From chapter 10 of the Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us
According to the human magnet explanation, codependents are “magnetically” attracted to emotional manipulators because of their opposite “magnetic polarity.” As the north pole of a magnet is always attracted to the south pole of another magnet, so will codependents always be attracted to emotional manipulators. Magnetic roles, like compatible CSVs, are inversely and proportionally attracted to each other. Therefore, codependents are attracted to individuals who are either narcissistic or addicted and who neither want nor are able to fulfill their personal and emotional needs. Conversely, human magnets are always repelled by their own personality type.
From this author’s vantage point, codependency is both a personality type and a pattern of dysfunctional behavior. Codependents are habitually attracted to emotional manipulators and/or those who have an addiction. Consequently, they are typically involved in unhealthy or dysfunctional relationships in which they are both quantitatively and qualitatively more generous, patient and forgiving than their partners. Their “give and take ratio” is always lopsided toward the “give.” Codependents believe if they are just patient, loving and forgiving enough, eventually their emotionally manipulative or addicted partner will come to their senses, and realize and regret their selfishness and harmful ways. The problem with this belief system is that it is based on flawed logic and distorted thinking. Just as “you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip,” it is impossible for the codependent to force the emotional manipulator to be that which they are not: unconditionally generous, supportive and empathic.
Codependents cannot shake the unrealistic belief that happiness will only come if they are in a relationship. They look to other people to make them feel happy and fulfilled. It is only through an intimate relationship that they will be able to feel complete. Codependents tend to rely on a source outside of themselves – their romantic partners – to make them feel worthwhile and lovable. This type of expectation doesn’t ever materialize because codependents are naturally attracted to the other side of the disordered coin – an emotional manipulator. It is as if they, a “half person,” are seeking another “half person” in hopes of creating a “whole relationship.” Alas, the relationship math doesn’t work. It takes two healthy or whole individuals, to make a fundamentally healthy and lasting relationship. In this case only, one half and one half doesn’t equal one whole. My apologies to the field of mathematics!
As a result of the codependent’s reliance on emotional manipulators to make them feel good about themselves, they seldom experience self-love or healthy levels of self-esteem. They hold fast to the conviction that their partner, who is inherently incapable of mutuality, empathy or unconditional love, will eventually turn a corner and become the type of person who will be motivated to unconditionally love, respect and care for them. Sadly, they end up waiting a very long time before learning that their hopes and desires never come to fruition. Codependents simply believe in the impossible. Even with mounting consequences, losses and feelings of desperation and isolation, codependents continue their pursuit of what they believe they deserve but can never seem to obtain. They are controlled by the analogous idea that the “carrot” they so ardently crave always seems within their grasp, but in all actuality is unattainable. They may spend a lifetime unsuccessfully chasing their narcissistic “carrot.” Emotional manipulators are simply not interested, willing or capable of fulfilling their codependent partner’s needs unless they somehow derive some level of benefit.
Since the codependent unconsciously chooses partners who are unwilling, unmotivated or unable to meet their personal and emotional needs, they may choose the path of control to get their emotional manipulator partner to give them what they want and need. To some, it is counterintuitive for codependents to be controlling. There are indeed codependents who do give up and take a passive victim-based role in their dysfunctional relationships. However, because most codependents take on the lion’s share of the relationship responsibilities such as child care, house cleaning, cooking, shopping, and/or financially supporting the relationship/family, they cannot afford to acquiesce and relinquish control of their family’s life. Without maintaining some semblance of control, they and their family or relationship would certainly suffer. To most codependents, the idea of stopping their attempts to get their narcissist partner to reciprocate or behave fairly and responsibly is tantamount to giving up on their relationship; something that codependents are mostly unwilling and incapable of doing.
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC
Author of the Human Magnet Syndrome