Monday, April 28, 2008

What does a healthy relationship look like?

I promised that I'd share the opposite of Power and Control. In an unhealthy relationship, someone is exerting pressure on the other to comply with demands and expectations. Those demands are not only uncomfortable, but are often painful in the imprisonment. So why do people stay in such difficult situations?

There isn't a simple solution because no one got into the relationship in a quick, simple route. Truthfully, as one who has escaped a controlling person, you don't even realize how little by little your life is being stolen and dominated until it's too late.

So how do you recognize the red flags to avoid those pitfalls?

I love the way government agencies teach recogition of counterfeit bills. The agents don't study the fake ones. They focus their attention on all the characteristics of the real thing. Then when a counterfeit shows up, it sticks out to them. This is what we need to do for interpersonal relationships. It isn't something that you are born with either. It is a skill you can learn. Additionally, you can pray for discernment.

I found excellent help through the YWCA. On the back of the Power and Control Wheel is another wheel. It shows things like listening to each other, respect for your opinions, and sharing funds without rancor.

Let's just take listening skills.
When you talk, does your partner allow you to finish?
Do you get snickered at or put down?
Do you hear things like you're stupid or incompetent?
Do you get brushed off as if you are worthless?
Is there a lot of screaming and yelling?
Do you get ignored as if nothing you say is important?
Do you find yourself yelling or crying to be heard?
When you ask for help, do you get it? Or do you end up handling everything yourself?

Do you have pleasant regular conversation with give and take?
Do you offer opinions without fear or reprisal?
Do you speak at a normal level of sound?

Did you know that the above three questions are in normal, healthy communication or do you think it is only in the movies?

I found myself escalating in the unhealthy behaviors as a way of dealing with what was being done to me. As I started to realize it, I chose to change. I didn't want to be like that. I no longer liked myself when I had to yell to be heard. Then I'd get accused of always yelling. But the cycle existed that if I didn't, it was ignored.

I began to consider my options. So today, all you need to do is consider if you like yourself. If you like your daily behavior, and if not, what would you change? Nothing else. Today you are just considering some thoughts.

We'll talk more over the coming weeks. Changing uncomfortable, unhappy, and unhealthy relationships doesn't happen overnight. They take a long time. They take thinking time. If you have a safe place to journal these thoughts, please do. For me, nothing was sacred. My journal was read, my mail was read, my phone was tapped. I had to find a way to talk to my friends away from home while at work. Can you begin to consider discussing your thoughts with a safe friend?

In the end, I went to the YWCA privately. I picked up some flyers like the Power and Control Wheel and others. I stored them in my desk in an unmarked file. Then on my lunch hour, I'd walk a couple blocks to a neighborhood church to sit and think in peace. I had so much to think about. You might too.

Not every relationship is harmful. Sometimes one or two of these negative qualities affects good marriages. But don't make excuses for each one either. Each person has a right to a respectful relationship. If you have any of the things mentioned in these posts that are deteriorating your relationship or self, consider those traits important enough to deal with them. Sometimes it's facing the one bad habit and sometimes it's choosing another path. Only you can decide with the help of God. In all your decisions, don't make them alone. Turn to the Lord for guidance. He makes all the difference.

Read Jeremiah 6:16.

May the Lord bless and lead you in the way you should go,
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