If you’re in a relationship with someone who has an addiction, you have a higher chance of developing codependent behaviors. Part of a codependent relationship can include enabling the other person’s addiction or harmful behaviors. Enabling is not something that a person does with ill intent or intent at all. Rather, enabling is something someone learns to do to avoid upsetting the other person. Enabling behaviors can also surface to maintain the other person’s well being, social standing, or the relationship itself.
What Are Enabling Behaviors?
Enabling behaviors arise out of relationships that contain unhealthy or dysfunctional dynamics. Family therapy can help to uncover the root of these dynamics. They may come out of a need to reduce shame or guilt. For example, a father with an addiction to substances may be the family’s breadwinner. To keep the family afloat financially, other family members may learn to hide evidence of the father’s substance abuse. This could come in the form of denying or covering up that evidence.
Common examples of enabling include:
- Backing up excuses for the addict’s substance use or destructive behaviors
- Taking on the other person’s responsibilities
- Making excuses or covering up mistakes
- Helping the other person financially
- Cleaning up after the other person’s mistakes or use of substances
In families where the parent has a substance use problem or addiction, children may take on the parent’s role(s). This is often equated with “pseudo-adulthood” or “pseudo-like” roles. The child may not be emotionally or physically mature enough to take on adult roles. However, the child takes on those roles anyway because the parent’s inability leaves a gap. Family therapy identifies these gaps, how they came about, and how the parent and the child can restore healthy dynamics.
Correcting Enabling Behaviors
Some people are aware they are enabling a loved one’s addiction. For instance, if a child has a food addiction, a parent who regularly brings the child unhealthy foods enables that behavior. The parent may do this to prevent the child from complaining about being hungry or getting upset. Both the child and the parent need to learn what triggers the addictive and enabling behaviors, even if they are aware of them. Without identifying the source of the problem, it can be difficult to work on correcting the symptoms.
The person who is enabling the loved one may have low self-esteem or other characteristics of codependency. Part of the reason why the person may be enabling the addiction is to feel needed. One of the characteristics of a codependent person is a strong desire to fix or rescue others. Without something to fix, the codependent person fears the other individual in the relationship will no longer stick around. While one person in the relationship may have an addiction to a substance, the codependent individual will have an addiction to the relationship’s existence.
What Can Family Therapy with Northern Illinois Recovery Do?
Understanding dysfunctional behaviors are the first step to correcting them. Family therapy reveals the reasons why relationships fell out of line and the emotions behind enabling and codependency. Addiction encompasses a series of patterns and choices that do not always move in a linear line. Many people can and do relapse after making progress. An addiction’s effects are also not limited to the person with the issue. Everyone in that person’s social circle can feel the impact and become a part of the addiction. Family therapy helps break up those patterns and provides ways to reestablish healthy dynamics.