When I work with codependents, many of them talk about the types of people to whom they are typically drawn. I prefer to use the word drawn rather than the word attracted because I believe that being drawn to the people they are, is more often the result of an impulse than a deliberate decision.

When the codependent feels as though they have control over the circumstances, the general symptoms of codependency are able to display themselves to their fullest potential. The practical implication of this idea is that a person can make themselves indispensable to their partner by putting their partner’s needs ahead of their own in order to fulfil their own requirements.

This reflects what they went through as children with emotionally distant parents and continues into adulthood in a process that Freud referred to as repetition compulsion. This is a direct reflection of what they went through. According to this theory, we seek out relationships with people who are similar to our parents in an effort to find solutions to the problems that were present in the initial relationship. It is a reflex that mirrors previous behaviour and the only way to work through it is to bring it into conscious awareness because it is an impulse. This is typically the problem because everyone around a codependent person can usually see this process taking place, but the codependent person finds it difficult to do so on their own. They have never experienced anything different, so they are quick to defend themselves against the suggestion that they are in the wrong relationship or that they should make some changes.

In addition to the points made above, the types of people with whom codependents surround themselves are a major contributor to the perpetuation of the cycle. They have a tendency to be self-centered by nature, and as a result, they will keep a codependent at a distance in a push-pull relationship, which causes the codependent to continue trying to fill the void by themselves. These arrangements have the potential to endure for a considerable amount of time if they are supported by the codependent drama triangle, which consists of victimhood, anger, and fixing. When one romantic partnership comes to an end, codependents often move on to the next one in a very short amount of time and continue the same pattern. A person who is codependent is susceptible to the worst kinds of abuse at the hands of people who are willing to take advantage of them because of the need to make sacrifices in order to exert control over the environment around them, just as they did when they were children.

When it comes to relationships, the idea of push and pull can give a codependent the illusion that they are in control of the situation. They believe that they are the ones who are pushing (which is often an illusion) and that they are the ones who are responsible for establishing the fundamental structure of the relationship. Codependency is built on a foundation of a fundamental need to exert control over one’s partner and, ultimately, an environment that provides them with a sense of safety. The unfortunate reality is that the type of people they are controlling are not the type of people who will allow them to maintain control in the long run. They have their own agenda, which typically does not include much beyond their own needs, and as long as this is maintained, they will continue to remain. In my experience as a therapist, I have found that once boundaries are established and the codependent’s self-esteem is raised, these individuals tend to flee the scene.

On the other hand, one of the concepts that comes up in therapy is a peculiar one. On their search for a new romantic partner, they occasionally come across individuals who are interested in treating them respectfully and who have their own personal boundaries. They enjoy good health. A predicament that is challenging for codependents because there is no feeling of obligation to correct or alter the circumstances in order to exert control. This new partner may also be a codependent, in which case their dependence on you will work against you like two magnets. In any event, it is unsettling for a person who is codependent to be the centre of attention, and unfortunately, the people around them frequently dismiss the codependent as uninteresting and dull. Paradoxically, they find that the relationships that are doomed to fail are the ones that appeal to them the most.

In the end, they are choosing not to have a future with someone who might actually care about them enough to assist in the construction of a framework that is beneficial for both parties involved. They have never experienced being loved and cared for by another person, and this is one of the primary topics that we discuss in the therapy that I provide for codependent relationships. Quite frequently, this entails making decisions that are challenging in regard to existing relationships and working towards being in a position where one can accept love.

A certain type of person is frequently drawn to codependents. They are accustomed to making sacrifices and contributions, so it is natural for them to gravitate towards partners who are willing to take and enjoy receiving anything that is offered. To put it succinctly, it is an ideal match. Codependents frequently find themselves in relationships with partners who are primarily concerned with their own needs. According to this equation, the degree to which a person is codependent contributes to the degree to which their partner is self-centered.

This is something that I see repeatedly in the cases that I work on, and it is very easy to spot. However, there are some instances in which people who are codependent on one another become involved with other people who are also codependent, sometimes without even realising it at first. Codependency develops on both parties as the relationship deepens and becomes more intimate. The relationship has a dynamic of pushing against forces that are, in effect, a mirror, similar to the way that two polarising magnets interact with one another. When neither partner’s efforts are acknowledged or reciprocated, it can lead to feelings of resentment and competition.

Keeping in mind that codependency is heavily centred on the concept of control, it can be extremely soul-destroying for a codependent to either lose this control or be unable to exert any control over their situation. Having this kind of control comes with the expectation of making some kind of sacrifice and committing oneself to something forever. On the other side, one should anticipate the same procedure. There must be a sacrifice, and in most cases, one is made.

The relationship is left in a state of uncertainty as a result of what typically occurs. One partner will invariably develop counter-dependence, which means they will resist attempts to control and manipulate them by emotionally and sometimes physically distancing themselves from the relationship. This may be a reflection of previous relationships in which the “chasing” codependent played the role of the pursuer, and it may cause them to concentrate more intently on their object of codependency in an effort to coerce and commit them. Life can become very perplexing for someone who is counter-dependent. They are not accustomed to being chased, and while it might boost their self-esteem in the beginning stages, it is not a practise that can be maintained over the long term. As a result, the back-and-forth exchange continues, with neither party willing to address the problems at hand. This leaves the relationship unstable and the participants exhausted. Before entering into a romantic partnership, one must first address and resolve any codependency issues that have been recognised and are currently being manifested in their life. This is important and desperately required work. How many are willing to put themselves through that? The relationship itself will be difficult to maintain, and as a result, it will probably end in a breakup, which will lead to additional problems.

It is never simple to go through a breakup in a relationship. Feelings are bound to run high, and it’s easy for them to become overwhelming. How quickly one gets back on track after getting off track is highly dependent on the individual. It can be a great deal more difficult when that person is a codependent. When in a relationship, people who are codependent on one another have an object of codependency that they become attached and fixated on. In a previous piece, I discussed the self-sacrifice and martyrdom of codependents who are necessary to the maintenance of their object.

This kind of controlling behaviour is usually accepted by a partner as long as they are willing to put up with it. An arrangement that is perfectly dysfunctional in every way. What, however, takes place when the “object” in question is no longer present? The sacrifice is pointless because it has nowhere to go. Everyone who reads this will already be aware that it is very challenging to give inwardly to one’s own self. Because of the lack of self-esteem that led to the development of codependency in the first place, it is highly unlikely that this will take place. Codependents, on the other hand, are more likely to move on to the next relationship relatively quickly in the hopes of finding a new “object” and satisfying their need to give. This leaves them susceptible to being taken advantage of by “takers” at a time when they may be emotionally fragile and before they have had adequate time to properly process the breakup. Codependents will do everything in their power to avoid being alone, which is why they feel the urgent need to find a new romantic partner so quickly. This fear of being alone is the driving force behind this need. When they are by themselves, they may experience feelings of confusion, a lack of purpose, and depression.

In my experience as a therapist who works with codependents who find themselves alone, I frequently encounter feelings of guilt, self-blame, and an overwhelming sense of responsibility for the breakup. Statements and questions such as “I could have done more” and “What did I do wrong?” are common examples of the kinds of things I hear from patients. Sometimes, they have a hard time accepting the fact that they picked the wrong option. Is there a way out of this problem? In the event that none is discovered, it is likely that the same thing will happen again.

Dealing with the issue that led to the occurrence of the problem in the first place is the one and only way to make real progress forward. Reframing past events and working through feelings of shame and guilt are often necessary steps in this process. The very conditions and circumstances that make it impossible for love and power to coexist. Through the use of inner child therapy and non-dominant handwriting, I transport my clients to this pivotal period in their lives in a metaphorical sense. This enables an examination of the client’s interior life to take place. It is possible to add characters that will challenge established ways of thinking so that cognitive restructuring can take place. In addition to this, it is absolutely necessary to work on improving one’s sense of self-worth in the here and now; otherwise, the pattern will be repeated over and over again.

Subscribe to Dr Jenner's Blog via Email

Dr Jenner creates a wealth of resources, articles and podcasts. Please subscribe to be notified.