What Is a Codependent Relationship? Part 2

Posted by on 06 28 14 in Love Addiction News | Comments Off on What Is a Codependent Relationship? Part 2

Continued from “What Is a Codependent Relationship? Part 1

Codependent behaviors and patterns aren’t only focused outwardly. The codependent individual spends a great deal of time resentful toward him or herself; it’s overwhelming and exhausting to constantly be attending to the needs of others, never saying “no,” and never having anyone trying to rescue you. He or she may feel anger for always overextending, but simultaneously afraid to set a boundary yet feels guilty if he or she is unable to comply with all of the commitments of caretaking.

If the codependent is in a relationship with another codependent, the two may go in circles trying to be the other’s caretaker but never taking care of themselves or receiving the kind of care they each need. This is a picture of the exhaustive futility of codependency. These people suffer anxiety as they try to control the world and the people around them, as they seek to never say “no” and as they run themselves ragged trying to be everything to everyone. They become angry, often lashing out at the people they have been trying to help. They criticize those who set boundaries and refuse to play the martyr. They call those people selfish, uncaring or unloving.

Caretaking, as unappealing as it may seem, can provide a sense of personal worth and validation that is otherwise lacking. It also gives the caretaker some degree of license to exert authority in the lives and affairs of others. For example, a codependent parent who provides financial assistance to an adult child may then feel justified in dictating how the individual should manage his or her money or responsibilities. Not only do codependent individuals allow other people to infringe upon their own boundaries, they step into the territory of others because they simply do not understand what it means to be an individual and to allow others that same freedom.

What Are Codependent Relationships?

Codependents were once called co-alcoholics, which was probably quite a legitimate label. With time, the term has been broadened to include the partners of all kinds of addicts. While the addict appears to be the one who has the problem, both partners may be sick. These dysfunctional relational patterns are not only observed within a marriage that contains one or more addicts. They can also extend into friendships, parent-child relationships and other social and familial connections.

Codependent relationships might also be called helping or enabling relationships. One or both partners feel a sense of obligation to save or rescue the other. In some cases, one is a visible addict and the other practices addiction in secret as a means of coping with the challenges and stress of caretaking. The relationship and the support of the codependent often enable the continuation of some bad behavior such as addiction, unemployment or infidelity.

The bad behavior perpetuates because the helper enables the other individual in such a way that he or she is not forced to grow up, get help for an addiction, take responsibility or assume normal adult roles. Though the enabler may not want to continue this, he or she is desperately afraid to stop or to take a stand against it. The cycle of addiction and enabling is a key characteristic of a codependent relationship.

Codependent individuals will often seek relationships with emotionally unavailable, distant, unpredictable types. They fear being treated well or prioritized. Thus codependent relationships typically involve one person doing all of the giving and the other all of the taking. And they may both be aware of it, but unable or unwilling to do anything about it. Even if the individual would end up in a relationship where he or she is validated, it will often be short-lived. The care and decency of another will not be enough to make up for the low personal self-image, nor will they help the individual believe he or she is worthy of a healthy partnership.

Breaking Free of the Codependent Relationship

If you are in a romantic relationship you expect may be codependent, ask yourself how this relationship makes you feel. Do you feel secure and cared for? Do you feel you are free to express your preferences and needs and that they will be heard, or do you live in response and reaction to the other person and his or her needs, wants and daily emotional climate?

It is often difficult and for those who are codependent to recognize the behaviors as such or to identify that they are in an unhealthy, over-helping relationship. Much harder is figuring out what to do about it. These patterns of living and coping with relationships are deeply ingrained. But if you have by chance recognized these patterns in yourself or your partner, you have taken the first major step toward recovery. But there is much work ahead. 

Codependent relationships have the potential to become healthy, but the codependent individual must learn to set and stick to proper boundaries. This will naturally change the character and dynamic of the relationship, but it need not end it entirely.

Both individuals, if willing, will benefit from therapy that will allow them to begin working through the childhood dysfunction that is manifesting in adult codependency. As the individual begins to work through the causes of the onset of the codependent behavior, he or she can learn techniques for setting healthy boundaries in romantic and familial relationships. This is hard emotional work and reactions from others may not always be positive, but if you suspect you are codependent or in a codependent relationship, you are worth working on. Breaking out of codependency sets you free.