Why Codependents Stay in Damaging Relationships

Why Codependents Stay in Damaging Relationships

Most people have at least one person in their life who seem to be in the same horrible, dead-end relationship over and over again, but the partner seems to change. Upon a closer look, it is as if the individual is attracted to only one personality type and one that is very negative, destructive and uncaring.

Each relationship seems like the perfect love. It typically develops quickly after the breakup of the current bad relationship, and it escalates from a friendship or casual meeting to a full-blown love affair in record time.

While this is happening Mr. or Mrs. Right becomes the object of the obsession for the codependent. At the same time, the narcissist is also showing a different side of his or her personality, going out the way to be charming, attentive and to do everything the codependent person wants and needs to hear and experience.

Codependents ignore the red flags

The codependent, ever hoping for the perfect relationship, ignores the warning signs and the obvious repetition of a pattern she or he has seen many times before.

Codependents ignore the advice of friends and family, focusing instead on building the perfect relationship this time.

Once the partnership is formalized, which may be through marriage or living together, the narcissist takes the mask off. Often it starts to slip well before this point, but the codependent is also not willing to look for the problems, so the issues, lies, manipulations and need to control goes unchecked.

Stay with me

In the book The Marriage and Relationship Junkie, I write about what is needed to break out of this cycle. The specific sentence that is important to understand is:

When a marriage junkie sees life as a choice between living in a kind of fantasy matrimonial romance novel or the sheer hell of being single, they become obsessed with the idea of being in a romantic relationship, no matter what the cost. When that happens, relationships pile up, becoming

increasingly tangled and messy.

Marriages become serial disasters because they jump in again and again without first doing the work of unearthing the trauma and issues that keep them in their cycle of addiction.

Codependents inability to break off a relationship

Codependents inability to break off a relationship

In other words, staying in a devastating and destructive marriage is worth the pain as long as they do not need to be on their own. Additionally, it is not likely that a codependent, without support and assistance, leave a relationship even if there is emotional, verbal and physical violence.

It is equally important to note that this cycle doesn’t just stop suddenly. Even if a codependent were to find a healthy partner, her or his codependent behaviors, relationship and personal insecurities and their inability to be autonomous in relationship drives off the healthy partner.

Getting out

It is possible for codependent people to break out of a destructive relationship. Sometimes it occurs due to a violent incident, the partner finding a new love interest or sometimes due to the interventions of friends and family.

To get out of a codependent relationship, there are some important steps to take: 

1. Work with a therapist

It is easy to fall back into codependent behaviors. By working with a therapist to uncover the trauma and dysfunction that often formed thoughts about self-worth and control by watching parents interact with each other in unhealthy and codependent ways. 

2. Start focusing on you

One of the hardest things for someone with codependency to do is to focus on themselves in a positive, loving and supportive way. Taking small steps and working daily to learn about the real you and not the messages you have heard for years from emotionally abusive partners is an essential first step. 

3. Become a comfortable single

Learning to be comfortable, confident and whole as a single person is a long-term goal in recovery from codependency. Reading, learning and working with trained professionals can help you to begin to be comfortable with yourself before you move on to trying a relationship.

It is possible to break out of the cycle of codependency. It is also hard work, but it is work that is well worth the effort.

Sherry Gaba
Psychotherapist,  LCSW
Sherry Gaba, LCSW is a Certified Transformation and Recovery Coach and the leading Psychotherapist on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab and Sex Addiction. She helps singles navigate the dating process to find the love of their lives. Take her quiz to find out if you’re a love addict or sign up for a 30-minute strategy session. She is also the author of “The Marriage and Relationship Junkie: Kicking your Obsession”. Sherry maintains a private practice in Westlake Village and is a sought-after online dating and relationship coach. For more information visit her website or sign up today for Sherry online group coaching program for $19/month here.

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