Healing a Partnership © Martyn Carruthers
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 and
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 and beliefs?
- Do you both communicate openly and truthfully, admitting mistakes?
- 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 be flexible
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 and caretaker-dependent.
Codependent relationships occur when neither person 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
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 alone).
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
The differences 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.