Co-dependency & Relationships

Relationship or love addiction often swings between two extremes. The Addict tends to become involved with people before getting to know them, or stays within unhealthy relationships in preference to feeling lonely. Some people pursue relationships one after another or even have more than one sexual relationship at a time. Without a relationship or partner, relationship or love addicts feel incomplete or unfulfilled. On the other hand the Avoidant – or relationship anorexic – avoids love, affection, friendship. Both are variations of relationship and love addictions: both are avoiding intimacy.

Relationship and love addicts tend to create intensity rather than intimacy and are usually attracted to certain characteristics, addicts to avoidants and vice versa. Usually the avoidant is the stronger pursuer initially. It is like “dancing the tango” with the avoidant chasing the addict but when the addict is “hooked” the avoidant withdraws just enough to keep the addict engaged. If the addict starts to walk away the avoidant increases the intensity.

Some of the consequences are the constant risk of sexual diseases with promiscuity, or the loss of yet another loving relationship, extreme neediness and loss of dignity, or complete loneliness devoid of much connection with other people. There is a lack of ability to connect with people at an intimate level and yet this is what is so desperately being sought after.

Co-dependency can underlie much addictive behaviour. A sense of shame, inadequacy and/or a sense of superiority often run through a co-dependent person’s life. Unwittingly repeating patterns and choices reinforces negative beliefs about oneself and erodes further at self-esteem.

People who are co-dependent can often be over carers or people-pleasers and need other people to feel validated, seeking approval. Co-dependency can mean that a person is controlling, by setting high expectations of others, and then constantly feeling let down and resentful. All forms of co-dependency have a need to control uncertainty and always at a cost in some way to the co-dependent.

Co-dependency can result in depression, anxiety and stress. Certainly there is a sense of loss of self. In addition self-esteem comes through seeking approval, leaving the person vulnerable to others’ opinions and distraught at criticism or mistakes. The loss of self can involve increasing dishonesty, being chameleon-like and without opinions, manipulation or even being over opinionated in an effort to compensate for the feelings of inadequacy. And these behaviours, in turn, further contribute to a lower sense of self worth. The vicious cycle then has formed, needing to behave in ever increasing co-dependent ways.

Our treatment at Addiction Care involves beginning to identify the behaviours. Boundaries are of the utmost importance in recovery. Our trained and experienced therapists help the client discover what an acceptable and essential boundary is. We help the client manage the consequences of disappointments or the joys of compromise. Treatment also involves exploring the origins of the shame and feelings of inadequacy.