Codependency In An Addictive Relationship

Codependency In An Addictive Relationship

November 3rd, 2016

When you’re in a relationship with someone who suffers from an addiction, you can feel trapped and helpless. These feelings are even worse if you are in a codependent relationship. Relationships of this type are harmful to both the addicted person and their loved one, and often, they make the addiction even worse. In fact, addiction may generate the codependent relationship where one didn’t previously exist.

However, it is possible to understand the nature of these difficult relationships and find a way to break out of them. You don’t necessarily need to break up with your addicted loved one, but there may be reason to do so in order to regain your life and even give your loved one an impetus to change. This is a difficult task that will challenge every aspect of your being, so make sure to take the time to carefully read through this article before proceeding.

What Causes Codependent Relationships?

Codependency is a very complex situation into which romantic couples can easily fall without warning. It requires an emotional attachment that goes beyond mere romantic love and which verges on justification for bad behaviors. One person is typically manipulative of the other and gets some type of reinforcement from them, such as sexual intimacy, money, a place to live or even easy access to drugs.

The other person gives these items willingly to the first in exchange for them staying in the relationship, often going to great lengths to ensure their loved one gets the things they need. This isn’t to say that love isn’t involved in the relationship. Even the person who is technically “using” the other one may feel a great degree of love, in their way. However, it is a type of love and relationship that is harmful to both members in many ways.

The causes of codependent relationships can be any number of things. Sometimes, codependent relationships don’t start out that way, but progress there over time. One intriguing study, entitled “Codependency: Predictors And Psychometric Issues” explored the origin of these harmful relationships by giving a questionnaire to various people. They found that low self-esteem was the common predictor of codependent relationships.

In other words, people who suffered from low self-esteem were more likely to be on either side of a codependent relationship. However, the caregiver role is most often filled by the person who struggles with confidence. They are willing to put up with a lot from their loved one and do things they know are bad for them simply to stay together. Many codependent people are afraid they’ll never meet another person and end up being alone for the rest of their lives.

Another paper, “The Kore Complex: On A Woman’s Inheritance Of Her Mother’s Failed Oedipus Complex” approached codependency from a slightly different angle by delving into mythology. It explored the relationship between Kore (Peresphone), her father, Hades, and her overprotective mother, Demeter. Intriguingly, this study found that this type of relationship dynamic often created a “caregiver” personality for women, making them susceptible to codependency. However, this dynamic is also often present in men.

How Does Addiction Worsen The Problem?

Addiction makes codependency worse by making both people even more reliant on their counterpart. In many ways, addiction returns a person back to their childhood, encouraging dependency on the kindness only a mother or a father could give in order to survive. As a result, an addicted person often turns to their lover as a guide through the difficulties of addiction. If they were already in a codependent relationship, it will get even worse and addiction can trigger codependency very quickly.

Codependency In An Addictive Relationship Codependency Addiction

Intriguingly, this kind of codependency doesn’t actually pull couples apart, but brings them closer together. This might seem contradictory, but the nature of codependency is complex. People who take care of others in these relationships often feel it is their duty to make sure the addicted one is safe. This commonly means buying drugs for them and making sure they don’t fall into withdrawal or get caught using. They will lie, break the law, and do anything they can to keep them protected. codependency in drug addiction takes over the caregiver’s life in an extreme manner.

For example, “The Influence Of Addiction Recovery on Couple Relationships: A Qualitative Examination Through A Bowenian Lens,” a dissertation by PhD candidate Cheryl L. Thompson in 2012, examined the ways that addiction, and even addiction recovery, could influence codependency in romantic relationships.

She found that codependency could cause a loved one “(a) loss of daily structure, personal care neglect, physical problems (often caused from high anxiety), blaming others and overall involvement in unproductive activities, like consistently calling the cell phone of the substance abuser to see where s/he is and what s/he is doing.” In other words, they totally gave in to helping the addicted person over their own personal needs.

How Do I Know If I’m codependent?

There’s a good chance that some of you are reading through this information and trying to explain away codependent traits you might see in yourself. After all, not everybody in a relationship with an addicted person is in a codependent relationship. You might be saying to yourself “I’m just trying to take care of a
difficult situation” or “I don’t want them to die, is that so bad?”

Codependency In An Addictive Relationship_difficult situation

These are likely reasonable thoughts and worthwhile motivations, to be fair, but there’s a point when positive motivation crosses over into codependency. You can do good for your addicted loved one without being codependent. However, if you are codependent, you’re likely doing a lot more harm for your loved one than good. Instead of trying to get them the help they need, you are hindering their progress.

The best way to know if you are codependent is to gauge a few simple personality traits that signify a person who suffers from codependency. The following traits are all common in people who are codependent:

  • Desperate desire to please other people
  • Inability to separate yourself from other people’s problems
  • Lack of appropriate personal boundaries
  • Overly emotional reactions
  • Driving desire for control and a need to fix others
  • Difficulty handling rejection
  • Doing things for your loved one that you know are illegal or immoral

These traits can occur in both men and women and are triggered by a wide range of behaviors. Often, being raised in a drug- or alcohol-addicted household can trigger codependent behaviors. A lack of love or affection from parents and other people is another common cause of codependency. Whatever the cause and whatever the reason, you are stuck in a bad situation in which you want to help your loved one, but can’t face up to doing what truly needs to be done.

Can The Cycle Be Broken?

Codependency In An Addictive Relationship CodependencyThe cycle of codependency can be broken, though it is a very difficult process. The first step is to come to grips with the nature of your relationship and then find ways to boost your self-confidence. Your loved one might subconsciously or even consciously know that they need to keep your self-esteem low in order to control you. Ignore them, no matter how difficult it is or how cruelly they talk about you. Getting on your own feet and rebuilding yourself is crucial to throwing the shackles of codependency to the floor and emerging as a confident person in control of your own self.

Start this process by following these steps:

  • Write down a list of things that you need – Remember, we all have unique needs and it’s not selfish to meet them. Take note of ways that you ignore these needs or the way that your addicted loved one keeps you from them. Also write down ways that you will meet these needs in the future.
  • Remind yourself of your personal strengths – Every morning, take time to remind yourself of how important, strong, talented and creative you are as a person. Put true value into your self-worth and constantly remind yourself of it. This is kind of like “faking it until you make it,” but it works.
  • Spend time away from your significant other – You likely spend a lot of time with your loved one, worrying about their health and making sure they don’t get hurt. They probably try to pull you away when you go, too. However, you need to separate yourself from them physically whenever you can. Go visit friends and family without them and get a little personal time and love away from them.
  • Meet new people – This is tough because your loved one might accuse you of trying to cheat on them. However, codependent relationships often become an island of social isolation from which there is no escape. Meeting new people can expand your social circle and give you stronger support when you need it the most.
  • Visit a counselor or psychiatrist – Avoid the temptation of couples therapy and talk to a therapist on your own. There’s nothing wrong with couples therapy most of the time, but when you’re in a codependent relationship, it can be easy to be influenced by the other person. Talk with your therapist about your problems, including your codependency, and they’ll help you find ways to cope with them.

Once you’ve finally learned how to live your life without the weight of codependency on your back, you can approach your loved one’s addiction from a constructive and healing viewpoint. It might seem selfish to work so heavily on yourself while your loved one is suffering from addiction, but it is absolutely necessary for both of you.

How Do I Get My Loved One Into Rehab?

Once you’ve gotten the personal strength to approach your loved one free from codependency, you need to get them into rehab as soon as possible. They are going to plead and beg with you and try to manipulate you the way they did in the past. This is desperation and it should be ignored, unless they actively try to harm themselves, you or others. In that case, the police must be called immediately.

Codependency In An Addictive Relationship InterventionHowever, it’s probably a good idea to hold an intervention at this point. The codependent traits that you possessed are still there, but just dormant or controlled. It’s possible that doing this alone might allow your loved one to take advantage of that and manipulate you again. An intervention will bring in people from outside of the relationship and take some of the weight off of your shoulders.

It will also shock your loved one into realizing the depth of their problem and make them more willing to seek help. Even if the two of you break up after their treatment, you’ve done everything you can to help them beat their addiction. You should feel proud of your hard work and the way that it has changed you as a person. Hopefully, you can regain a loving relationship with your partner when they emerge, but if not, you are ready to tackle life as a bold new person with great inner strength.

Don’t Do This Alone

Breaking the cycle of codependency and helping your loved one gain sobriety is not a simple or easy task. It’s something that many people can’t do alone. Don’t think you’re weak if you’re struggling, as it’s common for people from all walks of life to have this problem. But don’t be too proud to ask for help, either. Contact us at to get the help you need. Our experts will help you find ways to break your codependent relationship, help your loved one get treated and even make your relationship healthier and happier.