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When do I close the door on this relationship?

I had a lovely lunch today with some friends.  I was walking home from it and thinking about how lucky I am with relationships.  I have some really amazing friends.  Why?  I’m not quite sure.  Luck?  Maybe. I like to think I’m a pretty good friend to have – but, I’m not always.  Don’t get me wrong – I never INTEND to be a less than wonderful friend – but, I sometimes get grouchy. I sometimes get self-absorbed.  I sometimes get down and isolate.  But – have you ever wondered why some friendships stick and some don’t?  This can be extrapolated to all types of relationships.  When do we decide to deal with someone’s less-than-perfect qualities, and when do we decide not to?  When do we say, “nope – they are too much to handle?”  I can’t say I know.  Nor can I say that I’m great at predicting.  There are some people I’m no longer close with who I could have sworn that I would be.  Others I may not have guessed we’d be close, but our friendship has lasted many years. 


What makes a person a great friend?  I dunno.  I think it depends on who you are.  For me – a great friend is someone that I can talk to.  This might seem obvious – but, given that I can feel like an awkward teenager sometimes, being able to share my thoughts and feelings and have a friend share theirs is important to me.  I’m also not someone who is big on “yes” people.  I do not need, nor do I appreciate, someone telling me I’m right constantly.  One thing I can say for certain is that the large majority of my friends are smart thinkers.  They think for themselves and aren’t going to agree just to agree.  Many moons ago, I had a boyfriend who used to agree with me, and then would whine about it.  It made me want to hammer wood under my nails.  I found it very frustrating.  I mean, I’m a stubborn pain in the ass.  I need people to remind me about that once in a while.  I’d say that most of my friends are quite capable of being that mirror for me. 

I’ve been thinking recently about when people should call it quits on a relationship.  I started this thought-journey with friendships, but then it led me to think of romantic relationships.  But, I moved from that on to jobs.  When do we say the compromise of staying in the relationship is too much for us?  When do we say that our personal health is more important than the relationship?  People have different tolerance levels for this – but, it strikes me as an important question. 


When I was having lunch with my friends, I was reminded about our former employer.  We met at a job about thirteen to fifteen years ago.  I remember that I was progressively unhappy at this job.  We went through four different leaders while I was there (in roughly four years).  The last agency-head was particularly frustrating, at least to me.  I left for a week’s vacation.  During that week, I had a dream that I was screaming at him.  If you know me, you probably know that I’m not really one to yell or even to raise my voice.  Dreaming that I was that angry was it.  I shut down.  It was the first and only time in my professional career that I left a stable permanent job to move to a temporary position (well, prior to me giving up my job to pursue diving).  It seemed risky at the time, and yet I could not fathom staying any longer.  I had reached my limit of compromise.  I could not do it anymore. 

But, in other situations, I’ve stayed in jobs, relationships, and friendships longer than they were healthy.  I’ve been thinking recently about why this is.  I have several clients who are in relationships that are not terribly healthy. There is manipulation in them.  In the worst, there are incidents of abuse (physical and emotional).  As a therapist, it is not my job to tell people that they shouldn’t be in the relationships they are in.  We talk about their options and why they are making the decision that they are making, but I have zero power to change their decisions.  To me it seems so obvious what should be done.  Yet, each struggle to think about leaving (let alone take steps in that direction).  I had another client who was in a relationship in which he was compromising his career, where he wanted to live, what he was looking for in a relationship and how compatible he was with his partner. She ended up breaking up with him.  Recently, we were discussing it and I asked him why he had been comfortable making so many compromises of his own desires and values (in the hopes that he will learn from this experience moving forward).  He told me that the companionship was worth it.  Ironically enough, the healthiest couple I have seen recently is the couple that is doing couples counseling with me.  They have gotten progressively better at communicating their feelings and respecting where the other is.  It’s nice to see. 


So – what do you look for in friendships, romantic relationships, jobs, et cetera?  Hell, what about family?  To what extent are you willing to compromise your own happiness, health or values for those relationships?  Do the people in your life (in whatever category) help you grow or detract from your growth? 


My boyfriend and I were talking about friendships not terribly long ago.  He has ended several long-term friendships because he felt they were one-sided.  He felt like he was the only one making efforts to keep the relationship alive.  That seems unsustainable to me.  I have some friendships which are one-sided for a period of time, but not the entire time.  I think if someone is ill, or going through difficulty or transition that might be one thing.  But, if a friendship is only one person putting in effort, doesn’t it have to eventually end? 


I also think about family.  Sometimes family can be the most challenging. It's a difficult idea to think about ending a familial relationship. What weight do we give our blood line? Some family members can be incredibly unhealthy, but I think it is a very difficult decision to end a familial relationship. And, I've heard of many familial relationships being one-sided, and yet many/most have great difficulty ending them. It's interesting when you consider that family are not people we choose. Strange that sharing a blood line is given so much deference.


So, in turns of economy, what is the cost of the relationship?  What is the benefit?  With my client, I asked her to start thinking about those questions.  I’m hoping she will come to the realization that the cost is not worth it.  And yet... and yet I cannot make that decision for her.  What strikes me as so integral for her, and probably most of us, is there is a question of self-esteem.  For most of us, it probably involves our history (and this is certainly true for her).  Growing up, she was put in the position of managing her parent's anger.  Now when her partner becomes enraged, my client looks to calm, rather than look out for her own needs.  What I find fascinating in discussing this relationship, is that the partner manipulates this.  My client is blamed for causing the disruptance, which contributes to my client wanting to soothe and pacify. 

And, why write about this today?  I don’t know.  We need people in our lives.  We are social creatures.  We are pack animals. Our social wellness is vital. And yet – how do we decide when these relationships are causing us too much pain, too much sadness, too much angst?  When do we walk away from that job?  When do we cut off our friend?  When do we say this relationship has taken too much from me? 


I don’t know the answer. I’m almost always willing to give someone a chance.  Although, once you've broken my trust, it's hard for me to recover that. But, I believe that as people, we are fallible. We all have the best and the worst in us.  I don’t believe that people are “bad” or “good.”  I think all of us are capable of doing amazing and terrible things.  I am a firm believer that hurt people hurt people.  But, I also believe that our first priority in life is to take care of ourselves.  That can mean shutting the door on unhealthy jobs, and unhealthy people.  It’s not for us to “fix” anyone else.  Sometimes, the kindest thing to do is close the door.

“Today, is going to be the day that they’re going to throw it back to you.  By now, you should have somehow realized what you got to do.  I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do about you now.”  ~Oasis~

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01 de mar.
Avaliado com 5 de 5 estrelas.

Very good topic & timely.

Change is coming for me.

But it seems to be a slow process.

Knowing me for the time you have, you know I don't like slow for no reason other then to delay a process.

I'm still working on patience.🤣!

Great blog post!

01 de mar.
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Thanks Kathy! Change is hard - and yes, can take a long time. But, maybe it might be too much if it always happened really quickly! I hope for you, closing the door helps you find more room for joy and appreciation.

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