Caring, loving, self-sacrificing. Those are the words I would have used to describe the relationship I was in. Lonely, draining, and dependent. Those are the adjectives that characterized my past relationship. You see, at the time I would have identified my past relationship as healthy. The relationship I was in and you may be in was marked by patterns of co-dependency.
If you’ve never heard of co-dependency or don’t have a clear idea of what it is, BrittneyMoses defines it as, “anytime you begin to crave or need somebody’s attention, need their love, need their acknowledgement.” It is an endless cycle of allowing someone other than God to fill that empty place in your heart. Instead of a mutually-giving and taking relationship, co-dependency leads to an idol in your life: the other person.
From my experience, here are some warning signs that you/a friend may be in a co-dependent relationship:
-You stop spending time with family and friends to instead spend time with your partner.
-You deny that anything is wrong with your relationship, even when well-meaning friends and family mention otherwise.
-You feel most satisfied when this person needs you.
-You feel like you need this person’s permission to live your life and make decisions.
-The goal of making the other person happy is of number one importance in your life.
-Your relationship with God is put on hold, as your primary goal is to receive love and fulfillment from your partner.
-The convictions you used to hold are denied in order to stay with your partner.
-You always desire to know what your partner thinks of what you are doing.
-You only find satisfaction when you are around this person.
-It annoys you when people or things get in the way of you being with this person.
-Your emotional, physical, spiritual health is less important than the overall health of the other person.
-You make excuses for your significant other’s unhealthy behavior.
Love is not a feeling; it’s a choice.
There is scripture that so clearly illustrates what love is: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV). These scriptures are in such contrast to what co-dependency is. Co-dependency is demanding, self-serving, insistent, helpless, unrelenting, selfish and jealous. It is self-seeking in the sense that the person ends up running after the feeling of being loved. When you do whatever you can to get the next “emotional high”, you will make choices that are detrimental to your own health and well-being.
Only God can fulfill our hearts.
God demonstrates self-sacrifice in the way He loves us and sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins. In the same way, He desires that we follow His model in the way we love others by giving of ourselves. The problem with co-dependency is not that partners are not giving of themselves, but their purpose behind it is to gain acceptance and worth. Only the love of the Lord can fill that God-shaped hole in our hearts. When we try to allow another fallen human do something only God can do, we sell ourselves short of the real thing. We become satisfied with a false alternative, which will only lead to greater emptiness.
Letting God be the one you need is essential to finding freedom from the addiction of needing someone else.
In my situation, God had to bring me to the point where I did not see the relationship I was in as healthy. At the time I did not see the full picture of how needy I was on another human being. I did not see that my focus was on letting another human be an idol in my life. It took God taking away what I thought was good and honestly being hurt by this. At the time, I couldn’t understand why something so good had ended. As God has been healing my heart of hurt, He has been reclaiming the place of Lord over my heart and life. Through this time, I have been able to see how much I really need God. I’ve learned that another human cannot satisfy me. I pray that if you or a friend are feeling gripped by the need to be loved or accepted by someone, God will bring you to a place where He is the only one who will satisfy you.
“Little Johnny, your mommy is at the front of the store waiting for you.”
If you’ve ever been in a large department store, you have inevitably heard a similar message roar across the store speakers. As a child, I once walked away from my mom while we were in the mall. Who knows what distracted me? A shiny pair of shoes, a flashing store sign, or perhaps a sparkle on the floor. Upon looking all around, my mom found me standing by myself. I had wandered away in a moment of distraction.
The wandering does not stop once we enter the teenage years or young adulthood. Every time I go shopping with a group of friends, there is always one friend who disappears from the group. You know, the one who spots the clearance section and is gone before you can say, “deal”. As women, we are prone to wander when we are distracted by ideas, thoughts, or feelings.
In our lives, distractions can easily pull us away from our walk with God. The Bible says that by nature, we are a lot like sheep. “The Lord is my shepherd” and we are His sheep (Psalm 23:1 ESV).
Sheep, left alone, are defenseless. When they encounter danger, they run away. Likewise, our response to fear can be to run off. We need a shepherd to shield us when we are fearful.
Without a shepherd, sheep would starve. They would roam the pasture, but never go in search of new lush green fields. They rely on the shepherd to lead them to food to graze. We are in constant need of direction.
Left to our own selves, we are drifting and doubtful. Our Father knows our need for a leader. Upon accepting Him as the Lord of our life, we have the opportunity to follow our shepherd.
Often, though, we lose sight of our need for a shepherd. We become like the child in the store who wanders off, in pursuit for the thing his eye sees. We forget that in our Father, we have everything we need. 2 Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence (ESV).
How do we remind our ever-forgetful heart of this truth? I think being in the Word, God’s Word, is a good way to keep our eyes fixed on the character of God. We read stories of how early disciples telling Jesus to do something about the raging storm and He calms it with one word (Mark 4:35-41 ESV). We read Jesus reminding us to “seek the glory of Him who sent Him” by knowing “the teaching” (John 7:17-18 ESV). As we read His Word, we remind ourselves of the strength and power that is available when we depend on our shepherd.
Lord, I am so prone to wander. Often, times get tough and I run away from you. When I am lost, I wonder why You seem so far away. You desire to be the shepherd of my life. I am often directionless and doubtful of your goodness. I realize my need for your shepherding in my life. Thank you for your rod and staff. Thank you for leading me to still waters and green pastures. As I go through my day, may I be reminded of your character. When life seems more than I can handle and I want to run off in fear, may your ever calm voice draw me back.
There is this theme in movies that is appealing to girls: a bad boy will change because of a good girl. From “A Walk To Remember” to “10 Things I Hate About You”, female viewers are left feeling like there is hope in dating a bad boy. We believe this idea that if we are smart enough, interesting enough, important enough to this bad boy, we can make him good. What we often forget is that we are not the ones causing the change; God is the one who can change someone’s heart.
My crush on “bad boys” began in fifth grade. I always had my eye on the boy who would get in trouble and seem to be totally fine with it. Interestingly enough, fifth grade was around the time when I was introduced to my first romantic movie, “A Walk to Remember”. I was intrigued by the way Shane lived his life, without regard to authority. It excited me to see such “freedom” in living. Before I had Jesus as Lord of my life, I was drawn to rebellion. I had a rebellious spirit about me. I was a daughter of rebellion, attracted to disobedient living.
Here are some things to do if you are interested in the wrong guys:
1. Let God restructure your desires
As I have committed my life to Christ, He has restructured what I look for in a man. I consider my limited relationship experience in my life a blessing to me because I see it as God keeping me safe. I think God has kept me from the guys I thought I wanted to date. In the Psalm, David says, “You are a hiding place for me; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with shouts of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7 ESV). As I’ve developed a faith that is my own, God has been delivering me from my old ways of thinking into new ways that are shaped by Him.
2. Keep your eyes open
The best advice my mom has ever given me is “keep your eyes open.” When getting to know a guy, especially, we have to keep our eyes open. Proverbs 16:17 says, “The highway of the upright is to depart from evil; He who keeps his way preserves his soul” (ESV). We should continually be moving away from evil, not towards it. If you discover a guy you are interested in has a past of habitual sin patterns, don’t be afraid to discuss this with him. Be open to ask the hard questions. Ask him when the last time he did ______ was. Ask him what he is doing to seek accountability. Ask him what kind of faith community he is a part of. As believers, we should be running from evil and towards Jesus. If you uncover that the guy you are interested in is still engaging in habitual sin patterns, just run. Girl, you are not in covenant with this guy. You do not have to stay with this guy if he has not dealt with his sin. When you don’t put your eggs all in one basket, you are able to see objectively the character of the guy you are considering.
3. Let go of the “savior complex”
I recently listened to a Podcast episode that said that many guys are looking for a girl that has it all together so they can coast and rely on her goodness; similarly girls are looking for guys who they can fix. We are not meant to fix a guy we are dating. We are meant to go along beside this guy and serve the Lord with him. We are called to challenge each other to become more like Jesus. Ephesians 5:22-23 says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior” (ESV). One day, the guy who becomes our husband will be the one we submit to. If we can’t trust the guy we are interested in now, who are we to say if that will change? How can we expect to joyfully submit to a husband we never trusted as a boyfriend? Only God can do the saving work in someone’s heart. If you are waiting for a guy to become “the one”, you may want to give him some space to seek God’s direction in his life.
4. Surrender the fear
Often time, prolonged singleness can lead to fear. We fear that we will never get married. We fear we will never meet a good guy. We fear that something is wrong with us. Out of fear of passing time, we may begin to set an internal timetable. To reach the expected timeframe, we may unintentionally skim over important things. When we operate out of fear, a guy with multiple red flags can appear dateable. What once was a non-negotiable is suddenly back on the drawing board. David shows such confidence in God’s goodness and timing when he says, “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!” (Psalm 31:19). By giving God the fear over what may not be, it shows a fear in Him and a respect for His timing. You are showing Him that you thank Him for His timing, even when you don’t understand it.
In the midst of singleness, there will be days when we just want to give in. We may want to settle for less than God’s best in order to fill loneliness in our hearts. Instead of falling for this trap of temporary happiness, lets wait for a Godly man who we can glorify God with. Let’s let go of the reigns of our love life and give our desires to the one who put them there. Let’s make God-honoring decisions in our relationships, as a way of putting our most important relationship first.
I was the girl who, as a teenager, wrote list of ideas of what a “good guy” would look like and act like. This list of ideals and non-negotiables has developed over the years, but nonetheless continued. I had this idea that by attending a Christian college, I’d find a “good Christian guy”. As graduation approached and I was still single, I started to buy into the idea that no good men exist. All around me, I heard some people tell me, “Your standards are too high. No one can meet those standards. You may need to reevaluate.” When I listened to other friends, they told me to hold tight to my standards and refuse to settle. As the former voices became louder, I started to mentally erase standards from the list that I didn’t believe could be found in men these days. I allowed myself to be influenced by the idea that no good men exist, anymore.
Here is why it is dangerous to listen to the voices telling us no good men exist:
1.) We will begin to feel hopeless of the possibility of a Godly spouse.
When I was in college, I thought I’d have a “ring by spring”. When I got out of college, I thought I’d be married by 25. Now, at the age of 25, I’m coming to this place where I realize that God does not work on my timetable. He is not limited by age, location, or personality. When we tell ourselves that there are no good men, we are not trusting God. Out of a place of hopelessness, we can become fearful. Fear can lead us to make harmful decisions about relationships. Solomon wrote, “It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman” (Proverbs 21:19). As a single woman, I can interpret this verse to mean: it is better that I stay single through life than attach myself to a man who does not fear God. Hope is kept when we let God meet our needs.
2.) We will not live purposeful lives.
The Lord has a plan for our lives, whether a good man enters the picture now or not. Our purpose does not begin when we find Mr. Right. How can we expect to find a man living his life on purpose if we are not living ours on purpose? When we get stuck on why we can’t find a good man right now, we forget that God has a plan for both singles and marrieds. After speaking about the purposes of singles and marrieds, Paul said, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” (1 Corinthians 7:17 ESV). Perhaps God has a different plan for our life during singleness that would not be possible if married. As we continue to live in His purpose, we will discover the ways God has made us. If ever brought in the path of a good man, we will be able to continue to live on purpose, rather than begin. When we follow God’s purposes for my life, we don’t waste our current season, in the hope of a different one.
3.) We will become bitter and blind.
As a single that looks around and does not see any God fearing men, it can seem like no good men exist. We can begin to plague my language with “all men are like this” or “well, I guess this is as good as it gets”. These comments will cause us to be bitter towards our brothers in Christ. Whether a possibility towards a potential relationship or not, our brothers in Christ need our encouragement toward living the life God has called them to. When we say things like “guys will be guys”, we limit the God-given life that is possible for them. Bitterness expressed in words will leave our brothers in Christ feeling there is no use in trying to live out their calling. In addition, my language can put a blindfold over our eyes to see the good men that are already there. Spiteful language about “all men” can become a blinder to seeing the men who are living for the glory of God. David encourages us to “delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4 ESV). While I don’t think this verse means every single will get married, I do think God hears our prayers for a good man. Instead of speaking out against what we can’t see, let’s be in the business of praying for and speaking life to the good men we can see.
4.) We will become prideful.
When we keep the conversation about the problems with men, we take the focus off our own sinful selves. The focus on the problems of someone else is a pride trap. This pride trip steers our eyes away from self-examination. If God has put a desire in our hearts for a good man, we should stay in prayer for this man. We should also be in prayer that we will be a good woman, who a good man would be interested in pursuing. There are certain things we are not active in examining in ourselves when our focus is on the problems of someone else. Paul says, “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:32). Instead of being worried about why the men around us aren’t what we are praying for, we should be attentive to being the woman of God who pleases the Lord.
If these good men are not abundant and seem to be in hiding, maybe we are not ready for a relationship. Perhaps God has a better plan for us in singleness than could be met in relationship. Maybe God is blessing us with additional time to get our vertical relationship right with Him before leading us to a good man. Whether or not we can understand the future of our singleness, we can trust our God who has good gifts for His children. In the meantime, we can pray for our brothers in Christ, as we strive to be the women God has called us to be.
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