Family/Marriage/Relationships: Life laboratories.

Someone once described a great relationship‚ any kind of relationship but primarily romantic ones‚ as being like two Olympic skaters‚ a man and woman competing in the mixed couples competition. Remember watching the man and woman skating together hand-in-hand as he throws her up and over his shoulder. They get applause together. Then‚ she will skate away from him for a short while and do her own skating. She gets an applause. He then does his own skating to applause. Then‚ they come back together as a couple for more applause. They have their own individual skating routine under the broader routine of their skating relationship. One skating alone enhances their duo skating program and the duo skating program enhances their individual skating programs. Imagine what would happen if the skaters clung tightly to one another. They wouldn’t be able to function individually nor be effective together. Imagine if they skated with a lot of distance and never came together. They would never accomplish as single skaters what they could as a couple. These are examples of codependency‚ clinging tightly‚ and independency‚ too much distance. The best example is the picture we started with…a healthy‚ balanced interdependence where the two are one and the one is still one within the two.


Codependency is where a person in some level of relationship‚ whether it be marriage‚ parents and kids‚ dating‚ or friends‚ crosses that line and gets too involved in the life of another person. This codependency is also called enmeshment. We can actually lose a part of our own identity in our relationship with someone else. Like parents who choose the career‚ job‚ sports‚ friends‚ etc.‚ for their kids. They want to live their life through their kids. A typical example is a parent who wants their children to pursue the school and career they never had the chance to pursue. They are living vicariously through their children. Or like the parent who is so emotionally wrapped up in their children that they have no real life outside of their children. The children then grow up and leave and there is literally nothing else for the enmeshed parent to do. Yet the children leave messed up and wounded. Why? As a leech sucks lifeblood out of its host so a codependent person sucks life energy out of the person they have emotionally attached to. You and I‚ through codependent relationships‚ will wound others and get wounded ourselves if unresolved emotional wounds are not dealt with and healed. If we are in any relationships where it is constantly emotionally‚ physically and spiritually draining to be in that relationship we should ask ourselves‚ “Is this a healthy relationship or is this person using me to avoid their own life issues…am I using this person to avoid my own issues?”

Codependents are usually wounded people who have not yet faced and dealt with their past emotional wounds. They will on some level latch on to someone as a means to avoid their own pain. They are basically relationship junkies. They get hooked on the emotions and identities of others as some get hooked on drugs‚ alcohol‚ etc. Extreme examples are stalkers. Day-to-day examples were mentioned in the previous paragraph of parents with kids. Also romantic relationships are very common arenas for enmeshment. What can happen is that the secondary codependent will begin to feel smothered and will talk to the primary codependent about it. Notice I said primary and secondary codependent. It is very typical that both members of the relationship are wounded codependents but one may be worse than the other. This is what happened to me. More on that later. When the primary codependent is confronted by the secondary codependent instead of seeing reality they may choose denial and say‚ “How can you treat me this way when all I’ve ever done is love you?” This can set off an ugly situation where healthy and sometimes stern measures need to be applied. The damaged relationship‚ in order to survive‚ will need distance and “boundaries.” When this is done the primary codependent typically begins feeling like their guts are being ripped out because their addictive “fix” of another’s emotions and identity is severed and they begin feeling deep pain. This pain can be a mixture of the current relationship problems and unresolved emotional wounds from their past. They then have to make a choice to either get help or move on to their next emotionally sick codependent relationship. Do you and I bring energy and life into our relationships or do we drain energy and life? I recommend the book “Boundaries” for everyone‚ especially those sensing they may be in a codependent relationship of some kind. Resource information can be found on the Wounded Heart home page.

How do we know if we are in a codependent relationship? Does your life more than not revolve around another person’s life or vice versa? Are there other genuine relationships in your life outside of the primary one? Do you honestly feel somewhat obsessed with another person? Is another person obsessed with you and say and/or make you feel that they can’t or won’t live without you? Can you live without them? Do you all spend too much time together and not enough with others as individuals and as a couple? Do they drop hints that they feel smothered by your attention or vice versa? Answering yes to any of these questions could be a sign of codependency.


The separated skaters who never came together were too far apart. The distance did not enable them to pair up with their partner and combine their individual lives and abilities. Therefore the distance did not enable them as a relationship to accomplish what they could not accomplish alone. Relationships are the same in that if there is too much emotional and relational distance the individuals in the relationship will not be able to develop and blossom into their potential as an individual or as a couple. Two individuals together combine and compound minds‚ hearts and abilities and help fill in the gaps and weaknesses of one another. We need other people. Whether it be family‚ friends or spouses‚ without relationships we can never become the person Jesus Christ desires us to be. A Christian spokesman when asked to sum up Christianity in one word answered‚ “Relationships.” Being independent within interdependent relationships is the healthy way we should be. Being independent within independency is the unhealthy point I am trying to communicate here. If we live in the extreme of independency it means there is something wrong in our emotional and relational structure. Keeping people at a distance through independency is a perpetual coping method implemented to avoid emotional pain and relational intimacy. A typical example is the man who is emotionally distant from people‚ especially the woman in his life. He may work hard to provide for her and any children. Yet‚ he has trouble sharing his feelings and trouble with listening to her feelings. Time goes by and the woman has a God given need for deeper emotional intimacy which the man is not meeting. What happens? The communication is broken which spills over into other areas of their relationship like their sexual life. Because he does not become emotionally intimate the result is she may not want to become sexually intimate. Problems arise primarily because the man chooses to be independent emotionally. Perhaps his dad or both parents were this way with him and he does not really know how to share on a deeper emotional level. This is why getting outside help will probably be necessary. We can and must learn how to move from independency or we may lose our family relationships and other key relationships. Independency is a way to emotionally avoid others. Independency is also a way to avoid ourselves. Independency is a way to avoid God.

How do we know if we are in an independency type of relationship? One or both members of the relationship is emotionally distant and does not open up and let the other into their inner life. Time together focuses on doing things only‚ rarely if ever on simply being with one another where talking and intimate sharing takes place. There may not be much actual time spent together. An independency person will not allow another to help them or have trouble doing so. An independency relationship will eventually bring to one or both members an emptiness and lack of fulfillment within the relationship and perhaps in life in general. Is this you? Are you attempting to exist in the lonely world of independency relationships?


This is the healthy relationship balance God has in mind for every person-interdependency! Is there where you and I are? Due to my background of family divorce‚ an alcoholic dad and childhood sexual abuse by strangers I drifted towards codependency. I was engaged in my late twenties and we quickly became enmeshed and codependent with one another. The majority of the unhealthy relationship we had was due to my unresolved issues. I was the primary codependent‚ she was the secondary. It was then‚ due to the pain of our broken engagement‚ that I finally realized I was a wounded young man who needed help. That was many years ago. Now‚ years later‚ after much pain‚ growth‚ counseling and the supernatural power of Jesus Christ‚ I know for a fact I am no longer a candidate for codependent relationships! The more we work through our past emotional wounds the more content we become with who we are as an individual. Therefore‚ there is a lot less need to attempt to hide within the identity and emotions of those we are in relationship with. We slowly grow‚ through our relationship with Jesus Christ‚ into that healthy “Olympic skater”‚ that individual person‚ who is free to be ourselves. As a result‚ we are then free to be interdependent with another life in a balanced‚ healthy relationship where the two are one and the one is still one within the two.

Are our relationships doing ok? If you are married are you and your spouse communicating clearly with genuine spiritual‚ emotional and sexual intimacy? Do you all have problems working through differences and arguments? We can learn how to have healthy relationships. It is never too late! Learning how to communicate is a must for our relationships to survive and thrive. Listening skills and learning how to talk without accusing are most vital. Also‚ learning how to interpret body language‚ facial expressions‚ etc.‚ are keys to relationship development. Help is available for our marriages‚ engagements‚ parent and child relationships‚ and friendships. The following are some things that have helped myself and others recognize and work through unhealthy codependent and independent relationships as well as help build and strengthen all our current and future relationships.