Friday, May 25, 2012

Co-Dependency in Relationships

Our collective consciousness, which is a shared belief system that operates as a unifying force within society, seems to actually encourage co-dependency with love songs such as “Can’t Live if Living is Without You.” 

Two types of co-dependents exist – the takers and the caretakers. The taker’s primary fear is that he has no power to make himself happy, while the caretaker’s primary fear is that he doesn’t have the right to make himself happy. When these two types of people come together, nobody ends up happy.


Each makes his love conditional, and the dependent needy feelings that exist always have strings attached. For example, statements uttered can include: 
       “I will love you if ….” 
       “If you really loved me you would .…” 

Over time, neediness begins to feels weak, and it can eventually turn into resentment  directed toward the person who was fulfilling the need. 

For example, a husband may have needy feelings, and he looks to his wife for her to fulfill them. He gets caught in a Catch-22. He wants his needs fulfilled, yet he feels "less of a man" having to depend on his wife, so he begins to resent her for giving him that for which he asked. There's no easy way out of that circle.

In another scenario, in the quest to fulfill her husband's needs, the wife may give it her best effort for as long as she can. However, when she reaches her limit and can no longer handle the constant drain on her energy and emotions, she may cut back on fulfilling his every need. Now, the husband has gotten accustomed to a certain pattern and when it stops he might begin to resent that fact and, consequently, feels unloved. 

Keep in mind that the man or woman who most often fulfills his or her spouse's needs holds power over the other, even perhaps unknowingly. This constant "doing" for the other is regarded as love. When the "doing" stops, it feels as if loving feelings are being withheld. Unhappiness is usually the result. (This is not to say that partners shouldn't do things for each other, only that the actions should not be conditional and should be given freely without expecting anything in return.) 

If the aforementioned pattern continues, and constant unhappiness becomes the norm, there exists the possibility it could be channeled into emotional, verbal, or physical abuse. This type of cycle perpetuates itself and each partner begins to feed off the other. The only way to break the cycle is by refusing to participate and with each partner taking responsibility for his/her own happiness.

It is equally as important to establish good boundaries and healthy patterns at the onset of a relationship before unreasonable and unsustainable expectations are established.

Friday, May 18, 2012

What Type of Relationship Do You Want?

Although most might not admit it, we often have an agenda that propels our actions. While the word “agenda” may have a negative connotation, having one is not necessarily sinister. An agenda might just be a well-thought out plan to get us from one point to the next. 

In regard to relationships, it is important is to be aware if you have an agenda. In this way, you can assure yourself that you are binding yourself to a partner for the right reasons. 

Here are four examples of possible agendas. 

A Convenient or Friendly Relationship. You may be tired of being alone and you start a relationship with a person who fills some of your needs but with whom you are not necessarily “in love.” A long time friend could also be a good candidate for this type of relationship. You genuinely like each other and, as a bonus, you can share expenses, child rearing duties, and household responsibilities. However, the passion of romance is missing. 

An Abusive Relationship. Since none of us want to think we would willingly enter an abusive relationship, this type of agenda would probably be a hidden or buried one. A person who should be on the lookout for this type is one who may have suffered verbal, emotional or physical abuse in their familial home or a prior relationship. Abuse comes in lots of different manifestations, and often an abused person confuses love and abusive attention. Due to our tendency to revert to the familiar (even if it is not good for us), an abused person may draw multiple abusive relationships to them without consciously realizing it. 

A High Status Relationship. When faced with financial hardship, or even disaster, it is nice to daydream about entering a relationship with a person who can solve your problems with their money. If this is the main impetus for a relationship, you may solve one problem, but others will most likely erupt. Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch and you WILL pay at one end or the other. 

A Long Distance Relationship. You may have gotten used to doing things on your own and you like your independence and the fact that you don’t have to explain yourself or your time to anyone else. This doesn’t negate that you might also like to have a monogamous partner …. although not on a full time basis. Accordingly, you might purposefully look for a partner who is not home very often, for example, a pilot who is constantly jetting across the world. This could give you the best of both worlds: autonomous time and a partner with whom to have fun and share responsibilities. 

In general, every relationship fulfills some need within us. If it didn’t, why would we enter into it? 

Without making a value judgment about the myriad of different types of relationships that are possible, I only caution you that you take the time to examine the reasons (that may lie below the surface) why YOU are participating in yours. If you can be honest with yourself, you have a better chance at success.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Can Love Last Forever?

The Traditional Wedding Vows usually say the following.
I, (Bride/Groom), take you (Groom/Bride), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part. 

With the divorce rate so rampant these days, it doesn’t seem as if many people take these vows seriously. Of course, when they were written, the mortality rate was a lot lower and until death do us part might have been only ten to twenty years, if that many. 

With people living and being active into their eighties and nineties, do you think it is feasible that one person could fulfill your needs through all the seasons of your life? Or, do you need or want a different type of partner when you’re young and in procreation mode than when you’re retired and in grandparent mode? 

I would like to believe in the fairytale of happily ever after and have faith that if two people make promises to each other that love will allow them to move through the difficult times. 

Romantic as that sounds, I think it’s possible to stand by these beliefs. However, it does require me to adjust my definition of happily ever after. 

At the beginning of a relationship, romance rules and partners seem to experience unbridled exuberance. This stage is most often referred to as the honeymoon period and lasts about 12 to 18 months. This phenomenon has actually been substantiated by scientists who recently have discovered that romantic love involves chemical changes in the brain. And guess what? These changes last about 12 to 18 months! This is one of the best reasons to wait 12 to 18 months before marrying. If you still like your partner at the end of that time, your chances of having a successful relationship increase exponentially. 

So – what happens after that? 

Well, that’s where real love begins and, consequently, when you have to start “working” at your relationship. 

For relationships to work, the partners must remain fluid as they adapt to the changing landscape of their lives and also their bodies as they age. Remember to cherish the aspects of your partner with which you fell in love. Keep them in the forefront of your mind and bury (or ignore) annoying idiosyncrasies. 

Work towards collaborating vs. competing with your partner. Remember, you’re a team and a home run hit by one of you is a home run for the family. This is why relationships don’t always seem as if they are 50/50. Sometimes, you’re the star and center of attention and sometimes you play the supporting role. Whichever the configuration, it still always adds up to 100%! 

Capturing that happily ever after doesn't necessarily mean that you will feel that initial exuberance every day of your marriage. A lot of marriage, as a lot of life, is simply completing tasks that need doing. The "happy" part usually comes in moments, and these need to be deposited in your memory bank so they can be withdrawn for a "pick-me-up" as needed.

Remember that keeping love alive takes a willingness on the part of both partners (and the ability to see the humor and absurdity in life). This makes it possible to have a relationships last forever.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Establish Healthy Patterns In Your Relationships

"Learn from yesterday; 
live for today; 
hope for tomorrow. 
The important thing is not to stop questioning." 
~Albert Einstein 

The patterns deeply imbedded in your subconscious from the many yesterdays that came before today can only be overcome by your willingness to address them day after day. 

For example, if your last relationship was filled with dysfunction, you must remember to remain on high alert in order to avoid the easy slide back into this pattern. Although you may rationally disdain the dysfunction, it is a familiar way for you to look at the world, and, unfortunately, comfort is sometimes found in that feeling. You can actually be comfortable with your uncomfortableness. 

It is up to each individual to avoid becoming a victim of his or her own circumstances and to stop the cycle of repeated mistakes. 

The first step is to RECOGNIZE your unhealthy patterns and to discover their root cause.

Next, RELEASE these thoughts so that you don’t attract similar circumstances back into your life. 

Finally, if you are confronted with them again, learn to RESPOND in a changed manner so you reap a better result. 

You can stop making the mistakes of yesterday with self-awareness, a change in perspective, and a proactive and positive attitude. 

When you are ready to begin a new relationship, it is very important to establish healthy patterns at the outset. 

For example, don’t believe that you have to act like a doormat or never say no to your partner in order for him/her to fall in love with you. If this is the pattern you establish at the outset, you are going to be hard pressed to change direction when you eventually start feeling drained by this submissive behavior. Your partner may balk, if you want to change the game plan into which that he/she bought. And he/she has every right to be upset, for the expectation was apples and now there are only oranges. 

Remember to greet your partner with the person you want to be throughout your relationship and NOT with behaviors that will end in eventual dysfunction.

A portion of this post is an excerpt from my book "Understanding Spirituality From A to Z" which is available as a Kindle or Nook book as well as an e-book via my website.

In an easy-to-read format, learn how to start on the path of self-discovery in order to recognize your place and purpose in life.