Dr. Carter and I were having a conversation this week when he mentioned the Coldplay song “Fix You” is a great song but not a healthy way to live. Sure, we laughed at this comparison, but the connotation of his words rings true. The “I can help you” myth damages the person determined to fix the other. And, that ends up being one of the biggest signs or “red flag” that a relationship is toxic.
When we are in a relationship and find ourselves trying to change or repair the other person, that relationship is likely unhealthy. It’s evidence that there is codependency, and the one to get hurt will be you.
In a healthy relationship, partners do their best to meet each other’s needs physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. If we find ourselves in a toxic relationship, we may find that we are getting nothing met and giving everything we have. We tell ourselves we can change them because:
- No one has loved them before.
- I’m the first to truly appreciate them.
- No one has understood them yet.
- I am the first to give him the attention he needs.
- I am the one to meet all her needs for the first time.
- I will stand by him no matter what.
- I’ll be his rescuer, then he will love me, and we will live happily ever after.
There’s major trouble here. Here are the reasons those pledges will not work.
- People can’t change unless they want to change.
Why would a narcissist want to change? Most narcissists don’t believe in self-improvement, much less therapy, because they believe themselves to be perfect. If anyone needs to change, they think it’s you. There’s no sense of responsibility for problems in a relationship. It’s all your fault, according to a toxic person.
Also, why would a narcissist want to change? What this toxic person has been doing has worked for them for years. They receive the supply they need from you and others. There is no reason to change.
I often hear the argument that God can work miracles and change someone. I have faith that He can. I also believe a person must truly be open to a higher power for changes to occur. A narcissist struggles with submitting to someone in a superior position, much less God, the Creator of the universe.
2. Change takes work
Dr. Lundy Bancroft, a psychologist who specializes in trying to rehabilitate abusive men, wrote a best-selling book entitled Why Does He Do That; Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. Dr. Bancroft said hey he spend two decades working with and interviewing over two thousand men and many of their wives. Bancroft said during that time, he had only a handful of men (and relationships) change.
Change takes work. It takes efforts such as attendance at weekly therapy sessions and support group meetings. It takes reading and journaling. Change also takes daily recognizance and alteration of words and actions toward a partner. And most of all, change takes self-reflection. For many narcissistic men and women, this is almost impossible due to the amount of shame self-inquisitions would uncover.
3. You will walk on eggshells, trying to determine what works to change them.
Have you ever given someone a birthday present you thought they might like, but you weren’t sure. You watched in anticipation as they opened the gift, noting the expression on their face. If it’s a narcissist, you know the offering is never good enough. You might get a nonchalant thank you, then the toxic person moves on to another gift or turns on a ball game. You start thinking about what gift would have been better when nothing would meet the toxic person’s standards. It’s a no-win situation.
If you invest your time and effort in giving your first and best daily to help another person, especially a toxic one, get ready to be disappointed and left sad and empty. They will take and seldom give back, even with words of thanks. They’ll continue to ask for more for the duration of the relationship. You will have nothing left to give.
4. Rescuing someone is a game you will lose.
I have a friend who is co-dependent like me. I’ll call her Suzy. Suzy had a first date scheduled with a guy she had met while online dating. Unfortunately, the meet-up was postponed when this guy, Josh, called from the emergency room after having a bad motorcycle accident. Josh had broken his leg and suffered multiple scrapes and bruises. Instead of postponing the date, my friend went to the hospital to meet this person she had never met. While she was there, she introduced herself to his parents and stayed for a long visit. She was determined to nurse him back to health and be his savior. She invested hours caring for this person, doing things such as driving him to dinner, making him dinner, and sometimes, leaving her teenage kids at home while she played nurse. A few months later, when he became healthier and mobile, they broke up.
It is not your job or mine to change or fix someone. It sets us up for failure when we stop caring for ourselves because we put so much focus on the other person. We ignore our well-being and the welfare of those who matter the most to us. It’s all because we want to ride in on the white horse, rescue our partner, and live happily ever after. We want to prove we are the one, no matter what it depletes in us.
We need to come down from our love cloud and care for ourselves first. Only then can we go into a relationship with eyes wide open. That’s when we can focus on developing the healthy rapport of two people who work on themselves and mutually benefit each other.
If you need help with codependency (or fixing people), there’s a service that can help. BetterHelp is a service that matches you with the appropriate counselor. The link is below.