How Do I Know if My Behavior Is Codependent?

Much like an addiction to substances, relationships can be addictive too, and just as damaging. If you struggle with substance use disorder (SUD) or mental health disorders, there is a higher chance that you may develop a codependent relationship compared to those who do not have these conditions.

While the brain processes that influence substance addiction and relationship addiction are similar, there are differences between the two. Codependency operates differently in the brain than chemical dependency, so it can be harder to recognize and treat. 

When you are in a codependent relationship, it can be hard to notice. You may find that you are defending your partner's poor behavior to friends and family. You may feel in the pit of your stomach that something is not right with the relationship. It may have too many ups and downs or you may find that your relationship is stable one minute and the next thing you know your partner is threatening to leave. All of these are signs of a codependent relationship.

What Does Codependent Behavior Look Like?

A codependent relationship can manifest in a variety of ways. Yet, there are some common problem areas that can signify a codependent relationship that you can look out for.

Fear Motivated

Is your relationship fear-driven? This is a question you have to ask yourself. Another way to look at this is to ask yourself if you do or say—or avoid doing or saying—certain things so that your partner will stay. If the answer is yes, you may be in a codependent relationship.

A relationship should be between two autonomous equals. There is a difference between doing things out of respect versus doing things out of fear. Respect is mutual, meaning there are certain things that you do or do not do because your partner has asked you to, and they do the same for you.

Not Seeing Yourself as Equal

Sometimes a relationship can feel like a power struggle. When addressing challenges and issues, each partner should have an equal say in what happens. In a codependent relationship, this often does not happen. You may be the one calling all the shots while the other has to go along or risk consequences.

The best example of this is the stereotype of the 1950s and 1960s American housewives. These women were expected to do everything they were told to do by their husbands and had no say in what happened. That is a codependent relationship where the housewife is in a submissive situation and has little to no autonomy. 

Feeling Lonely

Have you ever been sitting next to your partner and yet still felt incredibly lonely? Through either self-deprecation or not getting enough attention from your partner, these feelings can start to manifest. Both are difficult to overcome, but they can be done. In either case, these feelings can signify codependency.

If the loneliness is due to self-deprecation, thinking that you must be unworthy or undeserving of love and attention, you must work to bring up your own self-esteem. This not only helps you but it will also help your partner. It may sound corny, but the old saying is true: “You can't love another until you love yourself.”

If it is because you are not getting the needed attention from your partner, it could be that your partner suffers from low self-esteem or has another issue that they need to work on, like narcissism. Express your feelings to your partner and ask for what you need to stop feeling this way. 

How Do I Correct This Behavior?

There are lots of different ways you can correct codependent behavior. The thing to keep in mind is that both you and your partner have to want restoration. If your partner is unwilling to make changes, the relationship will stay in its codependent state and will not be healthy or work properly. 

Try seeking out professional help from a couples counselor or support groups. Both can offer tools to help you identify the problem areas in your relationship and mend them.

Is the Relationship Salvageable?

The relationship can be salvageable, but only if both parties are willing to make a change. It can seem almost impossible to overcome what might be years of codependent behavior. Yet, much like SUD or mental health issues, they can be treated if you put in the work. You can rebuild relationships. 

Although working on your relationship might seem daunting at times, it is well worth the work. A relationship is one of the most powerful things you can have in your life. That relationship has to have a solid foundation of respect, equality, and trust to be successful. There is no greater feeling than being in a relationship while still feeling like you can be your own person too.

Trying to rebuild a co-dependent relationship can seem like mission impossible, especially when substance abuse was involved. There is a lot of work to do, but it is far from impossible. With the right mindset, you can overcome anything. That being said, you don't have to face these challenges alone. There are people out there who can help you. NorthStar Transitions, located in Boulder, CO, can help you overcome SUD and codependency for a happier, healthier relationship. Our experienced staff can help you and the ones you care about to navigate through this difficult period in life. With the variety of different programs we offer, you are sure to find one that suits you and your partner's needs. If you or someone you know needs treatment, let us help you. You can take the first steps by calling us today at (303) 558-6400.

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