10 Books To Understand Different Relationship Pathologies - Cultura Colectiva

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10 Books To Understand Different Relationship Pathologies

When we’re in a relationship we attempt to be as honest as we can. We try to open up to our partner about our feelings and vulnerabilities. However, at times one or both parties’ affection can get distorted.  Love ceases to be this selfless surrendering of both partners. Instead toxic and destructive behavior begins to […]




When we’re in a relationship we attempt to be as honest as we can. We try to open up to our partner about our feelings and vulnerabilities. However, at times one or both parties’ affection can get distorted.  Love ceases to be this selfless surrendering of both partners. Instead toxic and destructive behavior begins to unravel and it’s not long before co-dependency, parasitic, or even abusive actions arise. Gone are the emotions of endearment and caring for each other, instead it’s all about advantage, jealousy, and resentment. 


parasitic relationship literature couple
Literature provides many examples of parasitic relationships and shows how a person can be so miserable they need to “infect” the life of others as a way out of their misery.


Madame Bovary (1856) by Gustave Flaubert

Emma is a young woman that feels unhappy with her simple life and her husband, Mr. Bovary.  One day she meets another man and falls in love with him. She is then convinced that she’ll find true happiness with this man. Yet, she stays trapped between her loveless life and her yearning for new and exciting experiences. The reason? Her financial dependence on her husband.

parasitic relationship literature madame bovary


Great Expectations (1861) by Charles Dickens

Pip is a destitute little boy who arrives at Miss Havisham’s estate looking for work. There, he meets Estella, a haughty young girl who humiliates him and rejects his love. There’s another girl who is in love with Pip, but her love remains unrequited, as Pip won’t take his eyes off Estella. He spends many years of his life grabbing those little crumbs of affection that Estella tosses away. What does life hold for these characters?

parasitic relationship literature great expectation


A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) by Khaled Hosseini

This book takes place in Kabul, Afghanistan. The lives of two women intertwine when the family of one of them is killed by a missile, so they live under the same roof for a while. While living together they find out that their lives were controlled by their families’ wishes. One of them was expected to marry a wealthy man who would give her a life free of concerns or deprivation. Meanwhile, the other one is married and “protected” with a wealthier man who treats her like a servant. They find themselves having to endure the blows and abuses from others as they attempt to be free. 


parasitic relationship literature thousand splendid suns


Lady Susan (1794) by Jane Austen

This is a story told through a series of letters written by and for the protagonists. They follow the life of a widowed woman in her 30s who will do whatever it takes to find a new husband, as well as one for her 16 year old daughter. Throughout the novel, the protagonist struggles with society’s pressure, vanity, and greed.

toxic relationship literature austen lady susan



The Fortunes and Misfortunes Of The Famous Moll Flanders (1722) by Daniel Defoe

The greed for money and social status drives Moll to marry whoever she thinks will be able to provide her with an affluent life. However, either her marriages don’t last, or her husband on shift ends up penniless. When Moll realizes men no longer take her seriously, what will she do?

parasitic relationship literature moll flanders


Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily Brontë 

In this novel, men live under the shadow of those important women in their life. The novel follows the lives of two characters: Catherine and Heathcliff. Heathcliff hopes to be with Catherine someday, since their love is impossible due to their social status. When Catherine ends up marrying another man for the sake of her family’s convenience, Heathcliff is torn to pieces. He is gone for many years, but returns seeking revenge for all his pain and suffering. It can be difficult to figure out who is the parasite in this relationship. Even though Heathcliff is the one suffering the most with his hatred and bitterness, what makes him a parasitic person is the way he is always looking for ways  to hurt the person he loved instead of moving on.

parasitic relationship literaturen wuthering heights

Othello (1604) by William Shakespeare

Although this play may not be considered the best from the bard, it shows how human parasitic behavior can be traced many centuries back. The main topic of the play is jealousy; however, all the characters are constantly leeching off of others to stay inside the same game.

parasitic relationship literature othello
The Tunnel (1948) by Ernesto Sabato
A painter’s obsession with a woman and his overwhelming need to know everything about her and her life lead him to murder her, so she can become his for all eternity. The love he feels for her is so great he intends to elevate her to a metaphysical realm where deities dwell. Sadly, the reason why he is never able to create a really close bond with her is his paranoid and jealous imagination.

parasitic relationship literature the tunnel
The Truce (1959)  by Mario Benedetti

A middle-aged widower, who has a sour relationship with his now adult children, falls in love with woman who is his employee. His obsession with her makes him reach a weakening state in which he depends entirely on her decisions… Until something unexpected happens. Will that man be able to overcome solitude, desire, and time?


parasitic relationship literature the truce
Blindness (1995) by José Saramago

This book shows that parasitic behavior is not only present in couples, but also in communities. The story follows a group of people who become victims of a mysterious blindness pandemic. Even against their will, the blind characters become dependent of the only character that hasn’t been blinded: a metaphor for a lost and burned out society that can become dependent on the few people that can still perceive reality as it is.

toxic relationship literature blindness
To depend on the need, decision, and wishes of someone else may be detrimental for you. Any relationship must be balanced out, or else we might end up causing irreversible conflicts that we may regret one day. These books show that every person needs its own time and space.

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