What is Co-Dependency?
Co-Dependency is a bondage to please other people. Co-Dependents allow another person’s behavior to affect them, and other people’s problems to become their problems. They look for ways to try and fix and solve other people’s problems. Co-dependents are by nature a helper and a “fixer.” They pick up the pieces in other people’s lives, and don’t allow them to suffer natural consequences of their decisions. Co-Dependents are plagued by false guilt and a false sense of responsibility for people. They get so enmeshed in other people’s problems that it exhausts them, and they often feel their “cup is empty.” They often feel used by others, and that their needs really don’t matter. Often the Co-Dependent feels alone and overwhelmed. Co-Dependents feel the “weight of the world” on their shoulders.
Who is Likely to be Co-Dependent?
· Family of origin (the family that you were born into) that placed you in the role as the “fixer” in the family. A fixer is responsible for solving family problems and issues. The fixer has the answers and the solution.
· Being in a relationship or have a family member that has an addiction issue.
· Having a rebellious child, a prodigal child, or mentally-ill child.
· Inability to say, “No” to others and difficulty setting boundaries with others.
· Being a people pleaser and having a fear of displeasing man. Fear of letting others down and others being angry at you.
· History of childhood trauma-abuse, domestic violence in the home, divorce, ill parent (either physical or mental).
· Being involved in a relationship with an abusive partner as an adult.
Co-dependents try to fix, rescue, and help, but no matter how much they try they always end-up feeling like a failure. Co-dependents never feel they can do enough. Co-dependents can easily analyze other people’s problems, and give them a solution to their problems. Co-dependents feel responsible for making other people happy. Saying, “No” to a person’s need is almost impossible for the co-dependent, and especially if the co-dependent is a Christian. Co-dependent Christians fear they can’t measure up to the Christian responsibilities, and struggle with guilt when they don’t help others.
Co-dependents are often compassionate and tender-hearted people that carry the burdens of others. Instead of empathizing with you, the co-dependent will sympathize with you. They have a difficult time not taking on the hurt and pain of others. They often “feel” the pain of others. If you tell a co-dependent a problem they instinctively begin looking for how to solve your problem. They are by-nature problem-solvers, and many have been solving problems in their family since childhood. Co-dependents can be easily controlled by others and easily manipulated because of their tender nature and desire to help. Some people know this and will attempt to take advantage of the co-dependent’s good-nature.
Codependents do what they do to gain a sense of self-worth and to gain love and acceptance that many have been looking for since childhood. They are trying to fill a void and deep pain in their lives by helping others, than they will feel useful and important. If a co-dependent helps someone they feel elated, and if they fail to help someone, they will feel like a failure.
Key Factors to Consider When Healing From Co-Dependency:
Get a journal and begin to pray through each one of these questions. Take your time, and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the cause of your Codependency and specific steps for your healing.
1. What is the root/origin of your co-dependency? If you don’t know ask the Holy Spirit to show you. What was your “role” in your family of origin? Fixer, etc. Did you experience role-reversal as a child? In other words did you play the role of parent and your parent (s) played the role of the child?
2. What are your motives for co-dependency? Fear of rejection, fear of failure, avoidance of pain, gain approval by others, feel a sense of worth.
3. Who fuels your co-dependency? Why? How do these people make you feel when you don’t do what they want? Do they withdraw from you, manipulate you, and reject you.
4. Do you have an exaggerated perception of life? Things and people are all good or all bad. You tend to see people and situations in black and white?
5. Do you feel valuable and worthy when you help or rescue someone? Do you feel guilty when you can’t help someone?
6. Do you feel guilty when you say, “No” to others or when you take care of yourself?
7. Are your emotions dependent on the responses of others? Ex., if she is sad, I must have done something to hurt her, it is my fault she is sad.
8. Do you feel responsible for making other’s happy, not just in your family?
9. Have you taken the place of God in other people’s lives? If someone has a need, your response is, “I’ll meet it.” Do you prevent others from developing responsibility in their own lives? Co-dependents should let other’s do things for themselves, but often they step in.
10. Do you put on a façade for other people to cover your pain? Do you have a hard time admitting your problems? Don’t feel like bothering anyone else with your needs?
11. As a Christian, do you feel you can’t measure up to the high expectations of the Christian life?
12. Do you feel you can gain worth by serving God? Do you plunge into activities and service for the hope of being recognized by others?
How to Start Healing From Co-Dependency:
1. Recognize you didn’t get here overnight, and it will be a process of recovery.
2. Find healthy Christians to be around, just don’t surround yourself with users, drainers, toxic, needy people, or other co-dependent people.
3. Detach from relationships as needed. Detach and pray, then when you are strong enough and God has allowed you to enter in the relationship again, than do so. This applies to family relationships, but friendships may be detached longer or permantely through the leading of Holy Spirit. Detachment always has the hope of reconciliation with that person, but if you feel you are relapsing into co-dependency and you reservoirs are on empty, it is okay to detach from a relationship for a time.
4. When needs and problems come your way, don’t react and come up with a solution immediately. You can say to that person, “I need time to pray about that” or “I need God to direct me first before I make a decision.” Then go and pray before offering solutions, advice, help, or rescuing. Oftentimes, God does not want us to intervene because He is trying to work something out in their lives.
5. Don’t assume that God wants you to rescue, help, and fix every problem that comes into your path, this can be especially difficult for the Christian. We are taught about servant hood and self-sacrifice and to put other’s needs ahead of our own. But God does not expect us to give on “empty,” and Jesus did not heal every sick person nor help every single person that came into His contact. We have to have discernment to know when God says “Step in,” and when He is leading us from not intervening.
6. Don’t anticipate the needs of others. Listen to them and let them ask for help, but don’t offer up help that they are not asking for. A lot of the time people will tell you their woes hoping you will help, but it is better if they ask directly for the needs that they have. Even if they do ask for help, you can still say that you need to pray first and get back to them.
7. Do not rescue compulsively. You will have to be on guard for this because you will be presented needs and you will want to rescue.
8. Set limits in your life. Recognize and be aware what people in your life get you entangled in the trap of co-dependency.
9. Start taking care of yourself. Do things that you enjoy. Keep your eyes focused on Jesus and not on other people’s issues. This can be a challenge for the co-dependent if you have been surrounded by needs, so this is where detachment for a time is important.
10. Read and research all you can about co-dependency, preferably from a Christian perspective. A good online Christian Co-Dependent recovery program can be found at: www.christiancodependence.com