What Is Codependency?
It might seem terribly unromantic, but Valentine’s Day is a great time to evaluate the health of your relationship. One aspect that can be especially important to those struggling with addiction is codependency and enablement in relationships.
Codependency is defined as an imbalance of power in a relationship, to the point where one person does not have a sense of identity. He or she will blindly support the other person and rarely, if ever, give any criticism.
Typically, codependent people are raised in dysfunctional families in which one or more members are suffering from mental or substance abuse issues. Unlike healthy families, dysfunctional families refuse to discuss feelings, show emotion, confront issues or develop trust. These characteristics make relationships one-sided, creating codependency.
The family member with the mental health or substance abuse issue becomes the energy focus of the family, while the codependent member will do anything in his or her power to take care of them. They are always “coming to the rescue.”
How Does Codependency Support Addiction?
Codependency becomes a larger issue when perceived helpful behaviors become enabling to addicts. Since there is no frame of reference for “normal,” co-dependents do not know the best way to help someone. If a family member or significant other is struggling with addiction, he or she will do all they can to prevent that person from feeling the consequences of their actions.
Protecting someone from his- or herself is supporting and enabling addiction. A common example: Child Protective Services visits the home of a family with an abusive person suffering from alcoholism, and the entire family denies the presence of a problem. The person at fault is not held accountable for his or her actions.
Denying there is a problem inadvertently gives a person struggling with addiction permission to continue the destructive behavior. It provides them no incentive to seek treatment.
In romantic relationships, it is important to keep each person accountable for their actions. When you catch yourself making excuses for your loved one’s behaviors, you may need to ask yourself some difficult questions.
8 Signs You Are Codependent
Read through these descriptions and see if any apply to your family or romantic relationship situation:
- Have a history of living with abusive or addicted people
- Have a hard time saying “no”
- Low self-esteem that results in severe indecisiveness
- Feel guilty when you need to stand up for yourself
- Fear of being alone or abandoned
- Poor communication skills
- Belief that others’ lives or opinions are more important than your own
- Avoiding conflict like at all costs
OK, Yes, I’m Codependent: Now What?
The first and most important step is recognizing your problem. Secondly, do your research. Changing unhealthy behaviors or lifestyles is possible when you understand why it’s happening. This may involve therapy on your part to understand how you have developed this trait.
If you are currently in a codependent relationship, whether it is familial or romantic, you may need to seek therapy with the other person. With the aid of a therapist, you can recognize patterns in your life, change them and create your own healthy “normal.”
Unfortunately, you can only control yourself. Accepting this fact is a hard pill to swallow for people who are codependent. While you may be willing to acknowledge the changes that you need to make, the other person may not.
When you do begin the journey toward change, you need to make the other person aware. Whether they agree with it, they need to know you are making changes and the status quo will be different. People do not like change, so expect them to be nervous or even defensive.
5 Codependent Habits to Change Right Now
Get started by following these directions:
- Stop enabling: Encourage treatment for substance abuse or mental health issues.
- Don’t cover for other people: They must take ownership of their actions.
- Understand, don’t deny problems: Research, research, research.
- Stand up for yourself: Express your concerns and your emotions.
- Stop placing blame: Everyone has their own burdens to bear.
Coming to the realization that you are in a codependent, enabling relationship can be difficult. It is important to understand the problems so you and your significant other can work through them to build healthier habits.
Share your experiences with us in our online forum, where you can discuss codependency, substance abuse and enabling addiction.
How have you dealt with enabling in your relationships?
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