Codependency and Relationship Addiction

Codependency is a learned relational pattern that affects a woman or man’s ability to develop emotionally healthy, satisfying relationships. Often women/men who are codependent gravitate toward relationships that are emotionally destructive and abusive.

40 Million Americans, most women, are labeled as codependent.  The original concept of codependency developed from responses and behaviors of those living with someone who battled alcoholism and/or substance abuse.

“In codependent no more,” Beattie writes “A codependent is one who has another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling the person’s behavior.” Codependent women or men are strongly influenced or controlled by another person’s needs and, feel obligated to rescue others and fix everything. At the same time, codependent women/men feel the desperate need for another person to meet their need to feel complete as well.

Codependent behaviors are frequently developed in dysfunctional families, where conflict is not recognized or discussed. The “good” of the family is stressed to the point where members learn to repress their own feelings, desires, and needs to survive. Family relationships easily become enmeshed, and addiction and abuse thrive unchecked in this type of environment; resulting in feelings of shame, fear, and anger that are either ignored or denied.

Enmeshment is when we use an individual for our identity, sense of value, worth, well-being, safety, purpose and security. Instead of two individual identities, we becomes one identity…our sense of wholeness is contingent on the other person.

Codependency is an addiction to relationship. A codependent individual struggles with who he/she is apart from the other, with no or few personal boundaries. He/she will do anything for anyone, staying in physically, emotionally or sexually abusive relationships, just to avoid being alone.

Phrases like…” I need you…I can’t live without you…you are my everything…become the mantra and can evidence signs of codependency.”

Many times the codependent person feels frustrated, used, and stuck, but has no idea what the problem is, especially if grown up in a highly religious environment. This environment typically breeds “sacrifices of own needs and desires” for others, or in doing the right thing at the expense of self is considered good, or believes setting boundaries in one’s life is considered sinful.

Characteristics of Codependency are:

  • Exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
  • Tendency to confuse love and pity, “loving” people they can pity and rescue
  • Tendency to be hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
  • Unhealthy dependence on relationships; the codependent will do anything to hold  on to the relationship to avoid the feeling of abandonment
  • Extreme need for approval and recognition
  • A sense of guilt when asserting self
  • A compelling need to control others
  • Fear of being abandoned or alone
  • Difficulty identifying feelings
  • Rigidity and difficulty adjusting to change
  • Problems with intimacy and boundaries
  • Chronic anger
  • Lying and dishonesty
  • Poor communication
  • Difficulty making decisions’

Wise Counsel:

Codependency is not a disease. It is an addictive learning behavior pattern developed over time, often because of unmet needs. Learning how to live in freedom requires learning a new way of doing relationships. Codependency generally expresses itself in one of two ways:

  1. Person may be needy, desperate and clingy in relationships. Person needs to be rescued and is unable to operate as an individual. Essentially, person does not know who they are and above all is terrified of being alone or abandoned.
  2. Person may serve as an enabler in relationships. Takes on the serving, fixing and recusing role in the relationship, “making everything okay.” The person’s family and friends grow to depend on them for everything. Person defines worth based on how he/she helps others; however, aside from serving others has no idea who they are. Frequently a person’s codependency is rooted from childhood and past relationships.


Breaking free begins with breaking down the lies and allowing God, not others, to define them. The more the person recognizes who God is and His ability to meet the deep heart needs, as well as provide a sense of significance, the more he/she will be able to interact with others in a healthy, genuine format. Setting boundaries becomes confident try and fear of hurting others or needing their approval is a non-issue.



  1. Ground your identity in Jesus

Instead of going to others for approval or advice, go to God. If you define yourself based on other people or by your ability to rescue them, your life will be a roller coaster of chaos and desperation. Study God’s word and find out who God says you are, rather than defining self by friends or opinions of others.


  1. Refuse to be an Enabler

Stop being in caught up in enabling your spouse or relationship. When one continues to enable an addiction or abuse in a spouse/relationship, this more than likely will precipitate further abuse and dysfunction. Get wise counsel from church leaders and friends you trust about the proper steps taken to stop the enabling cycle


  1. Tough love means saying no and refusing to continue to live in dysfunction. Continuing to excuse the behavior of your significant other/friend is not love, and will only end in hurt. Do not continue to be a victim. Take charge of your life.


  1. Learn how to set healthy Boundaries

Boundary setting is biblical and necessary to determine what you are responsible for and what you are not. To be in a healthy sustaining relationship, you have to set boundaries. Learn how to become genuine and honest about yourself. As you begin to set healthy boundaries, you more than likely will feel lost and confused about your identity and purpose at first. This is normal. Over time, you will begin to feel more comfortable with you are in Christ and boundary setting will become second nature.


Biblical Insights

You shall have no other gods before me Exodus 20:3

They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Romans 1:25

You will know the truth and the truth will set you free john:32

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am you God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. –Isaiah 41:10


Come all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. –Matt 11:28-29


information from AACC insights and Tim Clinton material

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