The Destructive Elements of Neediness

Good morning friends,


As all of us, I have watched the unfolding of the horror of Friday’s school shooting at Sandy Hook School. If you don’t subscribe to my newsletter yet, you might want to subscribe where I look at the question “Why does God Allow Bad Things to Happen?”.  It is hard to understand why God allows evil to do its dastardly deeds. Please get a copy of my newsletter to begin a dialogue about this important question.

 This week’s Question: I am a “co-dependent”. I just realized this about a year ago and with God’s love and help, I am learning to think about myself and others differently, in the context of God’s love and my purpose in Him. I have read material from various sources, some with very helpful information, and I keep reading about people meeting my needs. This is the mindset I grew up with, but it left me empty for years. When I read the Bible and listen to the Spirit, the message I hear is that God will meet my needs. He works through people to meet my physical needs, but if I continue to look to people to meet my emotional or spiritual needs, I will be on a life-long search with no satisfaction. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

Answer: I’ve been receiving a lot of questions from people on dependency issues so this week and next I’m going to blog about two kinds of dependency that are lethal to forming healthy relationships.

Let me lay the foundation. God created human beings to live in dependence to him (not people). When the Lord instructed Adam and Eve not to eat the forbidden fruit, he wanted them to completely rely on him for all things good. Sadly, they chose to go outside the boundaries God established. They rejected the God ordained limits of their humanness and believed the lie that they could be as god (Genesis 3:5). As a consequence of their disobedience we all have the same bent. We strive to be god instead of worshipping and depending on the one true God. We deny our position as dependent creatures and we also put our dependence on people or things instead of wholly on God.

It’s true, God intended us to have relationship with people and all healthy relationships have some degree of interdependence. However, the only person who should be totally dependent on someone else to meet all of his or her needs is an infant. Once an individual starts to mature, he or she becomes less and less dependent on one person (mom or dad) for her entire well-being and learns to assume some responsibility for herself. She also grows to trust that God uses variety of people to meet some of her needs, including a spouse, but accepts that a husband or one person will never meet all of her needs or wants.

That said, there are two types of unhealthy dependence that will cause a marriage (or any other adult relationship) to become destructive. This week I’ll talk about the first one, next week the other one.

The first kind of dependency is where I NEED you to love me in order for me to be okay. This person puts another individual in God’s place as his or her foundational source for love and acceptance. They seek a love object to fill them up, to complete them, to rescue them or make them happy. They feel empty inside with no strong core of who they are. Therefore they come to a relationship starving; looking for someone to nourish them like a baby seeks a mother or a tic seeks a dog.

Elise came to counseling, feeling suicidal after a breakup initiated by her boyfriend. She sobbed, “What did I do wrong? Why couldn’t he love me?” No amount of rational talk about personality differences, him not being the right one, or God’s will could soothe Elise’s broken heart. His rejection of her defined her. She said, “What’s wrong with me? I feel so unworthy, I want to die.” This kind of thinking is dangerous and destructive. Even if Elise found a man to love her, what mere mortal could fully fill her empty love tank? And when he fails (as he will), what happens to her or to him?

In the movie, Jerry McGuire, women in the audience collectively swooned when Tom Cruise told Rene Zellweger, “I love you. You complete me.” It’s a nice line for a Hollywood movie but don’t fall for it. The truth is, if we need someone to complete us, we won’t make a good marriage partner or a good friend. No other human being can complete us if we are not whole ourselves. Only God completes us.

It is quite seductive when a man whispers in our ear, “I love how you love me.” Or, “I need you to complete me.” But stop for a minute and listen to the words. The emphasis is on the word me. It’s a selfish love because it’s self-focused and toxic to the person who is being loved. It’s not I love you, but rather I love you loving me.

Ava was married to a man whose love started to suffocate her. She said, “I can’t breathe. My husband sticks to me like a barnacle. I’m exhausted trying to meet his constant demands for reassurance, attention, and sex. There is no room in this relationship for me to be me or for him to love me. I exist to take care of him”

Oswald Chambers writes,
“If we love a human being and do not love God, we demand of him every perfection and every rectitude, and when we do not get it, we become cruel and vindictive; we are demanding of a human being that which he or she cannot give. There is only one Being who can, satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Why our Lord is apparently so severe regarding every human relationship is because he knows that every human relationship not based on loyalty to Himself will end in disaster.”

That’s why I’m very wary about relationship books where the main emphasis is how to meet one another’s needs. It sets up unrealistic expectations that a human being can or should fulfill another’s needs. If they don’t, or can’t. the person is left empty. God may indeed use a spouse or parent or friend to meet some of our needs, but there is no human being that will ever be able to meet all of our needs or wants. When we put another person in God’s place it is idolatry and it will always leave us feeling empty

Next week I’ll talk about another kind of dependency relationship that is also lethal to healthy relationships.

Friends, share ways you have been too dependent, or others have been too dependent on you and it has ruined your relationship.





  1. Anonymous on December 18, 2012 at 4:50 am

    I was too emotionally dependent on a friend during a difficult time in my life. The relationship ended eventually. I looked to her to meet my emotional needs, which was wrong. I also believe this friend needed me to need her. There was also manipulation. She was a controller and I would let myself be controlled. Leslie’s book the emotionally destructive relationship was excellent and so helpful. The quiz in the book to determine if the relationship was emotionally destructive was incredibly painful and scary as I faced the truth. I realized that I could only be responsible for myself. In the months that followed, it was like coming off an addiction, even though I never had addictions to drugs, alcohol, etc. The emotional pain was excruciating. If there are people in your life that are seeing some warning signs that you may be in a destructive co-dependent relationship, listen to them. My husband and daughter tried to tell me for months but I was blind to it.

  2. Ellen on December 22, 2012 at 3:48 am

    The truth is, if we need someone to complete us, we won’t make a good marriage partner or a good friend. No other human being can complete us if we are not whole ourselves. Only God completes us. “I love how you love me.” Or, “I need you to complete me.” But stop for a minute and listen to the words. The emphasis is on the word me.

    These words are just all too familiar to me… It is so clear to me now what I wish I had perceived long ago. My husband has no noticeable relationship with God although he makes a point to tithe and make sure people know it. All spirituality is for show and to impress. He is entirely too dependent on me to encourage, take care of, and bolster his sagging ego. It is so pathetic. It is impossible for me or anyone in the family who really knows what he is up to to be honest with him because he becomes so very angry. It is a sad thing to witness this kind of falsehood up close. It’s all about him. His demands of me are unreasonable and lately I have been trying to wriggle out of his grip like Houdini freed himself from the underwater chains that constrained him. It feels like drowning being married to someone who is so dependent and demanding. I’m breaking free one finger at a time! :).

  3. Wendy on December 22, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    This was one of the first things that God had to show me and a very hard thing to hear and face. I did not want to believe that my husbamd did not love me so I tried to please him and over look the truth. i wanted to believe myself strong and Godly so to say that I was fearful and needy is almost too much.I was trying to holdd onto a truth that did not excist. Just like Ellen says letting go and turning toward God and asking for the truth is very scary.I know now that the only thing I need every day is the truth of Gods word and to exercise my faith in believing it! people may not understand or support you but God is so faithful every lie that I tell myself He is there to remind me I am to see myself the way he does, fearfuly and wonerfuly created full of power and hope! When I see myself that way I need no man to prove to me my worth I need only to stand tall believing I and my Father are one!

  4. Angela on February 9, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    This has given me a huge amount of insight into my marriage & my family of origin.

    I didn’t realize that both of us in our marriage are practicing & expecting both of these of each other.

    “I Need You to Need Me in order to be Okay” and
    “I Need You To Love Me in Order for Me to Be Okay”

    Wedding vows-wouldn’t it be great if wedding vows negated
    both of these expectations and expressed just the opposite at the outset of the marriage~

    I am thankful for this epiphany!

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