Overcoming Codependency

P


hil, a businessman, has gone bankrupt twice. As a result, he and Janet, his wife, have lost two homes. Both times, Janet worked hard to pay off their debts and rescue Phil.

Phil has also been involved in an affair for the past several years. When Janet found out about this, she was hurt terribly, but when Phil said how sorry he was, assured Janet how much he loved her, and promised that he would never see the other woman again, Janet forgave him and took him back.

Later, Phil told Janet he had found work in another city and would be away for several weeks. He was gone for more than two months. Phil wrote and told Janet how much he missed her and that she was the only woman in his life, but he didn't send her any support. Again, Janet was left with the responsibility of paying all the bills.

After he returned, Janet discovered that Phil had been away with the other woman!

Kym is married to a transvestite. "I knew John was this way before I married him," Kym told me, "but I believed if I loved him I could change him. But it isn't working. When he dresses like a woman and wants me to make love to him this way, I feel sick in my stomach. My counselor has advised me to accept him as he is. What should I do?"

Fred's thirty-six-year-old son, Bill, is an alcoholic and is still living at home with his parents. "We've done everything for him," Fred said. "I pay his bills, including his car payments, and take care of him when he is too sick to go to work, and pick him up when he's too drunk to drive. I've been helping him for years, but he is no better. What more can I do?"

She felt she wasn't loved anymore
because she wasn't needed.

Exactly what should Fred, Kym, Janet and others in similar or related situations do? What is the Christian thing to do?

First, they need to understand the true nature of their problem. True, the people mentioned above all have serious problems, but Janet, Kym and Fred's problems are first and foremost their own. They all suffer from codependency.

Only in recent years has codependency been recognized as the debilitating sickness it can be. At first, it was identified as a problem in alcoholic families. For example, even after alcoholic husbands dried out, twelve months later, many of their families fell apart. When the caretaking wife no longer had a needy spouse, she felt she wasn't loved anymore because she wasn't needed. What she failed to see was that she had been dependent on his dependency. Her need to be needed was enabling her husband to stay sick. In other words, she was codependent.

Codependency, it is now seen, goes far beyond taking care of an alcoholic. It applies to the caretakers of any over-dependent person—such as drug addicts, work addicts, food addicts, spend addicts, TV addicts, sex addicts, religion addicts, sports addicts, money-making addicts, and to anyone addicted to any kind of compulsive behavior. In fact, latest estimates say that up to ninety-eight percent of us are either over-dependent or codependent to one degree or another.

Second, to resolve their problems, codependents need to admit their sickness and stop blaming others for their unhappiness or the difficulties they have.

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