Help! My Ex Does Not ‘NEED’ Me Anymore (Toxic Caretaking)

When you are dealing with someone who is self-destructing, it’s hard not to be sucked into their toxic patterns.

How does it happen?

The self-destructing person is attracted to you because you have that “strength” that the self-destructing person feels they need. You on the other hand, are attracted to something about the self-destructing person because you believe you  can “help” them or save them from themselves. You are “blind” to their other shortcomings and “issues”, you just want to help a wonderful person who is self-destructing.  Unfortunately, the more you try to be save or help them, the more your own “issues” show up.

And here is the real irony. When they start to get better, the dynamics of the attraction begins to change because they no longer need you to save or help them. They start to redefine who they are and what they want, and sometimes begin to question their attraction to you, and if you are what they really want.

For some people they realize they really are not that attracted to you any more. Others feel the relationship does not excite or fulfill them any more and others just think they can do better. So what do they do? Dump you.

Others see things about you they still find very attractive (and may even feel some sort of gratitude debt) but they struggle with redefining how the recovering, recovered or “new” them now relates to you. Most people go back and forth between being strongly pulled towards you and pulling away because they are trying to figure what those feelings mean, how strong they are, if they want to act on them, and if they do, how they will go about it.

Some pull away with “no contact”, others keep the contact but act aloof and detached, and some others date other people, others just do what they want and don’t seem to care that your feelings are being hurt by their actions.

This is where it gets even more toxic. Them pulling away and not seeming to care about you or how their actions affect you can get you all worked up emotionally and start acting in a self-destructing manner yourself.

The better they get, the more unwanted and insecure you feel. Them getting better was all you wanted in the first place, but now that same thing you wanted is your greatest fear. So instead of feeling happy, you feel threatened.

You even begin resenting the fact that you stuck by them when they were self-destructing and this is how you are rewarded!

What do you do when you feel someone does not need you anymore? You still want them and still want a relationship but you also know things will never be the same?

1. Don’t let your own insecurities get the best of you

Most people acting from “unhealthy” think making them “realize” how much you mean to them and/or miss you will make them want you. Their is one big problem with that. If someone is already questioning their feelings for you or questioning the relationship, it means that they have already “realized” that feelings for you may not be as strong as they want them to be or that the relationship is not working for them.

Even if they miss you, they may not want the feeling of rejection or abandonment and may even associate the “negative feeling” with you or think you are the one causing it, and want nothing to do with you.

2. Don’t try to find new ways to make them “need” you

This is so tempting especially if you have for the longest time been the person they come to when they need “help” but are ignored or taken for granted when they don’t need your help. You get into the habit of ‘helping” in order to get bread crumbs of attention and affection. Using the same toxic bait on someone who has worked hard to get better not only undermines their efforts to be a better person, it also undermines any chance of the healthy relationship you long for.

If they are working with a therapist or coach, the therapist or coach may advice them to distance from you because your are now the “toxic” one.

3. Work on your own insecurities and why you associate love with being needed.

If you are feeling resentful because you have always responded to what your ex wants from you and feared that they might get upset or leave you if you don’t do what they want, if you have used “helping” your ex was a way to get their attention or get close to them, if the main reason your ex is still open to contact with you is because they need your ‘help’ and you know it but would rather be ‘used’ than not have your ex in your life, you have made an unhealthy and toxic association between being loved and being needed.

Here is the thing, your ex knows it too. They may not have been able to articulate it as ‘toxic’ when they were self-destructing but as they get better, they will feel you are the toxic one because you are using ‘helping’ them to keep them in a relationship. Some exes will still take your ‘help’ if they feel they have nowhere else to go, but deep inside they will resent you, and will cut you off as soon as they don’t need you anymore.

4. Keep the lines of communication open.

Trying to actively inject yourself into your ex’s life by “helping” not only interferes with their self-work, it also undermines any chance of a healthy relationship with them, and may push them even further away. Keep the lines of communication only for the sole purpose of trying to figure out what the dynamic between the two of you looks and feels like when your ex is not self-destructing and you are not “helping” in exchange for bread crumbs of attention and affection.

The more opportunities you have to test out the new dynamic the better your chances of making it work,

Keeping the lines of communication open without falling back to toxic caretaking is only possible if you have dealt with your resentment or anger of the ‘unfairness’ of the situation. If you are just focused on ‘getting back together” you will start to seriously self-destruct all on your own. For example, you may not recognize their efforts to work on things or sabotage their efforts to keep the lines of communication by not responding to texts because you want them to “realize” how much you mean to them and/or miss you, or you try to make them jealous by posting stories on social media or some other really stupid “cut off your nose to spite your face” behaviour.

Now who is self-destructing and toxic?

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17 Comments

  • I needed to read this specific post. It’s been 3 months since things ended between me and boyfriend of 18 months. Now we are communicating and we finally saw each other twice this past week. Of course he told me that even though he still loves and wants to be with me, he still needs his time. He did say he still wants is to hang out from time to time and keep in touch, so between this and me just focusing on what I need to do, I’m positive things may work out eventually. Thank you for this blog!

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  • Me and my partner split up after 4 years of being together. He wasn’t happy and wanted time away from me. I did everything wrong, begged, cried and blew his phone. Now he doesn’t talk to me for a month. Its been difficult and extremely painful but I have to give him the space he needs. My question is, after the one month he asked for, do I contact him or wait for him to contact me?

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  • Yangki, thank you for giving a different perspective which has allowed me to see that needing space is not the end of a relationship. All the other articles say a man needing space means he is either cheating or wants to breakup. You answered my questions. It’s a shame that this is not mainstream advice because I think it makes much more sense. So, again, thank you.

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  • My ex and I have been spending more time together. But since a couple of days I noticed she has been distant. I asked her about it and she says she feels like she’s being rushed. What the right thing to do now, give her space?

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  • My boyfriend of four years dumped me last week, says he still loves me so much but needs some space and time apart. I smothered him and we fought a lot because of my insecurities, which I’m working on. He says he still wants to work things out but doesn’t know how much time he needs. I asked him if he wants no contact and he said he doesn’t want to cut me off, he just needs space and time. I don’t know what to do and how long to wait. I love him very much and I know he loves me and I don’t want to give up on us. Please help?

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    • Sounds like a great guy who just needs some space. I don’t think you should give him up either.

      Give him the time he needs. Since he is open to contact, ask him how much contact he is comfortable with because you don’t want to assume and end up smothering him again.

      What will eventually get him back is for you to work on your insecurities, so what when he is ready, you will be ready too. If when he comes back, you are still acting the same, he may decide it’s best to go your separate ways.

      Hang on to this guy. There may be many fish in the sea, but all you need is ONE good one, and these days that aren’t that many good ones.

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