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.”
- What emotional tornadoes does the difficult person in your life spin off?
- How do you react to the screwed-up person in your life?
- How does your difficult person react to your reactions?
- If the other person is the problem, are you growing unhealthy actions and reactions in response to him or her?
- Are you the screwed-up person driving others to reactive behavior?
- 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.
- I stew and seethe in silence before our time together.
- I worry about and anticipate difficulties and chaos that will come after most of our times together.
- I feel manipulated, intimidated, and controlled most of the time.
- I feel unappreciated most of the time.
- I feel I am always having to defend myself.
- I feel overwhelming guilt after our being together.
- I feel like “something is eating me alive.”
- My conversations with others often spin off the negative actions or reactions I have to this person.
- I seem unable to control my anger, resentment, or hurt.
- I feel like I will never be able to measure up to what is expected.
- I feel like a loser when I express my ideas, needs, or beliefs.
- I try to plan out my actions and reactions before we get together.
- I fantasize about getting even.
- I fantasize about getting out.
- I feel I must protect someone other than myself from harm – physical or psychological-caused by the difficult person.
- I long to help this person change so he or she will be happier.
- I long to help this person change so I will be happier.
- I explode at the most unexpected times.
- I do not feel happy most of the time.
- I don’t like me most of the time.
- 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.