Jackie Clark and Jim Still-Pepper

In the movie Jerry McGuire, Jerry tells his wife, “You complete me.” We all want to hear those words, especially from someone we care about. God created us to be in relationship with one another; but what happens when a relationship becomes all-consuming, draining, or destructive—in technical terms, a codependent relationship? We may have codependent relationships with people we date, with friends, and with family members.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / 

Red Flags of Codependency

  • You feel that to have value, you must have a significant relationship (boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend).
  • You can’t make decisions, even little decisions, without the approval of someone else.
  • You allow others to set priorities or to take responsibility for your life.
  • You care more about the feelings of others than about your own.
  • You expect others to meet all your needs.
  • You feel unable to express disagreement, and you avoid conflict at all costs.
  • You put another person before your relationship with God.
  • Your priorities change (you change friends, you spend less time with family, your grades slip).
  • In extreme cases, the relationship involves emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.
  • Trusted family members and friends tell you the relationship is unhealthy.
  • You have to be someone you are not in order to keep the other person happy.


Creating a Border without Building a Wall

When you put a puzzle together, you start with the edge pieces: the border. Knowing where the border is helps you put the rest of the puzzle together. The same is true for relationships. If you want to put together a healthy relationship, based on trust and respect, you need to start with the borders. Take a look at the borders you need to maintain in order to develop healthy relationships and to avoid codependency.


Pieces of Truth

Photo Credit: Alfonsina Blyde » via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Alfonsina Blyde » via Compfight cc

Give Up the Drama
Make sure that your relationships are as free of drama as possible. Drama focuses on emotions in the moment. Healthy relationships focus on now and later.

Stop the Selfish
In a selfish relationship, the focus is all on you or all on the other person. In a healthy relationship the focus is on we not me.

Own Your Decisions
Friends offer suggestions. Unhealthy friends give ultimatums.

Relate, Don’t Suffocate
I love pizza; but if that is all I eat, I get sick. Living your life too focused on the relationship can suffocate a friendship. You need variety. Do some things apart so that you have something to talk about when you are together.

Just Say No
Be aware of whether someone is demanding too much of your time and energy. Know when you need to say NO.

By putting the border together first, your relationships are free to grow and develop in healthy ways. Instead of being all-consuming, draining, and destructive, your relationships will be balanced, energizing, and enjoyable.



Find or make a puzzle with large pieces. Think about an important relationship in your life. Write on the edge pieces the five “Pieces of Truth” about healthy relationships outlined above. For each one, rate your relationship from 1–10. In each area in which you are struggling, think about what you need to change in order to make that piece of your relationship more secure. Ask a trusted adult for suggestions. You might carry a puzzle piece in your pocket as a tangible reminder of the changes you are working to make.

Jackie Clark and Jim Still-Pepper live in Zanesville, Ohio. Jackie has been a volunteer in youth ministry for over twelve years. Jim works as a counselor and a professional speaker.

—from devozine (July/August 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.
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