|HEALTHY - FUNCTIONAL - HAPPY FAMILIES - RELATIONSHIPS
Traits and Characteristics
A functional, adaptive, healthy & happy family
starts with caring for one another in the family!
Adaptive & Happy Families & Relationships
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Healthy, happy, adaptive and functional families do not just happen!
There are things people do to make them that way: that means people work at
making them healthy and happy: they have commitment - and are mutually
committed to each other, and to making it work.
Healthy (happy) relationships do not happen on a 50-50 basis. They happen on a
100-100 basis - each has to give ALL of their effort (100%), and sometimes
150% of their effort -to sustain the relationship and make it work - and it has to
be done unselfishly and without an agenda.
Healthy, happy & functional families are characterised by love, acceptance of
individuality, trust, and continual "mutual compromises" through negotiation
to make those individual difference "work".
They blend their individuality, adjust and compromise - it is called consensus
-building: that requires commitment.
Dawn Cove Abbey
Deerfield, (Yarmouth County) Nova Scotia,
The ingredients (characteristics / secrets) for happy, healthy and functional families
involve the following:
Young children, adolescents and parents all need to hear praise and feel affirmation
from those special members of their family.
The adolescent strengthens his/her self-concept from the healthy statements or
gestures showing care.
How do we reach out to our family showing care and love? What are loving and
caring words or gestures?
In healthy families, support for family members is one of the pillars of bonding.
In unhealthy families there is no such support - they are called
"dysfunctional families" - or dysfunctional relationships.
Dawn Cove Abbey offers a workshop entitled, "Creating A Healthy/Functional
You might also find, "If I Really Cared" worthwhile reading.
Healthy, functional families are a "minority group" - a "subculture"
within the dominant culture of dysfunction.
Other Considerations In Healthy Committed Relationships
Over time many relationships enter a stage where the partners feel distanced from
each other. The initial passion, sexual freedom, intimacy, and feelings of
connectedness with the partner fade. Either person may begin to feel that, although
they love their partner, they are no longer “in love.”
At the same time, both partners may feel that they have lost themselves in the
They have given so much to the relationship in terms of their time, their energies,
and their emotions that they have lost what made them feel unique as individuals.
They have abandoned old friendships, hobbies, and activities that brought interest
and excitement to their own lives in order to devote time and energy to the
When a feeling of distance comes to define the relationship, resentment toward
the partner may emerge.
How does a relationship, which may have once shown such promise, end up in a
place where the two partners feel distant and may not even like each other very
much (even though they feel that love is still there)?
The answer lies within.
Two people who come together in an emotional commitment carry with them a
legacy of their own fears, anxieties and unresolved problems.
It is sometimes uncomfortable for us to come to terms with our own baggage.
It is, in fact, so troublesome that we are unable to look within ourselves.
When that happens, we tend to attribute the problem to our partners, a process
called projection (putting blame that belongs to us on others instead).
Rather than accepting the fact that our partners are just being themselves and
probably have the best of intentions, we define the source of our own anxiety
as lying within the other person, at those times.
|"In the case of a married couple, the masculine and feminine element
united by true married love produce one life that is fully
human". ~Emanuel Swedenborg
It takes TWO people to make a relationship work
If one "knows" how and tries - and the other doesn't it will fail.
We help people heal their Relationships
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When we feel uncomfortable about something our partners say or do, we may not realize
that our discomfort may insecurity, or our fear of dependence or independence.
Our partners may simply be triggering our own unresolved difficulties. The clue is to
search within our own lives to see why we have difficulty with these issues. And this
is no small task. To become acquainted with oneself is indeed a terrible shock.
The Course of a Relationship
Relationships mature over time.
The initial attraction may be physical, and this may carry the relationship for some
time to the point of making an emotional commitment.
Then the excitement and promise of sharing our life with another person can lead
to a stage of heightened expectations where we ignore or minimize the discomfort
that we may feel from time to time in the relationship.
But this stage comes to an end and we finally express our frustration.
“Why are you always telling me what to do?”
“Can’t you give me any time to myself?”
“Don’t you know who I am?”
“Why don’t you shower me with love like you used to?”
Notice in these examples that blame is cast on the other person.
The one hurling the blame does not look within (for example, “I have difficulty
because of my own issues when someone tells me what to do.”). This is a particularly
vulnerable stage in the course of an emotionally committed relationship, and can serve
as a make or break challenge.
It is at this stage that an equilibrium – or, more accurately, a standoff – is reached by
the two partners. “I won’t challenge you and you won’t challenge me, and we’ll just
accept the fact that we will be distant from each other.”
In contrast, healthier relationships move into a different and more mature stage -
where both partners look within to find the source of their own anxiety, find ways to
soothe themselves without trying to change the other person, and learn to accept
and love the other person despite their frustrating quirks.
When this occurs, and when the distance between the partners has been resolved, the
genuine excitement and passion of the relationship can continue to flourish - this time
in a mature, accepting, and integrated manner.
David Schnarch, Ph.D., the author of Passionate Marriage, suggests that in order to
grow within an emotionally committed relationship, we must experience the process of
“differentiation.” This means holding onto yourself within a relationship, staying true to
what you want out of life while sharing your life with a partner.
Differentiation allows us to break free from the negative processes that happen between
partners in any relationship. It allows us to take a time out from arguments in order to
comfort ourselves. It leads to self-control, which means that we can stop trying to
control our partners.
The differentiated partner is able to soothe him- or herself rather than pressuring the
other person to change in order to make the first one feel better. Paradoxically, when
partners differentiate, they actually have the ability to achieve more intimacy, while
undifferentiated partners can stay locked in their emotional standoff.
And when one partner differentiates, it upsets the old equilibrium that had developed
so that the other partner is prompted to make changes as well. In short, a healthy
relationship is one in which two people, each of whom has a firm sense of self, come
together and celebrate both their differences and their similarities.
Schnarch identifies several activities that happen when a person differentiates.
Maintaining a clear sense of who you are within the relationship. Your partner was
probably originally attracted to you because of the strength of your unique qualities.
Both of you knew what you valued and believed in. Over time, because we
accommodate ourselves to both our own and our partner’s more immature
qualities and unresolved issues, we lose our sense of uniqueness.
We compromise ourselves with the goal of smoothing out conflicts and fail to realize
that we are losing our sense of self in the process. We may find that we have lost
those qualities that were once so attractive to our partner. Differentiation involves
looking within, gaining a firm definition of who we are, and celebrating
Maintaining a sense of perspective. We need to accept the fact that we all have
anxieties and other shortcomings. This is part of the human condition. The mature
person, however, understands that these frailties need not determine our behavior.
Our limits should neither incapacitate nor drive us. When we honestly accept this fact
both in ourselves and in our partners, we can take a more balanced approach in
dealing with each other’s limitations. The peaks and valleys of crises can be smoothed
out. The blaming can come to an end, replaced by acceptance and love for the
Committing to a willingness to engage in self-confrontation. Looking within is difficult
but it is a necessary step both in our own life development and in helping our
relationships to grow to new levels. Self-confrontation means coming to terms with
our own fears, anxieties, and insecurities, a process that may be aided by professional
It may mean accepting the criticisms of our partners as valuable feedback about
where our insecurities lie.
Self-examination can focus on understanding how and why we manipulate others,
undermine our own effectiveness, take a selfish approach at times (or, alternatively,
give to others and never to ourselves), and work against our own best interests. We
need to understand why we avoid ourselves, and then we need to make an honest
commitment to enter into a path of honesty and integrity.
Acknowledging our projections and distortions of reality that protect us from ourselves.
We need to understand why we blame others, especially our emotionally committed
partners, rather than acknowledging our own participation in interpersonal conflicts.
This involves admitting when we are wrong. We should not expect that our partners
will do likewise. Taking an honest approach toward our own lives is a tough, but
rewarding, journey into personal integrity.
When we embark on the trip, our partners, who are no longer feeling blamed and
know that the old emotional standoffs have been eliminated, will often decide to
begin their own excursions into self-growth.
Learning to tolerate the pain involved in self-exploration. Dealing with emotional pain
is a talent, which can be learned. In childhood many of us learned unhealthy ways of
handling discomfort, often because we lacked supportive role modeling from our
parents or other adults that would have taught us how to deal with pain in a
We may have learned to blame our parents when we faced life’s difficulties, and then
we carry this blaming behavior into our committed relationships in adulthood. Avoiding
pain is the reason many adults indulge in substance abuse or other addictive behaviors
such as gambling, inordinate spending, or watching too much television.
The healthier option is to make the adult commitment to explore the pain and its
sources – and to find ways to make self-growth a friend rather than something to
avoid. When we learn to cope with our own pain, we no longer need to manipulate
our partners into making us feel better. And when this happens, the magic can re-enter
Learn to Self-Soothe in the Face of Conflict
We blame our partners when we feel discomfort, and this tends to create distance
within an emotionally committed relationship. The distance, then, creates a feeling
of further discomfort. The clue to dealing with this dilemma is to learn how to soothe
your own emotional pain. This can open the way to more passion and closeness
in your relationship.
Schnarch offers several suggestions for helping people to learn the art of self-soothing.
Don’t take your partner’s behavior personally. Even if your partner doesn’t make all the
changes that you’ve made, it should not be taken personally.
If you and your partner are having a conflict, try some inwardly focused relaxation
techniques. Focus on your breathing. Stop talking and try to slow your heart rate.
Lower the volume of your speech and work on relaxing your
body (See Conflict Resolution: Fair Fighting).
Put the current conflict into perspective. Think about past instances of the same type
of conflict. What resources did you use in the past for dealing with the conflict? Think
about how discomfort will surface again in the future - and if you learn now how to deal
with it, you will be better off in these future instances.
Control your behavior, even if you can’t regulate your emotions. While we may have
difficulty in controlling our emotions, especially in the face of a conflict, we can have
control over our behavior. Prevent yourself from saying and doing things that you will
Tell yourself: “I don’t have to take action on my feelings.”
Stop the negative thinking. Our thoughts drive our feelings and behavior. When you
find yourself engaged in negative thinking, make the change to more positive thoughts.
Accept what is happening and then calm down.
You may have to break contact temporarily with your partner until things cool down.
When you are engaged in a conflict, you may need some time to get in touch with your
self again. Look on this as a time-out, not a separation. Tell your partner that you need
some time alone to calm down and that you can discuss the issue better later, after
both of you have had some space from each other.
Self-soothing does not involve substance abuse, the abuse of food, or emotional
regression. You need time to confront yourself and understand what your part in
the conflict may be. This does not mean hiding out, sleeping, binge-eating, or the
use of drugs or alcohol, which are all ways to avoid self-confrontation.
I hope this article helps you to think about your relationship in a new way!
(also see Love, Infatuation Obsession etc)
Characteristics of Healthy Families
Family atmosphere is influenced by a belief in helping each other, acknowledging
human needs for reassurance and support, and viewing mistakes as human.
Family members know that human needs are satisfied through relationship.
Clear boundaries between family members means that the responsibilities of
adults are clear and separate from the responsibilities of the growing child(ren).
There are no “parentified” (see Dysfunctional Families) children in the family,
and people talk freely for themselves, expressing differences of feelings and
opinions without fear of punishment or retaliation.
Power and Intimacy:
People are able to relate intimately when they feel they have equal power. This is
because when we get frightened, two options are open to us: to relate through
loving and caring to get our needs met, or to control others or a situation. We
may choose the power of love or the power of control.
Honesty and freedom of expression:
Members of a family are free to express themselves autonomously , including
different opinions or viewpoints if the family interactions support individuality.
Discussions can be lively and even heated if it is basically acceptable for family
members to have differences. Love and caring is not withdrawn if people think
differently about something. If ambivalence and uncertainty are accepted, as well
as differences, families tend to enjoy an open atmosphere of honesty in the
Warmth, joy and humor:
When there is joy and humor in relationships, people seek out the comfort of
these interactions. Family members’ enjoyment and trust in one another is an
important energizing resource! There is the feeling that there is always someone
to talk to who cares, and who you can laugh and have fun with at various times
Organization and negotiating skill:
A necessary aspect of family life is coordinating tasks, negotiating differences
and being able to reach closure effectively. Negotiating skills include the ability
to listen and make choices in what family members feel is a fair process. In
healthy families, this process does not get overly bogged down, although there
is room for discussion, and parents alternate the role of coordinator between
them. Parents can take charge without being overly controlling.
Part of the health and vibrancy of any family is also dealing with weaknesses,
fears and stresses in the system itself. Nobody is perfect and no system is perfect.
But in healthy families, truth is accepted as not absolute. Different perspectives
on reality are acceptable and people are basically good.
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|Dawn Cove Abbey
"Roadside Assistance" For Your Journey Through Life
- Dedicated to helping people return (and maintain) sanity and decency to life -
From the eBook: "One! The Journey hOMe", by Klaas Tuinman M.A © 2007-2019
Questions and comments welcomed.
The Dawn Cove Abbey Tradition: Helping People Rediscover Themselves
Established in 1995, in commemoration of Abbey Dawn in Kingston, Ontario.
|Regardless how long your behaviour pattern and circumstances may have existed,
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"Each night I die to old habits and to negative thinking and actions that do not
serve me any more; each morning I am resurrected into new life, again and again
– if I so choose." (adapted from the chapel's prayers).
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First and foremost: a family's purpose (in Western-European and
North American cultural terms) consists of the living, sharing,
nourishing and development of life.
In a healthy, happy and functional family, the adults (parents) have
"their act together": they are the role-models; they model behaviour:
they are "adaptive" - and each has "worth". See "Gender Equality".
They have, or have built, or are building, a strong, solid relationship.
All their actions in the family are generated from that strong, healthy
That doesn't mean they are both the "same".
Instead it means they have worked out an approach that incorporates
their individual each other, their children and other people: using
See further below (committed relationships)
This is equally true in blended, combined or merged families ("a
meeting of two cultures").
Without that strong relationship between the two adults/parents, the
family will not have the strength that is so important; otherwise
there will be failure: of both the relationship and the family.
The strength of a family stems from the strength of the relationship
between the two adults/parents. After all, the family started with
them, and when the children are grown, it will be the two adults
who are left. The question will be: with what? A good solid relation-
ship that has grown over time - or a disastrous, dysfunctional
situation? If you have a question about healthy/happy families,
or a related one, or if any of the above (or below) does NOT apply
to you and your life, or of someone you know, and you desire help:
Help is here - no risk - no obligation to inquire - totally confidential!
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