Besides the many sibling and parent/child challenges that I hear about on nearly a daily basis, I frequently have occasion to help my clients navigate the stresses of difficult professional encounters. Whether it’s a boss/subordinate relationship, networking groups or business associates, where career success and money are on the line the stakes are always high!
I’ve also heard stories of close friendships that suddenly fell apart because one person got an idea in their head about the other having committed some unforgivable offense – that may not have even been accurate – and just unceremoniously “dumping” them without even having a conversation about it.
And of course if you provide ongoing care for anyone in your life, then you know how fraught those relationships can be! By the very nature of what they do, caregivers – whether family members or professionals – are engaged in relationships that must be managed successfully in order to provide the care. For them especially, a strong support system of fulfilling personal and professional relationships is essential to achieve and maintain a high level of care consistently over time.
A Particular Challenge for Caregivers (but the SOLUTION works for everyone!)
Relationships of all kinds are challenging enough to maintain without introducing the very delicate yet important “dance” of caregiving. When one person takes on fulfilling a very honorable commitment to making sure the other person gets all the care that they need (whether they want it or not!), all sorts of things can go haywire between them.
That is especially true when the recipient of that care is aging and/or dealing with dementia or other types of diminished decision-making ability – they may continue to put up a fight just to feel like they haven’t completely surrendered all of their independence forever.
After an extended period of trying to accomplish their caregiving goals in the face of resistance, arguments and possibly even angry confrontations, it’s tempting for the caregiver to conclude that whatever positive connection used to exist (and that may have been long before the caregiving part of the relationship began!) is gone forever.
They may see the relationship as essentially over, and try to detach themselves emotionally in order to not feel disappointed, aggravated or just plain hurt every time another argument occurs. Unfortunately, they typically can’t just detach and feel completely neutral – usually some disappointment and/or resentment are always lingering in the background.
That kind of emotional stress is one element of what is often called “Caregiver Burnout.” But if you are resenting the person you’re caring for, that relationship will drain you instead of helping to fulfill your very human need for positive interactions with others.
All Relationships Are Continually Being Re-Created and “Re-Calibrated”
If you are a caregiver of any stripe, you know that precisely because the nature of your role is “giving,” you are in essence “spending” finite resources that you start out with. When you give of yourself, you must also receive in somewhat equal measure, so you don’t wear yourself out! You don’t necessarily have to receive back from the same person or people you are giving to, but there needs to be a balance in your life overall.
It’s very rare for any of us to sail through life without relationship ebbs and flows. What has your experience been? When circumstances have occurred in your life that caused a relationship to be strained to the breaking point (as can happen with all of us!), what did you do?
Personal relationship damage can be the result of many factors. Here are just a few:
- an imbalance in responsibility and/or time demands
- philosophical/political differences
- financial disputes
- emotional wounds dating back to childhood
- standoffs over inheritance or other property distribution
- child custody battles
Any of these can be powerful incentives to walk away from a relationship! So the question is, once we have labeled that relationship “damaged beyond hope repair” is there any reason to reconsider that stance?
Yes, because every relationship that doesn’t upset you and thereby drain you emotionally is contributing something positive to you. And don’t kid yourself – when you are being superficially “nice” to someone you can’t stand, that is also draining your precious energy!
So if you choose to maximize the number of positive interactions in your life and minimize the ones that just use you up with no payback, here are some possible approaches to achieving that.
How to Salvage a “Doomed” Relationship
- Forgive them.
– If they fight you and resist you and make your life miserable, forgive them.
– If they criticize you and tell you everything you’re doing wrong, forgive them.
– If they tell you that you’re not be helpful or to go away, don’t take it personally.
– Let go of any need that comes up in you to have them behave any differently.
Just put yourself in their shoes and assume you would feel the same way they do if you were in their body. Bring forth all the compassion you can muster…and forgive them.
- Once you’ve done that (and just to be clear, this isn’t a “once and done” kind of thing – you’ll be doing it over and over, each time a pop quiz comes up!), allow yourself to be grateful for the relationship, no matter how “flawed” it may seem in that moment.
- Even if you feel they are not contributing anything positive to you, be glad you can still feel a desire to contribute something positive to them. Make a commitment to keep being generous, while honoring your own boundaries.
Hold on to the possibility that a different sort of relationship may be possible in the future, and that even if that doesn’t happen, you can hold them in your heart with true compassion. That’s forgiveness in action, and that’s the foundation of relationship.
- Finally, picture the relationship you would like to have with that person, and make it a point to consistently behave the way you would in THAT version of your relationship every time you interact with that person. Treat them consistently as you would wish to be treated.
Even if they continue to be uncooperative or even hurtful, if you set the tone for a mutually respectful, supportive and/or caring relationship, that will open the door for them to choose to walk through it at any time and join you in THAT relationship.
Two things to know:
- Your intentions, feelings and behavior have to be authentic – you can’t be faking your goodwill toward them! And…
- You have to be truly unattached to whether or not they ever take you up on it! It always has to be their choice, without penalty or punishment for choosing “No” if that should happen.
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PLEASE NOTE: If this topic resonates with you and your life right now and you want to strengthen your ability to forgive people in your life so you can feel more free, peaceful and positive, check out this coming weekend’s new virtual version of my popular workshop, Forgiveness: Letting go and Living Free!
You’ll attend from the comfort of your home, from 10am to around 12pm on Saturday and Sunday morning, and you’ll be able to listen again later to the call recordings as you complete the worksheets designed to help you make real changes in how you approach forgiveness.
It’s a small group, and since it’s over the phone it’s completely anonymous – so you can feel comfortable asking for help with your most challenging pop quizzes. And because I’m Beta testing this new conference call format, it’s only $50 – instead of the normal $200. Check it out here – spots are limited!
Email me soon at Loren@BeingWellWithin.com to let me know you want to join us!