What is a Codependent? Find Out Here

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.

Some Examples

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.

Photos:
“Dependency”, Courtesy of Lautaro Andreani, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Yes”, Courtesy of Chris Benson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Fear of Abandonment”, Courtesy of Rebcenter Moscow, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Counseling”, Couretsy of Tiyowprasetyo, Pixabay.com, CC0 License

Codependency Traits in the Church

“Codependency” is the commonly used term to describe the obvious accommodations that a person makes in order to adjust to an addict’s dependence on substances.

Consequently, it is damaging on two fronts: the addict is reinforced in their unhealthy behavior and the enabler is likely over-functioning in order to compensate for the lifestyle of the addict.

Codependents may feel as if they are some sort of hero for constantly saving the addict from themselves. But in reality, they are not helping the addict recover and are only compounding their issues. You could say that the codependent person has a control addiction in the same way that the addict does for a particular substance.

Substance addiction may be an extreme example of codependency, but it serves as a helpful one when we look at the nature of the human relationships trapped in this codependent situation.

The Bible teaches that every one of us is addicted to sin. The apostle Paul asserts in Romans 6:17, “though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.”

There is no doubt that the church can become an incredible force for good in breaking addictions and providing a community where codependency traits can be eradicated from people’s relationships.

The New Testament is full of clear direction pointing towards God’s design for Christians to assist each other in growing and maturing spiritually. Some of these instructions include teaching, rebuking, correcting, training, encouraging, reminding, and restoring. All of these things are intended to help someone transition from an unhealthy reliance on another person to a healthy reliance on God.

However, codependency can become an issue for church staff members as they seek to help and pastor many individuals who are struggling in their lives. If leaders fail to maintain a healthy balance in their pastoral lives, codependent relationships can thrive, and burnout is never far away. Simply put – Christian leaders must look after themselves.

Though the main point of the parable is about being ready for the His return, Jesus touches on the subject of personal responsibility in his Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). When the foolish virgins find that they have run out of oil because they didn’t bring enough, they then attempt to borrow more from the wise virgins who refuse because they only brought enough for themselves.

Christians are ultimately responsible for their own faith. God never intended that we should be either the object or the source of some else’s faith. We must all seek after the Lord for ourselves, knowing that He is the one who can fulfill us and grant us strength and healing.

Depending on the Holy Spirit vs. Depending on Flesh

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord’” (Jeremiah 17:5). The clear message of this verse is that God is to be the church’s source of strength. So don’t place your faith in the church leaders or unbiblical systems of doctrine, but instead look to the Lord.

Many would describe the Christian life as “just one beggar showing another beggar where to get some bread.” This is a brilliant quote as it sums up what the Christian faith is all about. We all need the Lord and our aim should be to point each other to Him.

The apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:12, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” James says in James 1:2-3, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

These passages demonstrate the process of refinement that God brings about by means of trials that drive the Christian to seek Him out in the midst of the trouble. Of course, it is often much easier to simply instruct someone and think you have all the answers to give when they hit a rough patch in the life.

We must be careful not to try and think on behalf of others. This behavior disempowers the individual and will contribute to their dependent tendencies. It is always more helpful to try and enable the person to become the driving force behind tackling their own issues.

The church can help us with this! The church community should be a place where we spur each other on to grow in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Codependency runs the risk of robbing people of the things that they need to experience in order to teach them dependence on God.

“What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar.” – Proverbs 19:22

“One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.” – Proverbs 27:7

These verses from Proverbs are excellent because they deal with the different ways people cover up their need for love. The first one addresses our desperate need for an eternal and unfailing love and how we might exchange this for something like money in order to feel secure.

The second one describes a person who does not have a sense of fulfillment, so they are more likely to search for it in places where it cannot be found. Both of these passages describe the motives of a codependent person. People with issues of codependency tend to cover up a hunger for love with something else. In turn, they fail to receive all that God has for them.

Those who are more susceptible to codependency are often seeking after a predictable way to attain a sense of value that has been lacking in their past.

The church is a wonderful environment in which we can be unconditionally loved and accepted, but it can also become a place where performance and pressure are rife. Too often, people are motivated to get involved in church in order to find self-worth. But this is never a good motivation in and of itself.

Christians must discover freedom outside of the “performance mentality” that demands perfect results in every sphere of their lives. Too often, those who are engaged in a codependent relationship have a tendency to behave in this manner.

Codependency is in direct contradiction to the unconditional “agape” love of God. It’s an attempt to exert control over how others feel or think about us, but it is a bottomless pit. You will never be able to do enough, please enough people, or perform to the level you think you should be achieving. When it comes to working for the church in either a voluntary or an employed capacity, we must carefully examine our motives.

There is so much freedom in knowing that God’s love is unconditional. When we are securely rooted in the finished work of Christ, we derive our ultimate value from Him. This helps us avoid attempting to overrule the work of God in other people’s lives. We must never think we know better than the Lord when it comes to dealing with the lives of those around us.

Dependency vs. Interdependency – The Culture of the Church

Of course, the church should be a place where we lean on each other. We are one body in Christ Jesus and must learn to be interdependent and selfless in our service to Him. But Jesus continues to challenge us just as he did with His disciples and listeners. Look at some of the key questions Jesus asked.

  • Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)
  • Why then is it written that the Son of man must suffer much and be rejected? (Mark 9:12)
  • Who do you say I am? (Matthew 6:15)
  • Do you want to get well? (John 5:6)
  • Why are you so afraid? (Matthew 8:26)

Jesus was a master at asking questions that cause us to search our souls and to think for ourselves. By these means, Jesus wants us to learn how to become people of bold and courageous faith, who both lean on Him and are able to take responsibility for their own spiritual lives alongside bolstering others in their faith.

Jesus calls us to be dependent on Him. This is, however, the only truly dependent relationship we should maintain. Of course, we should be interdependent in community – supporting one another, encouraging, and challenging each other. But we should always seek to harbor a special dependency on Christ, who is our master.

A wise piece of advice given to any person working in the ministry would be this: “The main thing you will give your congregation – just like the main thing you will give God – is the person you become.” We must embrace our testimony and utilize our life story for the glory of God. We must always seek to take care of our own issues in a healthy and appropriate way, and must never fall into the trap of thinking we possess all the answers for others.

Every single person possesses God-given ability to help others. As Christians, it is a central calling that we be a blessing to those in need. But we must be very careful not to enter into a relational dynamic of codependency, as this is never God-honoring and can be very damaging.

We must always seek to listen to the voice of God first and foremost. He is the one who can truly heal, restore and transform those people who are in need. We must never try and be the savior to others, as attempting to replace Jesus in the life of another is a dangerous and foolish endeavor.

Remember, interdependency in the context of a church community can be a wonderful blessing of rich joy, healing, and companionship. But we must always remember who is at the head of the body. Jesus is the only one who is able to guide our steps and lead us on into fullness of life; we are simply his vessels and the tools in His hand.

Photos
“Break”, Courtesy of Tanja Heffner, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Scripture,” courtesy of Aaron Burden, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Torn,” courtesy of Jiri Wagner, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Walking in the Park”, Courtesy of Mabel Amber, Pixabay.com; CC0 License

What is Codependency? 12 Common Signs of Codependent Relationships

What is codependency? Codependency is common and most people struggle with it to some degree. If you find yourself constantly sacrificing for others, setting your needs to the side, and always seeking to fix the person or present problem you might be struggling with codependent tendencies. The inability to feel whole just as you are requires you to look for that feeling somewhere else.

The “need to be needed” fuel’s the life of a codependent. In the book, Codependence: Healing the Human Condition, Charles L. Whitfield calls codependence a “disease of lost selfhood.”

He says that we become codependent when we turn our responsibility for ourselves over to someone else. We lose sight of who we are and what we want because of our attempts to be what others want us to be.

We learn how to relate to others through our family of origin and so our childhood might give clues as to how our codependency began. For example, children in alcoholic families learn to avoid emotions and to define themselves through others.

If a child was forced to take care of a drug-addicted parent, this could develop into adult codependency.  “Codependent No More” author, Melody Beattie, identifies characteristics of codependents.

Here we will examine twelve of those characteristics.

12 Signs of Codependency

1. Desire to Fix

Codependents love to help. This is most often the case because they believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves.

Codependents need to feel needed. If they aren’t fixing a person or situation, then their identity feels unstable and emptiness sets in. The codependent person always wants to be the one to handle every crisis.

2. Self-Sacrificing

They often overcommit themselves and will neglect their own needs to meet someone else’s needs. Their partner’s happiness is their responsibility. This tendency often makes codependents targets for people with narcissistic personalities.

They struggle to say no when someone asks for something. A codependent person can look like a hero to others, but in truth, their help is motivated by unhealthy impulses.  Codependents are the types that need to be reminded to put their own airplane mask on before helping the person in the seat next to them.

3. Poor Boundaries

People struggling with codependency also struggle with boundaries. As a child, perhaps generational boundaries were blended, and you had to take on the role of a parent. Weak or nonexistent boundaries can form for a variety of reasons, but setting and maintaining firm boundaries is critical to teaching others to respect you.

They provide a sort of “force field” that prevents the kind of emotional abuse that can happen in close (though dysfunctional) relationships. Boundaries tell people how to treat us.  If there aren’t any boundaries, codependents risk becoming a doormat.  By setting and respecting healthy boundaries, you can retrain your relationships.

4. Unhealthy attachments

Codependents are constantly seeking approval, yet recoil at the thought of rejection. They are unable to find personal satisfaction and crave being attached to someone for their happiness.

Codependents stay in abusive relationships because they believe either that the other person will change or is the only one that will love them. Codependents can become obsessed with being with a friend or partner.

5. Fluctuating self-worth

Codependents lack confidence in themselves. They have a sense that they are not worthy and nothing that they ever do is good enough. They long for compliments, but when they get them, they reject them because they think them untrue. Their self-worth is similar to a yo-yo as it bounces up and down and hinges on what the important people in their life say about them.

6. Repression

Codependents are often rigid and controlled. They are often afraid to be who they really are for fear of being judged. Codependents usually learn at an early age to repress their emotions.

7. Obsession

Codependents worry about everything and everybody to the point of obsession. They become enmeshed with others and are often anxious about other’s problems. They focus all their energy on someone else as a result of their deeply ingrained dependency.  Often, they can’t let go of a relationship because of their obsession with that person.

8. Controlling

Codependency often forms after growing up in an uncontrollable environment, possibly with an alcoholic or emotionally absent parent. Codependents have a habit of manipulating people by using guilt, helplessness or even extreme kindness. It’s important for the codependent to feel in control.  They believe they can change someone and that changing them will make them happy.

9. Denial

Codependents smile in faux agreement with a friend. They pretend that things aren’t as bad as they seem or make excuses for a loved one’s behavior.  They bury themselves in work and pretend the problem doesn’t exist.

10. Dysfunctional communication

Codependents often don’t communicate properly. They find it difficult to communicate their own thoughts, feelings, and needs because they don’t know them. They often wait to express their opinions until they know what other people are thinking. They try to say what will please people or what will get others to do what they want. They don’t say what they mean or mean what they say.

11. Lack of trust

Codependents lack trust in themselves and others. This is usually seen when trust was damaged at an early age in life and has never been truly recovered. They doubt their feelings and decisions. They think that God has abandoned them and they can lose their faith in God.

12. Anger

Codependents are often filled with suppressed anger that they don’t know how to manage effectively. When people don’t do what codependents want, they feel angry, victimized, unappreciated and powerless.

Codependents often feel afraid, hurt, and angry, and they often live with others who are the same way. They cry regularly, get depressed, overreact, get sick, and have violent temper outbursts. They often punish others for making them feel angry.

Codependency usually stems from experiences that occurred in childhood that have bled over into adult life. Treatment consists of exploring some of those childhood memories and looking at current codependent behavior patterns.

If you have identified with any of the signs listed above and want to delve more into those problem areas, consider reaching out to a Christian counselor today. Choosing the right counselor can make all the difference on your road to recovery.

Photos
“Bondage”, Courtesy of Josh Johnson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Do More”, Courtesy of Carl Heyerdahl, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Worry”, Courtesy of Maria Victoria Heredia Reyes, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Distrust”, Courtesy of Joshua Rawson Harris, Unsplash.com, CC0 License