The focus in my mind for the last several weeks of blog posts here have been about healthy romantic relationships. I kept that focus as I dug into the research. Even though I said that the points refer to relationships, not just romantic ones, I still lasered in on romantic data and my notes were biased toward romantic relationships.
However, other relationships in your life are as critical as the romantic ones. This post will focus on significant others who are friends or family.
Generally speaking, the same criteria apply: Is the other person supportive of you and helps you be your best self? Is the other person someone you trust? Can you say anything, talk about anything, and resolve issues through discussion? Does mutual respect underlie your relationship and interactions?
If not, “Houston, we’ve got a problem.”
If the person you’re having difficulty with is a parent, sibling, or child, very different dynamics are in play. Especially with parents and siblings, there is so much history, family patterns, and baggage that separating the current interaction problems from the past can muddy the waters. Old arguments and resentments surface, or worse, lurk below the surface and taint the attempts to communicate and resolve issues.
With children the complications of changing roles from dependence to independence creates its own kind of friction. Each person remembers past connections and it’s hard to let go of them as you and your child mature. That plays out, in reverse, with your own parents.
How does one navigate familial shoals? The best advice can be summarized with these suggestions for approaching a family member/friend with the intent to start anew and erase old patterns of interaction.
1) First make sure you are in a good place before tackling what will be an emotional encounter. That could mean getting your support team (of friends or allied family members) to reinforce you before the encounter.
2) Plan how you will confront the person and identify“I” statements to keep the discussion on a less emotional level and not sound like fault-finding. Also “I” statements are assertions so your perspective is represented positively.
3) And thus, you need to listen to what the other person is saying and not fall into old patterns of response. Listening is key to understanding.
4) Before the encounter, identify the person’s positive traits so you can mention them as a way to soften the potential harshness of your encounter. Don’t go in with an attitude of trying to change the negative traits. This encounter is about setting acceptable boundaries for future interactions. The only person you can change is yourself.
5) Stand up for yourself. Silence implies consent. If someone makes statements you find inaccurate or cutting, speak up. If someone is intruding on your boundaries, let them know. Use “I” statements here, too.
6) Concede an area to the person. If your mother-in-law wants to take care of your children every day (because she thinks you don’t know how), give her two mornings.
7) Stay calm. Quietness can help de-escalate volatility. To quote a former First Lady, “When they go low, we go high.” When you get quieter, they will not yell (or at least not as loudly).
8) Don’t be “guilted” into resuming the status quo. Stand pat on your boundaries.
Even with a positive encounter to try to resolve issues, there are times when it seems severing relationships might be best. And that could be true, but it is the last step one should take. Only after many attempts at coming at the relationship from a different angle, different approach, different mindset, should one step away from these close relationships. However, if after trying the suggestions in previous posts about how to navigate the relationship doesn’t work, then stepping away and making a break might be the best thing for your mental and/or physical health.
Remember the old Dear Abby question, in relation to “should I divorce him?” “Would you be better off without him,” she asked.
If you can unqualifiedly answer yes to that, then maybe it is time to sever the connection. If the person always makes you feel worse in shis presence, then maybe it’s time to break up with your mother/father/sister/brother/cousin/BFF.
If your life isn’t better after the break-up, maybe it wasn’t the toxicity of the other person after all. Perhaps you need to work on making yourself happier and then try to repair your other relationships. Self-reflection and honest communication with yourself underlies any successful relationship with others.
See you next year!
Please tell others about this post if you found it helpful.
Facebook: Should you sever relationships with family or friends if you find them toxic? Maybe. http://bit.ly/2zf8PM5
Twitter: @RomanceRighter asks, “Should you sever relationships with others if you find them toxic? Maybe.” http://bit.ly/2zf8PM5