RELATIONAL LESSONS IN ACTIVITY FORM
by Wilma Luimes
NB: Relationship dysfunction gradually progresses and can move into extreme circumstances. Thus the case studies are designed to illustrate and teach a pattern of functioning and are fictional, but plausible. Any similarities or resemblances to real people, living or dead, or circumstances are entirely coincidental. Given that mild case studies of dysfunctional behaviours are likely to appear ‘normal’ to some readers the activity book leans toward clearer examples of dysfunctional behaviours that may seem somewhat extreme to some readers.
LOVE THAT COUNTS
RELATIONAL LESSONS IN ACTIVITY FORM
Copyright © 2017 Wilhelmina Luimes
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ISBN PDF Version – 978-0-620-74568-0
ISBN print version – 978-0-620-74527-7
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Thanks to the following organizations / persons for permission to reproduce content:
Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™
power. (n.d). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved January 3, 2017 from Dictionary.com website. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/power
Danesin, Kim (2016) The CASE OF NATALIE, not previously published.
Luimes, Wilma. (2015) Love that Counts. A Journey of Healing through the Heartache of Destructive Relationships. Johannesburg; Zanadu Printing.
PART 1: A God Truth – Relational Wellness
PART 2: Healthy Versus Unhealthy Relationships
PART 3: Understanding the Luimes Relational Spectrum®
PART 4: The Luimes Relational Spectrum® in Practice
PART 5: Relationships from God’s Perspective
“You suck, Mom!” my daughter tells me rolling her eyes and shaking her head. Yes, that is the sound of raising a teenager. Music to my ears. Face it. By virtue of being a parent, we all are going to have to ‘suck’ sometimes. It means I am on track and taking my role as parent seriously.
“Yes,” I respond. “But not just any suck. High level suck, Babes.” I tell her. “Your Mom makes ‘suck’ an art form. So aren’t you lucky.” She rolls her eyes again.
I have just cut the cord off the television and once again have her attention. Yes off.
See no hassle about enforcing the no watching television punishment. There is just no television. I am not even sure that I can fix it. But in the interim, I am just not having a child living in my house making her own rules, living by them and reaping the benefits and privileges of living in my house… without consequences? No, not going to happen!
Every once in a while; parenting requires a trip to crazy town. So she’s mad and Mom’s crazy and that is how it will stay until the relationship returns back into the green zone.
The thing is; she’s not my friend. She’s my daughter. And that makes me the boundary patrol. As a parent who loves her dearly I need to give her what she needs not what she wants and what she needs right now is a wake-up call.
I have two years before she needs to go into the world and be capable of making all her own decisions. My role as a parent of this child is nearing completion and so the question is, will I pass the test?
Will I have taught her what she needs to know to manoeuvre her world successfully? Have I equipped her with the ability to say ‘no’ when ‘no’ is needed and to have the courage to live her dream and the life that she has been created for.
Have I invested enough in the relationship such that I will still have some input into her life and be a valued advisor when she needs some counsel? So that even when I no longer hold power over her world, I still hold a position of influence in her life.
Have I taught her that she is valuable and precious so that the people who enter her life treat her with respect? Have I taught her to treat other people with dignity and respect? Have I allowed her the space to grow, love and to shine?
Have I made a sufficient investment in her potential and honoured the God who created her by ensuring that the talents He gave her were developed and encouraged during the time she was entrusted to me?
I suppose the jury is still out at this point. But ultimately, that about sums up the role of parents. And the desired outcome would be a ‘yes’ on all accounts. I hope so. But that’s not to say the parenting journey is easy.
The reality is, however, that if you were well parented you have an advantage over someone who does not have a strong relationship with their parents. Parenting has a lot to do with what you know at an emotional level. And sometimes what we know is just not going to give us the desired results.
The greatest contribution and change you can make to someone’s life is to recognise a value in them that they have not yet seen in themselves.
So I dare you to test the health of some of your relationships and keep score… Don’t worry, it’s not that painful…
The truth is we do relationships based on what we have inadvertently learned through childhood at an emotional level, which is usually a mixed bag of tricks and unclear messages about what love is or what it should be. Sadly, often we cannot find what we are looking for because we don’t know what love actually looks like. So as a result of my experience in both functional and dysfunctional relationships, I wrote a book called Love that Counts, a Journey of Healing through Destructive Relationships to teach people intellectually what we ‘unconsciously know’ emotionally and what the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships actually are. This book is its practical complement. Both add insight into what relationships were intended to be, and tell a tale of how wrong relationships can get when they function with unclear and moveable boundaries…
Often we are totally unaware of how we function relationally simply because what we know is the norm (‘our default zone’). ‘Normal’ to ourselves anyway. But that may not be true for the rest of the world. The truth is functional and dysfunctional relationships have different rules and function very differently, as we will soon discover…
Think of one person with whom you have a relationship and complete the following activity by answering the questions ‘true’ or ‘false’ in accordance with the realities of that relationship.
1. Most of the decisions 70%+ in this relationship are made by one party.
2. I find that the other person has something valuable to offer and seek their input as often as I can.
3. We laugh together often.
4. I am quick to react to something I see going wrong and correct even when I may not have all the details.
5. Negative feedback in the relationship is intended to be constructive.
6. I am free to say what I like to this person.
7. Some of my most enjoyable memories are with and of this person.
8. We can work together well.
9. The swearing in this relationship is personal. “You #*&%…”
10. When I have free time, if I can, I choose to spend it with this person because I want to.
11. This person adds tangible value to my life.
12. Maintaining this relationship is hard work.
Scoring: If your answer matches the below answers, give yourself ‘5’ points. If your answer is opposite to the below answer, add ‘0’ points to your score. If the relationship tested is a parent-child relationship and the child is less than 12 years of age, omit question 1 and the total score is out of 55. If the relationship tested is an employee / employer relationship, omit question 1 and 10 and the total score is out of 50.
ANSWERS – 1. False, 2. True, 3. True, 4. False, 5. True, 6. True, 7. True, 8. True, 9. False, 10. True, 11. True, 12. False.
Add the scoring amounts to find a total score out of 60.
Now try the previous exercise again, with a different person with whom you also have a relationship and repeat the scoring process again.
Scores higher than 45 (45 for parent / child and 40 for employee / employer) indicate a relative well-being in the relationship, scores less than 35 are of serious concern… an indication of low levels of relational health and well-being.
Vastly different scores mean you have a high variety of relationship types in your world. Some much more healthier than others. Two low scores indicate that your relational well-being is probably being compromised and negatively impacting other areas of your life too.
People function in different roles in each of their relationships. The scores have probably told you that already. The greater variety in the scores, the more likely you have fluid boundaries in your relationships. Fluid boundaries, which we will talk about a little bit later… tend to increase your struggles in relationship and decrease your sense of well-being.
A GOD TRUTH – RELATIONAL WELLNESS
God wants you to enjoy healthy relationships. His plan for your life includes healthy relationships and his story of salvation was intended to help us understand what that means. More than that, God truths apply to relationships and whether or not you believe in God, you can benefit from understanding those relational truths. It’s a principle that stands regardless of whether you understand and credit the source from where it came.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
In my experience, this relational truth is seldom actively taught within a church environment which is a tragedy as it is fundamental to the Christian faith. At the fall, sin entered the world which is manifest in the breakdown in relationship between God and humanity, between humanity themselves, male and female, between creation and humanity and humanity with him or herself. Sin is the breakdown of relationship. Jesus Christ, God’s only Son was sent into the world to restore those relationships.
“To the woman he said. ‘I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.”
NB: The inequality between male and female is as a result of sin not God’s design for relationship. Men are not called to ‘rule over’ women but to be in ‘relationship with’. Gender inequality is a curse not a divine order. Notice while it is often argued that the gender inequality resulting from sin is evidence of divine order, no one has ever proposed that the other results of sin were part of a divine plan. Namely that fields should grow weeds, we should toil excessively and we all should die.
The Luimes Relational theory® states that “A relationship consists of continuous giving and receiving. Each person [party] serving as a counterbalance for the other” (Luimes, 2015, p.49). But really, what does that mean exactly? It means that no matter what relationship you find yourself in, it is characterised by giving and receiving. There is a proportional level of connectedness, interdependence and mutual exchange that has a direct impact on the well-being of each person in the relationship. An employee, employer relationship for example; you go to work, do the activity referred to as your job and in return your employer pays you. A give and receive relationship. In a marriage there is also a give and receive relationship, and even in an abusive relationship; if one party physically harms the other party, the receiving party has the bruises equivalent to the force used. Give and receive, albeit a dysfunctional give and receive. In return, by virtue of remaining in that relationship you give the other party the opportunity to hurt you again. A continuous cycle of giving and receiving.
All relationships are characterised by giving and receiving. The choice to discontinue that relationship breaks the cycle of giving and receiving which marks the end of that relationship. A change in the purpose (reason for the existence) of the relationship also impacts the level of giving and receiving and sometimes practically does not have the desired impact on the level or the health of giving and receiving. Moving from wife to ex-wife in my life didn’t break the dysfunctional giving and receiving dynamic in the relationship as there was a child involved, it simply altered the significance of the relationship in our lives and its potential impact.
HEALTHY VERSUS UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS
We have created a society that increasingly functions with blurred boundaries under which relationships are conducted. The line between healthy and unhealthy relationships are continuously violated making it more and more difficult to determine the relative health of a relationship. But there are seven key areas that can provide us with a better understanding of relational dynamics. And so healthy relationships:
• Engage in WIN – WIN negotiation – Decisions in the relationship are inclusive and not exclusive and made in such a way as to value both parties in the relationship. There may be compromises or hard choices, but never a loser or a decision that has been made at the expense of someone.
• Have Fluid LEADER – FOLLOWER dynamics – The role of leader and follower is fluid in the relationship depending upon the party’s strengths and weaknesses. No one can know it all and everyone has strengths and weaknesses. A healthy relationship leverages the strengths of both parties to the benefit of those in the relationship.
• Use a language of VALUE not POWER – A healthy relationship recognises the value each party in the relationship holds regardless of the level of power they might have at the time. Power seeks to make the other party small through fear and control. Value seeks to empower the other person and lift them up. Power positioning changes with time, value should not.
• Have Well Defined BOUNDARIES – A healthy relationship recognises that there are boundaries which protect the well-being of both parties in the relationship and the violation of those boundaries causes the relationship to breakdown. Never is one’s conduct at the expense of the other party in the relationship. Name calling, swearing, derogatory remarks, forcing one’s will on someone else, etc. have no space in a healthy relationship.
• Exists on a CONTINUUM – A healthy relationship continues in the same place regardless of time spent apart. Each party should not change their position in the relationship without valid reason or explanation. One should not have to ‘check the mood’ of the other before the relationship can continue…
• Utilise HISTORY as a point of REFERENCE – A healthy relationship always interprets communication in relation to what is known about the other person in the relationship. History, not perception, determines one’s understanding of current circumstance and forms the basis for an appropriate response – not reaction.
• Are EMOTIONALLY Connected – A healthy relationship allows the parties in the relationship to experience life emotionally connected with oneself, other people and the world around them. Living emotionally connected is key to living and experiencing the joy of a balanced and healthy relationship.
The key to good parenting (consider the source) is to know that it is of paramount importance that your children think you have at least one screw loose… and the others well on their way!
Let’s face it; parenting in today’s world is much more difficult than twenty years ago. So in a crazy world, I say, bring out the crazy parent.
There are arguments that I simply do not engage in at my house. Dressing modestly is simply an expectation. So the rule of thumb is this; “you may wear whatever you like, provided your mother can pick you up from high school wearing the same outfit”.
There is no negotiation here. It is simply a threat I am willing to carry out and embarrassment is a two way street.
Let’s face it; no teenager wants their Mom showing up at school in hot pants and bare midriff. It may be more socially acceptable on a teenager, but let’s face it, after gravity has been pulling on the backside for a while, stretch marks and cellulite … well…, I am sure you get the picture.
That being said, it brings a whole other level of excitement about becoming a grandmother!
Imagine the kids addressing my future grandson. “Hey… hey man. Is that your Grandma wit’ a blue Mohawk?”
So here’s to miniskirts on droopy bottoms, hot pants and varicose veins and a daughter who will probably threaten her children with Grandma someday.
UNDERSTANDING THE LUIMES RELATIONAL SPECTRUM®
The Luimes Theory of Relational Dynamics® states that “a relationship consists of continuous giving and receiving. Each person [party] serving as a counterbalance for the other” (Luimes 2015, p.49). Illustrated by the diagram below, healthy relationships exist in the green circle referred to as the green zone and seek to build and uplift each party in the relationship as opposed to breakdown which is red-zone (dysfunctional) behaviour; pictured as the red rings. The boundaries (yellow) are the points in the relationship where the activities of the relationship are continued at the expense of one of the parties in the relationship.
The further away from the centre of the relational spectrum, in the red zone, the more destructive a relationship gets; finally resulting in loss of life at its most extreme. Bullying for example, exists in the first two levels of red zone, ‘implied violence’ and ‘verbal violence’ of the dominant party causing the recipient to be pushed into the ‘self-censorship’ and ‘fear suppression’ levels of self-compromise. Any two parties in a relationship are always at the same level opposite the other party, equal distance away from the centre point. So an individual experiencing ‘physical violence’ will be functioning in the ‘survival / coping’ level of the spectrum as per the rings on the diagram below (Luimes, 2015, p.266).
Each relationship level in the red zone (dysfuntional and unhealthy) is experienced as follows:
• Self Censorship – monitoring of self, walking on egg shells, desire to be elsewhere, keeping peace, trying to please, self-doubt, stress, desire for change, …
• Fear Suppression – justify and excuse behaviour of the other party, override own feelings about the relationship, trying desperately to live up to the expectations of the other party, a feeling of being crazy, …
• Survival / Coping – inability to feel or express emotions, excessive pleasing behaviours, goal is to get through today without a relational crisis, delayed emotional responses, longing for things to end, …
• Self Surrender – suicidal, desire for things to end, no feeling; just existing, hopelessness, less and less connected with self and everyone else, planning the how to kill oneself, …
• Implied Violence – accusations, manipulation, name calling, derogatory comments, lies, threat of punishment, swearing, actions designed to punish, isolation tactics (keeping one from forming or maintaining other relationships), using or withholding sex to manipulate, …
• Verbal Violence – threats, actions that imply violence without contact i.e. Placing a gun on the night table after an argument, intentional denying of needs: food, clothing, …
• Physical Violence – (a) pushing, pinning, hair pulling, dragging, slapping, punching, choking, actions that imply violence with contact,… (b) violence with weapons of any sort, …
• Sexual Violence – any violent act of a sexual nature, rape, molestation, forced sexual acts, …
Contrary to popular opinion, life is a complex interwoven experience of different relationships and we are all born as followers who learn to lead. We also learn an emotional and relational ‘know-how’ based on the environment in which we grow-up. A pattern of relational behaviour we use to navigate the world. If you had the luxury of being born into a functional family (green zone functioning), your ability to manage and keep healthy relationships in society is much higher than someone who has been born into a family that is characterised by red-zone or dysfunctional relational dynamics. Children who have not had the opportunity to learn healthy relationship functioning from home, need to learn it somewhere else and the opportunities may be limited or nonexistent.
Growing up in the red-zone of the Luimes Relational Spectrum® means that either you have learned to earn your love and function predominantly on the self-compromising side of the spectrum or you have learned to demand your love and function on the dominant side of the spectrum, neither of which create a dynamic that will result in a healthy relationship as relationships conducted at this level are carried out at someone’s expense. (For a more detailed psychological explanation refer to the book: Love that Counts. A Journey of Healing through Destructive Relationships).
It is important that while you recognise where you are functioning, you allow yourself a measure of grace as you have been taught your emotional functioning and did not choose it. All your life you have been given messages about your value. There is a saying that says, ‘you teach someone how to treat you’ and that is partially true. The flip side is that someone else taught you how much you’re worth.
Following is a choice; not a must. A leader’s capacity to accomplish their vision is follower dependent. Follower’s power lies in whether they choose follow.
THE LUIMES RELATIONAL SPECTRUM® IN PRACTICE
Understanding the Luimes Relational Spectrum® takes some practice and application, so try the following exercise.
Read the Scenario Below and Respond to the Questions that follow.
Sarah, 12 years old, was caught kissing and making out with some boy on the school premises. Her father found out and was so angry he stormed the school grounds and humiliated his daughter in front of her friends going so far as to take off his belt and give her a hiding.
1. Identify the key issues at play in this scenario
2. Using the Luimes Relational Spectrum, identify the roles Sarah is playing
3. How do those roles affect the decisions Sarah is making?
4. What do we know about Sarah that should form the basis of an appropriate response to the incident by her teachers?
ANSWERS 1. A father’s perceived right to control his daughters body, usage of fear and power. 2. Sarah is functioning in survival / coping level of self-compromise which is the counter balance of physical violence (the position held by her father). 3. In that position Sarah has learned to earn her love which is why Sarah is susceptible to boys demanding their love causing her to compromise herself in her relationships with peers her own age too. Her father taught her to earn love in a relationship characterised by power not value, which is why she engages in relationships that compromise her value. 4. Sarah needs to have her value affirmed, to empower her to make better choices for herself. Unfortunately the beating will only make the ‘love’ given by boys who want to use her more desirable than the ‘love’ of her father that seeks to punish, control and devalue her. One ‘love’ feels better in the short term but both are ultimately destructive.
Your emotional functioning is the place on the spectrum you relate in most often. It is usually a reflection of the emotional functioning of the relationships closest to you. The relationships that you maintained over the longest period of time in which you assumed a role or a way of functioning. That is normally your default zone. A relational position where you know the rules and expectations.
Knowing however, does not necessarily make it a healthy place to be, even though it may feel the most comfortable (familiar) for you… as it may be at your expense or the expense of others. Your default zone is likely to be the role you have experienced most (grew up being) or its reciprocal position because that is what you grew up watching; Those are the relational dynamics that you are most familiar with. Relationships that function at a different place on the spectrum are likely to ‘feel uncomfortable’. Like you don’t know the rules.
• Are reactionary and operate in the here and now with no reference to what should be known about the other party and are quick to violate boundaries.
• Memories are stored incidentally as a result of a high stress environment and not on an emotional continuum
• Are characterised by chaos with no historical reference point.
• Tend to be stagnant in their assumed roles not allowing room for strengths and weaknesses – one leader, one follower
• Are power focused – discussions and conflict are intended to increase power and control in the relationship.
• Have a win-lose pattern of relational functioning – conflict is used to create a winner and loser and establish the dominant and self compromising positions in the relationship, not increase understanding, flexibility and harmony.
• Are destructive by nature, both to the relationship and the parties in the relationship
• Result in low self-esteem, inability to feel and express emotion, win-lose functioning, disconnectedness, dissatisfaction, anger, etc.
• Cause relational breakdown and destruction either to self or to the other party in the relationship
Read the Scenario Below and Respond to the Questions that follow.
“I wish I’d done it differently… No, I wish I hadn’t done it at all. It was the worst thing I’ve ever done, but, I didn’t have a choice.” Natalie Graham testified from the witness stand.
“How did you not have a choice?” the prosecutor asked.
“He was going to steal and sell my own children if I didn’t find him replacements… he was going to take my children from me… I swear to you I wouldn’t have done it if I’d had a choice.”
“Why didn’t you report him to the police?”
“I was afraid for my life and my family’s life. I couldn’t risk him finding out. He stays in our house.”
I met him in the park. It was beautiful. The sky was bright blue, spotted with pure white puffy clouds. He asked me out for coffee and I thought he was nice, charming even. It was only later that he showed me his true colours… after we were married.
I thought I had finally found someone who would be better than my father. My entire dating life was like a repeat of my relationship with my father. They would shout, grab me, hit me, sometimes more. But with Jack, it was different. He was nice. He never did anything to hurt me – never grabbed me or pulled my hair, nothing – he was nothing like what I was used to.
When I was young I learnt that my place was in the corner, silent, never drawing attention to myself. And if I did, my father would take me into the wash room and beat me, he would accuse me of disrespecting his house, his rules and embarrassing him in front of whomever was around. So when Jack came along and he would show me off to his friends, bragging about my looks, saying I was pretty, for the first time in my life, I was allowed to stand out, I was allowed to say what I wanted…. without fear.
After we were married, he turned on me. He would beat me, he did everything to make me feel worthless and useless, eventually I started believing it. It didn’t take long for me to resume my place in the corner, I was used to it.
When our girls turned twelve, I started to notice how he looked at them. It was the same way he used to look at me – the way my father used to look at me. He would show them off to his friends just like he did with me. I became suspicious. I asked him to stop and that’s when he threatened to divorce me and take custody of my children if I didn’t find replacements for the girls that he could ‘rent out’ to his friends and associates. He said they would be good for his business. I thought he was a sales man, turns out he was a sales man, just in the sex trade.
My husband was a trafficker and he was going to sell my girls if I didn’t do something.
That’s when I started ‘recruiting’ girls to ‘entertain’ clients, his clients. I hated every minute of it, and I hated him. But I had no way out. I had quit my job when I learnt I was pregnant and I hadn’t worked since. I just maintained peace in my corner and when he threatened to destroy the peace I worked so hard to maintain, I began ‘recruiting’. I couldn’t look after the girls alone. He would win custody and I wouldn’t be in a position to protect them.
“I did what I did to protect my children.”
© Kim Danesin 2016. Used with permission.
1. Using the Luimes Relational Spectrum® and Theory of Dynamics®, how is Natalie’s claim that she should not be held accountable valid? Map the roles she has played on the relational spectrum.
2. How is her claim not valid?
3. How has her childhood contributed to her ability [inability] to make choices in her life?
4. Do you think there may have been ‘signs’ before Natalie married this man?
ANSWERS: 1. Natalie’s claim that she not be held accountable is a reflection of choices made under duress and the threat of punishment and violence. It was not fully her choice, but an act of desperation on her part. Her past experiences of powerlessness contributed towards her decisions. She went from being self-compromising in the self-surrender mode – the relationship she had with her father and tried to fight to change her relational legacy by marrying the man ‘least like her father’, only to find out after marriage that he was much like her father anyway. 2. Her claim is not valid as she could have chosen to fight back or to run. Often however childhood abuse teaches someone to curl and overrides their fight or flight instincts of survival. 3. Her childhood taught her powerlessness and to absorb destructive relational behaviours. Her lack of healthy relationships taught her red-zone relationships are ‘normal’. 4. There are some tell tale signs of an abuser although the dating process is set up to deceive. Of the seven identifiers previously listed, it is likely there were signs that Natalie did not recognise simply because she would not have known. An abuser speaks the language of power, which means their respect will be directed towards people who hold power, position and wealth, etc. and disrespect towards others with little social standing or power. While dating a partner like this it is often difficult to see it in the behaviour towards you because he/she is still ‘trying to win you’ (you still hold some power in the relationship). After marriage this can disappear gradually or very quickly (he/she’s already won and now ‘owns you’). Also check whether the relationship has a sense of consistency or if you are regularly checking the ‘mood’ of the other person and finally when conflict arises, find out whether its a win-win resolution of an issue or its a personal win-lose disagreement that results in a power shift in favour of one party at the expense of the other party. Fights in a dysfunctional relationship are often fabricated to create more control and can be triggered deliberately over the smallest most trivial things or may not even be real, but conceived in the mind of the instigator.
So, you know things are bad on the relationship front when the most exciting thing you have planned on Valentines Day is to change into your old clothes after arriving home from work and going to mow the lawn.
I know, the best I could do for Valentines flowers was to cut them out of the garden.
Yep, that was it. My evening on Valentines. A bit sad, eh? It could be, I guess, but I suppose it really just depends on how you look at it.
If you measure success by the presence of a relationship then I suppose I am terribly unsuccessful and that is terribly sad, or if you measure your value by the presence of a significant other then I suppose I am not so valuable either and that would be even worse.
But to me it is neither. My current status is simply a part of life’s journey which provides me with time and opportunity to focus on other things. Relationships with significant others do demand an enormous amount of time investment. In economic terms, they can sometimes be a huge opportunity cost. I think in my life to date, my largest opportunity cost was my marriage. That’s probably a highly politically incorrect statement but I think for many women it is probably true, even though we don’t say it out loud.
So while enjoying the evening air and the view of my garden, I have come to the conclusion that there are a few things that I have decided I totally do not miss on the relationship front.
The first one I refer to as the butterfly syndrome. Often a ‘significant other’ is more interested in what they stand to gain by having you in their life rather than simply having an interest in sharing their life with you and vice versa. And so there is so much effort put into the chase and catch which is soon followed up by the ‘lock them up’ and put them on show when other people are watching.
You know the desire to catch a butterfly and place it in a jar. The jar soon becomes the place that causes them to lose their lustre because they have lost their ability to fly free.
Yes I know, that has never actually happened to any of you. You all speak your minds when you are not happy with something. The problem only arises when you begin to withdraw your voice from the circumstances and that decision will eventually also cost you your power.
The second is those who see you as the clay from which they can create their ideal partner or as close to it as they figure they can get. And after all the pruning, one day you look in the mirror and you wonder who the hell that is, looking back at you.
My experiences have taught me that there are few people who have the courage to love the person they’re with and see and appreciate them for who they are. In order to do that, we need to first love ourselves.
For once, I would like to share my time with someone who sees and values me even when I am in my overalls and covered with paint or experimenting with power tools, not for what they hope to get out of me.
So that is my little contribution to Valentines Day cynicism. Let’s leave it there and hope next year will be better…
So here’s to the flowers, chocolates and other trinkets on Valentine’s Day. Having someone make you feel special will never get old.
RELATIONSHIPS FROM GOD’S PERSPECTIVE
Relationships are intended to be a Godly source of well-being not destruction. Covenant Relationship with God provided the Israelites with protection, peace, abundance and freedom.
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
NB: ‘Mutual’ submission requires and demands mutual accountability. The power imbalance created as a result of the male hierarchy taught by too many churches as God’s design for marriage is not love and not God’s plan. The fruit of patriarchy is entitlement, a quest for power and control, bitterness, anger, disrespect, abuse and violence; none of which is in God’s plan for humanity nor constitute God’s plan for a loving marriage.
When the Israelites chose to step outside the covenant boundaries they reaped the fruit of that choice. Relational disconnect creates strife, conflict, insecurity, fear, poverty, etc.
LOVING SOMEONE means to give someone what they need and not necessarily what they want, when what they want causes destruction. A NEED TO BE LOVED gives someone what they want at the expense of yourself and what the other person needs.
For God so loved [valued] the world that he gave his one and only Son [God showed up], that whosoever believes in him will have eternal life [met humanity’s need for reconciliation with God].
Love imparts value to someone else (its a relationship characterised by an equality of VALUE), love meets needs (gives) and love shows up.
1. What do you think is God’s intention for a marriage relationship?
2. How does a relationship become broken?
3. What do you think is / was God’s plan for
ANSWERS – protection, peace, abundance, freedom, love, etc. 2. Covenant becomes broken when relational boundaries are crossed. (see side bible references). 3. Same as question 1 for all.
Causes of Relational (Covenant) Breakdown
Deceit – “…by deceiving his neighbour.”
Violence – “the unfaithful have a craving for violence.”
Evil desires – “…but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.”
Idolatry – “You shall not make for yourself an idol…”
Lying, murder, stealing, adultery – “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgement of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and idolatry, they break all bounds and bloodshed follows bloodshed”
Our distorted understanding of love has contributed to an inability to find it and / or give it.
The term ‘forgive and forget’ has been leveraged rather extensively to maintain destructive relationships. It implies the action of reconciliation and skips a very key step necessary to restoring healthy relationships – repentance; which is necessary to ensuring a value balance between the two parties. This oversight is very costly to the health of relationships.
Consider the following questions:
1. Describe the difference between forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation?
2. What do you think should be a mandatory requirement for relational reconciliation?
3. What are the dangers of overlooking the repentance component in the process of trying to restore relationship?
ANSWERS 1. Forgiveness is a decision by the violated to ‘let-go’ of the hurt but it does not necessarily require any action on the part of the violator; repentance is the remorse of the violator obtained through an understanding of the hurt caused by his or her actions; reconciliation is the decision made to continue a relationship after a violation has occurred, 2. Forgiveness and , 3. When there is no real repentance on the part of the violator, any reconciliation simply creates the opportunity for the violator to continue doing what he or she has been doing, which is license for an abuser to abuse some more. In abusive homes this is an absolute injustice and tragedy.
• Identify five people who hold power.
• What gives them this power?
• Identify other sources of power?
ANSWERS: Potential Sources of Power – • Wealth (economics) • Position • History • Knowledge • Connections • Political • Social or Cultural Norms • Charisma • Physical Strength • Ability to communicate • Fame • etc.
1. ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something.
2. political or national strength: the balance of power in Europe.
3. great or marked ability to do or act; strength; might; force.
4. the possession of control or command over others; authority; ascendancy: power over men’s minds.
5. political ascendancy or control in the government of a country, state, etc.: They attained power by overthrowing the legal government.
6. legal ability, capacity, or authority: the power of attorney.
7. delegated authority; authority granted to a person or persons in a particular office or capacity: the powers of the president.
1. How many sources of ‘power’ previously identified did God’s Son come into the world with?
2. Read Luke 1:26-56 and Matthew 1:18-25 and consider the relational dynamic between Mary and Joseph on the Relational Spectrum®
i. Where do they stand?
ii. Do you think that is a coincidence?
iii. What is God’s perspective of relationship?
iv. Is God’s message one of VALUE or POWER?
3. Read the following scriptures – Genesis 3
i. What did the devil promise Eve?
4. Read Matthew 4:1-12
i. What does the devil promise Jesus?
ii. What are each of these temptations actually about?
“This is how the birth of Jesus came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”
In Jewish culture at the time, Joseph could have decided to have Mary stoned for adultery (see John 8:1-11). His decision to divorce her quietly meant that he held her in high esteem (she was valuable) regardless of what he thought she had done and was making the decision to protect himself by making a decision about how someone was allowed to treat him. His boundaries were functional.
“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home to be his wife. but he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”
This decision is a reflection of Joseph’s relationship with God: to believe and proceed. Immaculate conception? Really? That was a huge step of faith.
“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
“Again the devil took him [Jesus] to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms in this world and their splendour. “All this I will give you,” he said if you will bow down and worship me.”
ANSWERS: 1. Nil 2i. The relational boundaries were functional – see side comments. ii. Not a coincidence at all. God’s plan for humanity is that our social, economic, spiritual and emotional needs would be met through relationship. iii. God does everything in and through relationship. iv. Message of Value. 3i. Promise of elevated power. 4i. Recognition – prove yourself as the Son of God, Status – demonstrate you are the Son of God, Wealth and Prestige, Earthy Kingdoms ii. Battle for power.
Consider the dynamics of Power in relation to societal norms and thinking.
1. Provide some examples of how power interacts at a social level everyday.
2. How does it differ from a language of value?
ANSWERS: 1. Social following for example is very much about fame, wealth and power, Advertising is about achieving status, wealth, power, etc. 2. Power seeks to create hierarchy, one person better than another. Value places parties at an equal level.
Healthy relationships VALUE both YOURSELF the OTHER person. The boundary between healthy and unhealthy relationships begins at the point when the relationship becomes at the EXPENSE of ONE of the PARTIES resulting in the loss of voice of the self-compromising party.
• the decisions about the way you treat people you are in relationship with.
• the way that you will allow other people to treat you when they are in relationship with you.
• the way in which you treat yourself.
• Boundaries determine the fruit experienced in the relationship
• Boundaries are important 100% of the time. There is no healthy relationship that intentionally dips into ‘red zone’ sometimes ( uses fear to control, dominate and the other party) and compensates with the balance of time spent in the ‘green zone’.
• Requires the active teaching of Boundaries
• Children learn to value themselves by experiencing relationships that adhere to the boundaries
• Abuse uses POWER to de-VALUE the other person or party in the relationship (red-zone behaviour).
Read the Scenario Below and Respond to the Questions that follow.
Two brothers were adopted from a very impoverished orphanage overseas and came to live with a middle class family in the United States. Coming out of a children’s home which was lacking the resources to adequately feed all the children, the boys, during their formative years, were not strangers to going to bed hungry.
Cody. the elder of two, saw that food was kept in the kitchen and began to help himself and hide it in the bedroom closet. Despite having meal times that were regular and well supplied in their new home, he continued to steal food from the kitchen and keep it in his room hidden away.
He was caught and punished for stealing regularly. Time-outs. Isolation. Spankings.
Despite repeated punishment Cody, six years old, continued to steal food items and hide it in his bedroom closet saying it was for him and his brother.
1. Map the roles the players are playing on the relational spectrum.
2. If the parents are responsible for teaching boundaries, what are the chosen punishments communicating?
3. What does that produce?
4. What message are the children receiving about their value?
5. Knowing what we know about how relationships function, how should it have been handled?
ANSWERS: 1. In the orphanage, conditions were such that the boys were forced into survival / coping zone on the self-compromising side of the relational spectrum. In their new home, they continue to be pushed into the survival / coping position as a result of the punishments. Cody’s actions are in the green zone with his brother. He wants to provide and protect his brother from going hungry again. 2. The punishments, as is, were simply ensuring the boys remain in the survival and coping side of the spectrum because the boys had not been taught the boundaries to begin with. They were simply doing what they know, not intending to test boundaries. In Cody’s world, hunger was a bigger threat than being punished. Essentially fear and control is being communicated. A language of power and control that the boys already know. Love is not being communicated here at all. (love meets needs – Cody has a need to be reassured that the food will not disappear). His actions are being motivated by fear. A very real fear in this world, not by intentional disobedience. 3. This produces boys that will continue to function relationally in the red-zone, either on the self compromising side or on the dominant physical violence side of the relational spectrum. 4. That relationships are about power, control, fear and punishment and that they need to earn their love. Their worth depends on love being earned. Their value is not important. 5. It would have been helpful for the parents to address the fear. The need for reassurance that the food would not run out, not punish the boys for something Cody has been taught – that food can run out. I personally would have packed the closet full of non-perishable items, until Cody could see that the kitchen was not going to run out of food. He is only a boy who has learned that food can run out and is trying to protect himself and his brother from experiencing that again. The first response is often to view the change in economic position, wealthy country, access to opportunity, etc. as being the most important which leads to assumptions about well-being. The emotional well-being of the boys, however, did not improve with their adoption.
The process of counselling creates the platform for someone to reconcile how an experience has altered themselves in some way. Abuse changes who you are and your ability to navigate the world. Whether as a formal process or informal process, painful experiences need to be talked about in order to heal.
• Experiences of abuse need to be talked about because pain needs a voice.
• That voice allows you the opportunity to recognise how that experience has changed the person you are and to reconcile those changes with the person you have become as a result.
• It provides you with the opportunity to redefine your VALUE with what God has to say about you… which is contrary to what those experiences have communicated to you about your worth…
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
He predestined us for adoption as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
“For I know the plans I have for your, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you hope and a future”
Read the Scenario Below and Respond to the Questions that follow.
Yvonne was the third child of seven. The only daughter in a house full of boys with a father who drank away his paycheck before the 15th of every month. Their mother tried desperately to ensure that the food would last until the end of the month and made sure that when she bought groceries she purchased them in bulk and did her best to keep peace in the house. She worked tirelessly to make sure the house was clean, meals were cooked on time but despite her efforts, sometimes her calculations were simply not enough in a houseful of growing boys. A mistake that often times resulted in physical violence that left her incapable of taking care of the family.
It was then that Yvonne would be required to take on the primary responsibilities of household chores and her father’s drunken demands for affection. It was an experience that left Yvonne broken, disconnected and angry at a time when nobody was allowed to talk about such things and secrets were left to fester.
As an adult she determined that she would never be used again and when she married, she married a soft spoken man who tried his best to please her. But her demands for nice things, consistently not met by the family income, resulted in more and more arguments and her excuse for an increasing dependence upon pain killers and ‘cough medicines’. She kept them hidden in a flask kept at the bottom of her top drawer intended to calm the nerves and give her an excuse to do nothing, lie in bed and insult anyone who would listen, wrestling with her own ghosts alone.
In the years to follow and an increasing fear of becoming pregnant at a time when contraception was less than readily available, Yvonne’s relationship with her own eldest son became somewhat more affectionate than appropriate and when her son became 15 years of age, he tried to kill his father at her urging. An event that resulted in the eldest son being thrown out into the streets and a mother who permanently stayed in bed thereafter.
1. Map the role played by Yvonne during her formative as well as her adult years.
2. Explain how someone who has been abused is likely to take more abuse or become an abuser themselves.
3. Explain how relational health can impact other areas of life.
ANSWERS 1. The relationship with her father pushed Yvonne to the self-surrender level of self-compromise, a role in which she learned to take sexual abuse and to abuse. In her adult life, she became her counterbalance and the dominant party in her relationships including becoming an abuser with her eldest son – sexual violence. 2. People learn to function at a particular place on the relational spectrum through their experiences and its counterbalance as a result of observation. It’s the relational place they are most familiar with and it therefore feels ‘normal’ because it’s what they know. Furthermore when people are taught their value is parallel to how much power they hold over others (through the dysfunctional use of a language of power not value), abuse becomes a tool for the demonstration of ‘worth’ measured through the dysfunctional and destructive belief that worth is determined by ‘having more power than others’ created through the control and exercise of power over others. Furthermore, sexual violence is always about never passion or love. 3. Given that social, economic and emotional needs are satisfied through relationships, relational well-being has an enormous impact on all areas of life including the choices we make.
This activity book was written as a supplement to Love that Counts, A Journey of Healing through the Heartache of Destructive Relationships.
Since relationships require a counter balance, it actually means that you have the ability to change the functioning of your relationships by changing how you function. Your change in relational functioning can shift the health of a relationship. That’s not to say that shifting is easy, but bettering the health of your relationships will impact positively on your life in many ways.
In sports there are rules to the game so everyone can understand and play which creates an atmosphere of enjoyment which benefits everyone.
Relationships also have ‘boundaries’ which create a relational experience of enjoyment and fulfilment. Its just that there are so few people being taught what those boundaries are… So hopefully you can at least now see the difference between what is healthy and what is unhealthy relational behaviour and make an active decision about the health of your relationships rather than defaulting to what you have been taught, which is likely not getting you the results you are looking for.
The psychology behind the Luimes Relational Theory® is told in story form in the book, Love that Counts, a Journey of Healing through the Heartache of Destructive Relationships. In order to understand the foundation of the theory and how it applies to everyday life and its different levels of dysfunction, the book is the best way to find your own story in the story of the author and enable you to understand how dysfunction plays out on a daily basis.
Alternatively, if you have had the good fortune of having been born into a family of generally healthy relationships, this book can help you understand how dysfunctional relationships play out practically and are experienced on a day to day basis. Furthermore, if you are in the psychology or counselling field, the book also addresses many of the assumptions that often keep people in the clutches of abusive relationships and equip you to better understand your own role as someone who can intervene.
So here’s to you, in healthy and happy relationships! God bless.
Everyone one goes through life in relationship with family, colleagues, neighbors, etc. Essentially healthy relationships bring joy while dysfunctional relationships actually make life harder. One thing is certain, doing relationships well leads to a more fulfilled life. Learn the basics of relational functioning and relational truth through case studies and learn to do relationships better. Improving the health of your relationships requires an understanding of your own relational functioning and that knowledge can allow you to make a choice that can improve your relationships. The book addresses the following questions: What impact does your emotional past have on your future? What was God's intention for relationships? Why does abuse tend to be cyclic? The Case of Cody: Can affluence make up for relational wellness or is the cost of dysfunctional relationships just as high in communities that have the means to hide their functioning behind big walls and a fancy life-style? The Case of Natalie: What constitutes choice and what constitutes desperation? Are we really in a position to decide for ourselves or do circumstances and our emotional state sometimes make those choices for us? The Case of Yvonne: At what point do we become adults and are accountable for our own actions despite the emotional would we may carry from our past. When do we recognize the cycle of abuse and stop it? Empower yourself to do relationships differently and enjoy the benefits of relational wellness.