The Imbalance of Codependency

Codependence is when two or more people fulfill a need for each other that strengthens a dysfunction between them. Codependency is an unhealthy attachment between one person, a codependent, and someone with whom they have become codependent. Rather than being interdependent, someone who is struggling with codependency needs to depend on someone else to create their sense of self-worth. Codependent relationships can be between friends, romantic partners, married couples, or family members.

Healthy relationships are mutually beneficial and thus provide love and support to both parties. Codependent relationships, on the other hand, are one-sided, creating one person as the continuous caregiver, which is emotionally destructive, and dysfunctional.

A codependent person is addicted, not to a destructive substance, but to a destructive flesh pattern of relating to other people in a controlling way. These patterned propensities are usually learned from childhood in an abusive or non-nurturing home. Codependents base their worth and security on someone else’s approval.

Codependency is a self-focused way of life and as such they can be control freaks. Codependents use someone other than themselves as a point of reference for affirming their own identity.

Typically, a codependent feels controlled by others (even though they may be unaware of it) and as such have lost or never discovered their own sense of worth as God designed.

This lack of identity causes the codependent to feel powerless in relationships and like a non-person who only exists as an extension of someone else. It is driven by a deep need for worth and security. Due to their own lack of identity, they use someone else as a point of reference for what they believe they should be or not be. The absence of authentic identity fuels their codependency.

A person with codependent flesh is an emotional pursuer in a relationship. There are three emotional positions one may take in the codependent cycle. A caretaker, a persecutor, and the victim. I have often referred to the codependent cycle as a kind dance of “musical chairs.” In a marriage, often a caretaker marries an emotional “distancer.” The codependent partner ends up doing all the emotional work in the relationship. It is important to remember that it takes two “to tango,” it takes two people to be “co.” Each is dependent on the other in different ways.

Codependency is an imbalanced sense of responsibility to take care of and rescue (control) others by fixing their problems in order to feel needed, valued, worthwhile, and safe. Codependents are approval junkies. If they do not gain your approval it feels like their world crumbles, the lack of your approval is emotional death to them. Without affirmation of others, they lack a sense of wellbeing and affirmation. It is what controls everything they do, from decisions they make to the attitudes and moods that they express.

There is a hidden motive to codependency. It is all about them; me, myself, and I. My needs.
A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect them and is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior. Often, the person with codependent flesh comes from an alcoholic family.

The person with codependent flesh feels like they are a bad person deep down inside, due to a lack of understanding spiritual identity in Christ. The codependent feels like they must get your approval and acceptance to feel good about themselves. This is because of shame. Codependency has at its core a shame-based identity. They are motived by fear, fear of being discovered, the unlikeable self they believe themselves to be. They have a fear of rejection. What fuels their low self-worth and approval seeking is fear not faith. Fear of failure, fear of not getting your approval, fear of abandonment. Codependents do not like themselves and they fear you will not either.

Codependents try to control those they love. Unfortunately, codependency is a distorted concept of love. Love is other’s oriented without any regard or desire of getting something in return, in contrast to divine love a codependents motive for loving is self-oriented. A codependents secret motive of love is making themselves feel or at least appear more important than they really are due to their underlying deep sense of inadequacy.

As mentioned, there is a predictable cycle to codependency. The codependent moves from being a Caretaker, to becoming more aggressive Persecutor, and finally finds themselves feeling like a Victim.

A codependent always begins in the Caretaker role. They strive on rescuing others from the negative consequences of their choices. Their intention is clear, to rescue those they care about form destructive choices that will affect their job, career, finances, and relationships. They try to fix emotions and problems by anticipating needs and taking others’ responsibilities, it is a form of manipulation.

The caretaker operates on the assumption that they know best, and therefore you need to do it their way. The caretaker subtly or “not so,” communicates to a person on the receiving end of their manipulative efforts that you are incompetent to accomplish the task at hand successfully without them doing it for you. Caretakers insist on preventing other people from making mistakes.

It is important to distinguish between caregiving and caretaking. A caregiver is a person who does for others what they cannot do for themselves. It is an unselfish act of love with no expectation of emotional payback.

The bottom-line of the codependent caretaker is they are experts at using – not loving people with whom they are in relationship. Due to “services render,” you are now obligated to look to them or else! Their underlining shame attempts to guilt you into compliance. The Caretaker tries to meet the needs of the other person in order to feel needed and valued themselves. When the person on the receiving end of this caretaking codependent behavior fails to respond with appreciation or connection, the caretaker becomes the Persecutor.

The codependent now changes their tactics. They become the Persecutor. Still operating in codependent flesh patterns but now from a persecutor mindset. They now may respond from a more aggressive behavioral approach, such as, threatening, punishing, anger, intimidation, silent treatment, using guilt and even violence. The codependent persecutor will rigidly hold on to what they believe to be right even if it means destroying the relationship. You may have heard phrases like, “it’s my way or the highway,” or “if Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy.”

The codependent Persecutor seeks to feel valued and secure by trying to force the spouse or significant other to change. When the significant other still fails to change and meet the persecutor’s needs, the persecutor becomes the Victim.

The Codependent Victim changes their tactics once again and responds by withdrawing, depression, avoiding, crying, acting helpless, criticizing, and complaining about you to others. They may even threaten to give up, but never fear, their worst nightmare is being alone.

Codependent flesh does not want to stay a victim long and so at some point will climb back into the caretaker role and round and round the cycle goes. After years of repeated attempts to control their significant other, having redoubled their efforts time again, in a state of a “victim mindset” they may escape to a different relationship, believing that they have finally found someone who will listen to them and take their advice.

The only answer to not living enslaved to codependent flesh patterns is to allow Jesus Christ to reveal Himself to you as your core identity as a Christian. Learning to Live Loved and to embrace what God already knows and says is true about you is the key. You are redeemed from codependent flesh patterns of sin, and He has restored you to union with Himself that you might experience Life As God Intended.

Your identity defines your purpose in life and as a Christian your identity is in Christ. Begin to agree with God by saying about yourself what He says is true, not because of your performance but because of who He has made you to be in Christ.

You are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, set free in Christ. You are complete in Christ, accepted and loved.

If you are struggling with codependent flesh patterns today, you need to accept what God says is true of you and rest in your identity in Christ.

I will leave you with an illustration from Dudley Hall’s book Grace Works, which illustrates the importance of embracing our identity in Christ rather than codependently seeking to fulfill it in what others think or say about us.

Dudley says: “I went to the kennel to visit with my three dogs: Gus, Snow, and Scratch. Scratch was in the pits. Depression is too mild a word to describe his state: he was talking of suicide. Gus, the oldest dog in the kennel, had used his position to deceive poor ol’ Scratch. He had told Scratch that he was a cat – and Scratch had believed it. Trying to be a good cat, Scratch had begun studying cat behavior and trying to act like a cat. But he wasn’t very good at it. He tried to meow but failed. He attempted to climb trees but failed at that as well. He hated cat food and couldn’t purr. A failure! That was Scratch’s final assessment of himself. He didn’t deserve to live. He was taking up space that some good cat could occupy, eating food that some worthy cat should eat. Suicide was the honorable thing to do.”

Now, why couldn’t Scratch measure up? He was a dog, not a cat! He didn’t know his identity and as a result, he was totally frustrated, living a lie! Trying! Living codependently on what others thought of him. Can you make the application?

Living the Victorious Life

Living the Victorious Life

Living the Victorious Life

Living the Victorious Life

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