Knowing The Difference: Healthy Or Dysfunctional?

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good or bad
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 health12 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?

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Kim Olver

Speaker/Presenter

Kim Olver, LCPC, has been featured in Whole Living, Women's World, Fitness Magazine and Counseling Today and is the best-selling, award winning author of Secrets of Happy Couples: Loving Yourself, Your Partner, and Your Life.

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Location: Country Club Hills (Chicago), IL
Credentials: LCPC, MS, NCC
Specialties: Communication Problems, Couples/Marital Issues, Empowering Women
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