“Sometimes you have to walk away from what you want in order to find what you deserve.” - Belle Aurora
Love can be complicated. After all, nobody's perfect and relationships have their ups and downs, but a good relationship is always a net positive. If you’re staying with someone that causes you confusion or pain on the regular, your self worth is on the line.
Dysfunctional relationships consistently take more than they give. Whether you love an addict, a narcissist, or just someone incompatible due to their personality or past, it’s essential to admit that bad patterns in love rarely change. You could be the problem, or you could be enabling the problem, but either way, sub-par love leaves all parties unfulfilled.
Here are 6 Dysfunctions that Kill (or should kill) Relationships:
Blame - Is your partner rarely, if ever, accountable? When something goes wrong, is their (or your) first response assigning blame? If this seems normal, it’s not. It’s a defense mechanism to preserve esteem and diffuse personal responsibility. Healthy couples seek to learn what happened, discuss preventing it from happening again, and look at each person’s accountability and reactions. Then they get to work healing the rift.
Power Imbalance - Some people prefer a slightly dominant partner as long as that partner also shows empathy and generosity. But a power imbalance without agreeable benefits, in either direction, tilts toward dysfunction. If the same person always has to take control, make decisions, be correct, and the other party feels cowed by this…you’ve got dysfunction. Especially if one party shrinks back and feel forced to walk egg shells and make amends.
Guilt - This isn’t about guilt over cheating or wrongdoing. This is about being made to feel guilty or inferior about forgetting something, losing things, underperforming, and generally failing to meet expectations. People who feel guilty more easily tend to be more empathetic. Is this being used against you? Do you use guilt to get your way? Guilt is the end product of manipulation.
Abandonment - Threats and ultimatums about walking away or cutting off affection trigger fear of abandonment in a partner. If either of you threatens to leave or withhold affection and then takes it back when things smooth out, take heed. While these may be empty threats, they are to be taken seriously for the manipulation they represent. Fear should never be a go-to relationship emotion.
Dishonesty - Someone is hiding something or a lot of something. This leads to uncertainty about what’s going on or what’s coming next. Maybe you begin to uncover small lies, overprotective behavior on privacy, second phones, odd schedules -- all signs that dishonesty is afoot. Relationships are first and foremost about trust. Nothing sinks a relationship faster than dishonesty.
Need - There’s no dysfunction in that sweet stage of high-need during those first few months in love. You know, that time when you want them around constantly and feel like you can’t breathe without them. We all feel that when in the throes of passion. But, as time goes on, if “I need you to be my best and to be happy,” turns into, “I need you to function, provide meaning, and continue living,” you may be in the throes of dysfunction.
If you fear a person may not survive without you in their life, or you feel you cannot survive if a person leaves you, this is a serious situation for all involved. And it’s a situation that can not continue. Neither of you will heal together. Feeling whole and sane and balanced is a self-employment gig. No one can outsource this work. Neither of you will ever be complete or feel content in the current relationship if you desperately need the other to keep living meaningfully.
If it’s hard to walk away for selfish reasons, then walk away for the other person. Realize that healthy apart is better than living in pain and dysfunction together. Or, as philosopher Alan Watts once said, “Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.”
If these dysfunctions are striking a chord within you, remember that to find the love you deserve you have to walk away from a love that’s sub-par. You’re worth it.