Many codependents I work with talk about the type of person they are usually drawn to. I use the word drawn, rather than attracted, because I believe that it is often an impulse rather than a definite choice.

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The general symptoms of codependency are best played out when the codependent has, what they believe, is control over the situation. What this means in practice, is that they can make themselves indispensable in the eyes of their partner by sacrificing their own needs to make them happy.

This mirrors what they experienced in childhood with emotionally distant parents and continues into adulthood in a process described by Freud, as repetition compulsion. This theory states that we involve ourselves with similar people to our parents in order to solve the original issues with the original relationship. It is an impulse and mirrors similar behaviour and can only be worked on if brought into the conscious awareness. This is often the issue due to the fact that everyone around a codependent usually sees this process but they themselves find it difficult. They know no other way and they defend themselves against any idea that they are in the wrong relationship or they need to change.

Additional to the above, the type of people that codependents involve themselves with keep that cycle going. Usually self-centered by nature, they will keep a codependent at arms length in a push-pull relationship that keeps the codependent trying to fix to fill the gap. These arrangements can maintain themselves over a significant period of time consolidated by the codependent drama triangle of fixing, anger and victimhood. When one relationship finishes, it is usually very quickly onto the next one, doing the same thing. This need to sacrifice to control the environment around them (as in childhood), leaves a codependent vulnerable to the worst abuses from people willing to take advantage of them.

The concept of push- pull in a relationship, leaves a codependent with the idea that they are in control. They feel they are the ones doing the pushing (often an illusion) and they are the creators of the basic framework of the relationship. This need to be in control of the partner and ultimately an environment that makes them safe is the bedrock of codependency. The sad truth is that the type of people they are controlling are not the type who will ultimately allow that control. They have their own agenda which usually doesn’t include much outside of their own needs and will stay as long as this is maintained. I often find in therapy that once boundaries are set and self-esteem increases in the codependent, these people run for the hills.

However, a concept I also observe in therapy is a strange one. On their quest for a new relationship, they sometimes come across people who want to treat them properly and have their own boundaries. They are healthy. A situation that codependents find difficult as there is no sense of having to fix or manipulate for control. This new partner could also be a codependent themselves and like two magnets oppose each other. In any case, it is uncomfortable for a codependent to be the focus of someone’s attention and sadly, they often reject this person as boring and unexciting. Paradoxically, they find the relationships that are untenable as much more to their liking!

Ultimately, they are rejecting a future with someone who might actually care enough about them to help build a framework that is best for both people. Being looked after and loved by someone is alien to them and this is the focus of much of the therapy I do concerning codependent relationships. Often, it means making decisions that are difficult concerning current relationships and working towards being able to accept love.

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