Pathological Relationships

Dealing with a problem partner

Relationship Relapse During the Holidays

The connection between holidays and dysfunctional interpersonal choices.

Last week I wrote about the "Power of Relapsing' and got many emails saying "THANK YOU for writing about it as I was thinking about going back to the relationship just so I wasn't alone during the holidays! You saved me from a disaster!"

Here's a secret: "Even if you go back, you're still alone. You've been alone the entire time because by nature of their disorder, they can't be there for you. So you're alone--now, in the holidays, or with them. With them, you have more drama, damage and danger. Your choice...."

People relapse and go back into relationships more from Thanksgiving thru Valentines Day than any other time of the year. Why? So many great holidays to fake it in! Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, V-Day....then PHOOEY! You're out. Why not be out now and stay out and save face. You're not fooling anyone...not yourself, them, or your family and friends.

Holidays are extremely stressful times. It's a time when it is more likely

* For domestic violence to occur

* For dysfunctional families to be even MORE dysfunctional

* People drink more

* People binge eat because of the stress

* Some feel pressured to 'be in a relationship' during the holidays and accept dates or stay with dangerous persons to 'just get thru the holidays'

* To overspend

* To not get enough rest

*  It's an idealistic time when people have more depression and anxiety than any other time of the year. Depression creeps in, anxiety increases, to cope they eat/drink/spend/date in ways they normally would not.

People put extraordinary pressure on themselves thinking their lives 'should be' the picture postcards and old movies we watch this time of year. You can't make a 'picture postcard memory with a psychopath or a narcissist!'

Here's a mantra to say outloud for yourself "I'm pretending that staying/going back with a psychopath/narcissist will make my holidays better."  Pretty ridiculous thought, isn't it? Something happens when you say the REAL thing outloud. It takes all the romaticization and fantasy out of the thought and smacks a little reality in your face.

"I want to be with a psychopath/narcissist for the holiday."  Say that three times to yourself out loud....

NO!! That's not what you want. That's what you GOT. You want to be with a nice man/woman/person for the holidays. As you VERY well know, they're not it.

"I want to share my special holidays with my special psychopath."  ???  Nope. That's not it either. But that's what's going to happen unless you buck up and start telling yourself the truth. It's OK to be by yourself for the holidays. It sure beats pathology as a gift.

Here's a real gift for you--some tips!

TIPS FOR A HAPPIER/HEALTHIER HOLIDAY

~ Stop idealizing--you are who you are, it is what it is. If your family isn't perfect, they certainly WON'T be during the season. In fact, everyone acts WORSE during the holidays. It is the peak of dysfunction. Accept yourself and others for who they are.

~ Don't feel pressured to eat more/spend more/drink more than you want to. Remind yourself you have choices and that the word 'No' is a complete sentence.

~ Take quiet time during the season or you'll get run over by the sheer speed of the holidays. Pencil it in like you would any other appointment. Buy your own present now--some bubble bath and spend quality time with some bubbles by yourself. Light a candle, find 5 things to be grateful for. Repeat often.

~ Take same-sex friends to parties and don't feel OBLIGATED to go with someone you don't want to go with. People end up in the worse binds of going to parties with others and get stuck in relationships they don't want to be in because of it. Find a few other friends who are willing to be 'party partners' during the holidays.

~ Give to others in need. The best way to get out of your own problems is to give to others whose problems exceed yours. Give to a charity, feed the homeless, buy toys for kids.

~ Find time for spiritual reflection. It's the only way to really feel the season and reconnect. Go to a service, pray, meditate, reflect.

~ Pick ONE growth oriented issue you'd like to focus on for 2011 and begin cultivating it in your mind--look for resources you can use to kick start your own growth on January 1.

~ Plant joy--in your self, in your life and in others.

I am so passionate about this subject and concerned for your well being this holiday that I have made an mp3 message for you. To listen to my 15 min broadcast about protecting yourself this holiday season from relapse and hook ups, click here: http://www.howtospotadangerousman.com/Audio/Christmas2008Message.mp3
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Gender Disclaimer: The issues The Institute writes about are mental health issues. They are not gender issues. Both females and males have the types of Cluster B disorders we often refer to in our articles. Our readership is approximately 90% female therefore we write for those most likely to seek out our materials. We highly support male victims and encourage others who want to provide support to male victims to encompass the issues we discuss only from a female perpetrator/male-victim standpoint. Cluster B Education is a mental health issue applicable to both genders.
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Sandra L. Brown, M.A., is CEO of The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education.

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