The word codependent is most often used to describe a partner, spouse, or other individual who has a close relationship with an addict. The qualities that a codependent person has causes them to remain in an unhealthy and dysfunctional relationship where they enable the addictive behavior of their partner.
Codependency hurts both the addict and their partner in that it encourages self destructive behavior in both parties.
Codependent behavior can show up in various ways. A partner can be extremely passive and allow themselves to be used and abused by an addict. Or they can take on a controlling role, where they become involved in every aspect in their partner's life.
Another common thing for a codependent to do is take on a caretaking role. This may look like a loving, caring relationship on the outside, but a codependent will take the role so far that they end up jeopardizing their own well being.
What all codependent behaviors have in common is that they involve a loss of self and identity, and an unhealthy concern for another person's (usually an addict's) opinions and feelings that takes precedence over one's own needs. This creates a seriously imbalanced relationship that usually ends up hurting the codependent the most.
How codependency arises in a relationship with an addict.
A codependent will honestly believe that their partner can't survive without them. They'll also blame themselves for their partner's addiction, causing them to try even harder to control their behavior while pushing aside their true feelings about the relationship.
A codependent's main focus will be making their partner happy and they will go to great lengths in order to do so. All the efforts made to fix or help a partner are done in order to gain some sort of validation or love. In the end, a codependent will instead end up feeling used and empty as their partner's addiction continues on stronger than ever.
Questions to ask yourself if you believe you may be codependent.
-Do you have a desperate need for approval?
-Are you uncomfortable being assertive or sticking up for yourself?
-Do you feel a need to control situations or other people?
-Is your sense of self worth based on the approval of others?
-Do you deny or minimize your feelings?
-Do you struggle with decisions because you're afraid of upsetting others?
-Have you given up hobbies or friends in order to please someone?
-Do you feel great responsibility for the actions of others?
-Do you confuse the idea of rescuing someone with loving them?
-Do you confuse being needed with being loved?
-Do you often give more of yourself than you receive from others?
-Do you get upset when people don't notice how much you've done for them?
-Have you stayed in an unhealthy relationship because you were too afraid of being abandoned?
If you answer yes to several of these questions, then you're probably caught in a codependent cycle. These habits may be deep seated, but they can be broken. It's important to start looking to yourself for love, support, and validation and know that you do indeed deserve those things.
If you're in a relationship with an addict, it's very important to know that while they may want to give you those things, their addiction makes them incapable of doing so. Talking with a therapist or joining a support group will help you learn to find those things you've been desperately searching for in relationships inside of yourself. You can learn to be in charge of your own life and meet your own needs and desires.