August 2013, A Letter from June on ‘Codependency’
Today, it’s not uncommon to hear about people who are addicted—to food, drugs, and alcohol . . . sex, shopping, and gambling. But are you aware that people can become addicted to . . . relationships? Called codependency, I deal with “relationship addiction” quite often on Hope In The Night, our live 2-hour call-in counseling broadcast. Interestingly, most who seek help for codependency arrive at my “virtual doorstep” thinking that their problem is something—or someone—else.
Patricia is a good example.
After 11 years of turmoil and tears, Patricia called to say she had ended an on-again/off-again relationship with her abusive boyfriend. Yet instead of feeling relieved, she was overwhelmed with sadness—wanting to take him back. “I know it was right to walk away, June, but all I feel is sadness. Why can’t I feel angry for how he treated me? Why can’t I just say, ‘Thank you, God—he’s finally gone’?”
Then she described an enmeshed bond with Darin, whose substance abuse had caused continual chaos. Early on, Patricia regretted their living together and asked him to move out. Darin moved all right—straight into another woman’s apartment! Four months later, however, they shared an emotional reunion and . . . “He vowed he would always love me, so I allowed him back into my life. But he still smoked marijuana and abused pills. I finally told him I couldn’t do this anymore.”
Clearly, Patricia tried to make a fresh start, but her emotions overwhelmed her reasoning, erasing memories of all the pain. She knew breaking up with Darin was right, but her heart still wanted him.
First I quoted John 12:35, “Walk while you have the light, before the darkness overtakes you.” I then added, “True love—in its highest form—seeks the very best for the other person. If you support Darin in his destructive lifestyle, you are not truly loving him. And . . . he’ll drag you down with him.”
Ultimately, Patricia needed to face her codependency—her compulsive drive to rescue Darin. Yet their unhealthy, unbalanced relationship was filled with obsessive control and manipulation. Her childhood history of being controlled and abandoned served as the perfect setup for her future dysfunctional relationships.
After sharing God’s first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3), I said, “We can allow another person to be our ‘god’ . . . to take the place that He alone should have. But a life excessively dependent on another person results in a misplaced dependency.”
This couple illustrates a common dynamic in the codependent cycle between the “weak and strong” personality types. . . .
The Weak One:
As a child, this weak one had unmet emotional needs. Now as an adult, the weak one dreams of being swept away by a responsible, strong, take-charge fantasy mate. A woman fantasizes about her “knight in shining armor,” while a man dreams of finding a woman who idealizes and nurtures him. Weak ones tend to be “love addicts,” continually yearning for someone strong to complete them—to fill their emptiness.
The Strong One:
In childhood, the strong one was enmeshed in an unhealthy relationship with a parent—often serving as the parent’s caregiver, confidant, and/or surrogate spouse. (Typically, the other parent was either emotionally or physically absent.) As an adult, the strong one needs to be needed and is drawn to struggling, vulnerable people who need rescuing.
When a strong one enters into a relationship with a weak one, they easily become “addicted” to each other, yet live in denial about their addiction. To break the cycle, at least one of them must recognize the misplaced dependency and be determined to become God-dependent.
Replacing an unhealthy neediness on a person with a healthy need for the Lord accomplishes two goals:
- God’s everlasting love becomes the firm foundation
— with an unconditional love that cannot be lost, and…
- They need no longer fear being unloved or abandoned.
Each person is empowered to stand alone and grow as an individual, while encouraging the other to reach their highest potential.
Ultimately, Patricia decided to begin a new life without her abuser and gave complete control of her life to the Lord, recognizing that with Christ in her she’d never be alone . . . never abandoned . . . never forgotten. She affirmed that whenever she began to be drawn back into codependency, she would fill her mind with God’s truth to set her free. She also joined a codependency support group at her church.
That night Patricia and I prayed together, thanking God for His promise, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). In truth, gaining freedom from codependency represents one of the best things we can do for ourselves . . . and for those we love.
Being a Hope For The Heart supporter, you play a crucial role in bringing biblical hope and practical help to people like Patricia every day. Know, too, that your influence doesn’t stop there. Every day, your caring touch is felt around the world in 28 languages and 60 countries through our broadcasts, books, training programs, and Hope Centers. Your prayers and financial partnership make you just that—my Partner in ministry.
How grateful I am for our relationship. As you continue to give your support, you have my word that I will continue to provide God’s Truth for Today’s Problems as God leads!
Yours in the Lord’s hope,
P.S. If you want to know more about Codependency and other relationship issues, order my book How to Deal with Difficult Relationships. You’ll find information on Codependency as well as five other topics, including: Critical Spirit, Manipulation, Confrontation, Conflict Resolution, and Forgiveness. We want to help you and help you to help others discover how to balance an unbalanced relationship. Order How to Deal with Difficult Relationships today.
P.P.S. People fly in from across the country to attend our free monthly Biblical Counseling Institute (BCI), held at the Hope Center. (Now, low-cost CEUs are available for four professional groups.) Visit www.HopeForTheHeart.org/bci for information on our next conference—on Codependency—August 23 and 24, which will be broadcast live on the web through our website.
If you’re on Facebook, I invite you to connect with me at www.Facebook.com/June.Hunt.Hope. And if you’re not, take it from me: You’re never too old to start! See you there!