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Are you in a co-dependent or psychologically unhealthy relationship?

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A co-dependent relationship is when one person in a dysfunctional relationship relies heavily on the other to meet their emotional needs. Usually, this has to do with building up the first person’s self-esteem as it is quite low and the other person in the relationship in some way enables the first person to remain immature, irresponsible or an underachiever.

In this type of relationship, both parties feed off each other psychologically, emotionally and energetically — and both would benefit from therapy. One example would be someone who has an addiction to gambling and the other keeps giving them money, knowing full well the money is not for the reason that they asked for and it will probably be gambled away. However, their partner keeps lending them money. This is called enabling.

A co-dependent relationship is often hard to get out of because the taker in the relationship can be so manipulative and conniving that their partner believes they act out of love and the partner does not even realise they are being harmed in some way.

Case study: Trevor and Monica

Alan walked into my clinic one day worried sick about his daughter, Monica. She had married a man who had transformed her into a mere shadow of what she used to be. This man had dictated to her how she was to dress under the pretense of modernising her wardrobe to the point where Monica had given over completely to him most of what she did in life. The relationship began as co-dependent and moved to much deeper psychological distress.

Alan would not have minded so much if Monica was happy but it was like she had lost herself.

Alan told me how Trevor, Monica’s husband, had refused to go out with her when they were first dating as her clothes looked childish and silly. So Monica changed how she dressed. Monica was only very young when she met Trevor and fell deeply in love, so she wanted to please him. Trevor knew that Monica wanted marriage and a family and played on that to draw her towards him. Trevor also wanted a family and relationship; however, it was to be on his terms or not at all. Alan became fearful for his daughter’s emotional Health.

Over the course of nine years, Alan watched Trevor entice Monica into becoming the person he thought she should be. He watched as Trevor would ring Monica at least 30 times a day to check up on what she was doing. Monica thought it was because he was crazy about her and Alan could not explain that such possessiveness was not healthy love. She wouldn’t hear of it. He watched while Monica gave up a wonderful job opportunity in the other side of the country because Trevor wouldn’t go with her. He watched as Trevor enticed her to buy him gifts he couldn’t afford while Trevor spent his money on having a good time with his mates. He watched while Monica dropped everything to do and go wherever Trevor wanted her to, just so she could be with him. This deteriorated to the point where Monica could not even decide to spend time with her dad unless Trevor said it was OK.

Over the years, Monica moved in with Trevor, and Alan saw less and less of his daughter because Trevor said they were too busy. However, Monica dropped everything for Trevor’s family or to do favours for them but Alan and his wife took a back seat to this manipulative man. Alan would not have minded so much if Monica was happy but it was like she had lost herself. Monica had become so co-dependent on meeting Trevor’s every whim that the daughter he loved had disappeared. His sessions with me were his last resort to reconcile the emotional loss of his daughter to this vampire.

It had been years since Monica had spent Christmas with the family or sat and had a conversation with dad like back in the old days, simply because Trevor had to be everywhere with her. Alan now had grandchildren and it was no better. Alan watched as Trevor embedded the children in his family traditions and threw Monica’s family out of the picture. Monica was so busy pleasing Trevor, she did not even see the disappointment on her dad’s face, nor even care, as long as Trevor was happy.

When the kids came, Monica could not work at all. She took to doing some casual work to have some income as Trevor needed to be catered to even more. She drove him round to all their family functions so he could drink. She drove him to boy’s nights out and then back to the city to pick him up again. Monica became Trevor’s personal co-dependent slave. The final straw that led Alan to my door was when Monica could not even go to her casual job because Trevor was so demanding. She was exhausted.

Trevor’s sick psychological needs were being met by a woman who loved him, doted on him, and Trevor took advantage of every moment of it.

This relationship far exceeds even the parametres of just being co-dependent. Trevor’s sick psychological needs were being met by a woman who loved him, doted on him, and Trevor took advantage of every moment of it. Alan’s wife had given up long ago on trying to make Monica see what was happening to their family. Monica hardly ever saw her sister or brother anymore and, when she did, her tone contained the nastiness of Trevor’s voice (he hated them as they were a distraction to his wife from his needs). Monica did not even realise how angry and hateful she started to sound towards her dad.

It hurt Alan and his wife so much. Alan’s wife had not been well the last few years and wanted dearly to spend more time with her grandchildren. Trevor would not allow it. Alan himself was getting older and losing some of his zip. Retirement was coming up soon. This was Alan’s dilemma.

Breaking free

Are you in a co-dependent or psychologically unhealthy relationship? How are you unknowingly being manipulated in the name of love? Alan fears the day will come when Monica will be all used up and Trevor will throw her away like a used-up dishcloth. Unfortunately, however, he is right. Psychologically ill people use others, often narcissistically, for their own means. Then they leave them. Of course, Alan will try to be there for Monica when she needs him but it may be too late. He is getting old.

If you are in a relationship where your family or friends are sounding alarm bells, please take a look at how you are being treated without looking through the “rose-coloured glasses” of your manipulative, narcissistic partner. If you can, break the bond of being co-dependent. Look at who you are hurting. How has your character changed? Are you also becoming sour and critical of others? Are you closing your heart to those who love you and being entrapped under the spell of someone who is emotionally immature and selfishly wrapped up in their own needs that they cannot let you be your own person and reach the heights of your potential? That is not love, never was and never can be. Seek help wherever you can but, first of all, you really need to take a look around you and WAKE UP!



Jenetta Haim runs Stressfree Management at 36 Gipps Road, Greystanes, and specialises in assisting your health and lifestyle in all areas by developing programs on either a corporate or personal level to suit your needs. Jenetta has just published a book called Stress-Free Health Management, A Natural Solution for Your Health available from your favourite bookstore or online. For more information and to get in touch, visit her website.