Very often codependents attract a certain type. Used to giving and sacrificing, they naturally tend towards partners who like to take and receive anything that is on offer. In short, it is the perfect fit. Codependents tend to be with partners who have self-centered tendencies. The equation goes that the more codependent you are as a person, the more self-centered the partner is.
This is borne out in the cases that I deal with and can be easily identified. However, there are some cases where codependents become involved with other codependents, sometimes without initially realizing it. As the relationship grows, codependency on both sides takes place. Like two polarizing magnets, the relationship has a dynamic of pushing against forces that are in effect a mirror. Both partners compete to give, to sacrifice, and frustration builds, when it is not received.
Remembering that codependency is a lot about control, it can be soul-destroying for a codependent to lose this control, or not be able to control. Having this control means an expectation of return, of sacrifice, of eternal devotion. The same process is expected on the other side. Something has to give and often does.
What generally happens leaves the relationship in limbo. One partner invariably becomes counter-dependent, resisting attempts at control and manipulation by distancing themselves emotionally and sometimes physically. For the “chasing’ codependent, this might mirror previous relationships where they were the pursuer and they increase focus on their object of codependency, trying to compel and commit them. For the counter-dependent, life becomes very confusing. They are not used to being chased and while it could increase self-esteem in the initial phases, in the long run, it is not sustainable. So the push-pull continues, neither willing to face the issues at hand, leaving the relationship uncertain and the participants drained. The fact is that if codependency issues are identified and present, they need to be worked through before becoming involved in a relationship. This is valuable work and much needed. How many are prepared to do that? The relationship in itself will be hard to maintain and will probably end in a break-up, leading to more issues.
When a relationship breaks up, it is never easy. Feelings naturally run high and emotions can be overwhelming. How quickly one gets back on track depends a lot on the person. When that person is a codependent, it can be a lot worse. Codependents in relationships have an object of codependency to whom they are attached and fixated on. I have previously written on the sacrifice and martyrdom from codependents that keep their object in place.
This controlling measure is generally tolerated by a partner who is willing to take. A perfectly dysfunctional arrangement. What happens, however, when the ‘object’ is no longer there? The sacrifice has nowhere to go. Anyone reading this will know that it is very difficult to give inwardly to self. The self-esteem void that caused the codependency in the first place will ensure this is unlikely to happen. Instead, codependents are more likely to jump to the next relationship fairly quickly looking for a new ‘object’ and to satisfy their need to give. This leaves them open to ‘takers’ and at a time when they might be vulnerable and before a break-up has been properly processed. Often this need to find a new relationship quickly is based firmly on a real fear of being alone, something that codependents will do their best to avoid. Alone, they might feel confused, lack purpose and feel depressed.
In my experience in treating codependents that find themselves alone, I often see feelings of guilt, self-blame and an overwhelming sense of responsibility for the break-up: “I could have done more”, “What did I do wrong?” are statements and questions I often hear. Sometimes, they cannot believe that it was just the wrong one. Is there a solution? If one isn’t found then the pattern will probably repeat itself.
The only way to really move forward is to deal with the issue that caused the problem in the first place. This often means reframing past events and healing the shame and guilt from the past. The very factors that dictate that love and control cannot co-exist. I take my clients back to this critical time metaphorically using inner child therapy, and non-dominant handwriting. This allows the client’s inner world to be investigated. Characters can be added to challenge old thinking patterns and cognitive restructuring can take place. Additional to this, it is essential to improve self-esteem in the present, otherwise, the pattern will be repeated time and time again.