Book Processing

The Foundation Blocks of Healthy Relationships

The Foundation Blocks of Healthy Relationships

The Foundation Blocks of Healthy Relationships

Elizabeth B. Brown discusses the Foundation Blocks of Healthy Relationships in her book Living Successfully with Screwed-Up People. She places them under four headings—first, respect. Then, accepting personal responsibility for one’s behavior. There is also allowing others to bear the consequences of their behavior. Lastly, caring without enabling.

Good grief, those last two hit me square in between the eyes. With my family’s situation, I have a hard time saying no. I want a healthy relationship with the difficult people in my life. Respect baffles me. How does one respect people who do/say/act the way they do? I don’t know that one. I have accepted personal responsibility for where I have been the screwed-up person. The last two are “allowing others to bear the consequences of their behavior and caring without enabling.” Those two I have not nailed.

Objectivity in Healthy Relationships

“Objectivity in healthy relationships encourages each person to be responsible for his own choices and actions and the consequences of them.” There is my problem. I do not have objectivity. Honestly, I don’t know how to have that in these relationships. How does one care without enabling a person? Hmmm. If I respond with simple direct responses, that comes across as cold and unfeeling, which could hurt someone’s feelings. However, if I give too much fluff or information, it can be used against me. In my eyes, I can’t win. I don’t know how to walk that fine line.  

“Turning a toxic relationship into a healthy one requires hard work and a new vision. You can’t change your situation if you fail to see the problems and the options.” In my situation, I can see the problems quite clearly; however, I can’t see the options. Rock and hard place is where I’m constantly sitting.

Questions to Ask Yourself

“These six questions will jump-start your efforts to unscrew difficult relationship problems.”

  1. What emotional tornadoes does the difficult person in your life spin off?
  2. How do you react to the screwed-up person in your life?
  3. How does your difficult person react to your reactions?
  4. If the other person is the problem, are you growing unhealthy actions and reactions in response to him or her?
  5. Are you the screwed-up person driving others to reactive behavior?
  6. How do others react to your actions and responses?

I filled this out for the difficult people in my life. You can give a “pat” type answer or sugarcoat it. However, I laid it all out there in the margins of my book. It isn’t helpful to you or your difficult person to make light of a complicated situation. Be completely honest with yourself and see where you are at fault. Apologize if you can do so safely. If not, then write a letter and apologize. You don’t have to mail it; get it out. 

Yet, if someone causes you great conflict in your life, you have to have boundaries. I struggle with the boundary-setting thing. I fear that if I set a limit, whoever will not speak to me again will lose that relationship. It is easier if it is an acquaintance or a “friend,” but not so much when it is family. That is brutal.

It Takes Only One Person to Change a Relationship

“Do you really want to bring about positive change in your negative relationships? If so, you must be willing to change first. Unless you change first, it is unlikely your relationship will do anything but sink deeper into distress. Reactive behavior rarely brings positive change. It is impossible to continue the same type of interaction if one of the parties has metamorphosed his or her actions and responses.”  

What can one do? Stop enabling. Love with boundaries. Love yourself enough to say no to the request of a difficult person. Maybe you don’t even have to say no; perhaps you can say I will do as I can when I can, but I can’t stop the world because you asked me to do something that is not easy. Yes, I’m talking to myself. I had to say that, and then I felt as if I had put a wedge further between us. Yet, the request was not feasible with the busyness I have going on right now. Honestly, I don’t mind fulfilling the request. It is just going to take time.  

“Patterns can be reversed. It is possible to regain control of thoughts and restructure a life that abuse has tumbled into chaos through the years. People can change. You can change.”

Clear Vision Test

In Living Successfully with Screwed-Up People, Elizabeth B. Brown outlines this test with these instructions: 1=never; 2=sometimes feel this; 3=quite often feel this. Answer honestly and do one test per complicated relationship.

  1. I stew and seethe in silence before our time together.
  2. I worry about and anticipate difficulties and chaos that will come after most of our times together.
  3. I feel manipulated, intimidated, and controlled most of the time.
  4. I feel unappreciated most of the time.
  5. I feel I am always having to defend myself.
  6. I feel overwhelming guilt after our being together.
  7. I feel like “something is eating me alive.”
  8. My conversations with others often spin off the negative actions or reactions I have to this person.
  9. I seem unable to control my anger, resentment, or hurt.
  10. I feel like I will never be able to measure up to what is expected.
  11. I feel like a loser when I express my ideas, needs, or beliefs.
  12. I try to plan out my actions and reactions before we get together.
  13. I fantasize about getting even.
  14. I fantasize about getting out.
  15. I feel I must protect someone other than myself from harm – physical or psychological-caused by the difficult person.
  16. I long to help this person change so he or she will be happier.
  17. I long to help this person change so I will be happier.
  18. I explode at the most unexpected times.
  19. I do not feel happy most of the time.
  20. I don’t like me most of the time.
  21. Most of the time I long for our relationship to be different.

If your score is:

21: Your relationship is normal and healthy.

22-34: Your relationship is skewed.

35-63: Your relationship and your reactions to it are unhealthy.

Book Processing

What Does ‘New Vision’ Mean

What Does 'New Vision' Mean

What Does ‘New Vision’ Mean

Elizabeth B. Brown discusses having a new vision in her book, Living Successfully with Screwed-Up People. Here I attempt to process my thoughts on this concept. “You keep saying I must see what I have instead of focusing on what I don’t have in a difficult relationship.”

That is one of the first quotes from this book, and it hit me square between the eyes. I feel like fractured relationships within my family, and I am not allowed to enjoy the people still in my life. Some readers will not understand that statement. Others, sadly, will feel what I am saying and nod their heads in agreement.

A friend I have not seen in many years also pointed this out. She knows me but doesn’t know me. This friend has wiped my tears during an uncertain time in my life and has faithfully prayed for my family and me. After about fifteen years, I knew it was time to call and get her advice.

A Massive Conversation 

There were pleasantries and catch-up moments, but for the most part, I dove in head first with everything in my head. She listened and responded with grace, love, dignity, and bluntness. See, I tend to keep things to myself or only talk to people who I know to love me, therefore, agree with me (for the most part). This person was not going to tell me what I wanted to hear. She told me what I needed to hear.  

Some parts hurt, others were “aha” moments, and then there were moments when I cried silently. We are many miles apart, but the love of Jesus poured through the phone and settled in my mind and heart. I appreciate her taking the time to call me and advise me. She gave me a perspective of someone who loves us all but sees the situation with a new vision.

A New Vision

Fast forward to reading this book, and Elizabeth B. Brown nails me between the eyes again. Solidifying the truths that my friend spoke. People, Jesus can talk through any vessel if you are open to listening.  

In Successfully Living with Screwed-Up People, Elizabeth B. Brown talks about Aerial Vision. That is your new vision. “Aerial vision would help me see that there were no arbitrary lines, triggers, or buttons – unless I allowed them. NO ONE COULD CONTROL ME UNLESS I ALLOWED THE CONTROL. I needed to understand that if takes partners to developed a screwed-up relationship.”

I am clearing up and gaining a new vision regarding my complicated relationships. Hopefully, I will begin my healing process and learn that “It takes two people to keep conflict and control alive.” The difficulties did not always start with me. It takes two people to continue down this road of destruction. There have been relationships where I have done my part and apologized, but forgiveness did not occur. Once I am obedient to Christ and apologize, it is up to the other person to do with that information what they want. I can’t make them forgive me or want a relationship with me.

On the other hand, I can recall a couple of complicated relationships where I’ve apologized without knowing what I’ve done wrong and the other person own’s that hurt and tension. It was their perception of a situation, not anything I had done. They have apologized, I forgave, and we attempted to rebuild the friendship. However, when that continues and communication does not freely flow, I shake the dust off my feet.

My Difficult Relationships

In complicated relationships, I always take the entire blame and apologize incessantly. Sometimes, I do so without even knowing what I’ve done wrong. Other times, I continually apologize for things I have already apologized for in that relationship. Also, I apologize for something I think or have uttered under my breath.  

It is not wrong to admit when you are at fault. I want to make that completely clear. What is wrong, in my case, is that I continue to apologize and shame myself. Remember from Brene Brown that shame is when you view yourself as a wrong person. It is not the same as guilt.

In Christ, when we are convicted of something we have done that is wrong, we repent. In that repentance, we try not to do the same thing twice. Free will plays a huge part in that dynamic. Once we ask forgiveness from Christ, we go to the one (if you can) that you have hurt or offended, and you apologize to them. Sometimes you can’t do that due to circumstances. In that case, you can write a letter and then burn it. I have done that many times.

When those things are done, then you are done. Either your relationship is restored, or it isn’t. There are times when it can be repaired and others where it simply can’t. However, I continue to harbor the fact that I have hurt someone. I continue to live in shame, and it eats away at me.

That bad behavior must stop in me. There has got to be a point where I offend, repent, apologize, and then forgive myself. After that, I must let it go and release the shame and the guilt. This book has helped me understand these dynamics.

Aerial Vision

Aerial vision allows you to see:

  • the possibilities
  • the improbabilities
  • the impossible

“Aerial vision clears away illusion: Wrong actions are wrong: wrong responses to wrong actions are equally wrong,” I tell my kids all the time that they are responsible for their actions but not the reactions of others. That is a hard concept for kids, but it is also hard for adults.  

The possibilities of newness in a relationship are endless. True friendships can withstand disagreements from time to time if communication is in play. That statement is also true for marriages. However, when you are in a problematic relationship, things are a bit skewed. When you allow the Lord to open your eyes so you can see clearly, you will be amazed at what you can see. Several “minor” types of relationships have been complex. I’ve done my part and can’t control how the other person receives it or what they do with the information. I know that the relationships are no longer continuing.  

Yet, I have two relationships that I struggle with, which are essential to me. These are the two people that I have to focus more attention on in my life. It isn’t easy to walk away from them because I want greatness, but it is a one-way street right now. I cannot continue to beat myself up when I am rejected. Also, I cannot allow myself to be manipulated or controlled. I do not have a clear aerial vision yet of these relationships.  

Living in the Swamp

“Our choices will either keep us from being pulled into the muck and mire of a screwed-up relationship or cause us to sink as we fight the whirlpools spinning off the person we find difficult or off the longing for what we are not going to have.” My choices have kept me in the muck for a very long time. I have been sinking for so long that I don’t know what it is like to be on solid ground. It hurts my heart, but at some point, I must have self-preservation and let go. 

My prayer is reunification and healing, but it may not happen on this side of heaven. For now, I guess I will settle for peace. I am slowly gaining that peace because I’m beginning to set firm boundaries. In reality, “The swamp bottom is often the beginning of renewal.” I am all about renewal.

Difficult Relationships are like Swamps

“Difficult relationships are like swamps. In a swamp, your vision is obscured by vines, alligators, snakes, and mosquitoes. Screwed-up relationships are mired in the muck and swamped by chaos. So much is going on, you don’t know how to find solid ground. About the time you begin to wade out of a period of turmoil, a snake bite or an alligator threatens and you lose your footing. Your struggle for self-preservation so occupies you that you are unable to analyze the source of your problems. You wonder: Am I responsible for all the chaos? Or is the person who drives me crazy truly messed up and responsible for the havoc?”

I have lived with this difficulty for many years. It is time that I step out of the swirl of shame, confusion, and chaos. Those are not qualities that Christ has for us. Christ is not a God of shame, confusion, or chaos. He is a God of love and peace. I have been listening to the whispers of the evil one for far too long, and his reign is ending.  

“When your vision is obscured by the swamp, you must see your relationship with a challenging person from a different perspective.” I slowly see these relationships from a different perspective but have done so over many years and tears. With the love of God, how He speaks to me, through others, and just self-meditation, I’m finally getting it. When I lose sight, I have people to set me straight and remind me of how far I’ve come.

I look forward to exploring more of this book and continuing in my healing. I did change the wording to reflect Elizabeth B. Brown talking directly to me in some of the quotes.