Imperfection is defined as a fault, a blemish, or undesirable feature, a state of being incomplete. Dysfunction is defined as an abnormality or impairment in the function of a specified system, or a deviation from the norms of social behavior in a way regarded as bad.
We all have imperfections
We all have imperfections in our life, but that is not an excuse to be dysfunctional.
And yet we hear this word, dysfunction, thrown around like it is some kind of badge of honor or excuse to continue in imperfect behavior. “I come from a dysfunctional family.” “The Church is dysfunctional” “My marriage is completely dysfunctional” “My boss is dysfunctional” or then we get into a whole other level of justification with “he is a functional alcoholic” “she is a functional addict”
Seriously, we need to get a better grasp of what we are speaking over our lives and the lives of others.
What are we speaking?
Could it be that it is easier to speak dysfunction than it is to speak of imperfections? Dysfunction represents something so broken that there is little hope that it will change, while imperfections can be worked on. But what if you are too lazy to address those imperfections? Isn’t it easier to label it dysfunction?
Let’s turn these labels around:
“I come from a dysfunctional family” vs “I come from an imperfect family”
Using the term dysfunctional elicits sympathy, attention, a curiosity as to the dynamics. It sends a message that you have come out of something so broken that it is amazing you have turned out as functional as you are, and implies an excuse or handicap for your imperfections, so you don’t need to work on them.
And yet, the truth is probably closer to the latter statement, “I came from an imperfect family”. This statement doesn’t elicit the same response. More than likely others would quizzically look at you and respond with, “Umm, ya ….didn’t we all? Get over it.”
And even when there are areas of dysfunction in your upbringing it does not justify categorizing the entirety of your upbringing as dysfunctional.
The exception is not the rule
Are there completely dysfunctional families? Of course. We see the repercussions of those families all of the time filling our headlines. The predominance of fatherlessness, the abortion epidemic, gang violence, sexual abuse, drug abuse, etc. are all fruits of dysfunction within the family. However, as prevalent as these are in the news, it is not what the majority of families experience in their everyday lives.
But in this culture of glorifying the social justice issues, too many people are building their identity around a blanket statement of mistruth in order to gain attention and/or an excuse or entitlement for poor behavior.
Change is up to you
Even if you have come from a completely dysfunctional family, in reality there is no excuse for you to continue in poor behavior as an adult. That is called a lack of accountability and immaturity.
There’s a plethora of highly successful people of all races, genders, and religions that have come from extremely dysfunctional upbringings, and yet have the integrity and maturity to choose something different for themselves, eventually becoming extremely successful. These people aren’t special, they aren’t more gifted than another, they are created equal; that means everything they had access to, so do you.
What is the difference?
So what is the difference between their outcomes and yours?
Embracing imperfection and not justifying dysfunction.
When we embrace imperfection it also causes us to face the fact that there is room to grow, room to improve. We are not stuck where we are currently at.
So, let’s talk about YOUR marriage,
Is your marriage dysfunctional or simply imperfect? Do you know the difference?
Dysfunctional marriages would check off the following boxes……
One or both spouses:
- When home, retreat to their own space and do not engage with the other spouse or family members
- Uses sex as a manipulative power-tool or punishment, or quit having sex altogether
- Continually leaves the impression that they don’t enjoy the marriage and/or family
- Engage in constant negative communication, insults, talking down, etc
- Regularly have unpredictable mood swings and outbursts
- Do not participate in household duties, and expects others to do everything for them
- Rarely think of others and only does things for themselves; ie they regularly drink the last of the milk late at night even though the kids will need it for their cereal before school the next morning
- Avoid effective communication so that conflicts are never resolved, even talking about everyday normal things is volatile
- Are unsupportive and/or uninterested in the marriage or family
- ‘Outsource’ their needs; whether it be sexual, emotional, spiritual. through other relationships, porn, novels, etc.
- Regularly ‘keep score’ and blame each other for wrong doings
- Regularly deceive the other; hiding details such as money, conversations, friendships, activities.
- Are abusive towards the other; physically, emotionally, and/or sexually
The above would be a dysfunctional marriage. However, even so, none of the above listed challenges in and of themselves relegate this marriage to hopelessness and divorce.
There is help
There is help, if both spouses are willing to stop justifying the dysfunctional behavior and seek out help to overcome the compounded imperfections that have been ruling in their marriage. Dave and I speak from experience, from the other side of the dysfunction mountain. We are encouraging you to engage in the climb and overcome as we did. You’re not alone, we are here with you!
The view from the top of this mountain is beautiful. Instead of operating from a place of dysfunction, now we can see through our imperfections and love each other anyway. Which creates beautiful soil for a healthy marriage to grow in.