Bad Relationships

By Leo Gura - May 18, 2014 | 22 Comments

How to break your cycle of painful relationships

Video Transcript

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Hey, this is Leo for, and in this video what I want to talk about is bad relationships.

Let’s talk about bad relationships. Why do you keep getting into a bad relationship, and how can you prevent that cycle from continuing? We want to dig deep into what causes bad relationships, and why you seem to keep stumbling into them.

What I’m talking about here is specifically bad intimate relationships, dysfunctional intimate relationships, whether it’s a marriage, or long term girlfriend/boyfriend situation, or even a short term girlfriend/boyfriend situation.

The Three Types

Let’s take a look at some of the distinctions that are really necessary to get your head around this, and to prevent this from happening again. The most important distinction — and I believe this is coming from Stephen Covey, I can’t quite remember — is the distinction between dependent, independent and interdependent relationships.

Codependency is the problem here. This is where you are at if you have problems with your relationship, and you keep getting bad relationships. You’re probably in this codependency frame. Let’s talk about each one of them and I’ll show you how they evolve, one into the next.

First, what you’ve got is codependency. Codependency means you have two people that are coming together and they’re leaning on each other for support. What they’re doing here is using each other as emotional crutches.

They’ll justify it to themselves as love or as companionship, or something good, but what’s happening there is each one has a void that they’re trying to fill in each other’s lives. They’re trying to prop each other up, and that creates a dysfunctional dynamic.

The next level up from that, and it’s a pretty big level up, is independent. Independent means you have one confident, grounded individual, and then a second one, who’s also confident and grounded, and they come together and they have an independent relationship. They don’t really synergise. It’s simply just independence, and they’re sharing some stuff together, but it’s not really the synergistic relationship.

Then you have the interdependent relationship. This is the next level up, and this is the highest level you can get to. This is where two come together, and then they perform almost like a choreographed ballet, where they start moving in sync, and a synergy effect happens, and really, something awesome flourishes that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Of course, everyone wants this. We all want this, but most of us, in our relationships, are here. We’re in the codependency frame. We don’t like to admit it, either. In fact, right now I’m saying codependency and while I’m telling you that, you might think “Oh, codependency, that means what? I’m enabling my partner or my spouse or my girlfriend or my boyfriend to be involved with crime or drugs or something like that?”

That’s a very extreme example of codependency. Codependency simply means that you two are dependent on each other. That’s all it means. You’re dependent. That means you cannot stand and be happy by yourself, and so is the case with the other person. You guys can’t be independently happy, but you can be happy together.

What this does is create a temporary stability. It seems like the stability is nice, because you get into a relationship and it’s like “Yes!”. It’s going pretty well because that person is providing you with something, you’re providing that person with something. You both seem to be sort of fulfilled. It’s a deceptive stability. It never really lasts.

It leads to a lot of toxic and bad stuff. I really this with people — they get themselves involved with these toxic relationships, and then they can’t get out of them. It’s like this giant pit, this giant sand pit they get trapped in, and they can’t get out. They’re stuck in quicksand. This leads to horrible things.

It leads to verbal abuse. It can lead to physical abuse, arguments, all sorts of needy behaviour, all sorts of dysfunction. When you are stuck in a relationship like that, it’s almost impossible to thrive in life. It’s impossible for you to become self-actualized, because that other person is holding you back, and you are holding yourself back.

Look Inside

You are choosing to be in this relationship. Let’s take a look at why this is going on. The reason this is happening is because there are deep personality flaws within both individuals in this relationship. There individuals are not willing to address these flaws. The solution here is ultimately, as with most things in life, to look within, not without.

The problem is in you. This is especially tricky with relationships, because when you have a dysfunctional relationship, our mind will trick us. It will point the finger at the other person. We will blame the other person. We will say we are being victimized, and the other person is doing something wrong.

It doesn’t mean the other person isn’t doing something wrong. All I’m saying is you have to take responsibility for your own relationship, and the fact that you’re allowing this to continue, and that you’re in there in the first place. This is the only way it can work. You have to take full responsibility for your bad relationship, otherwise you’re going to get stuck.

The pattern is going to keep repeating, because there’s this flaw in you. Your psyche has a gap in it, a void. You need to fill that void with something, and that other person is doing it for you. That’s why you’re hooked. You’re addicted to that other person, so you keep coming back even though you know this relationship is not healthy.

Most couples in a codependent relationship are not totally stupid. They’re not totally blind. They understand. Their higher self knows this is a dysfunctional situation, but they keep going and going just like a drug addict would. He also knows it’s not healthy, but he keeps doing it simply because he’s stuck in a rut. He has this chemical dependency. He needs something.

That drug is giving him some sort of hit of stimulation. It’s hard to break free of that. That’s literally what’s going on with this codependency in your relationship. Let’s take a look at what are some of these gaps that you could have in your own psyche.

Once you get honest with yourself, once you really get fed up with this recurring pattern of bad relationships then you’re going to tell yourself “OK, what can I really do to take responsibility?” Once you’re at that point, then you have to ask yourself “OK, what is the real void I’m trying to fill? Why am I so needy? That usually comes down to one of these five things.

The Root Causes

One is money. Two is sex. Three is love. Four is companionship. Five is support, emotional support or other forms of support. One of these things is going to be the cause of your neediness and your codependency. You need something from the other person. It might be love, it might be sex, it might be money. It doesn’t really matter what it is.

You might think what you want and what you need is very noble. You might say “Well, love is a very noble quality. Love is maybe the highest value in my life. I really need love. That’s very important to me.” That’s fine, except what you’re doing is desperately seeking love.

You’re so desperate for love that you’re literally willing to endure anything to get it. That’s exactly what happens. You endure anything. You endure a bad relationship. You endure a person abusing you in some way. You endure arguments. You endure all sorts of turmoil. You endure all sorts of things you really shouldn’t be enduring.

You don’t have a boundary set. You’re not independent. You can still want love when you’re independent. It’s just that, when you’re independent, you don’t really need love. You want it, but if you don’t get it it’s OK. You’re willing to wait until a good opportunity arises.

When you’re desperate, you’ll do anything for love, including really stupid things. That can lead to a very disastrous situation in your life. If you see that you have this kind of gap, where you really need something, then you have to start to address this.

I can guarantee this gap is not going to go away just because you change relationships. Even if you’re thinking about getting out of this current relationship, you’re saying to yourself “Well, this guy or girl is an asshole, and this is never going to work out. But you know what? It’s all their fault, so I’m just going to go and find somebody nice and have this dream life with my dream partner. We’re going to get married. We’re going to have a family. Everything is going to go beautifully.”

Admit Your Guilt

Newsflash: that’s not going to happen to you. You are the cause of your own relationship problems, not the other person. You have to bite this bullet and admit it. It can take some serious pain, and a history of bad relationships to finally come to the point where you’re saying to yourself “OK, fine. It really must be me now. It can’t be the other person. That’s a trick my brain is playing on me.”

Once you go through that, and you come out and say “OK, fine, it’s me. What are the real sticking points that I have?” It’s one of these gaps. Once you identify one of these gaps — let’s say that your gap is love — you have to look back and see where does this gap come from.

Usually, what you’ll find is that this gap is coming from the past, from your childhood or early adulthood. The reason that is that when you were growing up, probably what happened was that you weren’t maybe getting enough love. Maybe your parents got divorced when you were young.

Maybe some sort of traumatic situation happened, or you have some self-esteem issues, or insecurities. You feel that you’re deficient in some way. You need something to come in and fill the void. What’s you’ve been doing your whole life, especially in your dating life and your intimate relationships, is that you’ve been looking for the person who’s going to fill that void.

What you were really looking for is an external solution to an internal problem. You never really wanted to turn around and look inside yourself to see what is the internal problem. The problems is that when you find an external solution to an internal problem, then you’re even more dependent on it.

What happens when that person goes away? What happens when that person leaves on a trip? What happens when that person decides to leave you? What happens if that person stays late for work and can’t join you for dinner? What’s going to happen is you’re going to get resentful.

You’re going to get mad. You’re going to feel like that person is taking away that thing you’re propping yourself up on. You’re leaning on that person. That person might move away, and you need to chase. This is creating this needy dynamic, and it’s really not good. The point here is that you have to look back and trace.

Trace from the past where this came up. The nice thing about doing that trace is that it gets you more awareness, more consciousness, so that you’re not acting as unconsciously in the future, in your relationship. It’ll get you a little more distance so you can do whatever needs to be done to correct this situation.

The problem is that if you’re this needy person, you’re codependent, and you think if you go to some other relationship things are going to be better there, then you’re kidding yourself. In fact, here’s the dynamic that’s going to happen: you have three people you can run into.

The Three Paths

You can run into another codependent person. Let’s say you’re codependent, and you run into another codependent person. That’s going to be the same type of relationship you’ve already got. A codependent person can only stay in a relationship with another codependent person.

You might think “Well, what if I go find myself a nice, independent person? Wouldn’t that solve my problem?” No, because here’s what’s going to happen: the independent person’s going to be here. You’re going to come in as the dependent, needy person. You’re going to want something from that person, from the independent one.

What’s going to happen is that you’re going to start leaning, and you’re going to be putting this independent person into a codependent frame. This independent person will only have two choices: either he/she can choose to fall into codependency, which is a lower state of consciousness and most independent people will never want to do this.

If you do that, he’ll just leave you or something will happen — there will be a lot of tension there. The other thing that might happen is that person actually does, you end up successfully converting him to a codependent frame, and now that person is a codependent frame with you. You’re back to where you started.

There’s a lot of tension and turmoil going on there. In either of those cases, it’s a lose-lose. It’s not going to work. A codependent person is never going to be able to stay in a relationship with an independent person. There’s going to be too much clashing going on. That’s the case there.

You might be asking “What about the interdependent?” Interdependence is really just independence of two people, then deciding to do a really nice choreography together. There’s no way in hell there’s going to be any kind of choreography with you, because you’re codependent. You’re too needy to think about that.

You just need your needs desperately met. The independent person doesn’t want to be with you. There’s not going to be a choreography. There’s going to be lot of tension, and then it’s going to break up. No interdependence will happen.

I hope you can understand the severity of this problem. This is not meant to depress you. This is meant to be real. This is meant to be a sobering truth. Once you realise this, it’s actually empowering. Now you can say “OK, I am pretty low. I’m at ground zero. Now I do see there’s a way to work my way up. It’ll take some time and work, maybe breaking up a relationship.”

You can see there’s a path forward. You can move out of codependency and into independency. Once you’re independent, then you can start to have nice relationships. How do you now if your relationship is codependent or not? How do you know if it’s time to break it off or not?

Ultimately, my solution is, if you’re in a codependent relationship, then you’ve got to break it off. I know you don’t want to, that’s not what you want to hear because you love that other person, you’re addicted to that other person. You don’t really want to admit that, and it can be hard to actually follow through on that. You might even admit it to yourself logically, but then you won’t actually have the courage to break it off.

Maybe you break it off but then get back together. You need to make a clean cut when you see codependency is there. If you don’t you’re just going to be slowing yourself down in life, and the toxicity is going to build up. There’s nothing that’s going to come in there and magically fix it for you. The solution is to break it off.

A Simple Guideline

How do you know when this is right to do? Here’s a little guideline — actually, a researcher, doctor John Gottman, has a very amazing book called The Seven Principles That Make Marriage Work, and there he talks about some of the research he’s done on couples. He’s one of the foremost researchers on couples and successful relationships.

What he does is get couples to come into his lab, and he literally observes them through a two way mirror. As he’s doing this, he’ll look and see, take notes and try to find patterns. He’ll ask himself what are the successful relationship, what are the unsuccessful relationships, and what are the different factors involved there?

He distilled everything down to a simple little guideline you can use to evaluate a relationship. What he found is the following: a happy, successful relationship that has a chance of continuing on the long run is a relationships that has a ratio of five to one of positive to negative interactions.

That means for every five good things that happen in a relationship, one bad thing happens. With dysfunctional relationships, relationships that will never stay together the ration is lower than five to one. It’s either four to one, or three to one, or two to one, or even one to one.

Imagine this: one good thing happens, and then one bad thing happens. For every good things, one bad thing. If your relationship’s like that, it’s severely dysfunctional. In fact, this little metric works so well, this rule of thumb, that John Gottman will use it in his lab, and he says he has a ninety five percent accuracy rate of predicting whether a couple will stay together or not.

He can already see in the way they’re interacting, the looks they’re giving each other, the smiles or frowns, the things they say to each other — he can already detect from that where are the positives and where are the negatives. It’s very easy.

When a couple is standing there and talking to each other for ten minutes, he’ll see. How many negative looks they give each other? How many positive looks? How many loving looks? How much positive conversation is going on versus negative? How many fights are there relative to all the good stuff that’s supposed to be happening in a relationship?

You calculate that, you tally it up, and then you can clearly see. Use this on yourself now. Ask yourself how many positive to negative interactions are there in your relationship. If it’s lower than five to one, then you need to consider cutting it off.

If it’s something really low, like a three or two or one to one, then you definitely need to cut that off. That’s going to be the solution for you. You don’t really want to hear that, but sometimes you’ve got to endure a little bit of pain to grow yourself and move on to the next stage. When you break it off, you have to break it off cold.

Make sure you don’t come back to that person. Then you have to be by yourself. This period when you’re going to be by yourself might seem lonely, depressed or sad. What’s going to happen is you’re going to get over that person, and you’re going to grow to a new level.

Good Things Await

When you exert that sort of decisiveness, and when you have the courage to leave somebody like that, who you know is not right for you, that actually builds a lot of strength within you. Then, when you’re off on your own, you’re going to have time to reflect, to ruminate, to really introspect, to do this tracing back activity, to find out what are the real codependency problems within you that are causing this pattern.

This is probably not the first time this has happened. You’re going to find those out. You’re going to work on those, through therapy or coaching, or your own journaling, or whatever process you want to use. You’re going to work that out. Once you’ve worked that out, then you can get into a new relationship and have a chance.

When you become independent, then you can find another independent person and have a chance to do something either independent or even interdependent, and really make a nice, beautiful relationship, the way it’s supposed to be. Loving, happy — that’s the way a relationship should be.

It should not be toxicity and negativity and fighting, and certainly no form of abuse. If you’ve got any of that stuff then those are clear signs you need to change stuff up.

Wrap Up

This is Leo. This is how to deal with bad relationships. Post me your comments down below. Like this video as well, if you like this please click the like button right now, so other people can see it. Share it too. Throw it on Facebook or wherever you like to share stuff, so your friends can see it and we can get more people into good relationships.

Finally, what I’m going to do is direct you to, and specifically, signing up to my newsletter. I’m releasing it every week with new updates, articles, exclusive content just for my subscribers, a lot of new stuff I’m creating all the time. I’m actively doing research.

What I’m researching is how to get you the mindsets, the strategies and techniques you need to build an extraordinary life. I know you imagine a powerful life for yourself, a life where you have everything you want. Your relationships are handled. Your money and finances are handled. You’ve got an amazing career. You’ve got passion and energy.

How do you actually do that? I’ve spent the last five years of my life really working on this personally, because I’ve had all these struggles I’ve had to iron out. What I’ve learned is that you have to really work on your mindsets, just like we’re working on your mindsets here, with this codependency.

If you want to know more about that and you want to stay on track, then that’s what I’m here for, to keep you on track, keep you accountable for your own goals so that you’re achieving those dreams you want. It’s so easy to fall off track. Go and sign up. You will be all set.

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sharon says:

I just listened to the codependency/bad relationships and wondered what about people who have lived that way in a marriage for almost twenty years?

Does this mean they should get out? Does it mean they have actually been sick all those years? Or better yet, what is the likelihood that MOST people just stay living that way instead of “getting out”?

Leo Gura says:

Yes, it does. Why would a legal certificate nullify co-dependency? Yes, most marriages are highly dysfunctional in just these ways.

reader says:

Hi! Is there a video where you tell people about the differences between simple & healthy relationships (where one takes something from the other as well as gives him) and co-dependent relationships? We also know that both people in a couple want/need love (one of the 5 things co-dependent people want to receive). How to get a clear idea where something unhealthy begins? We all have read articles on the net and know about common ideas: in every relationship there is giving and taking etc.. Maybe some ”co-dependency” occurs in relationships where people feel no balance between taking and giving (one gives much more and doesnt get much back,or he alone takes care of most of the things), get dissatisfied and only then something unhealthy appears, like getting more often angry with the partner.

Leo Gura says:

I have a video called Healthy Relationships. It’s linked above in the Related Videos thumbnails under the main video.

It’s hard to answer your question because it depends too much on your specific relationship. There’s no simple formula. There can be dozens of potential problems. Usually you can feel when things are going wrong. You can feel when you become too needy.

Things are getting unhealthy when your ratio of good to bad interactions becomes lower than 5:1. That is, moving towards 1:1, which means you have 1 good interaction per 1 bad interaction. You want to stay above 5 good to 1 bad.

rochel says:

Hi there ive been listening to your vidoes on bad relationship and how to make a healthy relationship, is it possible to be in a codependent relationship but have trace of the other two (independent, inter independent) because I m am currently in a codependent relationship but at the same time me and my partner are independent and some of things we do is like we in sync. I know you said that if ur in a codependent relationship then you need to get out but can it not be fixed if they stay and work on it we’ve been together for 3years and I really do love her we have a family together and we do have more happness then bad days

Leo Gura says:

Haha, look… All codependent relationships have good aspects to them. Codependent doesn’t mean your relationships is complete shit. If that was the case, you wouldn’t be in it. What you’re describing is classic codependency, including the rationalizations you’re making.

Auris says:

I know the reason why I am needy person. Why I am going after love. It is because my parents got divorced and I never got a normal family.

My question would be: how should I work on those traumas and nullify their effect on present? So I can be Independent and masculine.

Leo Gura says:

It’s great that you know that cause. Now you have to dive in and do some self-therapy (or real therapy, or coaching) so you can let go and move on. That’s really an involved process. I will have to create a whole video course on it.

jolly says:

hi is there any vidoe that teaches how to make your boyfriend come back for you when he leaves you for another women. And how to make him stop dating that another woman and wants you more

Leo Gura says:

No, that’s dysfunctional. You need to work on your low self-esteem and neediness issues.

Ani says:

Recently listening to your videos… Great work and congratulations!
Does this video suggest to break up a marriage (+2kids) or you suggesting we need to go to therapy?

Leo Gura says:

If the stakes are high, try therapy first. But if it isn’t working after a while, a break up is the right thing IMO. If done properly, and explained properly, your kids will adjust. Holding together a broken relationship isn’t exactly doing your kids tons of good. Especially in the long-run as you two both become disenchanted and demoralized.

Lin says:

Wow great concept!!!!

L says:

I am married for 20 years with two kids. I wish I learned this before I date and marry. Our marriage is good but knowing
G this wisdom will surely help avoid so much struggle. Now I want to continue to grow and more independent. This is a choice to make the family life better.

Check out this powerful video–I listened to these again and again while I am in the gym or cooking just to soak in. This is amazing insight!

Randy says:

Hi Leo,
Love your videos and especially this one. It has confirmed for me once and for all that I need to cut off my relationship with my wife. I’ve struggled with ambivalence about my marriage for many years while the toxicity has built to a dangerous level. I know there’s a painful split coming but in the end we’ll both be much happier and able to grow and move on.
Thanks for this,

I have been reading up on codependency since I watched your video. I am very certain I am a codependent person, however I not entirely sure how ending a loving relationship would help me. From the techniques I have learnt, I am unable to understand how a person wouldn’t be able to learn how to become more independent, whilst growing in their relationship. Please enlighten me
Thank you

Sarah algier says:

Leo, please help I love you so much you’ve transformed my life and this is one video I need to question. I have been with my boyfriend for 5 years. A long time considering I’m only 19. I’m bipolar and just got diagnosed I’m going through med changes and all that fun stuff. I love my boyfriend so much I couldn’t imagine my life without him. He’s a good boyfriend most of the time bit when I am having a bipolar episode I try so hard not to take it out on him but ill tell him how i feel and what’s happening and he doesn’t seem to take interest. Sometimes he’ll block my number because I’m being annoying because I feel like I need to talk to him (I know that’s my half of the issues we have) but when he ignores my calls in this time that I “need” him I have extreme panic attacks, cut, and text him things that make the situation worse. I feel like he should talk me through it instead of letting it get that far but he thinks it’s not his issue or he doesn’t want to deal with it or something. He has no communication skills I’ve tried hours and hours of explaining this to him and he doesn’t understand. I want to move on with my life begin to be independent. But what if I’m leaving the love of my life to do so? Please help me leo

Roman says:

Leo, what’s your take on Imago system? It seems contradict the underlying tone of this lecture. So what is it in your opinion – we meet certain people to mutually heal the childhood wounds in relationships or do we address our wounds on our own and then enter the relationships?

Fad says:

Hey there leo, i’ve been watching your videos over the period of breaking up with my boyfriend. We’re toxic with each other until at the point where we fights and argue in so much things. There’s physical abuse too, now it’s been almost 6monyhs i never met him and poor me, i go contact him back after i already promised to myself not to. I deepress and deleted my social networking since he got jealousy on me before, and it eats me up. My career as an interior designer had failed me, and now im trying to try my best to move to another career which is more towards my passion. The question is, how am i to get over my relationship and move on with my independent life? It’s hard even though i did not see him anymore. He did blocked me via phone, the only way i could contact him is through facebook, yet, im still have that needy feelings towards him. The second question is, how to let go of that needy feeling when you dont have the courage to leave him?

Teagan says:

Hi Leo,

To become independent of needing a relationship, is it essential to become independent in all other areas of your neediness for e.g feeling like you need a particular job, particular friends and being “independent of the good and the bad opinions of others”. In other words do you have to become completely independent and wholely happy in all aspects of your life to have a successful relationship?


Gina says:

This one brought tears Leo. Excellent video. I noticed a few terms ago in Interpersonal Communication class, that my relationship is toxic. Yet, I can’t walk away. I’m a smart girl, I know that it’s wrong… why then?

Thanks I enjoy all of your videos. (Which by the way was introduced to me through this Communication professor.)


Melissa says:

That is not the correct definition of codependency. Codependency does not mean two people who are dependent on each other. That is a literal and very superficial understanding of a very deep and painful condition. The term codependency came into use to describe the partners (co) of chemically dependent/ addicted people. A codependent is a person who has let another’s behaviour affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person. It is rare to have two codependent’s in a relationship because polar opposites attract.

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