How to get out of a sick relationship? Psychologists advise

It’s good when a man and a woman have close relationships and their life values ​​coincide. However, sometimes relationships become too close, and partners begin to feel burdened by such a connection.

There is no single definition of a codependent relationship. Initially, this term was used to describe the relationship of partners, one of whom suffers from some kind of addiction (drug, alcohol, etc.), and the other provides him with psychological or material support. At the same time, such overprotection of a loving person only interferes with the recovery of the dependent partner.

What are codependent relationships and codependency?

Many psychologists, when talking about codependency, have in mind its narrow concept. When codependency is a state of dependence in which family members with an addicted person (alcoholic, drug addict, gambling addict, etc.) find themselves. When they are highly dependent on his behavior.

But there is a broader definition of codependency, when it means any dependence of one person on a significant other.

And codependent relationships are relationships that codependent partners build. When they both focus more not on themselves, not on what is happening inside them: what they themselves want, what they feel and what they need. And they focus on their partner - what he does or doesn’t do, where he is and how he is, what he wants or doesn’t want, how he will behave this time and whether he will finally change or not.

Codependency often originates in the family in which a person grew up. Those who acquired codependent traits and behavior patterns were most likely raised in a codependent family, i.e. in a family with broken relationships.

Codependent relationships are relationships in which the personal boundaries of the participants in these relationships are systematically violated.

Where does codependency come from?

This type of relationship is typical for people who grew up in not the most prosperous families. We are talking not only about situations where one of the adults drank, a child was beaten and an unhealthy environment reigned at home. Children of authoritarian parents, those who were overprotected, and those who grew up with seriously ill relatives are prone to codependency. Such a person has problems with his own boundaries, does not have a clear idea of ​​\u200b\u200bhis “I”, and he easily dissolves in his partner.

Julia Hill

Psychologist, member of the Professional Psychotherapeutic League, blogger.

As a rule, it does not happen that one person is prone to codependency, and his partner is not. People initially, by subtle signs, identify and find a person who will allow them to serve their mental needs in a relationship. For example, the son of an overbearing mother will probably choose a woman who is not like his parent: quiet, modest, flexible. It is she who will subsequently become the victim, and he - the domestic tyrant, jealous, controlling, criticizing.

Or the daughter of an alcoholic will pay attention to a strong, responsible man, and then their relationship will be based on a struggle for power. Or, on the contrary, for an intelligent person who is helpless in everyday life, and then she will become a “savior mother” for him. Both scenarios with the daughter of an alcoholic have every chance of ending in the husband’s drunkenness.

Signs of a codependent relationship

  • You're not happy with the relationship, but you're not leaving it and you're not doing anything to truly change it. If you do something for this, then only those actions that ultimately turn out to be ineffective.
  • You are not satisfied with your partner the way he is. You want and hope that he will change.
  • You yourself greatly adapt to your partner and your relationship. In these relationships, you are not yourself, you are not sincere with your partner, as if you are “wearing a mask”, playing some kind of learned role.
  • Such relationships are built on a “swing”: they are either very good or monstrously bad. You either want to be together with your man, or you want to separate and never see him again. You either agree with him or diverge. Either you love your partner and “can’t live without him,” then you hate him or stop having feelings for him. Because of such “swings,” relationships look unstable. You can see an example of such instability in the film “Swing” (2008).
  • You feel that you and your partner have a “special connection”, you seem to be an extension of each other, you are like two “halves”, but at the same time there is no true closeness between you.
  • In your couple, the responsibilities and boundaries between you are confused - it is not clear where the personal space of each of you is, it is not clear who is responsible for what, and who is responsible for what. You violate your partner's boundaries, and he violates yours. You take responsibility for your partner's actions and behavior, or your partner takes responsibility for you.

How to get rid of love addiction and find peace of mind - examples

Addiction is the inability to see objective reality, to look the problem in the eye. I will give a vivid example from my psychological practice of how this can manifest itself in relationships.

  • Elena is dating a married man – Vasily. Vasily promises her every week that he is about to leave his wife, and he and Elena will be happy together. Rose-colored glasses protect Elena from cruel reality: she does not notice that Vasily is doing his best to hide the fact of Elena’s existence from his wife. She doesn't pay attention to the fact that she has no right to call him herself. She also does not notice that only he can set the time and place of the meeting. She does not see that she is tied hand and foot in this relationship.

And even if Elena notices all this and gets angry, her brain still finds excuses for Vasily: “Apparently, this is necessary. He said that he didn’t want to hurt her. He'll tell you right after her birthday. He can’t delete her photo from his desktop, but she might suspect something. And we definitely need to wait for rain on Thursday so as not to hit her.”

The brain comes up with all these excuses in order not to traumatize Elena’s psyche. This is how the instinct of self-preservation works: in order to preserve the psyche, the brain adapts to the situation and creates the most comfortable conditions (thoughts) in order to leave everything as it is. This basic brain function was present in the very first people on earth. In those days, she saved a person from imminent death. The brain protected us from danger: “Don’t change anything, sit in this cave, don’t go far, there’s the unknown, you’ll freeze there, get stuck in a swamp, won’t find food, or you’ll be killed.”

At that time, this was really relevant, because death awaited at every turn. The brain did everything to leave a person in the so-called “comfort zone,” which essentially means “a place where one can survive, a place where it is safe.” And even if a person feels bad here, he is at least alive, and in the unknown there is a threat to his life.

Since those ancient times, the reality around us has changed a lot, but the firmware of the brain has remained the same. A person no longer lives in a cave and does not need a partner as much as air or water. But his brain still tightly protects him from any serious changes.

We can't do anything about the instinct of self-preservation, but we can learn to consciously live without addictions. After all, instinct is an unconscious thing. So how to get rid of love addiction and find peace of mind? How can you outwit your brain and learn to perceive reality consciously?

I present to you five specific steps, following which you will be able to get rid of love addiction and become a full-fledged, mature, psychologically healthy person.

Basic rules in codependent families

Every family has some rules. Some of them can be spoken out, but some of these rules are hidden. That is, everyone follows them, but no one speaks openly about these rules.

In codependent families, family members usually live by such strict rules as:

  1. “Don’t be yourself”, “don’t be separate” (be like us, don’t be different, don’t be real).
  2. “Don’t feel” (do not experience or express any feelings other than guilt, shame and fear).
  3. “Don’t trust” (don’t trust, control, don’t open up).
  4. “Don’t talk” (don’t tell others about what is happening in our family).

Causes of codependent relationships:

  • Lack of unconditional love from parents in childhood, the child chronically did not have important needs met. Which he then tries to satisfy in his adult relationship with that partner who, just like his parents, turns out to be unable to give this.
  • Developmental trauma is psychological trauma in early childhood, due to which a person was unable to complete the stages of forming an attachment with his mother and subsequent separation from her.
  • Psychological, physical or sexual abuse in childhood. In the family where a person grew up, his personal boundaries were regularly violated.
  • Triangulation - when the child’s parents systematically involved him in the conflicts that occurred in their couple.
  • A person grew up in a family where someone was either highly addicted (to alcohol, drugs, gambling), or a psychopath, or mentally ill.
  • Relationships with a toxic partner as an adult – e.g. with a chemically dependent person (alcoholic, drug addict), with a psychopath, a pick-up artist, with a sexaholic, manipulator or pathological narcissist.

Important information about codependent relationships. What motivates people to find themselves in them again and again?

When a child grows up in a family where events constantly occur that cause a lot of painful, difficult feelings in him. For example, repeated domestic violence, dad gets drunk regularly, parents constantly argue, etc.

Then he needs to somehow adapt to the difficult environment in which he grows up in order to survive. And as such an adaptation, he learns not to feel anything, i.e. suppress your feelings and experiences, using various psychological defenses.

As a result of such suppression of feelings, a person, when he becomes an adult, cannot rely on his feelings. Because of this, he cannot understand whether what is happening in his relationship is normal or not. Is such a relationship suitable for him or not?

And as a result, he spends years in a toxic environment and toxic relationships without even realizing it. Since childhood, he has been accustomed to suppressing his feelings. And when he grew up, he continued to do this in his codependent relationships.

When he experiences discomfort and painful feelings that signal to him that something needs to be changed in the relationship. He tries to suppress them, somehow get rid of these feelings, drown them out. Instead of changing your relationship by solving the problem that caused these feelings. Or instead of breaking up with your partner.

When we grow up in a family with codependent, unhealthy relationships, we develop different ways of adapting to this environment where we find ourselves. Which help us survive.

But unfortunately, this leads to such consequences that, due to these same protective methods of adaptation, we begin not to notice reality, not to notice toxicity. And what helped us survive in childhood leads us, as adults, to repeat those painful stories that happened in our family in childhood.

For example, to cope with situations of repeated violence, a girl explains to herself that nothing bad is being done to her. This protects her from pain and helps her survive in an environment that she cannot change.

But when she grows up, she again finds herself in an abusive relationship and does not leave it because she explains to herself that nothing bad is actually happening in her relationship, and that what is being done to her is not abuse.

This is roughly how our defenses work. And therefore we can build codependent relationships again and again in our adult lives.

Partners in codependent relationships

Some people are impossible to form healthy relationships with. No matter how much you try to work on yourself, little will change in your relationship if you are faced with a so-called toxic partner.

Types of partners with whom only dependent relationships are possible:

  1. A person without empathy, a “love predator” - this can be a pathological narcissist, a psychopath, a sociopath, a sadist, a manipulator, a pick-up artist, a misogynist. In my opinion, it doesn’t make much difference what exactly this person has. Moreover, these traits and disorders often exist simultaneously in one person. The only important thing is that he is not able to empathize with other people. Therefore, a healthy relationship with such a partner is impossible, no matter how hard you try.
  2. A person with a serious addiction is an alcoholic, drug addict, gambling addict, sex addict. Until the person himself wants to get rid of his addiction, you cannot do anything about it. And you won’t be able to build a healthy enough relationship with him.
  3. A pronounced counterdependent is a person who is terribly afraid of becoming attached to another person and being rejected by him, and is also very afraid of losing his freedom. And therefore he behaves coldly and unstable in relationships, unconsciously playing the “closer/farther” game with his partner. Often counterdependents provoke their partner so that he “depends” on them, achieves them, tries to keep them. And if your counterdependent partner is not ready to work on himself and receive psychotherapeutic help, then you will not have a healthy relationship with him.
  4. A psychologically immature partner is a partner who constantly behaves like a child or a teenager. Such a person will unconsciously always put you in the role of his parent, i.e. create a codependent relationship with you. And until he matures, psychologically and emotionally “grows up”, you will not be able to have a healthy, mature, equal relationship with him.
  5. A man married to another woman, i.e. unfree partner.
  6. A person prone to cheating. Sometimes cheating in a couple happens only because of problems in their relationship. But sometimes it’s the partner himself – he simply cannot help but cheat on his loved one. Regardless of how satisfied he is with his relationship, he still cheats. And cheating on his regular partner is a violation of his personal boundaries; relationships in which there is cheating cannot be healthy. Therefore, it is impossible to build a healthy relationship with a person who cannot or does not want to be faithful to his partner.

How to live if you broke up

After a breakup, you are sure that you will never be as happy again. Your reasoning and thoughts are directed towards the reasons for the breakup and analysis of other possible scenarios. You come up with excuses for yourself, you think that you will change. You are at a dead end, from which, in your opinion, there is only one way out - a return to the previous union.

Start by understanding yourself, not your partner.

The heightened consciousness is reinforced by the feeling that the person who at least sometimes brought joy is no longer with you. You are broken and lack a dose of communication with your ex. There is no need to go through all the options on how to get him back, even if you are ready to tolerate his worst actions. Let go of old experiences and boldly step into a new future, where there will be a sincere smile on your face.

A little test

To finally recognize dependence in a relationship, I suggest taking a test related to personality psychology:

  1. Do you really experience real tender feelings? Perhaps your intentions are driven by jealousy, possessiveness, or memories? If love has passed, and only habit remains, feel free to start a new life without him.
  2. Are you enraged and even annoyed by your partner’s qualities? Let go. People don't change, and you won't accept it.
  3. Have you been betrayed more than once? Don't believe that this time was the last.
  4. Does he cheat, drink, hit? He is womanizer? Drunkard? If you still want to be with such a person, seek help from a specialist.
  5. Have you become uninterested in being together for a long time? It’s unlikely that anything will change if your views on life are too different, what to talk about?
  6. Are you not suitable for each other in bed? We definitely need to break up. The problem will sooner or later begin to emerge, interfering with the development of the union.

Manipulative games in codependent relationships

In codependent relationships there are usually no clear and open requests and agreements. Instead, people play different games to get from their partner what they want from them.

Some people strive to show themselves helpless in order to arouse pity in other people and a desire to help. Someone is trying to force others to act the way they want through a demonstration of aggression and force. And someone actively helps other people, “saves” them, “sacrifices” himself for them, so that they, in turn, will be grateful to them and repay them in kind.

In general, all manipulative games in relationships can be reduced to three roles - victim, aggressor and rescuer. These roles make up the Karpman triangle, the drama triangle along which all codependent relationships are built.

These games help people get something from others in an indirect way, i.e. avoiding responsibility for your needs.

Manipulation in codependent relationships is built on the fact that you do not have to independently realize your desires, honestly declare them to the other person and voice your request. And to reduce the likelihood of refusal on his part.

Manipulative relationships, in which manipulation is used a lot and often, cannot be called safe and sincere enough. Therefore, such relationships cannot develop into spiritual intimacy.

The cycle of codependent relationships

In codependent relationships, people again and again try to satisfy those needs that were not met in their childhood in relationships with their parents. But they fail to do this. And then they accumulate irritation, which over time results in a scandal.

Some time after the breakup, partners begin to miss each other. Their fear of loneliness begins to intensify and they hope that their partner can still change and give them what they need.

As a result, they converge again. And again the same scenario is repeated where people cannot get what they need from their partner.

And similar cycles play out again and again in codependent relationships, making both partners unhappy.

How to get out of a codependent relationship?

There are two ways to get out of a codependent relationship:

  1. Change these relationships, rebuild them into healthier ones.
  2. End this relationship, i.e. break up with this partner.

Not every dependent relationship can be rebuilt, because... the other person may not need it. He may not be ready for change, may not want it, it may be too beneficial for him to be in such a codependent relationship, he may not want to negotiate, etc. And then the best way out will be separation.

On the other hand, ending a relationship that was dependent may not give the person anything. He can find a new partner and again create a similar codependent relationship with him.

Therefore, in order to build a truly healthy, happy relationship, it is important to change yourself. It is important to understand your codependency and codependent behavior patterns, to work through what supports this dependence. And learn to build your relationships differently.

And then it will be much easier for you to get out of dependent relationships if you understand that your partner does not want or cannot change, does not want to discuss your relationship with you, or if this relationship can no longer be saved. Or it will be easier for your partner to change his behavior after you, if he wants to.

The way out of codependency is when you start taking care of yourself instead of changing your partner. An attempt to remake another is violence against him. And violence in relationships only aggravates and strengthens the codependent scenario.

How do people become codependent?

The reasons go back to childhood. Most parents teach their children to be comfortable and obedient, to keep their heads down and close their mouths in a timely manner. For example, many are familiar with mother’s remarks: “Boys don’t cry, stop throwing tantrums,” “You’re a girl, behave decently, otherwise no one will marry you.”

The child is forced to suppress and deny his emotions, think more about others and behave according to the principle “just not to offend anyone.” In adulthood, such a person develops a deep-seated ban on living his own life. It seems to him that the world is not for him, he has no right to put his interests first. Therefore, he begins to occupy himself with the life of another.

Another reason lies in excessive care and hypercontrol over the child, when parents, instead of unconditional love, make excessive demands and suppress attempts to demonstrate independence. The child loses his sense of personal autonomy. Instead of healthy love and supportive relationships, he gets into the habit of dissolving in another person.

The third reason is repetition of the parent scenario. More often this happens when a person really does not want to be like one of his parents and despises the behavior of his father or mother. According to the laws of life, this is precisely the behavior that is copied.

What do you need to “work” in yourself in order to build healthy, interdependent relationships?

1) Become aware of your behavior patterns in relationships and codependent scenarios - this is a very important point, because without their awareness, these scenarios cannot be changed.

In codependent relationships, people often use such psychological defense as denial. Therefore, first of all, it is important to get out of the influence of such defenses and accept the reality of your relationship, that they are not really happy with you.

2) Study and analyze in detail codependent scenarios in your past and current relationships. And figure out what you can start doing differently in your relationship.

3) Learn to shift the focus of attention from your partner’s behavior to your inner world. That is, start asking yourself questions - what is happening to me now? What do I think about this? What do I feel? What do I need? What am I striving for? Why am I doing this? Why do I need this relationship, what important do I get from it for myself? How does what my partner does to me resonate with me? How do I feel about this?

4) “Unfreeze” your feelings, i.e. learn to feel your feelings, as well as recognize, name them and express them environmentally.

It is also important to study the information about what our particular emotions usually tell us, what function this or that feeling performs.

5) Learn to recognize your needs and desires. And with the help of my feelings, I learn to navigate what I want and what I don’t want, what suits me and what doesn’t suit me.

6) Disconnect your needs and desires from your partner in a codependent relationship. Assign your desires to yourself, take responsibility for their implementation. And recognize that these needs can be met for you by other people or by yourself, and not just by your partner.

7) Learn to ask other people and receive from them - warmth, care, attention, support, praise. And learn to give it to other people when they ask for it.


Learn to monitor your manipulations and games in relationships. For each manipulation, look for what need you were trying to satisfy with its help. And learn to replace your manipulations with open requests.

9) Learn to recognize your own and other people’s boundaries, protect your personal boundaries and not violate others. Do not shift your responsibility onto others and do not take on someone else’s.

10) Learn to see both “good” and “bad” in the world, in yourself, in other people, in some phenomena. Refuse “black and white” split thinking, notice halftones, learn not to go to extremes. Become more holistic by resolving your internal conflicts. Use “and” rather than “or” more often.

11) Develop your sense of self-worth, self-esteem. Learn to love yourself, take care of yourself and accept yourself for who you are. Study yourself, who you are and what you are, get to know yourself, your true “I”.

Learn to love your inner child, who in codependents is usually very wounded and hungry for love.

12) Start healing your childhood traumas that are reproduced in codependent relationships. Complete what is left unfinished in the relationship with parents. Heal your inner traumatized child.

13) Work through fears associated with relationships - fear of loneliness and fear of intimacy. Codependent relationships are usually structured in such a way that people can avoid both loneliness and intimacy. And for a healthy relationship, both the ability to be alone and the ability to get closer to another person are important.

14) Instead of immature, infantile dependence, learn mature dependence. Mature dependence differs from immature dependence in that it has a choice of whom to depend on and who not to depend on.

The child has only parents, and he depends on them, no matter what they are. And an adult always has a choice with whom to build relationships and communicate, and with whom not. And in addition to depending on other people, an adult also has the ability to rely on himself, which can help him if something happens.

And the way out of codependency lies not in getting rid of your dependence on other people and not in gaining complete self-sufficiency and independence - but in learning to use your natural dependence in a more mature way.

Learn to choose partners who are safe and loving enough to meet the needs that matter to you, and who do not resort to violence. That is, choose people for relationships consciously, and not under the influence of your childhood traumas.

15) Learn to build close relationships with another person. Learn to be vulnerable and sincere with them, learn to trust those people who are safe enough for this and whom you know well enough.

To do this, it is important to learn to get closer gradually, looking closely at the person, how much you can trust him, whether he is reliable and safe enough for this. And learn to feel the distance with people at which you feel comfortable being with them, so that you are not “too close” or “too far.”

16) Learn to build healthy, interdependent relationships without falling into dependence or counterdependence. Learn to use “I messages” in communication, resolve conflicts effectively and in a civilized manner, and also master other skills necessary for a new format of open, sincere relationships.

How to leave a love craving

If you understand that your relationship has lost its common sense, and your dependence on a man is increasing every day, in order not to lose your “I”, sign up for my consultation and I will help you get rid of this “illness”. I will also give some tips:

  • Free your chosen one from responsibility for his personality: you are upset that for several evenings in a row he has been spending time with friends instead of a romantic date. Stop blaming him, better take care of yourself. Focus on your interests.
  • Don’t get hung up on the thought: why hasn’t he called for so long? Think about what actions you take to balance the balance.
  • Let go of your fears and worries about losing your boyfriend. This has either already happened or will happen in the future, and you must live here and now.
  • Observe yourself and your behavior from the outside. You cannot change your soul mate.
  • Learn to give up fleeting pleasures to improve the quality of your life. If he disappeared for several weeks and then suddenly showed up, don’t rush to dress up for a date. Think about whether you need a person who could not make himself known for so long.
  • Define your boundaries.
  • Try to satisfy your needs without a man. Do you want to be needed? Offer to help your friends, spend time with your children, prove yourself at work.
  • If you are unable to help yourself, turn to specialists. Attend thematic lectures or seminars.

How to work it all out?

All this work can be done in personal therapy with a psychologist. This is a regular visit to his consultations 1 or 2 times a week, during which you, with the help of a specialist, carry out deep work on yourself, on your unconscious processes, increase your awareness of how you work and how you build your relationships with other people.

Working through codependency requires at least a year of work in personal therapy. And usually even longer. But this is much less than if you work independently or with the help of books, trainings, and webinars. And this is much better than spending your entire life in a relationship where you are unhappy and unfulfilled.

I work in long-term therapy with problems of codependency and dependent relationships. So you can contact me.

Author of the article: psychologist Anna Tychuk

Tip 3 – find something to do without a partner

When basic knowledge about yourself is obtained, a favorite activity appears, which does not have to be shared with a partner. Yes, collaboration is great. But each of us has our own unique hobbies. If a wife enthusiastically collects puzzles, and her husband despises this activity, this is not a reason to leave him. You can simply surrender to this pleasure without his participation. In the meantime, he will watch football or play Hearthstone.

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