When Western people say that they are
"in a relationship",
they often refer to an uncommitted partnership.
Healthy relationships appear to be built on mutual respect
shared goals, while unhealthy relationships are usually built
on childish needs.
Most healthy relationships seem to be those in which
people value and respect the rights and responsibilities of each
other. Healthy relationships seem to be based on appropriate
respect, sharing and trust. People accept and respect each other's power, control
and decisions, in ways appropriate to the situation.
In human relationships, a child
cannot be equal to a parent, nor an employee to an employer, nor a
student to a teacher. Many relationships are based on unequal power,
unshared knowledge and unbalanced respect. If someone has something you
want ... your desire for that asset will influence your behavior.
How Healthy are your Relationships?
We help people manage emotions and solve relationship problems.
Sometimes it seems that unhealthy relationships are normal and
healthy relationships are abnormal ... or at least less common.
Love and its synonyms (respect, honor, worship,
infatuation, ...) are terribly abused words that can be used to justify almost
any actions. (Extremes include, "I hurt her because I love her"
or "We committed genocide because we love our country".)
Do you both want a healthy relationship? (Many people don't).
- Do you both accept responsibility for fulfilling commitments?
- Do you both listen to each other's opinions, ideas
- Do you both communicate openly and truthfully, admitting
- Do you both seek win-win solutions to arguments and discussions?
- Do you both make mutual decisions on household chores and tasks?
- Do you both find safe ways to discuss values, beliefs and responsibilities?
- Do you both support each other's goals, opinions, activities and interests?
- Do you both attempt to understand each other's emotions and decisions?
I'm not sure that I've met anybody who fulfills all of these things all of the time. Every
sentence and every action can be disputed. When coaching relationship issues, I explore
bonds, loops and games ...
because causes and effects often seem entangled in time and space.
In relationships, effects may seem to precede causes. E.g. " I am angry
because I knew you were going
to say that!"
They are playing a game. They are playing at
not playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and
they will punish me. I must play their game, of not seeing I see their game.
From Knots by R.D. Laing (Psychiatrist)
Excuses can be soft and explanations can
but consequences tend to be hard.
Symbiosis and Codependence
The ideal romantic love so often promoted by television, movies and
love music, are inseparable partners who feel lost without each other, in which each person can only
derive a sense of life in the presence of each other. Such relationships
can often be called symbiotic or codependent.
Symbiotic relationships can be stable and feel very close, and the
roles are predictable and safe. For some people, symbiosis may seem to be an
ideal relationship! Yet symbiotic relationships rarely allow for equality
and limit people's freedom. Two common examples are rescuer-victim
Codependent relationships occur when neither
feels capable or self-reliant. It may seem that two half-persons are trying to
make a one complete person! A classic example is that one partner tries to help the other partner cope with an addiction
- terrified that the end of the addiction would trigger the
end of their relationship.
When we first moved to Western Canada,
we needed each other just to survive ... but our neediness lead to
"I must keep you needy because if you don't need me, you might leave
me". ... Our love had somehow gotten reduced to preventing each
other from finding independent happiness. BC, Canada
Many people in symbiotic and co-dependent relationships say
that they feel trapped by a needy person, although I might suggest that
they feel trapped by their own neediness. Symbiotic and codependent
relationships change when one or both partners accept responsibility for their
own emotions and physical wellbeing.
We help people move from symbiosis (I can't live
without you) to independence (I can cope by myself) to interdependence (Together we can achieve wonderful goals that we cannot achieve
Is Your Love Healthy or Addictive?
We were born dependent and
needy. Our survival required the support of parents or caretakers.
We move from dependence to competence, independence and
then interdependence. But issues such as
parental alienation or
covert emotional incest may have sabotaged
our development and encouraged immature, addictive love
between healthy love and addictive love help us recognize healthy and
unhealthy parts of relationships (summarized from Looking for Love in
All the Wrong Places by Jed Diamond):
- Healthy love is fluid and dynamic.
Addictive love fears change.
- Healthy love is gentle and comfortable.
Addictive love is combative.
- Healthy love encourages honesty.
Addictive love encourages secrets.
- Healthy love is based on your desires. Addictive love is based on need.
- Healthy love creates joy.
Addictive love creates melodrama and suffering.
- Healthy love is based on safety.
Addictive love creates bonds to avoid fear.
- Healthy love is accepting your partner.
Addictive love looks for more or better.
- Healthy love is unique. There are no ideal lovers.
Addictive love is stereotyped.
- Healthy love is independent.
Addictive love seeks someone to make you happy.
Relationship skills are the
path of love; and mature love requires mature skills.
Contact us to manage your emotions and solve relationship problems.
Online Life Coaching & Relationship Counseling
I thought you were just
another therapist - but you were not just. Not even. Not only.
Plagiarism is theft. Copyright ©
Martyn Carruthers, All rights reserved 2006-2010