Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood

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Intellectual Humiliation

Confront your own ignorance.

Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood

When being in love means suffering, you’re loving too much.

When the majority of your conversations with your friends start with: “He…”, you’re loving too much. 

When you excuse his bad temper, his bad character, his indifference, or his inability to accept responsibility for his terrible childhood and you try to become his therapist, you’re loving too much.  

When you don’t like his characteristics as a man, his behavior, and his values but you accept them or instead excuse yourself that if only you were just pretty enough, thin enough, he would love you, you’re loving too much.

Loving a Man Who Doesn’t Love Us

Women who chose men who don’t love them often come from dysfunctional families. 

Dysfunctional families are families in which the roles of the individuals are rigid and in which communication inside that family is severely restricted by the roles each individual plays in the family. Members aren’t free to express their experiences, wishes, necessities, and feelings, but are instead limited to play the role that was assigned to them by the other members of the family. 

Dysfunctional families usually prevent individual family members from talking about what is affecting them either individually or as a family. They’re often encouraged or shamed into compliance and silence. This learned behavior will have the effect of teaching the individual not to trust their own perceptions and feelings regarding reality. This gaslighting will then deteriorate the growth of the individual and inhibit the tools they need to relate to others normally and adapt to different environments. 

Sadly, this is the usually experience of women who love too much: they’re incapable of differentiating between someone who si good for them and someone who isn’t; its all the same for them. 

The author argues that the women who came into her practice as a consequence of a man, women she labeled as “women who love too much” have the following characteristics:

1. Typically these women come from dysfunctional families who didn’t satisfy their emotional necessities as kids.

2. Not having received the love and attention a kid needs, they tried to compensate this by showing too much love for others, especially towards men who seem needy or sick. 

3. They react extremely well to towards men who are emotionally inaccesible as a consequence of their lack of ability to turn her parents into loving ones. She’ll try to change the man she’s with through her love for him. 

4. Her feral of being abandoned forces her to accept anything that may come her during the relationship. 

5. She’ll often ignore red flags during the relationship. She’ll do almost anything to avoid ending the relationship.
6. She will keep on hoping and working hard to comply and please her partner, since she’s used to no receiving love in personal relationships. 

7. She willing to accept more than 50% of the responsibility, the blame, and criticism in the relationship.

8. She has creatively low self love, and deep down she doesn’t think she deserves to be loved. Instead she believes that she has to gain the right to be happy in life. 

9. Her need for control and manipulation towards the men she’s in a romantic relationship with will be disguised as a feeling of wanting to be helpful and useful in the relationship. 

10. She bases the health of the relationship in what she dreams it could be and not on what it is.

11. She’s addicted to men and emotional pain.

12. She’s predisposed to be bio-quemically addicted to: drugs, alcohol, and/or sugar.

13. She avoids the responsibility she has towards herself by immersing herself in relationships that are chaotic, emotionally painful, and uncertain. 

14. She has a tendency toward depressive episodes which she avoids by denying the instability and pain that the relationships brings her. 

15. She’s not attracted towards men who are nice, stable, trustworthy, and are emotionally and romantically interested in her. 

Good Sex in Bad Relationships

Boredom is the default feeling women who love too much report when they’re in stable relationships with good men. There’s no fireworks, bells ringing, there’s no falling stars or earthquakes, there’s there comfortable with one another. This default relationship will often bring feelings of discomfort, irritability, and clumsiness in which they disguise as boredom.

Women who love too much often feel like they must manipulate the other person in order to maintain “the spark” in the relationship. She doesn’t have the emotional capacity to relate to him unless she’s manipulating him in one way or the other. She doesn’t feel comfortable in it, unless there’s a semblance of power. 

Women who love too much are used to negative aspects and behavior of their partner. She feels more comfortable in a combative and manipulative relationship, instead of a relationship where both people have the same role and are equals. When she is in stable, comfortable, healthy relationship with no power struggles, she feel bored or uncomfortable and will usually do anything to sabotage it and drive the other person away. 

She will often behave in the following matters, especially when it comes to the sexual aspects of the relationship:

1. She’ll ask herself “How much does he love me?” Instead of “How much do I love him?”

2. She’ll see the sexual encounters of the relationship as a way to determine how much he loves her or how she can become indispensable to him, instead of trying grow and Maintain a bond with one another.

3. She’ll jump almost right away into the sexual aspect of the relationship, but this will be solely focused on his pleasures instead of hers. 

4. She uses sex as weapon of manipulation and coercion, not as a way to bond.

5. She’ll confuse anxiety with fear, and pain with love and sexual arousal. That knot in her stomach she’ll label “love” not “discomfort.”

6. She doesn’t know how to feel comfortable in her own skin. She feels threatened by her own feelings towards herself and her sexuality. 

7. Unless she in a combative relationship, she becomes anxious and bored. She’s not sexually attracted towards men she doesn’t have a combative relationship with. 

8. Often, she’ll get into a relationship with younger men who are less experienced than her in order to “take back her power.”

9. She’s scared when a man is willing to accompany her emotionally and is able to gratify her emotionally and sexually. She’ll often try to find a distant and combative men who makes her feel pain. 

We’re taught that good sex means “love” in a relationship. That unless we’re having earth shattering sex and our carnal and sexual needs are being completely met then the relationship isn’t working for either of us; but, giving the nature of the relationships of the women who love too, these relationships that are often combative and toxic. Sex, in these kings of relationships, can be physically gratifying while also being emotionally empty or coercive. 

Women who love too much will often excuse the behavior and toxicity of the relationship on the lack of love that their partner had during their childhood, past relationships, and life in general. 

These women will often believe that they will be the ones that break the curse that that man is under with the love they will provide him with. They interpreted his emotional inaccessibility, his temper and ire, his depression, his cruelty, his indifference, his dishonesty, his addiction or emotional distance as evidence of his lack love. They will compare the love she has for him against his imperfections, his weakness and even pathology. They’re keen to save him through their love.  

Sex is the principal way they’ll try to save and heal him. Every sexual encounter is fueled by their desired to change him somehow. With every kiss and caress they try to show him just how much they love him and how much he should feel loved by her. With every physical touch they try to demostrarte admiration and adoration. They think that the moment he feels and is convinced by her love, he will transform in the man he was meant to be. He will become the man she wished he was and is only hiding behind all that pain and trauma of the past.

For a woman how loves, in an unhappy relationship, sex is the only part of the relationship that seems satisfying, and may be the only way both of them relate to each other. 

The problem with this approach, is that even in healthy relationships, make-up sex can be amazing. Even couples that have healthy relationships will experiment more passionate sexual gratification after a big fight, or during make-up sex, for the sole reason that the intensity and euphoria of the sexual act is enhanced due to two factors: one is the release of tension built during the conflict or fight. The second factor, and perhaps the most important one that contributes to the denial that anything is wrong in the relationship, is the desire and need for the relationship to work afterwards, forcing the boding hormones to explode. 

The problem then, the author argues, is the modern definition of relationships. We use two opposite concepts to define a good relationship, leading to confusion and disappointment when the relationship doesn’t fit the mold we have put it into. For this reason, is best to use the two concepts the Greeks used to define relationships: Eros and Agape. 

Eros defines passionate love, while Agape describes a stable and committed relationship. 

Eros references true love. Passionate love. Love that is all consuming. Love that makes you desperate for one another. In Eros, the people in the relationship see their partner as mysterious, different, and elusive. The depth of the relationship is defined by the intensity and obsession towards each other. There’s little time, energy, and effort in each other’s interest and purpose. The relationship often focuses on what it could be and not what it is. More often than not, these kinds of relationship have to beat difficult obstacles and there’s a certain element of suffering that comes with them. Is the feeling of having to endure pain and suffering in order to make the relationship work. Eros is associated with feelings of arousal, fascination, drama, anxiety, tension, mystery, and longing. In other words, Eros is two people looking at each other. 

Agape is the committed love of two people who have profound respect for one another. This couple shares values, interest, and basic life objectives. They tolerated their individual differences. The depth of the relationship is measured by how much trust and respect they have for one another. Their relationships allows for open communication, creativity, and productivity in the outside world, is not concentrated in the relationship itself. There’s a deep happiness and gratification in their past accomplishments, their future projects, and their present livelihoods. Each member of the relationship defines the other as their most loved individual. Agape is the capacity for each individual to look at themselves objectively and determine what role they have in their relationship, and how they can make it grow. Agape is associated with feelings of serenity, security, devotion, comprehension, comradeship, mutual support, and wellbeing. In other words, Agape is two people looking at the same direction. 

Eros is the feeling that a woman who loves an impossible man feels. In fact, the reason why it’s impossible is because there’s too much passion in the relationship. Passion can only exist when there’s obstacles in the way, when there’s fire and sparks fueled by conflict, when there’s a need for something that isn’t there. Passion comes from suffering, and usually, there mutually compatible and present. The more suffering there’s in a relationship the more passion there is. 

Unfortunately these two concepts are often confused and interchanged in modern society where we’re promised that a passionate relationship (Eros) will bring us fullness and satisfaction (Agape).

Frustration, suffering, and longing won’t contribute to a stable, long term, healthy relationship, although these factores will bring passion to an unstable one. 

The price we pay for passion is fear, but this fear, in turn, will fuel the passion in the relationship that will inevitably bring pain and suffering with it. The price we pay for commitment is boredom. 

If I Suffer in Your Stead, Will You Love Me?

Addiction towards love usually comes hand in hand with addiction towards other substances. Sadly, these two pathologies are equally hard to overcome. 

The addiction of these women towards their partners usually comes from family issues. In order to beat an addition, the individual needs the support of others in order to overcome this addiction, and this is where group therapy is most crucial. They most feel the support of others in their search for self love and understanding. 

In order to overcome the addiction towards relationships, the individual must feel loved, understood, and supported by a group. This support will help her overcome the feelings of loneliness, and help her find the self worth she’s outsourcing towards a man who’s incapable of fomenting those feelings inside her. The clue is to start living a healthier lifestyle, that is satisfactory and healthy by itself without the need of another.

Sadly, the idea that “I can work it out” in women who love too much prevents them from searching for the help they so desperately need, delaying all the possibilities of recovery. In most cases, this must get worse before it gets better.

Everything happens for a reason, even the way these women love. 

The Necessity of Being Needed

It’s usually the cruel childhood experiences of these women that makes them need such a man. These women, for the most, continue throughout their live maturing under the role that their family forced on them. Roles that forced them, implicitly and explicitly, deny their own needs and instead satisfy the necessity of other people, especially those of their immediately family.  

These women, in general, were forced to adopt roles of maturity and responsibility way to early because their parents weren’t in the mental or physical capacity to become their protectors and providers. For the most part, the parents in this type of family had some form of addition or handicap that prevented them from taking on the role of parents. In some instances, either one or both parents were missing from the family structure. In others, these women were able to live with both parents, but the dysfunctional relationship between them, forced these women to become confidants and therapist, or in most instances, a ear to the victim of the abuse, hearing things and problems that they were too young to understand. That forced them to not only hear things about a relationship that wasn’t theirs, but force speed their emotional maturity.

These circumstances taught these women to care for others extremely well, but they lacked the knowledge on how to care for themselves. Their own need for love, attention, care, and security was never met while they pretended to be more powerful, mature, and courageous than they felt, creating a hole that they’ve never been able to fill. These experiences taught them to only search for relationships that met these characteristics and kept their role as providers intact; their own necessity and demands were always overshadowed by those of her partner. 

For children who grew up in nuclear families, its natural to go through a phase in which they wish the parent of the same sex not exist so they can have the other one for themselves. These are natural desires in children in infancy. None the less, if something were to happen the parent of the same sex, the same one that they’re trying to get rid of, even in mind only, the effect on the kid could be devastating. 

What would happen if these wishes were to come true, though? There are three extremely powerful consequences that would determine the character of these kids.

First of all is guilt. The guilt the child would feel on the absence of this person, the sadness of they not being around, but also the hope that they would be with them.

The second one would the feelings of inconsistency and discomfort about certain sexual feelings their living parent would naturally developed towards them. 

The third one, and perhaps the most powerful one that is natural in these women, is their inability of developing any kind of sexual desire and instead developed and deep longing and need to mother their sexual partner.   

Shall We Dance?

In the therapy industry there is an old cliche that states that usually people marry their most difficult parent, or the person who reminds them of them. This concept is not necessarily true. It’s not true that we tend to marry our mother or father, but it is true that this individual, for the most part, makes us experience the same feelings they experienced as children. In other words, these women are trying to replicated the same atmosphere they experienced as kids; one they dominate. This toxic environment is what the women who love too much categorize and understand as love.  

The thoughts and feelings of comfort come from the feelings of dancing the same steps they were forced to learn as kids. It’s not that they’re happy about the environment, is that they’re used to it and know how to navigate that environment best. It is with this person that they try to make the relationships work. 

That sensation of mystery and discomfort can only happen when a man and a woman fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. If the man in the relationship gives the woman the impression that she will be able to conquer the feelings of inadequacy and trauma that she experienced during her childhood: the feelings of not being loved, needed, and respected, the attraction from her towards him will become almost irresistible, and she’ll cement herself in the relationship, no matter how toxic it is. Actually, the more painful the childhood was, the more powerful her impulse will be toward recreating and dominating the pain as an adult.   

This happens because a child that has experienced trauma will re-live it until those feelings are conquered. It will become the theme of her play until she comes to terms with the feelings. 

Women who love too much will often try to recreate these relationships so as to dominate them in one way or another. 

But why would women repeat the cycle of abuse? What is the fascination behind a woman who loves too much and the man she feels attracted towards?

If we state the problem another way we would be able to understand: What signals is the woman receiving from the man she’s attracted to? Or between a woman who’s extremely sacrificial with a man who’s extremely selfish? Or a woman who labels herself as a victim and a man who is domineering and agressive? Or a woman who feels the need to control a man? Then the problem becomes much more clear. 

There are signals that are sent. Signals that are received and categorized in certain ways by the two people in the relationship. It’s like two people dancing. For every step he takes, she will counter. 

It’s imperative to understand than a woman who loves too much is looking for two factors in a man: 1) familiar patterns that remind her of the patterns of her childhood and 2) the need to recreate and conquer those painful patterns of the past.    

The Beauty and the Beast

Women who love too much express their need to feel needed, useful, and helpful towards the men who they fall into a relationship with. The necessity to rescue these men is the main reason why they feel attraction towards him in the first place. The men, on the other hand, often express that they were looking for someone who would help them control their impulses, make them feel safe, or better yet “save them”. Someone, who in their own words, would become the “Woman in White.”

The idea that a woman will save a man from himself through her love is an old one. Fairy tales are the primary example of this, and there’s one in particular that explores this idea explicitly. 

The Beauty and the Beast is the story of Belle, a peasant’s daughter, who gets kidnapped by the Beast who lives in the castle in exchange for the life of her father. All she has to do, to comply with the deal, is live with the Beast and teach him to be human. In the end these two fall in love and he, through the power of her love, transforms into a prince. 

The underlying message is clear: any woman can change a man through the power of her love. This idea that, a woman, any woman, can change a man through the power of love has been repeated at nauseum throughout our culture. Is also one that will be ingrained in young women since childhood, and believed by most, especially those who have suffered trauma in their childhood.

But why are women in constant need to turn someone horrible, unhappy, sick into their perfect partner? Why is that such an irresistible concept? One that lasts through generations? 

Women who love too much often make impulsive decisions to start and stay in toxic relationships solely based on the need for them to control their partner. This need of control starts during childhood where feelings of fear, anger, tension, anxiety, guilt, shame, and disgust toward herself and others is ever present. A girl would never be able to survive in such environment unless she developed some psychological protection. These psychological protections usually take shape in the form of denial and control. 

Denial is a form of ignoring or refusing to accept reality on two levels: refusing to accept that anything is wrong in the moment and refusing to accept the feelings that come from this reality.   

Dysfunctional families will often carry a form of shared denial. It doesn’t matter how present those terrible feelings are, there will always be  consensual denial of this reality by all members of the family. If anyone were to be brave enough to voice the problems in it, they would be shamed into compliance or, in the worst cases, exiled from the relationship all together. 

Nobody decides to use denial consciously. This happens only when the ego finds a way to protect itself from the fear, burdens, and conflicts that is experiencing in the environment. It literarily cancels all problematic information around it. 

When the help comes from people who come from traumatic backgrounds, or who are experiencing relationships that cause tension and anxiety, there’s an inherent need to control. 

When we do for another what they can do for themselves, when we plan for the future daily activities, when we suggest, advice, remind, warn, or try to persuade the other, we’re using control. When we can’t stand that that person suffers the consequences of their actions and we try to change or deviate those consequences from happening by changing their decisions, we’re using control. Sadly, control is the only mechanism in which women who love too much know how to interact with any man they come into a romantic relationship with. 

A woman who is used to denial and control will inevitably look for a relationship that checks those characteristics. Denial, which keeps her from experiencing the circumstances she’s currently in and the feelings she’s experiencing regarding those circumstances, will lead her to seek relationships that are full of difficulty, pain and suffering. She, in turn, will try to help/control her partner in order to make the situation more tolerable, denying the whole time that there’s something wrong, and making excuses when things don’t go her way. Denial feeds the need to control, and the inevitable failure to do so forces her to deny reality, starting the cycle all over again. 

Women who love too much use denial by “overseeing his flaws”, making excuses for his actions by rationalizing that things aren’t his fault or some third force didn’t align with the desired outcomes, or, in most cases, she will “maintain a positive attitude” because “she knows that deep in his heart he doesn’t mean it.” When the need to control the situation is masked by her desire to “be useful” and “support him”, what she’s really doing is deny every sense of reality only feeding on the cycle of denial and control. 

It’s necessary to recognize that using denial in any aspect of our lives won’t change it for the better, it will make it worse. What denial does is force us to relive old struggles and use control as way to mitigate the pain caused by those struggles, hoping that our actions and support will change him somehow.

The Beauty and the Beast seemed to be a tool used to perpetuate the myth that a woman can change a man through they power of her love and devotion. In this instance, the story seemed to defend both the denial that Belle has to entail in order to love the Beast and find happiness with him. It seemed that the sole theme of the story was that Belle, through the power of her love (denial), changed him into a prince (control). But, the author argues that the true theme behind the story is acceptance. 

Acceptance is the antithesis of denial and control. Is the voluntary recognition of reality and the ability to accept it as it is without the need to change it. That’s the key to true happiness. Not the power to control and manipulate people or the external conditions, but the ability to live peacefully with the circumstances around us, despite the difficulties and struggles.  

True acceptance comes from the lack of need to change things around us through our language, manipulation, or coercion. It’s the true key to happiness and love, and its a stage of life that’s incredibly difficult for most of us to get to. Inside everyone of us there is a selfish desire to change either ourselves and others in order to achieve happiness. We believe that this change will bring us that which we are lacking. And despite the fact that there’s nothing wrong with wanting change for the better, the desire to change for the sole reason to find happiness is wrong. Especially, when we put the reason and responsibility of our happiness on another person.

When the woman who loves too much stops investing all her efforts into trying to change the man and actually starts to use that energy to try and achieve her own goals and aspirations, finding some level of gratification and happiness on her own accomplishments, she, probably, will find that her life has meaning and that she is capable of feeling fulfilled and happy by herself and with her own person.

When an Addiction Fees Another One

Worst case scenario, women who love too much, are not only addicted to “men” but will also be addicted to other substances. It has been touched in previous paragraphs that women who are addicted to men have other substantial addictions like: alcoholism, drug abuse or eating disorders like over eating or anorexia and bulimia.

In order to block those deep feelings that come from childhood trauma, these women will abuse certain substances or behaviors in order to make peace with the difficult feelings they refuse to accept within themselves and their relationships. These behaviors will feed on their already believed concept of them not feeling good about themselves and force them to not only live the feelings of fear and desperation that they already live in the relationship. These feelings will often try to be appeased by a man who will be responsible to convince them that they’re loved and accepted. They will use these relationships the same way they use these substances: to relieve the pain.

The Road to Well-being

How can a woman who loves too much get better? What is the best way to recuperate from this vicious cycle? How should they leave behind the need to find men who are toxic?

The steps are simple but not easy. Every steps counts and they have to be taken in the order that they appear chronologically. 

1. Find help.
You have to stop this idea that you can fend for yourself. That you’ll find a way to dig yourself out of the hole. That no one around you could possibly understand what you’re going through and therefore there’s no need to look for help. If you’re still in the same situation it means that you’re powerless to change it, meaning, you best find support. But in order to do that, you must first be sincere with yourself about having a problem and accepting that you need help. That level of acceptance, sadly, only comes when things go from bad to worse.

2. Make sure that your rehabilitation is your first priority. 
This means that no matter what this step takes you’ll never give up. You’ll do anything and everything that is required of you to make sure you will get better. This step also requires that for the first time in your life you’ll put yourself first above others. It also means that for the first time ever you’ll stop abusing the substances that keep you peaceful in the toxicity. 

3. Search for help a in a group.
This means that you will have to open up about your problems with others who are going through the same thing as you are, or went through the same things as you did. It means you’ll have to make yourself vulnerable towards others and let other people see inside what you so desperately have been trying to fight for so long. 

4. Develop a spiritual side through daily practice. 
Now, the with spiritual, this step will be extremely personal and subjective. It will entail you find a way to feel comfortable doing something that requires daily spiritual practice but not necessarily religious one. 

5. Stop trying to control and manipulate others. 
This is the hardest step for women who love too much because it entails stopping their absolute need to “fix” and “help” the people in her life. Stop giving him advice. Stop fixing his problems. Stop trying to help him by doing things he should do himself. Just stop. 

6. Learn not to engage in the game.
These games entail playing the roles of “victim, rescuer, and chaser.” Stop trying to get things to go your way by showing yourself to be kind, angry, or weak. This will require tremendous amounts of discipline. 

7. Confront with courage your own problems and flaws.
This is the most crucial step, especially after step number 5 since the lack of manipulation and control to others will finally force you to look at your own life objectively. Look at the aspects of your life that make you feel: sad, happy, angry, uncomfortable, or grateful.

8. Live your life as if he wasn’t part of it. 
And this is also a crucial step since for the first time in your life you’ll be forced to live the life you want to live without him. Stop waiting for him to define what you’re doing. Stop trying to determine what you like or don’t like based on his preferences. Built a community around yourself. Pretend he’s not in your life for the first time.

9. Become a little selfish.
For the first time in your life say “no”. No I’m not driving you. No I’m not playin the bill. No I’m not cleaning or cooking or doing whatever he ask you to do. For once just do something because you feel like it will enrich your life not his. 

10. Share your experience with women who need to hear it. 
Remember, the women in your group went through it and came out on the other side alive and happy. One you’ve completed the previous nine steps do for future women what present women are doing for you.

My rating:

This book in 3 key points

  1. Women who love too much are women who are addicted to toxic relations and toxic men.
  2. These women usually come form dysfunctional families and child abuse. 
  3. In order to defeat the cycle of abuse that these women keep maintaining themselves in, the last 10 steps of this book have to be followed. 

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