4 Ways forward from Co-dependency

In the first part of this post on co-dependency we looked at indicators for co-dependent tendencies including this list here. Make sure to read part one here before reading the rest of this.

Yikes! I ticked a lot of those boxes. Now what?

1. Do Not Panic

Yours is not some unusual struggle, and you are most certainly not alone. Once codependency is realized, the temptation can be to withdraw from relationships. This type of emotional reaction rooted in fear can cause much more damage than good. Fear can easily cause a swing towards a life of independence and isolation, giving the illusion of control. But you are not in control; you are in hiding. Fear prevents intimacy, and intimacy is really what every codependent (and human) heart desires in the first place.

One of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen (who, from his writing I suspect had his own struggle with codependency), said this fittingly:

“Fear is the great enemy of intimacy. Fear does not create a home. It forces us to live alone or in a protective shelter but does not allow us to build an intimate home. Fear conjures either too much distance or too much closeness. Both prevent intimacy from developing.”

2. Take Responsibility

Codependency is not irrevocable. You can experience emotional healing and move on in life in a healthy, more whole way. A fearless dedication to rigorous honesty is the first step toward taking responsibility. Admit to unhealthy relational patterns, and be determined to change. One of the most common traits of codependence is denial. It’s a small word but when lived out, it is seriously destructive and detrimental. Take responsibility now and begin the brave road to emotional and relational health. God is not seeking perfection from you, just a willingness to change.

3. Seek Help & Invite Others

This could be counselors, pastors, close friends, a life coach or mentor, or a combination of the like. Very few codependent patterns can be worked out without the help of others. But be careful of those who simply want to hand hold; this really isn’t helpful. Rather invite people in who are healthy and encourage accountability to change. This combined with prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit, our trusted Wise Counselor, will help lead the way to emotional health. Be wary of relying too much on head knowledge, or too much on faith without action. Patterns of behavior derived from emotional wounds rarely disappear from a single time of prayer or from reading books about the topic. There is no quick or easy fix for codependency, just a daily dedication to engage your emotions with honesty and move towards change.

4. Trust the Lord

Some hard questions may have to be asked and some painful realizations made along the way, but to quote a close friend- God is not intimated by our brokenness. Our dark parts are not too much for Him and I promise, He will deal with you kindly. Your heart is in good hands. He is gentle, true, and will give you the kiss of peace your heart desires. Being grounded and rooted in God’s love frees us up to relate to one another from a place of safety and health. And slow but sure, you will see your way of relating to others begin to change. This is the goal of the codependent. Remember, He doesn’t require perfection; He is not even looking at ability, but rather a willingness to change.

Once again, Nouwen give us a beautiful word picture of this type of Godly, faithful loving:

“They have learned that it is impossible to live together as wounded people if they simply depend on each other to provide the intimate home they seek. Our wounds, whether visible or hidden, are too deep for us to offer each other a place totally free from fear. We often put super human demands on each other and when these demands are not met we feel hurt or rejected…Bonds that last cannot be based simply on good, better, or excellent interpersonal relationships but must be rooted outside the many devices and desires of the wounded human heart. Rooted in a bond that existed before and beyond human togetherness, bonds of true intimacy rest in the divine covenant. God alone is free enough from wounds to offer us a fearless space. In and through God we can be faithful to each other in friendship, marriage, and community. This intimate bond with God, constantly nurtured by prayer, offers us a true home.”

What has been your experience with observing unhealthy patterns of loving?
Have you read any material or books concerning codependency you have found to be helpful?

Let us know by leaving a comment below!

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