What exactly does co-dependency mean?

  • There are always two people that make up a co-dependent relationship.
  • There is the enabler, and the taker. The enabler needs to be needed, and the taker needs someone who can take care of their needs.
  • It becomes a vicious cycle in which habits that are formed, or already exist such as drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling or even something as simple as shopping.
  • Not all addictions show themselves in the form of drugs or alcohol, as one might think. The addiction is something that is desperately needed by the taker, and the enabler provides them the necessary tools, or even just the giving.
  • This ends up being a permission-based act.
  • One feeds off of the other continually, and though toxic, gives each other a feel-good in the moment that they continue on day in and day out.

As long as the enabler is giving permission to the Taker (also knowns as the addict) to do the acts that he/she is doing, the vicious circle never ends. The addict never has to admit they have a problem, and the enabler has his/her needs met by providing something that makes someone feel better, allowing them to feel needed and wanted.

The issue is that it doesn’t stop there. The enabler feels so good filling a need to the addict that he/she without even knowing it uses that same tool in other areas of their lives with other people. It becomes second nature to that person who is the enabler to caretake in every situation they are in. This is simply because it feels good to feel needed and wanted by someone.

They become fixers. This can’t be confused with it being solution-oriented. The two are far different in nature. One that is solution-oriented, is done for the better of that person, and becomes a positive thing, when someone asks for or needs help for an issue or problem they have.

It is when they fill a need whether it is good or bad without looking at the consequences of each act just to help someone to feel better that they are enabling and creating a co-dependent relationship.

Even though the addict may only have one enabler in their lives, the enabler(aka – the giver) is the one that truly gets hurt the most in the end because they become people who go around fixing everything for everyone good or bad, and because it is a feel-good for them, they don’t even realize that they are neglecting themselves in the process.

It isn’t a selfish feel-good. It is just a feel-good feeling they have. The same feeling they would have if they were helping someone for the good. However, it is a slippery slope because they begin to find themselves doing it for everyone, and then end up hurting themselves because they neglect their own needs and even wants, and before that person knows it their lives aren’t their lives anymore.

Because the giver gives so much and enables so much that they lose themselves in the process, and people don’t see how they are doing this with everyone around them, especially the number one source, the addict.

The enabler belongs to everyone else who continues to pull at them because they can, and who honestly says no to being helped? Not very many people. Those people, the non-addicts will typically not realize that they are in an enabling/co-dependent situation, but it still becomes one.

Many times someone who is the enabler stems from a childhood experience with a parent or grandparent who has an addiction. It becomes so heavily ingrained in their very being that they can’t help but to bring that into their relationships with both their partner, their children, and then other relationships.

Though unhealthy, the place an enabler comes from is truly out of love and the want to help/fix the other person. The fact of the matter is that they truly can’t go there. They don’t know how. They just so desperately want to make sure that other person feels better, and happy, that they create a co-dependent situation.

Where it gets even more complicated is when the taker is a narcissist. That then leads to the manipulation of the enabler/givers feelings and makes them feel if they don’t do or give what is required of the taker, that they don’t love them, or they aren’t holding up their end.

That adds a new tier to the situation which involves abuse, many times gaslighting, and actually takes the enabler down the road of the only option they have is to enable to stop a situation from escalating out of fear.

At this point they question everything they say and do while they are continuing to enable.

It is a never-ending vicious circle, and one that is very toxic for the enabler. The taker is always having their needs met, and though toxic in its own right, is not as damaging emotionally as it is to the enabler, the one who is doing the giving of the situation.

Have you ever thought about if you could be an enabler in your relationship with your partner? The first question to ask yourself is at any point do you have a close history with someone who is an addict?

If the answer is yes, then you need to ask yourself the next question, and that is: Do I constantly like to fix situations? Do I not feel good if I don’t make things better?

Another question to ask yourself is: Do I breathe a sigh of relief when I provide that quick fix in a situation? Then here is the big one: Am I afraid of what will happen to this person, or what they will do if I don’t provide the quick fix in any given situation?

If you answered yes to most of, if not all of these questions, then the chances are you are in a co-dependent relationship with your partner.

So now you need to create a dynamic that will lead the way to a healthier more positive relationship between you and your partner.

It starts with admitting you are a loving, caring beautiful individual. An enabler is not one who is unfeeling, untrustworthy or someone you can’t count on. It is quite the opposite. An enabler is someone who feels everything, who is trustworthy, who someone can count on, and someone who loves with their whole heart. Without those traits, you couldn’t be an enabler, because you wouldn’t be so easy to be manipulated purposeful or not by someone you love.

Keep in mind that after the first few times that you enable someone, they become fully aware of your buttons and which ones they need to push to get what they want. That doesn’t make them a bad person either. It makes them human.

As the saying goes, “Give someone an inch, they take a mile.” That’s human nature.

You don’t have to stay in the pattern of enabler and taker. It comes with being true and honest with yourself.

The next time before you enable, before you go rush out and buy that bottle of alcohol for your partner, give them your credit card so they can go shopping, before you make excuses about why they can’t help you around the house, and you do it for them, or make excuses why they can’t spend any time with the kids, and you run around like a chicken with your head cut off sit back and ask yourself: Am I enabling? If you get that raw feeling in the pit of your stomach, or you know deep down it doesn’t feel right, it is because it isn’t.

The other thing is it doesn’t always have to involve addiction. It is filling a need that someone needs so they can have their feel good. Whatever that situation looks like to you, it is enabling. When you are doing something for someone that makes them feel good, and either makes you feel bad, where you have to make excuses for them, or you do something for them you know isn’t good for them but you do it anyway because in the moment it will make them feel better you are enabling.

It all comes down to asking yourself what deep down doesn’t feel good to you, what doesn’t feel right. What you know is cutting against the grain.

Then the answer becomes really simple: Stop. When you stop enabling, as hard as it is, it is a freeing experience. You stop making excuses for that person and that may bring about an argument or two. Your partner may very well fight back because they aren’t used to being told no to. That’s okay, no one likes change.

People resist change. Now you are doing something that is making them uncomfortable and they don’t know what to do. You need to keep in mind that you aren’t doing this because you don’t love your partner. You are doing it because you do.

This time you are going to focus on the outcome. You are going to keep your eye on the prize so to speak. Breaking the cycle. Allowing you both the freedom to create a better and stronger relationship.

It isn’t going to be an easy road. Breaking the vicious cycle of enabler/taker in a co-dependent relationship is something that is best when you are working with a Relationship Coach (hey that’s me!) or counsellor, because then you have a medium in which you can talk through and find tools that will help you move into a better place for both of you.

If there is abuse involved of any kind, I strongly suggest not breaking any cycle while you are in an environment where you have to be alone with that person. That is going to take some very strategic and subtle actions on your part, in order to facilitate the much-needed changes.

When you are dealing with being the person who is enabling, it is a huge step to admit that you enable, but that is half of the battle. Once you can be honest with yourself then you can start to look at how you deal with all situations in a different light.

It is from that change in your brain from enabler to non-enabler that you are able to see things and people for who and what they truly are. Then you can begin the much-needed steps that involve the word no, or simply you stepping back and allowing others to do their own dirty work, or make the changes in order to stop pulling on you to enable them in whatever habit, addiction or choice in lifestyle that they are choosing.

It is not an easy path, but it’s a path that will set you free from ties that bind you. You allow yourself to become connected to people and to your partner in the way that you were meant to. To help in ways that truly serve and support them and allow you to support and empower yourself in your own journey.

You will also find as you make those changes with your partner your other relationships change as well. When you stop enabling one, you have a tendency to stop enabling all. It is a truly freeing experience.

You start to realize you have boundaries, you have things you need in your life as well from those people, and it isn’t just a one way street.

When you start to stand up and own your co-dependency and let go you begin to find you again without the dependency to make everything better.

As a life and relationship coach, I can help you see things you can’t see for yourself, to guide you through that journey, help you to facilitate those difficult talks, and move into a place in which you both find true freedom in your relationship together so you can find a life without enablement. Inside of this a new possibility, a life filled with true and positive choices that create a positive environment for you and your partner as you walk through life together are now a possible choice.