Today we're talking relationships- specifically, unhealthy relationships. When unhealthy relationships happen- and it can happens to any of us- it takes time to get back on your feet. Remembering what’s normal after an unhealthy relationship isn't easy or fun. When sexual orientation and gender identity- and navigating queer community dynamics- are part of the picture, it's even more complicated. That's where I come in. I help clients find their own answers to relationship dilemmas. One of the biggest of these is healing from unhealthy relationships.
Let’s back up for a minute. What are healthy relationships? Many of us haven’t learned it by the time we’re having our first serious relationships due to lack of role models. Often times, we’re exploring our sexual orientation and gender identity at the same time as we're learning who we are in relationship. It can be a lot.
Healthy relationships are those in which partners can be themselves with autonomy and independence- keep growing and changing as individuals (often in the midst of self-discovery!)- at the same time that they can go to each other for closeness and understanding. Communication helps a lot as does what we counselors call emotional intelligence, which basically means being in touch with your feelings. It helps to know what’s your stuff, what’s your partners’, and what to do when it’s getting in the way.
We all encounter unhealthy relationships from time to time. With these experiences comes the understanding of what works for us and what doesn’t, what to look out for, and what to avoid. That doesn't mean it's comfortable (if only!). If you have experienced any of the following behaviors in relationship, you are not alone...
In unhealthy relationships, despite how wonderfully things may- and often do- begin, before too long you find that being yourself is NOT encouraged. Instead, feeling unsure of yourself and what to expect is more commonplace. This occurs when your partner blames you for things, seems to see the worst in you- saying things that simply aren't true, such as, "you must WANT me to get mad at you!"- embarrasses you in front of your friends, family, and community, takes charge of your coming out process (i.e. making you come out or stay in the closet based upon their needs rather than yours), and otherwise seeks to control you. It's about them, not you. What you’re really feeling and needing in the relationship (and in life!) is not addressed. Being treated this way has palpable results even if it’s only noticed you because it happens in private.
An unhealthy relationship can be hard to leave for many reasons- a huge one being that they’re rarely ALL bad and, for some of us, they're a huge link to the community- and it can continue impacting you after you’ve gotten out of it. Many people find their former feelings of self trust and self confidence seem shattered; it’s harder to be yourself, you’re more worried what others think of you, and less optimistic about the world. This is the aftermath of an unhealthy relationship where you were made to feel that the problem was you. Because it happens with someone we’re so close with, the impact is strong. It can take awhile to heal rom these types of behaviors.
If you are in the midst of dealing with an unhealthy relationship, be encouraged. It's beyond hard and frustrating because these wounds go deep and leave scars that we can't see- but with time, self reflection, and self care, you CAN and WILL heal. You can recover on your own OR with a new partner- so long as that relationship is a healthier one. It's worth remembering that you now know what to look for. Or, if you don’t know for sure, you’re learning. People just like you can and do change everyday. You can, too. I see it everyday.
If you think I can be of help to you in your healing process, let me know. What we talk about is confidential and up to you. I'm here to help you be in charge of your life, again- starting with your counseling. This is when many people reach out to a therapist. Together, we can help you find relief and answers.
Know that I am wishing you well and all good things in abundance.