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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Co-dependents and Boundaries

MORE OF US ARE INVOLVED IN CO-DEPENDENT RELATIONSHIPS than we’d ordinarily realise or readily accept. Co-dependency is not just about ‘co-signing the note of life’ for a drug-addicted spouse or child; it’s also very much about taking part of the responsibility for anyone’s life in any way.

The reason most of us are entangled in co-dependency is we think we’re not being loving when we don’t go directly to the aid of our spouse, our kids, a sibling or a parent. And yet, we interrupt a very important life-cycle law when we “rescue” people from the consequences of their own actions. They don’t reap what they’ve sown.

And the key issue appears to be that the person we’re rescuing doesn’t get to experience much of the pain they ordinarily should. They don’t learn to appropriately manage the pain of the consequences of their actions. They’re not motivated to curb their ways. Their growth in life on the path to maturity is stunted and, even in some cases, halted.

And what we reap for our “help” in this way is a family member who’s frankly irresponsible—we contribute to their irresponsibility. We do them (and us) no good at all. Then we get to the point of confronting them in their irresponsibility and wonder why they don’t care.

Confrontations are not painful for irresponsible people because they are only pained by the consequences—as we all are—yet, a wiser person will feel uncomfortable about confrontation and they’ll seek to amend the discomfort. And if the irresponsible person feels no consequence for having overstepped a boundary the cycle will be repeated... again and again and again... until we finally interrupt the interruption!—leaving them to experience the fullness of the consequences.

The key issue for us, if we’re even slightly co-dependent, is we must allow those natural consequences to take place in the lives of our family members and loved ones. In other words, we must “stop interrupting the law of sowing and reaping,” in their life because everyone should learn to deal and cope with the consequences of their own actions. This is the only way to maturity.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.


Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend, Boundaries – When to Say YES, When to Say NO, to Take Control of Your Life (Sydney, Australia: Strand Publishing, 1992), pp. 85-86.

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