We often misuse the word 'codependency' to describe relationships with needy partners or people who highly depend on their loved ones for support.
In reality, codependency exceeds far beyond 'clingy' partners. It is when a person starts to plan their entire life and all of their actions around pleasing the other. In simpler terms, a relationship is considered codependent when one of the partners needs the other's approval while the other needs to be needed. This creates a 'codependency cycle' that is highly toxic to both the parties involved and can lead to high relationship stress and poor self-worth.
In such relationships, instead of two healthy and emotionally mature adults coming together to form a strong bond, you end up with one person sacrificing their own wants and needs to make the other happy. Similarly, the other person feeds of this behavior and demands even more from their partner.
When you throw in substance abuse or addiction to this mix – things get even messier.
Substance abuse and alcohol addiction change not just your behavior but also those of your loved ones. All too often, family members and friends start enabling their loved ones as they become dependent on the addict for their attention and self-esteem. It could also be for fear of repercussions or trying to minimize their pain and discomfort.
If you know someone struggling with addiction, it is entirely normal to want to help them. However, if your helping behavior becomes extreme to the point where they take over your life, and you start putting yourself second, that's when trouble arises. Not only is it extremely dangerous for the addict and can worsen their struggle, but it will also damage you mentally and emotionally.
Instead of helping them come out strong, you will end up encouraging their addiction and making their journey to recovery more challenging. You will also take on too much responsibility for yourself and start putting your own needs aside, which can be disastrous in the long run.
That is why codependency in addiction is such an important topic to discuss. Codependency and addiction often feed off one another. While your loved one may be addicted to alcohol or drugs, you start forming your own kind of addiction – their love and approval, the consequences of which can be grave for both of you.
Codependent relationships are prevalent in people struggling with substance abuse. It is a dysfunctional kind of relationship in which one person takes the role of the caretaker while the other takes advantage of their tendency to put themselves second.
This enabling behavior can be extremely risky, particularly when the person on the receiving end has addictive patterns.
Codependency isn't good for you or your partner. It forms toxic ties for both of you and will mess with the long-term success of your relationship. Before you can try to pull yourself out of a codependent relationship, you will first need to identify whether you're in one. To make things a little easier for you, we have listed the top warning signs of codependency in a relationship. Consider this a sort of checklist to make your way through to determine if you or your partner is codependent.
Codependent people often struggle to express their thoughts or talk about how they feel. This stems from an innate fear of disapproval from their partners and the need to ensure they are constantly pleased.
People in codependent relationships also feel like their opinions don't hold any worth, leading them to simply agree with whatever their partners say or think. When they do try to express themselves, they end up stammering or finding it rather difficult to get their point across.
When you get stuck in a codependent mindset, it can become nearly impossible to communicate with your loved ones effectively. You constantly fear their backlash and worry about their disapproval. This leads to people becoming reluctant to share their thoughts or express their feelings.
Being in a codependent relationship with an addict makes things even more troublesome. You will feel like caring for them and trying to help them get sober is the most important thing in the world – even more important than your own needs. You will also be worried about upsetting them or saying something that could risk their addiction worsening.
On the other hand, the addict will be more interested in maintaining control than actually communicating their needs to you. This can set a very unhealthy precedent for both of you. Instead, please try to learn how to communicate honestly. Lay your thoughts and feeling out in the open and work on opening effective communication channels.
It is common for codependent people to feel like they can handle and help their addict partners by themselves. They believe by providing them enough love, care, and attention, they can convince their loved ones to give up substance abuse and get better.
Moreover, these people also feel like their own problems are big enough for them to need any help. They are so focused on their partners that they deny their issues and refuse to seek help from anybody else. This also comes from a fear of being abandoned if people found out about their problems.
Codependency in addiction often arises because people take it upon themselves to 'fix the addict and lead them to sobriety. It isn't uncommon for people in codependent relationships to say that they will no longer tolerate substance abuse; however, when the time comes to actually put their foot down, they fail. Instead of working on effective ways to work through the addiction, enablers end up stretching out their tolerance until they find themselves putting up with mental, emotional, and even physical abuse from their addict partners.
Their inability to set boundaries further fuels the fire and will lead to feelings of bitterness and anger.
A major warning sign of codependency is the lack of boundaries.
Both the people involved in a codependent relationship have trouble setting healthy boundaries that require them to respect each other. Having boundaries is often as simple as accepting that the other person has their own thoughts and feelings, which deserve to be heard and considered. Unfortunately, people in codependent relationships are unable to respect their partner's autonomy.
In such relationships, one partner doesn't respect any boundaries while the other can't seem to insist upon them. This leaves them both on a dangerous path that is bound to hit rock bottom. One person will become more and more manipulative to get things their way while the other becomes endlessly compliant to keep the peace. Working on setting healthy boundaries and ensuring both the partners' needs are met is an essential part of any long-lasting relationship.
We all have some people for who we would go to any lengths; such is the power of human relationships. But, if you find yourself feeling like you have no choice but to make a certain individual happy and fulfill their needs – then something is very wrong.
This is one of the most apparent signs of a codependent relationship. It goes beyond your normal tendencies to make your loved ones happy, and you just can't say no to anything. No matter what the other person's demands may be and how they might interfere with your own needs, you still go ahead and fulfill them so they'd be happy, even if it is at your expense.
Codependent people, and addiction enablers, in particular, are loyal to a fault. They remain in harmful situations where their own needs and wants aren't being met out of a sheer need to hold on to their relationship, no matter how toxic it gets.
These people may even feel trapped or suffocated in their own loyalties yet still aren't able to leave as their lives revolve around pleasing their partners and keeping them happy.
Codependency in addiction means that the caregiver ends up putting their problems aside to look after the addict. They feel like their issues don't match up to the struggle of substance abuse, and thus, their partner should get all the attention and care in hopes that they get better.
Enablers might even convince themselves that their problems are no big deal or simply don't exist because they're bigger things to deal with at hand. They take their partners' issues as their own and focus completely on them.
You may think the giver in a codependent relationship has poor self-worth while the other doesn't. However, the psychological fact is that both the parties involved in a codependent relationship have poor self-esteem. One needs the constant approval of the other to be able to function in their daily life while the other has numerous insecurities which lead to their dependency.
The need for control also comes out of a basic fear that the other person might leave. When you bring substance abuse into this mix, things get particularly dangerous. Addicts in codependent relationships are known to manipulate and gaslight their partners into enabling their addiction. In such circumstances, any chances of recovery go out of the window as your partner, who should be encouraging you to get sober, instead makes your addiction worse.
A major sign of codependency in addiction is the constant need to take care of everyone around you. You forget that you are only really responsible for yourself and instead try to fulfill everyone's wants, needs, and demands.
A key thing to remember here is that this excessive caretaking isn't done out of love or affection. You aren't caring for all those people because you want to see them happy. But, it comes from an immense fear of being abandoned or something bad happening if you don't look after everyone. This will lead you to put your own needs last on the list and neglect yourself in attempts to take care of others – especially your loved ones struggling with substance abuse.
If you're in a codependent relationship, chances are you are under extreme stress. Regardless of whether you're the giver or the receiver, the addict, or somebody trying to help them – codependent relationships can take a toll on everyone's mental and emotional health.
That is why you need to start working on how to get out of the roles set in your relationship. Instead of letting the fears, anxieties, and insecurities ruin your relationship, try to work your way past them together. Recognize that both of you have unhealthy habits that need to be worked on, and learn to communicate how you feel more respectfully and openly.
Remember, there isn't one right and one wrong person in a codependent relationship. Both of you have your fears and are probably highly stressed out. Neither of you is truly happy in your relationship, but with a bit of work, you can be. For people struggling in codependent relationships, therapy is an excellent way to find some balance. You can also talk to your partner about seeking professional help in a rehab center. They have highly-trained addiction experts who will do everything in their power to guide them to sobriety and ensure that they can form healthier and happier relationships.