Too Much or Too Little: Finding the Right Balance in Your Relationships

By Nina Bradshaw is a professionally qualified social worker and therapist in the UK. She earned a Master's Degree in Personality Disorder Studies, a Master's Degree in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and a Master's Degree in Sociology/Social Policy/Social Work.

Sober Recovery Expert Author


How do we find the balance between spending time with supportive people and becoming enmeshed in unhealthy codependent relationships?

It is a potential minefield—not allowing ourselves to become isolated but ensuring that the people we spend time with are giving the right kind of support and understanding that we need.

As you care for yourself and others, it's easy to fall into the extremes of isolation or codependency. Find out if your once-healthy relationship has veered off the rails.

Two Extremes

Spending too much time alone can be unhealthy for anyone in recovery. We become too self-absorbed and have no one to share our worries and anxieties with. We also need people to give a “reality check” to make sure that we are thinking or planning in a realistic way. Isolation can also lead to loneliness and this feeling can cause us to revert to our old, unhealthy coping strategies: drinking or drugging.

So it is important that we spend time with others to avoid the pitfalls that isolation brings. But, equally, we do not want to spend time with people who are unhealthy for us, for any reason. The obvious people are those who are still caught up in the addictive behaviors that we have left behind. However, there are also subtle forms of unhealthy relationships beyond that which tend to take the form of codependency.

Dangers of Codependency

Codependency can lead to us becoming too dependent on another and having blurred boundaries where we cannot separate our own feelings from those of our loved ones. We may feel the relationship is supportive, whereas in reality it may erode our self-esteem and take us back to our old, unhelpful behaviors.

With that in mind, how do we find a happy medium? We need to assess how we spend our time and not overdo it in one area while we neglect others. If we remember this and strike a balance between our relationships and alone time, we are on the right path.

How to Assess

It is okay and even healthy to spend time alone, as long as it is not too much. To be able to enjoy our own company is a sign of maturity. It is only when we become lonely and introverted that it becomes unhealthy. When we are alone, it’s important to check in with ourselves on a regular basis and ask, “Am I alone because I am enjoying this or am I becoming too isolated?” Spending time alone is important but we have to ensure that it is not leading to introspective, negative and lonely isolation.

Equally, we need to think about the relationships and people we spend time with. Are we spending time with people who are supportive without being overly involved? Are we able to separate ourselves from them and they from us without it being too painful?

The Good and the Bad

Relationships are vital to recovery but we have to ensure that we’re invested in the right way. If possible, seek out time with other people in recovery, whether it be in AA, SMART recovery or other self-help and support groups. Walking with others in the same struggle is essential to continued recovery.

If you feel that people are too close or suffocating you, that you must be with them as much as possible, that they sap your energy and self-esteem, or even worse, that you are being abused but still feel like you cannot live without the person, chances are that you are involved in a codependent relationship that needs to end right away.

Finding the balance between unhealthy isolation and healthy alone time, codependent relationships and supportive ones is not an easy task. Being aware of the pitfalls, thinking carefully and regularly monitoring ourselves is a skill that takes time to develop. But it is possible and in time we can discover a healthy balance which is another thing that adds to our sense of achievement as we progress in our recovery.

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