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Posts tagged ‘neediness’

Why Smart People Accept Unacceptable Behavior

SOURCE:  Dr. John Townsend/Beyond Boundaries

When I (Dr. Townsend) guide people through a process of examining a previous difficult relationship, the one question I have found most helpful is this: What was the “payoff” in your choice? In other words, what good things did you think you’d get when you began a relationship with that person?

We wind up with difficult people for a reason—there was something we valued, wanted, or hoped for. And because the need was strong, we may not have paid attention to something unacceptable in that person’s character. We either minimized or denied some sign, some reality, some warning light that all was not well. And the character problem ended up being a bigger deal than we thought.

When smart people accept unacceptable relationships, they tend to see traits and abilities in others that they think will make life better for them. We see positive aspects of a person’s psyche that we are drawn to or feel we need. A longing for them dulls an awareness of that person’s darker side.

Here are a few examples. For some period of time in the relationship, the person had the following:

  • Warmth: She was gentle and nurturing with me
  • Affirmation: He saw the good in me
  • Safety: He did not condemn or judge me
  • Structure: She was organized and got things done
  • Humor: She helped lighten the burdens and cheered me up
  • A great family: His relatives were much healthier than mine
  • Drive: She was focused and knew where she was going
  • Initiative: She took risks and was brave in making decisions
  • Competency: He was talented, and I needed his talent in my organization
  • People skills: He handled people better than I did, so I depended on him
  • Intelligence: She was smart, and I needed smarts in my department

In the toughest cases, the trait is simply that “he liked me.” That is, sometimes people feel so alone and desperate that they are grateful just for someone to be pursuing them, no matter what that person’s character may be.

We have an ability to spin the truth when it comes to our relationships. When we want something so badly that we ignore reality. Love is not blind, but desire can be. Here are some examples of how we spin the truth:

  • You allowed him to control you because you were weak and afraid.
  • You ignored detachment and disconnection because she was a nice person.
  • You minimized irresponsibility because she had a great personality and charm.
  • You put up with his tendency to divide people on the team because he was a good strategist.
  • You didn’t pay attention to childishness because she was needy, and you felt protective.
  • You let him into your life because you were compliant and guilt-based, and he was free and a rebel.

Do you see how the problem occurs? It is an insidious process. It tends to occur slowly over time. The good aspects are generally apparent and right out there. The bad ones don’t come out until later, when the euphoria wears off and the honeymoon is over. We are simply not aware of the repercussions while we are in the middle of the relationship. Instead, we are focused on solving problems, improving things, questioning our own judgment, and trying to be positive about it all. It’s not until later, after we have some distance, that we can gain clarity and perspective on the true dynamics of what went on.

Here are a few questions to help you review your relationships and gain some helpful insights:

  • What drew me to this person?
  • What led me to think this person had what I needed?
  • When did I first notice a significant problem in the relationship?
  • How did I minimize the problem in order to get the good from the person?
  • What was the result of minimizing the problem?

The information you gather here will help you avoid these issues in future relationships. This doesn’t mean that the other person has some plan or agenda to hook you in. This occurs sometimes, but certainly not always. In most cases, difficult people are responding to their own issues but remain unaware of them or the impact they have on others. I say this to prevent you from feeling like you were sucked into a trap. Most of the time, both parties are in a dysfunctional dance, and neither one knows what’s going on. The difference now is that you can choose to stop dancing so that your future will be better than your past!

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Beyond Boundaries_sm

 

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Abandonment: Who/What Fills the Hole?

SOURCE:  Living Free/Janet M. Lerner, D.S.W.

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust.” (Psalm 4:8 AMP)

The desire to have a good relationship with our earthly parents is normal. But many of us have had little or no relationship with our earthly fathers and mothers. That lack leaves a hole inside us. A hole we need to fill. That search often prompts us to look for love . . . security . . . happiness in the wrong places.

Men who had no father figure as a child have questions about who they are as men. They tend to become just like their absent father . . . and hate themselves for it. Poor gender identity creates vulnerability for other difficulties, even homosexuality. Women who grew up without a father sometimes avoid men altogether or develop distorted perceptions and inappropriate expectations of men.

In the case of an absent mother, children often grow up without nurturing and do not learn to be nurturing parents themselves. Men may have difficulty relating to women.

Where are you looking for love and security? Whom do you expect to satisfy your needs? How are you trying to fill that emptiness inside you?

There is only One you can always trust. In the above scripture, the psalmist says he can lie down and sleep in peace because He knows God is protecting Him. He knows God is trustworthy.

Are you looking in the wrong places for hope and peace and acceptance? Look up and reach out to your heavenly Father. He is waiting for you . . . with open arms.

Father, a hole was left in me because of my absent parent. I’ve tried to fill that hole in many ways but now I realize I’ve looked in all the wrong places. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for being my heavenly Father. In Jesus’ name . . .

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These thoughts were drawn from …

 Restoring Families: Overcoming Abusive Relationships through Christ by Janet M. Lerner, D.S.W.

Marriage Is for Holiness — Not Just Happiness

SOURCE:  Paul and Halee Scott

How our marriage has made us better people

Neither of us “needed” to get married.

Both of us were independent and for the most part, content in our singleness.

Paul dreamed of living alone on a boat off the coast of Newport Beach, California; Halee had plans to travel the world teaching English overseas. Yet there we were, barefoot on a sandy beach outside Santa Barbara, making our vows to the sound of rushing waves crashing on the shore.

Make no mistake, we were (and still are) head over heels for one another, but neither of us needed marriage to make us happy because we were already happy in our singleness. We understood—even then—that our marriage was ultimately more about our moral development than personal satisfaction and contentment. And that day, we washed each other’s feet in the surf to symbolize our commitment to serve each other to that end.

For most of human history and in most societies, the goal of marriage was to provide economic security through family alliances and to serve as a context for procreation. To marry for personal happiness (or love) was considered a selfish act that disregarded the needs of the broader community. It wasn’t until the 12th century that the troubadours (a group of traveling poets) introduced the concept of courtly love as we know it today.

Still other groups have emphasized the spiritual goals of marriage. The Catholic church believes marriage is a sacrament because the relationship between husband and wife represents the union of Christ to his bride, believers. In 1930, Pope Pius XI proposed that the primary purpose for Christian marriage was not procreation or sacrament, but to serve as a context for moral development. He writes, “This mutual molding of [spouses], this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony.”

The trouble—even for contemporary Christians—is that we often approach marital issues in an individualistic way.

In the cornucopia of Christian marriage self-help books, the guiding questions seem to be along the lines of “What can I get out of this?” or “How can I cope in this marriage?” rather than “What are we forging together?” or “How can our marriage make us each more like Christ?”

It’s not that God doesn’t want our marriages to bring us deep satisfaction and happiness, it’s just that marriage is bursting with opportunities for deeper spiritual growth—opportunities we may be missing if we’re not asking all the right questions.

But what do these opportunities look like in everyday life? How exactly can marriage make us more holy? Here are a few small, specific ways God has used marriage to carve virtue into our character.

Prudence.   Often translated “wisdom,” the word prudence comes from the word providence, which means “to see ahead.” I (Halee) can be candid to a fault. I’ve always had a knack for saying exactly what I think at the very moment I think it—regardless of the impact it has on the hearer. Early in life I’d seen how damaging it was to bury emotions, so in an effort to avoid that mistake, I made the equal and opposite error of expressing myself without a great deal of forethought.

But when we married, I noticed that my honesty was more divisive than it was beneficial to our marriage. I saw the impact my words had upon Paul, and I started to pay attention to how he communicated with me and with others. Paul knew what to say and the right moment to say it. He spoke thoughtfully, ensuring that his words contributed to the well-being of others. The truth didn’t always have to be painful.

Because of his daily influence, I’ve learned how to be more tactful in the way I say things. It was a difficult transition, especially in the beginning. During this period, Paul taught me his “three-day rule.” When I was tempted to respond to someone quickly and brashly, I took three days to think it through and pray. Eventually, I didn’t need to practice the three-day rule in order to exercise prudence in my daily interactions with Paul and others. I was able to “see ahead” and discern what words would best build up the other person.

Courage.   C.S. Lewis called courage “the form of every virtue at the testing point.” Courage isn’t the absence of fear as much as it is the willingness to move forward despite fear. Throughout our marriage, I (Paul) have seen Halee demonstrate courage over and over. She applied (and was hired) for jobs I thought she needed more experience for. She speaks regularly in front of hundreds of people even though she’s terrified of public speaking. The night our daughter was born, I caught her crying for a single minute (when she thought I wasn’t looking) as the labor pains intensified. She went on to brave 16 hours of labor to bring our daughter into the world.

I don’t like to get out of my comfort zone, but seeing Halee exercise courage over the years gave me the courage to quit my job in the middle of the recession. I’d been working for the company for 14 years, and I’d known God was calling me to leave the company for a long time, but I couldn’t imagine leaving after all the years I’d put into the company. I was afraid, wondering how I would be able to provide for my family. But eventually, I did quit and moved into the work that God had called me to.

Temperance.   St. Augustine wrote, “Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.” Temperance is the ability to practice moderation in action, thought, or feeling. I (Halee) have never been good at moderation; I always seem to operate in extremes, whether in work or play. It wasn’t enough to have one job while going to school when I had time enough for two (or three). It wasn’t enough to run three miles when my daily goal was five. It wasn’t adequate to pick up the clutter around the house when the floors needed to be mopped and the baseboards scrubbed.

It wasn’t long into our marriage when I discovered Paul didn’t share this “value.” He was a diligent worker, but he didn’t feel compelled to put in excessively long hours. When we took the same course in graduate school, he was content with an A- (or even a B+!) while I sweated it out for an A+. When he cleaned the house, he didn’t always dust or mop or polish the leather couches. When we climbed mountains, he didn’t need to go to the top—he was content with going halfway. For him, it wasn’t so much about the destination as it was the journey along the way.

Believe it or not, this difference in our approaches to things was one of the biggest sources of conflict in our marriage. But more often than not, his temperate approach was the better way, and even if it doesn’t always come naturally, I’ve learned to practice moderation in various areas of my life.

Charity.   Charity is the highest, the most important of the three theological virtues (faith, hope, charity). Charity is agape love, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. Thomas Aquinas describes it as “the most excellent of virtues … the habit of charity extends not only to the love of God, but also to the love of our neighbor.” A mistake many people make in marriage is fighting for their “rights” when charity—or love—requires that we lay down our “rights” for God or for the sake of others.

For example, guys sometimes think they have a “right” to their own space or their own time (like a night out with the guys), but I (Paul) realized that the perceived “rights” I had were really selfish aspects of my character that God wanted to change through our marriage. When I surrendered my rights—like cutting short a night out with friends to take care of Halee when I knew she’d had a long day at school or work—I became more diligent, motivated, and sensitive to others’ needs.

Marriage provides a daily context for spiritual growth because it gives us opportunities to put away sinful tendencies and practice more virtuous behaviors. The Roman lyric poet Horace wrote, “To flee vice is the beginning of virtue.” Every action we take has a consequence for our character. Our actions become habits and habits, like grooves on a well-worn path, become our character.

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Paul Scott is a registered therapist specializing in drug, alcohol, and sexual addition. Prior to this role, he served in leadership for Every Man’s Battle for 13 years. Dr. Halee Gray Scott is an author, independent scholar, and researcher.

Q&A on The Destructive Elements of Neediness (Part 2)

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

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, and then 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.

Q&A on The Destructive Elements of Neediness (Part 1)

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

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:

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.

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.

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