The idea of falling in love and getting lost in the heart of another is romantic. Isn’t that what love is? Becoming so enthralled in another person that you become one? Isn’t that what the Bible teaches? Not exactly. Losing yourself in another is not love. It may appear to be love, but love allows individuals to coexist in interdependence, mutual choosing to be there and support one another. Losing yourself in another blurs the line between who you are and who they are. Where do your desires end and theirs begin? That is not love, it is codependency.Codependency is when you become dependent on another person in your life for meaning, purpose, and validation. You are no longer able to function as a whole person without another’s presence and affirmation. You have become bound or have chosen to bind yourself to them.
While the closeness and intimacy you share may appear to be love, it’s a false love. Love requires a choice. The choice to love one person and not another. And that doesn’t mean choice as in options.
Even in an arranged marriage, you are given the choice to either love that person or simply participate in a marriage relationship. While you may be forced to marry someone, you cannot be forced to love someone because the very aspect of choice is necessary for you to love.
And this is why a true sense of love cannot exist in a codependent relationship because the element of choice has been removed from the equation. You are bound by a mutual dependence on one another. You can begin to self-diagnose your relationship by looking for signs of codependency.
However, note that to achieve a proper diagnosis you will need to meet with a professional counselor. But looking for the signs of codependency is a good place to start if the idea of this issue is ringing some bells.
Common Codependency Symptoms
It’s more about them than you. Or more about you than them.
One of the hallmark symptoms of codependency is when the relationship becomes lopsided. One person starts to do all of the caring and sharing and the other person is catered to.
As the subservient participant gives more and more of their time and effort, they give more and more of themselves away. Slowly but surely, they lose their own desire and sense of self as it is buried underneath the needs and desires of another.
Simple terms to define these roles are “givers” and “takers.” Givers are usually people operating out of some sort of fear or insecurity. Their anxiety surrounding the relationship pushes them to give up and give in to keep the relationship stable and ongoing.
Takers are usually emotionally immature individuals satisfied with receiving without needing to give anything of their own. Or these may be individuals suffering from an addiction making them completely preoccupied with their own addictive desires and leaving no space to care for other people’s concerns.
This sort of codependent behavior creates a recurring pattern of the giver giving too much in order to make up for the taker, and the taker taking too much because they don’t want to wake up and face the consequences of their own choices.
Regardless of the specifics, love ceases to exist in these relationships because they are no longer bound by a mutual choice to love one another and have instead become bound by their need of one another to comfort their own extreme insecurities.
Watch for addictions
Addictions are actually where the first concept of codependency originated. It was a term used to describe the spouses of alcoholics who covered up for and supported their significant others despite the great pain and severe consequences caused by their partners’ actions.It was the language for psychologists to explain how addiction can drag other people in the family unit into the pit with them. The term is now used in a much broader sense than just relating to alcoholism.
But the connection to alcoholism makes sense because if codependency is the idea of being overly concerned with another person to the detriment of yourself and your family, then taking care of an alcoholic is the breeding ground for codependent relationships. When you love someone struggling with an addiction, it’s tempting to give them a pass or ignore their behavior because the alternative of facing the problem is so painful and difficult.
As people choose to ignore the issues, continuing to remain blind to their deep problems, and choosing to cover up for their partner, then codependency naturally arises. And as the charade goes on for longer and longer, the supportive partner puts more and more at stake because they’ve chosen to facilitate the addiction. So be very watchful for the signs of codependency if you or your partner wrestle with any level of addiction.
An inability to see your partner clearly
Certainly, we should all be proud of who we marry. However, if we are blind to the flaws of our spouse then we have a problem because everyone has flaws. So, thinking too highly of your partner is a symptom of codependency you can watch for.
Again, not being able to see their flaws may sound romantic, but as their spouse, it is your role to be the one who sees all of them and hold them accountable for their actions. No one else will see as much of your spouse as you do – the good and the bad.
You are called to be the gentle truth-teller who lovingly shows them their worst and best moments. This is part of the beauty of interdependence – accountability unmatched in any other relationship.
However, codependency blinds you to this accountability. This may seem nicer and easier, but all this codependent behavior does is prevent your partner from growing. If you won’t be there to reflect their flaws in a loving way, likely no one else will.
You may feel unable to because reflecting their flaws will put you at risk of them “leaving,” but that is an unreasonable and unfair response from your partner. Having difficult discussions about your behavior is a part of relationships and life. Hiding from those talks only perpetuates an unhealthy dynamic in your relationship or marriage.
Unique callings in our unity
From a biblical perspective, some may argue that marriage makes two people one. Therefore, codependency, or mutual need, is justifiable. But that’s not a biblical understanding of oneness.
Biblical oneness does not reduce individuals to less than they were (i.e. – totally dependent on another human) but instead elevates you to a deeper level of connection (interdependence, choosing to love and support your partner). This is seen in the Trinity, where God eternally exists in three persons that are one in essence.
Each human being is given a specific calling by God to be who they are and do what he is calling them to do. Codependency reduces that by limiting what a couple is capable of due to their need for one another. Marriage, on the other hand, elevates that calling by providing the couple a mutual strength and deep reserve of love to pursue their calling.
A codependent relationship can look like love, but it isn’t. Love is predicated on choice, the choice to support and care for another. If you are dependent on another person for your emotional security and welfare, then the relationship is no longer based on love. Instead, it is based on need. Don’t settle for the false love of codependency. Pursue the true and real love Jesus hoped for us to have!
“Romantic Young Couple”, Courtesy of Vanessa Garcia, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Marcus Aurelius, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Shattered Dreams”, Courtesy of RODNAE Productions, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Broken”, Courtesy of RODNAE Productions, Pexels.com, CC0 License
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