"As long as we believe that someone else
has the power to make us happy then we are setting ourselves up to be victims"
Codependence: The Dance of
Wounded Souls by Robert Burney
One of the biggest problems with relationships in this society
is that the context we approach them from is too small. We were taught
that getting the relationship is the goal.
It starts in early childhood with Fairy Tales where the Prince and the
Princess live happily-ever-after. It continues in movies and books
where "boy meets girl" "boy loses girl" "boy gets girl back" - the music
swells and the happy couple ride off into the sunset. The songs that
say "I can't smile without you" "I can't live without you"
"You are my everything" describe the type of love we learned about growing
up - toxic love - an addiction with the other person as our drug of choice,
as our Higher Power.
Any time we set another human being up to be our Higher Power we are
going to experience failure in whatever we are trying to accomplish.
We will end up feeling victimized by the other person or by our self -
and even when we feel victimized by the other person we blame our self
for the choices we made. We are set up to fail to get our needs met
in Romantic Relationships because of the belief system we were taught in
childhood and the messages we got from our society growing up.
There is no goal to reach that will bring us to happily-ever after.
We are not incomplete until we find out soul mate. We are not halves
that cannot be whole without a relationship.
True Love is not a painful obsession. It is not taking a hostage or
being a hostage. It is not all-consuming, isolating, or constricting.
Believing we can't be whole or happy without a relationship is unhealthy
and leads us to accept deprivation and abuse, and to engage in manipulation,
dishonesty, and power struggles. The type of love we learned about
growing up is an addiction, a form of toxic love.
Here is a short list of the characteristics of Love vs. toxic love (compiled
with the help of the work of Melody Beattie & Terence Gorski.)
1. Love - Development of self first priority.
Love is not supposed to be painful. There is pain involved in any relationship
but if it is painful most of the time then something is not working.
Toxic love - Obsession with relationship.
2. Love - Room to grow, expand; desire for other to grow.
Toxic love - Security, comfort in sameness; intensity of need seen
as proof of love (may really be fear, insecurity, loneliness)
3. Love - Separate interests; other friends; maintain other meaningful
Toxic love - Total involvement; limited social life; neglect old friends,
4. Love - Encouragement of each other's expanding; secure in own worth.
Toxic love - Preoccupation with other's behavior; fear of other changing.
5. Love - Appropriate Trust (i.e. trusting partner to behave according
to fundamental nature.)
Toxic love - Jealousy; possessiveness; fear of competition; protects
6. Love - Compromise, negotiation or taking turns at leading. Problem
Toxic love - Power plays for control; blaming; passive or aggressive
7. Love - Embracing of each other's individuality.
Toxic love - Trying to change other to own image.
8. Love - Relationship deals with all aspects of reality.
Toxic love - Relationship is based on delusion and avoidance of the
9. Love - Self-care by both partners; emotional state not dependent
on other's mood.
Toxic love - Expectation that one partner will fix and rescue the other.
10. Love - Loving detachment (healthy concern about partner, while letting
Toxic love - Fusion (being obsessed with each other's problems and
11. Love - Sex is free choice growing out of caring & friendship.
Toxic love - Pressure around sex due to insecurity, fear &
need for immediate gratification.
12. Love - Ability to enjoy being alone.
Toxic love - Unable to endure separation; clinging.
13. Love - Cycle of comfort and contentment.
Toxic love - Cycle of pain and despair.
There is nothing wrong with wanting a relationship - it is natural and
healthy. There is nothing wrong with wanting a relationship that
will last forever - expecting it to last forever is what is dysfunctional.
Expectations set us up to be a victim - and cause to abandon ourselves
in search of our goal.
If we can start seeing relationships not as the goal but as opportunities
for growth then we can start having more functional relationships. A relationship
that ends is not a failure or a punishment - it is a lesson.
As long as our definition of a successful relationship is one that lasts
forever - we are set up to fail. As long as we believe that we have to
have the other in our life to be happy, we are really just an addict trying
to protect our supply - using another person as our drug of choice.
That is not True Love - nor is it Loving.