Written By: A No Longer Bound Resident, Austin
“Codependent” was once used to describe a specific set of behaviors in spouses of alcoholics. While this is still true, the term has expanded to other situations. It also includes people who have grown up in a dysfunctional home and other difficult circumstances.
As a faith-based addiction program, we define “codependence” as a relationship in which one partner finds his or her worth or identity based on a relationship with someone else.
The codependent person often chooses relationships in which the other person needs to be rescued. Whether knowingly or not, they take on this role because they want to be indispensable.
Although at first glance this concept seems to be based on outward relationships, codependency is actually a dysfunctional relationship within the self. It is a pathological or addictive relationship with other people. These unhealthy relationships tend to be primarily one-sided (as opposed to a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship).
How Does Codependency Play Out in Addiction?
One doctor paints the picture of codependency within addiction like this: “The addicted person develops a relationship whereby the other person will feed into the addiction. So the wife or husband or other family member almost facilitates the person’s ongoing dependence on the substance. That’s not because they’re intending to make it worse, it’s because they’re drawn into that whole circle of behavior, and breaking the pattern of that is almost impossible.”
Generally, a codependent person’s attitude is very easily affected by others. Typically, a codependent person reacts, under-reacts, or overreacts to problems and stress. Rarely do they just act.
Codependents have a tendency to overreact to things that aren’t that big of a deal, while they under-react to situations that actually are important. Both of these reactions represent a different aspect of codependency.
An overreaction is addictive because the codependent party is able to:
- help others in crisis/be the rescuer
- fix problems
- focus on the negative things others do to them
- blame those around them for their own issues
All of these are behaviors are used to avoid their own reality and pain.
An under-reaction is the denial side of codependency. Denial behaviors actually refuse people of their basic human needs. This forces the person to minimize or eliminate feelings, pain, ambitions, goals, and more.
Our Basic Needs as Humans
At No Longer Bound, we teach that a person’s basic needs are love, acceptance, worth, and security (LAWS). Almost always, a codependent’s basic needs are restricted or falsely met within a dysfunctional relationship.
Unfortunately, codependency can lead to a false sense of worth or responsibility, as well as hurt and anger. Codependency may have developed in one’s childhood as a need to fix others’ problems. It’s likely that they were in situations where they needed to rescue or control someone. It’s also likely that their basic needs were not being met at that time.
Are You In A Codependent Relationship?
Left unchecked, codependency can become a response to people in all of their relationships, although it usually begins in only a few. Many (not all) relationships that involve active addiction, neglect, abuse, or control are defined as codependent.
If a person feels that they are responsible for trying to make the other person happy, they might be a codependent. Here are some other clues that your relationship is codependent:
- You have an obsessive need to please the other person
- You feel guilty if you don’t do everything correctly
- You worry about minor mistakes that could upset them
- You feel incomplete without the presence of another individual
- You neglect self-care
- You have resentment towards your role as the rescuer
- You lack objectivity when helping others
- You take yourself and situations too seriously
In short, codependents seek others for their own validation and happiness, resulting in completely dismissing their personal responsibility.
Changing a codependent relationship starts by setting healthy boundaries and having a healthy understanding of the role you play. For men in addiction, a faith-based addiction program like No Longer Bound can help you set these boundaries and work toward reconciling codependent relationships.