Drug abuse is a serious issue facing many married couples. Spouses in these situations must recognize the danger of enabling their partner and entering a codependent relationship. Although spouses do everything they can to help their significant others during difficult times, enabling behaviors are easy to fall into, extremely destructive and ultimately hinder recovery.
In terms of addiction, codependency arises when one spouse over-functions to compensate for the other spouse’s under-functioning. Generally, the enabling spouse will go out of their way to accommodate the addicted spouse’s substance abuse.
This can include:
- Lying on the other’s behalf
- Making excuses for missed appointments and prior commitments
- Taking on more than his or her fair share of labor in the marriage
- Any other behaviors that minimize the consequences of their spouse’s addiction
Signs of Codependency
Codependency creates unbalanced relationships wherein the over-functioning spouse takes on a passive caretaker role while the under-functioning spouse takes advantage of this kindness. This dangerous relationship dynamic not only makes addiction easier to maintain, but also leads to the over-functioning spouse experiencing lowered self-esteem.
Over time, this toxic cycle leads to the over-functioning partner consistently putting the other partner’s needs ahead of his or her own. This denial of one’s own feelings and emotional wants can be extremely harmful.
Common signs of this type of codependency include:
- Feeling an Intense Drive to Please the Other Partner: Most people want to make their partners happy, but when a spouse avoids confrontation regarding serious issues in the relationship, it may signal codependency.
- Allowing a Partner to Determine One’s Worth: If an individual cares more about the approval of their spouse than their relationship with family and friends, this reflects a codependent relationship.
- Ignoring a Partner’s Troubling Behavior: Abuse, addiction or extreme possessiveness shouldn’t be a part of a healthy relationship. If a person can’t confront their partner about these issues, it’s a serious red flag.
The Dangers of Enabling
Enabling is a term that refers to any actions that make the addicted partner’s substance abuse sustainable. Examples include calling a boss to make an excuse for an absence or offering money to help a spouse stay afloat.
Enabling typically comes from good intentions, but when people struggling with substance abuse do not feel the consequences of their dependency, it’s harder for them to change for the better.
Tips for Keeping Codependency at Bay
Though many think ending a relationship is the only option for breaking codependency, the reality is that people repeat patterns of codependency with future partners. Ending the relationship may be the best choice for some individuals, but ending the cycle of codependency is just as important.
Here are some strategies that you or a loved one can use to break out of them:
- Remember Your Own Worth: When you work too hard to please your partner, you aren’t recognizing your own value. You are worthy of a healthy relationship. If you need to, make a list of your positive traits and use it to remind yourself that you matter.
- Challenge Your Negative Emotions: When you start feeling down on yourself, think about what’s really driving those negative feelings. Write them down and recognize that these negative emotions are reactions rather than a measure of who you actually are.
- Do Something for Someone Else: When you find you are in a relationship where you only think about making your partner happy, it can be beneficial to think of others who may truly need help. This could be your family, a friend or a charity. When you help someone other than your partner, including yourself, you improve your self-confidence and gain a new perspective on your own relationship.
Couples Counseling at The Treatment Center
It can be exceedingly difficult to recognize codependency, let alone break free from it in an intimate relationship. In many cases, professional intervention is needed to address the damage caused by addiction.
The team at The Treatment Center wants to help families break out of codependency and make healthier choices. That’s why we offer a full range of couples counseling options. Couples therapy can help salvage relationships strained to the breaking point by addiction and cycles of codependency.
You can learn more about our couples’ therapy options or reach out to our team directly to let us know how we can you put your marriage back together.