8 Contrasts Between Healthy & Unhealthy Relationships

8 Contrasts Between Healthy & Unhealthy Relationships

  1. Reality vs. Fantasy. Healthy relationships are based in reality.  Each person is aware of his own strengths and weaknesses.  There is no need to hide or to try to fool the other.  Each person is also aware of the other’[s strengths and weaknesses.  There is no need to pretend that problems don’t exist or to tiptoe around “unmentionable” areas.  If the partner is weak in some area, he or she accepts it and helps accommodate or strengthen it.  Unhealthy relationships, by contrast, are based on fantasy.  What could be or should be replaces what is.  The elements of unreality become the focus.  The relationship is built on a foundation that isn’t really there.
  2. Completing vs. Finding Completion. In a healthy relationship, each person finds joy in sharing in the other person’s growth, in playing a role in “completing” the other.  In an unhealthy relationship the focus is on completing oneself.  This selfish dynamic is at the heart of codependency.  Too many people fling half a person into a relationship, expecting that they will be completed by the other person.  It never works.  No one can ever meet such expectations.  It is only a matter of time until substitutes are sought-either in the form of other relationships or in the form of dysfunctional and addictive behaviors.
  3. Friendship vs. Victimization. A healthy relationship can be described as two good friends becoming better friends.  The strongest and most successful relationships-even the most passionate and romantic marriages-have this kind of true friendship at the base.  Where this base of true friendship is absent, the relationship is shallow and susceptible to being marked by victimization.
  4. Sacrifice vs. Demand for Sacrifice. Few of the magazines that clutter the check-out counters of grocery stores publish articles extolling the joys of sacrifice.  But no relationship can grow without it.  Unfortunately, most of us are more accustomed to demanding sacrifice from our partner than to sacrificing ourselves.  It’s one thing to love another when the going is easy.  But character and depth are wrought in a relationship when love requires the surrender of preference and privilege.  Nothing strengths a relationship like sacrifice.  Indeed, it often seems that the greater the sacrifice, the more thorough the death to self, the greater the potential for the relationship.  Our relationship with God requires sacrifice.  His relationship with us required nothing less than the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ.  Building a relationship-or restoring one that has been ravaged by the effects of addiction-depends on the willingness of both parties to sacrifice for each other, without demanding anything in return.
  5. Forgiveness vs. Resentment. Forgiveness is a miraculous gift between two people.  A relationship flourishes when we are willing to forgive past hurts and disappointments.  Refusing to forgive is like carrying around a garbage bag full of hurts of the past.  Every time someone makes a mistake, we toss it into the bag and carry it with us forever.  There are no garbage bags in healthy relationships.  Out of love, the partners take the hurt and disappointment of the past and burn it up in the flames of forgiveness.  What greater gift can we give someone than to set them free from the weight of their mistakes?  When we unlock others from a past they cannot correct, we free them to become all they can become, and we free our relationships to become all they can become as well.
  6. Security vs. Fear. Security is a rare commodity in our world.  Often people come from such insecure childhoods they can only hope that their adult life will include a relationship that allow them to rest in the arms of someone who really cares.  So much of life is lived on the edge of risk, we feel an overwhelming need for at least one relationship to make us feel safe.  The Bible says, “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).  When we shift from trying to use others to satisfy our security needs to trying o meet the security needs of others, we find ourselves in a new dimension.  We are focusing on their needs, not ours.  We are filling their doubts and fears with the reassurance of our consistent behavior.  We clam their fears by being reliable.  We become, in a word, loving:  other –focused and totally selfless.  That is the kind of love that drives out fear and provides genuine security.
  7. Vulnerability vs. Defensiveness. In a secure environment, a person is free to open up and be vulnerable.  It is wonderful to be vulnerable, to do an emotional free fall and have someone there to catch you.  That delightful taste of vulnerability enables you to open up even more, discover more about who you are, and appreciate all the good that God has created in you.  In a relationship characterized by fear, just the opposite happens.  There is a need to build up a wall of defensiveness.  If you do not protect yourself, after all, you will be violated, robbed of your identity, controlled, or smothered.  The dynamics of defensiveness lead to death rather than to life and growth.
  8. Honesty vs. Deception. There is no way to build a lasting, healthy relationship on a foundation of dishonesty.  Honesty must be at the core of a relationship; there is no substitute for it.  It is fashionable in our day to paper over unpleasant truth.  We deceive those we love, rationalizing that keeping secrets is really for their own good.  Virtually all addictions are maintained under the cover of some sort of deception, which eventually is woven into a vast tapestry of lies and cover-ups.  Dishonesty is a very hard habit to break.  One of the main functions of a recovery support group is the accountability it provides, holding the recovering addict to rigorous truthfulness.  Without accountability, trust and the restoration of intimacy in relationships is impossible.

If you want something better than the marriage you have and are ready to experience an astounding richness in your relationship, New Life Ministries has designed a life-changing weekend to give you the tools to develop a healthy, healing intimacy. Whether your marriage is in crisis, or you simply need to fine-tune some things, this weekend will help you develop the marriage you’ve always wanted. You’ll experience a new level of connection you’ve always hoped for.

Call (800) NEW-LIFE (639-5433) or Click here to find out more.


Refusing to forgive is like carrying around a garbage bag full of hurts of the past.  Every time someone makes a mistake, we toss it into the bag and carry it with us forever.  There are no garbage bags in healthy relationships.

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Join us at one of our Weekend Workshops.
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Steve Arterburn

Steve Arterburn is a nationally and internationally known speaker and has been featured in national media outlets such as Oprah, Good Morning America, CNN Live, The New York Times, ABC World News Tonight, GQ and Rolling Stone.Steve is a best-selling author of books such as Every Man’s Battle, Healing Is A Choice, and The 7-Minute Marriage Solution and recently co-authored Take Your Life Back with Dr. David Stoop, and The Mediterranean Love Plan, with wife Misty. Along with Dr. Dave Stoop, Steve edited and produced the #1 selling Life Recovery Bible. With over 8 million books in print he has been writing about God’s transformational truth since 1984, and has won three Gold Medallions for writing excellence.
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Steve Arterburn is a nationally and internationally known speaker and has been featured in national media outlets such as Oprah, Good Morning America, CNN Live, The New York Times, ABC World News Tonight, GQ and Rolling Stone. Steve is a best-selling author of books such as Every Man’s Battle, Healing Is A Choice, and The 7-Minute Marriage Solution and recently co-authored Take Your Life Back with Dr. David Stoop, and The Mediterranean Love Plan, with wife Misty. Along with Dr. Dave Stoop, Steve edited and produced the #1 selling Life Recovery Bible. With over 8 million books in print he has been writing about God’s transformational truth since 1984, and has won three Gold Medallions for writing excellence.

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