Divorce can be the result of one or both partners suffering from the unrecognized effects of growing up in a dysfunctional or addiction-based household. Only a small percentage of therapists and coaches understand the effects of family dysfunction on adult behavior and thinking and therefore don’t ask about them or know how to guide their clients in dealing with them. Become educated yourself. Here’s a place to start:
Did you or someone you know grow up with family dysfunction or alcoholism or addiction in their household?
Does any of the following descriptions resonate with you, or describe someone you know?
“Our decisions and answers to life did not seem to work. Our lives had become unmanageable. We exhausted all the ways we thought we could become happy. We often lost our creativity, our flexibility, and our sense of humor. Continuing the same existence was no longer an option. Nevertheless, we found it almost impossible to abandon the thought of being able to fix ourselves. Exhausted, we held out hope that a new relationship, a new job, or a move would be the cure, but it never was. We made the decision to seek help.”
“We had come to feel isolated and uneasy with other people, especially authority figures. To protect ourselves, we became people-pleasers, even though we lost our own identities in the process. All the same we would mistake any personal criticism as a threat. We either became alcoholics (or practiced other addictive behavior) ourselves, or married them, or both. Failing that, we found other compulsive personalities, such as a workaholic, to fulfill our sick need for abandonment.”
“We lived life from the standpoint of victims. Having an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, we preferred to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. We got guilt feelings when we stood up for ourselves rather than giving in to others. Thus, we became reactors, rather than actors, letting others take the initiative. We were dependent personalities, terrified of abandonment, willing to do almost anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to be abandoned emotionally. Yet we kept choosing insecure relationships because they matched our childhood relationship with alcoholic or dysfunctional parents.”
“These symptoms of the family disease of alcoholism or other dysfunction made us “co-victims”, those who take on the characteristics of the disease without necessarily ever taking a drink. We learned to keep our feelings down as children and kept them buried as adults. As a result of this conditioning, we confused love with pity, tending to love those we could rescue. Even more self-defeating, we became addicted to excitement in all our affairs, preferring constant upset to workable relationships.”
These are excerpts from the Adult Children of Alcoholics website. Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) is a 12- step program for adults who grew up in a dysfunctional or alcoholic homes. To dig a bit further, visit the site and look at the “Laundry List” of traits to see if they resonate with you. If so, there are excellent resources for healing through ACA groups and their literature. Groups exist around the country. They are anonymous and have no requirements for membership. There is usually a $2 donation per meeting. There are also phone meetings but the in person meetings often the most healing potential.