Relationships can become unhealthy over time due to many factors. One of them is called codependency. It can look like a growing reliance on a partner with a substance use disorder that’s untreated. You may feel the need to justify to others why you stay, even when it gets bad. You may not even recognize the loss of self-reliance. If this sounds like the relationship you’re in right now, keep reading to learn more about how codependency develops and what you can do to overcome it.
Codependent relationships commonly appear when one partner is living with a substance use disorder (SUD). Codependency in addiction can lead to a cycle of enabling the behaviors of drinking or drug use. To break the cycle and repair the relationship, both people will need treatment and support. If it’s affecting children, family therapy can be used to teach everyone healthy communication skills, boundary-setting, and conflict resolution.
What is codependency?
Codependency can be described as a kind of relationship addiction. It’s dysfunctional because it’s one-sided with one person more dedicated to the relationship than the other. The person who’s more dedicated may use unhealthy behaviors to get attention or create value for themselves.
The term applies to many situations. It could be the person with a substance use disorder who is heavily reliant on a spouse for support. The codependent one could be the partner of a person with a substance use disorder who is always giving time, attention, and support.
Codependent people may feel responsible for their partner’s behavior. They may neglect their own needs in order to focus on their partner. They may attach their feelings of self-worth to their partner.
What’s the difference between love and codependency?
Qualities of devotion and self-sacrifice are part of a relationship based on love and mutual respect. Meeting the needs of a partner is also an element of a balanced relationship. The keywords “mutual” and “balanced” describe a relationship where both people are working towards the same goals, with some level of harmony.
To the codependent person, the choice to put a partner first can seem like it’s coming from love. But, the difference is it’s often more about trying to get control of them when you feel powerless. You define your life by who theirs or by their addiction.
Can a codependent relationship be fixed?
Recognizing you’re in a codependent relationship can feel overwhelming. You may see signs of holding back your own feelings out of fear or guilt. You may ignore or deny problems in your partner or in your relationship. You may even lie to friends and family to cover issues.
Fixing a codependent relationship is possible. It involves breaking the cycle of enabling the behaviors that have created emotional turmoil in your life. If one of the people in the codependent relationship is living with a substance use disorder, that needs to be addressed, too. Handling it alone is not recommended. Finding resources to support you through the steps to repair the codependent relationship can provide the tools you need to make changes over time.
How to Overcome Codependency
Treatment and support are two recommended solutions for overcoming codependency. The treatment and support is for both people in the relationship. The codependent person may need mental health treatment to learn the skills for creating balance in the relationship. A partner with an SUD will need treatment for substance use and may need dual diagnosis treatment for a co-occurring mental health disorder. When children are affected, codependent families can benefit from regular family therapy sessions to begin healing as a unit.
The skills needed to overcome codependency are related to communication and behavior in the relationship. Learning to address family conflict in productive ways is one skill. Healthy communication is another. The codependent person will need to practice setting healthy boundaries, too. Learning to identify what codependent behaviors you use is a helpful step in finding alternatives.
Hannah’s House is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 561.841.1272.