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Email michael @relationshipthrive.org 

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Don't wait for things to improve on their own, it doesn't work that way.

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Moving Families Forward

Families are the most amazing and complicated organisms in creation. Anything made up of two or more people is filled with interesting and challenging elements. Numerous healthy and unhealthy things can occur in a family system depending on the level of function or dysfunction in each individual member.

Now let's stop here for just a moment.

I just used the word dysfunction. Please understand what this term means before you shut it out. No one wants to have this term attached to them - dysfunctional families are the stuff of psychiatrists and situation comedies - or so we've been conditioned to believe. I was in a health club recently, talking to a couple about moving to the Next Level in relationship. The man said, "you're looking in the wrong place... people who need that stuff (relationship help) are hanging out in the bar down the street, not the health club."

Many don't want to admit there is some level of struggle in all families, all marriages, all relationships.

So let's interpret the term dysfunction so there is no misunderstanding. According to MerriamWebster, dysfunction is abnormal or unhealthy interpersonal behavior or interaction within a group. Experts say some 95% of families are dysfunctional. How can this be?

Think of it in this way: I looked at two different cars on a car lot, one has a headlight that doesn't function and the other has a transmission that doesn't function. Which of these two cars is dysfunctional? One of them? Both of them? Or neither? If you said neither, you are in denial about the car's problems. If you said one of them you misunderstand the term. If you said both cars are dysfunctional, you see things clearly. Both cars have some level of dysfunction, one more serious than the other. Both cars have a problem that needs attention that can greatly improve the value and enjoyment of the car.

Sometimes we are more willing to invest in our automobiles than in our relationships, even when we see the problems.

Realize -- relationships aren't fixed like automobiles, but they can be shaped like pottery and healed when wounded.

Many families need to get some new tools and break some old rules of relating so that they can begin to really Thrive together. I would enjoy planning with you about how we could move to the next level in your family. I would love to join you in discovering some Fresh Movement so you might realize what Family can really mean.

  • Working out the kinks
  • Tools, techniques, approaches
  • Solid support and structure for growth
  • Setting and achieving meaningful Goals

Qualities of a Healthy Family

  • A healthy family Communicates and Listens
    • Parents display an example of an equal, open, honest relationship.
    • Family listens and responds to each other
    • They encourage individual feelings and independent thinking
    • They recognize shut-downs and put-downs and halt them
    • They develop positive patterns of reconciliation
    • Family discovers real faith and honest spirituality
  • A healthy family affirms and supports one another
    • Parents understand their purpose and live within their roles
    • Everyone is expected to affirm and support others
    • Family's normal mood is positive and relaxed
    • Family allows and supports everyone's involvement
  • A healthy family teaches respect for others
    • They respect individuality within the family
    • They encourage self-respect
    • They show respect for others whether they agree or not
    • They respect authority
    • The family respects the property of others
  • A healthy family develops a strong bond of trust
    • Husband and wife trust deeply and are trustworthy
    • Children are given opportunities to earn trust
    • Family members don't manipulate to get their way
    • The family realizes that broken trust can be mended
    • The family lives by their word as their bond
  • A healthy family is playful and humorous
    • They remember their need for play time
    • They stay aware of their stress level
    • They don't equate play with spending money
    • They use humor positively, being cautious about sarcasm
  • More healthy qualities to come...


Symptoms of an Unhealthy Family - Destructive Rules

In an unhealthy family, there are common elements always present. There are three rules at work in some way:

  • Don't Talk
  • Don't Trust
  • Don't Feel
    • Every family uses some of these rules some of the time
    • Some families use some of these rules all of the time
    • Some families use all of these rules some of the time
    • Some families use all of these rules all of the time

Don't Talk Rule

The Don't Talk Rule says, 'It is against family rules for you to tell anyone outside or inside the family about family problems.'

  • Don't Talk to anyone Outside the family

Most families want to portray to the outside world that they are healthy and together. The bigger the difference between the real family situation and the one presented to the outside world - the more pressure family members experience to keep family problems a secret. Here are some of the messages communicated to family members about Don't Talk:

    • Every family has problems; let other families solve their problems, we'll solve our own
    • There is no one outside the family who can help us
    • You have to protect the family name
    • Don't betray the family by telling others about our problems
    • We are special, no one would understand us anyway

 

  • Don't Talk to anyone Inside the family

Usually there is a dominant member within the unhealthy family who can pretty much say and do whatever they want to. Yet other members must not talk about the difficulties or ask any hard questions about the dominant person's words, actions, or problems. Here are some of the messages communicated to family members about Don't Talk:

    • Don't ask questions, someone might get upset
    • Don't ask about your father, he's doing the best he can
    • Mind your own business
    • Mother is under a lot of stress, leave her alone
    • Don't rock the boat
    • This is how he is, just get used to it
    • Don't talk behind you brother's back
    • Unspoken messages to keep quiet: facial expressions, motions or the cold shoulder

Check Your Family

  • How often is Don't Talk used in your family?
  • Are you able to talk openly with other members of your family about the problems in your family? If yes, who do you usually talk with about these problems?
  • Do you feel free to talk with someone outside the family about struggles going on within the family? If yes, how often and with whom do you talk? If no, do you feel guilty when you think of sharing family problems with an outsider? If so, why do you feel guilty?
  • What are some of your family secrets?

 

     More On Unhealthy Rules

 


Symptoms of an Unhealthy Family - Destructive Roles

In an unhealthy family there are other common elements present. Unhealthy Roles are produced within a family that relates poorly. In an unbalanced home, family members often adopt roles to cope with the difficult living environment. The unbalance could be caused by:

  • Constant and disrespectful family arguments
  • Minimal family interactions
  • An alcoholic or substance-abusing parent
  • A chronically angry parent
  • A neglectful or absent parent (possibly due to divorce or separation)
  • A physically, sexually, or emotionally-abusing parent

If a significant, positive change doesn't happen, then family members unknowingly cope with the problem situation by giving up their identity. When they do they also stop developing into the person they were designed to be.

What kind of Unhealthy Roles Do We Play?

The Scapegoat

The Scapegoat is the member of the family who takes on the role of the "blamed one." An unhealthy family is usually frustrated and tends to find someone to blame things on and take out anger and frustration on. Some scapegoats willingly accept the blame and abuse, believing that somehow taking the abuse may hold the family together.

The Rebel

The Rebel is the one who acts out family problems in a loud and destructive way. Some rebels are so angry they don't care who they hurt. Others are crying out for help, hoping someone will rescue their family. Often, the family is convinced that if only this rebel would get fixed, the whole family would be fine. In all of their acting out and pain, rebels may actually be the most in touch with the family problems.

     More On Unhealthy Roles

  • The Clown or Mascot
  • The Lost Child
  • The Fixer
  • The Enabler


Please contact me to discuss any of the above relationship issues. I'm glad to answer any questions and ready to schedule a complimentary Explore Meeting to figure out what we could accomplish together. Family is a most important issue in all of life - why not make a solid investment in yours.