A codependent relationship is a kind of dysfunctional relationship where one person is a caretaker, and the other person takes advantage. Codependent relationships are extremely common among people with substance abuse issues. Typically, one partner will take care of the other to the extent of enabling that partner’s addictive behavior. Often, the caretaker is raised in a family with an addicted parent and learns to placate that parent in attempt to make life easier for them and their siblings. This is often the oldest child, and they may repeat the pattern in their own relationships as an adult.Codependency is not good for either partner. It allows one partner to sink deeper into addiction while forcing the other partner to completely forgo their own wants and needs in attempt to care for the other.

Can-Am would like to bring awareness to co-dependent relationships that occur in active addiction, and some tips on how to manage this behaviour:

People pleasing.It’s normal to want people to like you and we all want our loved ones to be happy, but there’s a difference between these normal tendencies and having to please people all the time. People pleasers often feel like they have no choice but to keep other people happy. They don’t like to say “no”, even when pleasing others substantially interferes with their own wants and needs.

Lack of boundaries.People in both roles in a codependent relationship tend to have problems recognizing, respecting, and reinforcing boundaries. Having boundaries simply means you respect the other person’s right to his or her own feelings and autonomy. It also means recognizing that you aren’t responsible for the other person’s happiness. People in codependent relationships tend to have a problem where one person doesn’t recognize boundaries and the other person doesn’t insist on boundaries. Thus, one person is controlling and manipulative, and the other person is compliant and fails to assert his or her own will. Working on setting and maintaining boundaries is one of the most important skills families must learn in family therapy.

Poor self-esteem.Typically, neither person in a codependent relationship has very good self-esteem. One person needs the approval of the other or at least needs to be of service to the other to have a sense of purpose. The other person has low self-esteem due to having to depend on someone else to meet material needs and needing validation from that person. The dependent person is often controlling out of a basic sense of insecurity that the other person might leave.

Caretaking.A major sign of codependency is when you feel like you must take care of everyone all the time. This typically comes from childhood, when the caretaker learns there may be terrible consequences from failing to take care of a parent’s needs. As a result, they may feel compelled to take care of others, especially a partner, not so much out of affection, but from the fear that something bad will happen if they don’t. Most people can get by fairly well on their own, and feeling like things will go terribly wrong if they aren’t taken care of is often a sign of codependency.

Reactivity. When your identity is based on pleasing others and you feel responsible for everyone’s wellbeing, you might find yourself reacting to situations rather than acting out of your own volition. You’ll find yourself being defensive or easily internalizing criticism. This results in losing touch with your own wants and needs, which makes it harder to be proactive. It is also partly a result of your inability to set boundaries so that you feel responsible for someone else’s feelings.

Poor communication.A codependent mindset makes it hard to communicate effectively. The caregiver is often unaware of their own wants and needs, and when theyare aware of them, they may be reluctant to express them. They may feel like caring for the other person is the most important thing, or they may fear upsetting the other person by asserting themself. The dependent person may be in the habit of communicating dishonestly, more interested in maintaining control than in communicating. Communication is another crucial skill to learn in family therapy. Both people must learn to communicate honestly and effectively.

Lack of self-image.The caregiver may have low self-esteem, or they may not have much of a self-image at all. Often, the caregiver defines themself mainly in relation to the other person and may have no idea who they are without having that role to play. This is why the caregiver is also dependent, even though they are the one taking care of practical matters and could probably get along just fine without the other person.

Dependency.Of course, dependency plays a major role in codependency. Each person needs the other for something. One person needs their material needs to be met because addiction or other issues have impeded their autonomy. The other person needs validation and a sense of purpose from taking care of someone. In a way, it’s a tradeoff, but it also limits both people involved.

Relationship stress.As you might expect, any of these factors can put a lot of stress on a relationship. When you can’t communicate or respect boundaries, you’re bound to have problems. The caretaker often feels a lot of stress about doing everything right, while the dependent person often feels insecure about being abandoned by the caretaker. Both are afraid to be alone, but neither is particularly happy. There may not be many fights since one partner is typically committed to keeping the other happy, but both are likely to feel stressed nonetheless.

How to get help?

If you and your partner are facing codependency issues it most likely means that this has been an issue for some time now. The problems are now deep seeded and very unmanageable. This can be a very difficult task to overcome on your own. Having a neutral and professional 3rd party is ideal in this situation. Can-Am Interventions specializes in treating people with these debilitating behaviours. We are here to address your concerns, to bring understanding, and to provide a treatment plan to ensure your success. If you have any questions or would like to discuss what you are experiencing, please call us today. We look forward to helping you.

For More Information:



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