In this episode, I highlight J who found out he was codependent after starting therapy. J is a successful business man who by his own admission “can’t live alone”. He also is often attracted to emotionally distant, sometimes abusive types who take advantage of his good nature. He tries “to fix them” and is often left disappointed by the result of his efforts. J is extremely sensitive and wishes his endeavours were rewarded a bit more than they are. Just recently, J has been depressed and wondering where his relationship is heading. He sees little future with his current partner who is stand-offish and distant most of the time. When challenged, his partner M, turns it around to suggest it is J’s fault that things are not working. J has taken this to heart and is suffering.
I can’t get rid of this black cloud that hangs over me and I feel I have hit a wall. I think I love her but she hardly engages with me and is very distant most of the time. Her expectations of me are very high and I find myself rushing around “people-pleasing” to keep her happy. I feel guilty when I don’t do things or if I try to have my needs met. I feel totally down and depressed. I don’t get anything out of the relationship at all but I keep on fighting. My therapist tells me that if my needs are not being met and I have expressed that, then maybe it is time to move on. Logically, I know this but emotionally, I keep hoping the old M will return. The one I met. Since then, she has become very critical and demanding and I never know where I am. I try to meet her needs but it is never good enough and M often blames me for all I have done to her and what I failed to do. I sense that I will be discarded fairly soon. We are living apart and M does not contact me at all. I am suspicious because I think there might be someone else. This is how she ended her last relationship and ours overlapped. There were so many red flags and I didn’t take note. I feel I have screwed up and blame myself for allowing myself to get this involved. I feel awful and the feeling is getting worse.
J is very typical of codependents who feel they can “fix” others. They are often attracted to partners who have self-centered tendencies and fail to recognise at the start that it is the perfect take-take, give-give arrangement. Only at the end, when they are discarded, do they see the psychological damage these relationships can do. J has been subjected to the classic three stages of a narcissist relationship. Adulation, criticism and discard and has been emotionally destroyed because he has been constantly told and believed that he was responsible for all the wrongs in the relationship. This made him hold on even harder until the point was reached that the relationship was untenable. He failed to realise that M was emotionally gone long before any break up or discard. J needs to find the courage to take back control of his destiny and decide what he wants to do. The relationship is in effect over and J needs to come to a place of acceptance and try to move on. No-contact with his partner would be the best option at present so that he can begin the process of recovery. J will need to be aware that M might return to tap into “supply” once again so healthy boundaries will need to be learnt and set. J will need to conquer his fear of being alone but also to realise that pursuing M and her type will not help him in this. It is better to be alone that to be abused.
Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a counseling psychotherapist in online private practice working with individuals, couples and groups, dealing with codependency issues, severe depression, bipolar, personality disorders, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders and other mental health issues. He has been practicing online for many years and recognized early that online therapy was a convenient method for people to meet their therapist. Working outside the box, he goes that extra mile to make sure clients have access to help between sessions, something that is greatly appreciated. He also gives part of his spare time up to mentor psychology students in a university setting.