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When it comes to relationships, many different dynamics can often be at play. In alcoholism or addiction and recovery, codependent relationships are somewhat common, and can be detrimental to recovery. Sometimes it may be time to walk away from a relationship, and codependency is one of those times.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines codependency as “a psychological condition in which someone is in an unhappy and unhealthy relationship that involves living with and providing care for another person (such as a drug addict or an alcoholic).”
Codependent relationships can be toxic, especially for those in recovery. In codependent relationships, the emotions of one person are sometimes based exclusively on the other partner’s feelings about them. If that partner is demeaning and rude, the codependent will often feel as if they are not good enough and struggle to see themselves in a positive light. For those in recovery from addiction, this may sometimes act as a trigger to use again. As such, it is important to be able to identify codependent relationships and learn how to act upon it should you find yourself in one.
Though there is no cut and dry way of determining whether or not you’re in a codependent relationship, the following can be signs that you are. If any of the following apply to your relationship, it may be time to take a deeper look at the dynamics of that partnership.
It’s not normal to feel as if you cannot live without another person. If thinking about life your partner them makes you feel anxious or panicky, take a look at the relationship and try to pinpoint why this is. It’s important to feel complete on your own, not just when involved in a serious relationship. Looking to others for validation and self-worth is one of the major red flags when determining if you may be in a codependent relationship.
If one of the people in the relationship is an addict/alcoholic, this may mean the other person makes up excuses for them and in turn allows the behavior to continue. Even outside of addiction, this can be the case. For example, if one partner is constantly justifying the other’s actions, it may be time to examine the reasoning this feels necessary.
In healthy relationships, partners do not feel the need to manipulate one another to get the outcome they desire. Instead, they communicate in a healthy manner. If you find yourself often being made to feel guilty about your behavior in a relationship, you may be in a codependent relationship.
In a codependent relationship, one partner consistently feels as if the other person’s needs and desires are more important than their own. Because of this, they often sacrifice their own needs and desires and focus on the other person, which can be unhealthy. This is common behavior for codependents. According to Psych Central, “It’s natural to feel empathy and sympathy for someone, but codependents start putting other people ahead of themselves. In fact, they need to help and might feel rejected if another person doesn’t want help. Moreover, they keep trying to help and fix the other person, even when that person clearly isn’t taking their advice.”
Healthy relationships are not about control, but rather, about give and take. When a relationship is based on control, which often involves manipulation, it can be toxic. Often in these types of situations, one partner feels the need to control the other’s behavior, and when, or if the other does not comply, it becomes a battle.
You try to get this approval at any cost, which can be detrimental to your mental well-being. This may mean that you change your plans so that your partner feels all attention is on him/her, or you constantly go out of your way to compliment him/her and “win” their affection.
They may be concerned about how healthy or unhealthy your relationship is, as others outside the relationship can often spot signs of codependency. However, those in the relationship tend to deny any such thing and push away friends and family who think otherwise.
If you think you may be in a codependent relationship, it’s time to take a step back and examine your situation. If all signs point to you being in a codependent relationship, your best option is to end that relationship. This can be difficult, as codependency is a tough habit to break.
Reaching out to a professional may be a good first step, especially if you are in recovery from addiction or alcoholism. Having a second person’s advice and someone to give you direction will likely make the steps you need to take more clear.
Written by: Beth Leipholtz
Beth is a newspaper reporter and graphic designer from Minnesota who writes about the realities of getting sober young. Follow her on Twitter.
The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.
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