I Can’t Live With You, I Can’t Live Without You: The Hostile-Dependent Couple

Earlier this week, we talked about how the symbiotic-symbiotic stage of a relationship can present as “peace at any price” conflict avoidance. This week, I’d like to take a look at when the symbiotic-symbiotic stage presents as “I can’t live with you, I can’t live without you,” hostile-dependent.

These couples have a simultaneous fear of abandonment and engulfment. You’ll recognize this stage when partners have difficulty in identifying and articulating what they want, think, or feel. You’ll notice rapid escalation into regressive behavior. Or, since there is very limited capacity for autonomous interaction, as soon as one errs the other will punish or withhold.

Take a look at the handout below, taken from the In Quest of the Mythical Mate kit. It offers some thoughts on the characteristics of the hostile-dependent dynamic, some interventions, and some suggestions for working with couples in this stage. 

If you found this helpful, you can get your own copy for yourself, as well as a similar handout for the conflict avoidant couple. Our In Quest of the Mythical Mate kit is a therapist’s full guide to couple dynamics, including how to identify each of the 7 stages couples could be in, how to diagnose, what interventions are helpful, and specific tools to use with couples at different stages. 

After spending just a couple of hours with the material, you’ll be on your way starting off your sessions powerfully, helping couples set a vision for their relationship, confidently intervene in chronically angry couples, and much more.

Click here to see everything that’s included.

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Francine Lapides
Francine Lapides

I can’t see the form. Can others?


No. I can not see it in full.

Kate Sawallisch
Kate Sawallisch

I can see only a corner of the sheet.

Dr. Ellyn Bader

Dr. Ellyn Bader is Co-Founder & Director of The Couples Institute and creator of The Developmental Model of Couples Therapy. Ellyn is widely recognized as an expert in couples therapy, and since 2006 she has led innovative online training programs for therapists. Professionals from around the world connect with her through internet, conference calls and blog discussions to study couples therapy. Ellyn’s first book, "In Quest of the Mythical Mate," won the Clark Vincent Award by the California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists for its outstanding contribution to the field of marital therapy and is now in its 18th printing. She has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including "The Today Show" and "CBS Early Morning News," and she has been quoted in many publications including "The New York Times," "The Oprah Magazine" and "Cosmopolitan."

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