When recovering from abuse – particularly abuse from someone using narcissistic techniques – it’s common for the recovering person to end up hurting the people who are in the healthiest relationships with them.
FSM knows I did.
This is just anecdata, but I’ve seen it enough times now that I think it’s a pretty common effect.
The logic isn’t hard. The person who has been abused feels safest in the healthy relationships, and therefore feels comfortable enforcing those boundaries appropriately. However, any remaining relationships that haven’t respected boundaries in the past may not have those boundaries enforced in the same way… because the recovering person is still recovering.
I don’t just mean romantic relationships – these can be friendships, family, work relationships, whatever. And they do NOT have to be totally toxic relationships either. Any relationship can have some toxic elements and patterns in it.
The end result can give a really awful impression to the people they’re in healthy relationships with. When a recovering person enforces their boundaries in only (or even mostly) the healthy relationships, the healthy relationships get the short end of the stick. This is very similar to the process of running the abuser on a separate mental loop.
The recovering person may be entirely unable to understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. I know I didn’t realize what I’d done and how I’d made others feel until much later.
I don’t have an easy way or trick to avoid this. When I was on codependent brain, I was not thinking straight, but I was certain my thinking was completely clear. As someone who has been in relationships with others recovering from codependency, it’s hard to remember this when you’re the one being hurt by another’s selective boundary enforcement.
The only thing I’ve found that helps at all is this: Trying to be aware of what the other person is experiencing. Particularly for the people in healthy relationships with the recovering person.
It still sucks. It can still hurt – a lot. But knowing why it’s occurring, knowing that it is not you, knowing that it’s just remains of behavior patterns, can help dull it.
Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash