4 Tiny Subconscious Hooks That Keep People Stuck In The Wrong Relationships

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Frustrated couple having relationship problems

Co-authored by Kylie McBeath

So, you might be asking yourself, what exactly is a codependent hook? A codependent hook is an attempt to hook into another’s energy in order to mitigate the chances of being rejected or abandoned.

When we are the object of being hooked in these ways, we unconsciously give our power away. When we are the one trying to hook another, it’s an unconscious attempt to exert power and control over them. It is the attempt to create a perceived hierarchy in a relationship to try to reinstate familiar, codependent patterns.

These codependent hooks aren’t malicious in nature. They are the ways we learned to source safety and security in our earliest years and within our previous relationships.

As we become aware of these codependent hooks, bring them forward in our relationships, and unhook from them, we free everyone (us and them) from outdated and unfulfilling relational dynamics.

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Let’s explore some of the most common codependent hooks together so we can begin to spot them on the path to liberation.

4 Subconscious Codependent Hooks That Keep People In The Wrong Relationships

1. Financial hooks

While it’s top of mind, let’s start with the financial hook. A financial hook occurs when someone pays for things, and/or provides material items without communicating any conditions or expectations.

We know a financial hook exists in an exchange when we receive money or material items and feel obligated to do things we wouldn’t do in other circumstances. It’s a hook (attempt to control) when it’s conditional. It’s a clean and clear energetic exchange when it comes from a space of unconditionality and generosity.

This hook sounds like: “I will give you this, but I expect this in return. I gave you that, so now you must do this. I did this for you so now you owe me.”

Of course, there will be times when a healthy financial/material exchange happens in a relationship. It is when we make the implicit explicit that we liberate ourselves from any unconscious hook that might be present. Where do I feel obligated? What is my intention in giving this?

2. Emotional hooks

An emotional hook occurs when someone uses shame and manipulation tactics to destabilize another’s self-esteem and knock them off of their center.

An emotional hook can come in many forms, from exploiting one’s tender spots to gaslighting, blackmailing, love-bombing, objectification, withholding, martyrdom, judgment and/or using a moral high ground to create a pseudo-hierarchy and power dynamic within a relationship.

All of these strategies could also be placed into one box and labeled “emotionally abusive.” Although they aren’t always intentional, they are (un)consciously manipulative and originate from the desire to maintain control (and perceived safety) of one’s environment and relationships.

Let’s take a common emotional hook like gaslighting and see how it operates.

Gaslighting occurs when someone denies another’s reality (“You’re making that up”), calls into question their memory (“That isn’t what happened”), pretends not to understand (“I have no idea what you’re talking about”), diverts the conversation away from the real issue and toward the person’s thoughts (“I can’t believe you think this”), and negates/minimizes one’s experience or needs (“You’re making a big deal out of nothing”) — which eventually leads someone into questioning the validity of their own thoughts, experience, and reality (Maybe this is all in my head and I’m overreacting).



An emotional hook may sound like:

  • “I will die without you. If you leave me, I will _______ (insert something harmful).”
  • “You are crazy. I’m going to tell X what you did if you don’t ______.”
  • “You’re too X (chubby, skinny, muscly, emotional, needy).”
  • “You are pathetic. You’ll never find someone else.”
  • “I need you to meet this need or else.”
  • “You’ll never do better than me.”

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3. Sexual hooks

A sexual hook occurs when one uses sex and/or intimacy to hook another in a hormonal and energetic way. This can occur by agreeing to be friends with benefits when what we really want is a relationship.

We might use sex and arousal as a way to soothe our own dissonance or disconnection in a relationship, or the feeling of our own self-abandonment and not feeling fully chosen by the other person.

One example in dating and relationships is if one person senses the other pull away or fears the loss of the relationship, they might heat things up in the bedroom as a way to reestablish safety and connection. In some extreme cases, the fear of losing someone might push one into getting pregnant to ensure the connection lasts.

4. Spiritual hooks

A spiritual hook occurs when one uses spiritual cards like “You’re my twin-flame” or “You’re my soul mate” that interfere and override our genuine feelings and desires. In addition to the spiritual cards are the contracts, vows, and marital agreements that are rooted in obligation, fear, and older versions of ourselves.

This may sound like: “You’ll go to hell if you leave,” or “You made a promise,” or “Until death do us part.”

A majority of the time these subtle dynamics — being hooked and hooking others — play out unconsciously. We don’t even know we’re doing it because we’ve always been doing it! This is the trick of codependency.

In intimate relationships it shows up in repeated patterns, loss of attraction, or continuously finding ourselves in the same conversations and the same frustrating circumstances. In dating, it shows up in being drawn to the same people, or unable to allow anyone close because we don’t trust people and fear intimacy.

However, as we begin to wake up to the ways we’ve been historically hooked into and have attempted to hook into another to source safety via control, we become what we call “unhookable,” aka “un-eff-with-able.”

Our wounds are where these codependent hooks attempt to take hold.

When our inner ground is polluted with shame, and/or we lack a strong sense of self, we are more easily hooked. As we heal, tend to our bodies, and pay attention to our needs, it becomes easier to somatically register and sense the difference between a hook and a clean and clear energetic exchange.

This work is energetic Jedi work, and it begins with trusting your body’s wisdom, tuning into the energetic dynamics, and learning the language of energy.

Our bodies will inform us when something is off, and then it’s our job to discern what’s ours and what isn’t and move into a direction that honors both the messenger (body) and the message (intuition, instinct).

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From the book LIBERATED LOVE by Mark Groves and Kylie McBeath Copyright © 2024 by Mark Groves and Kylie McBeath and reprinted with the permission of the St. Martin’s Publishing Group.

Mark Groves is a Human Connection Specialist, founder of Create the Love, co-author of Liberated Love and host of the Mark Groves Podcast. Mark's work bridges the academic and the human, inviting people to explore the good, the bad, the downright ugly, and the beautiful sides of connection.

Kylie McBeath is a Certified Health Coach, co-author of Liberated Lovea, co-founder of Zura Health, host of The Journey Home Podcast, and Ceremonialist. She is committed to helping women do look deep into the roots of their being with love, compassion and radical acceptance.