Let’s Talk

What Is a Relationship Addiction?

Q. I have just heard the term relationship addiction
– what’s that?

A. Let’s Talk! Relationship addicts don’t just care about relationships, they are hooked on relationships, more than most anything in their lives. They are “okay” if they are in relationship with someone and “not okay” (and unraveling) if there is not a relationship. So, it’s a kind of dependency, like substance abuse, where one is looking to that something for one’s love, joy, peace, and completeness. Addiction to relationships is dangerous territory. It’s idolatry. It’s using another person or more to get your own emotional needs met.

Relationship addiction is not exactly codependency because that involves two people! Just one person can be a relationship addict and not involve another person. In fact, relationship addicts are addicted to most of the key relationships in their life, regardless of the response of the other person(s).

A relationship addict may appear at first very caring and gregarious, but ultimately becomes controlling. Some have even said that being around a relationship addict feels suffocating, like the air is being sucked out of the room. There is also a feeling of panic when a relationship addict tries to pursue and control your time, telephone, and even your other friendships.

We are “wired” by God for a relationship with Him and with one another, but the human experiences are to be healthy. HE is the one who longs to meet our emotional needs and bring us freedom, breath and life! May our dependency be on Him and not one another. May we not treasure anyone above Him.

For Deeper Reflection

Proverbs 29:25 “The fear [reverence] of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord
will be exalted.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.
You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com

Let’s Talk

What Is Enmeshment?

Q. Would you please address more about enmeshment and boundary issues?

A. Let’s Talk! Here’s how to “draw” enmeshment. Draw two circles side by side. Now move them even closer where the sides don’t just touch, they cross over the boundary of the other circle and create a shared space. That’s us when we become too entrenched in another person’s life.

It may sound like a good thing to be close and to care deeply for another person – but when the connection goes way outside the normal range, the relationship is not healthy emotionally.

That space can be a minimal or large area, but each enmeshed person has now lost some of his/her own individuality. In enmeshment, the problems of one person become the emotional burden for the other. Even the joys. Enmeshment is a codependency of the heart because your joy is all about and dependent on how the other person is functioning. If this person in your life is okay, you’re okay. If the individual is not okay, you are not okay.

Enmeshment is not two whole and healthy people sharing life – it’s two halves! Think about this: Which is a healthier relationship, a 50-50 relationship or a 100-100 relationship? Two emotionally whole people connecting and communicating is the goal, not two halves. It’s better math! It’s also interesting how a GOOD thing (a tight relationship) can go south. Many have shared with me the pain of enmeshment when their close relationship with someone got TOO close. I welcome your thoughts on how enmeshment has affected you.

For Deeper Reflection

Take some time in the next day or so to read Psalm 139. The plan for our lives is to be individuals, fearfully and wonderfully made.

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.
You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com

Let’s Talk

Rebellious Children

Q. What are some practical, tangible ideas for parents of rebellious children?

A. Let’s Talk! Is there a possibility the child feels that the rules of the house are more important to the parent than their relationship? Children often rebel at rules when a loving relationship isn’t primary in the home. Is the atmosphere in the home a “punishing” one or a loving one?

All of us—young and older—naturally resist authority. Scripture indicates that rebellion is our very human nature! But, when rebellion occurs in a home, there are some ways to create consensus and help diminish the tension. These ideas in Let’s Talk are not meant to be pat answers to a complicated problem. I don’t ever like to sound like that. I would, however, like to offer a menu of some practical ideas over the next few weeks.

The relationship is the first goal. If there is building of relationships, there is more inclination that the children will want to follow and not resist the leadership. What could you do as a family to make things better? In a loving way, what about asking your rebellious child that question and ask for his/her input? You’ll want to be a good listener and not defensive at this moment. You will have other opportunities for your own thoughts.

I used to ask teachers to ask their students during the first week of school to circle up and have a meeting about what they wanted to happen and what they didn’t want to happen in the classroom that year. One by one agreements were formed and facilitated by the teacher, but the ideas were from the students and there was 100 percent buy-in for the rules they would follow that year. It’s also a model for the family, where rules are forged and agreed upon in emotionally safe family meetings where all feel heard and all input is respected. Kids feel like they are an important part of this process and feel more inclined to follow than rebel because of their own input.

Rebellion shows up the most in conversations and decisions concerning the rules and chores, as well as the discipline issues when rules aren’t followed. So, in the next post, I will share some ideas and language to facilitate that fun piece. In the meantime, let’s think about our parent-child relationship.

For Deeper Reflection

It is because of a relationship with God that I long to follow HIS instructions … in that order!

2 Timothy 3:1-5

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power….”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com

Let’s Talk

Letting Go Issues

Q. Could you please share some more about separation issues you talked about in your back-to-school column?

A. Let’s Talk! Letting go is a challenge for most parents and children, whether it’s off to kindergarten or college! It’s completely in the normal range to need to process the emotions surfacing.

It is “good” grief to process the changes and losses taking place by naming, tagging, or titling your thoughts/feelings as best you can, then put them in list form on paper – and then reframe those thoughts/feelings. By way of review, to reframe means to contrast or compare each item on your list with “what’s true.” You can either use your own sense of what is really true (what’s really happening) or you can go before your heavenly Father and ask Him to show you the deeper truths beneath your sorrow. Knowing truth and staying there sets us free. If you are helping a small child process this tearing away, it might sound like this: “I know you are sad to not be home today, but the truth is, you are very loved and my love will go with you (send a photo or note in the backpack, etc). Keep thinking about how proud we are of you.”

I gave you my example in the last column of my outside-the-normal-range of sorrow when my son went to college. It was God who opened wide my understanding that my loss was on many levels and not just my son leaving. It was the end of my parenting role as it once was, and even though I said I had let go of my son – I hadn’t! Oops. But much grace came, and I asked God to teach me what a more lateral, healthy relationship looked like and how to parent in this new stage. He was faithful. This led to healthier relationships (less needy and more letting go) for me in my family and beyond to other relationships. My daughter was leaving for college the following year, so I certainly needed to learn this. We’ll talk next time about some codependency issues that are often present during these changes. Being close is good, but enmeshment and needy-ness is not so healthy.

Let me close with a verse about our needs and where they are to be met, so we’re not trying to get those needs met with just people. This truth makes it easier to let go!

Philippians 4:19 “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com

Let’s Talk

Mother’s Day Blues

A. Could you please share some thoughts about mothering? Mother’s Day was hard on some of my friends.

Q. Let’s Talk! There are few topics more fraught with emotion – good and bad – than mothering. It is a highly sensitive topic for most and a land mine for many. But let’s dive in!

Maybe you are one of the few who have or have had a good relationship with your mother. Maybe you didn’t have a good relationship with your mother. Maybe she is deceased and there is no way to ever make things better. Maybe you wish you could be a mother and it hasn’t worked out. Maybe mothering is too hard. Maybe your mother wounds seem just too big to overcome.

For all of us there is a deep place in our hearts to be mothered well, but if that didn’t happen, the key question is: how do we recover? As a counselor, I do recommend counseling for a season of time to process the grief and regrets in your heart and mind.

The big picture is to take the steps with a helping professional to gain new insights, but the bottom line and goal is, at an appropriate time, to move past the past. Then, looking into the future, what might you need to do to change things? Can you let go? Can you forgive? Is there more understanding? The ball is in your court now.

You don’t have to stay in a broken dream of mothering. I have been told countless stories of how God filled in the gaps and mended many a wounded heart. Would you ask Him to come into your broken places?

For Deeper Reflection

Psalm 27:10 “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the Lord will take me up.”

Helen B. McIntosh has a doctorate in counseling psychology and is a national board certified professional counselor and certified in reality therapy. An educator for 19 years, Dr. McIntosh is an author, a highly demanded national speaker and inventor of the Peace Rug®, an international curriculum for conflict resolution.

You can contact me confidentially at DrHelen@braveandresilient.com