Why do People stay in co-dependent Relationships?

Photo by Tony Mucci on Unsplash

One of the leading factors to stay in a co-dependent relationship is shame.

If shame weren´t so powerful, people would probably leave the addicted partner earlier.

So shame keeps not only the relationship alive, but it also provides what is necessary for the addiction to grow stronger:

The person who becomes co-dependent might have been sane and smart before starting the relationship. The addict usually has learned strategies long before that allow them to live the addiction so that nobody assumes it. Even the addict buys into their own story of not being an addict for the most part.

So, this is how the story goes:

In the middle of the beautiful and exciting new life together, strange things start to happen — keys get lost, notebooks get stolen, money gets lost, injuries occur, but all of that in an outstanding working and relationship life.

The co-dependent wants to help (every sane person would help their partner, friend or spouse), of course and covers up for the partner in front of friends and family. She (the co-dependent is mostly a woman) starts to hide all the strange stuff happening because it´s not funny anymore. And „the others wouldn´t understand“.

This is where shame starts.

However, when you are unfamiliar to Co-Dependency, the strange happenings lead to more and even stranger things: The co-dependent not only lies to the friends and family but starts to pay the bills that surely need paying. She lets the partner drive home in the car, because of course „he can drive“. When he loses his drivers license, she drives him around because, of course, he needs to get around — to the pub to the places where his addiction lives. Admitting what she does to anybody else would be too embarrassing and painful, so she doesn´t speak about it.

She does more and more secret things plus she lies — both don´t work with well with friendships. So she cuts off her friends.

Now, she can do even more unspeakable things, without the need to lie or to justify his or her behaviour — because there is nobody anymore, and there is no one to be ashamed before.

Still, somehow she manages to justify her deeds: It´s all for love.

Yet, it´s not. Quitting friendships even fuels the addiction more and more. Her isolation and fear of admitting what she has done and allowed to happen, grow. The necessary step out of the relationship becomes even harder because it means to reveal the partner´s addiction to the outer world, which comes along with shame, pain and fear of losing the beloved partner either on the addiction or by him ending the relationship because of her „betrayal of trust“. All of that enables even more infamous actions.

Many abstruse actions need to be justified — and at some stage, even love isn´t enough to explain. So her brain provides for new contexts where it seems ok to do what she does — it produces a smokescreen that enforces her oblivion, her denials. At the same time it rationalizes: it´s for our best, or there is no one but me to be there, the partner will die without me and so on.

When everything is done and over, what remains is this:

  • The only cure for the destructions originating in shame is to reveal it.
  • To talk about the damages shame can induce.
  • To show what can happen when shame is a leading factor for any action.

That is what I am doing here.


This article originally was published on my blog ich kreierealsobinich.com on 19. Oktober 2019.

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