Relationship addiction is something that never occurred to me, even after the experience of multiple failed marriages. It amazes me now that I used to thank God that I did not have addictive tendencies. Then came a day of revelation, on the heels of a crushing blow.
It was a fifth failure, after years spent striving to succeed in yet another abusive marriage relationship. With a heart broken by my own sin, I confessed to God that instead of waiting for His endorsement of my choice of mates, I’d made a commitment with all my heart and, once again, asked for His blessing afterward.
———————— SURRENDER ————————
After each shattering divorce, I was left emotionally devastated, physically depleted and financially ruined (it’s no exaggeration) – but I moved on without a deep understanding of what had just happened. Instead, I believed ‘It is all my fault’ and wondered ‘Why couldn’t he love me, I gave so much and tried so hard?’.
Then, I would ask God to forgive me, lying down with my face on the floor in a heap of hurt and shame and regret. My petition for forgiveness was always heartfelt and sincere. However, I didn’t take the further step of repentance. It wasn’t a conscious omission, but one born of the fact I’d never addressed the issues that prevented spiritual healing in this area of my life – I wanted to be the one in control of my love relationship.
I didn’t see it as my lack of faith and trust in God for His choice for me… God knew this, of course, and in His mercy and grace, forgave me anyway and provided a way forward for me to rebuild my life.
Through hard work, determination and God’s provision, I’d eventually get back on my feet. And then, when everything was going well, I’d commit to another unhealthy relationship. Ugh!
Why was I so blind? What was wrong with me? Three of the marriages lasted less than a year. Friends and family would ask, “How does this keep happening, you’re such a good person, and a Christian?” I had no ready answer for them – and worse, I couldn’t bear to think about it.
But this time was different – because I took the next step and surrendered control of this aspect of my life to God. It was the day I became willing to look at my life with an eye to examining my behaviors. The very thing I had strenuously avoided.
God began to reveal to me in small increments, over time, what the issues had been and where they had begun. His love is patient and kind. (1 Corinthians 13:4)
————— A PATTERN IS FORMED —————
Most of us could blame a portion of our problems on our childhood, but that wouldn’t be fair, would it? My nuclear family was flawed, all families are to some degree. My parents did the best they knew how with the tools they possessed.
My mother was a controlling unstoppable force and my dad was passive; they were a portrait in extremes. In their own way, they loved and provided for me and I have many good memories. On the other hand, I was raised by a perfectionist and could never quite measure up. Instant obedience, without question, was demanded. Anything less yielded severe consequences. Verbal attacks, spankings, and/or shunning. These punishments were not balanced by affection and tenderness – those traits were absent from the everyday toolbox.
As children do, I created a coping mechanism. In my case, a silent mantra; “I’ll try to be who you want me to be so you will love me”. No matter what, I pretended everything was fine with me when it wasn’t and became a world-class pleaser and a performer.
In his book, The Gift of Being Yourself, David Benner states that the dark side of pretending is that what begins as a role becomes an identity – and at the core of this false self, is the belief that my value depends on what others think of me.
— THE FOUNDATION OF RELATIONSHIP ADDICTION —
When we believe that our value is derived through another person, we’ve become trapped in the web of a dangerous lie.
Romans 6:16 “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey…?” In other words, the one you strive to please at all costs.
Because I hadn’t dealt with childhood issues and carried them into my adult life – I repeatedly formed excessive attachments to unhealthy and abusive individuals.
———————— TRUTH & LIES ————————
- We are created by God with a divine purpose. As Christians, our identity is in Him and from Him. If we operate from any other premise, we make ourselves vulnerable to immeasurable hurt and disappointment.
- This life, this precious life granted us by the God of all creation, is to be lived with eyes wide open. We are admonished in Proverbs 3:5-6, to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (ESV)
- By leaving God out of my decision process, I was caught up in an addictive cycle of trying to please one unhealthy person after another, each one incapable of providing what I was desperately seeking: love and respect and significance.
- Whenever we are convinced that anything – or anyone – other than God can fulfill us, we’ve believed a lie from the pit of hell and are vulnerable to addiction. It could be drugs, alcohol, gambling, performance for applause, pornography, shoplifting, or as with me, an excessive attachment to another person.
———————— LOVE ————————
When we shift our primary focus from pleasing a person or persons, (or any type of addiction) to live according to God’s plan for our lives, there is liberty. “For freedom Christ has set us free, stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (ESV)
All we need to do is look up with an open heart – God is there, waiting to rescue us the very instant we are willing. No matter how deep into the abyss we’ve fallen or how many times or for how long we’ve insisted on our own way. He is waiting to restore and replenish our souls and to lavish us with love. A love we don’t have to earn.
What I spent decades pursuing in vain had been available to me all along – in Christ Jesus. He loves you and me unconditionally – just as we are. No need to pretend with Him.
“…we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39 (ESV)
My friend, if your life is sabotaged by any type of unhealthy or addictive behavior, I implore you to confess it to God. Release it to the Lord. He already knows about it, and He loves you anyway. More than you can imagine.
I’d be honored to hear from you, feel free to respond with a comment below.
You are loved,