The term codependency refers to specific behaviors and emotions that interfere with your ability to form healthy relationships. When one partner in a relationship has a substance abuse disorder, codependency can also involve enabling.
After you’ve worked to put drug and alcohol use behind you, how can you overcome codependent tendencies and enjoy mutually beneficial relationships?
How to Recognize Codependent Tendencies
Codependency can take many forms, but its characteristics often include one partner’s compulsion to help or look after the other. Someone who wants to feel loved, needed or appreciated may be more likely to take the “martyr” role in a codependent relationship, putting their partner’s needs first in all situations.
As codependency progresses, one partner’s reliance on the other can increase to a point that the relationship becomes highly lopsided. Meanwhile, the more supportive person may come to feel resentful, trapped or frustrated.
In a parent-child relationship, codependency can take the form of a parent trying to take care of their child long into adulthood, providing rent-free housing or financially supporting them. On the other side of the coin, an adult child might neglect their personal and professional responsibilities to fulfill their parents’ needs or demands. Codependency in a romantic relationship can involve one partner trying to limit the other’s independence or making excuses for their substance abuse, allowing the behavior to continue.
What Causes Codependency?
Codependent tendencies often arise in dysfunctional families with communication problems and repressed emotions. Substance abuse and codependency often go hand in hand, and codependency is also a typical side effect of physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
Children whose parents display codependent tendencies may grow up to repeat the same unhealthy patterns and perpetuate the cycle. As adults, they may struggle with intimacy and self-esteem, stunted decision-making abilities and a fear of loneliness.
How to Break the Cycle of Codependency
Once you’ve learned more about what it means to be in a codependent relationship and how harmful codependency can be, you’ll want to take steps to change your behavior. The first thing you can do to change the pattern is to understand what qualities constitute a healthy, loving relationship – including honesty, affection, equality and mutual respect. Here are some other strategies for overcoming codependent tendencies.
- Set reasonable boundaries: A boundary is a definition of what you are willing and unwilling to accept in a relationship. Spend time thinking about what you can and can’t tolerate, and practice enforcing your limits by being assertive and knowing when to say no.
- Improve your self-esteem: Low self-confidence can fuel the fire of codependency. If you want to stop being codependent, start by loving and believing in yourself. Assess what ingredients you need to be happy and prioritize your self-care. With your therapist, work on replacing a negative internal monologue with a more positive, uplifting one.
Where to Turn After Treatment
In many cases, changing your surroundings and giving yourself time and space to work through your codependent tendencies are the first steps on the path to overcoming codependency. Structured sober housing provides an ideal environment for many people after exiting a professional treatment program. At Segue Recovery Support, we’ve built a community that is conducive to recovery culture, encouraging you to develop habits that foster lifelong sobriety. To learn more, contact us today.