In any relationship, whether it be romantically involved (i.e., spousal or significant other, everyday friendships, sibling and often times even parental), conflict is inevitable. What we don’t realize is that it is not the conflict in itself that is the problem, but rather simply, how we decide to handle the conflict that either tears us apart or brings us closer together.
Research has shown that hanging on to ambivalent relationships (romantic or otherwise) in our lives where they are supportive and positive one minute and non-supportive/negative the next causes us more stress than a regular old negative relationship. We bounce back and forth in these relationships never really knowing where we stand with the other person. Research has also shown that this is also extremely physically unhealthy.
What does an ambivalent relationship or friendship look like one might ask? For example, in some remarriages/stepfamilies, couples experience what I call the “weakest link” syndrome due to the stresses and strains such as conflict with an ex-spouse or stepchild, emotional/physical neglect and/or abuse and often times finances. The stress level gets so high at times that one person feels as if they are constantly walking on eggshells.
The fact of the matter is that the world we live in today is full of unhealthy relationships. We see them on on television, we hear about them on the news and bopp our heads to the tunes our music provides us about painful break-ups and conflict. We also experience it first hand in our relationships with our friends and family. Another example of a toxic relationship can be that of an adult child that has grown up with a neglectful parent. Whether that parent was neglectful due to the disease of physical abuse, drugs/alcohol or just simply walked away, there comes a time that we have to decide to accept these relationships for what they are not for what we imagine they can be. We have to embrace the conflict we feel inside in order to accept that we can and need to let go of these relationships, especially when the outcome leads to our own positive well-being and health for that matter.
Another example of conflict and unhealthy relationships is that of ex-spouses that have not moved past the pain (a lot of the times due to not having closure, i.e., one spouse walked away suddenly, etc.) that they experienced during their previous relationship or their troubled marriage. They want to disconnect, but hang on to emotions. This is extremely harmful not just to the one behaving this way, but if the non-participating ex-spouse is remarried, it turns into major conflict for the remarriage, hence the “weakest link” syndrome kicks in.
Deciding to let go of or exit an unhealthy relationship is hard. In the alternative, a lot of people decide to just stay “stuck.” In my opinion and through my experience, I have learned that what you need and want to accomplish in this one life that we get, is much too short and precious to waste on people who do not feel or want the same things that you do. Sometimes, those people are our friends, parents, spouses and siblings and when we need to let go of an unhealthy relationship, there is going to be pain. However, it is wise and empowering to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and allow yourself to take inventory of the roles people have played in your life. Obviously, I am not promoting cutting good people out of your life, but simply eliminating the stress and by doing so, sometimes we have to eliminate the folks that cause that stress. Can people change? Of course. Can relationships that may be defunct at this moment end up flourishing? Absolutely. I am a big proponent of change. Two people, whether they are spouses, friends or family members, do not have to always agree and obviously will not always share the same values, desires and goals in life, but if the stress from one of these relationships becomes detrimental to your happiness, being able to focus and becoming aware of your own goals and desires may require ending that stressful relationship. Here are a few examples of questions you might ask yourself and thoughts you might consider:
- Acknowledge your own mistakes in the relationship.
- Does this person’s influence or feelings flip/flop back and forth from positive to negative at a moment’s notice continually and does it stress you out?
- Do you feel as if you walk on eggshells around this person?
- Are you being physically or emotionally abused?
- Are you being financially stifled to the point that you are afraid to speak up?
- Are you stuck in a dead-end relationship?
- Are you always available for your friends but they are never available for you?
- Does your parent make you feel guilty for their past parental actions or non-actions?
- Do you feel you need to re-evaluate the direction your relationship is taking?
When we set clear intentions in our relationships, we clear the path for our own progress and true happiness. In learning this, we are putting a voice to the emotional part of inner-beings and again, accomplishing true happiness.
Peace & Blessings,