How many times have you finally gained the strength to get away from an abusive, addicted cheater, only to rush into a relationship with another man who is just as bad for you, if not worse? You aren’t alone. I even remember telling one such man that I knew I should leave him, but that I knew I’d find someone else just like him, so I might as well stay with him. How sad is that?
This type of woman is discussed in great detail in Robin Norwood’s book Women Who Love Too Much – When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He’ll ChangeRobin describes the way these women subconsciously recreate the dynamics that were present in their childhoods, in a desperate attempt to fix what was wrong and conquer the pain. If she can change her current relationship, making the unavailable, cruel, distant, alcoholic, commitment-phobic liar love her, she feels as if she can stop the pain from her childhood that she constantly carries with her.
Robin calls women who love too much co-alcoholics. I don’t like the term co-alcoholic, because it is alcohol specific. It seems to imply that the addiction of the woman is only to an alcoholic, which sometimes it is. Other times, it isn’t. The man to whom a woman who loves too much is obsessively drawn might be a drug addict, a gambling addict, a workaholic, or just a cruel, controlling, unavailable man. And by “unavailable,” I don’t necessarily mean that he’s married to someone else. He might be married to the woman who loves too much, but still unable to commit to her–a cheater. Or he might be a man who is in prison, or who lives in another state, or even another country.
I prefer to call these women co-dependent, which conveys a dependency, but not upon a specific type of addict. The dependency is upon the man who represents an opportunity to fix the past and take away the woman’s pain. Co-dependent women (and men) seek partners who are needy in some way. He might be sick, unemployed, and addicted, or he might be a cruel, controlling over achiever.
Regardless of the specific ‘need’ of the man, the co-dependent woman sees him as someone she can ‘help,’ which she believes will give her the upper hand in the relationship. She believes that in such a situation, the man will become dependent upon her, and she won’t have to worry about the man leaving her. No matter how many times she sets up this type of scenario and sees it fail, she’s still compelled to try it. It’s all she knows.
Women Who Love Too Much is a book I’ve recommended to many women over the years. I first bought and read it back in 1986. It has helped me identify and leave lots of relationships that were causing me pain. I recognized myself in many parts of the book, and I learned to pick up on the warning signals with these men and get out before they became violent. However, because I didn’t ever completely work the recovery steps given in the book, I wasn’t able to avoid once again getting involved with the type of man that was sure to cause me pain.
Because it has been 17 years since I was physically abused by a man, I mistakenly believed that I was healed. Actually, I think it was more about denial than being mistaken. I didn’t want to put in the work it would take to dig through all the pain from my childhood and early adulthood in order to heal. I told myself that because I was able to pick up on clues that men were violent and abusive, avoiding being physically abused, I didn’t need any more help with being co-dependent. I kept struggling with relationships, almost exclusively with commitment-phobic alcoholics, but still, I refused to connect the dots.
Then recently, I talked to a woman whose life could’ve been a case history in Women Who Love Too Much. As we discussed her current relationship, I recalled quotes from the book and told her as much as I could remember. She talked about leaving her boyfriend and going out with a nice, decent man with whom she said she wished she could feel an attraction, but didn’t. She said, “I just kept thinking, maybe if he would call a bitch or something…” 

She was describing the way women who love too much feel bored and uncomfortable when they try to be with a man who could actually care for them and treat them with respect. It struck me so hard that I bought another copy of the book.

After reading Women Who Love Too Much again, I realized how desperately I still need to work the steps. I still struggle with many, if not most, of the same issues I did all those years ago. I still carry the pain from my dysfunctional childhood, along with pain from so many rejections, lies, and betrayals, and physical, verbal, and emotional attacks from men I’ve loved. I’ve made a lot of progress, but I still have a long road ahead of me.
If you find yourself in these situations and realize that you’re a woman who loves too much, don’t feel ashamed. You learned to behave the way you do, and you learned to deal with the kind of pain you’ve experienced. It molded you, but you aren’t carved in stone. You are like clay, which can be remolded. You can work to change these old patterns of behavior and to learn new ones–healthy ones. You can learn to respect yourself and love yourself enough to be drawn to others who will also respect and love you. We can work together on this. I know I’m going to be working on it!
I feel so strongly about the help that is available in Robin Norwood’s book Women Who Love Too Much, I not only suggest that you read it–I’M BEGGING YOU TO READ IT! And don’t do what I did all those years ago. Don’t read it and put it away. Even if you do, you will gain some knowledge about why you do the things you do, and about the type of men to whom you are attracted. But if you work the steps she gives for recovery, I believe that you will succeed in recovering. I’m determined to work those steps and recover, too. The first step in the book is reaching out for help. I’m doing that. Your first step is to read the book. Don’t waste another minute.
Clicking on any of the title links will take you to, where you can purchase the book. I am not an affiliate, so I don’t make anything on your purchase. I just want to make it easier for you. If you prefer, you can get it at a local bookstore, but the ones I checked were sold out. Call first, and they can order it for you.
I hope that you will take my advice, and take that first step to your recovery. It won’t be easy, but if you do, know that I’m with you. I’m working them, too. I’m determined to heal, and I want you to heal. Let’s do this!