A Brief Chat About Co-dependency with Mary “Posie” Neidig, MA, LMHC
INTERVIEWER: I see here on your bio, Mary—or is it “Posie”?
MARY/POSIE: Either is fine. “Posie” is a nickname my brother gave me when he was three. It just stuck.
I: Ok, Posie. I see that you list co-dependency as one of your specialties. I’ve heard of co-dependency, but what is it, and why is it a problem for people?
P: “Co-dependency” is a term alcohol abuse counselors came up with to describe the behaviors of the alcoholics’ families. The families try to reduce the abusers’ binges, angry outbursts, and other acting out by minimizing the depth of the problem, covering for and making excuses for them, complaining angrily, checking up on them, etc. As these tactics fail, the co-dependents become more and more anxious, depressed and frustrated, while the abuser continues on unchanged.
I: Are co-dependents always spouses or children of alcoholics?
P: More often, the co-dependents I see are adult children of emotionally-distant or over-bearing parents or spouses of “workaholics.” I am also seeing more spouses of those who are into Internet sex and chat rooms.
I: When do the co-dependents come to counseling with you?
P: Usually when they have tried everything they know to do and want some relief from the stress. They may say they want marital counseling or that they are anxious or depressed, but co-dependency is often underneath their pain.
I: How does marital counseling fit into all this?
P: Well, it has been my experience that the “-aholic” spouse either won’t come in or they want me to “fix” their unhappy spouse, so I work with the motivated one—one-sided marital coaching, so to speak.
I: What do you do, exactly?
P: I work with the co-dependent to become more grounded in God’s thoughts and ways, so that they can deal with their spouses more effectively. Education about how they contribute to their spouses’ bad behaviors can be a big help.
I: Thank you, Posie. I had no idea that co-dependency was so common, especially among non-drinking families. I am glad to know there are Christian ways to deal with it. Does it always work?
P: It always works for the co-dependents in that they are growing spiritually and behaving in more God-honoring ways. Whether it works for the spouses is up to them.
To learn more about Posie Neidigh and the counselors at Counseling Center at the Crossing, check out our staff page.
Boundaries and Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloudand John Townsend are good for everyone, but especially co-dependents. Cloud and Townsend outline God’s relationship principles, and they include Scripture, which strengthens those who are afraid of displeasing God if they are not “nice.”
The Verbally-Abusive Relationship by Pat Evans is helpful for recognizing the evasive tactics often used, as well as giving some practical ways to counter it.
People Pleasers by Les Carter
Women Who Try Too Hard by Dr. Kevin Leman
Love Is a Choice by the doctors of Minirth-Meier Clinic