What a Franciscan Says About Healthy Relationships

Paul Keggington

October 17, 2011

Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Patricia Sevcik shares her notes from a recent talk on ‘Healthy Relationships’ presented at the San Xavier District Center on the Tohono O’odham Reservation, Tucson, AZ. Sister serves with other Franciscan Sisters at San Xavier Mission and Santa Cruz School.

Characteristics of a healthy relationship:

  • Respect is foundational/means to have positive esteem for the other
  • You are treated with consideration
  • You are treated with honor/seen as having dignity (does chivalry exist?)
  • Your feelings are regarded and you regard  the feelings of another
  • You are given full attention when you are speaking (heard); turn off the noise
  • Trust is built through honest, open communication
  • You feel loved, safe, free to speak your mind without fear of attack
  • You feel belonging, identity and recognition
  • There is acceptance of the other even when his/her beliefs are not the same as yours’
  • There is concern for the others’ well-being and your own
  • There is a willingness on the part of both people to sacrifice and to meet each other half way (negotiate…talk it out)
  • No secret-keeping

Results of Alcohol/Drugs Use on Relationships:

Distraction, disruption, dishonesty, disorder, dysfunction , disillusionment, despair

  • The use of mind/mood-altering chemicals distracts the drinker/user, preventing focus on the people around her/him, responsibilities, etc.
  • Disruption results in the normal daily functions of life for the person who is dependent on alcohol and/or drugs. This disruption affects all the members of the family negatively.
  • Early in the disease process, the individual begins to lie to cover when late for home from work, doesn’t know what happened to a paycheck, forgets promise to take the kids, etc.
  • Disorder describes all that begins to fall apart in relationships, job, prior outside commitments,  physical, mental and emotional function.
  • Dysfunction characterizes a deepening descent into the chronic, progressive  and eventually fatal disease into which drinking/drug use plunges. Due to the impact of the disease on the whole family, members of the family no longer know what “normal” is and take on various roles in order to survive. Individuals may take on the role of the hero, becoming the super-responsible child, trying to be the parent. Perhaps the child starts to fail in school, get in trouble to distract from the real problem and becomes the scapegoat. Often the middle child, trying to stay out of the way so that he/she does not get hurt, becomes the lost child. Usually one child becomes the mascot, using humor in an attempt to take the focus off the erratic and violent behavior of the drinker/user. Often, but not always, the non-using adult becomes the enabler, calling work on Monday mornings to say that spouse has the “flu,” when it truthfully is a hangover.  
  • At some point in the progression of the disease, the alcoholic may realize he/she is trapped by use and that what was thought would be a HIGH that could last forever, turns out to be depression; by this time she/he may have become abusive and violent; may loose job, been incarcerated for DUI’s, placed on probation, lost relationships, lost custody of children, sold possessions and/or body to continue to purchase drug of choice, etc
  • Despair is often an end point for those who have not been in treatment or started attending AA or other 12-step support groups. Isolation may lead to consideration of  suicide as the only way out.

 Aids are around us that offer help:

There are self-help support groups available through Al-Anon, AA, ACOA, NA, Counseling and therapy.

Key qualities for healthy relationships are:

Respect, open communication, trust, willingness to make sacrifices, focus, listening skills, thoughtfulness, kindness, compassion and genuine love for others.

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