The soul cannot forgive until it
is restored to wholeness and health.
In the absence of love - how can one forgive?

With an abundance of love, starting with one's self,
forgiveness becomes a viable opportunity.
-Nancy Richards

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships

A reader recently asked me if I would share some qualities that I came to understand were "red-flags" for unhealthy relationships vs. qualities of healthy relationships.

Wow! Tough question.

For many years, it was difficult for me to discern what was and was not healthy for me. Even after considerable healing there were many times that I felt "triggered" even if the other person was behaving in a healthy manner. For example, if another person held a matriarchal role in my life, or other such circumstances that triggered old unsafe childhood feelings, I couldn't differentiate between whether my present situation was unsafe, or I was experiencing old unhealed wounds.

Conversely, sometimes someone was behaving in a manner that was injurious to me and I failed to recognize the behavior because I was still wired to treat myself the way my mother treated me. I argued and "engaged" rather than protecting myself.

Today, I believe that I am responsible to safeguard my own well-being. So, some of my red flags are about me.

I'm sure there are many relationship/friendship "red-flags," however, these are the warning signs that are most pertinent to me:

1. Boundary Issues: Do they maintain their own healthy boundaries? Do they respect boundaries in others? Do they have enmeshment issues? It has only been the last few years that I've learned to consistently maintain clear, respectful, boundaries. Everyone needs to take responsibilities for their own boundaries; yet, a red flag for me, is if I need to spend an inordinate amount of time guarding those boundaries.

2. Blaming: Someone who takes no personal responsibility for his or her own actions or problems, but rather blames me or others.

3. Unrealistic Expectations: Expects me to meet all of his or her needs, and/or tries to move the relationship along too quickly.

4. Dishonesty, Betrayal: Because I was betrayed in my most basic relationships, it took me years to realize that I actually betrayed myself when I accepted betrayal as a part of my relationships.

5. Lack of Compassion, empathy, or inability to connect with others: I have to be very careful with this one. I grew up without any compassion or empathy. As an adult, I needed to learn a healthy balance between 1) learning to provide my own self-compassion, rather than a dependence on others to solely meet this need, and 2) recognizing when someone lacks empathy, compassion, or connectedness.

6. Critical, Demeaning, or disrespectful: If I don't recognize these qualities right away, they can slowly chip away at my self-esteem.

7. Controlling, Bossy, Demanding: Big red flag!

8. Poor conflict resolution skills.

9. Poor self-esteem: Boastful; needs his or her ego fed at the expense of others and/or places his or her needs above everyone else.

10. Crazy-making, ceaseless arguments. This is two-fold for me. It is a red flag about the other person if they need to be "right"all the time (i.e. facts or circumstances). Although feelings have no right or wrong, it is also a red flag about me if I find myself engaging in ceaseless arguments looking for understanding about my feelings. It took me a long time to learn not to engage, but rather stand confidently in my own experience.

Healthy qualities would be the opposite:

1. Maintains his or her own boundaries; respects boundaries in others.
2. Accepts responsibility for his or her own problems and actions.
3. Able to meet his or her own needs as well as share in each others lives.
4. Honest and open.
5. Displays an appropriate degree of compassion, empathy, and understanding.
6. Loving, respectful, dignified, focus's on positives rather than negatives
7. Mutual problem solving
8. Good, calm, listening and communication skills
9. Good self esteem: Self-respectful, humble, and is respectful of others needs.
10. Places relationships ahead of need to be right, and/or can stand confidently in own experience.


Just Be Real said...

Great outline Nancy! #1 The boundary issue is a biggie for me now-a-days. Not just me in establishing them, but the others respecting them! #4 Biggie also. People just need to be 'real.'
Thanks Nancy for sharing!! Blessings.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Thank YOU, Just be Real!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Nancy for sharing your experiences and insights regarding healthy/unhealthy relationships. It is more helpful to me than I can express. I began to see a pattern in my life of realizing too late that I had been choosing extremely controlling friends. When I began setting/enforcing boundaries, the reactions of some were so unusual and frightening to me. Your post really clarifies why this may have been, and what in me may have played a role in it--a role I need to identify so I can stop playing it. Thank you so much Nancy! God Bless you.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

You're Welcome!

It is a huge step toward freedom, when we heal enough to learn to protect ourselves!


Marj aka Thriver said...

Hey, this is really a wonderful, educational post! With all the domestic violence and teen abusive relationships in the news lately, this is a timely topic. Good stuff to be aware of! I hope you'll consider this post for the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse that's coming up. It would be an excellent addition!

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Thanks Marj,

I already submit a "rebirth" post to the carnival, but hey, I guess I could submit this one too!

Patricia Singleton said...

I am glad you submitted this one to the April Carnival too. It is loaded with great information. Boundaries were the hardest for me in the beginning because I was such a people pleaser. At the time, I either had no boundaries or I viewed the world and you from behind my walls. It took years of struggling between those two extremes before I found balance with boundaries.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Thanks Patricia,

Boundaries were the hardest for me too! I didn't learn boundaries as a child (there were none in my home)and for a long time I mistakenly "argued" with others to respect my boundaries, rather than taking responsibility for guarding my own.

It was a huge light-bulb for me, as well as very empowering to learn I could take control of my own boundaries!

Thanks again!

Kim said...

This is something I still struggle with and, you're SO right that sometimes it's incredibly difficult to distinguish if the trigger is external or internal. Good post, thanks.

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

Thanks Kim!

Anonymous said...

Great piece. It describes all my past failures to a T. I like especially your comment about quiet confidence. Thank you!

AbuseAndForgiveness said...

You are welcome!

Thanks for stopping by!