Steven Covey talks about “The Maturity Continuum” which we all progress through in our journey to adulthood. It starts with a place of dependence (where we need others for literally everything in our lives…like children), to independence (I don’t need anyone), to the final stage which is interdependence. Interdependence says “I don’t need you, but my life is better because you’re in it.”
If that doesn’t work for you, you can always revert a few progressions and instead embrace a co-dependent (or fully dependent) lifestyle. The problem with interdependence is that it takes a lot of work to maintain the independence you’ve attained while starting to include other people back into your lives. Co-dependence is way easier because you can still desperately need people AND have them around you all the time. It will probably stall out your development as a person, but you’re guaranteed to never be rejected or alone.
Here are some steps toward functional co-dependence:
1) Go into ministry. There’s no better place I’ve found to find yourself co-dependent than to be in a place where people desperately need you. It’s a win/win because they need your help and you need their affirmation so you can co-depend on one another. When you venture into people’s lives and get past the barriers, the natural instinct is to protect your investment. Be ready to make sure people have kept your secrets and that they are always always willing and able to be sucked into more.
2) Keep your circle of friends small and exclusive. You can’t let things get out of your control. Since the world of a co-dependent person critically relies on loyalty, you need a firm line between those who have permission to access your life and those who don’t. Quality time is the key…and lots of it. If people have reasons to be elsewhere they won’t be with you.
3) Tell this small group things you’ve never told anyone before. Trust is the only way to
manipulate grow the relationships around you. Make sure people outside the group know that you do this. Tell as many stories as possible about memories you made with the small group. The jealousy will help your group feel better about how exclusive tight knit you guys all are.
4) Be proactive. Always explain the
disturbing amount of quality time you spend with these people as something healthy and be sure to use “community” as an excuse explanation for your behavior. People are going to think it’s odd so be ready to explain the joys of this co-dependency intimacy.
5) Deny deny deny. You’re always going to have dissenters. They’re probably
right just jealous. Remember: YOU HAVE IT UNDER CONTROL. It feels so good to be accepted and included that it can’t possibly dysfunctional. People will try and give you feedback: DISREGARD it. They don’t understand and never will.
6) Operate with a worldview that believes God needs help. In Genesis God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. Use that reference to justify that you need more than just God’s love, acceptance and intimacy.
Codependency is like going through a maze and ending up at a dead end. You’re still in the maze and still moving but you’ll end up camping out at that dead end thinking you’ve finished the maze.