You can’t change other people, save them or make them see the light. If you’re like me, you might have to test that statement a million times before you get it, but that’s a fact. People change and grow in their own time in their own way and if they want to, just like you, just like me. If you’re talking about self-destructive patterns and/or addictions, that holds doubly true. If a person makes choices that continually lead her to pain, presumably she will get to a point where she says “enough!’ and decide to figure out what’s driving her, but that isn’t something you can do for anyone else. People get there in their own time, or they don’t. When you love people who hurt themselves it’s brutal. When you love people who hurt you that is also very difficult, but there’s room to shift an interaction like that.
There’s an idea in Imago Therapy that our relationship does not happen inside me or you, it happens in the space between us. Our relationship is a third thing, a co-creation. I am responsible for what I put into the space between us, as are you. If I continually put my rage, blame, bitterness, disappointment and frustration into that space, it would be odd for me to think there would be a positive outcome. If I put my patience, compassion and kindness into that space, I still cannot count on a positive outcome, but at least I’m doing what I can on my side to contribute energy that is loving. When two people are thoughtful and mindful about the space between them, the co-creation, you’re looking at a beautiful relationship that’s likely to grow and evolve and serve as a constant source of inspiration.
Sometimes things are out of balance, though. If you find yourself in a relationship where you’re always trying to be aware of what you’re contributing and the other person is careless, that isn’t going to feel good for long. You cannot do both sides of the equation when it comes to relationships. If a person has shown you time and again that he either cannot or will not treat you with kindness, consideration and respect, then there comes a time when you have to question why you’re participating in that interaction, and whether it’s worth it. Your beautiful heart can only take so much battering.
If you find you are often chasing people who end up hurting you or you realize you’ve been in unhealthy relationships with people for years, it might be time to consider whether you have some doubt about your self-worth. Maya Angelou has that amazing quote, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” There were many times in my life when I didn’t believe a person the 300th time. Sometimes we want to see the best in someone, or we love their potential, or we keep waiting for them to see the light and love us well. Sometimes we have a feeling in our hearts that we are broken, and we find ourselves playing out an old drama hoping for a different outcome. You can trust history and you can trust your intuition. People who can only hurt you don’t belong in your life. If they’re people you must deal with, then solid boundaries are your best bet.
Some relationships end because you grow and evolve and the other person remains the same or grows in a different direction. Sometimes we’re willing to accept certain kinds of treatment when we’re at one stage in our lives, but then twenty years later that same treatment is just not okay for us anymore. It’s sad when a longterm relationship comes to an end, and confusing if a person is acting the way they always have and you are seemingly suddenly not okay with it, but not everything gets wrapped up in a bow in this life. It’s always good to try to communicate with clarity and compassion, but sometimes a person will just trod over your words no matter what you say. Some things are messy or complicated and you have to find a way to be at peace with a lack of closure. The thing is, life is pretty short; your time and energy are finite. There just isn’t enough to spend on relationships that have no real hope of improving. Much better to use that energy focusing on why you have any doubt about your worth, when that doubt arose, and how to believe a better story.
The things we tell ourselves are powerful. Even if you were mistreated as a child, you can start to tell yourself the story of how you overcame that, how you are resilient and strong and committed to your own well-being. That’s a good, empowering and true story that will help you flip the script and start to act on your own behalf to protect and nurture your wonderful heart. Sounds pretty good, right?
Sending you lots of love,