By Kara Post-Kennedy
Everybody has unhealthy relationships.
Whether they are with other people, with food, money, authority, work or all-of-the-above, we have unhealed places that assert themselves in how we relate to the various stimuli in our lives.
“Success” and “happiness” are not one-size-fits-all and they are never across-the-board wins. You may have a great marriage but struggle financially. You might be at the top of your field but constantly battling with your weight. You could be in peak physical condition but lacking in human connection.
This is why we have the expression “never judge a book by its cover,” because what we can see of another person’s experience is not the whole story. Our envy about someone’s wealth or beauty or relationship is more a reflection of our own personal dissatisfaction than an accurate inventory of how their life is going. “Physician, heal thyself” speaks to our need to get our own house in order before we start judging anyone else’s, for better or for worse.
One of the overriding anomalies of the human condition is our tendency, when we are already struggling, to “indulge” in behaviors and activities we know are not in our best interests. Eating junk food, watching too much TV, slacking off on exercise; we “comfort” ourselves with unhealthy choices.
And while experts may extol the virtues of an occasional “cheat day,” too often we fall down the rabbit hole in one (or more than one) area of life, where we are essentially “cheating” all the time.
This can cause myriad problems that spill over into the other, more robust parts of our life, whether by manifestation of health problems, excessive weight gain, debt, or an absence of intimacy.
It is interesting to note that while most of us know the basic fundamentals of experiencing sound physical and financial well-being — aka eat healthily and in moderation, get regular exercise, keep to a budget, etc — many of us do not live our lives within these parameters, regardless of the stress the consequences of not doing so may bring.
So too do many of us “indulge” (or tolerate) toxic relationships because not only is the very idea of the effort it would take to extricate from them a tiring concept, the truth is often these connections become the junk food of our souls; we know they are bad for us but have convinced ourselves that “healthier” options are not as satisfying.
Sorry, that’s the truth.
We have all heard the expression “addictive relationships” and we may not feel ours fits the definition because we don’t perceive it as abusive. But any unhealthy relationship can be defined as addictive because we are repeating patterns and thoughts that have not been effective in the past as if this time it may be different.
We may know that eating too much sugar or drinking too much or even just not moving our bodies enough can make us feel spacy, disconnected and unwell, but when we are triggered by anxiety we may slump back into the “solution” that never worked before and never will; we do this same thing in our addictive relationships.
Just as we may get temporary relief from a sugar high or a wine buzz, the “honeymoon phase” of an addictive relationship is what keeps us coming back for more. And just like with any addiction, the so-called “positive” reinforcements of our behaviors become harder and harder to come by, and the results are shorter and shorter-lived.
We are addicted not only to what we view as our reward but also to the rollercoaster ride we take to get it.
We are addicted to melodrama and yes, even to our pain; not only because we have been sold on highs and lows as “peak experiences” but also, quite frankly, because we are avoiding pain in some other area in our lives.
Just as food and alcohol might distract us from confronting critical questions regarding our overall wellbeing, so do addictive relationships. And unlike food and alcohol, we won’t necessarily face any judgment for prioritizing our unhealthy marriages or partnerships, so they can become our perpetual excuse for not accomplishing our goals, health-wise, professionally, artistically, etcetera, ad nauseam.
The truth is, unconditional love just isn’t that “sexy,” at least by the standards of the cultural conditioning we have received courtesy of our media. Loving someone all-day, every-day, no-matter-what sounds a little bit ho-hum to a lot of people.
Where is the passion, they wonder? Where is the excitement?
The unhealthy relationship feeds us a steady diet of junk food for our soul; it is the habitat of the immature and the unevolved.
Sure, spending all day in bed with a box of pop-tarts and a video game console might sound fun to some people every now and again, but if that is how you want to live your whole life you are either completely emotionally and spiritually shut down (or you are 18). Just like health and fitness and financial stability and success require discipline, so does a healthy relationship.
Ugh, what a drag, am I right?
But here’s a little secret for you: yes, it will require discipline to achieve any worthwhile goal — your ideal weight, career, success, abundance and happy intimacy — but once achieved you will experience “highs” that do not go away with the next fight, the next disappointment, the next challenge.
Unconditional love (like prosperity) is actually the ultimate level of freedom. When someone loves and accepts you just exactly where and how you are, it gives you the unfettered leeway to become more and more of it. No more tiptoeing around yourself, your goals, your dreams, and your magic; you have nothing to hide and your support system is locked into place.
Unconditional love is like a having a bank account that never runs out. I can’t think of anything sexier than that, frankly. Because when your bank account never runs out, you always have plenty to give.
So stop eating the crumbs of junk food your unhealthy relationship feeds you, hoping to recapture the high it once gave you. Commit to a healthy diet of unconditional love for yourself and the people in your life who do not abuse or undermine you; you will reach your goals sooner than you can imagine.
Just like a garden needs proper tending and fertilizer, when you stop feeding your body and soul junk food, you are able to blossom.
Kara is an editor and columnist at The Good Men Project, a blogger at Your New Best Friend and Huffington Post and former Editor-in-Chief at OTV Magazine and a Mom. You can follow her on Twitter.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.