April 4, 2014

Troublesome Friends & Lovers: When to Stay & When to Exit Gracefully.

kids argue

“Friends are with us for a reason, a season, or for a lifetime.” ~ Unknown

I’ve been pondering writing about this topic for quite some time, but each time it comes up, it feels too uncomfortable and negative to write about. But, this is a situation in life that most everyone comes to deal with at some point, so I decided to go for it in case someone out there might identify or be helped by this.

Throughout most of my life I have been blessed with exceptionally close friendships. Some are as close as family and some go back many years to even grade school. I have no idea where I would be today without these people.

Before I write about behaviors that I watch out for in relationships, let me first say that I strongly believe there will always be times when my friends will need to lean on me more than I lean on them, and vice versa. In the best case scenario, how much we lean on each other will even out, when it comes to giving and taking over time.

But, sometimes friendships just fade, people fall out of touch, and no one is to blame. 

You keep in contact for some time and then a day comes when you realize that neither of you has written or called one another. There was no argument and no real reason. The communication slowed to a trickle and then you both just stopped.

I also understand that no one person can be a perfect partner or friend in every way. We are human and all have our strengths and weaknesses, gifts and shortcomings.

I appreciate that everyone has flaws. I would never be able to maintain a close friendship with anyone unless I conscientiously chose to excuse people for their imperfections. And if my friends and family didn’t overlook my personal faults and weaknesses, I would be one very lonely person.

That being said, there are still those who have woven their way into the fabric of my life and behave in ways or exhibit traits that are hard to deal with and have given me pause for thought. These are the people who make me scratch my head and wonder how to justify keeping them close to my heart. And the deeper the connection runs, the harder the web is to untangle.

Everyone should consider their time here on earth precious, and sometimes our time and energy is just too valuable to allow people who bring us down to remain in our lives.

The questionable traits that lead one to ask if a relationship is worth the effort are surely different for each of us, but these are the behaviors that I personally feel are the most troublesome for me:

1. Dishonesty.

This is simply one trait that I can’t put up with. It has caused me to break off more than one relationship. If you find it once in a person, you are very likely to find it again. Enough said.

2. When conditions are placed upon the relationship.

I have witnessed many people in relationships who have friends or partners who demand to know every little thing about the other person or who try to ban that person from doing or saying certain things.

This feels like a big red flag to me.

3. When there is financial inequality within the relationship.

Unless someone is incredibly wealthy and truly doesn’t mind paying for every outing, aspects of the friendship with inevitably fall out of balance when only one person is pulling the all of financial weight in a relationship.

4. Abuse of any type.

Get out at the first sign of emotional or physical abuse. This is a serious situation that is non-negotiable,

On the solutions end of these predicaments, these are ideas that I have found to be considerably helpful when thinking about possibly healing problems within relationships:

1. Wait it out to see if the equanimity of the relationship comes back into balance.

Sometimes people who we care about go through long-term periods of more neediness then ourselves.

As long as we are able to let their problems go and not take them on as our own, it can be okay to take the wait-and-see approach.

2. Decide that what you are getting out of the relationship, no matter how small it may seem, is a good enough reason to remain friends.

There are times when what we get out of a friendship or other relationship with someone may be very valuable even if it is only one thing. This is fine, as long as you feel good about being the main contributor in the connection between your friend (or partner) and yourself.

3. Ending the relationship.

When I find myself in a relationship with people that have traits that ultimately don’t sit well with me, I try my best to exit gracefully. There is no need to be harsh or mean to these folks or to go into the reasons why you are ending your time with them.

This is generally a last resort after trying to talk the problems though in a thorough and mindful manner.

Sometimes relationships just don’t work out. And the kindest thing that can be done for all parties involved is to give ourselves permission to move on.

In my opinion, the worst thing that one can do is stay in a relationship due to feelings of pity or guilt. Neither of these reasons for remaining friendly or intimate with someone ever seems to serve either person.

On the other hand, giving up on a long term friend, partner, or even a relationship with a family member may come back to haunt you and may not be able to be reinstated in a way that will ever feel like it once did in the past, so it is important to consider all of one’s options carefully before any final decisions are made.

Lastly, I feel it is good to thoughtfully pause before any big decisions are made concerning relationships in a hasty way or on impulse in reaction to something if-y that has occurred within a relationship. Unless there is violence (emotional or physical) involved, most all situations can wait a day or two to be considered carefully.

And a graceful exit always trumps a big argument or unkind words.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Max Mayorov/Pixoto

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