Today, we meet MW who is in a relationship with an abusive, alcoholic partner. A partner who often cheats and shows no empathy towards MW. Drinking is one of his many addictions and MW finds it hard to take that step and leave despite knowing that she is being taken advantage of. Logically, she knows that he is not the kind of person she should be with but emotionally, she admits to trying to “fix” him and this leads to an obsessive focus on him and his activities. Please note: The following story is a work of fiction based generally on many cases. It bears no resemblance to a specific case or person either being treated now or in the past.
I know I am an extremely intelligent person. I have a high level job and I have no issues performing well and effectively. I just wish it was the same in my private life. I just cannot make the decisions I need to move forward. I want to end this relationship… I can visualise it and it feels good but I just cannot go through with it. The whole idea in reality fills me with dread and anxiety. I get none of my needs met and I am constantly meeting his but I cannot get past just thinking about the end rather than actually doing it. What is wrong with me? Worse than this, I am totally obsessed with what he is and isn’t doing to the extent that I do nothing for me. I don’t know who I am anymore. Maybe I deserve a man like this??? This is making me depressed and I don’t know what to do to make things happen. I am resigned to being stuck in this relationship. Hopefully, he will end it at some point…….
MW is, as she says stuck. She knows full well, logically , that she is being taken advantage of to a large degree. Her partner, who has clear narcissist tendencies does nothing for her or the relationship. She lives for the small and all too infrequent moments when he says something in a nice way or compliments her on something. She fails to realise that these moments are usually only for him to gain advantage or to convince her to do something. She is stuck in the codependent /narcissist vicious cycle. One look at MW’s childhood will tell us that she learnt this behavior from an early age. Coming from a background where alcohol drove the family’s daily routine, MW needed to be hyper-vigilant for when her parents were “ok”, meaning sober or whether they were drunk which meant complete chaos in the household. MW was her father’s keeper making sure he got home safely after an alcoholic binge. She was also tasked with helping her mother cope with his absence, especially at weekends including caring for her siblings. She was in effect, the family’s caretaker, responsible for keeping order. She learned from an early age that her needs were to be superseded by the needs of others. MW has always been searching for a strong male presence in her life, something her father failed to provide and she has constantly looked for this with emotionally distant and abusive men. Her conditioning is that strong. She feels a good deal of shame and guilt when she seeks to have her needs met and due to her childhood, healthy boundary setting is non-existent and her self esteem is on a low level. It is not surprising that she uses the term “stuck” many times because she truly is. MW needs support to make strong decisions in her present and deeper work to re-frame early experiences that are the root of her codependency. This means initially providing her with practical tools and realistic thinking to potentially end the relationship and then to work on the causes. This will take time and pose many challenges but the work is worth doing.
Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner’s approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients’ internal “parts,” or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.