If you’ve been reading about the codependent woman and codependency, you likely know that the codependent woman often is attracted to and hooks up with a man with mental health issues. He might be an alcoholic or a drug addict. He might suffer from a personality disorder such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Antisocial Personality Disorder. Or, the man might well suffer from both addictions and a personality disorder at the same time.
Even if the man doesn’t actually suffer from a full-fledged personality disorder, he is still likely to have enough mental health issues that he isn’t capable of providing the woman with the type of relationship she truly desires. For example, while most women expect a partnership, he is apt to want to control her. He might be abusive in order to accomplish this goal, too. And while the narcissistic man may rely primarily upon verbal abuse or emotional abuse to accomplish his goals, the man suffering from Antisocial Personality Disorder is apt to become physically abusive-often starting off with verbal abuse and emotional abuse-and adding the physical abuse later.
Indeed, the man with a personality disorder and addiction problems is not capable of providing the woman with what she wants in a relationship. Not only is he apt to be abusive, but he is essentially incapable of love-either of giving it or receiving it. He may come on initially very strong-or he may seem quite romantic and loving. The sex might be great, too. But once this type of man believes he has the woman hooked in, things are apt to change drastically. Since he is apt to have selected her because of her tendency towards codependency which he likely spotted immediately, she is apt to stick around-confused about why he doesn’t treat her as he did before. She keeps expecting the days of wine and roses to return when instead, they are likely forever over. Nonetheless, she’ll believe him when he tells her that if she would only do such and such better, or so and so differently, those good days might well return!
Sure, anything might happen. But that doesn’t mean it ever will. And, in the case of the relationship with the narcissistic, abusive, and addicted man, the woman may well twist herself into a pretzel to try and please him, but he will never be pleased. Of course, she doesn’t realize that he needs to always be right. That means he must make her wrong. Indeed, he needs to be better than others. That means he must make her less than. So, she will always lose. But, because of her codependency, she may well remain in denial about what it truly going on-the dynamics of their relationship which he isn’t about to change-since they serve him so well.
All Abusive PTSD-impacted Relationships are not the Same
But what of a relationship we’re seeing more of now and will be seeing more of in the future still-the one impacted by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD? Are women who are in relationships with abusive and addicted PTSD sufferers themselves suffering from codependency? After all, many PTSD sufferers are angry and can be verbally and emotionally abusive. In fact, some will become physically violent-even kill a partner. Many PTSD sufferers abuse alcohol and drugs to try to better manage problematic PTSD symptoms-which only increase the odds that the sufferer will become abusive towards the partner.
To answer the question about codependency, you need to consider if the woman was already in a relationship with this person before he developed PTSD, or did she become involved with a long-term PTSD sufferer who exhibited these types of problems or issues right from the beginning of their relationship? Furthermore, has this PTSD sufferer done nothing to try and deal with the problematic PTSD symptoms? In the first case, the woman might have sent her partner off to the war zone seeing her beloved as one type of a man. If he developed PTSD as a result of that experience, he may well have returned seemingly a stranger. The symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can do that to a person-and hence, change the nature of their relationship overnight into something that is the antithesis of warm and loving. As alluded to earlier, it could become deadly, in fact.
The woman involved with someone who developed PTSD more recently and is showing problematic behaviors because of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder needs to be concerned about her physical and emotional well-being-as well as that of any children present-because the PTSD sufferer can be a danger to others as well as himself. He truly could have suicidal and homicidal thoughts-thoughts he never would have had before developing PTSD. So, the woman in a relationship with such a man should always have a safety plan and be prepared to leave. At the same time, though, if he is getting help for those PTSD symptoms, she should hold out hope that things could get better. She likely will want to hang in there and be supportive because indeed, her support will likely help him to improve and become something more akin to the man he was before. While he may never become that same person because, for example, war changes people, that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t go forth to have a good relationship and happy family once again.
The woman who is hoping that her willingness to keep on giving to the man who has suffered from PTSD for years now, but without seeking treatment, is facing a different situation. She needs to realize that long-term PTSD sufferers have been helped. So, instead of just giving and giving in the way a codependent woman is inclined to do, she may want to stop and ask her partner if he has considered getting some psychotherapy to help him better manage his PTSD symptoms. Also, does he realize there are medications that could help to tame those symptoms, too? If he indicates that he has tried those things and they didn’t work, then she might need to stop and ask herself if there are things wrong with this picture that she can’t change. Or, if he says that no one can help him, only wimps seek help, or he certainly doesn’t have any mental health issues but she is becoming the victim of them quite regularly, then she probably should wipe her denial away and stare into the face of reality instead.
It may be sad that anyone has to develop and suffer from PTSD. But because the PTSD sufferer has allowed his life to be ruined by those PTSD symptoms, should the woman stick around and have her life ruined, too? She may make a conscious choice to do so-for example, she believes that this is her purpose or mission and, no matter what sacrifices she must make, she is certainly going to do this. But if she just finds herself doing this because she is used to being stepped on by others or being used and abused because this happened to her in childhood, then she may want to consider the fact that she is behaving as a codependent. Furthermore, she may want to work towards becoming codependent no more.
By the way, we’re not trying to blame or condemn the victim of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The PTSD sufferer likely experienced one or more traumatic events outside his control. His brain then reacted in ways the individual couldn’t control-at least not initially. But since the brain is more malleable than mental health experts once believed, with the proper therapy, it may be possible to rewire the brain in such a way that the PTSD symptoms could entirely disappear-or at least, they could become more manageable. Furthermore, psychotherapists know techniques to teach PTSD sufferers so they can better manage any remaining symptoms.
If you are concerned about a woman who is inclined to sit back and take a partner’s abuse, assume responsibilities for his problems created by PTSD symptoms, or to engage in other behaviors that she considers loving and caring while they’re causing you and others to raise your eyebrows, you may want to gently suggest that you suspect she could be suffering from codependency. Furthermore, she might well so her partner and herself a favor if she pushed for recovery-his from those debilitating PTSD symptoms and hers from codependency.