Some time ago, a counselor friend sent me Leslie Vernick‘s emotionally destructive relationship test. A relationship I was in had just ended, and what was left was big a ol’ emotional mess.
I took Vernick’s online test (which is the same as is in the book), and was shocked at the results. I knew the relationship had issues, but I was sincerely shocked at just how emotionally destructive it really was, at how emotionally damaged I was, and at how destructive I had become.
I read Vernick’s entire book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship: Seeing It, Stopping It, Surviving It, this year, and it’s quite an amazing guide for identifying emotionally damaging behaviors in yourself and others, for determining what to do about them, and for getting past the damage.
So here’s a few things I learned:
Thing No. 1: A destructive relationship is not the same thing as a difficult one.
This is key, because while all relationships will likely have some elements of difficulty, not all relationships will become destructive. It’s important to discern the difference, and the relationship assessment does a good job at helping you identify difficult vs. destructive, using a scale of always, often, sometimes, seldom and never.
Thing No. 2: Discern the difference between your problem and your partner’s problem.
Vernick says that we often get stuck in destructive relationships because we work on fixing the other person in ways that are beyond our control. We can’t change other people, only ourselves.
Thing No. 3: Who do you, Lord, say that I am?
One of the most damaging things to come out of my destructive relationship was a shattered self-image. I was told by my partner and by my own mind that I was a liar, untrustworthy, selfish, prideful, a hypocrite, and so on. After it was all said and done, I didn’t know what was true. Was I really all of those things, and if so how, and why?
It was a very taxing mental and emotional exercise to work through what was true and what wasn’t. Vernick’s approach on this was to not to listen to others but to seek what God had to say. The Holy Spirit will convict for sins and wrongs; we don’t need other people to do the Spirit’s job. Self-image shouldn’t be based on what another person says I am, but about who God says I am.
Viewing yourself how God sees you is beautifully humbling because I know that I do not deserve to be seen that way. Scripture uses phrases like most-precious possession, without fault, and His masterpiece, and I’m like, “But God, I’m a filthy rag.” Isn’t grace wonderful??
Finally, Thing No. 4: Let It Go
Culture, society and even the church tell us that the key to healing or growing or achieving what we want to achieve is to do more. Read your Bible. Get involved in ministry. Seek counseling and wisdom. Better yourself. Etc. And all those things are good. But they will never result in the stability that only God can give if we continue to hold on to things like … unrealistic expectations, negative emotions like anger or bitterness, and lies.
The last chapters walk through how to let go –here’s a clue: it’s a choice — and methods that will help.
This book has been a huge help to me as I have tried to process all that happened and all that’s leftover in the aftermath. I highly, highly recommend it for anyone who is in a difficult relationship, currently or in the past, and needs help working through it.
Comedic Christian blogger and writer Jon Acuff wrote a great post on his blog yesterday — “How to improve your marriage instantly” — that every iPhone or smartphone owner, or even computer or video game owner, could benefit from reading. I said years ago I could write a blog post “How the iPhone killed my marriage” because it had such a major affect on my interests, my habits, my time, etc., as well as my late husband’s.
The iPhone and products like it are revolutionary. But of course, but with such big change comes both the good and the bad and comes great responsibility. As Acuff said, “It’s like having the entire world in your pocket!” He’s right! It is! There is nothing the thing cannot do. It has replaced my pocket calendar, address book, wrist watch, purse-sized dictionary and Bible, camera, and even scrap-paper grocery lists. Like the marketing phrase goes, “There’s an app for that.”
But what Acuff says, and says well using his clever humor and style, is that all of that functionality can rob us of face to face time. Not Facetime, the video phone app — face-to-face time between actual faces.
I highly recommend reading the post and I’m glad Acuff tackled a very important topic in a way that people can relate. What made an even bigger impression on me than Acuff’s words, though, are those who commented on the post and some of the hurt and frustration from people who have felt ignored or unimportant, etc. from someone texting or iPhoning too much. I’ve been on both sides — feeling that way and making others feel that way, and it stings either way.
As several pointed out in comments, paring back on iPhone time would not just benefit marriages but any relationship — friendships, family, co-workers. I am often convicted of too much iPhone and computer time while my kids are around and needing/wanting my attention. Do I really want them feeling that way? ‘Course not.
When I was a little girl, in our kitchen, right next to the telephone, was a sticky board covered with “Love Is …” newspaper clippings.
My dad would clip them out of the newspaper and give them to my mom.
I thought it was romantic and sweet.
Perhaps there should be a Love Is cartoon that says “Love Is clipping out the Love Is cartoons and giving them to the one you love.”
The official “modern” gift for first anniversaries is clocks, so this is what I gave John back in the year 2000 to commemorate one year of marriage.
I had it personalized with the date of our wedding and the inscription, “It wasn’t easy but it was worth it.”
I’m not sure he liked it. In fact, I’m pretty sure he didn’t. He displayed it on his desk for a few years but at some point it was packed in a box and never to be seen again … until I found it while doing more cleaning out this weekend.
It’s the kind of memento that were he still alive and were we still together we’d chuckle about. “Oh, remember how bad that first year was?” one of us might say. “If we only knew there would be even harder to come we might not have thought then was so hard,” the other might reply.