A Wagon With No Wheels

couple's counseling

“She has hitched her heart to a wagon that has no wheels” – A burning bush 

Just kidding. A burning bush didn’t actually speak that to me. But man, I’d love it if I was walking along and a bush just burst into flames and out came the voice of God imparting all wisdom. No, instead it was spoken by a wise friend of mine who is full of insightful quotes.

She has hitched her heart to a wagon that has no wheels. What exactly does that mean, you might wonder. We were discussing the unfortunate predicament that another person was in by bonding with a man who can not and will not ever be an adequate romantic partner.  How often have we ourselves or know of someone who has hitched themselves to a man-wagon that is going no where? Or we can change the gender and say a man who hitched himself to a woman-wagon without wheels and therefore stuck right where she is.

What causes us humans to allow ourselves to bond with people who can not meet our basic need for love? Sometimes our desire for companionship is so great that we rationalize being in a relationship that is unhealthy. We then become willing to compromise ourselves to mold into the dysfunction. Our next step is to seek out other people who will tell us that the relationship is ok and we should proceed. If we hear negative comments about the wheel-less wagon, then we stop listening to those people and seek out others who will tell us the wagon is a good fit for us.

How do we know if we are potentially hitching our hearts to a stuck wagon or maybe even have already been connected to one for too long; waiting for wheels to materialize? A healthy relationship consists of many components but at its core there should be mutual respect for one another, open and honest communication about our strengths and weaknesses, compassion for the humanness of each partner, encouragement of the individuals maintaining personal independence to pursue hopes/goals/dreams and at the end of the day, a couple should feel like best friends that unconditionally love one another and want what is best for the other person.

If the idea of being emotionally attached to a man or woman who is going no where forward with you sounds familiar, don’t be discouraged. There are many things that can be done to help couples get moving again. However, there are times when unhitching is really the only self-respecting option left. Talk to someone who you trust and value their opinion if you think your heart might be hitched to a wagon with no wheels.  It’s a very lonely and painful experience so try not to isolate and go it alone.

Not The Weakest Link

The last blog post was titled “Weakest Link”.  We were to reflect on whether or not we are the person in our relationship that is causing the majority of the trouble. It’s my belief that one individual is usually more responsible for dragging a relationship down. That doesn’t mean that the problems are all one person’s fault entirely, but in most cases, there is one partner who is allowing his/her unresolved “issues” to rob the relationship of what God intended it to be.

What if you have taken an honest assessment and truth be told, you are not the weakest link? Then what? Well, you have options. The first step is to take a serious look at the relationship and assess the damage that the other person is doing. Secondly, get educated on the subject. Depending on what issues your partner is facing, there are a number of great books to help encourage you in self-care and if necessary, decision making.  Listed are a few of the resources that I continue to recommend to my clients:

1)      “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” by Leslie Vernick
(great book for all types of relationships, not just romantic)

2)      “Enough About You, Let’s Talk about Me” by Dr. Les Carter

3)      “Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay ” by Mira Kirshenbaum

4)      “Grace for Divorce” by Dr. Les Carter

Ok, so I know the last book recommendation may cause a little stir among some in the religious crowd. Am I an advocate for divorce? Not at all. Am I willing to look at divorce as an option for a spouse who is in an abusive relationship with no hope for improvement? Yes I am.  Before that option is considered, I strongly feel that every effort should and must be made to improve the marriage. Also, the stronger partner must try to chart out a high quality life even while remaining married to the weaker link.  However, if emotional and/or physical safety is an issue, a spouse has the right and duty to care for himself/herself , and any children that are involved.

Something can only be fixed when both parties are willing. However, if you find yourself in the position of not being the weakest link, don’t despair. There is hope. Not only do many people change, but God came to give you an abundant life and He knows who you are married to. God’s ability to bless you isn’t disqualified by your spouse and his/her weaknesses.

Weakest Link

I am not sure who said it, but I remember hearing a speaker share that a relationship between two people is only as healthy as the weakest person. Ouch. Nobody wants to be the weaker link in a relationship. But sometimes we are and we need to be honest about that fact.

While working with married couples, I rarely state that the conflicts are caused equally by both spouses. I believe that the idea of 50/50 responsibility for the problems within the relationship is a myth. No, my experience tells me that there is usually one partner who is dragging the relationship down more than the other partner. It’s not blame, just the reality of what I have seen.

Within our relationships, if we are ones who are struggling with chronic depression, then we may be bringing a grey cloud over the relationship and our lives together. If we are prone to angry outbursts, we are welcoming unnecessary strife and wounds into our relationship. If selfishness has taken residence within us and we operate out of a hardened heart, we are definitely not able to be a loving participant within any relationship in our lives.

It’s always a good idea to take an inventory of the baggage we may be bringing with us. Being aware really is the first step to change.

Family Changers

The Lord gave me an interesting picture in my spirit recently. I was talking with a client about how hard it is to be a “family changer.” In my private practice, I specialize in family therapy and because of that, I see adults who want to heal from negative experiences from their childhood and teenage years. No longer do they want to continue in the toxic direction that was role modeled to them by the previous generations. Family changers want to experience inner healing for themselves, but they also want to learn to relate to those around them in a healthier way.

The picture the Lord gave me was that of a water channel. When water travels in the same direction, the reinforcements on the sides do not have to be strong. They are just there to keep the stream moving in the same direction. However, if midstream the water needs to be diverted in a different direction, then the side of the channel where the water is pushing against must be reinforced and stronger. There is a lot of pressure pushing up against that one section.

Toxic families can be like the downstream water. Pressure to keep the status quo, pressure to keep the family secrets, pressure to not discuss problems. The family member who decides to deal with generational curses and bondage will need to be reinforced in order to send his or her family in a different direction. Just like with real water, once a family is re-directed, the pressure is lessened and things flow easier in the new direction.

If you find yourself in the role of a family changer, be proud of yourself. It’s not easy to change the path that a family has been going for many generations, but it is well worth the effort. Don’t forget to find support within your community of friends and healthy family members who can encourage the new direction you are headed in.

Domestic Violence and Teenagers

Domestic violence is an issue that many people believe only happens within adult relationships, but sadly it frequently occurs in relationships involving teens. The issues of power, control and manipulation are not restricted to adults. I was reminded this week that the lasting affects of teen violence is that it produces young women who believe lies about themselves, men and utlimately about God as well. Teaching young women how to live balanced lives is a very important step in equipping them to resist violence in their relationships.

As adult women, we need to be positive role models of not allowing our romantic relationships to become all consuming of our time and attention. We need to show young women how to have healthy girlfriend relationships, how to spend quality time alone and how to hunger after God’s will for our lives. Teen girls that tolerate violence in their relationships have often made a boyfriend their primary social support. They isolate from their girlfriends, spend less time with family members and stop particpating in hobbies that they once enjoyed. Their world revolves around their boyfriend and that is where trouble can begin. As parents, let us be sure that our daugthers understand what a balanced life should look like and help her to attain that for herself – even if she resists.