Lessons for Life

Are you a magnet for disaster?

How to put a stop to dysfunctional relationship patterns

TribU: Breaking dysfunctional patterns

Do you ever feel you are magnetically drawn to the wrong people? Do you keep repeating the same dysfunctional relationship patterns? Perhaps you're suffering from what therapist and author Ross Rosenberg calls the "Human Magnet Syndrome," or the unconscious magnetic pull of opposite personality types.

"The early childhood experience sets our relationship GPS," said Rosenberg, a psychotherapist and author of "The Human Magnet Syndrome: Why We Love People Who Hurt Us." "When you have someone who is the caretaker, or codependent personality, and they meet the care-needer, or narcissist, it seems like the perfect match at first, but over time, it becomes a disaster."

Rosenberg said codependence and narcissism are often the results of emotionally manipulative parents who did not give their children unconditional love.

"Either the child learns to be pleasing and that love only comes from taking care of others, which is codependent, or they don't please and then they are seen as the angry child, the unhappy child," he said. "The narcissistic parents see that child as a threat and will neglect that child, which is where the narcissistic disorders come from."

So can these patterns be broken?

"Yes," said Rosenberg. "But it takes work."

Here are some of Rosenberg's tips to breaking your dysfunctional relationship patterns:

Know the characteristics of a healthy relationship.

"There is no perfect relationship but the secret to a healthy one is respect, mutuality, reciprocity and communication. This can be with a spouse, a boss, or even a family member. Even if there are arguments, a healthy partner wants to empower and build up and respect and help their partner get what they need to fulfill their dreams."

Get the appropriate help.

Rosenberg said if you recognize dysfunctional behaviors in yourself and want to get help, be sure you get the right therapist.

"Seek psychological services from someone who understands codependency. The worst thing you can do is spend your hard earned money on someone who just lets you vent. I have so many clients who have spent years in therapy and all they did was vent. Research a therapist who knows how to deliver the necessary healing from the trauma that caused your codependence, which includes life actions that can guide you toward healing."

You're worth it.

"The codependents are brainwashed to think it's needy and selfish to ask for things for themselves," he said. "Never forget that you're worth the same amount of love that you give someone else. It's so hard for the codependent to remember this."

Don't give up.

"When someone starts to get healthy and realizes they deserve more and they start to set boundaries, their relationships go into chaos and conflict and that's what sends the codependents into relapse. If you are brave and courageous and stick with the work you will find that the people who don't love you are going to go away. The people who love you will be annoyed with you but they will eventually get used to you, and if you stay strong and you stay committed to therapy — the people who really love you will start to accept you and become even closer to you."

Stop the cycle

"If you have a narcissistic parent or codependent parent, you learn 'I'm good when I make mommy and daddy happy.' The way we can stop these patterns from developing from generation to generation is to love our children for who they are, despite the fact that they can be challenging," Rosenberg said. "When you love a child unconditionally, they don't have to prove that they are worth love. The child that suffers starts to question their worth. They have self-doubt and that is played out in adulthood."

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel

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