Knowing The Difference: Healthy Or Dysfunctional?

good or bad

Expert
Love

Are you or someone you know in a dysfunctional relationship? How do you know?

With the world recently mourning the loss of phenomenal singer and entertainer Whitney Houston, our attention is once again directed toward drug use and abusive relationships. It's impossible for us, the general public, to really know what happens in the personal lives of celebrities, but I know abuse and addiction happen in the lives of regular people just like you and me. We sometimes lose ourselves in relationships that are important to us. How can you tell if you are simply engaging in healthy accommodation or if you have crossed the line into dysfunction?

It's difficult to find a relationship where each person has the same degree of commitment to the relationship throughout the life of the relationship. The relationship is usually more important to one person than the other at difference points along the way. This is not to say "unbalanced relationships" will not work out. As long as the people in the relationship are willing to accommodate each other at various points, then the relationship can maintain its health. 12 Tips For Improving Your Relationship

Let's take an easy example. It's really important for one person to go to the beach for vacation and the other person wants to go to the mountains. The person wanting to go to the mountains recognizes this is more important to his partner, so he accommodates by placing her needs above his own in this situation for the good of the relationship. This is healthy.

Now, imagine the person who wants to go to the mountains wants to avoid the beach because when he was young, his sister drowned at the beach. He hates the beach and wants to avoid those painful memories. Is it still healthy accommodation for him to agree to go even when it will create undo pain for him? No, this is moving into the area of dysfunction, unless he has decided he wants to overcome his fear and push himself to make the trip to the beach. Why You Aren't Happily Ever After Anymore

Let's examine another example. A couple has been married ten years without children. When they married, they agreed they didn't want children. Now, ten years later, the husband wants to start a family. He has a value that mothers should stay home with her children. He is asking his wife to give up her goal of partnership in her law firm so she can stay home and raise their children that she never wanted in the first place.

She really loves her husband and her professional life. She is torn about what to do. She wants to give her husband what he wants and at the same time, she doesn't want to give up her career. In the end, she decides to give in and start a family. She takes an indefinite time off from her firm, almost guaranteeing she will never make partner. Is this accommodating or dysfunction? Love: The Key to Fighting Fair In A Relationship

A man and his wife of 68 years are in their 90s. She has Alzheimer's and he is her primary caregiver. They still live independently in their own home. He is noticing a loss of his own health as he deals with the stresses of providing physical care to his wife, while he watches her mentally deteriorate. He may literally be killing himself to keep his promise of "in sickness and in health." Is he engaging in healthy accommodation or is this dysfunction?

Let's look at another example. Let's say one person in a relationship uses drugs and the other person doesn't. The person using drugs wants his girlfriend to experience what he does when he's high, so he asks her to try cocaine with him. She is reluctant. He applies more and more pressure until she gives in and starts using drugs with him. Is this healthy accommodation or dysfunction? 6 Tips For A Better Sex Life

Let's look at a final example. A married couple seems to have everything going for them. They are upper-middle class, live in a beautiful home, attend all the important social functions and seem very happy together. However, there is a secret in their marriage. He sometimes is physically rough with her and coerces her to engage in degrading sexual acts by telling her these are his fantasies and it’s her job as his wife to fulfill his every desire. She gives him what he wants by doing as he requests. Healthy accommodation or dysfunction?

I would say the answer lies within the person accommodating. If the person accommodating still gets what he or she wants from the relationship, then it's healthy accommodation. However, if the person doing the accommodating is angry, resentful, and demoralized then the behavior is moving into the dysfunctional category. When the accommodating person in the relationship is no longer getting enough positive from the relationship to balance out the negative, then the line has been crossed into dysfunction. No one can make that determination for the person, other than the person himself. You're Unhappy But Your Partner Is Fine—What Can You Do?

If you are in a relationship and find yourself having more pain than happiness, you are likely in the dysfunction area. That is not to say it's not possible for you to move back to a healthy accommodation place. Just know that when the pain outweighs the happiness, it's time for some serious reflection. Are you compromising one or more of your deal breakers? Are you trying to make yourself someone you're not to please someone else? Are you compromising one of your important values for the sake of a relationship? Is your safety compromised in this relationship?

If this describes you, then take a long look at the health or dysfunction of your relationship. It may be time to make some serious decisions. If you are a family member or friend of someone you believe is in a dysfunctional relationship, know that no one can make that call except the person in the relationship. The Dirty Dozen! 12 Fatal Relationship Errors

You can express your concern but try not to make it your mission to get your loved one away from their relationship of choice. When you do, you tend to strengthen the bond to that dysfunctional relationship. Get help for yourself and the stress you are going through and hope your loved one will come to see what you see.

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