Category Archives: divorce

Codependents Also Hurt Their Children


Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT

depressed girlAlthough the codependent parent is harmed by their narcissistic partner, their codependency should not be considered a valid excuse for not protecting their children. Even with the all-powerful Human Magnet Syndrome, the adult codependent parent, like all other adult parents, carries the responsibility to care for and defend their children. However, the stark and most unfortunate reality is they predictably fall in love with pathological narcissists who they feel intractably bonded to, despite feeling abused, neglected and/or deprived. And when they become parents, they often choose staying in the relationship with the harmful narcissist over protecting their children.

Most codependent parents sincerely do not wish any harm to befall their children. In fact, they go to extraordinary measures to stop, mitigate or buffer the narcissist’s harm or abuse of the children. Despite their best intentions, they are unable to stop the resulting disregard and/or mistreatment that everyone in the family is forced to endure, except, of course, for the offending narcissist. The codependent’s inability or unwillingness to shield the children co-creates a toxic family environment in which the children are harmed and their future psychological health is compromised.

The codependent’s compulsive desire to satisfy the narcissist’s insatiable selfish needs, while also trying to control or coerce them to behave less narcissistically, results in a depletion of their energy, time, focus and emotional resources, which would otherwise be given to the children. Trying to control a person who, by definition, cannot be controlled, while unsuccessfully seeking love, respect and care from them, results in a hamster-wheel experience where their physical and emotional resources are exhausted. Tired and beaten down, they often shut down and disconnect from their parental responsibility to protect their children (and themselves).

Although I am suggesting that codependents share responsibility for the harm of their children, caution must be taken when attributing blame. Codependent parents similarly grew up in a family in which all the children were held captive by the neglect and/or abuse of a codependent and pathologically narcissistic parent. They are clearly victims of their childhood environment. In addition, without their attempts to protect their children and the love and nurturing they did give them, the sum total of psychological harm to the children would be far worse compared to being raised solely by a pathological narcissist.

Many a codependent client has lamented over how much they resented and were angry at their codependent parent for not protecting them and not divorcing or leaving the abusive narcissist. In fact, these same clients recall numerous occasions when they could have been protected or removed from harm’s way, but were not because of their codependent parent’s distorted sense of responsibility, loyalty and feelings of completely powerlessness. Adding insult to injury, their need for security, nurturing and safety was traded for their parent’s fear of living alone and feeling shameful, broken and pathologically lonely.

Often, in the beginning of codependency treatment, my clients are unable to wrap their arms around the concept that their “wonderfully loving and nurturing” codependent parent should share any responsibility for their neglectful or abusive childhood. After working hard in codependency-specific psychotherapy, there comes a time when the codependent client is psychologically healthy enough to let go of the “good” codependent parent fantasy, and realistically hold them partially responsible for their traumatic childhood.

Although this process often begins with anger and a need for accountability, it eventually transforms into a willingness to empathize, accept and forgive their codependent parent. In the process of being honest about who their parent really was and how much they were harmed by them, they are able to “own” their own codependency, while better understanding what they are doing or have done to their own children.

The codependent parent who disassociates from their Human Magnet Syndrome fueled desire/attraction to pathological narcissists also harms their children. Although this type of codependency, which I have coined “codependency anorexia,” protects both the codependent and her children from narcissistic abuse, it is still harmful.

By depriving oneself from psychologically healthy, intimate adult companionship and the children from a second parent, the children are ultimately deprived of another adult who deeply loves, respects and cares for them, and who is unconditionally committed to their life-long welfare. In addition, they are deprived of an opposite sex parent who provides an alternative gender perspective and form of nurturing. In addition, raising a family, while purposely avoiding a romantic or intimate partner, sends a message that such types of adult relationships may be dangerous and harmful.

Codependency anorexia often results in the codependent parent unfairly and inappropriately seeking to meet their emotional, social and personal needs through their children. This form of enmeshment is often referred to as emotional incest, which is harmful to a child’s psychological development.

The purpose for writing this article was not to slam or denigrate codependents, as I am a recovering codependent and a psychotherapist who is dedicated to helping this unique and underserved population. It is my intent to raise awareness about the dysfunctional parenting dynamics that are unique to the codependent/narcissist relationship, while giving codependent parents a loud but supportive wake-up call.

Yes, despite your giving, sacrificing and altruistic motives, you too are hurting your children. Even with your superior parenting skills and your genuinely loving ambitions, you are still a partner to the dysfunctional process that is harming the people you love most. I am hopeful that this article will inspire and motivate you seek help for your addictive and compulsive self-harming pattern of being stuck and frozen in relationships with pathological narcissists. Join me in protecting our nation’s most valuable resource: our children. 


Articles Written by Author Ross Rosenberg

 Articles Written by Author Ross Rosenberg  


Moods Magazine

Ezine Articles

Articles for Which I was Interviewed

Chicago Tribune by Jen Weigel:  Are You A Magnet for DisasterHelper, Don’t Forget to Help Yourself Too.        Letting Go Of Toxic Relationships,       Online Infidelity: Identifying, and Dealing with, Cyber Affairs

Huffington Post:  11 Signs You Might Be Dating A Sociopath      Why You Can’t Stand To Be Alone — And How To Learn To Love It     When Divorcing a Narcissist, Prepare for the Rage

PsychcentralWhy You Can’t Stand To Be Alone — And How To Learn To Love Yourself       Tips on Setting Boundaries in Enmeshed Relationships,       Coping With Loneliness During the Holidays Is Your Facebook Creeping a Sign of Something Worse? Seasonal Survival Skills (Holiday Blues Survival Kit) Self Love Deficit Disorder: Where Do You Fall on the Continuum of Self?              How the gray area between codependency and narcissism is defining your relationships.


Ross Rosenberg,
3325 N. Arlington Heights Rd., Ste 400B
Arlington Heights, IL  60004
(847) 749-0514 ext 12

Loneliness Is The Glue that Binds Codependents to Narcissists – Rosenberg






I created this for our upcoming April 25 training with Joyce Marter, LCPC Psychotherapist, Author & Speaker and Michele Lowrance. The Trauma of Divorce: Healing and Empowering Strategies.  My portion of the training is entitled: “Reversing the Human Magnet Syndrome: Breaking Free From a Toxic Marriage”

More info about the training: slide

The Trauma of Divorce: Healing & Empowering Strategies



jpeg“Mitigating the Trauma of the Divorce Process
The Good Karma Divorce” 

Blaming locks us into a mode whose primary focus is the determination of fault and the allocation of guiltIt is impossible to blame and resolve simultaneously.”  Michele Lowrance, an author, national speaker and Judge, will be presenting her groundbreaking psychological observations and recommendations for mitigating the trauma of the divorce process, and the potential for parent-child alienation. She will share her strategies for getting through the divorce process intact. Michele Lowrance has been judge in domestic relations for 19 years and is currently a divorce and family mediator.  About Judge Lowrance.

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“Reversing the Human Magnet Syndrome: Breaking Free From a Toxic Marriage”

Recovering codependents often force a divorce by reclaiming their voice and power in their lives. This process often begins and continues as a result of their efforts in psychotherapy. Ross Rosenberg will share his innovative and effective psychotherapy strategies that help his clients heal their wounds and find love in their hearts again.  He will guide and instruct on the healing and reparative process that many pursue after a divorce.  Ross is a national speaker and author of the Amazon best-selling book, The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us.” About Ross


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The Psychology of Success: Surviving & Transcending Divorce

In her dynamic and motivational presentation, Joyce Marter shares key strategies that have helped her clients successfully survive and transcend the trauma of the divorce experience. She will demonstrate strategies and techniques that have facilitated her client’s to become their best selves; include harnessing the power of the present moment, intention, positive visioning, gratitude and forgiveness. Marter uses lively case examples and practical suggestions in this interactive innovative training. Joyce is a national speaker, national blogger and author. About Joyce

  • Learn about pre and post-divorce mental health and relational challenges
  • Understand the therapist’s role with a divorced(ing) codependent’s client.
  • Acquire skills on codependency treatment techniques
  • Demonstrate mindfulness techniques that promote conscious living
  • Promote empowering and positive thinking about one’s divorce narrative
  • Instruct on techniques that facilitate acceptance and self-forgiveness
  • Learn about grief and the divorce process
  • Understand how to mitigate the damage of divorce while not sacrificing the family
  • Acquire information about parent-alienation syndrome
  • Learn about the how to achieve a “Good Karma Divorce”
Ross Rosenberg: 8:30 – 10:15 am
Joyce Marter: 10:30 – 12:00 am
Michele Lowrance 1:00 – 2:45 pm
Panel Discussion 3:00 – 3:30 pm

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