Growing Together

It can be difficult and messy trying to figure out what to do when you’ve outgrown a friendship or relationship, especially if there’s a long history together. Ideally we’d love all of our relationships to be mutually beneficial, life long, and relatively drama-free. Realistically though, that’s not the norm, that’s a rarity.

We’re all constantly evolving and some relationships keep up with us, while others don’t. In fact some relationships can weigh us down, create perpetual chaos, or hold us, hostage, if we allow them to.

How do we decide which ones to hang onto or let go of?

You have a friend that’s really been wonderful and helpful in the past and you’re grateful and appreciative of them. You want to be respectful, loving, gracious, and kind. But what if they aren’t growing up along with you? What if they are stuck in high school mode and they haven’t matured and are crossing your boundaries too?

What if their personality leans towards negativity, complaining, manipulating, gossiping, meddling and codependency when you want no part of that anymore. It drains you just by thinking about interacting with the person. You have little in common anymore and your interactions with your friend end up being irritating and exhausting?

What do you do? You want to be loyal and kind and feel obligated because of your past history, they’ve really been a good friend, but not so much lately. You just don’t align with them anymore? Do you owe them for life? Do you keep friends forever?

What if it’s a family member? Are you obligated to keep interacting with them even when it’s proven to be detrimental to you again and again?

Are we expected to sacrifice ourselves out of loyalty and obligation to others when it is harmful to us by continuing to force ourselves to engage with them? Are we in an unwritten contract for life?

People may say, “That’s a little extreme, how is it harmful to spend some time with a person you have a history with, that doesn’t seem like too much to ask?” But why spend time with people when the only reason you’re doing it is to please the other person? When in truth you’re having to navigate their negative behaviors and it’s not healthy for you. You don’t look forward to the interaction and it feels like the only reason for continuing is because you don’t want to hurt their feelings and it is expected of you by them and society. You are staying because they want you to, but in the meantime you’re miserable.

Why does anyone do this to themselves? Wouldn’t it be easier if we could all be mature adults and be okay with people coming and going in our lives? Everything is always changing and it’s natural for people to move in and out of relationships whether it be family, friends, or partners. Trying to force it to stay the same really doesn’t work. Who has the power? Whose choice is it?

I’ve had to repeatedly choose who gets to stay in my life. It’s entirely up to me. It’s my life after all. I have the ultimate say and the power of choice. Why would I want to expend my limited energy during my personal time on anything that is not mutually beneficial? And why live inauthentically by tolerating mismatched relationships? I want relationships where we grow in tandem together.

Maybe there’s no harm if you have an abundance of energy and time to spare. Maybe you can afford to listen to someone complain incessantly and to keep giving you unsolicited advice and treat you condescendingly. Maybe you can sacrifice yourself up to make sure you don’t hurt their feelings for a few minutes here and there, no biggie.

Or possibly you’re afraid of the fallout when you end the relationship so you keep trying to make it work. You can’t figure out how to avoid hurting their feelings so you suffer along, hurting yourself instead.

Here’s what I’ve done that’s helped me decide. I imagine how it would feel if I didn’t have to ever spend time with that person again. Am I relieved? What’s the real truth. I’ve journaled out my feelings and the pros and cons of the relationship. I’ve tried to talk with the person addressing issues if I think they’ll cooperate and try to respect my boundaries in order to improve the relationship. This sometimes works, but I’ve found mostly that people are entrenched in their habits, ways of being and personalities and may say they’ll try, but aren’t capable of the level of growth needed to keep the relationship mutually beneficial. We really do outgrow one another.

How do I change the parameters of the relationship or end them? I can choose to distance myself and limit interactions to a tolerable level. I can try to enforce healthy boundaries. If distancing is not enough then I’m honest and tell them that we’re just not compatible anymore, that I’ve changed and while I appreciate all of our times together, I need to move on.

Typically when I’ve distanced myself the other person ends up discarding me because I’m no longer providing what they need. They end the relationship by never contacting me anymore and I let it go by not contacting them either. Mutual ghosting. When I no longer play the role they’d assigned to me, I’m no longer useful to them. So it was really not that dramatic, though sad and proved why I’d outgrown the relationship, it’s because it was one-sided all along and I didn’t notice at first.

In other relationships where I’ve had to work out the ending with them, they reacted violently, vindictively, and poorly. But I was free and that was what mattered. Their irrational immature behavior also validated that I made the right choice in ending the relationship. Why put up with bad behavior ever?

I’ve learned a lot by choosing to be compassionate towards me first, because I am just as worthy as anyone else and would not want others sacrificing themselves for me so why sacrifice myself for others? There are so many people in this world, surely we can have relationships that are a match and are mutually beneficial? Why cling to these false constructs that only create messiness. I used to agonize over hurting other’s feelings and kept myself in compromising situations because I couldn’t stand the thought of causing distress for someone else, but in the meantime I was suffering, hurting myself instead. How does that make any sense?

As I continue to make choices that are compassionate towards myself, I’ve gained further clarity in navigating boundaries and no longer feel guilty for choosing what’s loving of myself. Other people’s feelings will be hurt sometimes. There is no way around it. I stopped resisting it and accepted that yeah, sometimes I would be the “bad guy,” and that others would judge me and condemn me, but what mattered most was my peace of mind. I can’t control what others think, but it’s my sacred responsibility to honor and love myself by doing what’s right for me. To live truthfully, authentically, honorably, and lovingly. I choose to love me first. No one else can do that for me.

I keep choosing what’s best by listening to and following my logical heart. I stay true to me by making those difficult choices and taking those scary actions. My quality of life depends on it. No one else can decide or choose this for me, it’s up to me to stay strong, clear and choose what’s loving of me.

Michelle Miyagi
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