KudzuTreeWhat was it? A deformed tree? A crazy-shaped statue wrapped in green foliage? A green monster from Mars? The sight intrigued me, so I interrupted my journey home to take a closer look. The photograph that I took reveals to you what I saw:  a kudzu invasion! The experience prompted additional research into kudzu and produced some insights about kudzu relationships.

The kudzu plant was originally introduced into the United States in 1876 as a hopeful preventive aid for soil erosion. However, what began as an act of hope turned into a nightmare of despair. During the next 100-plus years the vine would grow so rapidly that now it is considered to be a Severe Threat Species. Particularly active in the Southeastern United States, the kudzu vine has been known to grow 75-90 feet during a single season. As an invader it knows no boundaries. The vine climbs and blankets trees, fences, poles, and even cars and houses. The vine can destroy trees by strangling its victim, breaking down the tree from the sheer weight of the vines, and by suffocating the tree by covering it and preventing photosynthesis. Other vegetation in the kudzu’s path is usually wiped out, leaving fields and forests literally covered by the invading plant. Landscapes are reshaped and wildlife habitats are reduced. Most of the attempts taken to control or stop the kudzu phenomenon have failed miserably. Understandably, the kudzu vine has been nicknamed “the vine that ate the South.” 

As I pondered the invasive power of the Kudzu vine, I began to consider some similarities to a human relationship inwhich one person invades, overwhelms, controls, and destroys the other partner. The individual, man or woman, who perpetrates this unhealthy, destructive “kudzu invasion” is definitely deserving of a #1 ranking as a Severe Threat Species!
My ponderings raised several intriguing questions:  “What would it be like to be the victim of a relationship kudzu invasion? How would I respond? What would I do to survive?” My contemplations resulted in a poetic description about one such kudzu victim. I hope that this story presented from a woman’s perspective will both enlighten you and equip you so that you can avoid or escape the initial charms and the ultimate disaster offered by the deceptive Kudzu Relationship.

“Beware the Kudzu King!”
Permit me, please, a tale to bring
About the deadly Kudzu King.
Up to the top he yearns to rise
So to the tree he glibly lies:
“My leaves will cover and protect,
My vine will keep you from neglect,
My kudzu strength with motives pure
Will keep you safe and well secure.”
“O, kudzu, come!” the tree invites,
“You’ll find in me the best of sites.
Please spread your leaves and wrap your vine
Through every branch and limb of mine.”
The kudzu rises from the ground
And gently circles all around;
Then limb by limb the vine ascends,
Toward the top its height extends.
Then like a deadly parasite
With victim gained without a fight,
The kudzu wraps around the tree
And strangles it relentlessly.
Imprisoned by the kudzu shroud,
The tree once tall, alive and proud,
Now stands to face a silent doom
Within the kudzu’s leafy tomb.
The story told, the lesson grips
Our hearts about relationships.
Like trees we welcome and believe
The kudzu lie that does deceive.
My friends had warned me not to trust
A kudzu man with selfish lust;
With lonely heart and naïve mind
I let him in like I was blind.
At first the kudzu touch was dear,
His vines so close, his leaves so near;
But once when covered by his spread
My thoughts all led to anxious dread.
“You seem to be in such a rush
To cover me with leaves that crush;
You use your weight to subjugate
To stifle and to suffocate.”
As years went by that creeping vine
Encircled all I claimed as mine;
He wrapped my limbs each one by one;
He took it all, then smiled when done.
The kudzu man enveloped me
And threatened my identity;
Inside my home of kudzu green
I lived as lost with hope unseen.
Devoid of self, an empty shell,
A wordless song, a ringless bell;
With empty eyes and smileless face
Existing here in Kudzu’s place.
The kudzu man has one main goal:
To be in charge with full control;
To reach his dream he stipulates,
Then threatens and intimidates.
With no regard to what I need
He always says that he should lead;
“My way is best,” he used to shout,
“It will be done there is no doubt!”
Whenever I would share a thought,
I’d shudder with the pain it brought;
The kudzu man sang one refrain:
“You cannot think! You have no brain!”
The kudzu man oft spoke of “we”
But never asked what’s best for me;
Real hope for me is very grim,
Relationships are all for him.
If you could see behind the scene
Of kudzu’s vine and leaves so green,
You would perceive within his grip
A kudzu-style relationship.
With great resolve he reached the top,
This kudzu man would never stop;
In triumph sweet he’d gloat and sing
“The Kudzu Man—the Kudzu King!”
In need of help I went to see
A therapist who’d work with me;
In search of hope and some relief
I shared my heartaches, pain, and grief.
The doctor said, “Come, take a look.
The DSM, the mental book.”
I checked it out, he fit the list,
The kudzu man—a narcissist!
To free myself from kudzu life
With all its stress and daily strife,
I had to reach one vital goal:
To value and protect my soul.
With hope renewed and faith revived
I fed my soul I had deprived;
Determined now I set my face
To find some needed breathing space.
In sad defeat the vine withdrew
To seek another tree that’s new;
The kudzu gone, there stood revealed
An awesome tree out in the field.
Though weak and tired and long abused,
The tree now felt new life infused;
“Just give me time, just wait and see,
I’ll grow the tree I want to be.”
The Kudzu king who met his match
Retreats toward the kudzu patch,
Where now he’ll live upon the dirt
Away from lives that he can hurt.
We’ve heard the last of Kudzu King,
We do not hear him brag and sing;
He creeps along where we assign,
He is no tree—he’s just a vine.
In travels short or journeys long
Beware the man with kudzu song;
The tune he sings which takes your breath
Eventually will be your death.
Relationships are always best
Without the dreaded kudzu pest;
For better health just heed this plan:
“Please keep away from Kudzu man!”

                               (Written by Dr. Bill Baker, 2010)
Word of encouragement:  If you recognize yourself as the victim in this story, you already know that you’re “in a heap of trouble.” You’re probably struggling just to survive in your unhealthy relationship, and you’re undoubtedly feeling discouraged and perhaps hopeless. I hope that the poem will encourage you to seek help and to strengthen yourself for the difficult journey ahead. Reading relevant books could provide helpful insight into your needs and options. Professional therapy is certainly one good resource you may want to consider. Joining a good community support group may provide strength and direction. Help is available; look for it—and use it!
I wish you the very best in your relationship journeys.

                                                                                    (Healthy Relationships HR 103)

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