Change in your relationships can happen incrementally as well. There may be someone who crowds you, or who is so wrapped up in their own issues they aren’t able to be there for you right now, or who simply feels they can’t support you anymore. In rare instances, when other attempts to resolve problems have failed and it’s a person you need to have ongoing contact with, it may be necessary to do a “pattern interrupt” to set the relationship on a healthier track. This neuro-linguistic programming technique can be highly effective but should be used sparingly and as a last resort. It is usually a jarring experience for the other party, but it is sometimes the only way to shift the dynamics enough to save the relationship, or to enforce boundaries that just aren’t being respected. Relationships that can’t adapt after a pattern interrupt have no hope left, barring a miracle. Some relationships really are meant for just a season in our life. Some folks don’t want us to be more successful than they are, and if we grow beyond that threshold then they’re done with us. Others are great friends when life is hard, but once we decide to rise above our circumstances we have nothing left in common. Someone who is negative by nature may not be willing to tolerate our positive new direction. For others, we may serve as a painful mirror. They love us and wish us well, but it’s just too hard for them to have us around. We’re too great of a reminder that their life is not turning out the way they hoped it would. There are many reasons why relationships break down or fade away and you don’t need to feel guilty about letting go of relationships that are destructive to you in some way.
Thankfully in most cases gradual changes will in fact shift things in the direction you need them to go. If you no longer behave in unhealthy ways, then people are by definition required to relate to you differently and better. To make a gradual adjustment, if you’ve tried to talk things through and haven’t been heard or respected, or if the person is in a place of not being able to have the conversation at this point in time, then it can be effective to step back slowly. Gradually spend less time together, be available less often, starting saying no to or delaying requests that don’t work for you, and don’t share as much about your life. You will probably encounter resistance, but keep in mind that temper tantrums or emotional meltdowns about healthy boundaries are confirmation of the need to set the limit. It is not that we want to intentionally cause anyone pain. If we’ve made good faith efforts to work things out and the other person chooses not to cooperate with creating a new and healthier relationship, there’s really nothing else we can do, we’ve fully done our part. Some people have limited self-awareness. Others refuse to deal with reality. Some have a scarcity mentality and believe that if your dreams are coming true it means theirs can’t. Others have an entitlement mentality and think that everyone else is there to serve them. Whatever the other person’s issue, your job is to handle yourself well and let the natural consequences play out accordingly.
Until next time, I’ll be praying that you figure out what needs to shift, and then incrementally have at it!