When we think of codependence, we usually associate it with romantic relationships. We don’t necessarily think of codependence and addiction as being related, but in many ways they are.
Codependent relationships are characterized by their members being excessively emotionally dependent upon each other and not having healthy emotional boundaries with one another. Sometimes in codependent relationships, we are emotionally manipulated and/or manipulative, controlled and/or controlling, abused and/or abusive. We can be codependent in any kind of relationship, whether romantic, family, business or platonic.
Sometimes as we are developing mentally and emotionally, we learn and adopt certain codependent behaviors, often from the people we live with and who raise us. These behaviors can contribute to our development of addictive behaviors because we have learned to rely on things outside of ourselves, such as other people and certain behaviors, to provide us with comfort.
Witnessing codependent relationships early on can teach us to be dependent upon other people. It can keep us from developing our own inner resources and coping skills. In a sense our ability to cope has been stunted or compromised, because we have learned to depend on other people to manage our emotions, rather than on our own inner strength. We learned early on to direct our focus externally rather than internally. We may have learned to manage our difficult emotions such as sadness and anxiety by trying to control the behaviors of the people around us, or by focusing on relationships more than we focus on ourselves. We may allow ourselves to be emotionally controlled, manipulated or abused by other people because we haven’t learned to prioritize developing our own emotional independence and resilience.
We often learn relationship patterns from the relationships we witness and experience firsthand. If our parents were emotionally codependent upon one another, we might unconsciously absorb this relationship pattern and then reproduce it in our relationships. Many of us find ourselves caught in codependent, addictive relationship patterns, such as the toxic, on again – off again relationship where we try to leave but can’t, or do leave and then go back repeatedly. Many of us identify as love/sex addicts, with relationships, dating and sex being our addictions.
Similarly, with alcoholism, substance abuse and other behaviors more commonly associated with addiction, codependence can develop into these addictive behaviors because we have learned to use something outside of ourselves for reassurance and comfort. We use these things to escape our pain and to try to distract ourselves from it. Had we learned to be emotionally independent and autonomous, we may have learned the coping skills necessary to manage our emotions rather than developing addictive behaviors as coping mechanisms.
We learn a lot about ourselves from looking at our relationships, and part of the recovery process entails analyzing our unhealthy relationship patterns and how they relate to our addictions. Vista Taos is here to help. Call (575) 586-5078.