In Covenant But not Codependent

Please forgive my prolonged absence, but I have been on a journey of my own. For some time I have been intrigued by the evidence of codependency in my own life as well as in the life of many others I have watched stand for a marriage. Many times during my life I began studying the topic, but soon abandoned the study because so many materials on codependency recommend divorce. Again and again, though, I saw the same characteristics in my life and I wanted to be free.

This past year through some things I walked through in my family of origin, I realized it was time to tackle these issues in my life. I was determined that there is a way to be in covenant and yet not be codependent. Our marriage is healthy, but there are characteristics in my own life that I want to see changed. So my journey began.

You may recognize yourself in these patterns and characteristics of codependency. I know I saw many things that were part of my life when I was standing and have remained part of my life all these years later. I think it is particularly important for those of us who are taking a covenant stand to recognize what motivates our stand. Otherwise, as one of our readers noted, it can feel like a stand is destroying you.

I firmly believe that the Lord wants us to remain faithful to our covenant vows in marriage, but I also firmly believe He wants us to be healthy and whole when we do that. If we are drawing our worth or taking our cues from our spouse, his or her actions and reactions are going to determine how we feel and act. That is codependency.

Since I began my own journey of healing, I have started seeing many around me who also remain in these unhealthy patterns long after their marriages have been restored. I have also started to realize that many people in ministry are very codependent and are gaining their self-worth from being able to rescue others. I am going to devote a number of blogs to this topic because I believe it is essential that we all walk through standing and marriage restoration in health.

When we marry, God makes us one (Genesis 2:24). That oneness is a supernatural transformation accomplished solely and totally by God. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the Body of Christ. He reminds us that there are many parts, but only one body. So it is with marriage. We are one in Christ, but we are two people with individual gifts, personalities, and talents.

God miraculously creates oneness out of the two diverse, unique people He created. We do not give up how God made us to “blend” with our spouse. We do not have to force unity by becoming less of what God created us to be.

If we have become codependent in our life, though, when we marry we work hard to be what our spouse wants us to be. We can take on responsibility for his or her emotions, reactions, successes, failures, or general well-being. People with codependent characteristics usually seek out and marry people who are dealing with some dysfunction in their lives.

Although none of this is usually a conscious decision, the codependent person becomes responsible for the success of the relationship. Many times they put up with intolerable circumstances just to keep the marriage together. When a spouse decides to leave, the codependent spouse may take on full responsibility for the healing of the relationship.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe God wants to heal every marriage. The key is who is responsible for the healing. If you believe it is God’s responsibility to heal, you will be able to rest in Him and trust Him to do what He needs to do within each of you. If you believe it is your responsibility, then you will tie yourself in knots and consistently rate your “success” by what you have done or said.

Breaking free from codependency is a wonderfully freeing and healing step. If you are constantly feeling guilty that you have not done enough, if you blame yourself that you couldn’t keep your marriage together, if you feel you aren’t worthy enough to be loved fully and completely by your spouse, then you may want to stay tuned for the next steps in the journey. Love, Marilyn

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding…” Proverbs 3:5

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord” Jeremiah 15:7

Author: Marilyn Phillipps

Married 49 years, we have three children and six grandchildren. My initial career of nursing prepared me to work with marriages that are wounded and in need of healing. For 35 my husband and I have led 2=1 International, a ministry to marriages and families around the world. We have seen miracle after miracle when many had given up hope.

2 thoughts on “In Covenant But not Codependent”

  1. I have been following your blog for some time now. This entry is really interesting. I had never thought about standing this way.You are right if I am trying to do the healing I am going to fail. But when I look to the Father to heal us each and put us back together right that is the better way. Thank you.

  2. I am also encouraged to hear you speak of this. I know I have codependent tendencies, and they have played in our marriage. Before I was standing, I was reading books on this and found it created a divide: either I am codependent or loving. I still struggle with this daily, especially now that I am standing. A stand can also look like codependency, to the world and even to myself. But I like that you talk of the balance. I am really trying to let go of thinking everything was my fault, that I should have done or said more, that I need to do something else now. I even want to go back and right my wrongs if possible where I messed up. I have repented, asked for forgiveness from God and my spouse, and I am not responsible for his reaction. This is so hard for me! At some point, we have to trust God is going to heal our spouses. He ALONE will be the one. All I can do is pray and reflect and respond in love.

    It has been painful, but I am greatful for my trial. My biggest fear in life is happening, and it is not killing me. God is purifying my weaknesses and healing me of needing my husband's love for approval. It is not my love that loves my spouse, it truly is God's love. I know this in my core. Also, I am believing that I do deserve my husband's love, and look forward to the day when he is able to freely give and I can receive it.

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