My name is Sam Vaknin, I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
The mentally ill form dyads or couples. Apologies attract each other and resonate in alliances of pain, fused relationships and trauma bonding. Such partnerships are suffused with torment. The mentally ill spouses or intimate partners engage in mutually hurtful conduct, mutually assured destruction. It is also heartbreaking to watch your loved ones in measurable decline.
Gradually, the parties settle on coping strategies that are either approach or avoidance-oriented.
The approach strategies include active denial of the problem, often via a shared psychosis, which renders the mental illness something to espouse, encourage or be proud of.
Another strategy involves enabling. The enabler collaborates with a mentally sick partner so as to accommodate his or her disability.
Sometimes one of the partners assumes the role and mantle of guru, teacher, father, coach, guide or mother. He or she suppresses dissent and remolds the mentally ill partner to conform to some ideal they have in mind. This could involve harsh or even sadistic criticism and humiliation on a daily basis as well as what we call intermittent reinforcement kind of bullying.
But more often, the mentally ill couple, the members of the couple of the dyad, end up avoiding each other and the pain that they cause one another.
This hurt aversion leads to extreme estrangement and cruel disengagement. Being ignored and neglected results in decompensation and acting out.
The mentally ill partner tries to provoke attention and also to punish his or her avoidant counterpart by engaging in all kinds of behaviors which are provocative, promiscuous or reckless.
In extreme cases, the waymark partner internalizes and accepts the harsh judgment of her significant other. Her significant other becomes kind of superego replacement and embedded in a critic. This can lead to major depressive attitudes, psychotic disorders and even in extreme cases, suicidal.