A new study is making the rounds of professionals in recovery centers about how men behave when they reach the codependent stage of a relationship. It describes the family therapy that men should receive when their partners are in rehab treatment. Authors Dan Griffin and Rick Dauer have published “Rethinking Men and Codependency” in the online Addiction Professional journal, and they express some surprising viewpoints about male codependency and addiction.
Some Codependency Is Natural
The first posit is that codependency makes up a natural part of any relationship—that all relationships comprise independent, interdependent, and codependent interactions. However, based on the theory that men lack skills in relationship maintenance, their codependency often manifests in ugly and undesirable ways.
The authors assert that we all benefit from some level of codependency in our relationships. If codependency means that we take away a good feeling from the fact of the relationship, there is no harm in some level of codependency. The negativity of codependency comes when relationships are defined by one partner’s self-worth based upon the behavior of the other partner.
In terms of addiction, this means that the male codependent feels validated when he responds to save the addict from herself. Since addiction can be such an all-consuming force in the life of the addict—and the people around her—it’s not long before her partner gets sucked into an ever-widening spiral of codependency that obliterates the balancing forces of independence and interdependence.
The Male Behavioral Model
The next posit of the authors surrounds the behaviors that boys are taught as they grow into men: Don’t cry. Be tough. Never give way. Don’t ask for help.
Men generally do not work to sustain relationships in the same way as women. They are not good at interpersonal skills like communication, conflict resolution, setting healthy boundaries, identifying personal needs, self-care, emotional expression, intimacy, or a willingness to ask for help.
Codependence can generate feelings of being powerless, vulnerable, fearful, and insecure. But men express those feelings with arrogance or detachment. They are good at hollering and raging around the house. They are manipulative and controlling or even paternalistic.
When Codependency Takes Over
If you are the male half of a relationship in which your partner is using alcohol or drugs, your codependent behaviors will soon become the dominant part of your relationship. By their very nature, you are most likely to express your feelings by avoiding intimacy or cheating outside of your relationship. Your actions toward your addicted partner will involve verbal abuse and threats. You will watch her carefully and try to control everything she does. Your fear of abandonment—nobody wants a relationship to end simply because of addiction—could result in a lasting distrust in your own instincts and a cynicism toward others.
Family Counseling for the Male Codependent
The authors of this study say that a healthy relationship is one that can adapt to the needs of the partner. If your partner is in a recovery center, you should be willing to adjust your needs and schedule so that she can receive the treatment she requires. However, you are not responsible for her recovery—that’s up to her.
The professionals at the recovery center can work with you in family sessions to achieve a better level of interdependence in the relationship and less codependence. You can develop improved skills for communicating with your loved one. You can learn fair ways to resolve conflicts and how to set boundaries for acceptable behaviors. You will need to recognize your own personal needs and allot some time for your own self growth. That’s your job: Participating in family counseling is up to you. When loved ones participate in the Family Program they gain understanding of how addiction has impacted their lives and can begin their own recovery in a sense while supporting their loved one while in treatment. For more information on the Family Program at Vista Taos Renewal Center contact them at 1.800.245.8267.