4 Things I've Learned About Difficult Relationships
I spent last Friday on a wonderful course called War to Peace, in which we explored and healed difficult relationships in our lives. Not only was it a fascinating day for me personally but it has also given me invaluable skills to use with my own clients.
Difficult relationships. We all have them in our lives at some point whether it's with a partner, friend, parent or boss, it's going to be something we have to deal with.
Here are the 4 things I learned about difficult relationships:
1. There is almost always a spiral of behaviours on both sides which continues the dynamic.
When you have a difficult relationship with someone, a spiral of behaviour is often in play. They do something (talk about themselves too much). You perceive their behaviour as meaning something (they're self obsessed, not interested in you, annoying, arrogant). They perceive you as something (uninterested, quiet, unengaged, annoyed, frustrated). You then act in a certain way (withdrawn, bored, shut down). Can you see how when you're sitting across from someone who is withdrawn, bored and shut down, one might over compensate and talk about themselves?
This is just one example of how often, when we look at it, our behaviour is often encouraging the exact thing we're annoyed by.
Ever been annoyed with a friend for not calling you? How were you behaving towards them when they weren't calling or when they finally did? "Oh hi stranger, I thought you'd died" has been known to come out of my mouth. Did I think this would encourage them to get in touch with me again when they get such a lovely warm reception?
2. The price of giving up a dramatic relationship is letting go of the gossip and drama
Often, our lives revolve around this type of drama and letting it go, can seem like a high price. What will we tell people who are asking for an update? Do these stories make us interesting? We often have people hooked to our own personal soap opera and feel that we can't just change our tune or tell them we're choosing to relate to this person in a new way.
3. We personally, pay the highest price for these relationships
Having this kind of on going tension in our lives costs us greatly. We pay the highest price for this both mentally and physically, it costs us. It can feel like changing how we relate to this person is 'letting them off the hook' but in reality, that hook is in your back too.
4. We have the power to relate to these people and situations differently if we want to
Victor Frankel, a Holocaust survivor has two wonderful quotes which shed some light on this.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
There are very few situations as trying and horrendous as the Holocaust and if someone in a concentration camp can choose his attitude, then I believe we all can.
Every relationship is a dance, if you both make the same moves you've always made, you're going to dance the same dance. You can't change the move your partner will make but what you can do is change your own move and this will change the dance.
I hope you've found some of what I've shared helpful.