Whatever our addiction, it is something we need rather than want. And it can affect all the relationships in our life. When an individual is under the control of an addiction, the people closest to them are in turn controlled and manipulated by the addict.
Ironically, it is often the person who has the addiction is often ‘aided and abetted’ by their nearest and dearest. So whilst a partner may hate the fact their partner is addicted, they more often than not as much a part of the problem.
Take for example a man who has a gambling addiction. The addict’s partner may enjoy playing the saviour and may secretly revel in those times when people wonder how such a lovely woman could be with such a troubled man. He hates what he does and she hates what he does. Yet she continues to play the martyr and tries to ‘save him’. Completely unaware, she avoids anything that would end his addiction. The man is unwilling to break the addiction as it forms the basis of his connection with his wife.
What on earth would they talk about if they didn’t talk about the addiction which connects them?
This is what is meant by co-dependency. Co-dependant describes any relationship that forms around a dysfunction (in this case gambling) where one partner is unhealthily preoccupied with the needs of the other instead of their own. The boundaries between individuals are blurred, violated or non-existent. Often what happens are patterns of destructive behaviour that both can’t seem to escape.
Co-dependant partners are not necessarily together because they want to be; they are often together because they have to be. They don’t know how to live otherwise.
It is important to note that because we are all human, we all occasionally show traits and behaviours that leave something to be desired. However, co- dependency is a pattern of behaviours and is something which becomes the ‘norm’ over time. We may feel we absolutely need to be in a relationship, and if not, we search for one; we feel responsible for the mistakes that others make; we like the idea of saving people; we often behave like the parent in relationships or friendships. That kind of thing.
Therapy can help us to be more mindful of our relationships. To slow our reactions down, take a step back and make sure we are not responding out of habit, fear or anger. We can learn to become aware of what we are feeling. In effect, we become an observer of our own lives. With practice we can become both audience and actor. Playing the two roles at the same time comes naturally. We become more detached as we watch and witness our reactions and gain an important understanding of ourselves.