Seeing the best in life's challenges

Broken Relationships

on July 20, 2012

How to heal broken or strained relationships has taken up a lot of my thinking time.  Over the past two years, I have become estranged from a couple of people I should be close to.

And I word it that way, because that seems to be the most common response I get from people about what I should do.  Repair the relationships at all cost.  Just make it better.

I have already tried to explain what happened from my perspective.  I have apologized for causing pain.  I’ve said “I love you.”  I harbor no ill will, I’ve since learned more and understand more about what really happened, and really it comes down to a misunderstanding.  It stems from the fact that, given the information I had at the time, and what my gut was telling me, someone I care very much about was in trouble.  A couple of black and white details seemed to support this feeling I had.

So, what do you do when you think someone you love is in trouble?  I sprung into action, made sure this person knew what I knew.  I got involved.

Well, that didn’t go so well.  So now, it is what it is.

And of course, I learned some lessons.

Through a lot of self-reflection and study, I’ve come to a different view of relationships, a completely different paradigm that feels like greater understanding to me.  And look, it’s just my perspective.  I don’t expect others, especially the others that are involved, to see it the same way.  I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything.

I see relationships as vitally important to humans as a platform to learn about love, loss, the meaning of life, really everything.  The purpose of relationships is to learn about ourselves.  We learn more when things don’t go smoothly.  And the unfortunate thing about that is that human nature wants to avoid pain at all costs.  We have the urge to gloss over problems, to blame someone else, to make things look right in a superficial sense, all to avoid dealing with conflict.

Just make it look right on the surface, get the situation under control, go back to how it used to be, and everything will be all right.  Do what you’re supposed to do.

There is a lot of societal pressure to do this, especially with family.  Get along.  Be loyal.  It’s the same thing I was talking about in Marriage: It’s Not a Competition.  I’m not saying it’s a bad goal to get along.  I just have a problem when it’s superficial and based more on loyalty than on understanding.

From this situation and others (especially parenting), I have become much less tempted to become involved when it seems others are headed for trouble.  I’ve always been inclined toward being a “fixer.”   See a problem?  Get involved and find a solution!  See your kid about to make a mistake?  Thwart it!  Instead, I now see that others need to be able to have their own experiences without interference, even if it seems to me that the experience will be tough.

I’ve also learned that, if I am going to trust my intuition, it will sometimes take me in a direction that’s different from where other people think I should be going.  They aren’t necessarily going to like my direction or agree with it.  Without making anyone wrong, I have to learn to trust myself and make choices that seem right to me, and be ok that not everyone will agree.  This is a balancing act I am working on still.

I am now gravitating toward cultivating relationships where I can have deep, meaningful conversations.  Relationships based on being there, listening, and understanding each other.  With people who can openly discuss painful situations and what they learned from them.  With people who are willing to open their hearts and share their vulnerabilities.  Those with whom I can share something that seems crazy, and I know they won’t freak out.  Where I can make mistakes and not get beat up for them.  Where I can be there for others in the same way.  I see this as practicing how to have more meaningful relationships.

I wish that I had known then, what I know now.  And it’s tempting to think then I could have avoided a sad situation.  But, for many reasons, it is so clear to me that all this happened with purpose to allow me to learn so much.  The situation actually represents to me, an amazing gift.  This is not something I could explain adequately.  It’s just what I know in my heart.

So the ironic conclusion of it all is, I could never give enough thanks for the opportunity I was given to learn from this situation.  By facing it and trying to understand and figure out the lessons, I have grown so much.

And that’s what Challenge Day One was about, as best as I can explain it.

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