Codependency does not flow from an unchangeable personality flaw or some genetic fluke. A codependent relationship is rooted in immaturity, a fact that should give great hope to those caught in its addictive cycle. While change is never easy, growing up is always within the grasp of anyone who desires to move from immaturity to maturity.
Any of us can move from codependency to a healthy, mutual give-and-take in our relationships. The key to change is motivation. What kind of motivation? When your pain in the relationship is greater than your fear of abandonment, the motivation for change is powerful. Moving away from the pain of codependency then becomes a matter of choice and commitment. If you feel that the relationship you are in is more a curse than a blessing—when it brings more death to your soul than life—this is motivation for change.
“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you … may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 30:19–20)
- Confront the Fact That You Are Codependent
- Admit the truth to yourself. Before you can be free from the grasp of codependency, you must be honest with yourself about your emotional addiction to another person.
- Admit the truth to God. Realize that your emotional addiction is a serious sin in the eyes of God. Choose now to confess it to Him.
- Admit the truth to someone else. Identify the beliefs and behaviors that have perpetuated your emotional addiction and share them with an objective, trusted friend.
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
- Confront the Consequences of Your Codependency
- Accept responsibility for how your past experiences and reactions have hurt your adult relationships (such as becoming manipulative, controlling, possessive, or angry).
- Accept responsibility for the pain you have caused yourself because of your codependency (such as becoming jealous, envious, selfish, or obsessive).
- Accept responsibility for the ways in which your codependency has weakened your relationship with God (such as a loss of quantity time, quality time, and intimacy with the Lord).
“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)
- Confront Your Painful Emotions
- Understand that you will have pain no matter what you choose. If you leave the codependent relationship, you will hurt, but if you stay, you will hurt. However, the only hope for future healing is leaving the codependent lifestyle.
- Understand that when the intensity of the relationship diminishes you will experience emotional “withdrawal” from the exhilarating highs.
- Understand that you will need the support of others to get you through the initial pain of withdrawal and to help you avoid anesthetizing your pain with a “secondary addiction.”
“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” (Proverbs 27:9)
- Confront Your “Secondary Addictions”
- Recognize that, in an effort to numb the emotional pain of the relationship, codependency often leads to other addictions, such as a chemical dependency, sexual addiction, compulsive eating, or excessive spending.
- Recognize your “secondary addictions”; then seek counseling and spiritual support to overcome them.
- Recognize that recovery from a “secondary addiction” is dependent on recovery from your primary addiction.
“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.” (Proverbs 18:15)
- Confront Your Current Codependent Relationship
- Acknowledge your codependent role in the relationship and cease relating through codependent patterns.
- Acknowledge your destructive behaviors. (Write them down.) Then replace them with constructive behaviors. (Write them down.)
- Acknowledge the natural pain of emotional withdrawal (common to the healing of addictions) and focus on God’s supernatural purpose (conforming you to the character of Christ).
“Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Romans 8:29)
- Confront Your Codependent Focus
- Stop focusing on what the other person is doing and start focusing on what you need to do in order to become emotionally healthy.
- Stop focusing on the other person’s problems and start focusing on solving your own problems (those resulting from your neglect of people and projects in your life).
- Stop focusing on trying to change the other person and start focusing on changing yourself.
“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.” (Proverbs 14:8)
- Confront Your Codependent Conflicts
- Do not allow yourself to become trapped in heated arguments or to become emotionally hooked by the bad behavior of the other person. Instead, say to yourself several times, I will not argue—and then disengage from the conflict. Decide ahead of time that, when agitation begins, you will distance yourself.
- Do not defend yourself when you are unjustly blamed. Instead, say only once, “I’m sorry you feel that way. That doesn’t reflect my heart.”
- Do not be afraid to leave if the conflict continues. State, “I will be gone for a while.” Then calmly walk away.
“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:23)
- Confront Your Codependent Responses
- Remind yourself that “problem people” have the right to choose wrong. Don’t react to their problem behavior—they are independent of you.
- Remind yourself not to return insult for insult—refuse to raise your voice.
- Remind yourself that your Christlike role is to respond with respect—even when others are disrespectful.
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. … But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:9, 15–16)
- Confront What You Need to Leave in Order to Receive
- Leave your childhood and your dependent thinking. (I can’t live without you.) Then enter into healthy adulthood. (I want you in my life, but if something were to happen, I could still live without you.) That is reality.
- Leave your immature need to be dependent on someone else and embrace your mature need to be dependent on the Lord, who will make you whole within yourself.
- Leave your fantasy relationships (thinking, You are my “all-in-all”) and instead nurture several balanced relationships of healthy give-and-take.
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27:6)
- Confront Your Need to Build Mature Non-Codependent Relationships
- Establish several interdependent relationships—not just one exclusive relationship. You need mature relationships in which your codependency issues can be resolved and your needs can be met in healthy ways.
- Establish emotionally balanced relationships without being needy of the extreme highs and lows of codependent relationships.
- Establish personal boundaries in all of your relationships, saying no when you need to say no and holding to your no.
“Let us … go on to maturity.” (Hebrews 6:1)
Article Used by Permission from Hope for the Heart©
Scripture, unless otherwise indicated, taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.