The Benefits Of A Bad Relationship

the rings

After working with people for the past seven years, I gotta say… many of us benefit from painful relationships.

There are two benefits of a painful relationship. One real, one perceived.

  1. Staying stuck gives us an illusion of safety
  2. There’s the potential for personal growth

Safety

Of course those who look at it as a form of safety–keeping them from taking risks or challenging their beliefs (there’s no one else out there for me)–may do it their entire adult lives and stunt their growth out of fear of the unknown.

So is it a benefit? It is when speaking in terms of adaptability. Humans are incredibly adaptable to their environment (we may grumble–but we adapt). And please remember, most of us don’t do anything unless there is a benefit, no matter how small.

Martin came to me trying to leave his marriage. He was living separately, but a part of him could not let go of his caustic wife. Her desire for control would cause her to belittle others, including Martin. She was on edge when threatened by others who didn’t want to give her their power.

Most of the time their interactions would leave him wanting to defend himself or react by attacking her, resulting in him walking away wondering what he was doing. He was looking for validation. His hope was that she would wake up and recognize her flaws, therefore turning her into a kinder, gentler woman who would appreciate him.

It never happened.

In fact, when he would receive a tidbit of kindness, he would get hooked back into the drama. He could be on vacation and think of coming home to the picture perfect family he never had.

Illusion was his benefit.

Martin didn’t have to move on or take a risk. As painful as being stuck was, it meant he didn’t have to open himself to other possibilities in life.  It also meant that whatever validation he didn’t receive as a child for ‘being who he was,’  still had the possibility of fulfillment from his estranged wife. She could validate him.

Yup! For Martin, he had married his mother.

She wasn’t an exact duplicate BUT the negative feelings of self-doubt and being unworthy were elicited from their interactions. This kept Martin hanging by a thread, waiting for validation. Mix this together with him not having to go through the tedious job of rebuilding his life as a single man and the fantasy that one day she would wake up; he was good and stuck.

He’s not the only one who is attached and can’t let go. Many people settle for so little in search of a miracle, or simply adapting to the bits of validation they receive.

The fantasy of what ‘could be’ during the few good moments in these dysfunctional relationships can keep us captive in a hope way beyond the ‘use by’ date. Some of us try to move on, but again the allure of validation, fixing ourselves and not having to see if there is anyone else out there for us can hold our vision firmly in the past.

Our worth is at the bottom of this barrel of fish. Subconsciously we act out patterns that show our lack of worth over and over again. Instead of going through the pain, we fantasize… and stay attached to what is toxic or just doesn’t work.

Growth

When it comes to the true benefit, the one of growth, we can learn what keeps us tethered to the untenable through growing awareness; allowing our pain and starting to make choices for ourselves. Yup, hard to do… making a decision in favor of taking care of yourself vs. pleasing the other person by abandoning yourself.

We stop sacrificing our needs and desires to gain what we irrationally believe: this other person holds the key to our ability to receive love. Pause on that for a second.

As individuals dig deeper, they find the key in themselves. The pain is released and the feelings of possibility emerge where none existed before.

Admitting our struggle against the shame we feel, or believing we’re screwed up begins with recognizing it’s beyond our conscious mind. We don’t do it on purpose, or even know we ARE doing it. To stop kicking ourselves, stop feeling like we’re somehow less worthy and become courageous to ‘go there’ moves us toward the freedom we seek.

When have you chosen “safety” over personal growth? Did it serve you? Share in the comments. 

P.s. Please join me on my radio show September 15, 2015 where I’ll be talking more on this subject with Cristina.

 

The Breadcrumb Relationship

breadcrumbs2

Have you ever taken breadcrumbs and tried to make a piece of bread?

I have, perhaps not literally, but those little pieces of bread would just crumble in my fingers while gluing them together, making it messy, sticky, and giving me crouton hands.

I, literally spent years trying to put breadcrumbs together everywhere in my life, give me a little and I would make it seem bigger, better and more amazing than it really was…at least in my mind.

You see, I didn’t know any better….I thought everyone did it, especially in relationships. Weren’t they supposed to be a struggle? Wasn’t it where one partner gave more than the other? Sort of a victim/martyr situation?

And let me also throw in the low self-esteem I had as an extra set of luggage since childhood. No one, not a single person could make a difference in how I saw myself and therefore, because I also had a blind eye toward me; I had breadcrumb everything!

Why do some allow themselves to accept so little and make it seem as though it’s fulfilling? You may do this by saying:

  • I don’t need so much, why would I want to see him or her more than once a week? I don’t want to be connected at the hip.
  • A long-distance relationship? Sign me up!
  • Married or in a relationship? Sounds like I can have my own life too.
  • Struggle and drama, doesn’t everyone have it? At least I know they care.
  • Tells me he or she has never felt this way before, but has to leave me? I will never get over him or her–they will come back.
  • I hear what he or she says, it sounds like a promising future? It doesn’t matter that there’s no action, just listen to those magical words.

And so on.

Anything sound familiar?

If so, welcome to the breadcrumb relationship! You’re on board this sinking ship, while telling yourself this is enough, it’s okay….and the fact that you’re wearing a life-vest is no big deal.

It’s painful, your insides resemble spaghetti–anxiety, stress, over-giving, not receiving, fear, and so on, it’s torture! If you share any relationship details and your friends or family cringe or look at you, like they want to save you….then you know you’re in the grips of hell.

Some of you may think this is your person, your soulmate. There are many wonderful things to connect over, but the relationship (if it exists) itself and how it operates, is one big dysfunction!

If your daily mantra, includes painfully talking yourself into staying put, because you can’t let go, or if instead, you cut it off, only to be emotionally tied up in knots over him or her still, you have to look within.

It’s not the other person.

It’s your thoughts and feelings about what you truly deserve based on what you’ve gotten so far!

If you were raised without emotional intimacy from your parents, you will be seeking it and repelling it, until you wake up to yourself.

If you were treated poorly as a child; your self-esteem stomped on by not having your voice heard, criticized with no positive reinforcement, your feelings not accepted, or experienced no support for who you were and your endeavors, then you don’t know your value or worth as an adult, until you treat yourself as someone worthy.

All of us yearn for connection, to belong, it’s physiology. Anything else we tell ourselves is meant to protect us from disappointment and because we don’t believe we can have what we really want; we weren’t created to be alone.

What can you do if you’re in a breadcrumb relationship?

  1. Get honest with yourself.
  2. Re-connect to your emotions, about you. Feel your feelings, don’t make it about anyone else.
  3. Look at how you de-value your own existence, start taking care of yourself.
  4. Set standards for what you want and the boundaries necessary to uphold them.
  5. Understand that numbers 1-4 are about you, this isn’t about what other people do or say, it’s about what you will allow for you.