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Written by Sam Vaknin

Burney, Robert - Dysfunctional Relationship Dynamics - Suite101, 2003

Robert Burney, the author of "Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls" does not fall into the twin traps of stereotype and righteousness. The 35 pages of his e-book are a clear-eyed and useful exploration of the differences between toxic, obsessive, and addictive forms of "love" - and the real, growth-enhancing thing.

He starts by asking why many of us feel like failures in our romantic relationships. He attributes this to socially-sanctioned unrealistic expectations and defective role models. In our adult relationships, he warns, we tend to repeat and recreate childhood abuse. He then proceeds to explore the various forms of dysfunction: power struggles, codependence and counterdependence, shared psychosis, and approach-avoidance.

He contrasts these pathological behaviours with their healthy equivalents: interdependence, flowing and meaningful communication, emotional intimacy, partnership, sexuality, and romantic love. In menu-driven sections of the book, he provides pragmatic tips and techniques, worth printing out and memorizing.

The author clearly has considerable experience with these issues as well as vast knowledge. He refers to other scholars throughout his work and thereby grounds it in relevant literature and cumulated practice.

The book is not without its flaws. Dysfunctional relationships do not always end in abuse. Sometimes they peter out to become an empty shell. Moreover, in large swathes of the world romantic love is unheard of or frowned upon. Barney's book is, therefore, geared exclusively to Western audiences. Finally, some readers may find disconcerting and distracting the constant references to Higher Powers, gods, godesses, spirits and "Multiple lives" (reincarnation).

Still, I recommend the book as one of the best primers I have seen to building and maintaining a happy, healthy, and durable relationship.

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