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Codependency can cause you to lose touch with yourself, your life and your entire identity.

Of course it isn’t bad to care about your partner. If you love someone, it’s natural to feel the need to look after them. However, there is a difference between caring for your partner and being codependent. Codependency can cause you to lose touch with yourself, your life and your entire identity

It’s true; relationships are about compromise. We give and we take. We care and are cared for in return. But how much is too much?

A couple with anchor tattoos

What is codependency?

In simple terms, codependency involves caring for another to the point where it becomes unhealthy. In a codependent relationship, an individual sacrifices their own needs in order to meet the needs of their partner. One party takes on the role of the ‘giver’ and the other, the ‘taker’. The ‘giver’ often loses their own identity while trying to heal or ‘fix’ their partner’s illness, addiction or dysfunctional personality. Eventually, the two begin to rely on one another for relief of insecurity and loneliness, rather than love.

What causes codependency?

More often than not, codependency stems from childhood. It appears in those who grew up in unstable households, where they were exposed to abuse, emotional neglect, family issues, and lack of communication. A dysfunctional upbringing can cause people to develop an insecure attachment style, which can lead to further difficulty in relationships. A person with an insecure attachment style is more likely to become jealous, clingy and constantly seek reassurance from a partner.

Individuals with low self-esteem, fear of abandonment, or trust issues, may enter a codependent relationship in order to feel wanted or needed. If an individual feels they are being relied upon, they are less likely to worry about being abandoned.

But I care about my partner. Why is that bad?

Of course, it isn’t bad to care about your partner. If you love someone, it’s natural for you to feel the need to protect and look after them. However, there’s a difference between caring for your partner and being codependent. Codependency can cause you to lose touch with yourself, your life and your entire identity. A Codependent’s life revolves around their partner’s needs and emotions, leaving them with little time for themselves. This leads to isolation and loss of connection to friends and family. If your partner struggles with addiction or mental illness, your codependency may be enabling them and preventing them from seeking help. This may have negative, and potentially deadly consequences.

Codependency warning signs

  • You justify your partner’s bad behaviour.
  • You want to ‘fix’ them.
  • You can’t enjoy yourself when they’re not around.
  • You feel like your world would crumble without them.
  • You can’t perform daily tasks, like driving or going to work, without constantly thinking about them.
  • You have no boundaries.
  • You constantly seek their approval.
  • Your self-worth depends on them needing you.

Healing a codependent relationship

If you’ve lived in a codependent relationship for a long time, it can become difficult to notice or accept it, let alone change it. Though it is possible to overcome codependency on your own, many couples require professional treatment or counselling. If both parties are willing to make a change, they can work towards a healthier relationship.

As codependency is complicated, it’s important to find a therapist with experience in dealing with them. A professional can help you to:

  • Identify codependent behaviour and take steps to address it.
  • Work through unsolved childhood trauma.
  • Work on increasing self-esteem and self-worth.
  • Help with anxiety and fear of abandonment.
  • Challenge negative thought patterns.
  • Help you develop an identity beyond your relationship with your partner.

Remember, in a healthy relationship, it’s important to:

  • Take breaks

In a healthy relationship, people are able to function away from their partner. Spend time with your friends and family, go to the beach, out to dinner, to a movie or a solo outing… maybe that shopping spree you’ve been dreaming of!

  • Set yourself boundaries
    • If your partner is constantly texting you, decide that you’ll no longer answer while at work or after a certain time.
    • Don’t cancel plans to spend time with them. If you planned a day out with friends, don’t cancel it just to be with them.
    • Don’t be afraid to say no if you don’t feel like spending time with them. If you’re sick, busy, or tired after a long day at work, tell them.
    • Organise a ‘date night’ with them, or plan time you always spend together. That way, you have time to yourself, while still having a scheduled time to spend time with them.

When you have become used to giving and giving, spending time on yourself can feel selfish and wrong. However, self-care is vital in relieving stress and anxiety, strengthening coping skills, and increasing resilience. Whether it’s putting on a face mask, taking a warm bath, or going on a peaceful walk in the woods, self-care can help revitalise your mind and body, leading to a calmer and healthier you.

  • Embrace positive communication.

Be open with your partner and express your feelings. If they do something to upset you, tell them. If they aren’t respecting your boundaries, talk to them. The more open you are with them, the easier it will be for them to open up in return.

  • Trust that your emotions are valid.

In a codependent relationship, it’s common to ignore or hide your emotions in fear of causing an argument. However, in a healthy relationship, both parties should feel comfortable sharing how they feel, without fearing the outcome. Regardless of whether you deem an emotion as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, you are entitled to feel it.

Professional treatment

If you and your partner both decide to make a change, a therapist who specialises in relationships may be able to help you. A professional can assist you in establishing healthy boundaries, work on self-esteem and self-worth issues, and help you to recognise unhealthy thought patterns. Since codependency often stems from childhood, a therapist may also work through any traumas or unresolved feelings that may be related to your need for codependency. Overall, the goal of treatment is to allow an individual to regain their sense of emotions and identify which, in turn, leads to a healthier relationship.

Remember: it’s not your job to ‘fix’ your partner.

We all want to support the ones we love. But remember, you are not your partner’s therapist. It is important to love them without hurting yourself in the process.

 

 

It took all of 30 seconds to go from, “You can’t play with me,” to the older sister belting her younger brother on his back with her Barbie doll. There were many tears, a Timeout, and a forced apology, as well as a ban on all play dates for the rest of the week.

Sibling conflict and rivalry is all too familiar to many families. With arguments ending in violent outbursts, crying and an effort to separate the sparring kids, parents often wonder if their children will ever get along. While the cliches in popular culture frequently portray negative relationships between siblings, being aware of the long-term effects of this kind of behaviour is important for parents.

Recent paediatrics studies published in the United States National Library of Medicine reveals being bullied by a sibling can be just as damaging to a child’s mental and emotional health as being bullied by another child in the playground or at school. The home is meant to be a safe space for each individual member of a family. When bullying occurs there, children will feel helpless, anxious and extremely unhappy, which can manifest into more serious issues of depression and other mental illnesses as they grow older.

It is important to note that there is a difference between bullying and rivalry – bullying is more infrequent than rivalry. Sibling bullying has an element of aggression verbally and physically that rivalry does not. Violent words, manner of speech, as well as physical actions and intent are all signs of bullying. Rivalry lacks this ongoing element of aggression and nastiness and, according to Sherri Gordon of Verywell Family,

“This bullying…stays with the victim for years to come.”Sad young girl

Sibling relationships are shaped by a multitude of forces. While family dynamics and composition play a role, as do extramarital factors, every child is unique. Research indicates that siblings can be as different to one another as two completely unrelated children.

A study by Cambridge University conducted on a group of children over five years investigated the nature of sibling rivalry. It discovered siblings have an overall positive impact on each other, even if their relationship isn’t completely happy.

According to the study, mild rivalry between siblings can be beneficial to both children and will not often have long term impacts. It is when this behaviour is sustained and occurs over a lengthy period of both siblings’ childhoods that issues can arise. These negative impacts can result in long term problems such as:

  • Difficulty with relationship-building later in life (romantic and non-romantic)
  • Behavioural problems
  • Difficulty in social situations
  • Extreme competitiveness
  • Difficulty accepting criticism and being a “sore loser”

A healthy amount of rivalry can boost a number of positive elements in the younger sibling’s early development. Older children expose their younger brothers or sisters to emotionally rich language particularly when engaged in an argument or competition with the younger sibling. The Cambridge study found, that by the age of six, younger siblings could converse with their older siblings about emotions on equal footing rather than at the level of other six-year-old children.

Two children playing together

It is in the space of sibling relationships that children learn the most about conflict resolution and prevention, as well as testing their social skills both before and during their primary school years.

Michele Fry of Greatschools.org states, “It’s where children learn to cooperate and compromise – skills they carry into adulthood.” With a sibling, the boundaries and limits of social interaction which are modelled by parents can be tested and experimented. Fry explains, unlike with a school-yard friend, a sibling won’t leave their brother or sister if they get called a name or teased by their sibling. In this way, siblings continually learn from each other about how to interact with their peers.

What is important to note is that this testing of social interaction between siblings needs to be monitored by their parent – what can be seen initially as pushing the boundaries can quickly escalate into abuse if the behaviour continues. In this situation the parent should intervene to reinforce positive behaviours and mediate conflict if the children can’t do so between themselves.

 

The role of the parents

Parents have one of the biggest influences over the relationship between their children. Dr Sylvia Rimm, psychologist and director of the Family Achievement Clinic, outlines what is important for parents to know about rivalry between their children.

  1. Labelling

Referring to your children as the “sporty” child, or the “creative” or the “academic” child can cause significant problems for both children. While this may initially seem like a good way to encourage and guide children into areas they may show a natural propensity for, it can have adverse effects.

Dr Rimm states, labels reinforce differences between siblings and can encourage competitiveness for certain titles, commenting;

“When children are labelled best in a domain, they often do their best to prevent another sibling from encroaching on their domain.”

Michele Fry also highlights the negative impact on self-development that labels can cause. Children who are labelled early will often live up to these labels and be disinclined to venture into other areas. It limits their capacity for developing an identity separate to the one they have had reinforced constantly by their parents and siblings because of the label they were given at an early age.

  1. Gender, age and family dynamics

Gender, age and family dynamics are also important to consider as parents when assessing the level of sibling rivalry and encouraging positive sibling relationships. Rivalry is generally harmless and something that most siblings grow out of by the time they have reached their late teen years. Dr Rimm outlines the following instances where rivalry can escalate or cause prolonged problems for both siblings:

  • Two close-aged children of the same gender e.g. two sisters 18 months apart
  • The younger sibling following directly after a very talented oldest child
  • The “baby” of the family

Two young sisters in grass

It’s also important to remember that siblings spend more time together than they do with their peers. Growing up, living in the same household, going through shared family experiences, all contribute to siblings knowing one another in a way that peers do not. While this can be positive for relationship building into the future, it can also have a negative impact for rivalry and bullying. A sibling will know their brother or sister’s weak spots and sensitivities more than schoolyard friends might.

Professor of Applied Family Studies, Laurie Kramer, states,

“Children can take advantage of vulnerabilities and make the other one feel bad with a word.”

This kind of emotional rivalry or bullying is harder for parents to monitor but can be extremely damaging long term on self-esteem and development particularly if it occurs frequently during teenage years.

 

What are the long-term impacts?

According to Mike Bundrant, psychotherapist and co-founder of the Neuro-Linguistic Program, sibling rivalry and aggression can have the same long term as bullying by a peer. In the teenage and young adult years, it can result in a deterioration of self-esteem and sense of personal identity. This usually arises in cases where sibling rivalry takes the form of frequent humiliation or a desire to embarrass one sibling in a public setting.

Sibling rivalry can continue into adulthood and be a feature of a family relationship that never goes away. As adults, there can be competition surrounding financial and employment success, marital and familial situation, and on the successes of the sibling’s own children.

Siblings are usually the closest and most long-lasting family relationship in anyone’s life. Siblings will grow old together in a way that a parent child relationship doesn’t usually provide. If this relationship can be nurtured from a young age, siblings may have a better chance of maintaining a supportive and healthy relationship into adulthood as they create their own lives away from the family home.

Family gathering

Educational consultant and parenting coach, Chrissy Khachane, suggests the following tips for creating positive sibling relationships:

  1. Support cooperative play.
  2. Teach each child to respect the differences between one another.
  3. Talk through poor behaviour with each child to promote understanding in difficult situations.
  4. Teach your children to resolve conflict.
  5. Reinforce boundaries with private conversations.
  6. Give each child individual attention away from his/her sibling.
  7. Modelling healthy relationships by validating each child’s feelings from time to time.
  8. Teach them the difference between tattling and seeking help.
  9. Give each child their own physical space.
  10. Teach your children to recognise and label their own emotions.
  11. Family rituals and traditions are a great way to foster healthy sibling relationships.

Parents walking with children

 

Generation Alpha, the moniker given to the children born after 2010, not only resets the generational alphabet, but reflects the hope and potentiality this group promises as the first cohort born entirely in the 21st century in an age of unrivalled advancement.

Parents of these children need to ensure they don’t fulfil the tendency to project their own personal and generational ideals into teaching. Instead, treat children as unique individuals with their own inherent values and context and find that communication with flourishes easier and allowing them to be more self-actualised people.

 Dr John Demartini, notable human behaviourist, believes this caring individualistic approach to parenting is crucial in the raising of Generation Alpha to ensure they prosper in a dynamic future.

Dr John Demartini, human behaviourist

Effective communication is imperative to all successful relationships; in parent and child relationships however, it is often the weakest link. People are most responsive to suggestions that have benefits valuable to them. Thus, reframing information in accordance to a child’s values produces more constructive and efficacious communication.

You wouldn’t expect a customer to buy an item if you listed all the reasons why you personally wanted it. A skilled salesman examines the customer’s personal values and generates benefits from their perspective. Children are infinitely more receptive to instruction and guidance if the conversation comes from a position they understand wherein their own values are emphasised.

Dr Demartini’s principal recommendation to parents of Generation Alpha revolves around value determination and projection. Parents are urged to consider and care enough about the child as a real person to understand that they have their own inherent set of values and independence rather than extrapolating their own contextual ideals.

The tendency parents have to project their values onto their children autocratically will naturally be met with resistance. The assumption that the child is cast in the same likeness and values the same thing as the parent is damaging. Children end up mislabelled and sometimes mistakenly medicated out of ignorance.

“Children are customers,” says Dr Demartini. “In customer relationships, you factor in their values and their needs and establish those needs before communicating. You care enough to communicate and educate them in accordance to these values and they will be receptive and be able to incorporate that into their life and expand without resistance.

“If you project your values on to somebody and not consider what they hold in esteem you are going to get resistance. Your children will be labelled difficult people when in fact they’re just not being communicated with effectively.”

As is when someone attempts to sell you something you don’t want, children become belligerent when they are approached in a way that does not coalesce with their own intentions or perceive their feelings as bypassed.

Try avoiding imperative projection phrases: should, ought to, supposed to, got to, must.

“These authoritarian terms are almost disrespectful”, says Dr Demartini.

Caring about your child means articulating things in a manner that is understanding of their world view. They will be much more receptive and expand their capacity to listen if an instruction is coming from a line of thought they can follow by someone who respects them, rather than a demand they don’t understand from an authoritarian who speaks down mindlessly.

Teach them to think of obstacles differently; things are not IN the way, they are ON the way. By manipulating the vision of a boulder in the pathway into a building block, goals seem more achievable and accomplishment even sweeter.

Parents, generally, tend to parent in the same manner they were parented. However, after decades of thorough studies on child rearing, a traditional blanket, one-size-fits-all strategy is no longer viable.

Entering a world where the internet is a necessity rather than a luxury, gadgetry is ever advancing and encroaching and speed is a highly determinate factor, these present-day toddlers will likely set the precedent for the rest of the century. As their speed of learning increases so will their expectations; demands will be expected to be fulfilled instantly due to technological advancement. Dr Demartini notes that these new contextual factors will require change in tactics for the parents of these children.

“Their immediate access to information is increasing, thus their demands of themselves and other people will go up accordingly,” says Dr Demartini.

“Their long-term visions to do things in the future will be technologically achievable and so it is important that they are raised in a way that extrapolates their true values.”

Essentially, this generation will have not only the dream to develop the world in new ways, but the technological capacity to achieve it. It is of paramount importance that they are raised with values of the future rather than the past and have confidence and respect for themselves and their support system.

Generation Alpha children will still want to empower all seven areas of their life. They will have a desire to grow their minds, find a career path that serves themselves and others, attempt to expand their wealth, develop some sort of romantic relationship and sustain intimacy with others, monitor their physical fitness and health, fight for social justice and feel spiritually empowered. The difference is that the world is veering away from tradition and steering into a more diverse, flexible state. This distinction means that children need to understand themselves and their own values so they can move with the flow of the future rather than be stunted by the learnings of bygone eras.

“My son has 20,000 followers on YouTube. He wants to be just like PewDiePie. There was no such thing when I was growing up and I don’t entirely understand it, but I have to respect the things he values and encourage him in this new pathway,” says Dr Demartini.

“I spoke to a young lady who had a 16-year-old son many years ago. She thought he was wasting his life messing around on computers and wanted help in encouraging him to do something productive. He now has a high-ranking position as a specialist at IBM (a computer hardware company). She grew up in an era where computers didn’t really exist so she couldn’t understand the value. Each generation is going to have a technology that the generation before is not familiar with and they’re going to tend to project the past onto the future instead of respecting the present.”

You cannot expect to behave the exact same way in different relationships with different people. You have to take into account the values and personality of the person you are with; bend and flex in accordance to them.

When you are in a relationship with somebody, you don’t want them to tell you how you have to be, you want to be loved for who are. Children are no different.

For more information on Dr Demartini visit his website.

 

It’s a universal truth: cheaters stink. They’re disloyal, dishonest and disrespectful. But… what if you’re one of them?

Cheating is the universal relationship crime. And it is so common that Cameron Diaz reckons everyone will be cheated on at some point.

But let’s get something straight here: cheating is not just physical.

While cheating is generally defined as having sex with someone other than your partner, emotional infidelity is potentially even more damaging to a relationship.

In fact, one study shows that women are more hurt by emotional infidelity than they are by infidelity that is sexual.

Emotional infidelity starts small.

Thoughts and fantasies can quickly progress to flirting and sly hints with the other person. From there, most people assume you make the decision to cheat or not to cheat. And if you choose not to, then you’re innocent, and if you give into your fantasies, then you’re guilty.

But I’m going to go against the grain here and say that thinking – and I mean actively thinking – about cheating is just as bad as physically cheating.

As soon as you allow yourself to actively think about someone other than your partner in that way, you have taken the first step down the road of adultery.

Don’t get me wrong, we all have those involuntary thoughts that pop into our minds when we see an attractive-looking person. But there is a big difference between that and actively deciding to dwell on those thoughts.

Our thoughts are powerful, and what we think eventually affects how we feel. And how we feel has a lot of power over what we say and do in life. As soon as you allow yourself to actively think about someone other than your partner in that way, you have taken the first step down the road of adultery.

A bit harsh, you say! Maybe. But isn’t it true? Don’t you feel angry when you catch your bf checking out another girl’s backside? Isn’t that anger real? Isn’t it reasonable?

If it’s not a form of infidelity, then you shouldn’t be angry. But if it is, then your anger makes sense. Right?

Let me put it to you this way: would you rather your partner fell in love with someone else and didn’t sleep with them OR slept with them but didn’t fall in love with them?

Both are pretty awful, but potentially equally devastating to a relationship.

Let’s hear your thoughts! Emotional infidelity – is it just as bad as physically cheating?

Online dating is a contemporary hook-up option for singles, which many now consider as an alternative to traditional methods, and perhaps a new fandangle approach they have yet to try.

There is literally a whole entire universe that comprises single status people (national industry reports suggesting 4.5 million annually) covertly co-existing beneath the radars of those not looking for love, and it seems to be thriving.

The year 1995 marked the official launch of the World Wide Web, followed shortly after by the registration of familiar dating sites such as eHarmony and RSVP. Social media and mobile phone technology evolved dating site capabilities further. Now there are even sites that match daters to the best dating site.

With over 680,000 single mothers with dependents in Australia, the online dating service industry is a lucrative business.

Choice offers useful, comprehensive and current comparative data on popular sites and their suitability against criteria of personal demographic, cost and privacy.

They also provide advice on how to stay physically safe and financially protect against scammers preying on lonely hearts.

Dating and romance scams account for over 30 per cent of total financial losses reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (A.C.C.C.) as arising from scams activity.

The A.C.C.C. reports less than two per cent of online dating sites provided specific information about the costs of their service before becoming a member. They are also aware of instances of online operators that have created and operated their own profiles.

Following a voluntary 18 year dating hiatus to focus on raising her two daughters, 44 year old single mother, Angela, was ready to find her Prince CharmingChar.

Meeting in a public place for first dates felt awkward, surreal and unnatural, “like the world had gone backwards,” Angela says.

“My first date was with a guy that shall be known as the green Kermit. Initially there were a lot of texts followed by a bar, a dinner, and then on the third date a ‘come home with me’ and demands of sex. Let it be known, it is quite the online expectation by the third date!

“Kermit immediately ceased contact following my refusal and, although this bruised my ego, I realised I had dodged bullet. Then much wiser, I asked for complete honesty at the onset, with “Red wine over White Linen Shirt Man” kindly complying by saying he didn’t feel anything after our first date.”

Angela recognises that her online dating journey pulled her out of her comfort zone to overcome her social anxieties.

However, she has grown tired of excusing the poor behaviour of those preying on her emotional vulnerabilities.

Regardless of her negative experiences, Angela acknowledges, “There are definitely people having positive experiences, and those with already active social lives investing in this alternative phenomenon with a different lens.”

“It can be a tool for people to connect, if they feel isolated or alone and provide opportunities for human connection they may otherwise not have had,” says Angela wisely.

“Your experience really will depend on what you are looking for,” explains recently separated 44 year old mother of three, Rebecca.

Rebecca, married at 18, is far more interested in finding herself than a companion, and so “plays” the Tinder game with her new-found freedom and the energy her recent single status has afforded.

“There was no instruction manual to start online dating, but you soon learn,” says Rebecca who spends about an hour a day flicking through profiles.

“When you are my age, where do you go to meet a decent guy? Yachting? Golf? Only the youngies go to the pub and they always hunt in packs,”

Rebecca muses.

Rebecca’s first experience was with Frenchy who, after eight weeks, still comes over Mondays during his lunch break in an Uber.

He coached Rebecca, telling her of a few items to prepare for his arrival and not to worry about the “small talk”.

“I have needed to learn a new language. The guys all talk in acronyms and sometimes I need to guess what they mean!” excites Rebecca.

Rebecca has also trialled the geo-mapping option offered by Tinder, her online dating service of choice. This option notifies her if someone who is also registered with Tinder is in close proximity to her.

“Online dating is liberating because if someone doesn’t fit my schedule I move on.

“It’s good for me now because I am busy with other things and don’t have time for a relationship,” reflects Rebecca, who is enjoying a whole new world with new experiences.

Rebecca elects not to pay for any additional services or match making data to improve her hook-up outcomes. Without spending a cent, all she need do is “swipe right” if she “likes”.

Fifty-something–year-old Samantha is disgusted by one of her closest friends, who also uses Tinder and other sites to meet men.

“I don’t want any part of it and have told her to stop sending me photos of her Tinder date’s genitals, alongside face shots. That’s just ugly,” she says.

“I feel quite offended and even prudish (which I never thought I would say), violated by some of the things she has shown me.”

Online dating does benefit everyone overall, according to Relationships Australia’s recent research, especially those who are lonely or isolated.

Online dating is the second most preferred way to meet a new partner. The single status online universe has lost its stigma and is out in the open. While true love may not necessarily prevail, online hook-ups are happening all the time, everywhere you look, even if don’t want to see.