God said it is not good for man to be alone. We were created for relationship. But when you’re giving more to a relationship than the other person is giving or willing to give, you’re likely in a codependent relationship. Codependent relationships are unbalanced.
If you are letting another person’s behavior affect you, or if you are obsessed with controlling another person’s behavior, you are displaying codependent traits.
You can develop codependent relationships with anyone–a spouse, child, parent, friend, boss.
Codependency displays itself as caring and loving, but its effects are destructive to relationships.
If you’re not sure if you have codependent traits, check out my last post, 8 Signs you’re a Christian Codependent.
If you’ve been battling with putting others first, obsessing over someone, and losing your identity, it’s time for you to step out of the devil’s trap and into all that God has for you.
Here are 5 keys to healing from codependency, and doing it biblically.
#1. Grow in compassion (for yourself). Those struggling with codependency typically have a tremendous amount of compassion for others, but none for themselves. This pattern of caring for others is typically developed early in life. For many, their voices and choices didn’t matter in their family of origin and they were forced to care for others and always be on the lookout for mom’s or dad’s behaviors.
Mark 12:31 tells us to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ That means we are to love ourselves. In fact, we can’t truly love others if we don’t love ourselves. If you wouldn’t exclude others from your compassion list, why would you exclude yourself?
#2. Let God be God. As much as people with codependent traits would love for others to see them as this sweet, caring, self-sacrificing person, the truth is, they have control issues. They want to control the feelings and behaviors of others so that they can better regulate themselves.
This often pushes God right out of the picture.
But it’s God who wants to be your comforter (Isaiah 41:10).
It’s God who wants to be your source (Philippians 4:19).
It’s God who wants to be your avenger (Joshua 1:9).
It’s God who wants to be your #1 (Exodus 20:3).
He is a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24) and He will not allow someone else to take first place in your life.
#3. Set your boundaries. Boundaries determine where one person ends and another begins. But for those struggling with codependency, boundaries feel like a sin. “How can I say no to someone I’m supposed to love?”
But boundaries are about saying yes to you and God, and no to others. They are about learning how to speak the truth in love.
For many codependents, ‘no’ feels like a bad word. It means that they make someone upset with them or even lose the relationship.
Boundaries don’t mean that you have to be mean. Rather, boundaries are you expressing your preferences and being ok with it, even if the other person isn’t.
If I’m in a relationship with a friend and she doesn’t offer anything to the relationship but has an expectation that I will continue to pull all the weight, it’s healthy for me to decide how much I’m willing to give (if anything) to that relationship. The same is true for family members. Just because they carry the title of “mother,” “father,” “sister,” or “brother,” they don’t get a pass on toxic, dysfunctional behavior.
#4. Grieve the loss. It’s easy to understand the need for grief when you’ve lost something valuable but it’s difficult to grieve what you never had.
In order to heal from codependency properly, you must first acknowledge and accept that you will not have what you wished the relationship would be.
This is a big step for many because as long as you keep hope alive, you can attempt to remain in control. But when you accept people for who they are, you can properly grieve the loss of what could have been.
The good news is that scripture tells us “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). He can’t heal and comfort someone in denial.
#5. Learn your identity. Those suffering from codependent traits focus on others and ignore themselves. But God gave YOU a unique identity and purpose. And that purpose does not include changing others.
To heal from codependent traits, you must turn your focus inward to the person God created YOU to be. If you are a follower of Christ, you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and it’s your job to allow the Holy Spirit to change YOU, not others.
I constantly remind myself of Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
It’s also important to learn your unique qualities. Your identity does not lie in what others think of you or need from you. Your identity lies in who God created you to be. As the Psalmist David so proudly put it, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”