Thursday, June 24, 2010

Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood

I am reading a book by Robin Norwood that came out in 1985 and was #1 on the New York Times best seller list.  Here are some excerpts from the book that I found to be especially insightful when dealing with the subjects of addictions, depression, and codependency.

“Loving too much does not mean loving too many men, or falling in love too often, or having too great a depth of genuine love for another.  It means, in truth, obsessing about a man and calling that obsession love, allowing it to control your emotions and much of your behavior, realizing that it negatively influences your health and well-being, and yet finding yourself unable to let go.  It means measuring the degree of your love by the depth of your torment.”

“What all unhealthy families have in common is their inability to discuss root problems.  It is the degree of secrecy – the inability to talk about the problems – rather than their severity, that defines both how dysfunctional a family becomes and how severely its members are damaged. In dysfunctional families, major aspects of reality are denied, and roles remain rigid.  Members are not free to express a full range of experiences, wants, needs, and feelings, but must limit themselves to playing a part which accommodates those played by other family members.  Because our family denies our reality, we begin to deny it too.  We become unable to discern when someone or something is not good for us.”

“ The definition of a co-alcoholic is someone who has developed and unhealthy pattern of relating to others as a result of having been closely involved with someone with the disease of alcoholism. Whether the alcoholic has been a parent, spouse, child, or friend, their relationship usually causes certain feelings and behavior to develop in the co-alcoholic: low self-esteem, a need to be needed, a strong urge to change and control others, and a willingness to suffer.” 
Characteristics of women who love too much:
1.      Come from a dysfunctional home where emotional needs were not met.
2.      Try to fill unmet needs by becoming a caregiver, especially to men who appear to be needy.
3.      Respond deeply to the familiar type of emotionally unavailable man who you feel you can try to change through your love
4.      Terrified of abandonment, will do anything to keep a relationship from dissolving.
5.      Willing to do anything to “help” the man you are involved with.
6.      Accustomed to lack of love in personal relationships, but waits, hopes, and tries harder to please.
7.      Takes more than 50 % of the responsibility, guilt and blame in any relationship.
8.      Critically low self-esteem, does not believe she deserves to be happy, must earn the right to enjoy life.
9.      Has a desperate need to control men and relationships
10.   Is more in touch with the dream of how it could be than with the reality of the situation.
11.   Is addicted to men and to emotional pain.
12.   Predisposed emotionally and biochemically to becoming addicted to drugs, alchohol, or foods (sugar).
13.  Drawn to people with problems that need fixing, avoid focusing on responsibility to self.
14.   Has a tendency toward episodes of depression which she tries to forestall through the excitement provided by an unstable relationship.
15.   Not attracted to men who are kind, stable, reliable and interested in you. Nice men are boring.

“Being addicted is a primary way of being emotionally unavailable.”

“Depression, alcoholism, and eating disorders are closely related and seem to be genetically linked.  If you are someone who came from an alcoholic family, you are likely on 2 counts to have problems with depression, because of your past and because of your genetic inheritances.”

“When a mother abdicates her appropriate role as her husband’s partner and her child’s parent, and causes a daughter to be elevated to that position, she is forcing her daughter not only to take over her responsibilities but also to be at risk of becoming the object of the father’s sexual advances.”

“With every woman who loves too much, 2 factors are operating: 1) the lock and key fit of her familiar patterns with his; and 2) the drive to re-create and overcome the painful patterns from the past.” 

“I just had this incredible need to prove to him that he was lovable.  I thought that if I could just love him enough he’d change.”

“To win his love was to win that of her father, who was also angry and destructive.  To change him through her love was to change her mother and save her.  She wanted to win in her struggle with him and with the important people he symbolized for her, her mother and father.  That is what made letting go of this destructive and unfulfilling relationship so difficult.”

“Most of the giving we did when we were loving too much was actually manipulation.”

Personal thoughts:
One thing I am learning is that women who “love too much" often confuse love with pity.  They tend to have a strong desire to "help" and mistakenly confuse that feeling with love.  

Another thing I learned from this book, is that in a dysfunctional family, your perceptions about what love really looks like get really messed up.  Basically, you feel that you need to suffer or be in pain in order to experience love.  You are also excited by the thrill of the pursuit, but then once you achieve what you think you want, you no longer want it.  Then when someone comes along and offers you real love and stability, you either can’t accept that or you reject it because it's boring.  

Here is a couple of excerpts from the book that had some very strong meaning for me ..... 

"The more pain from childhood, the more powerful the drive to reenact and master that pain in adulthood." 

"The more difficult is it to end a relationship that is bad for you, the more elements of the childhood struggle it contains.  When you are loving too much, it is because you are trying to overcome the old fears, anger, frustration, and pain from childhood, and to quit is to surrender a precious opportunity for finding relief and rectifying the ways you have been wronged."

“It is this thrilling possibility of righting old wrongs, winning lost love, and gaining withheld approval that, for women who love too much, is the unconscious chemistry behind falling in love.”

“We have learned to prefer the pain.  A more healthy, loving man cannot play an important part in our life until we learn to let go of the need to relive the old struggle again and again.”

“As we become healthier and more balanced, we attract healthier and more balanced partners.  As we become less needy, more of our needs are met.  As we give up the role of super-nurturer, we make space for someone to nurture us.” 

Characteristics of a woman who has recovered from loving too much:

1.      Accepts herself fully
2.      Accepts others as they are
3.      Is in touch with her feelings and attitudes
4.      Cherishes every aspect of herself, validates herself
5.      Can enjoy being with others, does not need to be needed
6.      Allows herself to be open and trusting with appropriate people, is not afraid to be known at a deeply personal level, but also does not expose herself to the exploitation of those not interested in her well-being.
7.      Questions “Is this relationship good for me? Does it enable me to grow?”
8.      Is able to let go of a destructive relationship without experiencing disabling depression
9.      Values her own serenity above all else, protective of her health and well-being.
10.   Knows that a relationship must be between partners who share similar values, interests, and goals, and who each have a capacity for intimacy, knows she is worthy of the best that life has to offer.

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