Codependency in a relationship with an alcoholic

Part 1, Part 2

Is codependency fuelling your relationship with an alcoholic partner? This is the second part of this article about living with an alcoholic - so if you've landed here first, do be sure to check out Part 1. There, you'll find 10 warning signs that your partner is an alcoholic, and the most important decision you can make in this situation.

Ready to discover if codependency is a feature of your relationship? Read on...

Married to an alcoholic? Tearful man.I know about your tears - whether you yourself are an alcoholic or your are married to one

23 Signs that yours is a codependent intimate relationship

You may see your partner as a ‘taker’.  The question is, then, to what extent are you the ‘caretaker’. In a healthy relationship both partners take and take care. In a codependent relationship both partners are on opposite sites of the continuum. Here is a test to help you become aware of where you are with that...

  1. You’ve paid for stuff your partner ‘wanted or needed’ but couldn’t afford, or to ‘buy’ his or her affection. The latter means you’re really manipulating the situation. I say that without judgment as I can so understand it. Being loved is an essential emotional need, but… it doesn’t need to come from your partner
  2. You’ve got into debt to support your partner - a step further
  3. You say ‘Yes’ when you really mean ‘No’, and vice versa to avoid potential trouble
  4. You’re unable to focus on anything else but your partner’s next move
  5. You’re abusive towards your partner
  6. Your self-esteem is in your boots and you’d do anything at all to get a little bit of - what appears to be - loving attention. 
  7. You end up feeling guilty and ashamed, hating yourself for having succumbed to your partner’s requests for help
  8. You either want to win every argument, or you’re don’t even realise you have an opinion, let alone have the right or confidence to state it
  9. You’ve lost all interest in anything that could be personally fulfilling or rewarding. All your energy goes into ‘managing’ your relationship
  10. You try to control situations to avoid being confronted with - and exposed to - your partner’s troublesome behaviour
  11. You help your partner get out of trouble with work, friends and family - you make that phonecall with the excuses, you make that contribution towards to the cost, you write the letters and the cards, you make the apologies
  12. You feel resentful that he or she doesn’t realise all you do for them
  13. You stay in the relationship, despite knowing there is no hope that the situation will improve
  14. You blame your unhappiness on your partner, or you claim responsibility for his or her alcoholism
  15. You make excuses for your partner’s behaviour - (s)he’s had a tough day/time, (s)he’s had a troubled childhood, (s)he’s suffered a trauma
  16. You believe that with your love, care and attention your partner will heal and eventually overcome their addiction
  17. You feel guilty when you do manage to do something for yourself
  18. The idea of being alone really scares you
  19. If you’re really honest with yourself, you can’t see yourself ever breaking up and striking out alone
  20. You know you’re avoiding facing up to your partner’s dishonesty, abusiveness and general selfishness
  21. You allow your own emotional and physical needs always to come second after those of your partner
  22. You manipulate your partner and events  to  save your partner ‘getting into a situation’
  23. You often feel hopeless and depressed

Do you need codependency counselling or ‘treatment’?

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Let me answer the latter first. No, you don’t need ‘treatment’. You’re not ill!

However, if you’ve discovered that you are codependent, then absolutely codependency counselling is the very best way to help you overcome it. I would strongly advise you to make use of the offer of a week’s free counselling to begin with.

In any case, the very fact that you’re on this page means your husband or wife is most probably an alcoholic. Sharing your concerns, therefore, with a professional counsellor and getting their support and advice can certainly speed up your recovery. You can (re)create your identity - free  from what’s happening with your partner.

Self-help for when your partner, husband or wife is an alcoholic, and/or you’re in a codependent relationship

I would love you to get counselling to get over that codependency. But, I would also like you to choose something now from the following by way of self-help...

15 Self-help strategies and tips

  1. Ask yourself in your deepest of hearts - what is it that you really want for yourself that you do have control over? Take a few days and write a list - think small and large here, now and in the future, what is and isn’t acceptable
  2. Decide what your values are
  3. Set boundaries - once you’ve done the above, make a careful start with when you can say “yes” and “no”, really mean it and keep to it, without giving in
  4. Become assertive - I know, easier said than done, but if you’ve decided what you stand for, what you want to do, what your values are and what your boundaries are, it become much easier
  5. Get some abandoned and long-forgotten projects out of the cupboard and get creative again
  6. Invest in relationships with friends and extended family. You’re a parent, child, aunt or uncle, neighbour, friend, acquaintance, volunteer, mentor, teacher, etc. You’re important! Invest in that role being careful not just to give, but to also accept. Be aware that those you give to may not be givers themselves. There’s life outside of being married to an alcoholic!
  7. Plot a different future - invest in yourself. There are so many free lessons offered online in just about any subject you can think of. Start expanding your horizons and investing in your self development.
  8. Be fearless in your honesty - towards others of course, but specifically also towards yourself
  9. Challenge yourself to do better
  10. Reward yourself for every tiny step, small and large achievements
  11. Aim to meet your essential emotional needs in balance
  12. Focus on yourself - your activities, your interests. Bring back that focus if you find it shifting towards your partner. That’s the most important thing anyone can learn when living with an alcoholic
  13. Stop blaming your partner, your parents, your work, your friends or anyone/thing else - including yourself. Blame won’t help you - or your partner
  14. Learn to accept yourself as imperfect - we all are! :-)
  15. Learn how to relax yourself immediately with the breathing exercise on my page: Tips to Relieve Stress

You too can set boundaries when you're married to an alcoholic

Here's why and how you can stop become a caregiver, yet still be a loving partner...


You can also learn more about what you can do to help by contacting Al-Anon, a group set-up by and for people just like you. You may find it a relief to know that other partners go through much the same as you do.

You probably already know your wife or husband is an alcoholic. Do yourself and them a favour now - focus on yourself. Don’t wait any longer  before you take some decisive action, when you know you're living with an alcoholic

Part 1, Part 2

Related articles

Stages of Alcoholism
Signs of Alcoholism
Symptoms of Alcoholism
Alcoholism and Depression
Depression Questionnaire
Signs of a Nervous Breakdown
PTSD Symptoms

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