There is a storyline that runs in the well-known tv series Breaking Bad when one of the main characters rents a house from a woman who he develops a relationship with. As he is an addict, she also falls into the same addiction “because she loves him”. In the end this “love” proves her downfall as her “normal” life descends into addiction hell.
While these are fictional characters, they mirror somewhat real-life situations I have seen, especially where codependents are concerned. I have heard stories of (usually) women who have it all together, have great jobs, ambition, a good circle of good friends and are financially independent have all this taken away when they meet a partner who targeted them for just that status. Many of these men are addicts, narcissists and their sole aim is to strip their partner of anything that they find useful.
Within a period of time, those who have not acted on the obvious red flags will be financially supporting their partner’s addiction, will be isolated from friends (a key tactic in such cases is to isolate their victim from family and friends), having issues at work due to the relationship and may even have become addicts themselves. It is like having a parasite in your body that drains away your life and resources. A master class in manipulation that is designed to strip victims of their assets, dignity and self-respect. The best case scenario is that they become embroiled in a life of “fixing”. That means they try to solve their partner’s issues to make themselves secure. In this case, the more issues the better.
There are of course, two sides to this story. One who abuses and one who allows this to happen. I have seen codependents who are completely helpless in these situations when one decision to leave changes everything. Many of them do but are seduced to return with promises of rehab and better behaviour, which invariably lasts as long as it takes to “hook” the victim back in.
These relationships are a mirror of the ones experienced earlier in life with caregivers and started the never-ending quest for connection and love not experienced before. What I often find is that the great career, friends and money earned has been a distraction from that and it resurfaces as soon as the “right” partner is met. Codependent women is this case have to use the same decision-making ability that they often use in business. Some tips:
- The beginning of a relationship usually sees the best of the people concerned where behaviour is based on attracting the other and flaws are hidden. With narcissists and addicts, this is exaggerated to “hook” the person into falling in love with an illusion. However, the “red flags” will be there if enough common sense and reality is shown. Take these as evidence of the true person and act accordingly.
- Be cautious. Many people and especially codependents rush into a relationship without sense of what they are truly doing. It is human nature to a certain extent. I always advise my clients to be extremely conservative around making commitments in the early part of a relationship with anything that will tie them to someone. One post I wrote some time ago advised to “summer and winter” a new partner before heading into commitment. This gives us time to truly get to know someone. Addicts and narcissists will be unable to keep the mask on for that long.
- Learn to set and maintain boundaries with consequences. This is usually difficult for codependents who have little experience of doing it. Professional help is essential here. Another factor is that they have tied their own security to the addict or narcissist and their ability to fix a myriad of issues. They often stay because of guilt or the fact they feel sorry for their partner and wonder how they will manage without them. The answer is that they will…with someone else.
- Set ZERO tolerance on addiction and abuse. Any indication that addiction or abuse is present should be met with zero tolerance and immediate withdrawal from the relationship. This is often the sticking point for codependents and where they do leave, they often return. They think they are in love. Codependency is control, not love. Addicts are in love with their addiction and narcissists project “love” to manipulate.