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Unhealthy Relationship Dynamics In Recovery

Healthy relationships are an important part of recovery. Here are some common unhealthy relationship patterns and how to spot them.

The more we work to heal ourselves from the toxic patterns of our addictions and mental health issues, the more we realize that our recovery involves more than just us as individuals. We’re not operating in isolation. A great deal of our lives involves the people in them. The relationships we’re in, including our family members, close friends, and partners, have a lot to do with our healing. For many of us, these relationships are unhealthy and destructive. They may even be filled with abuse, neglect, and mistreatment. We become trapped in unhealthy relationship dynamics, often without being fully aware of what’s happening. We’re so focused on how much we love and care for this person that we fail to see the unhealthy relationship dynamics at play. We can become complicit in these dynamics and even compound and perpetuate them.

Very often we’re in relationships with other addicts, many of whom are not yet in recovery. Addiction might be pervasive in our families and friend groups. We might attract partners with similar unresolved issues. The dynamics that can emerge from these kinds of situations can be painful and can hinder our ability to get well. We might enable one another, cover up for each other’s harmful behaviors, excuse each other and justify our wrongdoings. This keeps us from being honest with ourselves and looking at our behaviors and choices clearly and objectively. We exacerbate each other’s patterns of denial and avoidance. We don’t hold each other accountable for the things we’re doing wrong and the ways we’re hurting others. We can’t heal if we aren’t honest with ourselves. We can’t resolve issues that we don’t fully confront. Whatever we suppress stays trapped within us. We can only move forward if we’re addressing everything that is holding us back, and when we’re in relationships that compound our tendencies towards denial, avoidance, and suppression, we aren’t actively addressing the issues that need our attention. The more we perpetuate these patterns of enabling each other, the more we hold each other back from healing.

Sometimes, in unhealthy relationships, we can actively dissuade one another from seeking help. Misery loves company, as they say. Our resistance to recovery is often so strong that we convince ourselves, and each other, that we aren’t actually addicts, that we don’t need help, or that we can heal on our own. However, we often run away from the work that’s needed for true healing. We fear challenging ourselves in order to get out of the comfort zone of our addictions. We become complacent and perhaps even give up on ourselves. We push our resistance onto other people and pressure them into a similar compacncy. This destructive tendency can sabotage the healing process for everyone involved. Our addictions fester and grow deeper over time. We become more dependent on our drugs of choice. We feel less and less able to fight our addictive urges and temptations. Our mental health issues worsen. We become trapped and paralyzed in our unhealthy patterns, feeling as though we can’t free ourselves from them. In this kind of relationship dynamic, we tend to isolate ourselves from other people in our lives, which further compounds our issues. However, if we weren’t so tied to these relationships and weren’t keeping each other from getting help and support, we might reach out to other loved ones. We might summon the courage to ask for help. We might come out of our shell and open up to other people more, enabling us to receive the guidance, wisdom, inspiration, and motivation we need to help us courageously move forward in our recovery.

Control is typically a defining characteristic of unhealthy relationships. As addicts and people who struggle with mental illness, we’re no strangers to abusive relationships. We have a tendency to take our pain out on the people closest to us, and our unhealed wounds can cause us to be abusive to others and in turn, to allow ourselves to be abused. Control is something we might not always associate with abuse, but it can be a major factor in mental, emotional and physical abuse. When our partners seek to control us, instead of letting us be who we are, we lose the autonomy and independence we need to do what is best for ourselves. They might try to dictate what we should do, how we should behave, how we should express our feelings, how we should communicate, and how we should live our lives. We often become codependent, looking to other people to complete and validate us. We feel as though we can’t function in life without them. 

We can’t make important decisions for ourselves, about our healing and everything else in our lives. We defer to them and allow them to overpower us. If they are keeping us from getting help, we will follow their lead and do as they say. We prioritize their happiness over everything in our lives, including our recovery, and do our best to appease them as much as possible. This means we’re automatically sacrificing our well-being. We’re not making sure our own needs are met. We’re not getting help, and we’re not addressing how unhealthy our relationship truly is. When we’re being controlled in relationships, we often lack the self-assuredness and feelings of self-worth necessary to believe that we deserve to be happy and healed. This keeps us blocked from taking the steps needed to initiate our recovery.

Part of our recovery work involves learning about the relationship dynamics that have been keeping us from being able to heal. Without understanding more about these dynamics, we run the risk of perpetuating them and allowing them to continue to sabotage our progress.

At The Guest House Ocala, you will be treated with dignity, respect and compassion. Call 855-483-7800 today for more information on our treatment programs.