Relationships can be challenging.
Last post I mentioned my life with my wonderful hubby. It’s a hugely important part of why my life is a joy-filled one. He’s my rock and my strength.
But our lives are comprised of relationships with different levels of impact in our lives. We have close family, extended family, close friends, acquaintances, people we work with, and our neighbors down the street.
Ironically it can be interactions with our close loved ones that provide the most challenges and the relationships with acquaintances can be the most fun.
When I see neighbors on my daily walks with the dogs, we wave, smile, maybe chat for a bit, and then move on. Those quick visits give me a quick moral boost, even if we’ve just talked about the weather. I think this is because it’s communication in its purest form. It’s unexpected, spontaneous, and fairly short. There are usually no expectations, just a happy “Good Morning”, a “My, your dogs are well behaved” (ha!), and a “What are they building down the street?” Those interactions tend to energize me and brighten my day. A couple of times I’ve had hard feelings with a neighbor, but because I don’t have to meet with them on a regular basis, I can chalk it up to not having to like everybody, and move on.
On the flip side, disagreements with close friends or family can be tricky. Maybe it’s because we have invested time, emotions, love, and a piece of ourselves in the relationship that makes it problematic.
I go to dinner with several friends on a monthly basis. We find a new restaurant to try, and spend a couple of hours getting caught up. Usually it’s fun. We all get a chance to talk and laugh.
Sometimes, it isn’t. We have this one friend that has taken to complaining about something every get-together. Not a visit goes by without some personal catastrophe getting shared. At this week’s dinner, that something turned problems into every person she knew and every event she encountered. It made for a miserable evening.
Polite subject changing didn’t work. She would just switch to another story about someone who wronged her. Empathizing with the issues didn’t work. She wanted to deal with some of her problems by being deceptive, and wanted me to help. That just made me angry. Letting her just vent didn’t work. It was obvious that she had more she wanted to talk about than we had time for at dinner. Finally, I told her that it was obvious we were not going to be able to solve any her problems, so we might as well call it a night.
She is a dear friend. I was sorry she was miserable, but she was making all of us miserable, right along with her. I have to admit the whole conversation stuck with me a few days and I debated about whether or not to leave the group.
But I’m not; at least for now. I still need some time to figure it out.
So how do you figure out what to do with problem relationships?
I’ve taken to using a list questions I ask myself. I know, I know, another “list!” But it does seem to help me get to the bottom of things.
What am I getting out of this relationship?
Do we have the same values?
Can I be myself with this person?
Is this relationship harming me in anyway?
Do I have other people in my life that can give me what this relationship gives me?
These questions don’t have black and white answers but they make me really think. It’s easy to get mad about something, run on emotions, and burn your bridges with someone. It also can be just as easy to say, well it’s family, they’re just like that, making excuses for bad behavior.
It’s harder to try and work it out.
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s tricky.
For me, I’ve learned that I need to make sure I know who I am, as a person. I need to know what I believe in. I need to know what I stand for. I need to be confident to voice my personal truth with my friends and family. Because if I don’t do those things, when the going gets tough, I’ll cave and continue on with the downward spiral. I’ll agree to a life of anger and not joy.
I’ve let go of people before and that includes dysfunctional family members. No, it wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. You can always try to make situations better, but you also need to be able to see when it futile and time to just walk away.
As for my relationship with my friend goes, she and I are both changing. I’m not really sure yet if it’s time to let go, or just work a little harder to get to the bottom of why she is so miserable.
If I can help, I will. If not, I’ll have to really let it go.