In an effort to fill empty spaces in our lives, codependency often flourishes. It’s easy to want to fill the pain of silence, emptiness, or a void of some kind with someone else or something. It’s partly due to our get-it-now culture. We don’t have to wait very long to get most of our “needs” satisfied. We can go to the mall for a pair of shoes, get fast food, and stop for ice cream most anytime we want. It’s not that in and of itself this is bad; because it’s not necessarily. Sometimes our time is limited, and we need to make the most of our current situation.
On the other hand, we’ve also become accustomed to filling every emotional void in our lives right away with a material or second-best option, instead of opening our hearts up to do the more valuable work of connecting with God and with ourselves. Sometimes a person’s connection, a cheeseburger, or a pair of cute flats are what we need to open the door for connection with ourselves. And sometimes the inside work is needed in order to manifest the connection with a person, or with a great meal, or with that new footwear. The difference is in listening to ourselves and in wisdom. There isn’t a formula that says “Go this way 100% of the time.” We live in relationship, not necessarily in exact formulas. We ebb and flow, and this is why boundaries and authentic self care are so extremely important. Because as we start to listen to ourselves and what we need, we also become better lifegivers. As we take the time to care for ourselves, we open ourselves up to the wisdom we need to take our next step. Maybe our next step is connection with a person: talking to a friend, looking for a mate, or having a baby. Or maybe our next step is more inside cultivation: waiting for the Ripe time, continuing to strengthen ourselves, or building discipline. Only we can make the best decision for ourselves in each situation. We’re all working on closing our own gaps; not judging or managing anyone else’s gap. With authentic self-care, our outflow is more likely to give pure life to others. And when we need connection with something or someone outside of God or ourselves, we can usually find it much more easily when our own love tank has been processing and getting it’s work done.
I like to use the example of marriage because it’s an easy one to relate to. Marriage can be a beautiful example of interdependence, or it can be the crumbling demise of codependence. David and I are alike in many ways; we have similar values, goals and dreams, and work ethic. On the other hand, we enjoy process differently and are gifted in different ways. In many ways, we are interdependent. We have two unique and individual callings in life, and yet the two blend together really nicely when we both have taken the time to 1. do our own inner work and 2. lean on one another for support.
One of the things I most value about our relationship is our honesty and our communication. Somehow, by the Grace of God, we both have a greater love for one another that denies codependency. This means, we let each other do their own work without trying to use each other to fill the void. It reiterates that we both came into this life with some baggage, and we both are here to support one another and offer to help each other unpack that baggage, but in the end, we are each responsible for our own luggage. We each contribute to our marriage and our family in different ways, and if we are lacking in an area, we know this: we can count on one another for support. What we also know is this: we aren’t going to fix each other or each other’s messes. Our marriage was designed to bring out the benefits and strengths in one another. I support who David is as an individual through his style of parenting, and his career, and his hobbies–and he does mine. He also has other friends who support those gifts in him, especially the ones that can influence him in ways that I don’t necessarily fit into. (I don’t have to be his “everything”; if I do, there is an insecurity issue. This is codependency!) We have a great balance of trust and challenge and support. He is able to be David, and I hope he is to the fullest. And I am able to be Sarah. When we are individually at our best, we are the best to one another. Most of the time, we are the “first line of defense” for one another. It’s easy; we’re best friends, and so a lot of times, that’s it. But sometimes, it requires solitude or prayer to find the deeper answer we’re looking for. And other times, it takes another friend with a different perspective to bring the missing piece. The point is, we are responsible for ourselves first. We lean on one another for support. And we also invite others into our lives to give new perspectives and vantage points. Ultimately, we take all these into consideration with prayer, and God helps us move toward clarity and our next step in the process.
It is beautifully interdependent. It allows us both to be individuals. We don’t control one another to fill needs. We value the opinions of each other with love and trust (especially if we need to be challenged or corrected somehow), and we open ourselves up for the advice of others who carry wisdom or expertise in an area we’re unsure about. This is bliss! And it’s an example of what it’s like to have healthy boundaries in relationships, whether that be marriage or parent/child or friendship, etc.
Everyone is ultimately responsible for his or her own decisions. We challenge and support one another toward our higher good and calling. We bring nurture and correction to wounds or situations that have gone a little out of balance. And we CELEBRATE when we’ve learned how to breathe anew and become successful in our life endeavors.
Our outside circumstances can always reveal what’s really going on in our inner processes. My inner workings determine what my relationships can look like. When I flow out of God-received love and self care, I have become the best resource for the people I want to love. I take responsibility for my own actions, and I can easily share my resources with someone who needs it. I also find that the resources I need are often readily available. This makes life fun and productive.
Boundaries don’t always have to look loud and contain a giant red “NO”. They can be subtle, and they can just mean solitude for a season. What they do long term is create stability and productive relationships. They don’t isolate us, they develop interdependence and healthy relationships. They remove fear and control, and they give each of us the room to blossom to our fullest potential.
I am thankful for those in my life who have had boundaries with me! They have given me the greatest gift; to create and to look at God and within myself for the best answer and solution.
Don’t be afraid to say no. Take the time you need to care for yourself. Out of self-care, you will be synchronized to exactly who you need to help develop your next stage of life and character.
Be a great friend; love authentically!
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