Codependency commonly exists with addiction and substance use. It is an unhealthy relationship where one partner enables the other to continue with their addictive behaviors. It also includes relationships with power balance issues. So, unhealthy relationships outside the area of addiction can be codependent. One partner will minimize, control or manage the relationship while the other takes a back seat and allows themselves to be controlled.
If your partner is an addict, you may need treatment as much as they do. Once you have been in this kind of relationship, it can be difficult to break the pattern. No matter if you are still with your addicted partner or not, you likely need some support and understanding about the true effects of what you experienced. At that point, so you will be able to move forward with your life in a healthy direction.
Live with an addict may cause you to doubt yourself and how you see things. You might even confront your partner and run up against their denial that they have a problem. They may make you feel like your perception is off or you are exaggerating. In true form to addiction, they will say anything to justify their continued use.
How do you recognize codependent behavior?
Several personality traits and behaviors often show up in a codependent relationship.
- You fear being abandoned and left alone with no support.
- You take on the responsibility for things other people do to smooth things over.
- You take on more than your share of the work.
- You are the “damsel in distress” and mistake rescue and financial support for love.
- You want to be the one who makes everything better, so you put your needs, rights and/or personal safety last.
- You feel hurt when your efforts aren’t recognized or acknowledged
- You’re always aware that the other shoe could drop at any time.
- You often don’t feel physically safe.
- The feeling of not being whole unless you’re in a relationship, no matter the quality
- Your relationship is volatile and arguments can be intense.
- You control your situation by meeting the needs of others (people-pleasing or caretaking).
- You find it difficult to express your true feelings and share your thoughts.
- You have either weak or very strong and inflexible boundaries.
- You feel guilty when you stand up for yourself.
- You have difficulty trusting other people.
You may have learned to be codependent watching the relationships around you as you were growing up. If the primary relationship you experienced was with an addicted caregiver, chances are you learned to believe you have little worth and developed low self-esteem.
Codependency can be passed down from your family in these common situations:
- living in a household with a family member who was addicted to drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, gambling work or food
- living in a household with a family member who suffers from a chronic mental or physical illness
- living in a household where physical, emotional or sexual abuse were present
All these situations can be handled in a healthy way, but often they are not. When the problem isn’t addressed and all the family attention is used to smooth things over, the needs of children often go unmet. The family models codependency and the child learns to self sacrifice and not listen to their needs. When you ignore your needs and instead meet the needs of others, your self-esteem suffers and over time you may find acknowledging your own feelings and desires difficult. This codependent way of thinking can lead to unhealthy relationships later in life.
When others become more important to you than you are to yourself, having healthy relationships with others becomes difficult. A healthy relationship requires a healthy sense of self and the desire for a mutually satisfying bond where both partners are safe to be genuine and authentic.
Recovery involves dealing with the trauma of lost trust and betrayal. You want to get back the life you once enjoyed. While extremely helpful, admitting you have a problem and asking for help can be very difficult. Partner support though the process can smooth the way to a successful recovery. Both partners need support through this difficult time to break patterns and promote healthy communication. You can process your experience and heal your trust.
Recovery takes vulnerability. You can learn how to feel safe in a relationship, how to trust and how to allow yourself to be your authentic, true self.