Do you have people in your life that give you trouble? Do you often feel that you are not valued by those in your life who are friends, or maybe even family? We form connections with people outside of our family, but sometimes those engagements are not always beneficial to us. Sometimes the relationships we have start out as healthy, but end up being not as healthy as they were when we first met the person. If you find yourself in such a situation, you might find it useful to consider what you need to do to create that healthy space in your life. For some people, this might entail communicating with the person in question and expressing your thoughts and feelings about what isn't working in your connection with the friend. If there is difficulty in doing this, maybe writing down some free flow thoughts on paper to get to a place where you can center your thoughts on the actual problem you are experiencing. Then having an open and honest conversation with your friend to see if there is mutual agreement or not, and what can be done to work through the challenge.
Communication that is respectful and supportive is central to a healthy interaction with anyone, whether it be family, friends, co-workers, or even neighbors. We want to be valued for who we are and where we are in our life. And if you find yourself in a relationship with someone who is not honoring you, then it becomes important for you to protect yourself emotionally, psychologically, or maybe even physically. For family connections, this becomes a bit more difficult at times. While you might not be able to divorce your family relationships in the strict sense, sometimes we have to distance ourselves from some members in our family who are toxic to us, just to survive. This is okay, as self-preservation of our own comfort and ability to be happy should be paramount. We do not need to sacrifice these things for the sake of family. Other people in our life should be viewed with a more honest examination. Those who do not bring us joy, or who do not give us a sense of being valued and respected, really do not need to be in our life. It is not healthy, and they will often tear us down in multiple ways.
Relationships are built on trust, respect, mutually supportive interactions, and positive regard for the other person. When these components of a healthy relationship are not present, the energy in the relationship is out of balance, and can damage you or the other person. Caring enough to hear the concerns of your friend and honor the friendship in this way, is just as important as being cared for enough to be heard and honored by your friend. So it is a mutually agreed upon connection. If there is a break in that connection, it can damage the way you connect with the person. Sometimes it takes an honest look at why we are in the friendship. What value is the friendship offering us, or what good are we receiving from the person with whom we are engaged? These are questions that become essential for us as individuals, but also reflect our willingness to protect ourselves from abusive interactions.
Many of the clients I have worked with in therapy, seem to have a theme of not knowing how to deal with a particular person in their life. What is central to this question, is to assess the central problem in your engagement with the person; the value of the relationship; the desire to maintain the relationship; what you can control in the relationship (and here's a hint...it's just your response and actions you can control); and whether the other person is willing to examine the concerns with you that you feel are important. These take time to consider, and they become the basis to making a decision in whether or not to continue the connection. While not always perfect, all friendships and engagements with other people have rough spots and disagreements. So taking the time to reflect and consider what is wrong and if it can be worked out is crucial. Counseling can help in this regard. Seeking out a therapist who can provide an objective, uninvolved perspective might clear up so many questions, and help you come to a good decision. Allow yourself to be open to seek out the help you need to engage with people around you in healthy ways, and always remember that you have the right to be respected and honored as you seek your highest self and look for those who share those values.
Shawn Thomas Berthel M.S., is the owner of Life Path Counseling PLLC, and a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor. He lives in University Place, Washington.