Episode 70 – How Did I Become Codependent and How Do I Change?
Join Josh and Kit as they address listener questions of How did I become codependent and how do I change? How do I love myself? What does it mean to be whole?
In fact, there’s the saying, it’s like I’m okay if you’re okay with me. That’s codependency.
I’m taking somebody else and I’m seeking from them to feed off of them and to get from them really what only God can give me a sense of identity,…
Am I seen, am I loved, am I worthwhile?
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Original music by Shannon Smith. Audio engineering by Gabriel @ DelMar Sound Recording.
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We’ve been asking listeners for some feedback and we’re really happy, um, that we’ve been getting some great comments and ideas. And so these questions came from a woman and I’m gonna share what they are and then we’re going to kind of walk through them a little bit today. How, how do you learn to love yourself? How did I become codependent and how do I change and what does it mean to become whole? So these questions, Josh, are near and dear to my heart that they’re great questions, great questions near and dear to your heart. Well, because I’ve struggled with them most of my life and you know, feel like, you know, thankfully I’m learning some things. Um, but they are, they’ve been really themes for my life of a lot of, a lot of the life I’ve had so far. Yeah, you’re not alone.
What does I love about some of the questions in there too? Is it, I’ve said this before, I think sometimes as Christians it’s, we’re not allowed to ask certain questions. Like what does it mean to be whole? Oh, well, it means wholeness. And that’s a great question. Regeneration’s tagline is becoming whole. What does that mean? Right? So let’s, yeah, let’s talk what’s with us? So let’s, let’s jump in. Talking about codependency. It’s a great, huge issue for so many people. It is a listen, you know, a ton of popular songs today and you’re like, oh gosh man, this is the codependency. Like this kind of like, no, I’m going to die without you. I need you. I can’t live without you. Like, oh, that’s codependency. So it’s really funny that you brought that up because I was thinking back on songs. I used to think, I’ve talked about this before, but I used to sit at a piano when I was like 12, 13 years old and I knew enough to like, you know, play the piano a little bit and I would sing these songs that were just, but that at one of them was called more more, um, than the greatest love you’ve ever known.
This is a love I have for you alone. It means just like this, this crying out crooning song to another person, pendency, you know. Um, I, I can’t stop thinking about you when I’m, when I’m sleeping, when I’m weeping, when I’m dreaming. All I can think about as you and so though the songs, no, no, no. This is a song that I, one of the songs I used to sing, yeah. Um, when I would sit and play the piano and I actually looked up the lyrics the other day because for some reason it came back to me and it’s no wonder that if I was like meditating, you know, on on these lyrics and playing the piano and no wonder it seeped into me. It was this idea that I, I can get that kind of love. I can give that kind of love and what’s going to complete
me. This deep longing, just desperation really. I think, and I think some of the songs,
I think some of that stuff in our culture, it’s like scratching an itch. Like when we’re in that space of like just that kind of desperate needing of a person, it can like that. There’s just something in it that’s, you know, I think it’s some, some of it’s good, but man, it can go sideways quick.
It’s healthy, it’s healthy to want to love someone. It’s not healthy to want it. You know, when you’re obsessed and that’s the way that you’re going to have any sense of who you are.
So let’s take that, you know, how do you, how do we define codependency? Some people listening going like, I don’t deal with that. Some people listen to going like, ah, I think I told you with that. Let’s just put some, some, you know, words to it, some boundaries on it.
What is, what is codependency? Well, a simple way to think about it is that you’re, you’re overreliant on a person or a relationship, a emotionally, psychologically, um, and so, you know, it becomes very unhealthy and dysfunctional because you are all about, um, if that person’s okay, I’m okay. In fact, there’s the saying, it’s like I’m okay if you’re okay with me. That’s codependency. Yeah.
And that’s a, that’s a great way even that, and to answer some of the further questions like, well, how do I know if I’m over-reliant like how do I know if taking this too far? And I think that’s a good sign of that. Like, actually if you’re not okay with me that I can’t go on, I’m not okay until we can get that figured out. And if you leave me, I’m wrecked. I mean that, that’s just never going to work for me.
There have been so much of my life where I would begin or end the day by saying, I’m I relationships. Okay. Oh, they’re okay then I’m okay. Hmm. And that was my barometer. And so of course, why is that not okay? Because relationships are up and down and it’s, and that’s okay. They are up and down and it’s okay that you have an argument with your spouse and you, you know, you’re in a period of, of, um, working it out. Like now when I, I realize that there’s something in a relationship that might be, um, you know, not in the greatest of places. I’m like, okay, Yep. And, and I’m going to do my best to resolve that and to love them well, but it doesn’t rock my world and like make everything else pale in comparison.
Some other other ways that people describe codependency, other terms that are synonymous. One is emotional dependency. Yes. You know, my, I’m emotionally not okay if you’re not okay with me or you, another way to think about is you, you have to tell me that I’m worth, that I have worth. And if you don’t, if you don’t see worth in me, if you don’t think it, then I don’t think it. And another is, and I think this is informative too, is relational idolatry. So there’s synonymous or cinnamon sending them for it could have benefits. I’m taking somebody else and I’m seeking from them to feed off of them and to get from them really what only God can give me a sense of identity, sense of worth, a sense of wellbeing, sense of stability in the storm. And this doesn’t mean that we never receive any of those things or can be nourished by other people in those areas, but it’s when I focus that in on, on a specific person or specific group of people alone as though they are god.
And a way that you can know that you’re codependent too is if you continue to stay in an abusive controlling relationship and don’t have a desire to, um, try to, uh, get, you know, either in your own self or in the relationship, like change how it’s going.
Yeah. When you, when you minimize. Yeah. So I had a seminary professor who I was talking about a relationship that I was with, uh, with a, uh, uh, a really a mentor. And, um, and I was part of what I’m saying was like, you know, there are some things going on that like not so great but Dah, Dah, Dah, Dah. And he’s like, yeah, that, that’s a sign of codependency. Josh. And the way he described, he said, he said, it’s like you’re taking important mail that’s coming in and you’re putting it in the junk mail pile. So you know, you, your, your spouse keeps saying they want to get better. They don’t want to keep drinking, they don’t want to keep sleeping around. Um, your, your friend says they care about you, but all evidence of how they’re living points to, that’s not really true. I mean, I think one of the common refrains we hear from people is like when others who do love them kind of say like, Hey, I don’t like how they’re treating your, I’m concerned about you. And the response is we, you don’t, you don’t know them. Like I know that, yeah, they’re actually not like that.
I’m really going through a hard time. And that might be true, but it doesn’t justify being emotionally, um, psychologically, physically abusive. And when you put up with that and, and you know, you, there’s no sense of I have, I have dignity and honor and this person is dishonoring me over and over and over again with no remorse. And that’s, that’s just indicative of your, you’re in deep weeds
and it doesn’t have to. So just be clear. It doesn’t, I mean, I think that’s one of the places we see codependency is in abusive relationships or where there’s an emotion and physical relational abuse. It doesn’t have to be that way for there to be codependency that people can actually be in a relationship that they both enjoy being in where there’s codependency. Yes. That’s very true too, to two people who are really glommed on each other. Yeah. They’re there. They’re each other’s world. Yeah. And they’re digging it, but they’re really not okay. Without the other person. Yeah. Um, yeah, it’s very, yeah.
Interesting. Because I, you know, when we talk about, um, uh, marriage, you know, being one flesh and I often say to clients, you know, I think God’s intention was not for two halves to make a whole when he created Judy and say, I’m going to make half a person, you know, he said, I’m going to make a whole person. Yeah, I’m going to make someone who’s, who has the capacity to be in the fullness of God. And so it’s two whole people coming together and it’s, it’s serious
how two holes become another hole. But that’s, yeah.
So I think that, so let’s, let’s, let’s transition. That’s a great transition to the kind of that next of, well what does, what does, what do we mean by wholeness? What does it mean to be whole? So if I recognize in myself, codependent or emotionally independent kind of tendencies, what am I shooting for? Like what is it, what’s a different if I’m in a marriage or I’m in a relationship and I’m like, wow, I think I’ve taken this too far. What does it look like? And I, I think one of those things for me is, it’s just what you said, that kind of, I’m actually, I, I have something on my own distinct from this other person that has value, whether they see it or not, whether they appreciate it or not. And I can, and I actually have it independent of them. So I can go be an other relationships, relate with other people and bring this and bring value there without that, that person,
which is not just honoring of yourself, but it’s honoring of that other person that you, right. Like you don’t want to become, you don’t want to be like, well, you know, listen, I’m going to look to you for what I need to become whole. Oh my gosh. Like again, we’ve talked about that with children. What a burden that is. So I think, um, it’s important to have, I love the word honor, you know, have a sense of what does it mean to honor yourself, to have a sense of self, to have boundaries so that you know that Josh, you’re a separate person than me from me, right? I have myself,
honestly, it’s a fine time for you to tell me right now, man. So I have a sense of self and I want, I honor that you have a sense of self and I don’t want it, you know, I don’t want to cross those boundaries.
Right. And I think w when, when there, when there’s conflict, there’s a, there’s a, there’s an understanding that you have as if as a whole person, you understand this conflict is not, first of all, it does not wreck me. Right. Second of all, right. It does not mean I have to lay myself down. I might have to humble myself. I might have to make concession and ask for forgiveness or change some of what I’m doing. I can’t just, I’m not, you know, just meant to be immovable in the world, in my relationships. But I can still honor who I am and how this is making me feel. Yeah. And that’s, that’s a big,
I think you’re touching on something with conflict. Again, that is a good sort of a barometer. Like, if you take everything personal and you feel like a victim, everything that someone says, like in a, in a friendship or a marriage, you know, then you’re like, oh my gosh, you know, then like, that’s, you know, not everything that is said and done is personal. And when you take everything personally and you feel like a victim, then that’s probably indicative that there’s some dependency there.
That’s good. Yeah. Yeah. So again, back to this question of like, what does it mean to be whole? Yeah, it’s kind of hard. I mean, it’s, it is we’re talking about, it’s hard to put our, our, you know, to give a definition to, but, so a couple, a couple of categories maybe could be helpful. One is, um, how wholeness and integrity go together. And so thinking about like, through and through whoever I’m with, wherever I am, I’m the same person. I know that when my, uh, when my wife and I, before we were married, when you start, we were dating and I was really digging her. And one of the things that I, that I, uh, that I, it was really important to me was when I was with people who knew me well, my family members and friends who I’ve been friends with for a long time. One of the questions I would them after they’d met Jamie and spent some time with the two of us together, I’d say, you know, did I seem different with her than I usually am? And part of what I was searching for in that was, uh, was just a sense of like, am I performing? Am I laying down who you’ve known me to be in order to try to, you know, draw her. And for them to say like, actually, you seem more yourself with her than you have other people. It’s a great sign of like,
okay, I’m learning to be whole.
Which, which again, when you to think about this idea of wholeness, maybe think about true self and false self. So when you said, am I performing? Like the false self is ego-driven. So wholeness isn’t living out of your ego. Wholeness isn’t like, how can I please this person? How can I perform? How can I achieve? How can I strive? What do I need to, what image do I want to portray? You know, that’s all very, um, that lacks a sense of wholeness. The true self, the true self is really like paying attention to, um, you know, when you feel peaceful, when you feel loving, you know, when you can get in touch with, um, who you really are apart from all those other things. Yep. Like that is a sense of wholeness
and that’s, that’s, that goes back to one of those things of like, um, uh, this, the value of individuation that happens when we’re kids. And so thinking about family of origin issues, I think one of the, one of the precursors for a lot of people who start with, with codependency or relational dependency is you weren’t allowed to feel the things you felt like dad came home and he was in a bad mood. Everyone had to be quiet and kind of be tense. You know, even if you’re having a great time and had a great day. Yeah. Um, that’s, that’s not healthy. You know, I’m actually allowed to be happy. I’m allowed to feel peaceful, even if you don’t. Yeah. And doesn’t mean I don’t care for you. It doesn’t mean I’m being insensitive. Uh, it might be, you might be beating those things, but it doesn’t mean that. Right.
And I think it’s, it’s, yeah, like it’s learning to know yourself. You know? It’s just like, who am I? What do I like, what do I love? What do I enjoy doing? And then doing that. Yeah. You know,
great question. Like, w what do you love? Like I dunno what you tell me what I love as opposed to like, here’s what I love and,
and that’s a great way to discover wholeness in yourself or who you are, who you are, you know, your true self is like experiment with some of that. Like, you know, think about some of the things you used to love to do as children, as a child or whatever and then do it and then be like, oh, oh, I’m, that helps me get in touch with who I am and what it feels like to be whole. You know, when I’m, when I’m hiking in the woods and I’m, you know, quiet and calm and paying attention to, you know, just things around me. Like I have a sense of who I am and a sense of wholeness.
Yeah. I think what comes to mind as you say this is peace. I think a sense of peace with myself. Yeah. You know, like I, I remember some codependent relationships I was in where I really piece no piece. Like I, you know, I had to be, I had to be available. Like what if you were reaching out to me and I didn’t know it, you know? Um, that was not a good place
if you’re exhausted in your relationship. Yeah. Yeah.
Where, where does this come from? I think we kind of skipped over that. Like where, where do the, what’s the genesis of that? I mean, I mentioned a, some of the, the, the, um, codependency kind of stuff that can, they can begin in childhood when, when a child just doesn’t have the freedom, um, to, to be themselves in relation to like a very large emotional adult or large and in charge adult in the family where the child just kind of doesn’t learn to be an individual in the family and isn’t honored in that place.
It is passed down. It’s certainly was passed down from my mom to me now. Doesn’t always happen that way, but it can, you know, so I, I modeled, um, a mom who was, um, very codependent, you know, just really didn’t know who she was. Um, apart from my dad. Yeah. And, um, and so, you know, that’s one way you can learn it. Um, insecurity and dysfunction in the home. You know, if you have no control and you know, codependency is about control. So if you feel like you’ve grown up in, in an environment where you have no control, you have no say, you have no sense of yourself in it, you know, that’s a right, you know, a great, that just, uh, an environment that will create that kind of, um, tendons.
Yeah. So let me, let me dig in a little bit further to the, how you learn it in a home or it’s passed down. So you’re saying, um, and I, I think I get this, but you’re saying that, um, you know, a child who in that vulnerable places looking up to one of their primary caregivers and mom or dad who doesn’t have an identity, or is it okay apart from their spouse? So a child without realizing it begins kind of picking up, I guess this is where you find yourself, right? Yes. This is how we’re going to be. Okay. Yes. Um, it’s not a conscious thing. It’s just a, yeah. You know, this, it’s acquired, it’s an acquired
and children are so perceptive, you know, and they’re, it’s so hard to remember being a child. You know, when we think about how we learn things, we think about ourselves now. But when you’re a child, you’re very vulnerable, you’re very impressionable, you know, you’re very perceptive. And so, you know, you’re your PA and the people who are most important in your life, like you’re paying attention to them in ways that, you know, we don’t, you don’t even know, you know, and you’re, you’re doing what they do and you think about the mannerisms that you have that are kind of like your either your parents weird, right? Yeah. And so there’s much more than mannerisms that you pick up. Yeah. Yeah.
Uh, you mentioned security too, which I think is a huge one. So if for whatever reason, as a, as a child growing up, something happened to you, something, you know, something didn’t happen that you needed and you’re walking around just kinda this whole, this question of like, am I seen, am I loved? Am I worthwhile? I think what can happen some point in life, adolescents, maybe, maybe later somebody that you look at and think, man, this person’s got it together and they’re noticing me. That can be a recipe for codependency. You could also be a recipe for great blessing if that’s a healthy other. But if they’re not healthy, if they’re, you know, if they’re, if they’re looking for someone to kind of validate them, then it becomes this, this, this cycle where like, man, you know, this person becomes my world and that, and I’m better with them and if they reject me, I’m in trouble. I think we’ve also seen situations where relationships like that can become sexual. Yeah. That kind of dependency can become sexualized. Um, or that kind of relationship can also, another dynamic is the narcissist and the emotional dependent person. Yeah. In our sis kind of gathers emotionally dependent people around them. And, and when, when somebody gets healthy enough, they start asking questions, the narcissist moves on, they, you know, they attack and move on.
And when you’re a child and you’re watching a parent put up with things like you’re, you’re watching this, what you, what you somehow maybe even instinctually know, you know, they shouldn’t be talking like that. That’s scary the way my dad’s talking to my mom, or even, uh, you know, they just got, they just saw their dad hit their mom, you know. Um, and so you watched that no matter when, that no matter what happens, the mom doesn’t do anything about it. The mom accepts it or the dad vice versa. But, and so that creates a very deep wound yeah. In a child. So, you know, and, and like you said, emotional dependency, codependency can, there’s different levels of it. Some mix is very extreme and other is more, you know, not, not quite so, but there can be some, some very strong messages sent to, uh, to a little child. And then, you know, this idea of learning, what do you do with that? You know, it, we really do want to be aware of those things. We want to, we want those things to come up and be like, oh, that’s, that happened to me too. How that’s playing out in my life now.
So moving into the category of like, what do we do if we recognize codependence in your life? How do we get better? How do we break free from codependency? Yeah, let’s get real practical here. I think certainly becoming aware, beginning to notice those things. Even identifying the wait, I do that, you know what they’re saying feels like me. Yeah. It’s a great first step to, you know, acknowledge the reality of your brokenness is a great first step. What are the things,
well, I think about take inventory of your relationships. Even think about the steps of AA. You know, they have, one of the steps is take a moral inventory. Yup. You know, codependency is, is an, in many ways an addiction to a person. And so, you know, take inventory of your relationships. Um, especially the primary ones. You know, like what, what’s going on there. And um, if you see, you know, if you’re dating somebody or you even have a friendship, you know, think about boundaries, taking some steps, steps back. You know, it’s important to, to do that.
Boundaries are huge from breaking free from any kind of addiction, certainly in the area of emotional or codependency. Um, and specifically like, so let’s get practical. Like, I think for a lot of people, if you’re in an emotionally dependent relationship, it codependent relationships for a of people it means of very like very hard boundaries, high boundaries, and it can be very disruptive and even potentially the end of the relationship.
I’ve been many, many clients and I, and I always try to cause like something rises up in me because of my history and because I know what damage being in that longterm relationship within a codependent relationship did. Um, so I’ll, I’ll rise up a little bit, have to kind of like calm myself down, but I’ll say to the client, you know, listen, I just want to tell you if, if, if what I’m describing is that relationship, please do yourself a favor and get out. Get out of it.
Got Out of it. Yeah. Well what if I hurt the other person will wait. You know what? I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I mean, you know, I don’t want them to hate me. I don’t wanna like some of those. Yeah.
Serious, deep, serious spiritual, psychological damage to be in those kinds of relationships. It takes a long time to recover.
And I think I just recognize that some of the resistance that comes up is actually a symptom. That’s where you are. Oh, that’s good. Yeah. Yeah. And that’s, that’s true in a lot of different addictions.
Be kind to yourself. Don’t shame yourself and beat yourself up if it’s hard, you know, remember to be kind to yourself like a, it is going to be hard and find someone to talk to.
It’s so important. Do you need like this, the re the relational idolatry, codependency, emotional dependency. These are, they are counterfeits there. They’re the twisted version of true friendship. And you’d need true friends to help you as you’re walking through this. So whether it’s a, uh, a spiritual coach or a therapist or just a cadre of friends that you know, that aren’t kind of wrapped up in this stuff. Yeah. Who you can call and say, I’m, I really want to pick up the phone and get back with So-and-so or course spent time with them. And you can be in your court to say like, hold on, hold the phone, call the phone. Okay.
And I think that’s why I love what we do and why I love being a part of it is because what happens here really does address these things. Um, and many others, but addresses these core issues that are so important. And so whether it’s the programs that we have, you know, which really are dramatically impactful or the coaching. Like if that’s, I’m not, you know, we’re not like, oh, we need people to come in because we, we, we just believe, I believe so much in what, how it’s helped me. Yeah. In recovery because we all are in recovery for something.
Yeah. Shameless, shameless plug. You know, we have to pass it all nurses coming up. Yeah. Not too long. Spiritual coaching here can be immensely helpful for you. And we’re not saying it because we need people to come through the door. We would actually just love to walk through and help you. That’s what we’re here for. Yeah. A couple other practical things I think people can do on a spiritual level. I think really bringing these things to God and codependency, like I mentioned, relational idolatry. Idolatry is a sin. And so it can be really helpful to confess that as a sin to the Lord. Lord, I have put this person in a place that only you belong. And I, I confess it as sin to you. I confess it as idolatry. I asked you to forgive me and I need your help. I need you to rescue me from doing this. Absolutely. He is so patient, so willing to walk with us. You know, God, God loves people. He hates idols. So he certainly wants to help set you free.
And it’s a process. It takes time. Sure. You know, I mean, they’re still without question, residuals of it in my life and I still pray about it and ask God to help me in it.
Yeah. Anything else practically speaking that you would say has been helpful for you? And then we got to close?
Well, I think, um, realizing that, um, my sense of wellbeing, I don’t, you know, evaluate it anymore according to how my relationships are doing. You know, I just say, Lord, I, I wanna just embrace the reality of your love for me. You know? And what that means to me and who I am, that there is a wholeness that I can have in you. Um, I can be interdependent and in loving relationships with people, but they don’t define me and I don’t go to them anymore for that. I go to you. I spend a lot more time with God than I used to. Um, and, and again, I know that seasonal, but I just, I, I enjoy time with God. I enjoy learning about him and about myself. And it’s become a really important relationship. Yeah. More important than any of the other ones.
Yeah. Yeah. So let me one more practical that I’d give and then I’ll, I’ll close in a word of prayer. I remember a time for me in college, I had just got out of, uh, emotionally dependent romantic relationship and not just, it had been awhile, but I was still just heartbroken. Mm. Uh, hanging on wishing thing and this other person started dating another person and I, it just wrecked me even though it had been months. I was out with some good friends and I started lamenting again, kind of like the song, you know the crooning song you had mentioned the beginning of the lamenting song. It was kind of what I was lamenting to two my friends and one of them just grabbed me and he put his arm around me and he said, he said, knock it off Josh. Like be with us. Like, come on, you’re with us.
Wow. I love it. But I think in that sense, like being mindful of where you are and when your, when your heart, your attention starts to go back to that other person. How are they doing? I wonder, I wonder. I wonder. I wish, I wish instead practicing mindfulness to like, God, I’m right here. I feel this desire, a feel this long. I feel this ache, but I’m right here and literally thinking about your five senses. Even like what do I see right here in this place? What do I feel like? Let my senses, who else is here and what are they saying yes to bring yourself into the present moment to experience that. And that’s, that’s a discipline. It’s a practice, but I think again, just over, over the long haul, that can be a way to outbreaks. Very helpful. Absolutely Lord. Um, you know, you don’t, we don’t solve codependency in 20 minutes, Lord, but, but our podcast time has done so. We pray for our brothers and sisters who are listening, who are, who are experiencing that a can experiencing that, that intensity that we pray for freedom for them or already pray that you wash over them and that they like us. Lord, we pray for them and for us that we would continue to to increasingly find you to be more and more our sufficiency, our God, our lover and the one we love in return or please make it so we pray all these things and the strong, powerful, wonderful name of Jesus. Amen.