Practiced Amiability and Unhealthy Relationships


When a person comes from a dysfunctional or stressed out home, he or she will often develop a facade in order to avoid developing emotional intimacy with others.

There are four realities of an unhealthy home: family members do not know who they are, they do not sustain relationships through deep affection, they build defenses, and they have minimal happiness skills.

With the four realities of an unhealthy home, these principles can also be found:

  • Trust is at a lower level of suspicion.
  • Love means blind loyalty.
  • Joy is having a life preoccupied with activity.
  • Peace is absence of faith and emotion.
  • It is your job to make me happy.
  • It is the other person’s fault.
  • If you change, I will be happy.
  • Don’t know what you feel!
  • Become your emotions!
  • Ignore difference of opinions.
  • Talk about the person who is not there.
  • Bring up past failures to help the other person understand how wrong he or she is.
  • Confront, don’t negotiate!
  • Use addictions to kill pain.

These principles are not painted on the walls, but they are the implicit assumptions that govern relationships.  As these assumptions work themselves out, relationships become more and more strained.  Due to the pain and stress, people create defenses to protect themselves, including the defense of social isolation.

Other defenses are used in the dysfunctional or stressed out home.  The children learn to use evasion and develop a façade.  “Practiced amiability” is one way to describe this.  On the surface a friendly smile is present, while underneath there is nothing.  Faith and emotion are not being experienced because for years they have been repressed.

Often this is very confusing for a person from a healthy family who marries someone from a stressed out family background.  Initially the person with practiced amiability may seem quite charming.  After the wedding, when the healthy partner seeks intimacy, he or she is in for quite a surprise.  The closer she or he attempts to get, the more nervous the other becomes.

A woman married a very charming man.  As she attempted to become close, he spent more and more time at the gym.  When questioned by a counselor about it, all he could say was that a healthy body was very important.

What he was really doing was using the gym as a defense when he felt anxiety over intimacy.  His anxiety was due to his lack of happiness skills.  The exercise got him out of the home, preoccupied his mind, and most important of all, he did not have to deal with the challenges of intimacy.  Eventually they divorced.

It is, of course, completely possible to recover from a dysfunctional family and enjoy living the life God intended and becoming the person God intended you to be. The way out for the adult who has been damaged by an unhealthy family background and dysfunctional family quotes is to be re-parented by God the Father.  Many adults in the world have to discover God as a good “Dad,” embracing how to have a personal relationship with God. Through that relationship, they will have the opportunity to be encouraged, sympathized with, and confronted with kindness, so that the adult ends up with the mind of a sophisticated adult, but the joyous heart’s freedom of a child.

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