Healthy relationships are a rare commodity these days. Relationships can begin with a bang, then quickly lose their appeal. Some relationships that initially seem so harmonious somehow eventually become contentious. Relationships born of great passion and fervor can become dull or devoid of energy. And even relationships that seem founded on positive regard somehow become abusive. How do such things happen? And why do healthy, enduring relationships seem so hard to come by? (These are just a few of the reasons I wrote How Did We End Up Here?)
Healthy relationships depend largely upon character. And, unfortunately, we live in an age marked by varying degrees of character disturbance and dysfunction. You have to possess the right character attributes to afford a relationship partner proper positive regard. Sadly, many of those attributes are in short supply these days. And, as I’ve written about before, the capacity for genuine intimacy is primary among those attributes. (See: Intimacy Capacity Defines Character.)
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Wants and Needs
We are inherently social creatures. So, we naturally crave relationship. But the kinds of wants and needs that draw us to a particular relationship vary. And those wants and needs are often also indicators of our emotional and character health. For example, it’s natural to desire a sense of personal validation. We all want to have a positive sense of self-worth. But our desire for validation can be too intense a craving. And that craving can be rooted in a damaged sense of self. When that is the case, we tend to seek validation externally. And the tendency to look outward for the validation we crave is heart of emotional dependency.
Preying Grounds for Disturbed Characters
Some disturbed characters have a kind of “radar” for emotional dependency. They intuitively know when you need. And when what you crave is affirmation from others, they know just how to give it. Or at least how to appear like they’re giving it. So, they might praise you often. They might flatter you. They might shower you with affirming compliments. But in saying all those things about you, they may only be trying to seduce you. Why? Not necessarily because they really value you. Instead, they might merely see something in you they want to possess. That makes the whole relationship about what benefits them. And if that’s the case, it won’t be long before they begin using, abusing, and exploiting you.
I’ve counseled far too many abusive relationship survivors who mistook someone’s initial passionate interest in them as an indication of positive regard. However, as I’ve written about before, mere interest is not the same as genuine regard. (See: Abuse Victims Mistake Interest for Regard.) Still, some disturbed characters are so skilled in the art of impression management that they can have you believing their interest means they really care for you. Find more about impression management in both Character Disturbance and In Sheep’s Clothing.) Unfortunately, it’s usually time and someone’s repeated behavior toward you that reveals how much they really care or ever really cared.
In the coming weeks I’ll be talking about ways to vet the true character and intentions of a potential relationship partner.
9 thoughts on “Healthy Relationships Require Genuine Regard”
I find these words (and your other writings) very helpful. I used to believe that all affirmation and attention were positive signs of regard, and was fooled many times, leading to repeated pain and misery. Time and repeated behavior are much better indicators of someone’s true character, and I’m working on slowing down and looking for that kind of consistency. “Impression management” was a new and rather frightening concept for me! How can one discern whom to trust?
There’s another side to this coin, too. I used to ignore a pattern of red flags, thinking that I was “too judgmental and harsh”, but I am slowly coming out of that fog, too. When you’ve been manipulated a lot by family (whom you should be able to trust!), it’s easy to fall into other traps. Gaining enough knowledge and experience to be able to rightfully discern what is truly happening is a key to successfully negotiating life, but what a challenge this can be!
This topic is one that interests me greatly, having come out of bad CD long term marriage, then coming out of an almost three year relationship, before I had time to heal from the marriage, and now taking time to be with myself to heal before I get into another relationship, the kind of healthy intimate relationship I eventually want. But first, I have to be able to be intimate, which is difficult for me.
I don’t think I’m prey as I’m not “needy”. I’m certainly prey for other reasons though, if the predator is expert.
Grace, what you’ve said, I’m hearing you!
“impression management”, is there an article by Dr. Simon on this?
I found this to be a rather frightening example of the most extreme kinds of “impression management”, but clearly, the principles apply to a continuum of behavior. The intent is to give an impression that fools the victim(s) into thinking that the mask and character portrayed is genuine, when it’s really all a scam to benefit the abuser. I think many of us were taught to always believe the best of people and give others the benefit of the doubt. This was my downfall, as it caused me to overlook many red flags and not take timely action to protect myself.
Eventually, CD people begin to show their true selves, and they usually give us little signs that would be wise to observe and act on earlier rather than later. This kind of behavior shouldn’t be overlooked and explained away, but because of impression management, I think the tendency for targets/victims is to second guess themselves, and sometimes even feel like they are the cruel and harsh ones for judging this behavior.
This is so right on, Grace. As you said, so many were taught to always believe the best of people and to give the benefit of the doubt. I’m right there with you, Grace. My downfall, too. And the second guessing, feeling like they, the victims, are the cruel and harsh ones for judging behavior. Well said, Grace. It’s so true.
Why are these things taught? Maybe it’s some oxytocin fog that comes over parents. More likely is that people believe in the just world fallacy and also are kind, decent, honest, upright people themselves and make the mistake of assuming others are that way too. Such is their worldview.
This is a great topic. I understand what you are saying about intimacy and I also understand what Dr. Simon is trying to teach us. Intimacy isn’t easy especially when we have never experienced it. I believe in our situations now we need to get to know ourselves in an intimate way, it begins within ourselves.
I realize that I have never really gotten to know myself. I was always dictated to in some way or another or had to appease another in order to live. Now I think we have the time to dig deep within ourselves to know who we really are.
This is a time to reflect on all the facets of who we are. This is a time to take actions on what we think, a time to be ourselves, a time to know our heart and soul and embrace who We are instead of being what others what us to be and allowing our minds to be controlled by what others want us to think.
Once we have mastered and accept ourselves and to know who we are, I think we will be able to have an intimate relationship with another and will refuse to accept less than that. I think this is another step in the growing process, not easy by any means but attainable.
Lucy, take a moment and think about how much you have shared with all of us on this blog, the intimate details you have shared, not only that but the love and care you extend to your fellowman is a form of intimacy and the act of growing in faith to share some of your most intimate moments. You share yourself in helping others, sharing your experiences and feeling the pain of others. Just know you are cherished by many on this blog, past and present, this is a form of intimacy.
I believe that one day you will find that special person that you can have an intimate and fulfilling relationship with. For now, its time for you. It also is about trust, to trust yourself and be true to yourself and then you will know when another is true and to be trusted.
I believe the Key to all this is as Dr. Simon is redundantly teaching, its all about Character. In order for us to attain a truthful and fulfilling relationship and fend off the Character Disordered of this world we must stand strong in Truth and Character and Know Ourselves. Know to never again compromise for anyone our truth and values.
I believe when I set my standards high according to Gods will I will grow in Character and the Character growth will ward off the CD that try to come into my life. Strong values and strength of Character will ward off the CD.
I have to repeatedly remember, Trust is something someone earns, its not something to give away. As an Empath we can give our trust to easily as we do not think in the distorted ways the CD does and in this we must always be cautious.
Lucy, wonderful things are in store for you and in time that special someone will come into your life. Keep growing, keep building your Character and above all trust God and yourself.
Hugs and Blessings Kindred Spirit
What Dr. Simon’s article describes as emotional dependency is very much a part of codependency. Looking for validation and worth outside of oneself or of God and therefore “people pleasing” to obtain it. This comes from dysfunctional family or origin and I have heard it said that most people are codependent to a degree so its very common. But theres a point at which it becomes more pronounced and becomes a real barrier to personal growth. I am working on that as I am certain my ex-narc husband was manipulating me for all his selfish wants, and in the end I realized he didn’t care about me at all. All that time spent trying to please him and he just crapped on me. The only thing I can say positive that came out of that relationship are my two kids and becoming aware of narcissim and then going forward to work on my issues that got me in that situation in the first place.
Unfortunately, it’s usually time and someone’s repeated behavior toward you that reveals how much they really care or ever really cared.
And it took 47 yrs to work out.
I TRUST MY GUT. ALWAYS WILL FROM NOW ON.
I have made a decision in life. “I would rather be lonely than miserable “
I am really looking forward to the coming articles on how to vet a person of true character and intentions!
I am so disappointed in humanity at this point. Sooo many people in life have only wanted to tear me down, including my whole family of origin it’s at times hard to breathe. I did so well for so long and now it seems I’m struggling with my self worth when I’ve been believing for 34 yrs that it really only comes from God? Why am I struggling so much? Because I can’t seem to find one real friend Christian or otherwise who is truly healthy. So now I feel I’m sicker than ever, when I thought I was healthy. Heavy heart.
For the fact that you even write and ask a question of your being healthy and at the sam time can point out what your so called family is doing lends credence to the fact you are the healthy one. There are many of us on this blog facing the same dilemma of being ostracized, shunned and being used as a scapegoat to cover up the true people who are the problem.
I am glad you have found your way to this blog, so many of us do truly care and love one another. Its the ones that tear you down and gang up and question your sanity when you deal in integrity and truth. Let me tell you it is not easy in these days and it will get worse, so be prepared to fight for truth.
I will say you will have to have discernment of the Spirit to separate yourself and find the Remanent. You are not sicker, it is the culling going on, it is a straight and narrow path, lonely, very lonely at times, stay there, do not falter as God will put his angels to protect you. Know this, your blinders may be off and it will be a difficult walk but in the end of the road is the prize. Let NO ONE take this from you.
Hugs and May the Spirit give you the strength to prevail in Truth to the end.