1. Does your sense of purpose involve making extreme sacrifices to satisfy your partner’s needs?
  2. Is it difficult to say no when your partner makes demands on your time and energy?
  3. Do you cover your partner’s problems with drugs, alcohol, or the law?
  4. Do you constantly worry about others’ opinions of you?
  5. Do you feel trapped in your relationship?
  6. Do you keep quiet to avoid arguments?

So what can you do when you realize that your relationship is taking up way too much of your energy? Or when you know there’s a secret in your family that you’ll do anything to hide from others? Or that you jump through all kinds of hoops to keep your partner “happy,” even though there’s a problem that neither of you is confronting head on?

Here are some ideas.

For the “enabled.”

  1. How are you personally confronting your problems? Do you blame others for them?
  2. Do you feel entitled or owed the help your partner offers?
  3. If you have an addiction or self-destructive problem, how are you denying it to yourself or others? Do you not even see it as an issue? Are you being honest about its impact on your family and your own life?
  4. Do you know how to give? If not, what work do you need to do to learn?
  5. What would have to happen for you to seek treatment or help?

For the “enabler.”

  1. How did you become afraid of conflict?
  2. What has caused you to be uncomfortable with receiving?
  3. When did you begin to find your self-esteem in being a giver? Or to make sacrifices constantly for others? Do you like control too much?
  4. Does your partner’s problem tend to make you feel superior to him or her? If so, what has made that important to feel?
  5. What is keeping you in the relationship? Are you afraid of leaving, and why?

These questions aren’t easy to answer, nor are they all that’s needed. They are a starting point, or a guide to the kind of emotional work that needs to be done if the relationship has a chance of being healthy. A good therapist can help.

There are some excellent books on the topic. Codependent No More is a classic. But there are others that you can find that more speak to you.

The goal is to unhook from one another —  to take responsibility for fixing what problems you have as an individual, and not to live your life in denial, or martyrdom. Giving and receiving. Honest empathy and caring. Being there for one another in a real way, gently confronting when boundaries are crossed.

It’s not codependence. It’s called interdependence. And it can feel so much better.