Change is a constant. There is no getting around it. How successful we are in this world is largely based on how well we deal with change. It doesn’t matter how hard we try not to change, it’s bound to happen. Every interaction we have, even the smallest, affects us. Sometimes we may not think things change us, but even on the slightest level, we are changed.
Relationships are one of the most important categories in our lives. Relationships are how we connect and communicate with the world around us. To think they aren’t important or needed is absurd. Some may argue that they don’t need relationships, or they prefer being alone, but on some level, they do need some type of communication – it’s human nature.
What happens when relationships change? What happens when, all of a sudden, something is different and has not changed for the better?
As I walk through recovery, I have found that relationships change as time goes on. As I figure out who I really am as a person, others begin to find that out as well. In my own experience, I have found that some of my relationships have endured some strain.
When we enter into a relationship, we begin to set some unspoken rules. These rules are formed by our behavior, interactions, or just by chance. These “rules” and “norms” that are established and practiced can be difficult to change. When one person begins to change the “norms” (purposefully or because they are growing), strain can happen. These changes may not be huge, or even need to be discussed, but when the change happens, the other person may not be ready for it, or even like it. As a person grows, and the norms change, one person could be left with who that person used to be.
I am changing and growing; recovery has given that to me. I can stand firm and say that it has been for the positive (for me at least). I have grown to have my own voice, advocate for myself and I have learned healthy boundaries. I am no longer the over-the-top-people-pleaser that I once was. I am now a person who considers my own needs, and sets boundaries to protect myself – while maintaining a healthy balance of helping and doing for others.
Things have changed for me. Relationships have changed. I am no longer the one who will drop everything and do for others. I pull my own weight, but I also expect others to do the same. At work, I used to do everything for others, and now I don’t have the time. I used to stay quiet and not ask others to do their part, but now I request that they do their own work. I am no longer the “working horse” from whom others benefit.
Now that I have a voice and I advocate for myself, my relationships at work have endured some strain. Speaking my mind has not been well-received. Asking others to pull their weight on projects or work has also not been well-received. Becoming my own confident person has not been well-received.
I have changed the game. I have changed the norms of interactions and relationships. I have turned into a person who will not be walked-on, and who request being respected. Because I have changed the game, my relationships with my co-workers have changed, and some have even failed. It’s something that I can’t deny and that I have to accept.
So, how does one deal with relationships that are changing? In a perfect world, they would only change for the better. Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world. So, what happens when a relationship changes and one is hurt?
After much searching and discussion with people, I have found some steps do dealing with a hurtful relationship.
1. Accept It Happened
If something has happened between you and someone you care about or cared about in the past, don’t continue trying to act as if it didn’t. Accept that it did. Allow yourself to grieve over it if you need to. I know I have felt the need to grieve over hurtful relationships in my life. This is one of the best ways to make peace with a hurtful relationship and we all have had them happen to us.
2. Do Your Part
If you can look back at your hurtful relationship and see that you were in the wrong, then do your part and apologize for the wrongs you committed. Usually, there are two sides to every relationship fallout and a lot of times, we are at least partially responsible. Apologizing may not fix things and in fact, probably won’t if the relationship has grown so hurtful between you and the other person. But it will ease your conscience and allow you to know that you have done the right thing, even if the other person doesn’t do their part. You can walk away much easier this way.
3. Don’t Go Deep
Sometimes, the person whom we have had a hurtful relationship with is not someone whom we can cut out of our lives. It may be that it was a family member, coworker or other relationship that you can’t just cut off. If this is the case, you need to know how to deal with them after the relationship has grown hurtful. My experience has taught me it is best to not go deep with these individuals. Choose to keep conversation light and on easygoing topics
4. Use Distance to Your Advantage
Use distance to your advantage. Sometimes, you can use distance to cut this relationship completely out of your life, like with someone that used to be your friend. There are no ties in that situation. But other times, when you have to continue contact, you have to use distance differently. You can still be distant but only to an extent and that is okay. Figure out what extent that is and use it to help you deal. Time also becomes a great distance. Sometimes, we need to just be away and let it be. Once feelings are calm, the healing can begin to happen.
5. Extend Grace
You know, we are all hurting people in this world. We have been hurt and we will hurt others, at times. Realize that the person you have a hurtful relationship with is doing the best that they can. They may be acting out of scars that you know nothing about. If you can develop a sense of compassion for them, it can really benefit you. Pray for them and do your best to forgive them. Walking around with anger or baggage only hurts us.
6. Use Wisdom
Sometimes we have a hurtful relationship with someone and they want to continue having it just so they can continue hurting us. This is not wise. You need to know when to say when. Be wise about your decisions concerning a person you have a hurtful relationship with. Remember it is your job to take care of yourself; no one else knows what you need better than you do. If you are not willing to go to your own defense, who will?
7. Find Other Relationships
When you have dealt with a very hurtful relationship it can be tempting to shut down. But this is not always healthy. Find other relationships in your life that are nurturing, caring and uplifting for you. This does not mean that you don’t still care for the one you have a hurtful relationship with. What it means is that you are making the healthiest decisions that you can for yourself, and you are trying to foster healthy connections with other people.
Making peace with a hurtful relationship in your life is difficult, no matter who it is, but it is also necessary to do so. The more we advocate for ourselves, the stronger and healthier our formed relationships will become.