Signs of Relationship Recovery

I run this a couple of times a year. It’s from Women Who Love Too Much but it can be applied for anyone recovering from unhealthy relationships. These are signs that you are INDEED recovering.

As someone who went from being a horribly sick individual in horrifically dangerous, destructive relationships to being a TOTALLY recovered WWL2M who was in a long-term relationship with someone who never once made me cry or called me a name or did anything untoward to me, who told me early on, “I want to make you the happiest person on Earth,” and then DID, all while supporting my individual goals and pursuits no matter how small (I want to start walking in the morning) or large (I want to go to law schoool), I can tell you that this is not only possible but it’s the only way to go through life. Don’t settle for some of this…go for ALL OF IT!!!!!!!

Whether you’re a man or a woman, you can do this!! (PS. Letters From Women Who Love Too Much, the follow-up to WWL2M, is out of print but you can find it on Amazon and other places that sell out of print books. She answers letters she received after writing WWL2M and addresses same-sex relationships and men who love too much….IT’S A GREAT READ



1. We accept ourselves fully, even while wanting to change parts of ourselves. There is a basic self-love and self-regard, which we carefully nurture and purposely expand.

2. We accept others as they are, without trying to change them to meet our needs.

3. We are in touch with our feelings and attitudes about every aspect of our lives, including our sexuality.

4. We cherish every aspect of ourselves: our personality, our appearance, our beliefs and values, our bodies, our interests and accomplishments. We validate ourselves rather than search for a relationship to give us a sense of self-worth.

5. Our self-esteem is great enough that we can enjoy being with others, especially those of the opposite sex, who are fine just as they are. We do not need to be needed to feel worthy.

6. We allow ourselves to be open and trusting with appropriate people. We are not afraid to be known at a deeply personal level, but we also do not expose ourselves to the exploitation of those who are not interested in our well-being.

7. We ask ourselves “Is this relationship good for me? Does it enable me to grow into all that I am capable of being?”

8. When a relationship is destructive, we are able to let go of it without experiencing disabling depression. We have a circle of supportive friends and healthy interests to see us through crises.

9. We value our own serenity above all else. All the struggles, drama and chaos of the past have lost their appeal. We are protective of ourselves, our health and well-being.

10. We know that a partnership, in order to work, must be between partners who share similar values, interests and goals, and who each have a capacity for intimacy. We also know that we are worthy of the best that life has to offer.

There are several phases in recovering from loving too much. The first phase begins when we realize what we are doing and wish we could stop. Next comes our willingness to get help for ourselves, followed by our actual initial attempt to secure help. After that, we enter the phase of recovery that requires our commitment to our own healing and our willingness to continue with our recovery program. During this period, we begin to change how we act, think, and feel. What once felt normal and familiar begins to feel uncomfortable and unhealthy. We enter the next phase of recovery when we start making choices that no longer follow our old patterns but enhance our lives and promote our well-being instead. Throughout the stages of recovery, self-love grows slowly and steadily. First we stop hating ourselves, then we become more tolerant of ourselves. Next, there is a burgeoning appreciation of our good qualities, and then self-acceptance develops. Finally, genuine self-love evolves.

Unless we have self-acceptance and self-love, we cannot tolerate being known, because without these feelings, we cannot believe we are worth loving just as we are. Instead, we try to earn love through giving it to another, through being nurturing and patient, through suffering and sacrifice, through providing exciting sex or wonderful cooking or whatever.

Once the self-acceptance and self-love begin to develop and take hold, we are then ready to consciously practice simply being ourselves without trying to please, without performing in certain ways calculated to gain another’s approval and love. But stopping the performances and letting go of the act, while a relief, can also be frightening. Awkwardness and a feeling of great vulnerability come over us when we are just being rather than doing. As we struggle to believe that we are worthy, just as we are, of the love of someone important to us, the temptation will always be there to put on at least a bit of an act for him, and yet if the recovery process has progressed there will also be an unwillingness to go back into old behaviors and old manipulations.

From “Women Who Love Too Much” pages 272-274.

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4 Responses to Signs of Relationship Recovery

  1. just_hurting says:

    I am not sure if anyone has felt this way, before, but in reading WWL2M and The Emotionally Abused Woman and Getting Past Your Breakup, I feel absolutely overwhelmed in even trying to reconcile my relationship with my emotionally abusive Mother and distant Father while dealing with being dumped and the absolute rejection I feel from my emotionally and verbally abusive ex boyfriend. It feels like there is so much work, and I don’t even know where or how to start. I am seeing a therapist and we have goals set for my recovery that include dealing with the verbal and emotional abuse from my ex and my issues with my Mom (they were/are uncannily alike) and building up my self esteem and self worth, but I just don’t feel like I have the energy to even do it, along with trying to deal with the grief of the break up in addition to it. It is daunting and overwhelming, and I honestly don’t know how I am going to do it. I know it didn’t all happen overnight and wont be fixed overnight, and I want so bad to get healthy and let go of all the guilt I feel for things that aren’t my fault, yet I don’t know if I even have the energy and where-with-all to do it. It feels like the world and my whole life is closing in on me and I am in a black hole that is sucking my energy and ability to deal with stuff into the abyss. Does this ever get any better, or am I going to feel like this forever?

    • Susan J. Elliott Susan J. Elliott says:

      I felt the same way. I remember describing it as if someone had opened up a cellar door full of musty moldy garbage filled up to the ceiling and I had to clean it out with a spoon with one hand tied behind my back.

      It does feel overwhelming but it is do-able and the gift of desperation is absolutely a gift. You can do this!!!

    • elle says:

      just hurting, I have been where you are. Two years ago I was in love and had been in a relationship for 14 months, waiting for his divorce to be final so we could move into a “normal” dating scenario and be open with his kids, etc., and he walked away. When I was dealing with the shock my father fell, suffered a brain injury, and ultimately died two months later. The “double” grief opened up a abyss of pain that I almost fell into, but it was that pain that led to my coming out of denial about my childhood – s*xual abuse and emotional abandonment by the people who should have protected me. I was where you are now. Completely overwhelmed and not knowing how I was going to cope or get through it, let alone grow and thrive because of it.

      What I can tell you now without doubt is that if you stay alone, focus on yourself and do the work –read everything you can find on emotional abandonment and steps for healing, journal your feelings every morning and night and sometimes in between, focus on yourself as a child and speak to her, sooth, reassure her, tell her it wasn’t her fault, and cry when you feel the emotions well up — you will take two steps forward and one step back until one day you discover that your belief in, and love for, yourself has grown to the point that the pain is a distant memory. I promise you it will happen. I rarely cry now, and I feel stronger and happier than I ever have because I am relying on ME and do not need anyone – not my parents nor any (dysfunctional) man – to validate my worth. This has been a journey of 2+ years for me, 1+ since I admitted to the truth of my issues. There was no lightbulb moment when I work up and the pain was gone. It was very gradual. Keep the faith and move forward and it will happen. Avoiding your feelings will only keep you stuck.

      • just_hurting says:

        Thank you so much, elle. I love my journaling. I have also renewed my relationship with God, something I always held of high importance until I got involved with my recent ex boyfriend. I rely heavily on my faith and am even seeing that this is the way things are supposed to happen as my step father was just diagnosed with kidney cancer. I am getting used to being with just my daughter and am working on focusing on my time with her and becoming the woman I always wanted to be.

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