Codependent relationships all have certain characteristics in common. These relationships consist of one person who loves an individual who is addicted to some form of harmful behavior. Quite often someone we care deeply about is in a codependent relationship of one sort or another and as someone who cares about them as well, it’s our job to help them as best as we can. It’s a very difficult task to help someone move from an unhealthy relationship to one that is happy and healthy. The process is long, and hard, and there are times that you may find them pushing against your efforts.
Codependent individuals are hesitant to trust other individuals because of their current and past relationships; they are suffering from a being let down by those closest to them. In order to even begin to help them in this journey you will need to ensure that you always maintain their trust, by doing so you not only help them develop a sense of trust in you, but they will also learn from you what it takes to be in a trusting relationship themselves. Be honest with them, don’t sugar coat things, but always be someone they can come to with the knowledge that what is said between you is just that…between the two of you. By building this level of trust early it will lay a solid foundation for them to find comfort in being honest themselves, as well as teach them how to grow as a healthy and complete individual.
Once you have established a basis of trust you will need to ensure that you are holding the codependent responsible for their actions. It is easy to slip into an enabling role yourself, don’t let yourself be caught up cleaning up after them, or indulging their self-pity. Hold them accountable, and encourage them to face their demons, yet at the same time encourage them to seek out support from self-help groups, 12 step programs, or life coaches and therapists. This is not a road they can make the journey down alone, and it is one that you can only partially assist them with. Co-dependents need to understand that they are not the cause of their relationship troubles, those wishing to help a co-dependent friend or relative recover often find that they are faced with their friends deep seated emotional state, how they feel responsible for the actions of the addict in their life or that they are not worthy of anything better. Being close to them already you will need to support them in their ever changing relationship with the addict in their life, be warned that you will often meet resistance as the co-dependent struggles with their self-worth, they may find they feel unworthy of your assistance and try to push you away. The co-dependent is working on recovering and seeking out a way to control their own life.
This struggle to control their own life, is often in conflict with their desire to control their partners dependency and addiction. This is a very common need for the co-dependent, the need to control their loved one, to cover up for their short comings, and manipulate the world around them to make their lives appear to be normal. Don’t hesitate to call them out for being manipulative or overly dominant in their relationships by pointing out that they are unable to change the behavior of others. No matter how hard they try, it is not their decision or behavior to change. Instead they need to stop enabling these behaviors and accept that they are powerless to change their partner. They do not hold the cure to remove addiction or harmful behavior from another’s lives, they can encourage treatment options but it is not their decision. Accepting this is the first step in their healing and recovery process. This is where it is important for you to help them see that no matter what their partner says that they are not responsible for the choices their partner made, nor are the responsible for their partners addiction. No one can make another person an addict that is an individual reaction to the circumstances around them, and the willful consumption of an addictive chemical.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do for a loved one in a co-dependent relationship is to help them find themselves again. Get them involved in the community, if they like animals volunteer with them to work at an animal shelter. If they love to read, direct them to a local book club. The co-dependent person needs to find their happiness in things they enjoy outside of their relationship, things they can do alone, or with other like-minded individuals. Walking away from the controlling environment they are in will allow them to see their own self-worth. Once they have stepped away from the unhealthy relationship they are in, and are able to find their own worth the sooner they will be able to recognize what is wrong in their relationship and how they can go about finding a healthy and happy relationship either with their current partner or without.
When you find that you know someone who is in a co-dependent relationship, it can be quite painful knowing the awful place they are in and feeling helpless to assist them. Hopefully this has pointed you in the right direction of helping, be there for them, help them understand that they are not to blame for the decisions of the addict in their lives, and assist them in finding themselves once more. And never be afraid to help them find a therapist, counselor, life coach, or support group that specializes in co-dependent relationships.