Monday, June 04, 2007

The Up Side of Changing Relationships

Last week when I wrote my post on relationships I was having one of those weeks that make you want to scream with frustration (and I did actually lose it completely with a representative for one company I was trying to deal with). Suffice it to say, between those frustrations and remembering the hurt and grief of relationships that fell apart I wasn’t feeling particularly cheerful or optimistic.

Anyway, I woke up today realizing there’s a lot I left out about changing relationships—the good part about relationships ending or changing.

Any change like any challenge is also an opportunity. I’m not dismissing the hurt and grief when a relationship falls apart. Some memories still have the power to cut like a knife taking my breath away. At the same time, today at least, I am able to be grateful for the changes that came out of those losses.

How can anything good come out of the loss of a relationship?

1) It’s a chance for us to grow.

2) It’s a chance for new people to come into our lives—people who don’t have preconceptions about us.

3) It may be a chance for us to go new places and do new things and be happier.

4) If we have been in an abusive relationship and it ends, we may finally be safe.

5) When we stop seeing ourselves through the filter of someone else’s eyes, we may be able to see ourselves in a new way, a more positive way, one with possibilities we didn’t think of before.

How can we maximize the likelihood that something new and good will come into our lives when a relationship falls apart?

1) Write out what our ideal relationship would look like—both what we wish it had been like with the person we lost (or fear losing) and what we would like if someone else were to come into our lives to fill that role in the future. When we know what would be healthy and make us happy, we are far more likely to find it. AND we are more likely to see how we could have played our part differently as well. If we are trying to salvage a relationship by altering the dynamics, then this exercise is essential!

2) Look honestly at ourselves. What part did we play in whatever went wrong? Are there different choices we might make in future relationships? (Or in this one if we are able to rewrite it.) Note: I do NOT mean beating ourselves up about mistakes!!! If we are too harsh with ourselves, we may refuse to face the mistakes we've made and/or the role we've had in how our relationship(s) played out--and we cannot change what we will not face.
The key is to try to set aside our filters and neither blame ourselves nor the other person but rather try to see what went wrong and why so that we do not keep repeating the same pattern in the future.

3) Work to make changes in how we see ourselves and the world and other people AND IN HOW WE INTERACT WITH THEM so that we can have new patterns in the future—either with the same person or with new people who come into our lives. At some point, we need to forgive both ourselves and the other person—understanding that we did our best. We can ask ourselves what are the good things we bring—or could bring—to a relationship? We can see the best in ourselves and build on it.

4) Celebrate whatever was good in the relationship that we’ve lost. When we remember the good, we have a starting point to build on for what we want in the future. Note: I am NOT talking about romanticizing the relationship and obsessively grieving for it! I am talking about focusing on a sense of gratitude that this person was part of our lives and helped us become who we are now IN A GOOD WAY.
It is tempting to demonize the person to try to lessen our hurt and loss but we hurt ourselves by doing so. For one thing, when we let ourselves see the good in others, it is easier to see the good in ourselves. It’s healing to remember that we are ALL doing the best we can in the moment we are doing it. If we (they) could have done things differently we (they) would have.
When we allow ourselves to see and remember whatever was good about the relationship, it is easier to risk trusting again in the future. It’s also part of figuring out what we like and don’t like, want and don’t want in a relationship. It gives us the starting points to build upon.

5) Cut ourselves some slack! As we change and grow, our relationships will inevitably do so as well—or end. That doesn’t mean they were necessarily mistakes in the first place. Any given relationship may have been the right choice at the time we made it—even if at some point it ends.
We will all make mistakes at times. If we can forgive ourselves and others for being imperfect, we have the best shot at creating healthy relationships. This is especially true if we remember that respect and kindness are fundamental—both to treat others that way and to not settle for less than that for ourselves.
The bottom line for me is this: When we see ourselves and others with love, when we look for and acknowledge and reach out to the (genuine) good within each person we are far more likely find love and to see that good manifest. (At the same time, it is perfectly rational and wise to protect ourselves from abusive behavior!) When we let go of anger and grudges, we let go of a deep drain on our energy and ability to be happy. When we see each loss as an opportunity for something good to come into our lives, amazing things can happen.

Sending blessings and safe and gentle ((((((hugs))))))),


keepers said...

Dear April Optimist

These last several posts have been wonderful in our opinion! You might want to consider submitting these two to the next blog carnival against child abuse as part of the healing thread. Thank you for writing and sharing these.

peace and blessings and safe hugs
((((april optimist))))))


jumpinginpuddles said...

we atre liking some of the things now we feel more relaeased and although that can be dangerous its also giving us a chance ot breath for the first tiem in a logn time, hope that makes sense.

April_optimist said...

Thanks Keepers. I'm glad you like these posts. As you can see, I've added one more to the series. I keep trying to write shorter posts but somehow they keep coming out this way...

JIP, I'm glad you're able to breathe again. Good for you!!!

Marj aka Thriver said...

In my case, ending a relationship has sometimes given me the opportunity to stop trying to rescue people, be enmeshed and enabling. It's given me a chance to break free from the dysfunction and practice healthier ways of communicating and being assertive. thanks for letting me include this in the blog carnival against child abuse.