Codependency is hallmarked by a close relationship in which one person has profound and overwhelming emotional needs, and their partner is obliged to contribute an excessive amount of time and energy responding to those needs. This frequently occurs to both individuals’ disadvantage and other relationships’ detriment.
Codependency can spiral out of control and force the partner to tend to and even enable the other’s emotional challenges. This behavior cycle allows the loved one to continue behaving in dysfunctional and unhealthy ways.
What Is Codependency?
A codependent relationship consists of two members: the enabler and the manipulator. An enabler is usually a passive person who enables the manipulator’s destructive behavior. They may do so consciously or unwittingly. The enabler tends to engage in submissive behavior in which they are forced to surrender a great deal of their own identity and neglect their own needs.
In the process, this individual will also neglect others’ needs to satisfy the manipulator’s demands. They often feel overly responsible for the feelings and wellness of loved ones but will ultimately put most or all of their efforts into the manipulator.
Codependency perpetuates a cycle of dysfunctional behavior that doesn’t really help anyone and can ultimately destroy relationships and lives. Signs of a codependent individual include the following:
- Poor self-esteem and self-worth
- People-pleasing behavior
- Excessive caretaking of others
- A deep need to be in a relationship
- A lack of personal boundaries
Signs of an emotional manipulator may include the following:
- Deceptiveness and tending to manipulate another’s perceptions and reality
- Engagement in behaviors that aren’t in line with their words
- Frequently attempting to make the other person feel shame or guilt, especially when there is no reason for them to feel this way
- Behaving as if they are the victim and is never at fault
- Frequently saying or doing things to incite emotional reactions from the enabling partner
- Eagerly volunteering or agreeing to assist in some chore or activity, only to lament that it’s a massive burden on them and that the partner should feel grateful and indebted
- Having a tendency to “one-up” others by insisting that circumstances are worse for them than others
An interesting but unfortunate trait of the manipulator is that they tend to jump into relationships almost haphazardly, without much thought. When they identify an individual they feel they can manipulate emotionally, they will immediately dive in and try to secure their foothold in the relationship.
They often share too much personal information too soon and expect the potential enabler to do the same. Although they may outwardly exhibit vulnerability and sensitivity, this is really a ploy to make the other partner feel special, empathetic, and ultimately bound to the manipulator’s feelings and needs.
In general, manipulators tend to be an emotional black hole, and whatever they are feeling, they attempt to suck others around them into those emotions for as long as they can. If they are in a foul mood, everyone around them will be very aware of it. Also, they tend to be skilled at making others feel accountable for their moods and obliged to attend to them.
Codependency and Addiction
If just one partner in a codependent relationship is abusing substances, it’s frequently the manipulator. This individual often manipulates the partner into helping them get what they want. These wants or needs may include money, shelter, drugs, alcohol, or any number of other resources. They know they have an advantage over the other individual and will readily use it to their benefit.
Codependency can transpire without the presence of substance abuse, but the two often co-occur. In fact, experts initially identified codependent relationships among family members of alcoholics. Due to the toxic nature of addiction, codependent behavior is prevalent among those who have intimate relationships with others struggling with substance abuse issues.
Codependency and addiction can manifest and converge in a few different ways:
- Among partners who both abuse substances
- Among close adult loved ones of a person abusing substances
- Among the minor children of those abusing substances
Sometimes the codependent individual in the relationship is not a spouse or significant other. Instead, they may be the child of someone who abuses drugs or alcohol. This circumstance is more likely to occur when an addiction has advanced to the point that the child must frequently take care of the parent’s needs.
Adverse Effects and Risks for the Enabler
If the manipulator abuses substances, both partners may experience many adverse effects and risks based on the circumstances.
Some of these effects and risks include the following:
- Increased risk of developing an addiction of their own, either to substances or processes/behaviors
- Profound feelings of loss of relationships and being social with others outside of the codependent partnership
- Inability to attend to responsibilities outside of the codependent partnership
- Neglect of personal needs, resulting in increasingly poor health, deep depression, and worsening self-worth and self-esteem
Adverse Effects and Risks for the Manipulator
As for the person struggling with substance abuse, a codependent relationship can also threaten his or her recovery potential. In this instance, the codependent relationship is an enabling force in the substance user’s life and may dissuade them from enacting positive changes.
In fact, the enabling individual may genuinely want to help their partner and worry that the other person will no longer need them after the addiction is being managed. This possibility may undermine attempts to help the manipulator suffering from addiction face any co-occurring physical and mental health issues it produces.
This factor can result in another significant risk if the individual with addiction does decide to seek professional treatment. The enabling partner may feel somewhat dependent on attendance to their partner’s issues to sustain the relationship, so returning to this relationship following treatment could heighten the risk of relapse for the addicted individual.
Many experts assert that codependency should be regarded as a behavioral addiction in and of itself. And because certain behaviors, obsessions, or compulsions are intertwined with substance abuse, this can make it more complicated to address all the issues a person is facing.
Getting Professional Treatment for Codependency and Substance Abuse
Understanding and overcoming codependent behavior should be an essential component of an individual’s treatment when entering a rehab program. If issues in a codependent partnership go unresolved, the likelihood that an individual will maintain long-term sobriety is reduced. This is true whether it’s the manipulator, enabler, or both individuals who are engaging in substance abuse or addiction.
Fortunately, several components of research-based treatment programs can assist and support both partners in a codependent relationship and teach them to interact in a more healthy and productive manner. The enabling person is usually urged to undergo long-term behavioral therapy to improve their self-confidence and ability to communicate and enforce their own personal needs and establish boundaries.
Those seeking help for addiction can take advantage of multifaceted treatment programs, such as those provided by Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers, which offer individualized plans designed to address the challenges associated with substance abuse and codependency. Using evidence-based methods, including behavioral therapy, family counseling, and mindfulness therapy, we help individuals learn to overcome barriers related to codependency and improve the likelihood of sustaining long-lasting recovery.