Viewing entries tagged
dysfunctional relationships

Comment

How to Tell When It's Time to Say Goodbye

Do you ever find yourself struggling with certain people who are your friends or romantic partners? Does it seem that no matter how much you love them and try to make the relationship or friendship work, you spend more time being miserable than happy? Do you feel like a salmon swimming upstream, constantly fighting to get somewhere, to make progress, or to make it feel right and to be happy, but you just can't seem to get there?

Perhaps those people keep blaming you for everything that's wrong between you. If only you were more like this or less like that. If only you would do this and not do that, they wouldn't get upset. You live your life, carefully tiptoeing around on eggshells, worrying that you will say or do the wrong thing, trying your level best not to cause a disturbance.

You become anxious, always anticipating what might set them off. You think it's all your fault that they are unhappy - because this is what they tell you - and therefore, it is your fault that you are unhappy, too, because your happiness depends on theirs. You feel rejected; you believe you're a failure and that all you've done is cause those people nothing but of misery.

And then you have a break from those people. Someone goes on holiday or you and your partner separate for a while. After a few hours or a few days, you start to breathe easier. You begin to relax. You smile again, and it feels foreign on your face. You giggle a bit and maybe even laugh a lot. You associate with other people who think you're bright and funny and sensitive and kind.

You begin to feel like your old self. You start thinking perhaps their misery is not your fault after all. Perhaps those people have some issues. Maybe they're just impossible to please. Maybe they're demanding or miserable or irritable, or just plain selfish, through and through.

You're outside the box now, with some breathing room, able to look at those relationships with a different perspective. You see that they're very lopsided. You do all the giving, and the other people do all the taking until you have nothing left to give. But away from them, you feel your strength returning, your sense of worth, and your dignity. You vow that you will not be treated like that any more.

Then the break is over. The holiday ends. Those people are back in your life, in your space, and almost immediately they're complaining about this and that, and you're sliding back into that place of believing that their unhappiness is your fault.

In a heartbeat or two, you're back where you started, feeling worthless, depressed, resentful, frustrated, and desperately lonely.

You're as miserable as you ever were, and once again, you're that poor little salmon, swimming upstream, fighting against the oppressive currents of negativity and control that are swallowing you whole.

The pattern continues. Every time you separate for a while, you feel better and are happier. But when you're with them, life is miserable and you don't feel good about yourself.

There are numerous reasons why we get into these situations or why we stay in them but I can at least tell you this: If you have several good relationships with people who appreciate you and enjoy your company, and with whom you get along well, but there is a certain person in whose company you are consistently unhappy, take a closer look.

We can learn a lot about ourselves from difficult relationships, and sometimes we can work within those relationships to make them better. When both parties recognise that there's a problem and want to fix it, that's a good starting point.

But when one of the people refuses to accept any responsibility and does nothing but point the finger of blame, and has made it clear that he or she has no intention of working at what's wrong, then it's probably time for you to end your association.

I'm all for trying to fix a problem in any kind of relationship. But there are times when we must recognise that it is beyond our control. Sometimes we have to see that being in the company of certain people is destructive, that it's toxic and will only adversely affect us.

When it is clear that this will be ongoing and the other people involved refuse to budge, then you must walk away, for your own health and your own happiness.

You can bet that those people have troubled relationships elsewhere, too, and that they blame other people for everything that's wrong in their lives. You can bet that they are not happy people in themselves, but this is their stuff to fix, not yours. You're not responsible for anyone else's happiness or loneliness or social life.

When you have ongoing problems with a certain person, but no amount of talking has helped and you just feel more and more unhappy or your self-esteem has plummeted, bear in mind that you've always got the best gauge for figuring out what to do. That gauge is your own feelings. Just look at how you feel when you're with that person, or involved with that person. And then notice how you feel when you have some breathing space and some distance. If you're consistently or frequently miserable in the company of that person, and happier on your own, that's all you need to know.

If this might help someone you know, please share using the buttons below!

Be notified of new blog posts by clicking on the RSS button:

Comment

Comment

Love Does Not Conquer All

Yeah, I know there are millions of love songs and romantic films and stories about the greatest love that ever existed. And I know that when you're in love, you think it will last forever.

I know, too, how it feels to believe that your love is so strong, it can survive anything, will withstand anything, and that no matter how much you or your partner might change you will overcome any obstacle that is thrown at you.

I know - all too well - about making a promise to love each other "for better or worse" and most of the time, people really mean it when they say it.

But I also know - all too well - that sometimes love is simply not enough.

There are a couple of very important factors that contribute to this harsh reality. One is the emotional baggage that we carry with us. Another is change.

First, the emotional baggage. My goodness, the damage it can do...bad enough when we know what it is, but when we don't - when we haven't spent any real time discovering what makes us tick, and overcoming past wounds - we will unwittingly contaminate relationships, despite our best intentions.

This gets us in trouble with the "for better or worse" part of marriage. People seem to take this to mean, "I'll love you even if you abuse me. I'll love you if you betray me. I'll love you if you disrespect me, cheat on me, lie to me, violate me, do things behind my back that you know you shouldn't do."

Frankly, none of that kind of behaviour has anything to do with love. I think "for worse" means when we lose jobs, or there are financial troubles or someone wants to change careers and it means a lot of upheaval for the family. Or perhaps there's the offer of a transfer to another city - or country - and one person doesn't want to go. Nobody's right or wrong; there are just obstacles to be overcome.

To my mind, "For worse" refers to the curveballs in life. It should not mean intolerable, unacceptable, unloving behaviour that undermines the whole point and purpose of marriage. Even without the legal tie, or that specific promise, those behaviours are still unacceptable. They are not about love. They have nothing to do with how we should be treating the person we say we love above all others on the planet.

We like to think that loving someone and trying to make a relationship work in such circumstances will bring about positive change. But, when the other person repeatedly refuses to seek help or make an honest attempt to change his or her ways, you're wasting your time.

I've been in too many relationships that were like that, each of us with our own issues that contributed to an unhealthy situation, one of mine often being that I did not respect or value myself enough to stop accepting unacceptable behaviour.

Change is another potential serial killer of relationships. It slaughters couples, silently, over a long period of time, divergence gradually poisoning their happiness until it exists only in their memories. When there is nothing much to talk about, virtually no common ground, a shared dream, a meeting of the minds - and more importantly, no desire to find a way to make it work in spite of the differences - it is time to move on.

And what about a couple that starts out in the same, but then one person changes and grows away from it and into something different, perhaps even something contradictory and then the whole foundation for the relationship is threatened? Should that person be forced to pretend and carry on living a lie, feeling suffocated and unhappy? Or should the other person be forced to change, too, even if it doesn't fit or feel good? I'm sure many people have found a way to make this work. But what about the ones who haven't?

No matter how much people love one another, we are not put on this planet to compromise and suffocate ourselves, or to tolerate disrespect. We are meant to thrive and to be happy, not to stay tied to toxic situations because of love.

What about loving yourself enough to leave a relationship that is destructive? To my mind, that's about the only kind of love that can "conquer all." Self-love automatically means self-respect. Combined, these help us to find our power and inner strength. This is what allows us to become truly happy and fulfilled. It is in this fulfillment that we will find deep and rewarding happiness and accomplishment. And it's from this place that we can offer the most love.

It would be wonderful if love could be as easy as the songs and poems say it is, and if that's all it took to glue two people together and make them happy. But it's not and I've seen it up close and personal more times than I care to remember. I know how it feels to walk away from someone I loved very much because to do anything else would be self-destructive.

I had always believed that as long as I loved someone, I figured I was obliged to keep trying to make it work. Even through abusive and dysfunctional behaviour, I kept hoping, trusting and believing that somehow, love would be enough to make it better.

And then I had a profound realisation that changed everything. Loving someone is one thing. But that doesn't mean you have to stay with that person and keep trying to make things right. You do not have to continue to beat your head against a wall, attempting to resuscitate something that cannot (and should not) survive.

You're wasting your time. Because sadly, love does not conquer all.

If this could help someone you know, please share using the buttons below!

Comment

Your Happiness Depends on This

If you're like most people, you find yourself saying things like, "Oh, she makes me so mad!" Or "He loves to say things just to hurt me!" Or "I have to do it or they'll be really disappointed!"

Many people go through life believing their feelings are controlled by the words and actions of others when, in fact, this is impossible.

No one can make you feel anything in particular. You are always in control of your own feelings and responses to whatever happens around you. If someone is insulting you and saying hateful things to you, it's up to you to decide whether or not to feel hurt, offended, or disappointed.

You could look at that person and just think, "Wow, that person has a lot of emotional wounds to behave like this. It's not about me and I'm not taking it on as mine."

No one can make you angry. No one can make you sad. No one can make you feel disappointed. Another person's behaviour is that person's choice and responsibility. Not yours.

Let's look at the idea that people "push your buttons." The truth is that you don't have any buttons to push; you have simply taught them that if they say or do a certain "something", you will respond in a specific way. So how do you break that cycle?

If you don't like that dynamic, you are always free to change it by showing a different response. When you do this consistently, eventually the other person will give up attempting to get the desired result. They may step up their efforts to get you to be the way you used to be, but if you refuse to give them the old response, eventually they'll stop trying to get it.

It might not happen overnight but if you continue to honour and respect yourself and not allow yourself to feel hurt by what amounts to a demonstration of another person's emotional wounds, eventually you will see big shifts in the dynamics of your relationship.

You get to choose your responses, and that includes the decision to end a relationship in which you are subjected to a continual or frequent barrage of negativity. I am not suggesting that if you're in relationship that includes verbal and emotional abuse, you should just continue to ignore it and tolerate it.

The point I'm making is the same though: Although an abuser's toxic words and actions are not your fault or responsibility, your reactions are.


To subscribe to this blog, click on the RSS button below.

"Family": An Emotionally-Charged Word

Sometimes family can be furry, too...

Sometimes family can be furry, too...

The free "prize" that goes with purchases usually looks okay on the surface. And it will usually serve its purpose in a pretty basic way. You might find yourself wishing it was the model with this option or that one, a few bells and whistles, and boy, if you could have chosen which one you wanted in that line, it would have been one of the upgraded versions.

You eye that nicer model somewhat wistfully, thinking "Mmmmm, I wish..." and going over the list of options that are so appealing. It does this and it does that, and then it does this, too! Wow... yours only does this and that.

"Ah, well. It works," you tell yourself in an attempt to feel satisfied with what you were given.

We slide out of the universe, landing straight into a pile of people who are pretty much your standard issue family. Maybe a bell and a whistle, perhaps a few extra options, and most of them have some cracks, dents or broken bits. They still work but for the most part, they are not the upgraded versions that you'd really love to have.

Many of them will be in your face, jamming their noses into your business with every other heartbeat. Some of them might not give a rat's @$$ what you do - or don't do.

Your mother may drive you absolutely mental. She calls it love and nurturing. You call it suffocating and neurotic.

Your sister steals your make-up, your clothes, your boyfriend. You want to chuck her off a bridge but you don't realise that she admires you, looks up to you, wants to be just like you.

You might have landed in a blended family, or one that is missing various members, probably for a variety of very painful reasons. Perhaps it's an extremely toxic family and it makes you sick right through to your soul.

But whatever it is, warts, poisons, neuroses and all, it's your family. And you might well be wishing you had one of the upgraded versions you've seen in other people's homes.

In a way, you can have one of those models. You can do a sort of Mr Potato-head thing, taking several parts and putting them together to create your Potato-family. This can help to heal the parts of your own that are missing, broken, dented or damaged.

I was given a bunch of mothers in this life (in an assortment of birth, foster and adopted). Yet I never knew what it was to feel "mothered". This caused me a lot of pain for a very long time and my agonising attempts to win that motherly love I craved were utterly futile and self-destructive.

But I've had the extremely good fortune to be given mother-substitutes throughout my life, women who were very maternal, nurturing, soothing and comforting. They gave me a taste of what it's like to be mothered and it's really delicious. Many times, I've been moved to tears by the ease with which these women offered their beautiful mothering gift to me - one in particular, a lovely woman with the biggest, most nurturing and maternal heart I'd ever been blessed to know.

As for my adopted family, my parents and only sibling are dead. I have no relationship with anyone else, apart from a beautiful aunt who lives thousands of miles away (thank God for internet).

Beautiful Aunt Debbie on the left

Beautiful Aunt Debbie on the left

Luckily, I have some very loving birth family members in my life, although at a distance. I hope to develop closer relationships with them someday.

Then there are a bunch of informally adopted family members, my 'Mum', sisters, a brother or two. There were even a couple of grandparents thrown into the mix, too, a long time ago but they died some years back.

There have been so many wonderful people with whom I've shared loving connections and bonds that have felt more like family than most of the people to whom I've been related by blood or by law. The beauty of these family members is they don't offer the same kinds of dysfunctional, enmeshed, crazy-making interference and emotional upsets that "traditional" families do. Bonus!

"Family" most certainly does not have to mean the prize that comes with the purchase, although some of those basic models are quite good and if you're one of the lucky ones who is happy with yours, I'm thrilled that you were so blessed - and no doubt you are thrilled, too.

And if you weren't one of those people, if the word "family" conjures up pain and heartache, or loneliness and emptiness, I hope you've been able to create your own upgraded model, adding the bells and whistles, choosing specific options that allow you to feel loved and supported, welcomed and valued, the way a real family is intended to be.

It doesn't matter what shape or size it is, or where it comes from, or how you stumbled into it, as long as you have a group of people in your life who feel like your family in all the best ways.

If you liked that, perhaps you will like this:

Positively Positive