Giving Up Junk-Food Relationships
Recipes for Healthy Choices
Are you waiting for someone to change back into the person you fell in love with? Do you fear you won’t find anyone better for you if you leave or let go? Are you confused about what went wrong? This guide outlines ways to make your relationships healthier and, more importantly, how to tell when things have gone bad. An abusive, dysfunctional, or simply wrong-for-you relationship can be as draining and bad for your health as an affinity for junk food.
If you’re like most people, you’re probably hungry for a good, meaningful, fulfilling relationship. Though it’s easy to figure out that something needs to change, you may be having trouble figuring out what to do. In Giving Up Junk-Food Relationships, author Donna Barnes uses multiple choice quizzes, check lists, how-to lists, and more to lay out methods for determining what kinds of junk food are affecting your relationships. You can learn how to
• recognize and stop destructive dating habits;
• spot and avoid waving junk-food (red) flags;
• distinguish true love from true lust;
• tell if you’re in a bad relationship and how to call it quits;
• be comfortable being alone; and
• handle rejection gracefully.
Start making healthy relationship decisions and improve your most important long-term relationship: the one with yourself.
Introduction: What Is Emotional Junk-Food?
We all have our favorite drive-thru or take-out meal. A burger and fries can taste really good when you’re out and about or in the airport rushing to get on a flight. It might even be a guilty pleasure that you go out of your way to devour. Sometimes when your stomach is growling out loud, you’ll simply settle for what’s readily available to satisfy your hunger.
How do you typically feel shortly after indulging your craving? Do you feel a little bloated? A little nauseated? Maybe you have some heartburn. Do you feel guilty and wish you had eaten something healthy instead? And have you noticed what happens to that scrumptious fast food when it cools off and isn't hot anymore? It’s pretty nasty, isn't it?
Well, bad relationships are pretty much the same as junk food. They usually start out with a hunger or craving for companionship, but if this healthy craving escalates into loneliness and neediness, such people tend to make bad choices. They might just grab whoever’s available or seek out a particular type that at first glance always appears appetizing to them. When it’s hot, it’s fabulous! It’s exciting and fun—very enjoyable. But as the euphoria of the new relationship starts to wear off and the “can’t get enough of you” passion cools down, what’s left isn't exactly satisfying. Sometimes it’s even harmful, and the long-term effects can be devastating. (Ever see Fast Food Nation? )
The difference between consuming actual junk food and indulging in emotional junk food is that with food, at least you usually know what you’re consuming isn't really good for you. With relationships it’s not always as easy to tell it’s not good for you until you've already digested a lot of it. As a relationship coach, I see a lot of people who don’t really know if their relationship is right for them. I even see people who are in downright toxic relationships but don’t know it, or refuse to acknowledge it. Many people think they know, or at least have an idea of, what they want in a relationship. But most people don’t know what they don’t want in a relationship until they've experienced it and didn't like it. I think knowing what you don’t want in a partner is more important. This book is intended to empower you with knowledge—to help you create virtual nutrition labels for potential partners and make healthier relationship choices.
The Symptoms of Consuming Junk-Food
I believe a person’s happiness level dictates his or her degree of patience and compassion. Think about it. When you’re content and life is going well for you, aren't you much more tolerant than when things aren't going exactly as you hoped? If your order takes a little too long, you have to wait in line, or someone bumps into you, it’s no big deal, because you have pleasant thoughts running through your head. But how do you respond when you’re not entirely happy? Are you easily irritated by another’s slowness or mistake? Do you perhaps make nasty comments? Do simple tasks frustrate you? If you find yourself nodding in response to these questions and you’re feeling a bit cantankerous and inpatient, that’s probably an indicator that you’re not entirely happy. If you’re in a relationship and you’re not happy, you’re probably consuming junk-food—or you are junk-food.
As human beings, we are made up of cells, and ours cells produce energy. Some quantum physicists believe our cells are energy. Nonetheless, our energy is powerful. It radiates. When a happy, charismatic being enters a room, others take notice—they’re drawn to that person. That’s because energy is contagious. It makes others feel happy too. But it’s not just positive energy that’s transmittable. Negative energy is highly infectious. If you’re distracted by chemistry and attraction, it’s not always easy at first to realize you’re being changed. It’s usually easier for the people around us to see when someone’s not good for us than it is for us to admit it to ourselves. Perhaps someone else even suggested you read this book. If so, that’s probably because he or she recognized how much futile energy you’re focusing on in trying to make your relationship work. Are you holding on to the fantasy that all the good things that happened in the beginning truly define who your significant other is? Are you hoping he’ll change and go back to being the ideal partner you initially saw him to be?
Well, people don’t change unless they want to. Most people don’t want to. Change is hard. Yet many of us exert too much of our precious time and energy trying to change a lover who doesn't want to change. I know there might be temptation to use this book as a guide to fix your lovable junk-food, but try to resist wasting any more valuable resources on a useless cause. Try focusing all that enthusiasm on fixing yourself! One of my favorite expressions is as follows:
Nothing changes, if nothing changes.
It’s so simple but so true. The only way you can possibly change someone else is by changing yourself, which may in turn change the way he or she responds to you. So, if you are absolutely hell-bent on changing your diamond in the rough, you’ll have to start by shifting your focus back to you.
My hope is that this food for thought will incite cravings for healthier choices. I hope to bring you so many epiphanies that you’ll never crave junk-food ever again. I promise that if you use this book to refuel and claim your own power, you’ll become a magnet for someone fabulous—because energy is contagious. If you are healthy and take care of yourself, you’ll naturally attract a healthy partner. But if you stay with someone who is junk-food, you will end up as junk-food too.
This chapter will show you some of the most common relationship spoilers and offer ways to get rid of them for good.
CONSTIPATION—WHEN FEELINGS DON’T FLOW
Experts often say that communication is the essential ingredient of a good relationship. I couldn't agree more! But do you know why? More importantly, do you know how? I’m always disappointed when I hear the way many people in relationships speak to each other after they have gotten comfortable. They sound so disgusted if their partner doesn't do something exactly as they wanted. They bark orders like their spouse is beneath them. I hear it at the mall, in restaurants, and even in church! If that’s the way they treat each other in public, what are they like at home? What happened to respect?
What’s really going on is more than just a lack of manners. Such behavior usually comes from harbored resentments, unresolved conflicts, and unexpressed feelings. When you hold these things inside and have trouble communicating your needs and desires, you can’t help but become irritable. It’s just like when you eat a lot of junk food and it binds you up. It’s uncomfortable. It makes you sluggish. Sometimes it’s even painful. The longer you go without letting things out, the worse it makes you feel.
How do you find relief? Well, people who are constipated as a result of their diet usually eat something healthy, such as beans, bran, or broccoli with garlic.
Donna Barnes is a life and relationship coach certified by New York University. She was an on-air expert for three seasons of ABC News’s What Would You Do? and frequents other national television programs. She currently writes advice columns for various websites from her base on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
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