You’ll Never Be Happy In A Relationship If You Pretend To Be Happy
by Lisa A. Romano
When I realized I was codependent, and I started doing the research, that's when I knew I had to write a book about it. I thank my experience with him for teaching me what I needed to learn, which is ultimately to let go.
Mismatched Relationship Dynamics
When I'm talking about mismatched energy dynamics or mismatched relationship dynamics, I'm talking about a mismatch in energy. We can get caught up, especially in today's day and age, as we've become more aware of personality disorders and we've become more knowledgeable of our own personal relationship styles.
You know, the word narcissism gets thrown out a lot, and we can find ourselves labelling other people and assuming the reason our relationship broke down is that this person was a narcissist or this person exhibited narcissistic traits. And I think that we have to be really careful, especially those of us who are throwing ourselves into this type of knowledge and into this information so that we don't lose ourselves in the context that everybody is wrong and we're right, and there could be no gray area.
Missing The Signs
So I'd like to discuss what happens in relationships when we miss the signs that we're actually a mismatch for this other person. What happens when we hang on too long when we are in a relationship? What happens when we find ourselves giving to a relationship or giving to another person, and we find that it's just not coming back and why we're unhappy about it?
We want to be in relationships with other people where we feel like they want to be part of it. You know, I can think of one couple off the top of my head where this young woman very much wants to connect to her boyfriend. And every time she tries to do it, or it seems like every time I've been in their company, there's pushback. He shows indifference towards her. He'll get up, and he'll go into another room. If she starts to express a need, he wants nothing to do with it. It's not my problem. I don't have to deal with it. And it's obvious that she's in pain over the inability to connect with the person she loves, but she's been in the relationship for over a year. And they may even one day get married. And so will this young woman one day become so frustrated and at the end of the day just throw her hands up in the air and say, "He must've been a narcissist." In my experience, that happens a lot.
So what we want to do on the road to recovery and as we're learning to expand our consciousness, as we're learning to be more accountable for ourselves in relationships, we want to make sure that early on, if we feel like the relationship is off-balance, we don't spend ten years trying to figure that out. Or if we feel like we're in a relationship with someone who has different priorities than we do, we don't wait 15 or 20 or 30 years to figure that out. We don't wait until we have a mortgage, or a business and three or four kids to figure out our energies were never aligned, or our relationship goals were never on point. We really didn't have much that we like to do together. We're different people. Because what ends up happening is when you are the person in the relationship, let's say you are more codependent, so you end up being the people-pleaser, you end up acquiescing, you end up catering to, you end up anticipating the needs of your partner, that could go on for just so long before you end up feeling resentful. You can even become passive-aggressive. You could take on the trait of the silent treatment, slamming the cabinets, just ignoring your partner. We all have the potential to be toxic at different points in our life. We all have an ego. And so, we all have the potential to be more self-absorbed at one point in time than at other points in time.
So it's important that when we're thinking about narcissism, we're thinking about codependency. When we're thinking about finding and maintaining healthy relationships, we mustn’t forget that within ourselves is the streak to develop passive-aggressiveness, become resentful, become reactive, and become angry. And until we go within and we deal with our stuff, these ideas that we're not worthy (most of us carry around this fear that we're not worthy, and that is why we need to cater to other people), that is why we need to anticipate the needs of other people.
We have this contract in our head, this agreement with the subconscious mind that works like a computer program, that has us believing that unless we're catering to other people, unless we always say yes and we never say no, that means that we're unworthy. And that gives someone permission to deny someone the right to leave us because we're always saying yes.
Narcissists Do Exist
We’re not our authentic selves when we show up like this in our relationship. And so, I think it's important that if we hear and if we're learning about codependency, we're taking the time to understand narcissism. And let's face it, narcissists absolutely do exist. Some people are intentionally trying to convince you that there's something that they're not. There are people out there who are intentionally trying to exploit you. You have siblings out there that are bullying your parents and who play the victim card. And mom and dad enable the sibling. And as you, as the observer of this experience, you end up feeling frustrated by this narcissistic dynamic, the narcissistic child, the codependent parent, who doesn't know how to set a boundary with your sibling. There are siblings out there that do this, that destroy the entire family dynamic.
When we don't have boundaries in our personal lives, we are much more capable of attracting, and it's much more likely that we will attract unhealthy relationship dynamics across the board.
Narcissism Is A Pervasive Pattern
So if we are parents and we don't set boundaries with our children, if we enable our children, if we teach our children entitlement, if we ignore the red flags that this child is becoming a bully, or if we cater to the child that is bullying the other children, if we don't tell the truth about what's happening in our families, then we are enabling a situation that can become problematic in the long run. We raise children who become adults who are in relationships with other people who exploit other people.
So when we're talking about narcissism, we have to understand it's very important that we know that this is a pervasive pattern before we label someone. We also have to realize that the people we date might be someone we're just a mismatch for—somebody at a different place in life. If I manifest a relationship and the man is not ready to be in a relationship, that doesn't make him a narcissist; it just means he's not at a place where he's ready to be in a relationship. If I manifest a man who wants to backpack through Europe and I want to settle down and have children, it doesn't make him a narcissist. He is someone who has the right to go about his life the way he sees fit. If I am in a relationship with someone and I denied myself, I pretend to be happier than I actually am; if I always acquiesced to my partner because I don't want this person to leave me, I’m not authentic in the relationship.
Red Flags In A Relationship
I might be holding onto this idea in my head about what this relationship could be. And I could create all of this beautiful imagery around the potential of this relationship, all while ignoring the red flags. And red flags of our relationship are that we're a mismatch, that this person's goals are different than my goals.
It might be as simple as, "Listen, you like to sleep in on Saturday mornings, and I'm hitting the gym. And when I come home, I want to go hiking. And I'm not going to be a good match for somebody who wants to sleep in all day." But imagine the person who is more athletic and is more fitness-minded being in a relationship with someone who has proven him or herself to be the person who sleeps in on Saturday and Sunday, who feels like, "Listen, I worked all week and my weekends are just for lounging around." This person has always been this way. But suppose you're the person who has ignored this relationship red flag. When this person continues to be who they are, and you keep ignoring this relationship red flag because you want the relationship to work out, eventually in time, the fact that this person doesn't change or you can't change them, when this person doesn't read your mind, is going to frustrate you. And you can become really angry and passive-aggressive. And your partner is like, "I don't know what's up." Now your partner starts reacting to passive-aggressiveness, and that makes you angrier. And now you just have a collision of energies that are completely out of alignment. They were never in alignment. And then, in that space, we have to be careful about labelling this person who likes to sleep in on a Saturday and Sunday a narcissist. Because if this person has always been this way, right? This is not something new; this isn't someone who we met, you know, at the track in the field who said that they were marathon runners and who swore they were vegan and the minute they moved into our house turned into a couch potato or started eating hamburgers and French Fries like at all hours of the night. There's a massive difference between being seduced into thinking that this person is one way, when in actuality, the person has always been this way, but you have ignored the relationship red flags.
A Mismatch In Energy
And the relationship red flags are tied to a mismatch in energy. This happens all the time in relationships. And it's unfortunate because if we were able to be more honest with ourselves, if we were able to own our right to think what we think and feel what we feel, if we thought we were worthy of what we wanted, if we could become more fair-minded about what we wanted, and then we entered the dating scene wanting what we want, then when people showed up we would be able to discern, "Am I a match for this energy being or am I not a match for this energy being?”. I've seen it time and time again in relationships that my friends have had, even relationships that my children have had, where I on the outside, I'm looking at this dynamic thinking these kids aren't alike at all, but here they are trying to make this work.
But what's really going on is each person was trying to change the other, rather than accepting that we are a mismatch, rather than pretending that I like to go hiking when I hate it, right? Rather than telling this person, "Hey, listen, I don't think we have the same relationship goals. I don't think we have the same money goals. I don't think that we have the same ideas about marriage. You want children; I don't want children. You want to live in a big house, you know, out in the country; I wanna live in the city." You know, many things can become serious problems inside a relationship because early on, both people have chosen to ignore what makes them different.
Now, in a healthy relationship, what would happen is these two people would set boundaries around their authentic selves. In other words, this is who I am, and this is who you are. And we have to accept that in one another and try to find the middle ground because I don't want you to resent me. I don't like crowds; I don't like loud noises. You like to party; that’s not who I am. You have to know that. I don't want you getting upset when you ask me to go to your sister's wild party out in South Hampton; they’re up until five o'clock in the morning. I get up at five o'clock in the morning to go for a run. I'm not going to participate in that. And if I do, it's going to be very rarely just to make you happy. We have to have discussions around who we really are. And when we can do that, then we can move forward with much healthier intentions and authenticity.
Now, in order to do this, boundaries have to be implemented. To set a boundary, you have to know who you are. This is where things get wobbly because a lot of us don't know who we are. Many of us hope that if I am in a relationship, I'll feel lovable enough, and I don't have to do my inner child work. I don't have to look within. This person loves me. We're getting married. We have a lovely house. I'm in a relationship; I must be okay. I can almost guarantee you that eventually, in time, whatever stuff you're dealing with, whatever vulnerabilities you haven't resolved, whatever insecurities you haven't resolved, they will come to the surface.
Now, in a healthy relationship, wouldn't it be great if we entered relationships knowing my stuff will come up, your stuff will come up, and we have to deal with it. And I promise you that as long as you don't become a vindictive person and try to hurt me, I want to walk you through that. I want to be there for you so we can work this through. It could be the fear of abandonment, right? So here you are. You know, you have a fear of abandonment. Your father left your mother when you were two years old, you never saw him again. You've had some situations where men have betrayed you; even friends have betrayed you. It's not easy for you to trust. So now you meet someone that you think that you're able to tell them, "I have an issue with trusting people." Right? So you share that vulnerability with them, but you must recognize that it's not this person's responsibility to hold your hand. It's that person's responsibility to honor your vulnerability, but it is not up to this person to heal you.
You can develop a space where you can share your vulnerability, and this person can support you as you do the inner child work to heal from it, but this person also has to feel like you're able to trust them. Because if you don't trust this person, even though they're showing up for you, in time, this person will feel the mismatch in the energy and think, "What's the point in trying, you know, she's just never going to be able to trust anyone." And so we must recognize that when we are wounded, we have to do this work. It is our responsibility to do this work. And I can tell you, as someone who has done this work, I've wrestled my ego, I've grabbed my lions by the mane, and I've looked them in the face. I've had the fire breathing dragon experience where my dragons were breathing down my neck, where I could feel the heat of their breath on me. It's terrifying when you go into the abyss of, "I'm unworthy, and I don't feel good enough, and I'm afraid that people are going to figure out that I'm unworthy and they're just going to leave me and then my worst fears are going to come true. I'm not enough."
You’ve Always Been Good Enough
When we have this deep experience within the self, and we face it, and we come out the other side, and the other side is, "Wait a minute, I've always been enough. This fear was real, but it wasn't valid in the sense that I am enough." So, in other words, we can fear that we're not good enough, which can dictate our life by the way, and yet it not be true. We can think it's true, but the reality is that you're always enough.
This was a huge turning point in my recovery. I remember I was doing a lot of meditation, a lot of third eye meditations, less spiritual meditations, transcendental meditations, and I was tapping into something absolutely magnificent and divine.
And then one day, I felt like my chest just opened and literally like a zipper opened up from the bottom of my chin down to my root chakra - it literally felt like I was unzipped. And all of this bright white light energy came out of the middle of my chest. It pushed me back in my chair. Some would say that's an experience, but I had this immense release of guilt, the immense release of shame, and an immense release of this “I am not enough” stuff. And at that moment, I felt washed, and I felt cleansed. It was an amazing experience.
And we are all enough, and we don't get to have that, "Wait a minute, I am enough" experience until we stop playing these games in relationships. Until we start setting boundaries and being honest, like, "No, that's not going to work for me", or, "Yes, that's going to work for me." If you have an issue with children, you will have a difficult time dating a man with six kids. If you want someone that's all about you, then you have to share your man with six children and possibly the ex-wife when something happens with the kids, which will not work for you. And pretending that it will work for you will make you very, very angry. It could make you passive-aggressive. It could bring out the toxicity in you, which is really a mirror of the unresolved stuff in you, which can be traced back to feeling not good enough, feeling like you're unworthy, feeling like you have to settle for what shows up, being afraid to speak your mind, being afraid that what you really want doesn't exist, being fearful that you're too much, that you want too much, being afraid that another opportunity isn't going to come along, being worried that you have to be with someone who has six kids because the guy that you really want would never want you. Right?
We All Have The Ability To Be Toxic
These are all things that are happening below the veil of consciousness that left unresolved and can cause us to be toxic ourselves. So it's important that while we're dabbling in this community, we understand logic and reason matter while learning about narcissism.
We understand that every single one of us, if we have unresolved wounds, can be toxic. That doesn't make you a narcissist because you have exhibited toxic behaviour. I struggled with this a lot. I was absolutely toxic in my marriage. I know I was. I was unhappy. I was falling apart. I didn't know that I was codependent. I felt stuck. I wasn't Susie Sunshine. I took on toxic behaviors. When I got out of that relationship dynamic because we were a total mismatch, when I finally found myself in a more matched relationship, those toxic behaviors no longer exist.
When we're dealing with a narcissist, a true narcissist, someone who we feel in our life has this pervasive pattern; they don't change. In other words, their toxic personality is their toxic personality. Everybody can have a bad day, everybody can have a bad moment, you can even have a bad year, but when you're dealing with someone who's a narcissist, this is who they are. And so I think it's important that as we dabble in this community and learn everything that we need to know, I think it's important to just add in this idea that when we're thinking about our past relationships, to be as objective as possible. It's so easy to say, "They're a narcissist, and that's why my relationship didn't work out." Or, "My sister's a narcissist, and that's why, you know, this is happening." That's really easy to say.
Now, in lots of cases, that is the truth. It is the truth that these people in your life have high narcissistic traits, especially if narcissistic parents raised you because you have this pattern of narcissism. You have this golden child experience; you have the scapegoated child. If you come from a dysfunctional home, you have the no-talk rule. So there is emotional dysregulation on the part of both parents, there's fighting, there's cursing, there's complete disrespect, and you are absorbing these energies, right? And so you become more of an attractor for this type of relationship than you are for something peaceful.
This was my situation. I was attracting what I knew in childhood. I took on the childhood traits that were unresolved and came at a significant relationship, a marriage relationship, became a mother for goodness sakes, all with these unresolved childhood wounds, and I had no clue. And so, as I became more self-accountable and more self-reliant, more self-observing, and began to witness myself, it was easier for me to see where I had become toxic too. And that, even though, in my opinion, many of the traits my ex-husband had were narcissistic, and he also exhibited these traits with the children, not just me, and with his friends, it felt comfortable enough for me to say, "Yeah, maybe that's what I was dealing with". However, that doesn't mean that I was Susie Sunshine, you know, all the time. I wasn't, and I have to own that. And so, I guess what I'm trying to make sure that everybody understands is that boundaries are absolutely significant.
When we are in relationships, it's up to us to know who we are. It's up to us to value our needs. It's up to us to know what we will tolerate and what we won't tolerate. It's up to us to identify the red flags of a relationship early, which are the mismatch in energies. Just because someone doesn't agree with you all the time doesn't make them a narcissist. Suppose this person's personality is this personality. In that case, they're disagreeable all the time, they like to start trouble all the time, they're irritating people on purpose all the time, they have a pattern of arrogance all the time, they grandiose, they lack empathy all the time, of course unless they want something, but when you see this pattern of entitlement, even they're making up stories, they think they're far more attractive than they actually are, they think they're far more capable, far more intelligent than they absolutely are, these are the symptoms that you're looking for in a person, and they have to be pervasive.
So I think it's important that we make sure that we’re fair, we make sure that we’re objective, and we're making sure that we’re honest with ourselves about what we want and what we think and what we feel that we need. And when we meet someone, we stay in our own skin. We don't become what we think this other person wants us to be. We don't make stories up in our heads and hope this person is the person we want them to be. We see them fairly for who they are. And that becomes very difficult when you're someone who's struggling with “I am not enough” stuff.
When you're struggling with abandonment, when you're struggling with codependency, when you're struggling with love addiction or sex addiction, this is very difficult not to project what you want onto this other person. So relationships are an excellent place or an excellent playground for us to learn all about ourselves. And the more honest we are about our stuff and the more diligent we are about healing our stuff, the more able we are to let people know about what we're going through, and the more vulnerable the other person will feel as well.
And I think that there's nothing wrong with two wounded people coming together and knowing, "Hey, look, I got some stuff, but I'm going to deal with it. And I'm sure you have some stuff, and I hope that you deal with it, but let's see what happens if we love each other enough through it." None of us are perfect, and we have to maintain this objective viewpoint of ourselves. So we have to know that we can exhibit toxic behaviours when we're in the wrong relationship. And the best thing that we can do is be honest with ourselves, be honest with other people, take care of our “not enough” stuff, do our inner child work, do our recovery work, if we're codependent, we've got to work on co-dependent recovery, if a narcissist has wounded us and we have trust issues it's essential that we learn to trust ourselves, know that we're enough.
So even if this other person turns out to be untrustworthy, we don't lose ourselves, and we don't think that everyone's like this because they're not. There are trustworthy people out there, and you deserve to find that person, but you have to begin by learning to trust yourself. Right, so boundaries are important. So the more you know about yourself, the more you're going to be able to show up in a relationship as your true self. And when you find yourself in a relationship that feels like a mismatch, you don't waste your time because if you do, you're probably going to end up exhibiting toxic behaviors in the long run, and that's not going to help you heal. What's going to help you heal is setting that boundary, knowledging the truth, and letting this person go in love and in light.
If you are struggling with codependency, be sure to check out my 12-week Breakthrough Coaching Program. I launch this program twice a year live, and I also sell it on demand. And you can learn more about that by clicking here: https://bit.ly/3hXOKCd