Dysfunctional relationships are hazardous to your health. I have been living in the middle of one since I was a child, so I can say that through first-hand experience. My father and I had a dysfunctional relationship. I say “had” because he passed away earlier this year and we had never resolved the issues between us.
Thanks to my dear friend Dr. Marilyn Murray, who is an internationally recognized psychotherapist, I am starting to figure things out.
Here is some of what I’ve learned along the way. What is working for me may not be a perfect fit for you. But I hope you can gain some wisdom from what I’ve learned and maybe skip over some of the pain by hearing about my journey.
You can’t just blow off a dysfunctional relationship. You may think you are living with it just fine. But you are really just stuffing down the resentment and hurt and pain. At some point in your life you are going to regurgitate all that emotional baggage, and the results won’t be pretty.
How do you know if you are in a dysfunctional relationship? Start by looking at what is important to you as a step toward evaluating what you need from a relationship. Dr. Murray coached me to examine what things are non-negotiable components in any relationship in my life by making a list.
My list shows I want to be around people who are honest, have integrity, are fun-loving and care for other people. Things that are important to me include helping others, my personal image including my clothes, and being secure. Security actually came up on my list three times!
Once I was done listing things that are important in my life, Dr. Murray had me circle my top three. I chose order, perfection (yes, I am a perfectionist!) and image. What people perceive about me is often more important to me than what is going on under the surface.
Dr. Murray tells me my circled items show that I am actually very insecure.