Relationships have been on my mind a lot in the last couple years. Work ones, personal ones, old ones and new ones — it takes finesse to manage all the relationships we have in our lives, and often I think we don't appreciate just how much work that really is.
The last few years of my life have been absolutely crazy in the relationship department. We lost a family member due to divorce, and had to explain to our children why someone who said they loved them very much would cease contact with us all. That was really difficult on the kids, and they learned hard lessons about relationships at too young an age. A few years ago, I found some of my birth family, and while it was exciting to put those pieces together, we don't maintain much connection anymore. That was a really stressful relationship for me. Why was I letting myself get so wrapped up emotionally with people I hadn't even known for almost 40 years? I've made some amazing friends since our family moved to a new town three years ago, but also watched friendships drift away. I've had business relationships flourish, and some fizzle. I've reconnected with old friends, and had time to really think about how relationships affect our lives as a whole. Relationships of all kinds require juggling different feelings, personalities and expectations, and it's really challenging knowing how to manage them all.
How do we know when it's worth working to repair a relationship? Which bridges are worth mending, and which should we burn to ashes?
Whether it's a friendship, employment, or romantic relationship, that's something we all have to decide for ourselves. The important thing is that we don't let feelings of obligation and guilt take over and blind us to whether relationships are worth the work. Some are, some aren't, end of story.
I've found that these things help me decide if I should strike the match or not:
This is a hard stop. There should be no room in life for abuse, and whether it's verbal, emotional or any other type, it's time to cut and run. I know this sounds easier than it is, but if you're in any kind of abusive relationship, please seek outside help immediately. You deserve a safe life.
We grow, we change, we move. . . such is life. We can't hang onto every relationship, and sometimes they come to an easy, natural end. That's ok. I've had friendships and business relationships fizzle — I wouldn't say bridges were burned, but there's definitely no going back once these things die off. There are generally no hard feelings when this kind of thing happens, you just sort of move on. I equate this to the old friends I see on Facebook but don't meet up with for coffee anymore. It's comforting that they're around, but we're not close anymore, and that's ok.
Now, sometimes relationships feel a little off-balance, and that's normal. Sometimes I'm the strong one, sometimes it's my husband. The good thing is that we're never crumbling at the same time, so we manage to get through some rocky times. But if you're finding that you're putting far more into a relationship than what you're getting from it, maybe it's time to move on. If that means you're forever working towards the proverbial dangling carrot at work, or if you're always the one cleaning up around the house, if it's not feeling rewarding, it's time to fix it or move on. Basically, if the pay's too low, renegotiate or find a better job. . . that can be a metaphor, or reality.
Someone else always taking credit for your ideas? People leaving their dirty socks all over the house? Always the one babysitting a friend's kids? You're being taken advantage of, and that's unfair. A lot of us struggle with saying, "No", but we have to learn how to do it. A good relationship of any kind is built on mutual respect and support, so don't feel guilty for expecting to be fairly recognized.
I've had friends who I think are super fun, but when I'm with them, I feel like a bitchier version of myself. I get sucked into their drama, or into a gossip cyclone, and it makes me feel worse about myself than when I'm alone. Despite liking a lot about these people, I've realized I'm a better person without them in my life. Same goes for jobs I've had — they've expected me to write things I don't feel comfortable writing, so despite all the pros, the cons outweighed them and I've left.
We deserve to feel content in life, but we spend an awful lot of time trying to mould relationships that are simply unmouldable. Sometimes it's ok to burn the bridges and move on. There's a saying that goes something like, "May the bridges I burn light the way to a brighter tomorrow". . . sometimes we just need to burn the bridge to make sure we never go back.
The way I see it is that you get just one life, and you should live it fully and happily. That doesn't mean torching the past, but it does mean working to make relationships healthy and beneficial, and recognizing when some just won't fit into your life.
Sometimes we just gotta say goodbye.