We are going to talk about trust and respect. As children or in past relationships, so many of us have had our trust broken to the point where we think we may never trust again.

For me personally, there was one major event that broke my trust as a child and I believe that it was the beginning of my Complex Trauma. I was raised in a Catholic family and we had many ‘rules’ of how to and how not to act. When I found out that one of the major rules that had been preached to us had been violated, I had such a sense of betrayal and it was the event that put a stop to my spiritual growth. I felt like my parents were hypocrites and they nor God could be trusted. I also feel like if my parents had admitted the mistake, owned it, and apologized I could have gotten over it but because it was swept under the rug and we were not allowed to talk about it, I did not have a chance to process the situation and allow my trust to be repaired. This one major event has impacted me my whole life and I had a lot to deal with when I entered recovery.

Today, lying is a huge trigger for me and I will not tolerate it in my relationships. Throughout recovery I have learnt to form relationships with people I trust and respect. Having those relationships is an integral part of my recovery and I believe everyone needs to work on building friendships and relationships with people that they can trust.

Relationship red flags are something that I found to be very revealing in my own life. Having had few boundaries growing up, I tolerated a lot of unhealthy boundaries in my relationships with both family and friends. As I journeyed the road of healthy boundaries, I learned which red flags I was not willing to put up with. The boundaries were hard and often painful but the resulting freedom and peace that I received in the healthy friendships was well worth the work put into it. I learned and often continue to learn that the relationships that are healthy will be those who respect your ‘no’ and will encourage you to maintain healthy in your choices.

With Love,

Shannon Block

I find it very helpful to observe the patterns in my relationships so that I can work towards establishing healthier ones. Let’s discuss the type of people we meet in recovery and the kinds of supports we need to have a successful recovery.

A healthy relationship consists of two well-intentioned people with good character freely sharing mutual resources of time, money and energy. On the other hand, we often get caught up in one sided relationships where one person is doing most of the giving.

When I first got into counselling, I had the desire to help, but my motives weren’t pure. I was often in relationships with needy people, or nobody at all. By finding people with more obvious issues, I could ignore mine and pretend I had it all together. In a sense, codependent relationships gave me a sense of worth and protected me from myself. However, this is not satisfying! I would live, work and volunteer in the inner city all day and every day. Eventually, I became exhausted and realized I needed to let go. Sometimes setting boundaries is hard because people can see me as selfish or like I don’t know how to love myself without feeling ‘useful’. The rescuer can easily become the rescued by falling trap to the lie that someone else’s affection is the antidote to your pain and weariness. I now realize that whatever I’m struggling with needs to be dealt with directly and comfort is only a temporary solution.

I also kept myself around broken people because I feared the rejection of healthy people. On some level, I thought if they didn’t need me, they wouldn’t stay. When I was growing up, I was given the message that I was undesirable so I thought a healthy, loving relationship wasn’t in the cards for me. Emotional abuse felt normal, so it didn’t raise red flags.

So how did I change this? A few ways! I realized that I stunted my own growth by only focusing on other people and began to work on myself. Sometimes I still crawl back into the familiar cave of codependency, only to drag myself out again when I failed to change another person. I started sharing on a deeper level, so real intimacy became possible. I have developed friendships, and because I am no longer controlled by pity, I can help others. I no longer feel ashamed of getting support. I also realized what is unhealthy, which makes it easier not to fall for things like gas lighting. I also learned that no matter how fun or exciting people are, what matters most is character. When I decide to trust people now, this is what I base it on. Of course these are ongoing issues but I am in a much better place than I was.

And with time, you can all grow and overcome unhealthy relationship patterns in your life too.

With Love,

Kayla Nyugen

“When we have secure attachment, we have confidence in ourselves and others. This allows us to enjoy quality time together, as well as quality time apart.”

This is an important theory that can give you insight into how you respond in relationships. We should have a healthy balance of interdependence, so that we can both take the initiative to meet some of our own needs, and also reach out to our relationships to have needs met. Unfortunately, this security can get damaged very early in life when we try to attach to our parents and find a roadblock. When that happens we often develop an attachment style of hanging on for dear life (anxious attachment), resisting intimacy (avoidant attachment), or being hot and cold in relationships, both leaning in and pulling away (sometimes referred to as ambivalent or disorganized attachment).

We don’t necessarily have a fixed attachment style for life but can grow and adapt depending on the circumstances. When I was young, I had an angry parent and a passive aggressive parent. Having said that, they weren’t bad people, but just weren’t able to communicate love and safety in the way I needed. Because I felt unloved by my parents, I didn’t attach to them very well emotionally. I also was bullied in my youth and got a lot of messages about being different or weird. As a result, I hid my true self, only spending time with others who were ‘different’ or didn’t fit the mold either. In a sense, I was avoidant – not wanting to risk the pain of real intimacy, because any real feelings I expressed in my home were met with rejection and misunderstanding. However, when I finally decided to give vulnerability a shot, I flipped to anxious and/ or ambivalent attachment. I would sometimes put up walls or boundaries, but I couldn’t let go of the connection that filled my longing.

Just like it took years to get past the barrier of shunned emotion and avoidant attachment, it also took years to work through the insane loyalty of anxious attachment. And of course, in order to be healthy in our relationships, we also have to have another person who is willing to work on their attachment issues with us, or who are already securely attached. Even if our parents were not safe havens, we can find new supports as an adult who can become that safety net for us.

With Love,

Kayla Nyugen

Kim and I had been married for about 3 years. This one particular Saturday morning, we encountered the worst fight we had ever experienced.. After arguing throughout the morning, we weren’t any closer to resolving it than when we started. We had remained respectful to each other, communicated as clearly as we could and worked hard to understand each other’s perspective, but we were still not even close to resolving our conflict. In fact, it was beginning to feel like we were at war and that the only way to resolve this would result in one of us winning and the other losing. When we were married, we had made a commitment to each other to resolve conflict.

At this point, part of me wanted to resolve conflict, but another part wanted to win this fight. There was a lot of tension between the two of us so we went to separate parts of the house and avoided being in the same room together. Eventually, I went into the kitchen where Kim was, took both of her hands in mine, faced her and said,

“Instead of looking at this as if we are on opposite teams wanting to win, why don’t we look at it as if we are on the same team, working together to find a solution.”

That changed everything. Within a short period of time, we were able to resolve our conflict.

Here’s what I have learned over the years:

  1. Much of our lives are about relationships
  2. There is nothing more difficult and rewarding than healthy intimate relationships although healthy relationships take a ton of work.
  3. A healthy relationship will only happen if both parties are willing to change and grow. That is the only way to resolve conflict in a healthy way.
  4. I don’t like conflict, but I have learned that it is inevitable and necessary, and if conflict is responded to in a healthy way, much good can come from it.

I hope this story will inspire you to pursue growth, and that you will continue to develop the tools for healthy relationships.

With Love,

Tim Fletcher

Over my years as a counsellor, here’s what I have seen to be the most common relationship issues:

  1. Inability to let go of a relationship
  2. Not knowing how to end a relationship
  3. Picking someone who is emotionally unavailable
  4. Getting into a relationship too quickly
  5. Not knowing how to rebuild a broken relationship with one’s kids
  6. Lack of healthy boundaries
  7. And an inability to find healthy people in recovery to build relationships with

I have seen that the issues go much deeper than those listed above. The main underlying issues are:

  1. Shame – unless one’s core belief about themselves changes, healthy relationships will almost be impossible
  2. Fear of abandonment
  3. Fear of being authentic
  4. Complex Trauma – the survival skills necessary to survive Complex Trauma and make healthy relationships impossible

In other words, in order to have a healthy relationship, one must be willing to take the huge risk of getting rid of their old tools and learning a new set of tools. My hope for you is that you will be willing to learn a new set of tools and apply them in your life. It will be scary, but I think you will find it is worth it.

With Love, 

Tim Fletcher