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Posts tagged ‘unhealthy relationships’

Adult Children Dealing With Toxic Parents

SOURCE:  Based on an article at Psychology Today/Karyl McBride, Ph.D

Recognizing, understanding and overcoming the debilitating impact of maternal narcissism.

The most frequently asked question from adult children of narcissistic parents is whether or not to remain in contact with that parent and/or the rest of the dysfunctional family nest.

It goes deep and is difficult to know what’s best.

Your family roots, your very beginnings, and subsequent history are all a significant part of you. We are who we are based on where we’ve been. Juggling decisions for sound mental health can be packed with arduous cognitive and emotional machinations that create distress. Sometimes these imminent decisions become paramount to every day life. Our hearts can be wrapped with it. The question and the struggle are not to be underestimated.

In loving recovery with self, decisions can be made that feel right to the heart. Without recovery work, however, those decisions may steer in wrong directions. If you simply detach and remove yourself from your narcissistic parent without doing your own work, you will not diminish your pain and your true self cannot emerge to the peacefulness that you desire. As Dr. Murray Bowen reminds us in Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, “Less-differentiated people are moved about like pawns by emotional tensions. Better-differentiated people are less vulnerable to tension.” If you take yourself out of the situation without completing your internal growth, you have accomplished less and can remain troubled.

It is important for adult children of narcissistic parents to know that there are truly some parents who are too toxic and are what I call the “untreatables.” If someone is abusive and cruel and continues to be without remorse or empathy, it cannot be healthy for anyone to be around that person. That’s ok and important to know. Full-blown narcissists do not change, do not realize the need to change, are not accountable or receptive to input from their children.

Because narcissism is a spectrum disorder on a continuum, there are many people who have narcissistic traits but are not full blown narcissists. Many of these people can move in therapeutic directions if they choose. Your decision regarding contact with the toxic untreatable or the highly-traited narcissist can best be made by working your own recovery and taking adequate time to allow the healing to happen. When developing my five-step recovery model, I found that the decisions about contact should not be made until step four. That means you are working acceptance, grief, separation, and building a stronger sense of self before deciding what kind of contact you will continue to have with your narcissistic parent. The five-step model can be found in Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers and is too complicated to fully explain in a blog post.

In short, however, I usually recommend taking a temporary separation to work your own recovery first. This means you simply explain a need for some space from the parent so you can sort out the issues and keep the clear focus on self. When you get to step four, you will know if it is best to make a decision of Therapeutic Resolution, No Contact, or Civil Connection with that parent.

Let’s take a look at each possible decision.

Therapeutic Resolution:
Some parents with less narcissistic traits are open to family therapy and this can be very effective with the right therapist. It can only be done if the parent is accountable and wants to work through family issues and childhood pain. For those who are lucky to have parents like this, a seasoned family therapist can provide wonderful healing for the entire family.

No Contact:
The decision to go “No Contact” is a big one but is made when the parent is too toxic and never accountable and continues to be abusive to the adult child. It’s a sad but necessary solution in many cases. This decision can only be made in sound mind when the adult child has really worked the internal recovery model. Without this internal healing, guilt may be over-burdensome to the adult child and pain not diminished. Sometimes, with recovery, the decision becomes a desire for a civil connect instead.

Civil Connection:
A decision to have a civil connection is really the most common. This is an educated place where the adult child knows and accepts that the connection with the narcissistic parent will not be an emotional bond or relationship. It will be civil, polite, light, and not emotionally close. Because of the internal work done by the adult child, this place of understanding allows the superficial relationship to be ok without expectations. Because the adult child has completed separation, acceptance and grief, and has developed sound boundaries, it is possible then to be “apart of and apart from” at the same time. It is possible to keep your solid sense of self and not get sucked into the family dysfunction that has not changed.

If you are struggling with contact decisions regarding your narcissistic parent or family, please know that recovery does work and makes it all so much easier.  We are accountable for our own growth and it takes time and effort to accomplish. As the late child psychiatrist, Margaret Mahler points out, “Insofar as the infant’s development of the sense of self takes place in the context of the dependency on the mother, the sense of self that results will bear the imprint of her caregiving.” That imprint of maternal or paternal narcissism can be re-drawn when the authentic self is brought to the surface and given proper nourishment for re-parenting and growth.

What could be more important? This newfound self is what we joyfully give back in the form of true love. The legacy of distorted love is then uprooted and authentic unconditional compassion takes its place. I remain a “hopeaholic” for the sisterhood and brotherhood out there.

Love restored that begins within is worth the journey.

When Emotional Attachment Becomes Unhealthy

SOURCE:  JADE MAZARIN/Relevant Magazine

4 ways to let go when you are in a bad relationship.

I’ve had plenty of experiences in my life where I struggled with emotional attachment. Basically, I found my heart invested in someone and unable to let them go, even when I knew I couldn’t be with them. Maybe they weren’t interested, maybe we were no longer together, or maybe I knew that relationship wasn’t God’s plan for me. But regardless of what I knew mentally, I remained emotionally tied to that person.

It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that God called my attention to this tendency in a new way, and equipped me to tackle it head on. I started to understand reasons I stayed attached, even when I was never happy with it—and I got ideas to help me let go.

Why We Keep Holding On

Often, the first question we’re face when we’re attached is, “Why we can’t let go?” We know it’s unhealthy, and it stresses us out, so why can’t we move on? Basically it comes down to this: We’re not sure if we really want to.

Sure, we might feel tired with the situation. We might be mad at ourselves, embarrassed, ashamed and stressed. We can easily assume we want to let go and just can’t.

But the truth is, part of us doesn’t want to—even if we won’t admit it to ourselves.

Our inner self is in competition: Part of us recognizes the pain and the pointlessness of it, and another part of us continues to desperately hold on. That part of us usually clings to this person for multiple reasons: We think this person will meet our desires; we don’t believe we’re worth more; we figure that a little love is better than nothing. or we don’t believe God will bring something better.

We all know that famous verse, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Each of the reasons we hold on to are beliefs that are not true. If these are the core reasons why we stay attached, then each one has to be examined in the light—their truths thoroughly absorbed—in order to no longer hold us down. Each one of these motives can be remedied only as we grasp the reality of the situation and accept it.

Here are some keys for letting go of unhealthy attachments:

1. See Things as They Are

This happens first and foremost by seeing the relationship as it really is. This means recognizing its limitations. It means willingly facing the truth.

Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” Sometimes we have blinders on to what’s in front of us. We may cling to the belief someone will change, or that the situation is better than it really is. When we’re attached, we have to consciously take off the rose-colored glasses every time we automatically put them back on.

Once we see clearly, we are invited to accept what we see, rather than trying to change it. We can relax our grasp, and rest from efforts that don’t work. We can choose to relinquish control, surrendering our need to make things different from what they are.

2. Realize What You Want Isn’t Here

While accepting things as they are, we have to tell ourselves that what we’re looking for isn’t found here.

We all want love. We also want peace and true joy. Those are our deepest desires. But in unhealthy emotional attachments, we are not at rest. We do not feel contentment and stability. The joy we have is flimsy and minimal—mixed with unpredictable anxiety or pain. Any love we experience is empty and practically cancelled out with the frustration we feel inside.

The idea that what we’re looking for isn’t found here is one we have to process internally. Only when we really, truly believe this attachment is only hurtful, will we no longer be interested in it.

3. Shift the Focus to Yourself

Attachment causes us to center our mental world around the person we are not meant to be with. Detaching involves making plans for our own life and asking ourselves honestly How am I doing? What can I do for myself? It means shifting out attention from what this person is or isn’t doing, how they may or may not feel, and putting it on yourself.

If you find you need healing, you need comfort, then you should put yourself in the place to get it. Ask yourself what freedom you need to start feeling better, and decide to move into it.

We also need to turn our attention to our potential, and how God sees us. Maybe we’ve been so worn down in thinking of the other person that we forgot how God values and cherishes us. It’s time to get that back.

God wants you to see His unconditional heart for you. He also wants you to treat yourself with the value He ascribed to you when He gave His life for you.

4. Truly Consider God’s Role

It’s important to remember we’re not alone in this. We’ve got a Father, literally right by our sides, who “gets” it—why we feel how we do, and what more there is for us. Not only is He by our side, He really is in control. It’s not arbitrary that we’re not with this person. We didn’t mess things up, nor did we miss His perfect will. He’s got a reason for the way things are.

Letting Go for Good

Fundamentally, letting go of attachment begins with a deliberate decision to do so. Every time you waver in that decision, remind yourself to do the above actions. You can also get around friends or family who will give you an objective view of the situation and help you think clearly.

You are not alone in this. Unhealthy attachment is one of the most common issues we have to face. The roller-coaster of emotions you experience is typical as well. On Monday, you might be fueled with anger and ready to let go, then Wednesday you sob with the desire to reach out to this person. Saturday you may call him or her, while Sunday you completely regret it.

That’s normal. And you won’t stay in that place. As time passes, these feelings will spread further out. The entire season is temporary. And you will in fact, get through it.

Celebrate every moment you feel a little freer, every action you take that focuses on your well-being. Let yourself cry if grief rises up within you. Just come back to remembering why you’re letting go in the first place. Recognize that while it feels awful now, it will truly get easier. And it’s OK when you fall back, as long as you decide to keep moving forward. Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself—just as God is.

Characteristics of a Relationship Addict

SOURCE: Excerpted from the book by Steve Arterburn

Relationship addicts live in a world of paradoxes that leaves them feeling they have no way out. They desperately want to get close to someone, but end up with a person whose problems make closeness impossible. They seek security, but end up with someone who always leaves the back door open for a quick getaway.

Relationship addicts crave unconditional love, but live in constant fear of abandonment if they don’t live up to their own impossible standards. They want to be free to love, but often trap themselves in a relationship by becoming pregnant or by weaving some other type of emotional spiderweb. Drowning in the whirlpool of their own emotions, they turn to a rescuer who cannot swim.

Many common characteristics can be found in people who suffer from this form of addiction.

  • Experience early deprivation. Relationship addicts were often rejected or abandoned in childhood, and may well have been the victims of physical or psychological abuse.
  • Feel unloved or rejected by the world. Viewing life through the lens of their own painful experience, addicts assume that the world is just one big dysfunctional family.
  • Are insecure. Addicts are full of fear and doubt, overwhelmed by the stresses of daily living. The only way they see to survive is to attach themselves to someone else.
  • Attempt to earn love. Relationship addicts become perfectionists toward themselves, setting standards they can never hope to attain. They believe they have to be “good enough” to be loved by another.
  • Attempt to “fix” others. Relationship addicts try repeatedly to “fix” others, usually persons who do not want to be fixed. The drive to save someone causes the addict to hang onto a relationship long after others would have left.
  • Attract very needy people. Anyone with an obvious need or deficiency becomes a magnet: the needier they are, the less likely they will be to walk away. Also, the needier they are, the more likely they need fixing.
  • Attract abusive or emotionally distant people. Addicts are often attracted to people cut from the same mold as their own parents, often in an attempt to symbolically win the parents’ favor and love. By the same token, addicts are often uncomfortable around healthy people who might be strong enough to live without them.
  • Move quickly from attraction to attachment. Addicts “latch on” to someone with remarkable speed, in hopes of cementing a relationship.
  • Determine to keep the relationship going. It may be a disastrous and destructive relationship, but it seems better to addicts than no relationship at all. As long as it is still alive, there remains hope that it may improve.
  • Lack whole, healthy people in their lives. The roster of past relationships and acquaintances is filled almost exclusively with damaged and needy people, in contrast to whom the addict can appear healthy and normal.
  • Walk on eggshells. Relationship addicts are afraid of rocking the boat. They are excruciatingly cautious about everything they do in an effort to avoid the wrath of others.
  • Appear to be meeting others’ needs first. In fact, everything addicts do, even the things that look the most sacrificial, are done to meet their own need to be loved and needed. They appear unselfish, but are in fact willing to let another person spend a lifetime in distress if it guarantees their role as “fixer.”
  • Fail to recognize their own needs. Relationship addicts are unable to see the selfishness of their own motives. They may believe they need to be more assertive, when in fact what they need is to resolve their own selfish need to be needed.
  • Burst out in rage. Relationship addicts try to keep their anger bottled up, but they cannot do so forever. Sooner or later their pent-up anger explodes. Such outbursts are followed by periods of deep remorse and attempts to make things right again—to forestall the dreaded abandonment.
  • Never ask for help. Rather than seek help, addicts prefer to battle their problems alone. They cannot risk being found out, which allows someone else to discern the true nature and extent of their problems.
  • Feel uncomfortable if others do things for them. This only causes the addict more guilt and greater fear of not “measuring up.”
  • Do not have hope of ever finding a truly loving relationship. Early childhood experience has convinced them that it will never happen.
  • Possess inordinate patience. Addicts astonish their friends by their ability to “hang in” for years without the faintest glimmer of hope for change in their destructive relationship.
  • Are euphoric at the start of any new relationship. Relationship addicts constantly assure themselves and others that this time is going to be different. Overblown hopes and expectations are attached to each new prospect.
  • Feel responsible for all problems. Addicts assess everything that happens in terms of their own efforts. If anything goes wrong, it must have been their fault.
  • Defend against everything. Addicts place so much performance pressure on themselves that they are resentful of perceived attempts to add more.
  • Feel inadequate. Relationship addicts never look right, weigh the right amount or say the right things. They find it impossible to live up to their own expectations.
  • Alienate themselves from others. Addicts feel like outcasts—as if everyone else but them has been given the manual on how to make human life work.
  • Crave affirmation. Addicts draw what little self-esteem they have from the sense that they are trying hard and doing a good job. They feast on others’ comments about how loyal and patient they are.
  • Despise sex. Sex is only a means to an end, not a source of joy and pleasure in its own right. It is to be endured, never enjoyed, if that is the price to maintain the relationship.
  • Exert control. Addicts will seek out needy people whom they are able to manipulate and dominate. They may appear to be subservient to a domineering spouse. In reality, however, it is they who have the upper hand.
  • Search for happiness. Relationship addicts are martyrs. They so accustom themselves to the apparently hopeless pursuit of happiness that they actually resist finding it.
  • Manipulate. Addicts will invest extraordinary amounts of time and energy determining what patterns of behavior will produce the desired effects in other people. They learn how to elicit attention, how to elicit affection and even how to elicit anger.
  • Are frequently depressed. Because of their past rejection and abandonment, relationship addicts have few emotional resources to draw on in times of stress. Instead, they simply shut down.
  • Express multiple compulsive behaviors. The emotional turmoil that accompanies relationship addiction cannot lie dormant. Frequently, it finds expression in other problems such as compulsive overeating, spending or gambling. These compulsive behavior patterns become increasingly intertwined.
  • Doubt. Relationship addicts are plagued by insecurity and are never sure of themselves. They constantly vacillate in even the most routine decisions.
  • See themselves and others as victims. If their partner is a sex addict, it is because others have deviously seduced their partner. If their partner is an alcoholic, it is because of the stress others have placed him or her under.
  • Compensate. Relationship addicts try to compensate for what they did not have as a child by manipulating others to get what they want. They compensate for weakness by acting strong. They compensate for selfishness by creating the appearance of selflessness.
  • Mind read. Since the way to find acceptance is to please others and meet their expectations, addicts engage in a never-ending mind game: What does someone else really want? To come right out and ask would be to tip their hand.
  • Get angry over unmet needs. Addicts never express their own needs. Indeed, they may be largely unaware of them, but they go through life with a vague sense of being “ripped off.”

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Arterburn, S. (2004). When you love too much: walking the road to healthy intimacy. Ventura, CA: Regal Books.

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

 

The give and take of healthy relationships

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

I want to talk about the importance of reciprocity in maintaining healthy adult relationships.

Reciprocity means that both people in the relationship give and both people in the relationship receive. Power and responsibility for the care and maintenance of the relationship are shared, and there is not a double standard where one person receives the goodies of the relationship while the other person does most of the work.

There may be seasons where one person gives much more than the other due to illness, incapacity or other problems, but when both individuals in the relationship are capable, reciprocity means that both individuals are givers and both individuals are receivers.

For example, John and Mary constantly argued about their budget. Mary required John to be accountable for every penny he spent, yet Mary did not hold herself to that same standard. She always had an excuse as to why her spending was more justified than John’s. John agreed that Mary was a better money manager than he was yet there was something fundamentally imbalanced in their marriage. Over time, he began to feel resentful and started acting out like a rebellious teenager, taking money out of the ATM without telling Mary. That caused more conflict between them.

John wanted some decision making power as to how they managed their money. He wanted to be a part of a “we” decision regarding their finances instead of feeling like a child being given an allowance. In order to rebalance their marriage, Mary would need to share the decision making with John instead of informing him of her decisions.

In another example, Amber felt frustrated with herself for always saying “yes” when she wanted to say “no”. She lacked the freedom to say no in her relationships because she feared that if she said “no”, people wouldn’t like her or she would lose their friendship. But as she began to evaluate her relationships, she realized that most of her friendships were very lopsided, with her being the giver and her friends being the takers. It didn’t surprise her that she felt afraid that if she stopped being such a generous giver, she might lose some of her friends. Yet she was tired of having friends who gladly took from her yet never gave anything back.

Amber realized that if she wanted to have healthier relationships with these people, she would need to start speaking up about her own needs and feelings in the hopes of rebalancing their relationship.

9 Surefire Ways to Sabotage Your Relationship

SOURCE:  Kim Blackham

Have you ever wondered what the most effective way to ruin a relationship would be?  Below are 9 simple and surefire ways to sabotage yours.

  • Criticize your partner, point out all his or her flaws, and demand that he or she fix them. This kind of interaction will certainly help things fall apart quickly.  The meaner and more cutting your tone, the better.  And don’t forget facial expressions.  Make sure they are condescending and clearly communicate your disapproval. 
  • Ignore your partner, shut him or her out, appear emotionless and totally unresponsive.  If you really want to get the fights going and increase the fear and panic in your partner, this is the way to go.  Talk logically and reasonably, and make sure to stick to the facts.  Facts really don’t matter in relationships as much as the connection, so if you stick to the facts, you are sure to back the relationship into a corner to where it can begin to deteriorate.
  • Involve as many other people as possible – friends, family, church members, co-workers, etc.  The more you can talk negatively about your partner, the more damage you can inflict.  As soon as everyone around you starts forming an opinion – based only on your side of the story of course, the more you can feel justified in your negative emotions and eventual decision to end the relationship.

To read the full article:  go to this link:  http://www.kimblackham.com/9-surefire-ways-sabotage-relationship/

8 Things Healthy Couples DON’T Do

SOURCE:  Ruthie Dean/Relevant Magazine

Last week, I saw a woman slam the car door in her husband’s face and storm off inside the grocery store. Then there was the couple sitting next to me, the man staring at his phone the entire time his wife shared with him her concerns about one of their children. I saw someone post a rant on Facebook about their spouse that ended with, “MEN!”

Relationships are hard, and we’ve probably all done something similar to the examples above. But that doesn’t excuse the cavalier mistakes we sometimes allow for in our romantic relationships. Dating and especially marriage relationships can be tools for showing Christ’s love—to the other person and to those around you. Too often, we take our spouses for granted and forget that good relationships don’t just happen. They take work.

It’s often harder to see the good relationships, because they aren’t out slamming doors and stomping around and airing grievances on social media.

Here are eight things healthy couples don’t do:

1. Post Negatively About Each Other on Social Media

12-year-olds post negatively about their boyfriends or girlfriends on social media. It’s a catty way to get attention and vent, when the emotionally healthy response is to talk your grievances over with your spouse when the time is right. Don’t fall into the trap of getting others on your side, on social media or otherwise, because healthy marriages only have one side.

 2. Make Their Career a Priority Rather Than Their Relationship

Yes, career is important. But as you are being pulled in every direction imaginable, something will get less attention, less time. Something in your life will have to be sacrificed. Your goal is to make sure that “something” isn’t your relationship. You can always find another job, but you only have one chance to make it work with the love of your life.

3. Have All Their ‘Together-Time’ With Technology

Of course there will be plenty of times that you’re together and using technology, but healthy couples know how to put down their phones and computers and turn off the TV to spend quality time together. Healthy couples don’t check Twitter on dinner dates. My husband and I have a rule that we put our phones upstairs each night after work so our dinner or together-time is not interrupted.

4. Avoid Hard Subjects

Relationships are about intimacy. If you can’t talk about the hard subjects, then your intimacy factor is off. There are seasons of marriage that are easy, and other seasons where you must make difficult decisions together. Nothing should be off-limits between the two of you, and conversations should always be approached with an abundance of grace and kindness.

5. Punish One Another

Punishing one another often comes out in the silent treatment or withholding sex or affection. Healthy couples know when it’s good to take a break from a disagreement, but also know how to come back together and find a resolution.

6. Withhold Forgiveness

Relationships run on forgiveness. You can’t have a healthy relationship without abundant forgiveness. The best relationships forgive quickly and frequently. Living with another person will always bring conflict and hurt feelings; the trick is knowing how to handle it. Forgive, and ask for forgiveness.

7. Say ‘Yes’ to Everything

Healthy couples have good boundaries—with family, with friends and with each other. If I’ve had a long week at work and my husband asks me to rally and go out with friends on Friday, whose fault is it if I get mad at him on the way home because I didn’t want to go in the first place? Mine. Healthy couples know their limits, know how to ask for help, and understand that “no” is a complete sentence.

8. Throw In the Towel

Healthy couples don’t give up when things are hard, even when things are really hard. If your spouse is important to you, you can get through this. Quitting is never an option for healthy couples.

Stuck in Relationships

SOURCE:  Paul Tripp

I’ve spent thousands of hours in counseling sessions with people who are stuck in relationships. It wasn’t always a husband and wife in a marriage gone bad; any two people in any type of relationship can find themselves stuck.

Are you in a relationship that has lost its passion? I’m not just talking about marital romance. A parent and child who once adored each other can now live in hostile tension. Two siblings who loved each other growing up can now be separated by anger. Co-workers or neighbors who used to get along so easily can now find it hard to have an argument-free conversation.

I would assume that everyone reading this Article can identify at least one relationship that isn’t as joyful as it could be. But, if you have a good history with relationships, don’t skip over this material. God can use you as an instrument of reconciliation between others.

To begin, let’s look at 10 typical signs of a relationship gone bad:

  1. Do you struggle to be intimate with the other person? (Don’t just apply this to the sexual life of a husband and wife; intimacy can be defined as “closeness”)
  2. Do you struggle – or are you afraid – to talk about important subjects with the other person?
  3. Do you use words as weapons to hurt and tear down instead of using words to build up and give grace? (Ephesians 4:29)
  4. Do you spend more time criticizing the behavior of the other person than you do reflecting on the motives of your own heart?
  5. Do you continually struggle to solve problems and resolve conflict?
  6. Do you ever wish – even just for a moment – that you had never met (or had) the other person in the relationship?
  7. Do you struggle to serve the other person, or, have you lost the joy you once had in serving that person?
  8. Do you find yourself angrily replaying the conversations and interactions you had with the other person?
  9. Do you try to make yourself busy so you don’t have to interact with the other person? (In other words, do you look for excuses that allow you to avoid them)
  10. As a whole, would you say that the quality of your relationship is worse now than it was ____ months/years ago?

SIX STEPS

Every relationship is going to experience conflict. After all, you – a sinner – are living with other sinners in a fallen world. It’s bound to be messy!

So, I want to introduce you to a 6-step biblical process for changing a relationship. Before I tell you the steps, you need to know three things about this process:

  1. The order of these steps is crucial to the process of change
  2. Don’t move on to the next step until the current work is complete
  3. Change is a process, not an event. This process could take months – even years. Don’t rush it.

Here we go:

1. Confession & Forgiveness

If change is ever going to take place, it has to begin with an honest confession of wrongs done, followed by an honest and humble granting of forgiveness. If you’re refusing to admit you wronged the other person, and/or refusing to let their wrongs go, you won’t get unstuck.

2. Trusting & Entrusting

Now that the past has been dealt with, we need to deal with the present. You need to do everything you can to become a trustworthy person. And then, you need to be willing to be vulnerable. Entrust yourself to the other person, knowing that they’re still imperfect people.

3. Uprooting & Planting

This is a very concrete step: what specific things do you need to get rid of in your relationship that interfere, and what do you need to replace them with? Don’t just work on your schedule and activities; be specific about words and actions and responses.

4. Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

This is a broad Biblical theme, but you need to make it specific. Who is this person in your relationship, and what do they struggle with? How can you specifically show love to their specific needs and desires?

5. Deal With Sin

I said earlier that change doesn’t happen overnight, so you need to determine what you’re going to do when the other person sins. How you do this is up to you, but you need to give the other person the right to say, “Hold on, what you just did or said was wrong – let’s talk about it.”

6. Watch & Pray

Even when significant change has taken place, you still need to guard your relationship. You’re in a war zone, fighting your own sin and the temptation of the outside world. Watch over your behavior and pray for the grace of God to give you eyes that see yourself with accuracy.

There is help and hope for you in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One day, your relationships will be completely free from conflict and strife, but the Bible gives you practical steps for change, right here, right now.

Same-sex Attraction: Truth–But No Stone Throwing

SOURCE:  Eric Metaxas/RPM Ministries

Eric Metaxas at BreakPoint shares great wisdom about a humble, grace-oriented approach to speaking about human sexuality. You can read and listen to his thoughts at No Stone Throwing.

Here’s a portion of what Eric shared (headers added by RPM Ministries).

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Think Twice

It’s easy to get angry at someone in open sexual sin. But you might think twice before picking up that stone…. Sometimes we Christians demonize our opponents instead of loving them. We often forget that, apart from the grace of God, we might well be on the other side of the issue.

Truth Is a Person

This is especially true when it comes to the issue of human sexuality. To understand why, we must first remember that, for the Christian, truth is a person: Jesus Christ. We see the world and our place in it in light of the person and work of Jesus.

So we should never forget that just as Jesus was the incarnation of God’s love, mercy, and compassion for us, we are called to model these for our neighbor.

Now this doesn’t mean that we should shy from calling sin by its name — on the contrary, sometimes this is exactly what loving our neighbor requires. But we should do this in sorrow rather than in anger and never out of a sense of condemnation — because we know that since none of us is without sin, none of us gets to cast the first stone.

Humility

So, when we address a hot-button issue like same-sex attraction or same-sex marriage, we should always keep in mind our own struggles and brokenness when it comes to sexuality.

If you are blessed not to have struggled in this area, then recall your struggles in other areas. If you can’t think of any, well, you might want to think about the sin of pride. I’m just saying.

….As Christians know, sex is intended to serve a unitive purpose — it’s supposed to be the physical expression of the spiritual union between husband and wife. As the Bible puts it, “the two become one flesh.”

Seeking in a “Disordered” Manner

It may come as a surprise to many of us, but many people in same-sex relationships are seeking the same thing. The problem is that they can’t achieve what they are seeking, because they are seeking it in what Catholic moral theology calls a “disordered” manner. Likewise, many advocates of same-sex marriage aren’t out to subvert marriage, at least not consciously. They’re pursuing the goods of marriage, all be it, in a disordered fashion.

Thus when we rightly say that the Christian response to same-sex attraction is chastity, we must remember that chastity is difficult enough for heterosexual Christians — who at least have the hope of expressing their sexuality in marriage.

The same is true with same-sex marriage. As God said in Genesis 2, “it is not good for man to be alone.” We were designed for the deep kind of physical and spiritual connection that comes through marriage. So even while we insist that that kind of connection is only available between a man and a woman, we must empathize with and grieve for those who cannot achieve it.

Speak in Love or Don’t Speak

If we can’t, then we should consider keeping our mouths shut. Because if we forget to offer love and support along with the truth, we aren’t much better than the scribes and Pharisees, whom Jesus rebuked for placing heavy loads on people’s shoulders while not lifting a finger to move them.

The world doesn’t need more Pharisees, it needs people who speak the truth in love — love that never forgets Who is the Truth.

Enabling: Allow Consequences To Work

SOURCE:  Living Free

“The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.” Luke 15:12-13 NLT

Enabling is anything that stands in the way of or softens the natural consequences of a person’s behavior. Enabling behaviors may actually hinder what God is doing in our loved one’s life.

In Luke 5:11-32, we learn that the father of the prodigal son understood the dangers of enablement. The prodigal son chose to take his part of the inheritance and leave home. He went to a distant country and wasted his wealth. Finally, out of money and working in a field feeding pigs, he came to his senses and decided to go home and ask his father’s forgiveness.

Although it had been painful to see his son leave, the prodigal’s father allowed him to be responsible for his own actions … all the while, praying for him and waiting to receive him with open arms when he returned. But in the meantime, the father did not send care packages to the pigpen.

When the son recognized his sin and confessed it, his father welcomed him home and showered him with mercy and love.

It is vital that we don’t try to deliver our loved ones from the natural consequences of their actions, but instead allow God to work his perfect plan in their lives.

Father, help me not to interfere with your plan for my loved one’s life. Help me not “jump to the rescue” when I should stay back and trust you to work in his life. In Jesus’ name …

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These thoughts were drawn from …

 

 Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

Doesn’t Love Cover A Multitude of Sins?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick LCSW [www.leslievernick.com]

A woman struggling in an emotionally destructive marriage once asked me, “Doesn’t love cover a multitude of sins? (1 Peter 4:8). Who am I to hold my husband’s sin or blindness against him? The bible teaches us, “It is good for us to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11). Shouldn’t I just keep quiet and minister to him, and pray that he will see God’s love in me?

Many of us in a destructive relationship struggle with this same question.

Jesus makes it clear. We are not to judge or condemn anyone (Matthew 7:1,2). God instructs all his followers to forbear with and forgive one another. We know we all fail one another (James 3:2), and we know that we should take the log out of our own eye before attempting to deal with the speck in someone else’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5). To bring up each and every offense in any relationship would become tiresome indeed.

Love does cover a multitude of sins but not all sins.

The scriptures also instruct us to warn those who are lazy (1 Thessalonians 5:14). We are not to participate in unfruitful deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). We’re told to bring a brother back who has wandered from the truth (James 5:19), as well as restore someone who is caught in a trespass (Galatians 6:1). When someone offends us, we’re to go talk with them so that our relationship can be repaired (Matthew 18:15-17).

Yes, we ought to forgive and forbear, overlooking minor offenses hoping others will do the same for us. And, we are to speak up when someone’s sin is hurting them, hurting others, or hurting us.

Serious and repetitive sin is lethal to any relationship. We would not be loving the destructive person if we kept quiet and colluded with his self-deception or enabled his sin to flourish without any attempt to speak truth into his life (Ephesians 4:15). Yes, we are called to be imitators of Christ and live a life of love, however, let’s be careful that we do not put a heavy burden on ourselves (or allow someone else to put it on us) to do something that God himself does not do. God is gracious to the saint and unrepentant sinner alike, but he does not have close relationship with both. He says our sins separate us from him (Isaiah 59:2Jeremiah 5:25).

When someone repeatedly and seriously sins against us and is not willing to look at what he’s done and is not willing to change, it is not possible to have a warm or close relationship. We’ve misunderstood (or been taught) unconditional love requires unconditional relationship. Jesus’ conversations with the Pharisee’s are examples of him challenging their self-deception and pride so they would repent and experience true fellowship with him (Matthew 23). He loved them, but they did not enjoy a loving or safe relationship. Jesus never pretended otherwise.

A marriage or relationship that has no boundaries or conditions is not psychologically healthy nor is it spiritually sound. It enables someone to continue to believe that the rules of life don’t apply to him and if he does something hurtful or sinful, he or she shouldn’t have to suffer the relational fallout. That thinking is not biblical, healthy, or true. For the good of the destructive person, our marriage, our own emotional and spiritual health as well as our children’s well-being, there are times we must make some tough choices. We must speak up, set boundaries and implement consequences when a destructive person’s behavior is destroying what God holds so precious—people, marriage, and family. Scripture warns, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper” (Proverbs 28:18).

Yes, the destructive person desperately needs to see God’s love, but he or she also desperately needs to see himself more truthfully so that he can wake up and ask God to help him make necessary changes. We are not better and God doesn’t love us more than he loves the destructive individual. We are all broken and in desperate need of God’s healing grace. The problem for the destructive person is that he or she has been unwilling to acknowledge his part of the destruction. She’s been unwilling to confess or take responsibility or get the help she needs to change her destructive ways. Instead she’s minimized, denied, lied, excused, rationalized, or blamed others.

Confronting someone and/or implementing tough consequences should never be done to scold, shame, condemn, or punish. We have one purpose—to jolt someone awake. We hope that by doing so, they will come to their senses, turn to God and stop their destructive behaviors.

How to Stop Being a Manipulator

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick

I received many e-mails from readers indicating that they saw themselves as [manipulators]. They were victims of manipulation as well as manipulators, and they wanted to know how to stop this destructive habit.

So how do we stop?

First, you must recognize when you are doing the manipulation and that isn’t always easy. Christine wrote me and said, “After reading your newsletter, I now see I manipulated all of my adult children to come home for Christmas using guilt trips. I wanted them to come home so bad, I just wouldn’t accept no for an answer.”

Manipulators want what they want, and they will go to great lengths to achieve their goals. Often we rationalize that the ends justify the means. But when you regularly manipulate someone, the relationship deteriorates. Even if you got all of your children to comply in coming home for Christmas, they are doing it out of guilt not love, and the underlying feeling is resentment. Is that what you want?

All healthy relationships require the freedom to say no to the other without fear or pressure. When freedom is absent and you don’t allow someone to say no to you or have their own opinion on things without making them feel guilty, pressured, afraid, or stupid, then you can’t have a healthy relationship with that person. Part of good emotional, mental and spiritual health is your ability to tolerate the pain and disappointment when someone doesn’t do what you want. No one always gets what they want, even if what they want is good.

John e-mailed me after the newsletter and said, “My wife says I’m controlling and I never allow her to have her own opinion. I disagree. I just think I’m passionate and assertive, and she avoids conflict. Am I controlling and manipulative like she says? I don’t see it.”

I encouraged him to invite honest feedback from those who know him well. I suggested he ask work colleagues, other friends, family members and children how they experience him and encourage them to tell the truth without fear of retaliation. Most of them said he was intimidating and controlling. John was flabbergasted. He had no idea. Now what?

Once you see you have this tendency to push for your own way, your own agenda and manipulate others to comply, if you want to stop doing it, you must humble yourself and confess this problem. Confess your new-found awareness to God and ask people to give you direct feedback when they feel you are being manipulative toward them.

Old habits die hard and, even when we want to change, we don’t always recognize what we are doing until it’s already done. When you invite feedback, you are asking people to stop you right in the midst of your manipulative tactics which shows them that you are serious about changing them.

Next comes the hardest part. When they give you this feedback, you must stop. You can’t keep pushing, bullying, arguing or guilt tripping. Thank them for their feedback and stop and reflect on your actions. Ask God for his help to see it as well as handle the disappointment of not getting what you want.

If we want to stop destructive patterns, we must have other people who can regularly speak into our lives, because the Bible tells us we all have a tendency to lie to ourselves (Hebrews 3:13, Jeremiah 17:9).

Your friends and family will know you mean business if you practice these four steps:

  • See (become aware)
  • Confess to God and to people
  • Ask for feedback
  • Stop when you are engaging in the pattern of manipulation

They will see you sincerely want to change this destructive pattern. Change doesn’t happen overnight with anything. Even though you see something needs to change, the actual changing takes time, practice and persistence. But I promise, if you practice these steps, you can stop being a manipulator and learn to be better friend, spouse, colleague and parent.

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.

Codependency: Balancing an Unbalanced Relationship

SOURCE: Adapted from an article by  June Hunt

After 11 years of conflict, turmoil and tears, Patricia found the courage to end an on-again/off-again relationship with her abusive boyfriend. Yet instead of feeling relieved, she was overwhelmed with sadness and confused by thoughts of taking him back.

Desperate for direction, she called Hope In The Night, my live 2-hour call-in counseling broadcast, to share her heart:
I know I did the right thing by walking away, but all I can feel is sorrow. Why can’t I feel angry for how he treated me? Why can’t I just say, “Thank you, God” because he’s finally gone?

When I asked Patricia to explain more about her relationship, she described an enmeshed bond with a man whose substance abuse caused conflict and chaos. Early in their relationship, Patricia began regretting their choice to live together and asked him to move out. He moved alright – straight into another woman’s apartment. But four months later, he was back on Patricia’s doorstep. …
He vowed he’d always love me, so I allowed him back into my life. But he still smoked marijuana and abused pills. One day I finally told him I couldn’t do this anymore.

Clearly, Patricia yearned for God’s strength as she tried to make a fresh start, but her emotions had overtaken her reasoning, erasing memories of all the pain he had caused her.

She said …
In my head, I know breaking up was the right thing … but I can’t get my heart to follow. I still love him. How can I get to the point where my heart follows my head?

I shared John 12:35 with Patricia: “Walk while you have the light, before the darkness overtakes you” and then added, “True love – in its highest form – seeks the very best for the other person. As long as you support him in his destructive lifestyle, you are not loving him. To make matters worse, he will drag you down with him.”

For Patricia to experience lasting peace, I explained that she would need to deal with codependency – her role of obsessing over and being compulsively driven to help, please and rescue her boyfriend. Like so many codependent relationships, Patricia’s was founded on control and manipulation. She had formed an unbalanced, unhealthy attachment that had become obsessive. Her childhood history of being controlled and abandoned served as the perfect setup for her future dysfunctional relationships.

I reminded Patricia of God’s first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).

To expand on this, I said:
The message is clear. We must not allow any person to become our “god” … to take the place that He alone must occupy in our heart. A life excessively focused on another person’s needs, desires and well-being causes a misplaced dependency, which leads to a destructive cycle of control and manipulation.

For Patricia’s codependent wounds to heal and for her to experience the fullness of God’s peace, she would first need to place her total trust in the Lord alone. With relief in her voice, she said she understood and wanted to make a fresh start. She told me she had already trusted Jesus as her Savior. And now, in her desire to surrender to Him, she needed to allow the Lord to truly be Lord of her life.

Colossians 1:27 says it “… is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Believe and count on this Scripture to counter your fear of abandonment. Realize that you will never be abandoned. With Christ in you, you are never alone … never overlooked … never forgotten.

By the end of our conversation, Patricia confirmed her desire to begin a new life without her abuser, giving full control of her life to God. She affirmed that, whenever she started to feel controlled by emotion or to be drawn back into codependency, she would immediately say out loud, “I reject that feeling,” and then she would fill her mind with truths from God’s Word. She also made a commitment to join a codependency support group at her church and to seek out godly women in her life who could support her in her journey. Together we prayed, thanking God for His promise: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Patricia’s story illustrates a dynamic that’s common in codependent relationships – the cycle of the “weak one” and the “strong one.” Here’s how it works:

The Weak One

As a child, the weak person had emotional needs that were never met by their parents. Later, as an adult, the weak person dreams of meeting and being swept away by a responsible, strong, take-charge fantasy mate. A woman may fantasize about her “knight in shining armor,” while a man may dream of finding a woman who idealizes and nurtures him. Weak people tend to be “love addicts,” continually yearning for someone else to complete them – to fulfill their emptiness and longings. Although they are strongly attracted to caregivers, they are terrified at the prospect of true emotional intimacy.

The Strong One

As a child, the strong person was enmeshed in an unhealthy relationship with a parent – often serving as the parent’s caregiver, confidant and/or surrogate spouse. (Typically, the other parent was absent, either emotionally or physically.) As an adult, the strong person needs to be needed and is drawn to struggling, vulnerable people who seem to need rescuing. Deep down, though, the strong person is terrified of being smothered in an intimate relationship.

The Cycle

When a strong person enters into a relationship with a weak person, they can easily become “addicted” to one another and yet live in denial about the addiction. To break the cycle, at least one of them must recognize the misplaced dependency and seek to become God-dependent.
Replacing an unhealthy need for another person with a healthy need for the Lord accomplishes two things: As individuals, their foundation becomes the love of God – an unconditional love that will never be taken away. Also, they need no longer fear being unloved or abandoned, and they are empowered to stand alone and grow as individuals, while encouraging the other person to reach their highest potential.

Shining God’s Light on Codependency

If codependency is undermining your relationships, I’d like to offer a couple of tools. The first is a checklist to assess core beliefs and thought patterns. The second helps identify codependent behavior patterns within relationships. Together, they can provide important information to help guide [one with] misplaced dependency, setting boundaries and healing childhood wounds.

Profile of a Codependent Person

Think about the person with whom you are closely involved, and then check the statements that apply to you:

__ I feel responsible for the feelings, needs and actions of the other person.
__ I try to fix the problems of this person, even to the detriment of my own well-being.
__ I know the thoughts, feelings and needs of this person, but I do not know my own.
__ I do things for others that they are capable of doing for themselves.
__ I feel angry when my help is not wanted.
__ I judge myself more harshly than I judge others.
__ I have been told that I deny my own feelings and needs.
__ I feel guilty when I stand up for myself.
__ I feel good about giving, but I have difficulty receiving.
__ I look for my worth in the approval of others.
__ I find that I am attracted to needy people and that needy people are attracted to me.

The Codependency Relationship Checklist

To help you determine whether you’re involved in a codependent relationship, check the following statements that apply to you:

__ Do you struggle with feeling loved and, therefore, look for ways to be needed?
__ Do you throw all of your energy into helping someone else?
__ Do you have difficulty saying no when you should say yes, and do you say yes when you should say no?
__ Do you feel compelled to take charge of another person’s crisis?
__ Do you feel drawn to people whom you think need to be rescued from their problems?
__ Do you have difficulty setting boundaries with others and then keeping those boundaries?
__ Do you find it difficult to identify and express your true feelings?
__ Do you rely on the other person in your relationship to make most of the decisions?
__ Do you feel lonely, sad and empty when you are alone?
__ Do you feel threatened when the person closest to you spends time with someone else?
__ Do you think other people’s opinions are more important than your opinion?
__ Do you refrain from speaking in order to keep peace?
__ Do you fear conflict because the other person could abandon you?
__ Do you become defensive about your relationship with another person?
__ Do you feel stuck in a relationship with another person?
__ Do you feel you have lost your personal identity in order to fit into another person’s world?
__ Do you feel controlled and manipulated by another person?
__ Do you feel used and taken advantage of by another person?
__ Do you plan your life around another person?
__ Do you prioritize your relationship with another person over your relationship with the Lord?

A “yes” response to four or more of these questions means that [one] may be involved in a codependent relationship.
I conclude our Biblical Counseling Keys on Codependency with the following focus on living a life of freedom by maintaining a “releasing” mind-set. Freedom from codependency represents the highest and best thing we can do for ourselves … and for those we love.

RELEASING YOU
Releasing is not to stop loving you,
but is to love enough to stop leaning on you.

Releasing is not to stop caring for you,
but is to care enough to stop controlling you.

Releasing is not to turn away from you,
but is to turn to Christ, trusting His control over you.

Releasing is not to harm you,
but is to realize my “help” has been harmful.

Releasing is not to hurt you,
but is to be willing to be hurt for healing.

Releasing is not to judge you,
but is to let the divine Judge judge me.

Releasing is not to restrict you,
but is to restrict my demands of you.

Releasing is not to refuse you,
but is to refuse to keep reality from you.

Releasing is not to cut myself off from you,
but is to prune the unfruitful away from you.

Releasing is not to prove my power over you,
but is to admit I am powerless to change you.

Releasing is not to stop believing in you,
but is to believe the Lord alone will build character in you.

Releasing you is not to condemn the past,
but is to cherish the present and commit our future to God.
—June Hunt

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See also Melody Beattie, Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself (New York: Harper, 1987), 29–30; June Hunt, Codependency: Balancing an Unbalanced Relationship, The Biblical Counseling Keys (Dallas: HOPE FOR THE HEART, 2008), 7–8.
Hunt, Codependency:Balancing an Unbalanced Relationship, 31.
Names have been changed to protect anonymity.

HOPE FOR THE HEART CEO & Founder June Hunt is a dynamic Christian leader whose life work has yielded landmark contributions in the field of Christian counseling. An author, singer, and speaker, she founded HOPE FOR THE HEART in 1986. Throughout the two decades since then, the organization has offered hope and help through biblically-based counsel and encouragement to people in more than 60 countries.

Speak Up! Change Begins With You

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Leslie Vernick

Some of you have recognized that your relationships are not so healthy and want to know what steps you can take to turn things around.

First it’s important to recognize that change always begins with you.

Anna thought she had a good friendship with a woman at church but over time Anna began feeling smothered and irritated with her friend. Anna asked, “How do I keep her as a friend and still have my own life? She calls me all the time and gets offended if I don’t return her call or I’m too busy or have other plans.”

In order for Anna to change things in this relationship, Anna must speak up. If she doesn’t, eventually her feelings will reach a boiling point where she will blow up at her friend vomiting out her angry emotions and/or distance herself from her friend entirely.

Therefore, when you want to change relationship patterns that have already been established in an unhealthy way, I recommend several steps to make this difficult conversation more likely to result in a positive outcome. And, that’s the goal, isn’t it? This is not the time to dump your negative feelings on your friend (or spouse) but rather, to invite him or her to hear what you have to say so that the relationship can change and become healthier.

Here are five (5) steps you should take before having this important conversation.

1.  Pray:  Ask God for a humble heart and a gentle spirit. Ask him for the right words to share what’s been upsetting you without blaming or judging the other person.

2.  Prepare:  Difficult conversations require time to think about what you want to say and how to say it wisely. Hard words need not be harsh words. Write it out. Wait 24 hours then reread it. Is it what you want to communicate?

Begin your conversation with the positives about the person and why you value this relationship. Confess your own unhealthiness before you ask for a change. For example, Anna could say to her friend,

I love being with you. You’re funny and creative and I have never laughed harder with a friend in my life. But I need to share something with you. I haven’t been totally honest about something and I need to do so now. I’m starting to feel anxious whenever you call because I know you’re going to feel disappointed or offended if I don’t have the time to talk right then. It’s not that I don’t care about you or our friendship, but I need more space without you feeling like I don’t care about you. I have other things I have to do or other people I enjoy hanging out with too. That doesn’t mean I think less of you, but there is only one of me.”

3.  Practice: Rehearse what you’ve written at least 20 times. This is an awkward conversation and you want to make sure you say what you want to say without forgetting something. You only get one shot at this kind of conversation, do everything you can do to say it well (Psalm 141:5).

4.  Plan the time and place:  You want to have this conversation at a time and place that you are most likely to be heard. Don’t wait until late at night or try saying this when someone is preoccupied or rushed. When Queen Esther needed to talk with the king about Haman, she realized the first dinner wasn’t the right time so she invited him to come a different night ( Esther 5 and 7).

5.  Place the outcome in God’s hands:  You can’t control another person’s feelings or reaction, but you can control your words and your voice tone to make a positive outcome more likely. However, the scriptures remind us, “As much as it is up to you, be at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). There are times we do all of the steps and yet our friend is unable or unwilling to hear what we have to say. This is not the time to return to your own unhealthy ways just to keep the peace or preserve the relationship. You must persevere in your own growth yet show patience with your friend, asking God to help them see.

Understand this. Whenever we try to change the status quo of a relationship─better known as rocking the boat─we will face resistance (a little or a lot). It’s important to press through this awkward and uncomfortable stage until a new pattern is established that you both can live with.

Sometimes that never happens. However, the longer we tolerate what is intolerable, the more difficult it will be to alter the relationship.

The Essential Ingredients Of A Healthy Friendship

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Healthy Friendships

Barb and I have been friends for over twenty-five years. She can ask me the hard questions and expect an honest answer. I can do the same with her. But I’ve had my share of relationships that have not turned out so well. Some have been difficult; others painfully destructive.

As a Christian counselor, I see up close the devastating consequences of destructive relationships. Families are torn apart, churches split and friendships fracture. There is nothing more important to God than authentic relationship, both with him and with others. He wants us to learn how to love well, how to forgive, how to forbear with one another’s weaknesses and, when necessary, how to speak the truth in love.

If any one of these components are not present or practiced by both people (not necessarily equally all of the time), your relationship with that person will deteriorate. If left unaddressed, it may even become destructive. In this blog, I want to talk about the necessity of mutuality for a  healthy relationship.

1.  Mutual caring   This may seem obvious but we may find ourselves in a relationship with someone where we are usually the giver and the other person is the taker. I’m not talking about keeping score, but in healthy adult relationships, there is a mutual caring for one another’s needs, feelings, thoughts, and/ or interests.

Even a professional relationship such as a doctor/patient there is an expectation of mutual caring. If you are sick and need an immediate appointment, you would hope that your doctor would care about that and see you as soon as possible. And your doctor hopes that you care enough about his needs to get to your appointment on time and pay your bill in a mutually agreeable way.

If you are the one always doing the giving and the other person is disrespectful or indifferent to your needs or feelings, understand that it is not a healthy relationship. Ministry is often one sided and helping others who need our care is part of God’s plan. However, these kinds of relationships rarely lead to deep friendships unless they become more mutual.

2.  Mutual honesty   Not all relationships require you to take off your emotional clothes so to speak unless the relationship is an intimate one. However, all relationships thrive on authenticity so that someone gets to know the real you. Lying, pretending, twisting or manipulating words or events to make something appear one way when it is really another is dishonest. All types of deceit erode the foundation of trust necessary for any relationship to deepen.

If you are in a relationship where you can’t speak honestly about whom you are, how you feel or think, or what you want, then you, or the relationship (or both), are not healthy.  Ask yourself why can’t you be honest?

Women have often silenced themselves because they’re afraid that they will cause conflict if they truthfully say how they feel. I’m not advocating that we blurt out our ugly feelings at the moment of their greatest intensity just to be honest. That’s a lot like vomit. It feels better getting it out, but vomit belongs in the toilet and not on your spouse or friend.

Instead, ask God for the right words to share what’s wrong or to confess something you’ve done. Being open and authentic builds trust and joy, knowing that you are loved for who you really are, not who you’re pretending to be.

3.  Mutual respect   Like love, respect is a gift given to someone, not something he or she earns or always deserves. Each person is created in God’s image and, for that reason alone, we should show respect toward them whether or not we like them or agree with their values or behaviors. For a relationship to flourish, however, respect must go both ways.

When hard words need to be spoken, they need not be harsh. Speaking the truth in love is respectful, constructive (versus blaming, shaming or critical), well-timed, and open to listening to another person’s perspective, feelings, or opinions without criticism or indifference. Honoring another person’s boundaries, limits, and allowing differences to be freely expressed also demonstrates respect.

If you cannot safely disagree and have a constructive conflict with someone you feel close to, the relationship is not healthy.

If you recognize some of your relationships are unhealthy or even destructive, don’t give up. Do your part to turn them around by inviting and initiating healthy change. Barb and I have worked hard over the years to be transparent and honest, care for each other lovingly, and respect each other’s differences. Share your concerns and work together to change. If mutually done, you will reap the rewards of a great relationship.

To learn more about the difference between healthy and destructive relationships, see Leslie’s book The Emotionally Destructive Relationship, or visit Leslie’s website at www.leslievernick.com.

Relationship Addictions: What Are They?

SOURCE: Adapted from a devotion by Living Free Ministry

“Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection].” (Hebrews 12:2 AMP)

When we think of addiction, our minds usually turn to thoughts of substance abuse.  However, relationship addictions are just as real; and can be devastating.

There are several types of such addictions.  Here are a few:

 Emotionally dependent relationship: a relationship in which you are so attached to another person that you are controlled by that person’s moods to the point of being overwhelmed.

Physically dependent relationship: a relationship in which you are physically dependent on another person, especially in the area of physical attraction. You become obsessed with spending time with him or her.

Spiritually dependent relationship: a relationship in which you have no spiritual identity or relationship with God apart from your relationship with another person. You depend on this other person to define your walk with God.

Codependent relationship: a relationship in which another person’s misbehavior is affecting your sense of well-being, and you become obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.

Consider this … 

Codependent relationships are major distractions. Today’s scripture reminds us we are to look away from all distractions and focus on Jesus. May [these thoughts] encourage you to identify distractions in your life and turn your focus fully on Jesus.

Prayer
God, my life is out of control. I do believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins. Please forgive me, and help me turn from my sin and trust in Jesus. I cannot do this alone. I need you. In Jesus’ name . . .


These thoughts were drawn from …

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

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