What is codependency? Codependency occurs when an individual feels responsible for another’s feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, needs, well-being or lack thereof, and—in some ways—even their destiny. They tend to assume a rescuer role in their relationships or expect their partner to rescue them. Codependent individuals may put other’s needs ahead of their own, and they usually feel fulfilled in feeling needed by another person. Is there any hope to detach and let go of codependency? Yes! Here are some do’s and don’ts.
1. Do guard against having a victim mentality.
When a codependent person views themselves as a victim, they may attract others who want to manipulate, abuse, or control them. But they are usually very reluctant to face life alone because they just feel they can’t cut it without someone leading the way. To overcome this mentality, detach from engaging in “pity party” conversations and find solutions to life problems rather than expecting others to solve them.
2. Don’t base self-esteem on pleasing people.
If a child did not get the love, attention, and affection they needed from their parents, they may have tried to be perfect or please their parents just to survive. Or if they had a parent or another family member who was an addict, they often had no choice but to be a rescuer. As an adult, however, it’s not too late to detach from basing self-esteem on trying to please people and start to base it on God’s love and acceptance. God accepts an individual just the way they are, so they should accept themselves.
3. Do connect rather than isolate.
Get involved in healthy relationships through church, civic, or other social groups. One way is to join a Life Recovery Group online or in-person. Having a good support system of healthy relationships with safe people will provide support to confront the issues surrounding any toxic relationships.
4. Don’t let a fear of abandonment dominate thoughts.
The codependent person will sometimes hold onto a painful relationship rather than risk confronting critical issues. If they were abandoned in their childhood or sometime in the past, their biggest fear may be of someone rejecting them or abandoning them. When the fear of being abandoned takes over, trace the roots of that feeling and apply it in the context of the present situation. To heal, work with a counselor in the New Life Counselor Network.
5. Do communicate feelings and boundaries with others.
No one can read someone else’s mind. So, feelings and needs must be communicated. Use “I” statements about genuine feelings and needs; don’t offer unsolicited advice to the other person or tell them what to do. Instead, define clear boundaries, and explain what the consequences will be if the boundaries aren’t respected. Then, be sure to follow through with consequences.
6. Don’t forget that no is a complete sentence.
Saying yes to everyone and everything comes naturally for codependents, but is it the best thing to do? Is it being honest, truthful, and biblical? The answer, of course, is no. Rather than saying yes to everything and never saying no, learn how to speak the truth in love, as Ephesians 4:15 (NLT) says, “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”
7. Do give yourself permission for practicing self-care instead of caring for others non-stop.
Detach from consistently trying to change others’ moods or solving their problems. And let go of being someone’s emotional caretaker based upon the erroneous belief that taking care of them can control what’s causing them pain. If someone wants to eliminate codependent tendencies, they must make caring for themselves a priority.
8. Don’t try to take on all the world’s problems.
No one can change anyone, so detach from feeling the need to be needed. But focusing on one’s own problems instead of others is a healthy step toward overcoming codependency.
9. Do allow loved ones to come face-to-face with reality.
The longer a codependent tries to rescue a friend or family member from reality, the longer it will take their friend or family member to face it. Under the guise of protection, being codependent may be preventing a friend or family member from developing emotional maturity. Let go of the desire to keep a loved one from pain—allowing them to experience the consequences of their own bad choices is the most loving thing to do.
New Life Ministries has many workshops, books, articles, and tips to help with codependency. To learn more, please call 800-NEW-LIFE.
by Steve Arterburn