Codependency in Relationships

Codependency in Relationships

 Many relationship problems have codependency as the root cause. My general premise is that for a relationship to work, each party needs to have so much love for his or her self that there is an excess that can then flow into the other party. What happens in relationships where the couple is regularly battling is that either one or most likely both of them are lacking in the self-love area. Usually, that is described as “that empty hole inside of me.” In the worst case scenario where both parties have less than adequate self-love, they are both looking to the other to “fill that empty hole.” The problem is that neither of them has enough love for themselves, so they have little or none to give to the other.

 People with low self-love tend to be very self-centered, “It’s all about me!” They are so needy that they are constantly making demands on their partners for attention. They become very jealous when their partner pays attention to anyone else. This jealousy isn’t necessarily sex-based. It can form over the partner’s hanging out with old buddies. It’s “but why aren’t you with me?” When this is happening on both sides of the relationship, it is easy to see how recriminations and battling can occur. 

 In codependent relationships, hardly anybody leaves regardless of how heavy the conflict. To explain the reason for this, it is important to look at how codependency functions as an addiction. Whereas people with substance addictions use the alcohol and drugs to deal with the hurt of little of no self-esteem and love, codependents use the attentions of others for the same reasons. As with substance addictions, as long as the drug is there, the internal ache is gone, withdraw the drug and there is an instant craving for more so as not to have to deal with the empty feelings. In the case of codependency, a person or a partner becomes the drug. As long as that other person is there, the emptiness is filled. The codependent person will do any and everything to make sure that the other person continues to fill that need. This includes staying in very destructive relationships long after a well functioning individual would have bailed out for self-preservation. “I know this is a lousy relationship, but it is better than nothing!” is the way a co-dependent mind thinks. 

Codependency is one of those addictions that only becomes a problem when it crosses the line from a need to a habit. As with another one, compulsive eating, they only become problems when one switches from it being a want to a compulsive need. With overeating, it is the difference between eating to live and living to eat. In all well functioning relationships, there is a degree of give and take where one might be giving a bit more than their level of comfortability would normally allow. Because the other party also does similar things, the payoff of having a well functioning relationship overrides any loses, it does not cause any grief. In codependent relationships, obsessively serving the other person’s needs and likes crosses the boundary from just being a nice, supportive and loving partner to one driven by the fear of losing.

There are a number of things that are very helpful to overcome codependency. They include becoming actively involved in either/or of both Codependents Anonymous and Alanon. Alanon is a specialized niche of codependency where the partner is or was an addict or alcoholic. Both are great, supportive organizations. Alanon has been around for a long time so, especially if your partner is or was an addict or alcoholic, it would be the place where you will find the most support from folks who have been walking the walk for a long time.

Also, as with all addictions, the root cause of this one is low or no self-esteem/love/worth so for long term recovery and to prevent switching to another addiction, working on one’s self-esteem and building up one’s self-love is of super importance.

©2019 Jason Wittman, MPS

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*About The Author*

Jason Wittman, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV (aka Successful People’s Secret Weapon) has had a private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 40 years. His practice, focuses on coaching and advising business and professional clients, who are recovering from alcoholism and addictions, to work and live at their exquisite best. He is an expert on teaching and coaching the “getting-on-living,” self-esteem building and spirituality parts of recovery. He has his master’s degree from Cornell University in counseling-psychology and is certified as a drug & alcohol counselor, a clinical hypnotherapist and a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). He can be contacted at or 213-804-4408