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Finding the Courage to Be Yourself in Relationships

For recovering addicts, relationships can be one of the most challenging areas of life.  It’s where we might feel the most vulnerable, uncomfortable, or emotionally weak. Relationships tend to trigger us in ways that other areas of life don’t. And this is especially true for those who have struggled with an addiction in the past.

Typically, someone who has faced addiction tends to find themselves in co-dependent relationships. Codependency is a pattern of behavior that many recovering addicts struggle with. This is a pattern in relationships in which one or more of the partners relies upon the other to the point where they believe that they cannot live their lives on their own. In other words, codependency comes with an inability to believe in one’s own power. Instead, what happens is that a person feels they need someone else in their lives to facilitate achieving what they want to achieve. Thus, there is a dysfunctional dependency upon someone else.

It should be noted that the feeling of not being able to live without the other person does not come from love. Instead, this lack of independence comes from a relying too much on the other person and not feeling one’s own power. 

It’s typical in co-dependent relationships for one or the other person to sacrifice who they are in order to stay in the relationship. For instance, if one person is uncomfortable with the way the other person is too controlling, he or she won’t say anything about it in fear of losing the relationship. He or she will deal with the discomfort, evasiveness, or intrusion on his or her life.

However, recognizing this might invite the possibility for one or both people to have the courage to be themselves. Frequently, people ignore their feelings, thoughts, and discomforts because they don’t want to risk rocking the boat. They fear that by doing so they will put the relationship in danger.

Furthermore, codependents tends to have low self worth, tend to push away intense and uncomfortable feelings, tend to obsess over problems including those of others, feel anxious about small things, tend to want to control events and other people, have weak boundaries and have poor communication skills.  With this in mind, it might take a significant amount of courage to express your needs in a relationship. However, with the support of a therapist, friend, or someone you trust, it’s possible to express your needs and be who you are in a relationship.

Also, except for violent relationships, when someone in the relationship has the courage to express their needs and wants, there’s often a respect that the other person feels. There’s often also a self-respect that results from expressing your true feelings. However, it’s important to know that some relationships are so dysfunctional that they might become violent. When there is such a strong power dynamic between two partners, one person might feel the need to control the other through violence.  If this is the case, then it’s essential to seek outside assistance. It’s vital that you find protection for yourself.

With this exception, you should know that you have the right to be who you are in a relationship. It might take courage to communicate your thoughts and feelings, but doing so makes the relationship healthier and possibly happier. 

 

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Chris Massman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Chris' training includes Family Systems Theory along with numerous other theories. She believes therapy is an art and chooses the theory she feels will most benefit the individual sitting in front of her. Her specialty lies is in the field of Chemical Dependency and Addictions. Chris is currently seeing individuals, couples and families. Chris is a Clinical member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists as well as the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Chris has two locations including Tarzana and Agoura Hills, CA.