Building strong relationships with family and friends is a vital part of the recovery process. Often, this means learning how to recognize unhealthy behavior patterns, such as codependency, and promoting a positive way to move forward.
Codependent relationships are characterized by an excessive psychological or emotional reliance on another person to meet one’s own needs. This dynamic is most often seen with married couples but can also be present in parent-child relationships and friendships.
Relationships marked by codependency are unhealthy for both parties. The person who is always playing the caretaking role starts to feel as though their needs and wants don’t matter. The recipient of these over-the-top caretaking efforts never learns to be fully accountable for their actions and starts to expect constant assistance in meeting their needs.
There are no boundaries in a codependent relationship because all of the attention is one-sided. In a healthy relationship, both parties have equal respect for the other’s thoughts and feelings. They both feel comfortable asking for help when they need it or playing a caretaking role when their loved one is struggling.
Tips for Setting Healthy Boundaries
Healthy boundaries break the cycle of codependency by setting clear expectations for each person’s behavior. These boundaries are assertive without being aggressive.
While every relationship is unique, here are some tips to keep in mind as you’re setting boundaries to help support your recovery efforts:
- Get comfortable spending time alone. Often, codependent relationships are related to low self-esteem and a fear of abandonment. When you are comfortable spending time alone and don’t rely on others to define your identity, it becomes easier to recognize an unhealthy relationship dynamic. Set aside some time each week for solo hobbies and interests.
- Know who you are, what you believe, and what you like. Relationships require give and take, but it’s not healthy to always agree to things out of a desire to please others—especially if you’re compromising your core identity. When you feel strongly about something, speak up!
- Take responsibility for your own happiness. While you can’t always control what’s going on around you, you are in control of how you respond to any given situation. Resist the urge to blame others for your problems or to feel as though you need to “fix” the people around you.
- Say “no” to commitments that don’t fit your needs. Declining invitations to social events or activities isn’t selfish. Setting a realistic limit on your schedule allows you to fully honor all of your existing commitments.
- Don’t let others define you or your self-worth. In recovery, you may encounter people who aren’t convinced you have the potential to change or who try to sabotage your efforts at self-improvement. Often, this behavior is motivated by their personal insecurities. Stay strong and be confident in who you are.
- Only share what makes you comfortable. Other people are not entitled to hear every detail of your recovery story—especially if they aren’t close friends or family. If you aren’t comfortable sharing, it is perfectly fine to simply say that you had a problem and realized you needed help.
- Remember that your feelings and needs are just as important as the feelings and needs of others. When you’re newly sober, it’s tempting to go out of your way to try to make amends to those you hurt while you were struggling with your addiction. This impulse is understandable, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of your own well-being. You deserve care and consideration regardless of what mistakes you’ve made in the past.
- Set reasonable consequences for violating your boundaries. When people continue to violate your boundaries, you no longer need to engage with them. Stand your ground and live life on your own terms.
The Mindful Word has some additional advice you may find helpful as you work towards healthier relationships with your loved ones.
We’re Here to Help
No matter where you are in your recovery journey, Waypoint Recovery Center is here to provide the support and encouragement you need to be successful. Our South Carolina residential addiction treatment helps men and women develop the foundation for a lasting recovery by addressing the underlying causes of addiction, providing treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders, and promoting the development of wellness-focused lifestyle habits. Our continuing care resources help ease the transition back to independent living so you can make the most of what each day has to offer.