Co-dependent relationships are common amongst those who struggle with chemical dependency. They are also one of the biggest relapse triggers. Successful and healthy relationships take a lot of patience, empathy, and determination. These apply to romantic, sibling, parent/child relationships, or friendships. Many of us don’t even realize we are co-dependent until the relationship destroys us.
Addiction And Co-Dependent Behaviors
Co-dependency in the past was associated with addiction. However, we have learned that people without addiction also have co-dependent behaviors. This is why relationships between a person with a chemical dependency and one without still have co-dependency on either side.
Here are the common signs of co-dependency in a relationship:
- You feel that your partner is responsible for solving your problems
- Your partner has verbally expressed to you that they feel unappreciated and unloved
- You are continually trying to please your partner
- You desperately want your partner to “save you”
- Your happiness stems from your relationship with your partner
- You continuously are looking for advice and direction from your partner on how to live your life
- You see yourself as a perpetual victim
The Origins Of Co-Dependency
Co-dependency is not a disease or a disorder but a learned behavior that often begins in childhood. Co-dependent behaviors are deeply ingrained in our upbringing and personalities. It will often resurface throughout our adolescent years and adulthood. Co-dependency is mostly born into dysfunctional families with addiction, emotionally unavailable partners, and narcissistic behavior.
The co-dependent parent(s) set the tone for the child and the child learns from the parents to try harder in every relationship. From a young age, these children learn to “walk on eggshells,” ignore their own needs and put the needs of others before everything else. There is also an emphasis on the outward appearance of the relationship to be of utmost importance. Children who grow up in this environment don’t learn to foster their self-worth and do not view themselves as independent or necessary. In adulthood, this creates unhealthy boundaries and can often lead to the use of drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Recognizing Your Co-Dependent Patterns
At some point, many of us come to an “ah-ha” moment where we realize we are in a co-dependent relationship. Even though we become aware, many of us won’t stop the behavior. Usually, it is because we have become comfortable with the behaviors and change is far scarier. It is also because not knowing any other way of being it is hard to learn and break the cycles.
Many people will discover these truths while in an addiction treatment facility or intense outpatient therapy. These environments are the perfect settings to learn coping skills to improve their behaviors and remove themselves from these unhealthy relationships. It is a delicate dance because many addicts will stop using alcohol and substances but then substitute them with co-dependent relationships. Fortunately, therapies are working hard to combat that occurrence as well.
Overcoming Co-Dependent Relationships
To overcome a co-dependent relationship, especially if you are in recovery from addiction, it is essential to establish the following:
- Boundaries that you will enforce
- The ability to say “no” and understand it as a complete sentence
- A strong support system
- Strong communication skills
Signs of recovery from co-dependency
- You nurture your wants and desires and develop a connection to your inner world.
- You see yourself as reliant, smart, and capable.
- You say goodbye to abusive behavior.
- Caretaking and enabling behavior are acknowledged and stopped.
- You respond instead of reacting to your partner and others.
- Setting clear, firm boundaries.
- You tolerate other people’s opinions and do not become defensive when you disagree.
- You recognize that your reaction is your responsibility.
- You adopt a healthy skepticism regarding what others say about you (good or bad).
- You say no, and you accept hearing no.
Quest 2 Recovery: Center for Addiction and Mental Health
As treatment professionals, we are here for those struggling with addiction and mental health disorders. We want you to be a happier and healthier person. At Quest 2 Recovery, our goal is to heal you, the individual. We invite you to seek help in a compassionate, non-judgmental environment. Contact us today so we can discuss options to help you overcome your struggles.
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