Codependency was once a term used mostly in drug rehabilitation centers and alcoholic support groups; however, codependency relationships exist in other realms as well. Families with a chronically sick family member, couples with one domineering spouse, and children who end up enabling their parents’ bad decisions also exhibit codependent behavior.
Where does the line cross between a normal and healthy relationship and an unhealthy codependent relationship?
Defining Codependency in the 21st Century
All relationships contain a certain amount of codependency. Loving couples will take turns relying on one another during difficult seasons. The problem arises when one person relies too much on the other, and/or the partner uses their position to control the other person. There is no fear in love.
Keeping an Eye Out: Signs of Codependency
There are several signs of an unhealthy codependent relationship, but first, we should discuss enabling. Enabling is the act of “helping” an individual to the point that they will no longer accept personal responsibility and/or they cannot function independently.
For example, the friends and family members of an alcoholic may enable them to continue their behavior by bailing them out physically and financially or providing excuses for their uncontrolled behavior. An enabler may feel guilt or take the blame when the codependent person does something awful. In essence, they may carry the burden that is not theirs to carry.
Unfortunately, rescuing the person makes the enabler feel like a martyr or a hero with the demonstration of unconditional love. However, this unconditional love is at the expense of the enabler’s basic needs. This behavior eventually has a negative effect on both individuals involved.
There are several codependency symptoms you should keep an eye out for if you are concerned that either you or a loved one are involved in a codependent relationship.
- If you feel responsible for the consequences of another person’s bad decisions. You may believe that the other person cannot function on their own without your advice and management.
- If you or the other person disregard boundaries. Codependents expect others to do what they are advised to do. This can create strife in the relationship as the boundary line is continuously pushed back.
- If you are ignoring your basic needs to meet the needs of others. You may feel a sense of martyrdom for coming to the rescue.
- If you make excuses for the other person’s terrible behavior due to an addiction or anger issues. If you’ve been married to the person for many years or have dated for a long time, you may feel that “giving up” on the other person is a sign of failure.
- Feeling victimized after going out of your way to please people, and instead, are rejected. People in a codependent relationship desire approval, acceptance, and love. In an unhealthy relationship, the other person may not reciprocate those feelings.
- If you feel that others are constantly out to get you or to use you. You may take off-handed remarks spoken by others personally. Since the boundary line is thin, you might resort to gaining and maintaining control over the other person.
- You use manipulation and threats to maintain control over another individual. You or another person might resort to verbal, psychological, or physical abuse to manipulate someone to do what they’re told to do.
- If you view life as boring if you do not have a problem to solve, the attention of a needy person, or some type of drama in your life. This could mean creating your own drama in relationships or getting involved in the relationships of others.
You need to decide if you or your loved one’s relationship has progressed to an unhealthy level of codependency.
Are You in an Unhealthy Codependent Relationship?
The excitement and sense of “saving” someone can lead to a string of codependency relationships. If you believe that you or a loved one are currently in an unhealthy relationship, there are a few things you can do today.
Begin by setting boundaries. You need to decide what your true values, priorities, and responsibilities are and then openly ask your loved one to respect those boundaries. The more you allow someone to steal your power, the more you forget that you are worthy of respect and love.
Caring for yourself shouldn’t leave you feeling guilty and ashamed. If you are pouring all of yourself into another person, eventually you will begin to feel burned out. You should work to meet your basic needs before you try to help others.
There is a reason why an airline attendant will insist that you place the oxygen mask over your face before your child’s in the case of an aircraft emergency. The same principle applies in your life. Fill your life with positive people and things, and then share with others.
Unfortunately, some people may not understand your sudden change in behavior from enabling them to setting boundaries. This is a good time to suggest counseling. A counselor can help explain your feelings as well as expectations for boundaries.
There are different types of therapy sessions available depending on your situation. You can try one-on-one sessions between you and the counselor or couples therapy. Family counseling sessions are also available which you may find are beneficial in repairing familial relationships.
Learning to reframe your mind is imperative, especially if you still live with a codependent partner. If you’ve fed your mind with negative thoughts or automatically gave advice (or commands) to your loved ones, you will need to change your perspective. When a negative thought enters your mind, remind yourself of the positives.
Keep scriptures and affirmations on note cards or slips of paper near you and read these when you feel the familiar voice in your head saying you are worthless or not good enough.
Learn to slow down and stay silent when you feel the urge to offer your advice. Whether it is warranted or not, everyone has the right to make their own decisions and deal with the consequences of their actions. Love and accept them anyway.
Sometimes you will need to step away from a relationship. You serve multiple roles in your life and should experience multiple relationships, such as close friendships with others, familial relationships with your siblings and cousins, and work relationships with your coworkers. Spending time with others will remind you that you are an empowered individual. You are more than someone’s spouse, someone’s parent, or someone’s child.
Refuse to take everything personally. Not everything someone says or does is meant to hurt you. On the other hand, if you feel that someone is abusing you physically, emotionally, or verbally, seek help right away. You can love someone and forgive them, but you cannot allow them to hold you in the “fire” of their own making.
In this circumstance, the best thing you can do is to separate yourself from this person and use a counselor to help you move on with your life and avoid any future unhealthy codependent relationships.
What the Bible Says About Relationships
According to the Bible, God sent His Son, Jesus here to earth to bridge the gap between us and God. He did this because He created those in His image to live in fellowship with Him.
That doesn’t mean only the people in the Old and New Testaments. It doesn’t mean only preachers or missionaries. It means You. We cannot continue to berate ourselves when we are made in His image. We cannot allow others to destroy what God built. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. You can offer forgiveness to others, but you must honor the body and mind God gave you.
Self-care is not placing yourself before God. You are not creating an idol. You are nurturing your mind, body, and soul with the strength and love of Jesus Christ. When you are in a healthy frame of mind, you will find it easier to share your story with the world and build healthy relationships.
Christian Counseling for Codependency
If you’re looking for some additional support working through a codependent relationship, don’t hesitate to contact one of the Christian counselors listed in our counselor directory. We would be happy to help you find the hope and freedom available to you