Is it Sacrifice or Co-Dependency? Knowing the Difference

Relationships aren’t easy. They take sacrifice, and each party needs to know how to make compromises for the other person as a demonstration of his or her commitment. Things don’t always go your way, and there should be an equal give-and-take that provides a healthy balance for both partners. Sometimes, a loved one will experience a hardship due to unforeseen circumstances, and you’re in the relationship “for better or for worse.” How do you know, though, when you’re making the necessary sacrifices to be there for your partner and when you’re being used?

Co-dependency is defined as a “condition in which one person supports, either overtly or inadvertently, the addictive behavior of another.” It often leads to abandoning your own wants and needs in favor of the other person’s. In a relationship where one of the partners is using alcohol or drugs, the other partner could be enabling addictive behaviors in various ways:

[See: How to Find the Right Mental Health Professional for You.]

— Bailing someone out of trouble over and over. For example, when your loved one is in and out of jail for driving under the influence, but you keep paying for the bail without asking your partner to enter treatment for alcohol abuse.

— Putting up with your partner’s unhealthy behaviors by not speaking up. Think: When you’re more afraid of losing the relationship and ending up alone than helping your loved one get the treatment he or she needs.

— Giving into your compulsion to rescue others from the natural consequences of their behaviors. This includes paying for your partner’s street sweeping tickets due to his or her negligence, or being a doormat for your loved one as your own resentment builds.

— Keeping secrets that you shouldn’t keep from friends and family (in an attempt to cover for your partner’s substance misuse).

— Giving into false guilt despite going against your best judgment.

— Making excuses for your loved one’s absenteeism at work.

[See: Hoarding, ADHD, Narcissism: Inside the Minds of History’s Great Personalities.]

Are You Making it Hard for Your Loved One to Quit?

Believe it or not, most people don’t think of themselves as the culprit of their loved one’s addiction. Ultimately, it’s the user’s own responsibility for his or her own addiction, but numerous studies have shown that the environment in which drug users live have a lot to do with the life span of their addictive habits.

A study conducted at Indiana University examined the roles of environment in what scientists call the “gene-environment interaction.” For men, strong social ties are protective factors against substance abuse even if they’re genetically predisposed to developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol. They benefit from strong, emotional support of loved ones who will help them disengage from their addictive behavior. For women, the inverse is true. Women benefit more from programs that will help them divide the burden of the relationships and lighten their load.

[See: 14 Ways Caregivers Can Care for Themselves.]

Detached for the Time Being

There comes a time when detachment becomes necessary for your own survival and sanity. You’re not abandoning your partner; you’re simply establishing boundaries for yourself because your loved one’s addiction has taken a toll on your emotional, mental and physical health. You might feel that the only way to save the relationship is to stay in it, but thankfully, there are alternative ways you can help your loved one from a distance. Rather than prolonging your own misery and putting off your loved one’s recovery, why not start now by reaching out to an addiction professional who will help you and your loved one?

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