Co-dependent Relationships—Are You In One?

Written by Karen Carlson

Chances are, you’ve heard the term ‘co-dependent’ or ‘co-dependency’ at one time or another—most people have.  Or ‘better’ yet, if you’ve been in a relationship where the both of you depended on one another to meet or satisfy certain emotional needs in unhealthy ways, then you, most likely, are familiar with the term.  According to Wikipedia, co-dependency is described as follows:  a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition, such as narcissism.  Both individuals can control and manipulate one another as a means to an end and one can place a lower priority on one’s own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of the other.  Co-dependency can occur within family, work, friendship, peer and romantic relationships—sound familiar?  It does to me.  I was, at one time, in a co-dependent relationship, but was unaware of it; and it does feel wonderful to be free from that type of bondage—and it is bondage, pure and simple!  Co-dependency is unhealthy and not, at all, designed and reflective of God’s desire for anyone.

For those who are co-dependent in love-addicted relationships, for example, it is mentally exhausting since one or both partners wear themselves out as they willingly ignore all the red flags and embrace all the dysfunction.  Why?   Because one or both partners feel the relationship must be saved at all cost, even if it means more pain—as long as the pain is with the person they think they love or need, it’s accepted.  But pain without that person is simply not an option–there’s simply too much too lose.  If you find yourself in a ‘love’ relationship that you feel is a selfish, damaging, destructive, co-dependent one, the good news is:  You can break free and don’t have to live that way, nor should you!

Love Addicts:

Does this sound like anything you’ve, personally, experienced?

Love addicts will:

1:  spend an inordinate amount of time and attention towards their partners.  Because at least one of the partners is many times worshipped, the love addict will grow increasingly tolerant of inappropriate behaviors; and you might hear statements such as these:  “Well, he only hit me once and he said he was sorry.   Besides, it didn’t even leave a bruise!  I know he feels bad about what he did to me!” or “Ok, so he cheated on me.  I KNOW he won’t do it again!  He cried with me till 3:00 in the morning!  There’s no way he’d ever hurt me like that again!”

2:  desire to be cherished and treasured by their partners—love addicts are attracted to the power and hero-worship they feel towards their ‘destined soul-mate’.  Love addicts view their partner more from fantasy than from reality, but would probably never admit that.

3:  feel their own independence is of no importance—valuing ‘self’ is of little or no value.  If the relationship ends, love addicts can predictably go into hysteria and/or stalk or obsessively call or text their ex.  Looking for sympathy from others is a sure bet; and talking incessantly about being left behind and jilted can be the topic of conversation over and over and over again.   Some love addicts will become silent martyrs and contemplate suicide and even fantasize secretly that their estranged partner will somehow realize how much they care for the one they left and will choose to ‘rescue’ him or her from their emotional wreckage.

The bottom line is:  co-dependent people can be compared to a parasite and a host.  They each need one another to gain something for themselves.  It’s not a pretty picture since both parties are clinging to whatever it is they seek in the relationship, which could be power, recognition, sex, money, convenience, “love”, etc.    Often, one partner in a love-addicted relationship continues to surrender more and more to their more-controlling partner where the denial of reality and the acceptance of the other’s controlling nature become second nature.

What Does God Say?

Years ago when I was flailing in my own dysfunctional, co-dependent abyss, I believed in God but never turned to Him.  As a Christian, now, with eyes that can finally ‘see’, I thank God for what He put me through because it helps me to realize not only the shallowness of co-dependency but how far removed from God codependent relationships truly are.  And as I mentioned earlier, if you believe you’re in a co-dependent relationship, you do not have to live that way; and with God’s help, you can break free and heal.  So what does God say about all this?  Let’s find out—

1:  God Wants To Be First:

First and foremost, God hates it when we place anything or anyone ahead of Him or above Him.  When we choose to do that, the person, activity or thing that we chronically revere, admire, worship, think about, esteem (you get my point) becomes our god!    In a full-fledged, co-dependent relationship, God is somewhere else on one’s ‘need’ list—and that’s assuming God is on the list at all.  Co-dependents support sinful behavior; and the denial and idealization keep the blinders on.  As a result, the sinfulness of sin is totally ignored and along with that, God is often ignored as well.

The Bible tells us in Exodus 34:14:  “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”   Exodus 20: 3-5 and Deuteronomy 5:7 say the same.  ‘Other gods’ can be chronic gambling, drinking, shopping, drugging, playing video games and even bulimia, anorexia etc.  Anything we chronically devote our time, thought and conduct to is our god; and we must be very aware of how easy it is to idolize inner thoughts and outward behaviors.   Co-dependency is all about ‘self’ and has no correlation with God.  There is no room for God in a totally self-centered existence where two people feed on one another for their immediate needs.

2:  God Expects Humility:

The heart of co-dependency involves selfish ambition.  Co-dependent ‘self ’willingly engages in sin to meet one another’s needs.  God reminds us that selfishness is not acceptable in His eyes.  Philippians 2: 3 states:  “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility…”

The first step towards recovery for co-dependents is to humble themselves before God and allow Him to nurture one’s damaged self and eventually realize that the only god one needs and should seek is ‘Yahweh’—the God of the Bible!   We must be open to God’s unfathomable and supernatural ability to heal us from the inside out.  Codependents must understand and fully believe that God will give them the strength to say ‘No!’ to those people in their lives that are toxic—toxic people who shred others emotionally, physically and spiritually.  None of us can be perfect, but we all have the choice to seek God’s intervention to help us heal and give us hope . . . Hope that whatever strength He gives us will carry us through our lives where positive change can occur and healthy relationships can flourish.

3:  God Opposes Enslavement To Others:

God wants us to humbly serve others out of love—real love—rather than out of bondage and enslavement. We are not to be controlled by another person’s behaviors or addictions or sin issues.  That kind of bondage equals dependence and addiction. Paul discusses this in Galatians 5:1:  “…not to be enslaved again to the yoke of bondage.”  In Hebrews 13:6 we are to be confident in God’s sheltering and grace:  “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?’“   We must free ourselves from mere humans who should not be given permission to control us and minimize who we are as unique individuals. God must be our strength to overcome.

4:  God Wants Us To Trust Him, Not People:

In co-dependency, one is totally engulfed in attempting to please the other person; so much so, that immoral and even illegal situations will be fully tolerated for the sake of the other person’s approval.  A co-dependent will fear he might lose his partner to rejection and abandonment.   God makes it clear we are to place our trust in Him and not others.  His words in Proverbs 29:25 are clear:  “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoever puts his trust in the LORD shall be safe.”  When we place so much faith in someone to the point of fearing rejection, we are exactly where God does not want us to be!  God will give us peace, not the person who constantly takes and manipulates.

We can be confident that God wants us to be interdependent, not co-dependent.  God’s interdependency focuses on a marriage between husband and wife where each spouse fulfills each respective role as a divine gift, resulting in mutual benefits and healthy unity.  God’s emphasis concerning dependency is on service for one another in love and respect—not service for self.  We are to selflessly love one another and avoid and reject selfish ambition.  Co-dependency is the polar opposite of God’s will and purpose for our lives!

May you seek the Lord and rely on Him to break the chains of bondage on which codependency thrives!