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When Comfy is not Healthy

I’m an avid runner, which is key to my mental health and the fight against middle-aged spread. A few years ago, I got a wicked case of plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of heel tissue that’s normally worse in the morning but often lessens as you walk it out. Not this time! I was in crippling pain and could barely walk let alone run. The doctor ixnayed overwearing my comfy flip-flops, which apparently destroyed my flat feet.

I’ve learned the very hard way that what’s comfy, familiar, or even terribly attractive to me can be a mighty bad thing. Having the wrong people in our inner circles can have profoundly negative effects, compromising our sense of self, serenity, joy, quality of life, and even our God-given purpose.

It’s taken me an unusually costly, long time to glean this. I hope it helps you fast.

Awareness carries its own weight. Once we get how we’re wired, we can dodge the bullets that used to take us out.

Sometimes, this is a seemingly obvious matter of abuse, neglect, incompatibility or inequities, lousy influences, or other toxicity. Yet we can still be duped.

As often, codependent and over-responsible, I’ve tended to think I’m ALWAYS the whole problem. Sometimes, I really am. There’s always plenty of growth to be done.

Many times, though, the problem is that my gut discerns a destructive disconnect I ignore—a disconnect between a person’s words and actions or between my own. Gee, even then I'm the problem! Hmmm.

Egon Tschirch, Song of Solomon # 11 in a series, 1923

Healthy self-awareness and spiritual discernment are key.

For instance, survivors of childhood trauma like me can carry unhealthy patterns into adulthood, finding themselves in relationships that mirror challenging or destructive relationships. Yep.

Some of us have a special affinity for narcissists and vice-versa. Lord, help us.

This can manifest as fear-fueled, reactive attachments that reflect a poor sense of self-worth, muddy identity, or intense discomfort with being alone.

We can settle for people who don’t truly value us or we make major compromises with an unconscious drive to fulfill unmet childhood needs for love and security. We may do all the giving and heavy lifting in the relationship while the other person enjoys all the benefits.

We may tolerate the intolerable—or just way less than what we really want—for a long time because we think that’s all we deserve or know, or we fear risking the wait. We settle for breadcrumbs when we want the whole chewy loaf with loads of butter.

Neglect and abuse can somehow feel like "home." UGGH.

Yep. What’s familiar and comfortable isn’t necessarily healthy or good for us.

In my own experience, people superficially seemed very different, but with time, I recognized they followed a similar, unhealthy pattern in a different disguise. I’m so grateful that I now see it more quickly, but it still happens.

Another issue is that emotional intensity, exhilaration, identification, and attraction can be deceptive, tied to trauma-driven responses hardwired in dysfunctional childhoods. The whirlwind that feels so magically right—friend, boss, lover—at the onset turns into that slow-acting venom.

Like a frog in the pot, we may not get it until we’re in too deep to get out easily.

These same impulses can also prevent us from connecting with suitable partners or friends. We may pick people with whom true intimacy is not possible, avoiding those who might see, know, and love us as we really are because genuine closeness can feel unfamiliar or even terrifying. Or we pick someone we think, THINK, we can control. To keep us safe. So we don't get hurt. Oh, we'll get hurt anyway. Believe me.

Check, check, check. I’ve done and seen it all.

These days, I want someone who loves and appreciates my whole package, the authentic one, the untidy, evolving one--not a cleaned-up façade. I want someone who’s real with me, too, so we can love each other properly, fully…Like God loves. Or at least in the ballpark.

That’s what I say I want anyway. Gulp.

As I rebuild an authentic single woman’s community in the wake of my divorce and start dating, I’m being very conscious both of what I’m looking for and what are red flags in friends and romantic prospects.

Awareness is powerful, even if the old impulses are still there!

A recovery friend of mine used to carry around an index card with a few bullet points to keep her on an even keel on dates, for instance, so she wouldn’t get swept away. She is now married to a wonderful guy and they adore and enjoy each other a lot.

I employ the same approach for clients and service, having tripped into the same pothole before, with my misguided permission, no less!

I recently dodged a bullet with a new prospective client by recognizing familiar lures that had snared me previously. Honoring my inner wisdom, I took some time to pray about it, collect information, and set some boundaries that disqualified him and protected me from yet another mess.

Even with healthy awareness, we still want to talk to God about all our associations, especially our inner circles and romantic partners. Some folks are lovely and non-toxic, but God just doesn’t want them in your life for reasons we may not understand. It’s okay.

God has guidelines that are clear and simple.

The Bible is always a good source of wisdom. Proverbs and the steamy Song of Solomon are useful resources for relational issues. I like the Catholic Bible’s book of Sirach 6, which offers simple, practical wisdom on friendship. There’s more excellent, free self-help out there than ever. Google your issue and see. I’ve cited a few favorite sources below but there are tons.

Talking to God and listening with our hearts and souls can lead the way and spare us much pain, injury, and time wasted with the wrong people. In a world of AI, epidemic narcissism, and increasing deceit and darkness, it’s more important than ever to guard our hearts.

PRAYER: Papa, you built us for intimate connection and community. Please guide us to the right people, protect us from the wrong people, and give us healthy courage to connect deeply in relationships that honor us, them, and You. Thank you. I love You. 💖

• Co-Dependents Anonymous

• The Crappy Childhood Fairy/Anna Runkle

• Lissa Eichenberger Bradford/

• Dr. Ramani

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