In most unhealthy relationships, at least one of the persons is likely to have a significant disturbance of character. Relationships can be particularly unhealthy if one person is significantly character disturbed and the other is overly neurotic. The primary defining qualities of the disturbed character are a deficient, immature, or absent conscience, ego inflation, problematic attitudes and thinking patterns, and irresponsible behavior patterns. When a neurotic individual hooks up with a disturbed character, they often try to be the conscience for both parties. When the disturbed character defaults on yet another debt, the neurotic floats another loan. When the disturbed character cheats again and blames the neurotic’s lack of attention, the neurotic tries harder to please. The neurotic may feel in his or her heart that the blame lies with the disordered character, but the disturbed character manipulates the neurotic into believing that everything is his or her fault. The disturbed character in such a relationship never has to develop any kind of conscience, because the neurotic frequently exercises conscience enough for both of them.
Relationships between disturbed characters and neurotics stay unhealthy because the neurotic doesn’t learn to assert him or herself and the disturbed character has no reason to modify his or her patterns of manipulation, exploitation, and abuse. If the attempt to secure professional help is successful but the therapist is not trained to accurately diagnose character disturbance or skilled in the radically different methods of dealing with it, the likely fruitlessness of the encounter can lead the neurotic partner to believe that there is no choice but to maintain the status quo.