Thursday, May 27, 2010

On Emotional Dependency

For men who experience same-sex attraction, their desire is often visually cued. Men can be tempted by same-sex desires by simply looking at the body of another man. Men who act out on their same-sex attraction often do so in anonymous encounters devoid of emotional connection. This is not unlike men who have never struggled with homosexuality. Men, by nature, are more visual and act-oriented when it comes to expressing their sexuality.

Women who experience same-sex attraction, on the other hand, often fall into lesbianism within the context of a relationship. These relationships can sometimes emulate a mother-daughter relationship where one woman is the care-giver to another woman. Often, lesbians are drawn to take care of needy women. They were programmed to do this with their mothers, and it is in this kind of emotionally dependent relationship where they find a sense of value and identity, and it is where they get their emotional needs met.

Emotional dependency can also be called “emotional idolatry.” Idolatry is when we worship something or someone that gives us (or promises to give us) all that we need. When a person is in an emotionally dependent relationship, he or she relies on another person to be his or her sole source of love, security, and identity. We see this happen in same-sex friendships (which often leads to a homosexual relationship) and in heterosexual friendships as well (where one person is more emotionally invested in the relationship than the other). It is important to differentiate between healthy interdependency and unhealthy emotional dependency.

Some signs of unhealthy dependency in same-sex or opposite-sex friendships are: viewing other people as a threat to the relationship, preferring to spend time alone with this friend and becoming frustrated when this doesn’t happen, becoming irrationally angry or depressed when the other withdraws slightly, losing interest in other friendships, experiencing romantic or sexual feelings leading to fantasy about this person, being unwilling to make short or long-term plans that do not include the other person.

Depending on another person is not necessarily idolatry, however. We are called to live in relationship with one another and to care for and provide for one another. However, to put all of our trust and expectation for provision and love and identity onto one person is unhealthy. The reason it is unhealthy is that no one can reasonably be the answer to our emotional and spiritual needs except God. Only God our Father can fill this role because only he has everything good and is everything good. All human beings fall short. Therefore, when we expect a person to be God for us, we will be sorely disappointed. Unlike friendship, marriage is intended to be exclusive and deeply intimate—a “one flesh” union where the two (a man and a woman) become one. However, even in marriage emotional dependency can occur. The reason so many marriages fail is that we often enter marriage with the expectation that our spouse will be perfect and meet all of our emotional needs. We can also put this expectation on our children. The result is that we end up suffocating and abusing the ones we love when they do not measure up to our expectations and meet all of our needs.

The only emotionally dependent relationship we can afford to have is with our Creator and Savior. Only he is worthy of our worship because only he can be the sole source of love, security, and identity that we desperately need. We were meant to worship someone and that someone is Jesus Christ. All others fall short. Understanding this gives us great freedom to have healthy relationships with other people.

When we go to God with our need and expect him to meet it, we lift a great burden off the people we love. We free them from having to save us when they do not have this ability. Ironically, however, we find something amazing happens. In freeing them from having to be everything for us, we often find that in that freedom they are empowered to love and care for us. In turn, we can love and care for them. When we let God “save” others (and us) we are free to love people without the burden and guilt of being God to them. So many homosexual relationships are short-lived because the need that a woman or man is trying to have met in a gay relationship can never be truly met. In a homosexual relationship, the man or woman is looking for affirmation from his or her father or mother and from the masculine or feminine world at large. This is a tall order and one that can never be met in another person. Men and women can also do this in heterosexual relationships where a woman tries to gain the affirmation she may not have adequately received from her father through her husband, for example, and a man can look to his wife to be his mother. In either case, disappointment and resentment is the inevitable result.

(Acknowledgment: International Healing Foundation)

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