We’ve all had people in our lives that we wish we could cut. I don’t just mean cut off, I’m talking about cutting up, or at least down. You know that person. The mom who consistently chooses to spend time with her latest “boo” over you. What about the dad who can’t be reached during any days that require money or work (i.e. birthday, Christmas day, graduation day)? Or worst all, the ex who is the exact mirror image of the person you vowed to keep out of your life, such as the abuser, the user or my personal nemesis, the “I’m doing me, but I love you” type. Personally, all the of aforementioned behavior makes me want to put the duct tape, rubbing alcohol and scissors to good use — but wait, that’s illegal.
So, instead of belly flopping over that very thin line, what to we end up doing? Most hold it. And I’m not simply talking about suffering silently because we know many of “us” are well versed in going Rick James (think buck wild) or Dr. Cornell West (think dissect and discuss ad nauseum), but that’s not really letting it go. Healing requires something greater: a shift in perspective.
I’ve witnessed many high-functioning (at least for a time), broken-spirited adults. It’s clear to me that forgiveness and/ or venting are not enough. You can yell at someone until you are purple in the face. Or read every self-help book, horoscope and transcript of Oprah’s Life Class. None of those things alone are enough. Building a bridge with a loved one who may have, or had, some toxic behaviors requires a change in expectation. Not theirs, yours.
You must stop thinking that people will magically morph into their potential on your watch and become the soccer mom, CEO dad, reformed stripper, etc…. you know they’re destined to be. Instead you have to accept them for who they are at this moment and set your expectations accordingly. For example, if your dad is the guy who’s always a holiday no-show, you have to decide whether you want to invite him or not — and if he comes, great, but if not that’s on him. It isn’t a reflection of who you are. Most important, you’ve reminded yourself that’s who he is —the guy who doesn’t attend events — means that you cannot have certain expectations of him.
Here are 4 tips that will help you stop the hurtful cycle of disappointment:
1. Decide which relationships are healthy enough — even if not Cosby fodder — to stay in your life.
2. Set realistic expectations of that party’s behavior.
3. Examine what role you play in the cycle and think about how you’d like to change it.
4. Determine whether you can accept who and where they are.
Mending fences with someone doesn’t require them to become who you want them to be. In fact, it will demand more work on your part than theirs. It’s not easy. But ask yourself, do you really want to change your relationship? Or the amount of control this person has on how you feel? Some relationships will never be what we’ve dreamed of, but they don’t have to be a nightmare. The choice is yours.
Do better, be better. Talk to me at email@example.com.
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Licensed Therapist & Coach