All Couples Fight, Right? [Healthy vs Unhealthy Relationships]

People in difficult relationships often ask me, “Don’t all couples fight?” The answer is of course, yes, most couples fight, even the ones in healthy relationships can have heated arguments. The difference lays in HOW and WHEN? Do you and your partner argue 20% or 80% of the time? Also, do you argue about the issue at hand, or do you attack your partner’s character or cause them to be afraid? Of course, healthy couples can also hurt each other and say and do things that they regret. The difference is that they sense the danger, admit that they were wrong, reach out for professional help, and most importantly: THEY CHANGE. 

Take a look at some of the differences between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. 

What does a HEALTHY relationship look like?

  1. You and your partner respect each other’s individuality and embrace each other’s differences, allowing each partner to be themselves.
  2. You do activities independent of each other and spend time with your individual friends or families.
  3. You discuss issues, allow each other to have different opinions, and both of you make compromises.
  4. You trust your partner, and you can be honest with yourself and your partner.
  5. You both express and listen to each other’s feelings, needs, and desires.
  6. You want to learn more about each other and encourage each other to grow as an individual.
  7. You both respect each other’s need and right for privacy and alone time.
  8. You practice consensual and safe sex, and you can say NO to sex or anything you are uncomfortable with.
  9. You resolve conflicts in a peaceful and nonviolent way.
  10. You share decisions about things that affect both partners, but you also have the freedom to make decisions about your things.

Signs that you are in an UNHEALTHY relationship

  1. You are afraid to disagree with your partner, and you feel unheard and unable to communicate what you want. 
  2. You have no personal space and have to share everything with your partner and justify what you do, where you go, and who you see.
  3. You feel isolated from friends and family. 
  4. You find yourself often making excuses for your partner or your partner’s behavior.
  5. You feel pressure to change to meet your partner’s standards instead of being yourself or caring for yourself.
  6. You often feel stifled and trapped in the relationship.
  7. You partner constantly criticizes you and your ideas and actions.
  8. Your partner makes all the decisions and controls everything, including the money.
  9. Your partner blames you for things or events in his/her life
  10. Your partner calls you names, yells at you,  hurts you (shove, pinch, hits, punch, kicks), or forces you to have sex

Shame Can Trap You

People, who are in unhealthy and even dangerous relationships are often asked the question: “Why do you stay?”
These kind of questions can cause debilitating shame, because they may not know the answer either. Victims often blame themselves for the abuse and for their inability to do something about it. 

I had been in an abusive relationship when I was a young adult. I remember that overwhelming shame so well. I was ashamed because people warned me that he was no good, they also warned me not to go back to him, and I didn’t listen. I was especially ashamed because my boyfriend told me at every opportunity that I was to blame for his bad moods and angry words, and that he “never acted like this until he met me.” I was sure that I was doing something wrong, and if I could just find out what that “something” was, I could fix things.  I felt afraid, hopeless, and vulnerable. I was embarrassed about my choices, for failing to see the red flags at the beginning of the relationship, and especially for my inability to leave.

If this sounds familiar to you, then you need to hear the truth today: “It’s not your fault!” You may feel, after all the trauma, that you deserve to be abused, but it is not true. There is NO excuse for hurting someone else with our words or deeds. It is NEVER justified.


Why Do People Stay in Dangerous Relationships?

If you are currently in an unhealthy relationship or you are trying to help someone else get out, you need to know that there are dozens of practical and obvious reasons why people stay. Here are only the most common ones:
  • They will not believe me: For many people, even admitting to the fact that they are abused is shameful and embarrassing. They may feel worried that people will judge them for being weak, or they are afraid that nobody will believe them seeing that most abusers have a very charming and charismatic social persona. The wonderful person everyone else knows is not the same person that the victim sees behind closed doors. 
  • No money or resources: Another big reason why survivors do not leave, is the lack of money and resources. If the survivor is living with the abusive partner, does not work, has no substantial education or prior work experience, and does not have any income or place to live, then leaving can feel impossible. In fact, abusers quite often orchestrate things in such a manner that the survivor is financially dependent on them and isolated from all other resources or supportive relationships. 
  • Emotional dependence: Being dependent on the abuser for everything can cause serious harm to the survivor’s self-esteem. Most abusive partners blame the survivor for the abuse and constantly put them down. Many survivors start to believe those statements and think that the abuse is their fault, that they are not strong enough to get out, and that they do not deserve anything better. 
  • Fear: Most survivors are afraid of what will happen if they decide to leave the relationship. They have heard numerous threats from the abuser and they know that, for the most part, those are not idle threats. The most dangerous time is when abusers think that they have lost the survivors (when they leave or threaten to leave). 
  • Think it’s normal: Some survivors grew up around dysfunction and violence and they do not know what healthy relationships look like. They may not recognize that their relationship is abusive or if they suspect it, they may not trust their instinct. 
  • Love: In most instances, the survivor still loves the abuser and keep hoping that he will change. Abusive people can be caring and kind, especially at the beginning of a relationship, and the survivor may hope that their partner will go back to being that person or that the “good times” will increase. They may only want the violence to stop, not for the relationship to end entirely. Unfortunately, abuse is progressive and the “bad times” will most likely increase.
  • Children: They may have children with the abuser and feel obligated to keep the family together. They may not realize how damaging the abuse is to the children who observe it, or they may be in denial about the fact that the kids are aware of the abuse because it hurts too much to face the truth. 
  • Religion: Some religions may influence the survivor to stay in an abusive relationship and to simply keep forgiving. The survivor may also worry about disgracing their religious family and being ostracized if they act outside the rules. 
  • Immigrant: If a person is an undocumented immigrant, they may fear that reporting the abuse may get them deported. Also, if their first language isn’t English, it can be very difficult to try to explain what they are experiencing in their second language. They may be afraid of not being understood or that people will not believe them.
  • Physical dependence: When someone is disabled, they may be physically dependent on their abusive partner and their well-being may very well be connected to the relationship. This could heavily influence their decision to leave.

ALL Adults Are In Control Of Their Own Emotions

Things are looking up a bit since the MeToo movement, but in general our culture still has a tendency to blame the victims or survivors of domestic and dating abuse, and for this reason, shame is very common emotion among survivors. 

Are you questioning yourself and wondering how this happened to you? Are you unsure of how to process all the trauma or how to move forward?

Listen, there is nothing you could have done to deserve being abused. Adults are supposed to control their own anger and emotions. What you did deserve from your mate were respect and other basic human rights. You deserved to make your own decisions, have friends, see your family as much as you like, and live your life according to your own standards and ideas.  You did not deserve to walk on eggshells every day, be controlled, yelled at, put down, called names, or hurt physically , emotionally, financially, or sexually. 

You did your best under horrible circumstances. It is not easy to break free or find healing from this kind of shame. Shame may actually have followed you from childhood, and your abuser just enhanced or confirmed what you already thought about yourself. When little kids are being abused or neglected by the very ones who are supposed to love and take care of them, they often develop something that is called ‘defensive shame”. This is where they blame themselves for what is going on because it is too painful and confusing for them to blame their parents. They often start to internalize that shame and feel that they deserve to be treated badly by a spouse or partner in later life.
James Knipe said, “Shame may become a primary element of the child’s self-concept, and even be expressed then in acting out—” bad”— behaviors. In other words, the defensive function of shame may be strengthened, and the identity of shamefulness may be validated by actual unacceptable actions. Many decades later, in therapy, the client might say, “Of course I know that I am a shameful person. Look at all the bad things I’ve done!” ( Knipe, James. EMDR Toolbox)


It Is NOT Your Fault!

This is NOT, and NEVER was, your fault, but you do not have to stay in an unhealthy relationship. You can do the one thing today that you have control over: Reach out for help and start taking baby steps out of the pain and the mess.

Please use some of the free resources at the bottom of this page or come to see me and we can figure it out together. I can help you find your value, learn how to take care of yourself, and trust your own mind. We will pull up a safety plan together for you and your kids. I will never pressure you to leave your abuser when you are not ready because there is no magic formula of how and when to leave. Each person is unique with their particular set of circumstances and experiences. Instead I will equip you with resources and knowledge so that you and your children can be safe while we find a solution together. 

I will especially help you deal with the shame and the self-doubt surrounding abuse and encourage you, at every possible opportunity, that you did not do anything to deserve the abuse.

Resources to Help Survivors of Domestic Violence and Abuse

SHAME is not your friend


Hi friends. Heleen here.
What does your “brand” of shame look like?
Is it a body that does not look or feel right? A roof that leaks? A lack of confidence? Fear of public speaking? A lack of friends? A lack of education? A difficult marriage? An addiction? 
Your weight that keeps piling on? A kid that cannot stay out of trouble? 
There is no end to the list of things that people are ashamed of, and the bad news is,  this single emotion can ruin relationships, mental health, and physical well being. Mary C. Lamia, Ph.D. described shame in Psychology Today as “A concealed, contagious, and dangerous emotion”
A friend and I talked about the devastating effect that shame had on our lives in the past, and the surprising places where it still rears it’s ugly head. We both have stories to tell about areas where shame used to run rampant and wrecked havoc in each of our lives. We decided to compile these stories and share them with you, here on my blog. We are doing this in spite of our own fear and shame, and we hope that you will laugh and cry with us. More importantly, we hope that you will relate, and join us in the fight to uproot shame (and it’s evil buddy guilt) in our lives and the lives of our children, family, and friends.



Meet Anne

I would love to introduce my good friend Anne McCracken. She is linking arms with me on this storytelling adventure.
Anne is the owner and operator of Precision Health, a personal training and pain management business. She earned her B.S in Psychology and Health Sciences from Pacific University in 1991. After graduating she started working for a local gym as a personal trainer, eventually working her way into management. As a manager she spent several years helping to start up gyms and motivating personal trainers to expand their knowledge and skills.
When Anne and her husband Mike got married, she decided to start her own personal training business to provide a more flexible schedule around being a mom and wife. After spending many years in the health and wellness industry and an insatiable curiosity of the mind/body connection it was an easy transition. With over 30 years of experience in the field, she is still curious and hungry as ever to keep learning and growing as the trends in health and fitness evolve.
Anne is passionate about helping people become aware of their bodies, how to manage stress, establish healthy relationships with food and give them tools to live a healthy and empowered life.

Anne is a breast cancer survivor and views the experience as a gift; one that drew her closer to God, strengthened relationships and reinforced the value of being present and in the moment. First and foremost Anne celebrates her role as a child of God and is a faithful prayer warrior.  In her free time she enjoys being outside, running or hiking, volunteering in the community, watching her kids play sports and spending time with her family working on their property. Anne currently resides in Hillsboro, Oregon with her husband, Mike and three kids, Owen, Kathryn and Mollie (a chocolate lab).

Anne is one amazing and inspiring human being
and I feel blessed to have her as a friend. 
She is kicking our journey off with a strong call to “Carry On” but NOT “Carry All” in 2019. Keep scrolling and reading, it will be well worth your time.  


Don't Pick Up Shame in 2019

Anne here.
It’s that time of year, New Year’s Resolutions. Looking at a ‘clean slate’. This is it. This is the year I’m going to stick to my resolutions. My motivation is high and I’m more determined than ever. After all, this is the year I turn 50.  You can fill in the blanks, this is perhaps a class reunion year, the year you’re getting married or celebrating a big anniversary. There’s always great reasons and yet by March, more often than not we have fallen back into old habits, same routines and feeling defeated.

To be honest, I gave up setting resolutions several years ago and decided to focus on a word or phrase as my mantra for the year. I could apply that word to many aspects of my life, relationships, health, finances, self- improvement etc. I start contemplating my word, asking for guidance, meditating and praying about it after Thanksgiving. I take a look at the past year, count my many blessings and reflect on my successes. Then spend the next few weeks welcoming the new mantra.

For some reason, this year nothing came crashing through as a definite theme. Then it happened, I decided to clean out my purse and work bag. I couldn’t help but laugh at stuff I was pulling out, wondering how it got in there in the first place and WHEN. I found things I was looking for, but forgot that at one time I was so organized I put it in a special pocket. Good grief, I had stuff that my kids had given me to hold on to. There it was. I had been carrying around stuff that I didn’t need, hadn’t used and wasn’t even mine to carry! And the weight, I was amazed at how light both bags were when I was finished.

It got me thinking about how much we all ‘carry’ in our mind and on our hearts; guilt, shame, doubt to name a few. And the crazy thing is, we stuff it down, under the most recent deposit only to forget about it for a while and yet we still carry it don’t we? We still feel the weight of things we forgot we picked up and started carrying in the first place. Opinions of others, guilt, resentments or shame about what we are doing or not doing. Over time without even realizing it, we are weighed down, and carrying a heavy load.

So what do you say?
How about this year we make a deliberate decision to Carry On, but not carry all the burdens that don’t serve us. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean we have to tuck it away and carry it.
Does it even belong to you (opinions of others)and if it belongs to you (guilt, resentments or shame) do you need to carry it? Can you take an honest look at it, accept it for what is, make a decision to make better choices and just leave it where it sits, not tucked away in your mind and heart.



Top 5 Things You Don’t Have to Pick Up and Carry Around This Year:

  1.  Opinions of others: I agree it is SO hard to let the comments of others just roll right off our backs. I’m not saying to just ignore what anyone says about you, especially if it is someone you really care about.  Maybe there is some truth to what was said (and sometimes that hurts even more). Start from a place of loving kindness with yourself. Acknowledge what was said, evaluate if there is some truth to it and determine if it can be used to make positive changes. If it really doesn’t apply and is just plain mean and unfounded, drop it like a hot potato!


  2.  Guilt and shame of past failures: Ugh! These two are so often intertwined. Rarely do you find one without the other lingering close by. Are there areas where you know you could have done better, but continue to beat yourself up about it rather than change your behavior? LET IT GO. Start fresh, give yourself some grace and look in the mirror and say “I deserve better”. Don’t let it keep you from moving forward from this moment on. These two can be as heavy as a wet blanket and just as stinky. Cast them aside and replace them with forgiveness and grace.


  3. Resentments: Harboring negative feelings about someone who did you wrong or left you feeling less than doesn’t serve your greatest and highest good.  Has holding on to resentments ever improved your relationship with that person? I bet if you really took a look at what/who you are resenting you will see how much energy is wasted on it. Sometimes you don’t even remember it until something sparks the memory, and sure enough you’re still hanging on to something that happened so long ago; and the other person quite often is unaware of it. Letting the resentment go doesn’t mean you weren’t wronged. Discuss it with the person and give them an opportunity to explain and maybe even apologize. If they aren’t willing to hear you out, that speaks more of them then it does you. You spoke your truth and you can let that resentment go, it didn’t serve you the entire time you were carrying it and it doesn’t now.


  4. Perfection: Does it always have to be done your way? We have a rule in our house when we ask for help. “Do you want it done or do you want it done YOUR way.” They really can be very different outcomes. If my need for perfection (having it done to my ‘expectation’) is greater than my need to have the task completed, then that means I do it myself. The alternative is to realize that my load can be shared if I just let go of perfection.  It takes the pressure off of my friends and family too so they feel like they can help me and be appreciated for their efforts.


  5.  People Pleasing: There is no way you can make everyone happy all the time, and if you make most people happy, chances are you have made yourself miserable. It’s exhausting. Always be kind, speak your truth and if others are disappointed in you for not serving them, then this is a great opportunity to show them what healthy boundaries look like. Show them what it means to be helpful but not at the expense of your own health and happiness. This one will be the most noticed by others and may have some unintended consequences, especially to the ones closest to you who may have become dependent on all that you do for them. Sit them down and have a conversation with them about your needs. Encourage them to start being more independent. Over time this will enrich your relationships and foster an interdependence with more give and take and shared responsibilities. 

Time To Take Stock

Take time and do some inventory of the load you’ve been carrying.  There may be other things in your life that you’re ready to set aside. If they have been with you a while it may be hard to let it go, so maybe just put it somewhere else for safe keeping and you can always go back and pick it up again if you need to. 

Chance are the freedom you feel will be so liberating you will be more mindful of the things you choose to carry; like grace, love, self-respect, empowerment, these are all things to pick up and hang on to, and they will lift you up, not weigh you down.  

Led by Grace, Gratitude and Grit,
Anne McCracken


Picture of Anne McCracken

Anne McCracken