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Dr David Christian Marriage Advice

6 Steps to Stop Codependence from Destroying Your Marriage

6 Steps to Stop Codependence from Destroying Your Marriage

There are many definitions of codependence floating around, but my favorite—from an unknown source—is “seeing a weakness in another, ignoring it which thereby enables it.” 

We’ve heard about it, but it often takes forms we don’t quickly recognize. 

It can take the form of settling for something we know in our hearts is wrong. It can take the form of saying ‘yes’ when we want to say ‘no.’ It can take the form of overlooking some troubling behavior, when inside our resentment grows. 

What if your mate is engaged in some behavior that perpetuates a destructive pattern in your relationship? Perhaps you’ve said something, but then drop it because your words seem to fall on deaf ears. You confront a weakness, but then become discouraged when you meet with defensiveness. 

All of us have some situation in our lives we don’t like, but because of our codependency—our desire to please and keep the peace—we don’t say anything. Or, we don’t say enough, fearing conflict. We settle for something we’d rather not settle for, but we do it anyway, enabling and reinforcing the destructive process. 

Any time we “wink” at something destructive, we thereby reinforce it. Let me offer a few examples:

  • Your mate is consistently dishonest, but you’re tired of fighting about it, so you shut up and live with it—codependency; 
  • Your mate has an annoying habit, but when confronted they deny or minimize it and you decide to ignore it—codependency;
  • Your mate manipulates you into doing things you’d rather not do. You give in and feel angry—codependency;
  • Your mate has an anger problem. You’ve tried to convince him/her that they need help, but they disregard your advice. You decide to tiptoe and hope the problem gets better—codependency.
  • You confront your mate but they turn the problem onto you and you decide to not push the issue—codependency. 

Do you see the pattern? It is so easy to slip into settling for things being the way they are, especially since your mate is in denial about their problem. To persist in naming a problem, and insisting on change is to invite trouble. What do you do? Most of us shift into an uneasy alliance—we decide to try to live with things the way they are, but inside we die a little more every day. 

What can be done if you fit any of these patterns of codependency? 

1. Tell yourself the truth. When we “wink” at problems we are not telling ourselves the truth. Stuck in denial, we cannot change what we cannot fully own and be honest about. Tell yourself the truth about what is occurring in you and your marriage

2. Write out the impact codependency is having on you and your marriage. While this is a difficult task, writing out the various ways you turn away from a problem and own the impact of those behaviors on you and your marriage may be the dash of reality you need to begin a change process. 

3. Gather support for an intervention. We rarely can make significant changes without support. We need friends and family who will support us and encourage us to make difficult decisions. Seek support from people who will be neutral but supportive. 

4. Confront the weakness. After discerning what needs to be changed, confront the problem. Name the problem, own the problem and insist on changes to the problem. Spend time acknowledging what change really looks like and what expectations you have for change.  

5. Follow through. You must now follow through. Beginning a change process is only the beginning. Now you must follow through, insisting on depth change. Superficial changes will not give you the relief you need. 

6. Trust the Lord. We are never to fully place our trust in ourselves or even our mate. We must trust the Lord and He will give you courage and wisdom to make difficult decisions. 

Codependency is a very debilitating process. If you are struggling with breaking free from this syndrome, please reach out for help.

I’d like to hear from you. Please read more about Codependency in my book, When Pleasing Others is Hurting You and explore more about my Marriage Intensives at Send comments to me at

Publication date: August 25, 2015