May 20

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Desperately Seeking Dysfunction

My dad has been on my mind and in my conversation a lot over the last several weeks.  That is usually a signal that another “divine opportunity for healing” is right around the corner. Oh joy.

My growing up years were dominated by my father’s alcoholism.  He was very high-functioning in the world and many people saw him as a hero. But when he came home, he was an emotional terrorist and I bore the brunt of a lot of really nasty words and behaviors.

I wanted desperately for my father to SEE me. I desperately wanted to be more important to him than his disease. (It’s worth noting that this is the adult talking – I didn’t have words to put to these feelings when I was a child.)

Fast forward through several romantic relationships and guess what – I’ve chosen a string of men who had varying degrees of serious dysfunction.  I chose a drug addict, a man with PTSD, a man who was so emotionally broken he couldn’t acknowledge that we were in a relationship, and a closet alcoholic.

I realize now that what I was looking for from each one of them was what my dad couldn’t give me – for someone to finally make ME more important than their disease. I felt shattered because no one seemed willing to love me enough to stay healthy for me.  It seemed clear to me that I was the problem – I wasn’t lovable enough.

The cruel joke is that each of these men (starting with my father) would deny that the disease had anything to do with it. Each of them denied that their particular dysfunction had any affect on the relationship at all, leaving me to feel just a touch crazy.

I’ve been on this roller coaster again for the last six months as I heal from my last breakup – once again believing that I wasn’t important enough or lovable enough for him to make me more important than his particular brand of dysfunction. This weekend I finally admitted that I’ve been really, REALLY pissed off about it.

Which brought me to this recognition – NO ONE can make me more important than their disease.  Only I can do that for myself! 

I get to choose whether I engage with someone’s dysfunction. Which means that I have two choices – I can keep getting involved with dysfunctional men and trying to get them to make me important, or…

I can choose A HEALTHY PARTNER!!!! What a concept!

I have been doing my work for the last six years.  I have worked hard and made huge progress in my healing.  There’s still more to do – there always will be, because I believe that is the journey of being human.  But I can comfortably say that I am no longer willing to sit in my dysfunction and make excuses for it (yes, sometimes I whine and complain, but ultimately I can’t stand the sound and I get off my butt and start doing my work again.)

I want to find someone who will meet me in THIS place – a place where we choose to work toward health, rather than finding ways to accommodate our dysfunction. He or she doesn’t have to be perfect. They just have to be willing.

As I was processing through this over the weekend, I wrote to Michele Rosenthal and she sent me a beautiful email in return:

“…someone who’s not entirely ready to heal is not entirely ready to be Mr. Fabulous to your Mrs. Fantastic.

Letting go is the best thing you can do to open your heart for the real man who even right this moment is moving one step closer to you.”

Thank you, Michele.  What a beautiful way to say it.

All of this reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by the amazing philosopher and teacher Jim Rohn:

“The greatest gift you can give to somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, ‘If you will take care of me, I will take care of you.’ Now I say, ‘I will take care of me for you if you will take care of you for me.'”


My new favorite painting by my new favorite artist - Leaning Lovers by Julia Watkins

Images found here and here.

Want to see the outcome of the shooting exercise from last week?  I just posted it in the Writing Portfolio.

About the author

Leah Carey

Leah Carey is the Chief Miracle Officer of The Miracle Journal, where she writes about the large and small miracles that happen in her life every day. She is a life coach, speaker, journalist, freelance writer, and lover of life. In all of those pursuits, she works with people to identify what’s already right in your life so you can build an even more joyful and fulfilling daily experience from that foundation. You can find her on Facebook, , Twitter, and YouTube.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.leahcarey.com/themiraclejournal/2012/05/20/desperately-seeking-dysfunction/


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  1. Nova Wightman

    Wow, Leah, fantastic article! And such an important lesson for us all ~ beautiful and thanks for sharing 🙂
    Nova Wightman recently posted at their blog…Give Your Inner Voice Some Credit

    1. Leah Carey

      Thank you Nova! Sending you a hug.

  2. Charlotte Welply

    What a lovely and honest post Leah. Yes, you deserve a healthy partner!
    I also love the quote at the end.

    1. Leah Carey

      Thanks Charlotte! 🙂

  3. Judy

    Yay, Leah! I am so with you on knowing that I was wanting my partner to validate me rather than just validating my own darn self! And just really wanting someone who wants to grow & learn & be authentic together (& give up judgement, blame & shame).

    I love your statement “He or she doesn’t have to be perfect. They just have to be willing.” That’s exactly where I am – I am not perfect by a long stretch, but am wanting to look at & learn from my conditioned responses and want my partner to do the same. I love the Jim Rohn quote!

    But how do you let go? My intellect is fine with that, but my emotions so far are having nothing to do with it! It’s been two months now & I am not getting better – I am still super attached & sad & grieving. Sigh.

    Thanks for sharing. You GO girl!

    Lots of love,

    1. Leah Carey

      Dear Judy,
      Your comment has been sitting with me all week. I finally found the words to respond with and I put them in tonight’s post: http://www.themiraclejournal.com/2012/05/28/emotional-hangover-part-2/
      I’m sending you a big hug and all my love.

  4. Donna

    I love the quote at the Jim Rohn quote! I adore the fantastic insight, the amazing story, and incredible vulnerability. Thank you for sharing such a critical piece of your life. It’s wonderful to get to know you.
    Donna recently posted at their blog…Always Do Your Best

    1. Leah Carey

      Thanks Donna! What a pleasure to have you here. 🙂

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