Archive for the ‘codependency’ Category

Looking for Completeness

Today’s post is part of the Heart’s at Home Blog Hop for the month of June.

And this month’s blog hop is to answer the question, If I could go back in time and tell my teenage self one thing, what would it be?

My parents didn’t have a great marriage. So I remember thinking in my teen years that I would make it my mission to find a great guy, and not only escape my difficult family of origin, but also show my parents how to have a great marriage.

Ahhh, ignorance is bliss!

I took my idealistic and naïve notions with me into my dating relationships, often driving some of my boyfriends crazy! And, honestly, running a few boyfriends off!

When I finally met the guy that would become my husband, we ended up repeating a lot of the patterns that my parents had in their marriage—surprise, surprise!

But if I could’ve whispered into my teenage ear before any of that occurred, I would say . . .

Quit running after an ordinary man to be who the extraordinary Christ should be in your life—the first true love of your life!

Thankfully, all along the way, God was the One whispering this truth in my ear. And at some point, I actually listened and realized that He was right. Imagine that?!

I want to clarify at this point that I am not in any way saying I regret marrying my husband. I am so, so happy to be married to my husband, Gary. But I do know that I’ve put him, our kids and myself through so much more drama because I believed that Gary could and should complete me.

Looking back, I know that God used (and continues to use) all of the people in my life and especially my husband to act as “iron sharpening iron,” so His will was not thwarted by my unrealistic expectations. But I also realize that my compulsion to be in a relationship and eventually marriage, made my spiritual and emotional maturation process much more complicated, difficult and slow.

So, even though I can’t really speak to my teenager self, I hope that this will be a resounding statement to any of you (of any age) who are rushing into a relationship . . .

Don’t pursue a soul-mate or spouse until you can say that Christ is and will continue to be your first love.

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Who Ya Gonna Call? Boundary-Busters!

Have you ever had someone in your life who continued to hurt you over and over? Let’s say you clearly communicated your concerns, perhaps gave chance after chance, but after awhile it just kept blowing up in your face. Did you ever wish that you could find someone who could wave a magic wand over your offender and change his hurtful ways?

Allow me to rewind to the old 1984 hit movie, Ghostbusters. Do you remember it? It all began with a pesky spirit haunting your abode. According to the premise of this movie “Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters!” And in a flash the Ghostbusters team would capture your Casper and send him directly to their “ectoplasmic containment box.” The only risk you might run would be getting in the way of the fleeing phantom and unfortunately—getting slimed! Yuck!

Yeah, it was a funny and crazy plot, but it seems to me that very often what haunts us is not a ghost, but a “Boundary-Buster.” Yes, a Boundary Buster is that person who continually steps over any line you may draw. So how do you know if you’re being haunted by a B-B?

Signs you have a Boundary-Buster in your life:

  • They give you excuses, excuses, excuses!
  • They avoid responsibility at all costs
  • They control your every move
  • They have extremely unrealistic expectations
  • They procrastinate like a pro
  • They argue for the sake of getting you off track
  • They use intimidation and threats
  • They manipulate you with guilt—“This is all your fault!” and “If you’d just change . . .”
  • When all else fails-–they lie

So what do you do if this person is your spouse, close family member, friend or your boss? Short of divorcing your spouse, quitting your job or living a day to day game of hide-and-please-don’t-seek with the B-B whenever you step out the door, you really can’t escape.

And unlike the comical Ghostbusters, there isn’t a Boundary-Busters . . . “Buster”—no one to trap the Boundary Buster in your life. In other words, you cannot change anyone but yourself.

However, there is someone who can not only soften and convict the heart of your Boundary-Buster, but also strengthen you as you deal with your B-B. That person is God. Turn to him and let him transform your B-B, but keep in mind that even God will not force a person to change. Your best option for change is allowing God to change you and your ability to deal with your B-B.

Suggestions for dealing with your B-B:

  • Surrender your B-B to God daily
  • Pray specifically for your B-B daily
  • Pray that God would give you guidance and patience with your B-B daily
  • Seek godly counsel and support
  • Read good books on setting boundaries*
  • Join a good support group (codependency, Al-Anon, Celebrate Recovery, etc.)
  • If you don’t already go, find and attend a Bible-believing church

* Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, or Boundaries in Marriage, or How to Have that Difficult Conversation You’ve been Avoiding, or Safe People

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Don’t Lower Yourself

We all have a bad habit from our childhood.  I’m sure you remember it.  And if it’s hazy, just watch your kids for a minute or two and I’m sure they’ll provide a much needed trip down memory lane! Some kid slaps, pinches, or simply touches another kid and the victim feels compelled, even duty-bound, to hit the other back.  It’s one of the oldest games of all time—the game of “Tit for Tat.”

Allow me try to illustrate what this looks like for us, as adults.  Let’s say you’ve had a really bad day.  If something could go wrong, it did.  Your kids were extra needy and messy and . . .  mischievous.  Finally the evening rolls around and you and your husband have a chance to relax.  But instead of pleasantly chatting, he criticizes you for how little you picked up around the house that day.  You can’t believe his nerve!  So you immediately shoot back at him, “Well, if you’d help out a little around here, maybe it wouldn’t be so cluttered!” You feel an instant rush of justification and the high that comes from venting your stress and frustration (a powerful and intoxicating combination!). But instead of it setting your husband straight, it instantly ignites a long and heated argument.  Just what you needed to end your long, hard day!

Do you remember the old motherly saying, “If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” It makes perfect sense when you say it that way.  No one wants to do something stupid simply because someone else did it first.  But we do it all the time. We do it in hopes that our offender will learn his lesson.  But they never do.  And we never do—at least as long as we play this awful and destructive game.

The biblical story of David is a great example of refusing to play this game.  In 1st Samuel 24:1-22, David was being pursued by King Saul who erroneously and arrogantly believed David was out to get him.  So when King Saul went into a cave to relieve himself, he didn’t realize that David was hiding there in the shadows.  And instead of killing King Saul—something David’s men urged him to do—he chose to rise above the situation.  He chose to not return evil for evil.  Instead, he crept up and cut off a part of Saul’s robe without him ever knowing.  And when the king left the cave and was a safe distance away, David revealed his act.  He reminded Saul that he could have killed him, but he chose to trust God and be merciful instead.  This convicted the king beyond any point that a harsh and mean-spirited lesson would have taught.

David refused to play the game of “Tit for Tat.”  He chose not to lower himself to his enemy’s standard.  Instead, he rose to the standard of Christ—one of mercy and grace.  Remember that example above?  What if it went something like this instead, “This house is a mess.  What were you doing all day?”  “I know the house looks a mess, but it’s been a really challenging day.  Do you think we could do a little straightening together this weekend?” (Of course, you can’t say those words without graciousness on your lips and a prayer for compassion in your heart.)  It’s not easy resisting that urge to play the “Tit for Tat” game, but when you refuse to lower yourself, everybody wins.

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The Invisible Mark that Everyone Can See

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Recently I read a blog post by Mary DeMuth regarding “The Mark” that is left on a person who has been sexually abused.  It was very well-written and insightful, and I would recommend checking it out at the link I’ve provided above.

As I read her post, I felt that the mark she referred to is sadly very real, and not just for those who’ve been sexually abused, but also for those who have experienced any type of abuse, trauma and/or neglect.  People who have experienced significant pain develop the marks of codependency.  Most people think that codependency is limited to an unhealthy relationship with an alcoholic or drug addict.  Not so, since the cause of codependency is not due to alcohol or illicit drugs being used by one party in the relationship, but rather the presence of abuse, trauma or neglect in the relationship.

If you have experienced any abuse, trauma, or neglect in the past or present, then you, to one degree or another, send out unconscious signals to others that make you a target for more abuse or unhealthy interactions.  That doesn’t mean that you cannot diminish the power of that “mark.”  If you pursue healing and proactively make changes in your life through various means, then you can significantly silence the mark.

What are some proactive changes you can and should make?

  • Pray for God’s healing and pray for your abuser
  • Seek the help of a Christian counselor
  • Go through a forgiveness process with the help of God and your Christian counselor
  • Learn how to set healthy boundaries with others in your life—especially your abuser
  • Read about codependency and/or your particular type of abuse
  • Give back in some form of ministry to other victims

This list is not exhaustive, but gives a good starting point and foundation for a victim of abuse, trauma and/or neglect.  If you think you carry the mark and you know me, let me know and I will pray for you and, if you would like, talk with you.  If you do not know me, please consider sharing your story with a caring, trustworthy professional or friend.  Remember, “We are only as sick as our secrets.”

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2 (NIV)

“He {God} heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

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Are You a Codependent?

1. ____  I feel a compulsion to do certain acts, think certain thoughts, or consume certain substances when I am stressed or depressed.
2. ____  I regularly feel frustration over not having my needs fully met by significant others in my life.
3. ____  I often find that I am defending myself on certain recurring issues with others.
4. ____  I find myself adjusting to other’s expectations rather than communicating my feelings.
5. ____  I easily go from 0 to 10 emotionally when something or someone really bothers me.
6. ____  I tell myself it shouldn’t hurt so much when others let me down.
7. ____  I battle with accepting my faults, limitations, and/or humanity.
8. ____  I have unresolved issues with one or more members of my family of origin that impact my relationship or feelings about them to this day.
9. ____  I sometimes depend too much on others or have great difficulty being alone.
10.____   I find myself having difficulty with people who remind me of someone from my family of origin that I have issues with.
11.____   I feel guilty saying “no” or setting boundaries with others.
12.____   I often find myself defending certain people in my life (especially members of my family of origin) because I am unwilling to see them as they really are.
13.____   I need everyone to be happy with me so that I can feel good about myself.
14.____   I believe that my spouse or significant other relationship(s) needs to complete me.
15.____   I feel like my maturity is arrested or underdeveloped
in certain areas of my life.
16.____   I regularly avoid vulnerability or reliance on others.
17.____   I often hope for specific circumstances to occur because I believe that they will make me feel complete or validated.
18.____   I find myself regularly intervening with others when I sense they are not able to handle a certain situation.
19.____   I have experienced a continual sense of discontentment in every circumstance I have faced.
20.____   I often react with rebelliousness or fear toward those who exercise authority or control in my life.
____   Total

If you scored 3 – 5, then you probably are struggling somewhat with codependency in your relationships.
If you scored 6 – 8, then you probably are struggling moderately with codependency in your relationships.
If you scored 9 or more, then codependency probably controls your life and relationships.
The term codependency was initially developed to describe a person in a relationship with an alcoholic who becomes addicted to his or her role in the alcoholic’s addiction.  However, this definition is not complete, since codependent characteristics develop in a host of other dysfunctional and addicted relationships.

Codependency develops due to unresolved hurts, losses, or trauma’s experienced
especially in your past, but also in present day experiences of pain.  If codependency is strong in your life, it is imperative to seek help for overcoming these tendencies.  A great place to start might be to read the book, Love is a Choice, by Hemfelt, Minirth and Meier.  Also, seek the help of a good Christian counselor and/or support group.

The problem with moderate to severe codependency is that it typically does not get better, but rather worse over time if intervention is not made.  And most disturbing, codependent and unhealthy relational patterns are modeled and passed down to our children and grandchildren.  Make a decision today to break the chain of dysfunction.

* Inventory was developed based upon the research found in Love is a Choice by Hemfelt, Minirth and Meier.