How Soon Is Too Soon?
Someone asked me today: I’m hearing it so often that it’s being advised to not go into a relationship too early; but what is too early?
My answer: I think most everyone can see that going straight from one person’s arms into the arms
of another is never a good idea; I have known affairs that worked but they are the exception to the rule because the relationship started based on deception and lies and I don’t know how you could ever trust the other person when they say they love you when you know they were screwing around on their last spouse and that spouse didn’t know. But I am a firm believer in “rules are meant to be broken” and really hate it when people say things like “All xxxxxx are this way.” “That never works” “That is impossible” because nothing is ever engraved in stone; there is always going to be an exception to any rule. Personally the minute someone says to me, you can’t, it will never work, that is impossible, or any other blanket statement of negativity I dig in my heels and set out to prove them wrong. I am a rebel that way, but I think there are a lot of people who consider it a personal challenge to be told they “can’t”.
Barring affairs and looking at the typical victim of narcissistic abuse; how long should they wait before they date again? I think a few factors come into play, personally I couldn’t even think about dating for a year, with my first husband I waited 2 years but I was really in love with him, had a new baby, starting a new job and was buying a home and didn’t have time to do more than casual date. I have never really needed a man in my life, I know not everyone is like me.
Some people could wait 3 years and not be ready, it is not so much the time you wait, it is what you do with that time that counts. If you are going to sit on the couch dwelling on your ex, don’t go no contact with the narcissist and continue to see him you could go 10 years and not be ready to date. As long as the narc is in a person’s life I don’t believe it is possible to truly heal. In my mind the relationship with the narc ends the minute the victim goes no contact.
We all have baggage we pack from our past, the less baggage the better chance of finding a healthy partner and having a healthy relationship. Let’s face it, a healthy person will get sick of always dealing with your baggage from past relationships. If your past partner screwed around on you, it is understandable that you would be suspicious but it could destroy a healthy relationship if you are always checking up on your new partner or accusing them of infidelity when they are being faithful and honest. Relationships are difficult enough under the best of circumstances, if you add in a bunch of shitty baggage from a narcissist you are putting undo pressure on a budding romance.
We all know that a relationship with a narcissist is the most unhealthy kind of relationship, depending how long you were with the narcissist you have learned some pretty F’ed up ways of coping and aren’t capable of a truly healthy relationship. Either you are “taking the temperature” of the relationship constantly, ie: “are we ok?” “Do you love me?”
Or you are defensive “If you don’t like it you know where the door is”
If your self esteem was severely damaged (I don’t know how it can’t be with a narcissist) if you get involved too soon there is the danger that you rely too heavily on the approval of your new partner, so if they have a bad day you take it as a personal insult. I think it is a recipe for disaster when a person gauges their self worth on the moods of another person whether that person is healthy or not and I don’t know how a person can rebuild their self confidence while they are involved with someone. I am not saying it isn’t possible but for a person to truly know that they can make it on their own and they are autonomous I think they have to have spent a good amount of time alone, maybe dating; but not living together, having babies, etc.
When James and I split the thing I had the hardest time with was; who am I? I had always been someone’s daughter, wife or mother and now I was “no one’s” I didn’t know who I was without a role to play. If I was a mother I had certain criteria that came with motherhood, or as a wife, but I didn’t have a clue who I was and what I stood for. Had I gotten involved right away I would have fallen into that role without ever figuring out who I was, …… at the core, ……. honestly ME. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that period of growth and it has given me so much inner peace it has changed how I view the world and my role in the world. It made everything I went through worth while and I wouldn’t change a thing from the past because it brought me to this point. I would love to see every woman live true to their core self, well…..in fact every person, (except the narcissists because their core selves are evil) but if a person isn’t raised to appreciate who they are at the core how do they ever know unless something happens to force you to investigate who you are?
I am not saying a person can not be happy or have a healthy relationship without suffering or if they didn’t have the ideal upbringing but I think the majority of parents do their children a great disservice when they don’t allow their children to be individuals and pursue their nature talents etc. When parents place their expectations on the child they grow up playing the role they have always been told they “should” so it is so easy for them to slide into playing a role for the narcissist. If a person has never lived true to their core self and always tried to live up to other’s expectations, it is natural to try to live up to the narcissist’s expectations and it is hard to be confident or have strong boundaries because they aren’t your own, but everyone else’s idea of who you should be.
The commenter asked: In my experience, even if you do get “better” after some time has passed, it won’t go away completely and I can imagine that some issues will only show up while being in a relationship. So where do you set the “threshold”?
My reply: Good point. I think what matters more than when you start dating after leaving the narcissist but how you date.
I think there is a tendency of a recent victim to want to “nail the relationship down”, a need to know this new person isn’t going to leave you, so they rush into another relationship. I think a person is ready to commit to a new relationship when they stop worrying about having one and are actually hesitant to jump into anything because they like their life the way it is. When you feel complete without a man in your life is when it is safe to have a man in your life.
I think it is very important that everyone take time before moving in together, especially victims of a narc. True healthy love will survive a year or two of dating and not living together, a narcissist usually will not wait around, he can’t keep up the charade that long and there should be lots of red flags flying after a couple of years. Also, it is a lot easier to leave a dating relationship than a common-in-law relationship or marriage making it less damaging financially and emotionally. A narcissist usually pushes for either marriage or having a baby early, it is their way of gaining control of the victim and making them dependent on them.
Commenter said: Considering how much it works me up when my anxieties are pressing through, when someone is mentioning only the “possibility” the something COULD be off (and big parts of that anxiety come from within me and the way I think I MADE him behave crappy) and how insecure I am of how a good relationship looks like….I’m actually wondering why there are no more articles about what “good signs” a relationship should have, with specific focus on narcissistic relationship survivors.
I replied: The reason I hesitate to list signs of a “good” relationship is: The narcissist has all those traits when a person first meets him. He presents himself to be the perfect lover, partner; or mine did anyway.
I have read articles on red flags that a guy is an asshole and was very aware when I met James about looking for red flags. I was in my 40’s and not naive in any way, or so I thought. I had a mental list of things to look for and with James I just kept going down the list and ticking off all these “good” traits. He was “perfect”
He called when he said he would ….. tick
He was on time or called if he was late ……….tick
He was not involved with anyone else…. tick
He had a good job and good career ……. tick
He had a good family and was close to his family …. tick
He treated his mom well and lovingly …… tick
He introduced me to his family and friends ….. tick
He answered the phone with me there ……. tick
He told ME to answer his phone …… tick
He gave me a key to his place and told me to drop by anytime that wasn’t even on my list but …tick
He was honest about his past mistakes and had learned from them …….tick
If I was upset I could talk to him about it and we could discuss it calmly and rationally ….. tick
he never got angry, ever, he was the most even tempered guy I had ever been with …….BIG tick
He wasn’t afraid of commitment …. tick
He wasn’t afraid to say I love you and show his sensitive side (in fact I thought he cried a little bit too much and cared for me more than I cared for him but that isn’t a bad thing. I vowed to not take him for granted or abuse his love and generosity) …… tick
He talked about the future in “we” terms …… tick
We had the same values and principles ……..tick
He was honest and I trusted him explicitly ……….TICK
He was handsome and sexy …… BIG TICK
He had been hurt in the past and was ready to appreciate a good woman like me …… tick
He loved me just the way I was and often told me to never change …… Tick
If I was upset about something he knew exactly what to do to make me feel better …… tick
I felt for the first time in my life like I could be totally myself and he would still love me ….. tick
So where were the red flags? He sounded too good to be true, I know right? That is what I thought too, he was my soul mate. So when my gut instincts kicked in and said ”some thing is wrong here.” I said “Shut up!, there is nothing wrong, I am just not used to being treated so well. I am not used to a guy doing things for me and being so demonstrative. I have just always been so independent it’s going to take a while to get comfortable with a guy “taking care of me”. I had been told in the past I was too independent and guys felt I didn’t need them so I made a conscious decision to let a man spoil me and let him take care of me. It didn’t seem too fast when I moved in after 6 months because we got along so well, we never fought, ever. And when he started to change there were lots of other things going on to explain why he might be stressed and on edge. In the past he had been taken for granted and his loving nature was abused so when he got angry about something I told myself he was just defensive because of his past, I just had to tell him and show him how much I appreciated him and with time he would know I was not like all the others. It took me years to figure out it was ALL too good to be true. Everything about him had been a lie and a mask.
I much prefer to give a few top red flags that he may be a narcissist
#1 red flag – He falls in love FAST and pushes for a commitment from the victim, pushes for sex early, and calls often, wants to spend all his time with the victim. In a healthy relationship a man will not push for sex right away, he won’t say I love you in the first week or two, he won’t be wanting you to move in or at least he will respect your right to want to take time. A narcissist will not allow you to take time, he will push until you give in. (and you do because he is so sweet and you don’t want to lose him)
#2 – calls you by some pet name early in the relationship, like Babe, Baby, Pumpkin, etc
#3 – All his ex’s were psycho bitches and took advantage of his good nature
#4 – With work, relationships, he is always the one who packs the load, everyone takes advantage of his good nature.
#5 – He sounds too good to be true, his resume looks like that of a man twice his age but he has nothing. He has done more, been more places, seen more things, knows more than anyone you know.
If a person sees any of the above signs I strongly advise they slooooooow it down in a big way and see how he handles it.
Another reason why I recommend waiting until a person is totally healed before dating because throughout the relationship with the narcissist you denied your gut instincts so you don’t know what is your gut telling you there is something wrong and what is just paranoia because you were hurt in the past. A large part of healing is getting in touch with your gut instincts and learning how to read what your body is telling you and then listening to it and not doubting yourself.
I think that if a person is healed and totally in tune with their inner core and is living true to themselves in every way they would not ask, “what are the signs of a good relationship” because they will know it in their gut that this person is right and the relationship is healthy. It is when we live life according to other people’s standards and expectations that we have self doubt and question everything.
Personally I don’t want a relationship right now and that is not because I am too damaged to want one, or because I hate men or don’t believe in love but because I am enjoying my life without having to take anyone else into consideration that I don’t want to have to compromise in anyway. I suppose it could happen some day and I am open to it happening but I am so complete and quite enjoying the feeling.
If you are already in the relationship there isn’t much you can do except keep trying to heal and move on, it puts added strain on your relationship and hopefully your new partner is understanding. To be in a new relationship while dealing with past hurts slows down the healing process and may stall it completely because the relationships blur, the hurts of the past combine with hurt from the present and perceived hurts from the now are related to hurts from the past and you end up doubting yourself because you have never taken the time to clear the slate, never taken the time to learn what YOU want, what you stand for, what you really need so you can’t be confident about your decisions or how you feel because you don’t know who you are.