The Destructive Elements of Neediness – Part 2








Merry Christmas Eve,

I love to read and I’m wondering if you’d be willing to share with me and the rest of our blog community some of your favorite novels you’ve read this year? I’m on a dry stretch and haven’t read anything I’ve LOVED for a while. What books have you loved, you couldn’t put down, stirred your heart, made you cry, or told all your friends they needed to read this book. It’s probably too late to put them on my Christmas list, but I will put them on my kindle and then have my 2013 fun reading all ready. Thanks.

Last week I blogged about the first kind of unhealthy dependency that always spells disaster in relationships. If you didn’t read that blog I’d encourage you to scroll backwards and catch up as this week I want to talk about a second kind of unhealthy dependency.

This kind of dependency isn’t I NEED you to LOVE me in order for me to be okay, but I NEED you to NEED me in order for me to be okay. The same emphasis is on the word me but with a slightly different bent. This kind of dependent person often functions as a rescuer, hero, fixer, or the more capable one when in reality he or she is also quite needy but unaware of it. He uses people to feel better about himself. He does this by taking care of other’s problems or being over involved in people’s lives all the while staying completely blind to his own problems. He or she is usually attracted to someone who is weak, vulnerable, or one who needs fixing or rescuing. The destructive thing about a fixer or rescuer is that they don’t really want the other person to get healthy because then he or she wouldn’t need them any longer. We often see this kind of dysfunctional pattern with parents who are unable to let go of their adult children, enabling them to stay weak and dependent on them because of their need to be needed.

Brenda was married to a chiropractor who loved taking care of everyone, including her. He was well loved by his patients because he took the time to listen and was readily available whenever they had a need. For Brenda however, his hovering over her felt demeaning. He called her constantly, checking on her whereabouts, making sure she was safe. He questioned how she did things, and whether or not it was the “best” way they could be done. He evaluated her diet and told her where she could make improvements to lose weight. He insisted she put socks on at the airport because he didn’t want her bare feet touching the dirty floor when they went through security.

At first she found his attention flattering but now, she hated it. She wanted to make her own decisions about what she ate or whether or not she wanted to put socks on during their travels without a constant commentary about what she was doing wrong or what she could do better. Brenda often tried asserting herself but it never ended well. Once she told Ted that she was not going to order something on the menu just because he said it was better for her but Ted sulked the rest of the evening, saying she didn’t appreciate how much he loved her.

And, Brenda had to admit, she didn’t. She felt angrier and angrier and hated being treated like a child. Sometimes she found herself acting like a compliant little girl who did whatever her daddy wanted, and then she’d switch into a rebellious teenager who talked back and wasn’t going to listen at all. She loathed what was happening to herself and her marriage but didn’t know how to change the unhealthy dance they both were dancing. In a mature relationship, the goal is for both individuals to fully function as healthy adults. However, in a dependent relationship where one wants to fix and control someone else, attempts for independence are seen as threats to the rescuer’s sense of worth and are usually squashed or undermined creating a destructive pattern to the marriage and both individuals in the relationship.

Clinging, smothering, demanding, and controlling are the signs of unhealthy dependence in one or both people in the relationship. If you recognize yourself in some of these descriptions, don’t beat yourself. Instead see it as God opening your eyes to your unhealthy dependency and listen and learn what he calls you to do in order to become emotionally healthy and whole.

If you need more help in that process, you may want to consider giving yourself the gift of coaching in 2013. Please click for more information (put a link into my coaching application page on my website).





  1. Wendy on December 25, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    Wow Leslie you nailed it!
    We get married to some one we think we can change and then get disapointed when they dont. I knew my husband had problems before we married but I believed I could love him enough to change him. I spent 23 years begging, controling, praying ( for what I wanted) telling him what I needed and trying to play God in our marraige. It did not work ha ha! How free I am today things are not perfect but I gave my husband to christ forgave him and began working on myself and I am a new woman! I do not feel responsable for any one they are Gods and they need to go through their own problems to grow I cant rescue them or change them and I have so much more time to praise God now in my day! On this Christmas day I praise God for you Leslie you chose to let your Mom go and look how much he gave you in return. You have strengthend my heart and given me wisdom, not your own wisdom but that of Christ. We can do nothing without him I know that now. I know that in all my ways I give it to him and wait on him for greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world!!! How wonderful it feels to praise Him on this Christmas day than try to change the world.
    The book that has helped me so much is, Be Anxious For Nothing, By Joyce Myers.
    Merry Christmas!

  2. Pam on December 26, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Hi Leslie,
    Your writing has been such a blessing to me. I look forward to your new book.
    I love to read too and wanted to share some of my favorites.
    *Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan ( Charles Spurgeon read it every year!)
    *Heaven by Joni Eareckson Tada – I love this one.
    *Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns

    Here’s some just for fun:
    the *Little Britches series by Ralph Moody – I read the first three books aloud to my sons and laughed and cried. They are autobiographical and delightful.
    *The Hobbit by JR Tolkein – had to read it again before watching the movie.
    *Bud and Me by Alta Abernathy, another autobiographical account of two little brothers journey (alone!Their mother passed away or it never would have happened!) across the US.
    Here’s what I enjoy…read to enrich my mind and soul and read just for fun.

    I would love to know some of your favorite books.
    Happy New Year,

  3. Sonya on December 26, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Thanks for a great article, Leslie! A great book I’m reading is Listening to Love by Jan Meyers. She is a counselor and author and does a great job expressing the fears, challenges, ans blessings of coming to know the voice of Love, Jesus.
    Blessings to you!

  4. Heila on December 27, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    I really enjoy talking about and sharing about books!

    Here are just a few of my recent favorites:
    (making this list and thinking about this, has made me amazingly thankful for the number of good books out there)

    The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery – this one has an amazing plot twist that’s not manipulative or sensational; a literary fiction book that examines the worlds of two main protagonists – a concierge in a Paris apartment house and a 12 year-old girl in the building. The nuanced characters and depth of the story examine issues of stereotypes and class. Each chapter alternates one of the above narrators. Really a modern classic I think, because of the writing, the way it’s put together and the themes. I found it both enjoyable and engrossing. And very memorable.

    I’ve enjoyed all of Joan Bauer’s books – although technically a YA author, she is just good and I like what happens and the characters. And the humor. The stories stay with me and I’ve told others about them.

    Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series is wonderful – family life, laughter at the everyday, and common problems written about with gentleness and finesse. I re-read these regularly (:

    Having Our Say: The Delaney Sisters’ First 100 Years – two centenarians looking back on their life. Always having lived together, living through a lot of remarkable history, and with a special perspective as African Americans. I didn’t want to stop “hearing” their voices. So feisty and loving and wise.

    I’m re-reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – and re-discovering its genius, and why I liked it in the first place: the weaving together of spiritual, relational and adventure. It’s neat having the siblings support each other and discover their own strengths. The 50th anniversary edition has some neat stuff in the back about publishers not knowing originally what genre to place it in (it still defies genre I think). I only recently discovered and read through her book “Walking on Water: Reflections on Life & Art” and found it amazing. It’s not a quick novel, but a reflective, contemplative work with lots of great realizations and explorations about God and the creative.

    As far as non-fiction – “Free-Range Kids” by Lenore Skenazy has been revolutionary in my life this year. A real blast of fresh air and dose of deep sense about raising our kids, and how we’ve become so vastly overprotective in our American society that we are warping them while wanting to avoid harm. She talks about how fear sells. Plus she’s funny.

    One more!

    “Tomas and the Library Lady” by Pat Mora is a simple, beautiful (glowing illustrations that greatly enhance the text) children’s book (but what good book isn’t good for all?) about a librarian who offered a cool drink of water and some books to a little boy, who was in town with his parents who were summer migrant workers. That boy grew up to be a California university chancellor. Neat true story.

  5. Judy Hewitt on December 31, 2012 at 3:05 am

    Elegance of the Hedgehog was also one of my favourite books last year. I am a voracious reader and it is a challenge to remember some of the many great books that I have read. I recently read Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber. It is an interesting account of one woman`s journey to faith during her graduate studies at Oxford University. I love reading about personal journeys.
    Leslie, your book The Emotionally Destructive Relationship was truly a life changer for me and encouraged me to set boundaries and build a much stronger marriage after 30 years of challenges.

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