Morning friends,

Thanks friends for understanding my change in blog posting dates. After prayer it occurred to me that my stress levels could be lowered considerably by changing my blog post date from Monday to Wednesday. Weekends are usually never a time for rest due to speaking or writing. Now that the blog isn’t going to be posted until Wednesdays, I already feel less pressure.

I know I was slow in posting blog responses last week. I had a spotty internet access where I was in Texas and could only post periodically. I think everything is now up to date.

This week my three grandchildren are visiting me. I haven’t had them here for three years. My daughter was too nervous to try to fly with three children under three years of age but she made it and they are a joy to have at Nana’s house. But….they got sick and now I am sick. Pray for me please. I’m scheduled to attend a conference on Thursday and Friday and then speak at a local church on Saturday. My chest hurts and my voice is getting weaker.

Today’s Question:
I have become emotionally dependent on my female Christian psychotherapist.

In the past I have had the same issue with some of my female friends. I find myself thinking about my therapist a lot throughout the day, having conversations with her in my mind, etc.

In the beginning of our counseling I became kind of obsessed and even did internet searches trying to find out about her personal life. I felt convicted by God so I have stopped the information finding but how do I stop my mind from thinking?

I have shared this dependency issue with her and with my husband (he is also a Christian, overly emotionally dependent on me & a bit controlling). I started counseling to help me deal with my husband's health and dependency issues.

The relationship with my husband is improving, I am learning to speak up for myself, I have stopped keeping secrets from my husband and we are progressing slowly but surely with the Lord's help.

But the biggest problem I am having is emotionally detaching from my therapist. I am trying to renew my mind as God commands by memorizing scripture, having daily devotions, praying, listen to messages by Charles Stanley, Chip Ingram, Jonathan Haggee, etc.

Have you ever addressed this issue and do you have any advice?

Answer: First, let me encourage you that you have already taken some good steps. You are aware of yourself – that you are emotionally dependent on your counselor (and other females) and that it is not healthy.

Second, you have shared it with her and your husband. It’s much harder for Satan and shame to get their hooks into you when things are out in the open.

Third, you are also aware that this is not the first time and has been a repeated pattern in your relationships with other females.

Fourth, you’re also aware how smothering and/or controlling a dependent relationship can feel to the other person because you describe your husband as emotionally dependent on you.

Last, you are taking steps to break this dependency, which is a very good thing because you want to grow stronger and have healthy relationships.

What I think you are missing is the “why”. What is going on with you that you find yourself emotionally drawn to certain types of females and what are you looking for from them?

There are a number of reasons “why” and I’d encourage you to explore this more with your counselor but my guess is it feels good (not only good, but life-giving) to feel heard, understood, validated, cared about and connected which is what you feel with your counselor, and perhaps other female friends.

It feels so good to your thirsty heart that you want more. And your desire for more connection, more intimacy, more caring and more love makes you anxious. You fear you might lose it. You’re afraid of rejection, loss, desertion, and/or abandonment and so you start to cling. (That’s the dependent piece). Other’s who feel these feelings and longings may start to control. Controlling and clinging behaviors are indications of emotional dependency and fear of abandonment but both behaviors are damaging to the relationship. The very thing you fear – loss of love and loss of connection, usually happens because the other person doesn’t want to be smothered or controlled.

So first let me validate your desire for connection and caring. Human beings are hardwired to connect and from infancy we seek human connection. I wonder if you experienced some early attachment issues with your mother and therefore did not have a secure base. It might not have been intentional but sometimes mothers are overwhelmed with other children and don’t have enough time to bond with a new baby, are ill, or have other family crisis’s to attend to, or are suffering post par-tum depression which can make attachment and bonding to a newborn difficult.

I wonder if you are longing for that connection and base from a “mother-like” figure who will completely understand and “be there” for you. Of course, that isn’t possible as a grown up and so inevitably you will be disappointed and anxiety is triggered and from that place of anxiety you start to control or cling so that you don’t’ feel anxious.

Here’s the crucial part of all of this. Your longing is not the problem. It is normal and God-given to desire strong connection with other human beings. Don’t allow Satan to shame your longing. The problem is that your relationship style is based on fear instead of love. Fear that you’ll lose your connection. Fear that you’re not worthy of love, fear that you’re not good enough, fear that you’ll do something to mess it up, fear that someone will abandon you.

Fear based relationships are doomed to failure because when you live in fear you can’t love well. Instead you are self-focused and self-centered, always worrying about you and how you are doing or what you might lose. It’s almost impossible to love someone else well when you are mainly consumed with whether or not they will leave you. Your neediness and dependency may feel like love but what you are in essence saying is not “I love you,” but “I love you loving me” and I’m terrified that I will lose that love.

Fear based relationships always seek validation from the “beloved” to give them their worth, value and fundamental lovability. In other words, if my therapist (or female friend) loves me, then I must be okay. If she leaves me, I must be fundamentally unlovable. That puts a lot of pressure on the other person to somehow always prove that they care enough and fill your empty tank. Inevitably he or she will fail which reactivates your anxiety and you start to cling or control.

You sound like you’ve gotten healthy enough to not want to continue this cycle any longer. But how do you change? It means that you must fundamentally shift the way you “do” relationships. That doesn’t mean that you no longer desire connection and caring, intimacy and closeness, but that you recognize that your fundamental lovability and worth will never be determined by another person but by God. Therefore your first “intimate connection” needs to be focused on His love for you, not another human being’s love for you.

When you develop security in God’s love, you stop “needing” other people to give you your worth. You already have worth. You stop “needing” them to make you happy or okay. You already are okay because God declares you to be his child, completely loved and completely forgiven. You cling to Him and therefore can enjoy your human relationships without fear of loss or abandonment. You can love without clinging or controlling because you know if you do suffer loss, you will be sad but not abandoned because your security and worth is not dependent on another human being but on God.

God warns us about this issue of depending on other’s to give us what only he can give us. He says:

Thus says the Lord:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17:5-8

So keep working on this with your therapist. Don’t allow your anxious feelings to control you into acting out in unhealthy ways by clinging, controlling behaviors. You can remind yourself that your value and security rest in God and not in another human being’s evaluation of you and therefore you don’t need to fear. Even if those anxious feelings rise up in you, you can talk to yourself with the truth to calm yourself down, much like a mother would sooth a young child who was having bad dreams about monsters under the bed. As you learn to calm your own anxiety down instead of clinging to people to sooth you, you will feel far less “needy” and more empowered to love well.

 

25 Comments

  1. Jayne on January 15, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Excellent advice from Leslie…..I was in the same place as this sister but sadly I wanted to keep it hidden and a secret. Praise God that you have shared this with your therapist and husband. I was completely emotionally dependent on a friend who also saw her role as my “spiritual mom” and I thought it was a good idea. It became very unhealthy as I believe she needed me to need her but she would never admit this. She was also manipulative and controlling but so was I. When the Lord opened my eyes, my vision was 20/20. I was able to own my issues but she was not and the relationship ended. God knew what I needed and it was very painful. With His help, I sought to work on my relationship with Christ and learning once again who He is and who He says I am in Him. I also had to go back to my childhood and deal with some things like not really attaching to my mom and my dad was verbally and emotionally abusive. I just talked to the Lord about it and how all that made me feel and He did bring healing over time. So, dear sister be encouraged! We ALL have our weaknesses. God wants to grow you through this. A book that was very helpful was When People Are Big and God is Small by Ed Welch. Also, Hinds Feet in High Places by Hannah Hurnard. Two life-changing books for me….Leslie, I praise God so much for your ministry and have been able to share your resources with my church and with others. I will pray for you this week…

    • Dianna on January 16, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      Well said, Jayne!

    • Karen on February 4, 2014 at 12:39 pm

      Thank you for your encouraging words Jayne!! They mean alot!

  2. Jessica on January 15, 2014 at 11:04 am

    So very helpful. I am so thankful that I’ve been able to be refined in these ways that you speak of through a lot of hard struggles over the last year and a half. The passage from Jeremiah that you shared says it all!! Freedom in Christ alone.

    • Dianna on January 16, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      I agree w/ you wholeheartedly, Jessica. Yes, that passage from Jeremiah that Leslie shared says it all.

  3. Peg on January 15, 2014 at 11:16 am

    This advice applies to any relationship where one is “dependent” upon the other person for their joy and completion. The scripture reference is excellent. I am going to make a picture poster with that scripture on it and hang it in my kitchen or office. I have just completed my last session with my therapist and though I miss contact with her, I have the tools and determination to get on with healing totally from the abusive and destructive episodes that damaged my marriage. I am at peace with who I am and know that God’s grace covers me every single day. I am “connected” to the greatest power on earth. So, I am glad I read this post and feel that it’s a very wise answer. Leslie, you are definitely filled with the Spirit! I am so thankful that I have tapped into your website and have connection with your wisdom.

  4. Ann on January 15, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Leslie….Thanks so much for this insight. I have been working on fear and anxiousiness and neediness in my relationships. You described it so clearly!! I have been asking God to shed light on my patterns in relationships and I believe this is just what He wanted me to hear. I come across as very self confident but I am always questioning how others view me. I have trouble feeling loved and connected in relationships unless I am the one helping the other person. People always tell me I am so loving and encouraging….but I have trouble feeling loved by others in a way I could understand. I am always questioning my husbands true love for me making him feel controlled. I feel threatened by other female friendships in my husbands life and act out in controlling ways.
    You made it so clear. I understand that whether the others behavior is right or wrong my reaction to cling or control only hurts the relationship.
    THANK YOU!!

    • Peg on January 15, 2014 at 6:01 pm

      Ann,
      I believe there’s a difficult line that one has to walk when viewing your husband’s female friendships. If the female makes advancing remarks or goes beyond what is proper, it is difficult to not feel a need to “set things straight.” And it’s best to not show emotions at these times. However, if your spouse tends to go beyond the boundary of what is proper, then I believe it’s not wrong to address it later at home with him. I have dealt with something similar and I was so appalled when the woman (who was married) behaved do inappropriately, I was speechless. I did not feel threatened; I just felt “wronged.” This happened at church so this lady claimed to be a Christian woman. But she was behaving in a very flirtacious manner and her husband was there as well. I think my facial expression of shock may have given her the signal that she was way overbounds in her behavior. It never happened again and I spoke nothing of it. God took care of it for me. Jealousy can really mess up one’s mind. As I have seen my spouse at church since we are separated, I have finally decided to leave the church because I do not like the fakiness of his behavior. He sometimes acts like he’s done nothing at all that is wrong or sinful. And some women and men too in the church treat him like he’s a fine upstanding Christian. I decided that I didn’t need to witness that so I have left my church and will be involved with starting a new church with a fine group of Christian friends. I am experiencing much more peace now that I never see my spouse or talk with him. I’ve done all that I know to do to try to reconcile and he’s not changed and refuses to get counseling to help him. As Leslie writes, our identity has to be totally in Christ and our focus needs to be on our relationship with and service to him. It takes work and commitment but I’m working as hard as I know how to work at that.

    • Alene on January 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

      “It’s much harder for Satan and shame to get their hooks into you when things are out in the open.” so true!

      I sought counsel about a year and a half ago when we faced another difficult problem in the family. I needed outside support and help gaining strength and skills for the challenges in my marriage and home.

      As time moved along, I talked with the counselor and myself about building my own outside support network so I could take steps to owning that myself. I didn’t want to be dependent (or to be honest, keep paying out more money!). Leslie is one resource, I have a friend who is overcoming in her family difficulty so we strengthen each other and pray, I have a FB connection where there is relational/reconciling encouragement as well as encouragement to listen for God’s insights/direction in your relationships. As I sought to take steps that direction, God began to provide. Has it only been a year since I made those moves? I can feel how far I’ve come.

  5. Dianna on January 16, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Such an encouraging post by Leslie and so many equally so from the others who commented. I feel so lifted in a godly, honest way in reading the posts, today.

    Thank you all for sharing your hearts.

    Leslie, thank you for developing your gifts, sharing them w/ so many of us and staying true to God and His truth!

    Praise to God for His abundant supply of truth in this post!

  6. Christine on January 17, 2014 at 12:51 am

    Leslie, just wanted to say thanks for doing your blog… Any day of the week! Glad the change is working for you.

    • Leslie Vernick on January 18, 2014 at 3:04 pm

      You’re most welcome. This community is a encouragement to me. Thanks for understanding the day change and your prayers. Still sick but getting better.

  7. Christine on January 17, 2014 at 12:53 am

    Oh and Leslie, sorry you’re sick, but I know the kids being there has been worth it! I’m a huge fan of my grand kids! Enjoy!

  8. Missy June on January 17, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Wow, Leslie – this is not a problem with which I struggle, but I have seen it in female friendships as far back as middle school, dorm life, church circles, etc. You gave such insight, thank you.

    And what a challenge to us mothers to love well! Whew!

  9. Dora on January 17, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    Wow, I have been through so much with this in my friendships with women. This last one almost destroyed me. I met what I thought was the perfect friend and she quickly wanted me to be her best friend and I asked her to take things slow because I’ve been hurt before, but never the less we became best friends. Shortly after there were a couple incidents where she didn’t do something she said she would. I began getting very fearful to the point where I already felt rejected. I believe by then I was in too deep, but I wish I would have stepped back and tried to distance myself a bit emotionally… but I decided to talk to her about it and it pretty much destroyed the friendship.

    I am still trying to heal from it because she just got meaner and more indifferent toward me. I feel like she may actually have been a narcissist… I hear people like myself can attract unhealthy people also.. I don’t know but I still feel sad like it was all my fault yet at the same time she became cruel and seemed to have no empathy toward me. 🙁

    I am hoping that now I would recognize red flags.. like thinking too much about the person I think is a huge one. Relationship moving too fast I think is another.

    I think some mistakes I made were that I had to tell the other person about the fear cause I didn’t know what else to do and she apparently couldn’t do anything about it… I think the key is exactly what Leslie is talking about, focusing on God’s love and speak to myself the truth and soothe my fears. I plan on continuing to pursue the Love of God so I won’t be harmed so much by those I get close to.

    This type of thing is the worse feeling ever.. like a combination of shame, rejection, and total destruction of self worth.

  10. Alison on January 19, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    Great article, Leslie! I was in this very place with my husband. I was very dependent on him and his feelings towards me. We went through a very tough time in our marriage and after 3 years, I must say that now I am the opposite extreme of dependency. I now am almost apathetic towards my relationship with my husband, as well as others. I’m not sure if it is because I was fighting the dependency so much or if it is a trust issue or if it is a depression issue. Instead of being dependent, now I strive to be independent. I don’t enjoy this extreme and I want to have healthy relationships. Does anyone have any advice?

  11. Peg on January 20, 2014 at 2:30 am

    Alison,
    I certainly know the struggle you have had with “training” your emotions to fit with what you know is wise for you! I, too, have gone through a period of “re-training” myself to not be dependent upon my husband. Yes, it is a trust issue for sure! I wanted to be able to depend upon him for some things and especially for behaving like a Christian husband should behave. But I discovered I couldn’t even depend upon that at all! So, like you, I backed away from him emotionally and guarded my heart. I am not apathetic toward my marriage but I am very cautious and have had to break contact totally with my spouse because of his anger issues. He just cannot control his anger. He wants control on his terms only and is not concerned about my feelings at all. Out of a need to get control of one’s emotions, it’s not surprising that you have become apathetic. But that is your defense mechanism because it hurts so much to allow oneself to be drawn back into the “mess” of living on a roller-coaster. I began feeling like that when I first separated from my husband. Then, I realized that God expected more from me. So, I prayed about it a lot! Now, I am very sad at times that I cannot even buy a nice sweet loving card for my husband because I wouldn’t mean what it would say. I know I still have love for him. However, I do not feel like I WANT to feel toward him. I can understand why you don’t enjoy the extreme of being totally independent. It’s sad but right now, I can certainly understand how you’ve ended up on the other extreme. As I have prayed and read and sought God’s help I have come to understand that as I strive to forgive and give everything up to God to handle, He has given me more peace and my heart has softened some but I am still not willing to even risk talking to him on the phone because I don’t have any faith or trust in my spouse. That’s just the sad truth and yes, I don’t like that it’s this way, but right now I don’t see evidence of change on his part. I haven’t lost hope and I am not apathetic. My counselor just told me to go into a “holding” pattern and put the marriage up on a shelf and understand that God will provide the answer and He will handle the situation in His BEST timing and in His BEST way. My spouse sent me a very loving and beautiful Christmas card and I keep that on my dresser to remind me that there is some goodness in him and only God can change him. God is my hope. Unless He chooses to change my husband, I know my marriage is not going to be restored. It may be that God is allowing me to get used to that idea gradually. I just try to stay busy with my tasks and my grandkids and from time to time, I allow myself to grieve the loss I have suffered from losing out on the good times of marriage. I would just encourage you to keep believing that God has a plan and that He wants your heart to be loving and caring. Ask God to help you learn to love without losing control and without being drawn into the emotional mess of dependency. Ask Him to make you resilient. I cannot tell you how very many times, I’ve asked God to help me with these same issues. And I’m getting stronger, but I am also softening in that strength. Without God’s supernatural help, we are lost!

  12. Karen on January 21, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Leslie,
    Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply to my concern!! I love the scripture in Jeremiah and will commit it to memory!
    Your suspension that I may have issues with my own mother is true. I have known my mother has always loved me (she tells me often) but when I was age 14, my mom (age 35) began having a relationship with a young man (age 18) in our church. Within a year she left my father, brother and me and moved to another state with this man and eventually married him. My family was devastated and I went through my teenage years without my mother’s presence. That marriage did not last either and mom has been married a total of five times now. I don’t have any children myself (by choice), been married only once and we are celebrating our 18th Anniversary at the end of January.
    I have spoken to my counselor several times regarding my mother and everything that happened but I still have some unresolved issues of anger. When I am with my mom I act as if everything is fine, we have fun together and even take mother/daughter vacations. I’ve buried my anger, she has suffered so much it is hard for me to get up the courage to discuss my anger with her because I know it will hurt her and I hate to see her in pain. Of course I know by doing this, I am continuing my pain.
    Maybe I need to take some time off from seeing my counselor and concentrate on my relationship with the Lord. The Lord has used my counselor to help me in many areas. Maybe the best thing for now would be to set aside the other issues I wanted to work on with her and give all my efforts and attention to my relationship with my Lord. Maybe a temporary reprieve from my counselor is the next step. What is your opinion?

    • Leslie Vernick on January 22, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      I’m sure that looking at your hurt and anger about your mother abandoning her family is going to be an important part of your work. Whether you need to do that with your counselor or just the Lord, I can’t say, but I think probably it’s best not to share it with your mom until you’ve done your healing and then will be at a better place to discern whether it would be helpful or not.

  13. Angela on January 22, 2014 at 8:53 pm

    Leslie,
    Thank you so much for this! This letter described the inner trauma I experienced when my best friend rejected me. It has been a long road to healing, and I still have an emotionally weak area that only God’s love can heal.

    • Dora on January 23, 2014 at 5:58 pm

      Hey Angela, I had the same thing happen to me and it was very traumatic… I blamed myself and tried to fix myself and look for “healing” and she just sat back and watched as I imploded — she did so with cold indifference.

      Due to this my views on Christianity (she claimed to be a prophet) and psychology have changed in a major way… not sure why I am saying all this.. just that I now choose to run with Jesus and enjoy life and grace. I know I cannot “DO” anything to fix myself… I can only BE a much loved daughter of God.

      I do think Leslie’s advice is great though. I know I will need to talk to myself to calm fears from the rejection I’ve experienced from sisters in Christ who I thought loved me.

  14. Sarah on January 23, 2014 at 7:46 am

    That was insightful! I have been richly blessed by your ministry Leslie and have shared your materials with friends who share same struggle with me (in an emotionally and physically destructive marriage). Your videos have been my companion both night and day. May the Lord keep you healthy and strong. God bless.

    • Leslie Vernick on January 23, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      Thanks Sarah. I am hoping to do some new videos in the future. Pray for time, wisdom and energy.

  15. Barbara on January 26, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Great article! It brought so much well needed insight to a relationship that I am currently dealing with. I thought perhaps the friction within this friendship was my fault BUT after reading this I have come to learn that the other person is definitely a “needy” person. I can now view her differently and will take proper steps in addressing the strain in the relationship. So looking forward to meeting you ((Leslie)) on Sat. Feb. 1st in Sarasota, Florida.

  16. MG on June 9, 2015 at 5:49 am

    Pray… And ask God for more healthy and healing fellowship. Perhaps join a woman’s bible study and for healing perhaps try some 12 step programs like Al-Anon, or even CODA (for co Dependacy) or Celebrate Recovery for a faith based 12 step like program. There’s power in prayer and in fellowship .

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