Fight or Flight

9b470f786581df724a46372b5c34eb97For a brief moment I considered naming this blog “Let it Go.” I thought better of it when I envisioned a call from the legal department of Disney coming my way. It happens. Today’s topic is relationships. When you hear that word what is the first thing that comes to mind? Parents? Spouses? Children? Friends? The definition of relationship is the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, the state of being connected by blood or marriage or the way in which two or more people or organizations regard and behave toward each other. Unless you live a solitary existence atop a mountain, chances are you have experience dealing with relationships.

Most people will come across and participate in varying degrees of interconnectedness over the course of a lifetime. I am sure we can all agree on this fact. Some connections are great, some are neutral, and others are flat out awful. The possibilities are endless and to a great extent are driven by the situation, circumstances, and environments we find ourselves in. There are so many variables at play when people interact and become a part of each other’s lives.

When I came out and divorced this subject catapulted to the top of the list of things I had to seriously examine. Obviously, relationships changed. Some were better, some worse. I was quick to blame my coming out as the reason for the shift. Only after reflection can I see some changes may have been attributed to that event, but many were not. Not every relationship we encounter in our lives is guaranteed or intended to last forever.

Much like life, relationships are not immune to change. Remembering this when you are wading knee deep in difficult times is a challenge. Trying to figure out where the shift or sense that “something is off” feeling with someone came from can be frustrating. The who is not important, just the fact that it is matters.

If you are not a fan of conflict, it is unsettling to realize there is a problem or something that needs to be addressed with a person close to you. No one enjoys having to confront someone they love or care about with something that may be hard to express. Sometimes nothing needs to be said or done.
Saying your piece may or may not result in any progress and could possibly end in a fight. We have all been there. Underneath every issue lie layers of feelings, some unresolved, which can pop up and muddy the already rough waters. There is no single recipe for success or plan of action.

Relationships at their end can be subtle, follow a natural progression, and end peacefully. Others end in a blaze of anger, resentment, and pain. Most fall somewhere in the middle. In a perfect world, the first reaction should be to make a serious attempt to communicate feelings in a rational and kind way. In the real world, many of us are just not there yet.

We have not quite perfected the act of detaching from our emotions in order to tackle our conflicts from a purely rational and calm state. It takes time and a true understanding of what our part in the situation may be. And sometimes reading a helpful pin about healthy relationships on pinterest. This is great stuff.

The only way to truly assess the roots of an issue is with honesty. First with ourselves and then with the other person. We are human and unfortunately prone to misunderstanding, operating with expectations, and holding unspoken resentment with those in our lives we care about the most. Honesty may not solve the issue at hand, but it will bring to the surface the real problem and clarity about whether or not moving forward is possible.

It is easy to blame someone else for a breakdown in a relationship. We are all guilty of this. It is important to keep in mind that we all bring baggage, opinions, and our own perceptions and experiences to the dining table. Being able to understand ourselves prior to sitting down is a pre requisite for the dinner. Understanding that dessert may include a heaping plate of letting go is the hardest part. Some people are just jerks. Sounds harsh, but it is true. Often people struggle to get out of their own way and expect others to forsake their own needs in order to control the outcome. Not cool.

The ability to get past our own negative feelings is an important step in the effort to mend a relationship. It may not always be enough to overcome a challenge or change a situation, but in the end will go a long way in freeing up valuable mental and emotional real estate within. Every relationship is unique and learning to let go of those that were only for season, are no longer healthy, or ended naturally is not easy. Ripping off the band aid does not always offer a quick resolution. Unfortunately, some operate with a selfish need to keep reinjuring the site when things are not moving in their desired direction. This is never acceptable.

Fear is a powerful force and is the reason some choose to accept the unacceptable for the sake of maintaining a relationship that may be on its last legs. It is important to remember to trust our instincts when deciding how people fit as we move forward and adjust to changes in our lives. Moving on is hard, but not impossible.

When we rise above our fears and uncertainty we grow in ways that we never imagined possible. I learn an equal amount about myself from the relationships which have ended as I have from those that remain. I remind myself daily that choosing an honest, humble, and fearless approach is necessary in order to have peace. I encourage you to do the same.