Around the world, people face many mental issues that can be resolved if action is taken sooner rather than later. Some are these are easier to recognize than others as their symptoms are quite clear to the person or to their loved ones. Others, however, are difficult to determine, such as codependency.
This article will discuss more about codependency in the hope that sufferers of it will have a better idea of the problem and what can be done.
What is a Codependent?
A codependent is someone who seeks out, consciously or even subconsciously, one-sided relationships that are oftentimes emotionally damaging and possibly even abusive. In this kind of relationship, the codependent usually tries to keep the other person happy by sacrificing personal time, wants, or needs. This “other person” is usually the spouse, but it may also be a parent, sibling, child, colleague, or a close friend.
Though seemingly strange to some, there are many who are in a codependent relationship. Some are aware that they are, yet many others are not sure if they are, thinking that they are just giving their all to love others.
How to Tell if it is Codependency
Generally, a codependent is a “people pleaser,” trying to do or say things so that others may like them. Such a person often relies on the approval or acceptance of others, causing them to feel bad when they are criticized, ignored, or rejected.
To ensure acceptance from other people, a codependent may repress their own feelings in favor of what the other person wants, making it difficult for them to set personal boundaries as they have trouble saying “no” to requests, even if these requests intrude on personal time or require too much of their personal resources.
Other unhealthy traits of a codependent include low self-esteem, constant fear of abandonment, and an uncertainty of who they really are. In fact, if a person has been a codependent for quite some time, they may have addictive behaviors or may be suffering from symptoms of major depression.
In codependency situations where the “other” is a substance abuser, the codependent may give in to requests for “another drink” or may facilitate the purchase of alcohol or drugs just to keep their loved one (e.g. spouse, parent, sibling) happy. In cases of sexual codependency with a spouse or a girlfriend or boyfriend, this may mean doing something sexually even if they are not comfortable doing so. In codependency at the workplace, this may mean always rendering extra service to be of help, even if it causes much stress and fatigue.
The Desire to be Needed
From afar, many may view the codependent as the victim who should be applauded, rather than stopped, for their efforts at self-sacrifice as they are the ones going the extra mile to be of help. However, when viewed closer, a codependent is actually trying to manipulate the actions of those around them to fulfill their desire to be needed.
The fear of pain or abandonment, real or imagined, is what usually fuels such actions. In domestic situations, the codependent may be afraid of the pain that will follow if the “other” becomes angry.
It is also possible that the codependent is afraid that the “other” will leave them, so they try to be a “good” wife, husband, or child. At work, there may be that fear of rejection by peers or their superiors, which causes the codependent to work extra hard, even if it is no longer healthy.
Sadly, even if the “abusive relationship” has ended, codependents often find themselves attracted to similar, one-sided relationships in the future, believing that they are not worthy of something better, even if such a relationship is literally hurting them. It is not a good situation to be in.
Drawing the Line between a Good Christian and Codependency
While it may be easy for others to recognize the unhealthiness of codependency, for some Christians, the line may be blurred. Throughout Scripture, Christ’s disciples are asked to love others:
Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. – 1 Corinthians 10:24
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. – Luke 6:35
Thus, as a follower of Christ, a codependent may become confused, thinking that their personal sacrifice is for the sake of the other.
However, in the Bible, it can be seen that our Lord Jesus set boundaries. Though he loves his people and gave his life for them, he did not become a slave to everyone’s whims, especially when sin was involved. Instead of working for the praise and approval of people, he only sought the approval of his Father in heaven.
In John 5:44, it says, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” This means that we ought to look to God for approval, not to others.
Seeking Help through Christian Counseling
As in all problems, the initial step is to acknowledge that there is a problem with codependency. Next, one must seek for help, since overcoming it on your own will be very difficult indeed.
In Christian counseling, encouragement will be given, and sound counseling methods will be applied to help the codependent change their mindset about their situation. It is really hard to step out of one’s usual relationship patterns to try something new, so professional help is needed to reframe the sufferer’s thinking patterns.
But most importantly, the Christian counselor will connect the sufferer to God who can fully empower them to break this cycle. Through prayer and meditation on Scripture, the codependent may realize that their life depends on God alone and not on the approval other people. This will give them the strength to reject disadvantageous requests; say “no” to abuse and ridicule; and overcome this unhealthy dependency on others.
If you or a friend suspects that you are in a codependent relationship or that there are signs that you are leaning towards codependency, seek help soon from a Christian counselor. God designed us so that we will be wholly dependent upon His grace and love, so it is important that you are able to break free from codependency.