Why We Have Dysfunctional Relationships and Families
A Marriage, Family Therapist reveals some important insights as to why we have problems in our relationships and families. She also offers ways we can prevent and heal common dysfunctional patterns.
"I just want my husband home at night," cried Diane. Why does he stay out so late? He never takes me anywhere anymore. When I do see him in the mornings, he is nice to me and gives me money to spend. But I feel so rejected and lonely!"
Every night after his restaurant closed, Stan went out on the town with his friends and returned early the next morning just to sleep. He avoided spending time with his wife and neglected the children as well. "The children are your job," Stan continued to tell Diane. "My only responsibility is to make the money to support everyone." This is the typical mistake many men make in relationships. They often learn by their father's modeling that they have to give their loved ones money but not themselves.
A family session with the four children revealed their hurt. The son asked his Dad to play sports with him. The daughters wanted him to spend time with them too. They believed that they were not important to him. When Stan said they were, I reminded him that action speaks louder than words. The expression on his face showed me that he knew I was speaking the truth.
In a private session with Stan, I discovered that his father was always working and he rarely saw him. His mother often kicked him out of the house to play with his friends. He hated her for it and recalls wandering the streets with no place to go. When I asked Stan to imagine that his mother was in front of him and to tell her how he feels, he replied, "I feel nothing for my mother." He had numbed his feelings to cope with them. Stan projected the negative feelings he had towards his mother onto his wife. This is a classic pattern that I have discovered in clients. We don't even see our partners clearly until we heal our childhood wounds with our parents, and sometimes also our grandparents and siblings.
Ironically even though his wife wants him home, Stan is still living his life out of the house and playing with his peers. He felt so rejected by his parents that he shut down his heart in order to survive in his dysfunctional family. Unfortunately, this is a common defense mechanism that helps us survive but not live loving, fulfilling lives. A healthy relationship requires an open heart to express love and caring. But Stan could not because it hurt too much, even though he seemed to be very unhappy and extremely stressed.
To run away from his pain, the entrepreneur was a major workaholic. Being in his own home was painful for him because it reminded him of his childhood rejection. Unconsciously, he did not feel welcome there. His childhood was filled with years of running around outside the home and that is what he is still doing now as a 38-year-old husband and father. Stan is stuck with his childhood negative beliefs and behaviors. So are most people who are not behaving in constructive ways.
As was done to him, Stan is neglecting the emotional needs of his loved ones. Ironically, we often do to our children what we hated or resented when we were growing up. That is because we are programmed how to be by their modeling. We are not born knowing how to be a loving wife, mother, husband, or father. Our schools neglect helping us with our self-esteem, and teaching us the keys to successful relationships and parenting. That is a crime because it often leads to emotional and physical abuse and divorces.
In this case, as with all, it sure looks like Diane is the victim. Quite the contrary, Diane's dysfunctional childhood wounded her too. In fact, as typically the case, her dysfunctional behavior fits perfectly with Stan's. Diane's parents were in their late 40's when she was born. This was not a pregnancy they had planned.
Diane felt devastated when she was told that she was not wanted and sent to her older sister's home. Her self-esteem was very low, and her hurt heart caused her to push away the man she loved. It was difficult for anyone to be around her negativity. That fed Stan's desire to be away and seek pleasure from people who were positive. His absence caused her to be more negative. This pattern is a common vicious cycle.
To assist this family, I counseled the children to help them raise their self-esteem, and to realize that their parents never meant to hurt them. It was like they each had a broken leg and could not be expected to run. Emotionally their parents' were "broken." I also worked with Diane to heal her wounds from the past and she is becoming much more positive and sensitive to her children's emotional needs. I pointed out how she was affecting the children by saying the same hurtful things that were expressed to her when she was growing up. I also encouraged her to do the things she loved and to stop depending on her husband for her happiness.
Unfortunately, Stan is still running away from his negative childhood experiences by spending most of his time with his business and friends. Until he is ready to release his emotional pain, his behavior is unlikely to change. As a Marriage and Family therapist, I can only help people who are ready to heal their issues so that they can be a loving partner and parent. It often takes a tragedy for people to wake up. Hopefully, Stan will find the courage to face and overcome his pain before that happens. His children at least now have some understanding of the causes of their parents' problems. There is a possibility that they will be different with their spouses and children and have healthier and happier families.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Copyright 2008 by Helene Rothschild, MS, MA, MFT, Marriage, Family Therapist, speaker, and author of "ALL YOU NEED IS HART! Create Love, Joy and Abundance~NOW." A Unique Guide to Holistic And Rapid Transformation. She offers international phone sessions, books, e-books, MP3 audios, teleclasses, and a free MP3 Audio, "Healing Your Body," E-book, "Truths Set You Free," and newsletter. http://www.lovetopeace.com , 1-888-639-6390.