…with the operative word being ‘genuine’. And that, I’m not one of these people, (not in this lifetime anyway although there’s still time lol). It is so important to understand the reality of yourself and your experiences and how to heal from them before you can go on to help others. By accepting my humanity/fallibility/dark side, I am learning that it’s OK to tell people to jog on sometimes…or just have a thought in my own mind that someone’s an absolute twat! Sorry yogis…I don’t wish to put negative vibes out there but I’ve spent a lifetime riding the Doormat Pony (that is just hilarious – Kudos Natalie).

    Perhaps once I allow myself to be me warts and all, I’ll allow others to be themselves too…warts and all…and respect their journey and perspective is not the same as mine.

    One other idea that springs to mind is the confusion of trying to resolve wrongs done in the past, by people who were absolutely supposed to support and love you and you had every right to ‘expect’ this from i.e. the parents. I am recently learning to remove this expectation from friends/lovers. It is becoming clear to me that I have expected more from people than it was right to, all the while playing the never-ending-giving-put-up-with-anything friend/gf and feeling victimised when they left anyway! No…there are 2 people in the world who I had a right to expect such unconditional love from…(and I have a therapist who is helping me with that)…anyone else is free to give or not just as they wish. And that’s the way I like it :)Oooh, that includes me too!

    Finally, this is my first comment of 2013 and I wanted to say, Natalie you hit the ground running on January 1st…it’s been a ‘Shock & Awe’ campaign Baggage Reclaim style! Loving every minute! 😉

    • yoghurt says:


      From my experience, I would say that if you really do want to help people then your best bet is to make sure that you’re pretty healthy, fit and emotionally stable yourself, ie loving yourself first.

      For years I fell into the trap of believing that the opposite of selfishness – thinking about yourself all the time – was Not Thinking About Yourself At All. Actually this doesn’t work. Unhealthy people who don’t eat properly, are liable to burst into tears all the time and feel too inadequate and unsure to talk to anyone aren’t generally a lot of good to people needing help, I’ve found. From being one.

      Even Jesus, who is a pretty good example of selflessness by anyone’s standards, commanded people to love their neighbours AS THEMSELVES. Not “love thy neighbour at the expense of your well-being until you collapse into a heap”. which is just surrender and not any use whatsoever.

      As far as I can see now, the opposite of selfishness – and the ideal – is to find the balance between others AND yourself. When you’re happy and stable and looking after yourself then you’re more capable and you have more resources to share. If you have a trustworthy and emotionally healthy network of people around you then you have the support you need to reach out and help others without getting emotionally tangled up in their response.

      Some folk barter, true enough, but that doesn’t make it the right way to live… or the way that YOU want to live.

      • Lochy says:

        Hi Yoghurt, thank you so much for your thoughts.

        Yes ‘love thy neighbour AS thyself’…what a difference one little word makes!

        Like the word NO…pretty empowering!

        You hit the nail squarely on the head in relation to the black and white thinking of totally unhealthily selfless and totally self absorbed to the point of no empathy or giving whatsoever. It’s been so that I never had even an inkling that there might be another way to experience life in between these two extremes.

        Just realising that there are in-between alternatives to this thinking is a massive step forward for me. I am experimenting in little ways all the time now and looking at it like a kind of challenge rather than being scared… I mean, at the end of the day, what’s the worst that can happen right?! 😉

  30. Chrysalis says:

    Oh Lord, I was the QUEEN of Helpers. I truly believed if I helped manage the household budget (read did all the housework), helped organise his business, helped keep as much stress off my ex as possible by being the primary (read only) caregiver to the kids that he would LOVE ME. My biggest help project was to help him see the light that being a pathological liar and a cheat would not bring him happiness!!! Yes, I was ‘helping’ with an ulterior motive – the need to be loved and appreciated. Did he love me? Hell no. Did he appreciate me? Doubtful, I would imagine he enjoyed the easy life I gave him without a second thought for my needs. I was a very lonely sad women and a complete doormat to boot. Note, I say WAS. After his last escapade with an OW I finally saw the light and the last piece of help I gave him was out the front door and out of my life. I’ve worked hard to build my self esteem from the ground up, and while it is still a work in progress I am pleased to say I have come far enough to recognise you cannot help a sociopath to see the light because you do not think with the same mind as they do. And anyway, why would you want to?

  31. Tracy says:

    I was a true Florence for most of my life. My first real boyfriend in college, drug addict/drinker, I basically babysat him for two years. His parents thought I was ‘out of his league’ because my family wasn’t as nouveau riche as his, but when I broke up with him they begged me to take him back because they lost their babysitter. Cut to ex husband, bipolar alcoholic…20 years I spent ‘helping’ him. Helping him so much he never felt the need to work on himself and he drained me dry. Cut to ex-AC, yet ANOTHER bipolar ex-alcoholic. Again, helping with the depression, helping by constantly listening to his diatribes, being the brunt of his venting. He always walked away feeling fine, I was a quivering mess. The last AC who New Years dumped me claimed it was his ‘depression’ that was asking for a break. Fuck his depression. I vowed I was never, ever going to deal with another depressed man ever again. I don’t have time for a ‘break’.

    On another note, when I was trying to decide if I was going to put up with a ‘break’, I found a rather disturbing website focused on people trying to figure out what to do because their depressed SO was pushing them away. The amount of Florencing practice and advised was staggering. I couldn’t believe the platitudes that some women were offering others (along the lines of “if you love something, set it free” with the hopes he’ll come back). SO MANY of the people writing in were insistant that they had to/should jump through an amazing amount of firey hoops and obstacle courses and put up with unbelievably mean behavior because their depressed SO was ‘sad’. The overwhelming consensus was that if you do this he will see how wonderful you are and when he isn’t depressed anymore he will reward you with his undying love. Or some other crap like that. Mind you, few of the men being written about were actually seeking any help for their depression other than unloading on the women who love them

    Now I’ve definitely been depressed, but I’ve never expected anyone to put up with my crap behavior, nor have I thought being depressed was my carte blanche to be a really mean person. But I was really stunned to see that so many women are willing to sacrifice their feelings, time, money, and sanity to “help” their man.

  32. Lucy says:

    A great post. I suppose I am the person who might unwittingly get myself too involved in others’ affairs to the point where I look like I’m putting my nose where it’s not wanted. This is not really intentional on my part. Another point about people pleasing is that by giving a lot, you give others a certain expectation about you. Then you find that it’s easier for you to take a fall and not live up to what people want from you. Being aware of this, I have learnt to only give when I feel like I can keep it up unless it involves someone very close to me.

    I am a huge giver but I used to be a very huge people pleaser too. A friend of mine wants to get back with an ex. She was so stressed over the situation with him that she became unwell and went abroad to get over the stress. She says she wants to get back with him. I suggested she keep an open mind because who knows if she may meet someone else who brings her happiness. I also think she can find a better guy (and I don’t mean any disservice to the guy she is into at the moment) although I didn’t convey that to her. She is so used to me giving the kind word that she interprets any alternative opinion on my part as too much of an imposition. She might think people are against her if they take a different point of view.

    I saw her recently at one of our regular haunts and she totally blanked me. Sometimes when I say something she disagrees with she’ll send me a passive aggressive text a couple of days later with a huge paragraph about it. I mentioned high school in a conversation we had and she said I shouldn’t have mentioned it/had no right to talk about it because she had a really bad time at school and doesn’t want to think about it. I didn’t anticipate that reaction but I did apologise.

    I know people don’t always want advice when they talk about problems. She’ll tell me personal matters and when I give my point of view, she hates it and thinks I’m against her. I have never been an arrogant person and don’t want to impose on her. Sometimes I feel I’m treading on egg shells. I can’t always validate her opinions. I don’t think her opinions are wrong or invalid.

    This post helped me think about this. How can I give someone an opinion without looking like I’m trying to control them? (which I’m not). Hmm…am I being the wrong type of friend? I’m only a bit cautious because she recently went through a tough time with her ex boyfriend and suddenly got in touch with me out of the blue after being a very fair weather friend in the past.

    • yoghurt says:


      Are you being the wrong type of friend…? Absolutely the wrong question.

      Really, do you want a fair weather friend who thinks it’s okay to blank you without warning, holds you accountable when you don’t anticipate and steer clear of any topic that might possibly remind her of a sore point at some stage in her life, communicates her issues by text and expects you to apologise for the fact that SHE finds life upsetting? Really?

      I used to have a ‘friend’ who fell out with me if I ever went out without her – I also used to wonder if I’d got things upside down and didn’t understand that you were supposed to carry your friends around in your handbag wherever you went, like Paris Hilton’s dog. But really, life’s far too short.

    • grace says:

      I say never get between a friend and her crappy relationship. If you’re wrong you’ll look like a bitch and if you’re right, well, no-one wants to eat that kind of humble pie. I would stick to the non-committal “oh dear” or “that sounds hard”. Even if she was being battered, all you can do is be there. Otherwise, the danger is you get cut off and then she’ll have no-one.
      That said, you haven’t done anything wrong, and may just have to accept the loss of the friendship. I had a friend whose boyfriend left her at a music festival to have fun with his mates. She called me in tears. I comforted her. Then she never spoke to me again. Sometimes, people cannot stand to have a witness to the crap they put up with. It’s not your fault. I don’t even think it’s theirs.

    • Allison says:


      Tooooooo much work!!!!!!

      You can’t deal with passive aggressives! It’s a no-win!!!!

      I would distance myself. Immediately!

  33. runnergirl says:

    He, he, he…this reminded me, I grew up being called “Daddy’s Little Helper”! Go figure.

  34. Tinkerbell says:

    Lucy. It seems to me that your friend has issues that you cannot resolve for her. She has to do it her own way. Don’t twist yourself into a pretzel over someone like that. She overly sensitive and difficult. It can be very frustrating trying to be her friend, walking on eggshells, etc. As long as you are comfortable with how you behave toward her, you needn’t worry about her reactions. She’ll live. How she manages that is not your problem.

    • Lau_ra says:

      I agree with Tinkerbell. My latest EUM was like that – you would never know when he will turn away from you cause you just happened to mention something he doesn’t like to talk about. I would even ask him to say what exact issues were irritating for him and you know what he said? “I’m not telling you what you shoul or should not say”. Oh yeah? So what does this turning away or even walking away from me means then? Cause I feel eggshells under my feet. The same is with your friend. She expects you to read her mind or what?

    • Lucy says:

      Thank you everyone.

      I think I will try the more non-committal angle as you suggested. I reckon it would be more helpful and I don’t want her to think I don’t care.

      Incidentally before she was blanking me I sent her a nice message saying “don’t forget what a great person you are” which adds to my confusion about what I’ve done wrong. :/

      What I’ve learnt from this blog is that I’d rather be respected than liked. It was a hard pill to swallow. I’m not going to back down or kiss the ass of anyone because I think I’m losing their attention. Now I simply think “well if they want to be like that then that’s that” but I hope I haven’t taken that to another extreme of not being properly available to others.

      Here’s a bit more detail. First, I can’t trust her to always be consistent in her attention though she frequently refers to me in front of others as “my best friend”. She was a bit rebellious growing up and I was the good girl. She always treated me like an idiot because I didn’t get into the casual hook-ups she did, take recreational drugs and party all night. I was far too focused on getting good grades. So she got into a bit of a mess recently with the father of her child and ever since then has looked to me as some kind of source of support.

      At least I haven’t become so emotionally invested to the point where what she thinks of me is going to deeply affect me.

  35. espresso says:

    I work in a profession and do volunteer work that involves helping people. I am glad for my qualities of insight, compassion and willingness to help. I feel connected to people because of it and some of the most wonderful relationships I have had have been where there has been giving and generousity, either one on one or through a group working together. I agree with oc that these qualities are important in a world where people are often selfish and feel entitled.

    But I also had to recognize that I had unhealthy aspects to my “helping” . I realized I got into situations with some people (I run a website on ways of handling specific health issues) where I felt that they were exploiting me and didn’t care much about how their constant demands were affecting me. I felt my generous offer had become an entitlement. It annoyed me that after I had given a lot they were not even willing to contribute to the upkeep of my website (which is free) I realized that if I kept on doing this I was going to be SO angry and resentful that I would stop the work that was so important to me. Boundaries became important as a way of protecting my energy and good feelings about what I was doing. I also realized that I actually say yes to people in circumstances where I really don’t want to because I am afraid of the repercussions if I say no. I was exhausting myself in situations where I did feel I was being used and it was because I wanted acceptance and appreciation. I have seen a lot of cases where people have no boundaries in their need to help and eventually they DO shut down and become selfish and egotistical because they haven’t used their own insight.

    I guess I do believe there is an exchange when somebody helps somebody else but I don’t like the word indebted. Sometimes a person simply applies what they have learned to others not to you and that is a wonderful thing too. There have been circumstances in my life where I have not been able to “repay” someone for their great kindness to me but I have used that to help others in the same way.

    Also, I think I rushed in to help when my opinions and advice weren’t always wanted. It is hard to stay silent in the health field I work in when I do have information. However, I really have improved on that score – I keep my mouth shut much much more.

  36. Tired says:

    Amanda , same thing, diff men . Yes i understand . But youve cone here and once you do the big voice or right you cant hide from the truth hits you . Lol . Once you get ast the crappy bit ,you get to look down on these ac and it doesnt matter anymore . I beat myself up because i wasnt this that etc . Wrong it not me its them . Oh and they dont change not one bit . :) trust me its who they are they dont not for angerlinia jolee lol

  37. teachable says:

    Rev & Beth D, as usual, I really can’t take the credit for this insight. It was taught to me by those who have gone before me, & I merely reinforced by my experience.

    With helping anyone in any situation my further view is that I, as the helper, ALWAYS gain FAR more from ‘helping’ another, than the person on the so called, receiving end. This is b.c, someone who is humble enough to ALLOW me to help them helps ME enormously, to experience myself as a kind hearted person, with something of value, to offer. In other words, self esteem is derived from doing esteemable acts. In my experience, there is no greater esteemable act, than helping others, as through doing so, we indirectly, help ourselves, far more.

    This of course is in the case of healthy helping or giving, which is quite different to giving or helping with expectation of getting something in return.

    Beth D, it’s a lovely empathic sentiment, but please don’t worry about my situation as I really will be ok. I have professional support on board & ironically, perform at my best, when my back’s against the wall. I had a small win here helping me to move forward y.day, which included an independent umpire to be moved to confidentially comment she was blown away by my performance in my own defence. I’m a psych major with extensive paralegal exp, who happens to also have been a union delegate for over a decade. As such I’m very well equipted to handle my current predicament, (as serious as it is). x

    • beth d says:

      You are one tough chick teach and an inspiration to many of us here. Hmmm coincidence. I was also a psych major and have some legal background as well. Too bad my emotions got in the way of figuring out an insidious, passive agressive narcissist. Thankfully I opened my eyes and Natalie and the great posters on BR helped so much. I am happy to hear you are well equipped and know I am rooting for you. xo

  38. teachable says:

    Expresso, refraining from offering people our unsolicited opinions is such an important boundary & it’s awesome you recognise it. When friends tell me their problems, I often seek clarification as to why the they are making their disclosure, before responding. At the end of hearing them out I might ask something like, ‘so were you needing to just vent about that, or do you need assistance with problem solving in some way?’ followed by ‘because I could share my opinion with you about what you’ve just said but I’m not sure if that’s what your wanting or needing & I prefer not to offer my opinion on other people’s issues unless it’s actually asked for’. I find that people tend to respond fairly well to that sort of comment as it puts the onus back on them to clarify their needs for me, instead of me having to just guess. Well done Expresso! Top of the class for you!

    • beth d says:

      My question to my daughter and friends who vent a story or ask me for advice is…well do you want me to say what you want to hear? Or the truth which may hurt? I have to say when you lay it out like that almost all say I want the truth.

  39. teachable says:

    Rev, top of the class for you too missy moo! You are spot on. Helping which enables others to avoid taking responsibility for ‘saving themselves’ is not helping. That is enabling & is not healthy. You BR ladies are all so wise! It feels great to be in the company of you all (& Nat)! x

    • beth d says:

      Expresso, Rev, Teach Agree agree agree 100% xo

    • Revolution says:

      Well, Teach. From years and years of being in the back of the class and casing the joint, trying to figure out how to burn that damn classroom to the ground without any casualties…I’d say that the “top of the class” designation is a bit strange but not necessarily unwelcomed. Thanks, darlin’.

  40. Tired says:

    Hey runnergirl
    Thanks , yes im okay to busy battling everday life now to let stuff get me down . But im getting used to the bored bit amanda mentions . I went thro must go out every fri and sat and socialise .no no no no ill get there when time is right . But i did you sugar scrub and just pampered me and it lovely . When you say heat the lotion do u mean the witch hazel? I intend to do more of that . Lol . I to have a friend involved with a very narrsistic man he is nasty , abbusive and treats her like dirt , ive been there for her for three years but she keeps going back . She cant do nc and says she done but goes back for him to use her and spit her out . Ive given up and i dont mention it . Shes a cery selfish me me me . But also a good friend as well ive learnt to keep her at a distance. It helps me as it foesnt drain me . She is very manipulative . I found since distancing myself ive become healthier . But she is still my friend and i care for her :)

    • runnergirl says:

      Hi Tired, I’m glad you are feeling a bit better. No, you don’t have to go out and socialize every Friday/Saturday night. When it feels right, it’ll be right. I’ve spent many a Friday/Saturday night at home and I haven’t perished.
      Sorry to hear about your friend. I think the suggestions the others made to me regarding trying to “help” my daughter see that her exbf isn’t worth her time apply in your situation. Sometimes folks have to go through the grief in order to learn from it. I certainly didn’t listen to my best friend when she repeatedly advised me about being involved with a MM. I had to learn it on my own and at my own pace, albeit a snails pace. You can still care for your friend at a distance without letting her drain you. (Note to Runner regarding daughter: Stay out of my young adult daughter’s business!)
      I’m glad you are enjoying pampering yourself. The Witch Hazel is like a gentle toner for your face after the steaming, sugar scrub, and yogurt/egg. The warm body lotion is for your entire body. You’ll glow and tingle! I started the routine when I was bored and now I can’t live without it. Of all the folks that I know who I think needed my “help”, I think it was me who needed my help the most. Hang in there Tired…one day maybe we’ll be calling you “Glowy”.

  41. Jazzy says:

    My family are evil maniacs when it comes to this. Anything they give, they expect it ten fold. My grandmother is the worst. Second up is my grandfather and then my father (he’s so narc, he rarely follows through on giving). It’s insane, this idea to give to get: that’s not giving it’s manipulation. Far to few messages are out there as to how amazing and free it feels to give expecting nothing in return. It’s a warm, freeing feeling. Giving to get leaves you depleted and resentful.

    • swissmiss says:


      I appreciate that script you shared with us, about ‘checking out’ what the venting person is aiming to achieve. Have you noticed how once you start problem solving, the rush of superiority is like a high, and you can’t stop doing it? So often it morphs into them not taking responsibility–and why should they? We have cast ourselves as authority figures.

      I saw the ex-MM at rare events (maybe once every two months), we might have dinner, laugh and share. I was happy he was going for his divorce and was starting to rebuild his life. But last time, I could see the whole “Do-you-mind-if-I-ask-you-for-advice?” thing cranking up again. In his presence, I was able to stop the flow by saying, “Hmmm, I don’t think this is really enhancing this meal, do you?”, but I still left feeling abused, just as I did when I was intimately involved with him.

      It was his assumption that I would happily endure his toxic waste being dumped on me that made me walk out of the meal. Who wants to hear the vile things people say about their former partners, and listen to their courtroom dramas? But in the end, I must say, his assumption that I would relish these details proved more powerful than the words themselves. I don’t want anyone assuming I am that kind of woman.

  42. espresson says:

    On thinking more about our responses to oc I realized I (and many of us) fell into a trap where we immediately started defending ourselves because his “analysis” was that we are a bit “selfish” (the word nation-states was used. We should just loosen up….and merge and give.

    Isn’t this the kind of language that has always been used against women who are trying to establish boundaries – that we are being just a little bit selfish when we don’t give, give, give all the time? When we question the nature of our giving? I realized oc was a man right away.

    When I look around the world and I see the personal struggles on this site…I would definitely say (and I am simplifying things here) that women tend to give too much (and not always for the right reasons) and men tend to expect that and give too little….and the situation is getting worse. One of the ways that women have always been guilted out and have guilted out themselves is by feeling that we might be “selfish” if we make real demands. I know that I have done that for years!!!!

    The stories on this site reflect the situations of women who did give and give and give and now are questioning why and what for and how to be more careful and respectful of themselves in the future. Anyway, that is my take on things.

  43. Tired says:

    Amanda theres no rule book to you must move on now ! Somtimes it takes weeks , some months . I cant say what made me turn the corner . I over thought it and i think you finally get tired .whats the point , you got to live in the now . I ll tell you somthing i trotted off straight into another ac , but i saw it happening and bailed . I could see the same shit treatment heading my way because wait for it I was gonna let it . And that my friend is where the epihaney came why have these blokes in your life dishing out hurt ? When i could be comfatable and happy on my own , a better choice made by me . Its like outside looking in . And i see so many others putting up with crap treatment , no no thanks

  44. Jazzy says:


    Right on sister :)

  45. oc says:

    I’d like to thank Natalie and everyone else who replied to me directly about my comment on this thread and express a certain embarrassment for not taking part in the discussion further until now. With regards to the spirit of my post as well as to share briefly some of my feelings, I’d just like to say that I am on a journey to wholeness like many here (I don’t believe to be a destination but rather a life-long evolving process) and I am VERY thankful for this site, its one of very few blogs that I feel are putting out genuine contribution to the world and creating a legitimate online community of individuals striving to learn, heal, and understand themselves better. The advice that I get here resonates with me, and yes I am a man. From my perspective and my personal experiences in realtionships, Natalie’s advice is VERY universal and transcends gender. I come from a small family and my Mother and Father have been in a codependent, highly emotionally toxic marriage going on 48 years. There’s much that could be said about that, which I will save for my therapist and I, but I humbly submit that I may offer a unique perspective that differs from many. I was the quiet, “favored” child, if you will, that was the peacemaker and lightning rod for all the abuse and enablement doled out between an abusive Father and a co-dependent, enabling Mother that continues to this day. I’ve brought my co-dependent modeled-after-my-mother doormat of a self into many situations where the dominant and abusive one was the woman, my unconscious choice of “partner” in what constituted not only a gender shift but also a role-reversal in an effort to undo the damage I watched my Father do to my Mother. . . I could spit with disdain over it. With ALLLLLL that being said, my family was not all bad, and I do love both of my folks. But its done a number on me, and I’ve brought that bullshit into my realtionships and wound up being the enabler with no boundaries, just like my Mother. Not exactly the idyllic outcome one would hope for from a so-called intact two parent household. So whereas Baggage Reclaim attracts a decidely female audience, I’d just like to say, the door swings all the way around and effects men like me in the same way. This post caught me at a real wtf moment where I threw my hands up and thought to myself, I just don’t understand how relationships are supposed to actually WORK. There is so much I don’t understand about myself, and so much fear, and I am trying my best not to fuck it up for me or for anybody else because I’m in pain, and I see the pain my whole family is in, and I just want everyone to happy and everything to work out. Anyhow, this may be a bit of a choatic and misdirected response to 20 something people, but let me just say I appreciate you Natalie, I appreciate this community, and I am committed to being a better person and learning how to be healthy and love again. Thanks for reading and I wish everyone the very best. I am learning to walk all over again in my life, and I hope that someday I will find a woman that will be proud of me and treat me with kindness and love. I’d very much like to do the same.

  46. oc says:

    Oh! And with regards to general comments about men, honor, and indebtedness. . . I’d just like to coin the phrase “I owe you one” that has been uttered by many a person in response to someone doing someone a favor or helping them out in some way. Men DO, at least in my mind real men do, keep tabs on incredibly kind and helpful acts that others do for us. I am indebted to my friends who have helped me do things that I could not do for myself, because they have given me a leg up. I REMEMBER that, and tell them so. That is my perception of honor and the fountainhead of respect among men. I go out of my way to help those that have given me a leg up in my life. I don’t believe such things are to be taken lightly.

    • Revolution says:


      Thanks so much for sharing such intimate thoughts and feelings in such an intelligent way. I, for one, am grateful that men post comments on Nat’s site, as it helps us all to see different perspectives. I value and respect your code of life that you have described in your comments, and I truly wish you the best in your honest endeavors to sort things out in your family and with your future relationships.

    • selkie says:


      Your response here was very eloquent and sincere. I think your honesty is beautiful. I too have had wtf moments reading here and have compared dating to organic chemistry equations when I’ve felt overwhelmed with the information. It seems daunting and I seriously wonder if I will ever find a partner who is respectful and capable of love without inflicting some kind of pain. I am scared too. Natalie’s insights and all the comments here from women and men have really opened my eyes. I was walking and loving blindfolded most of my life…..thanks to my parents example of twisted abuse codependent love cycle. Undoing some of these ingrained behavior patterns and misconceptions about relationships has been like you say….’learning how to walk all over again’. I am trying not to fuck it up too, but like toddlers learning to walk…..we fall occasionally. Learning to understand ourselves also means learning how to brush the dirt off our knees without losing it and getting back up. I currently am too wrapped in fear to try out my new legs. But I will when I am ready. Getting there….you will too.

  47. teachable says:

    Swissmiss you allude to the critical ‘other part’ helping or human relating even, in the case you mention. Others have already mentioned it; BOUNDARIES.

    Without them we can feel taken advantage of etc. Actually however it is OUR responsibility to HAVE boundaries & see to it that WE & others respect them.

    I’m not saying this relates to your example specifically, as you departed the conversation when needed or changed the subject, however I tend to be a tad sceptical when people describe someone else simply talking about something to them as THEM being ‘abused’. If we don’t want to listen to something it is OUR responsibility to COMMUNICATE THIS to the other person (no-one is a mind reader).

  48. Tara Reed says:

    Great post! Like you’re in my brain!

    I’m a person who gets so caught up in helps others when they need it, it starts to become Pavlovian. Not only does it set a precedent that leaves you feeling guilty when you can’t help, but the ripple effect can be awful.

    For me, I pushed myself so far, I literally stopped taking care of myself and got really sick. Ironically, the people I helped? Nowhere to be found.

    Keep up the great work!

  49. oc says:

    Thank you, Revolution and Selkie. =)

  50. Jem says:

    OK, I’ve read the posts and think they’re brilliant, it’s just I know what not to do but haven’t got a clue what to do. Being a shoulder to cry on/sleep with was what I really was in all truthfulness and in return I had my self-esteem shot to pieces and I feel like I’ve lost a large piece of myself, which I’m trying to get back. Only problem is in my heart I know I don’t want this person back-he’s nothing but trouble, couldn’t decide what he wanted and then when we did meet again he confused me with someone else! Yeah f**king fantastic. But does anyone else feel like because they ‘took’ our sense of self that they’re the only ones that can ‘fix’ us again? Is it just me that needs something from their past in order to feel like you can move forward? I really don’t know what I’m looking for and I know it’s incredibly unhealthy and damaging to think in this way. I should be going out, enjoying myself and looking forward to the future – but all I can think about is ‘correcting’ something that happened months ago and wanting it to be from him. Grrrr. My emotions are a complete mess.

  51. True partner says:

    I agree with OC and I really do think that all this talk of boundaries IS transactional too just doesn’t own up to it. Of course you do things for those you love because you love them not because you want a shag, but of course you expect they are on your team, they have your back, they’d do the same for you. That’s not a hidden agenda or manipulation, that’s just being on the same team and expecting reciprocation if they’ve told you they’re there too.

    I personally think that being able to rely, take for granted, count on such support even in hard stuff where it’s uncomfortable (like telling your parents to back off and treat your spouse with respect) is critical to a marriage. Merging? He’ll yeah. It’s the same team remember? If they’re not on your team unless it suits them then why call it a marriage? If you want self sufficiency just stay alone. If you can’t stand merging you don’t have much choice and its insulting to a partner to marry without meaning to merge IMHO.

    The OW examples just aren’t relevant. If you’re not even in an honest relationship then there’s no partnership at all. You’re living on the coat tails of the woman you’re helping stab in the back and I just don’t think your welfare should be a consideration.

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Tired of dealing with family drama or waiting for them to spontaneously combust in to changed people? Need to find ways to step back and take proactive steps to redefine the relationship from your end? This 30-Day project will help you do just that.

30-Day Project: Dealing With Tricky Family Members

Tired of dealing with family drama or waiting for them to spontaneously combust in to changed people? Need to find ways to step back and take proactive steps to redefine the relationship from your end? This 30-Day project will help you do just that.