“I don’t want to be in another relationship….ever.” This is one of the most common statements I hear from clients, as they move forward in their healing and that makes sense. Who would want to engage in something that was so painful and traumatic?
Relationships with emotional manipulators often cause addictive-like behaviors in their targets, with the extreme highs and the extreme lows and the feelings of powerlessness and the inability to stop the obsessive thoughts and feelings.
Once an alcoholic or a drug addict has kicked their habit they can never engage with it again as the law of addiction tells us that any re-engagement with the substance (or person in this case) will cause automatic re-addition. When you quit your addiction, it must be forever, or else you run the risk of becoming a slave to it once more. This is why, “No Contact” is recommended for these types of relationships.
For a Codependent, in conjunction with having a dysfunctional sense of self, comes an inability to maintain their identity in a relationship. So, the idea of immersing themselves in a relationship is akin to playing with fire. For some people, choosing not to engage in relationships ever again, allows them to maintain their independence and a sense of control over their lives.
It is usually a good idea to remain single while one goes through the healing process. It’s here where one learns how to be comfortable with being alone, the fundamentals of self-care and how to be autonomous in all areas of life. It is normal to have one’s guard up and create a form of emotional armor to protect themselves from further hurt and most of my clients indicate that they do go through this phase of self-imposed ‘singledom’ while they work on themselves.
Remaining single for the rest of their lives does work for some, it only becomes unhealthy when it is done from a place of fear. Being healthy means being open to possibilities, while at the same time, trusting yourself to make the right call at the right time.
What Healthy Looks Like
It’s similar to the aspect of learning how to eat a healthy diet. Unlike other addictions one simply cannot just stop eating. You have to learn, first and foremost, what good nutrition is – just like in relationships you have to learn what a healthy relationship is.
With a little help from Melody Beatty I’ve compiled a list of healthy relationship behaviors:
- Development of self is the top priority for both
- There is room for each other’s growth and the desire to change is accepted and encouraged
- Both have separate interests, hobbies, friends and activities they enjoy outside of the relationship
- Each are secure in their own worth and do not require the other to confirm or validate them
- There is reciprocity, compromise and appropriate trust
- Relationship is based on reality
- Acceptance of each other as they are
- Each partner practices self-care
- Both enjoy periods of being alone
- There is no guess work or mixed messages, there is consistent love, kindness and respect
- Dependability, responsibility and maturity
I would add a good dose of humor, as well and the ability to joke and tease each other, without fear of the other taking offense or lashing out. The happiest couples, I’ve witnessed, tend to always look for the humor in everything, rather than reasons to be offended.
In addition to having a cognitive understanding of the physical behaviors of a healthy relationship, there also needs to be an emotional shift in perception, before one undertakes a new relationship.
My big A-Ha moment, pertaining to my diet, came with the realization that what I put in my mouth had a direct correlation to how I felt about myself. The same holds true for relationships, pun intended. I stopped punishing myself and sabotaging myself with food and relationships. When I learned to love myself, I stopped doing things that would cause me harm. I wanted to treat myself well, I wanted to do things that were good for me and made me feel good and that became my driving force.
I broke the childhood tape, that kept trying to bring me back to a place of hurt and I learned to trust myself, that not only would I recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy, but that I would act on it too. Once you reach that place, the tools to make decisions that are in your best interest, are in place and you should be able to date again without fear, if that is your choice. Though there is a certain charm to being single, I think the motto of any healthy single person should be, “Yes, I’m single and you’re going to have to be pretty fantastic to change that.”