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How to Tell When It's Time to Say Goodbye

Do you ever find yourself struggling with certain people who are your friends or romantic partners? Does it seem that no matter how much you love them and try to make the relationship or friendship work, you spend more time being miserable than happy? Do you feel like a salmon swimming upstream, constantly fighting to get somewhere, to make progress, or to make it feel right and to be happy, but you just can't seem to get there?

Perhaps those people keep blaming you for everything that's wrong between you. If only you were more like this or less like that. If only you would do this and not do that, they wouldn't get upset. You live your life, carefully tiptoeing around on eggshells, worrying that you will say or do the wrong thing, trying your level best not to cause a disturbance.

You become anxious, always anticipating what might set them off. You think it's all your fault that they are unhappy - because this is what they tell you - and therefore, it is your fault that you are unhappy, too, because your happiness depends on theirs. You feel rejected; you believe you're a failure and that all you've done is cause those people nothing but of misery.

And then you have a break from those people. Someone goes on holiday or you and your partner separate for a while. After a few hours or a few days, you start to breathe easier. You begin to relax. You smile again, and it feels foreign on your face. You giggle a bit and maybe even laugh a lot. You associate with other people who think you're bright and funny and sensitive and kind.

You begin to feel like your old self. You start thinking perhaps their misery is not your fault after all. Perhaps those people have some issues. Maybe they're just impossible to please. Maybe they're demanding or miserable or irritable, or just plain selfish, through and through.

You're outside the box now, with some breathing room, able to look at those relationships with a different perspective. You see that they're very lopsided. You do all the giving, and the other people do all the taking until you have nothing left to give. But away from them, you feel your strength returning, your sense of worth, and your dignity. You vow that you will not be treated like that any more.

Then the break is over. The holiday ends. Those people are back in your life, in your space, and almost immediately they're complaining about this and that, and you're sliding back into that place of believing that their unhappiness is your fault.

In a heartbeat or two, you're back where you started, feeling worthless, depressed, resentful, frustrated, and desperately lonely.

You're as miserable as you ever were, and once again, you're that poor little salmon, swimming upstream, fighting against the oppressive currents of negativity and control that are swallowing you whole.

The pattern continues. Every time you separate for a while, you feel better and are happier. But when you're with them, life is miserable and you don't feel good about yourself.

There are numerous reasons why we get into these situations or why we stay in them but I can at least tell you this: If you have several good relationships with people who appreciate you and enjoy your company, and with whom you get along well, but there is a certain person in whose company you are consistently unhappy, take a closer look.

We can learn a lot about ourselves from difficult relationships, and sometimes we can work within those relationships to make them better. When both parties recognise that there's a problem and want to fix it, that's a good starting point.

But when one of the people refuses to accept any responsibility and does nothing but point the finger of blame, and has made it clear that he or she has no intention of working at what's wrong, then it's probably time for you to end your association.

I'm all for trying to fix a problem in any kind of relationship. But there are times when we must recognise that it is beyond our control. Sometimes we have to see that being in the company of certain people is destructive, that it's toxic and will only adversely affect us.

When it is clear that this will be ongoing and the other people involved refuse to budge, then you must walk away, for your own health and your own happiness.

You can bet that those people have troubled relationships elsewhere, too, and that they blame other people for everything that's wrong in their lives. You can bet that they are not happy people in themselves, but this is their stuff to fix, not yours. You're not responsible for anyone else's happiness or loneliness or social life.

When you have ongoing problems with a certain person, but no amount of talking has helped and you just feel more and more unhappy or your self-esteem has plummeted, bear in mind that you've always got the best gauge for figuring out what to do. That gauge is your own feelings. Just look at how you feel when you're with that person, or involved with that person. And then notice how you feel when you have some breathing space and some distance. If you're consistently or frequently miserable in the company of that person, and happier on your own, that's all you need to know.

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Sometimes All You Can Do Is Nothing

Doesn't it just drive you mental when you're watching people make choices that you just know are going to have disastrous results? They might have asked your opinion and if you respect them, you'll have been honest with them (as tactfully as possible).

You might have offered your opinion without being asked (which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your relationship) - and there's never a guarantee that it will have been heard, but that's not up to you. At least you tried.

Despite obvious negative consequences, some or all of which may even be acknowledged by these people, they continue on their destructive path, rushing headlong into some nightmare or other, ignoring the wisdom of anyone who might have had anything to say on the subject.

And there you are, standing on the sidelines, bound and gagged watching someone you love or care about, careening down a steep hill on a bicycle at an insane rate of speed, and you're just waiting for the splat!! when they hit the brick wall that's waiting at the bottom.

It's natural for us to want to fix things for the people who are important to us, to prevent them from being hurt or making mistakes and winding up in some kind of trouble.

But the truth is, experience is the best teacher. If people don't 'get it' from thinking about the consequences of their actions, the only way they'll figure it out is to go through it.

They'll have learned something about themselves (or will repeat the lesson at a later time...a bigger ouch each time, until they learn it), and they'll have learned something about you, too, that you do have a clue, that your judgement is sound - at least sometimes.

They'll have learned that perhaps it's wise to at least consider the opinions of others who have an interest in their wellbeing.

It's especially awful when it's your children who are making these frightening (for parents) choices and ending up suffering the consequences of their foolhardy actions.

But no matter who it is, we can only do our best to guide, suggest and direct. After that, all of us have the right to choose our own paths, no matter how difficult they might ultimately be.

It could be said that there are no mistakes in life, only opportunities to learn. And it's true that experience is the best teacher. I know it doesn't feel like that when we're helplessly watching loved ones heading for a crisis but sometimes, all we can do is be there to support and encourage while they pick up the pieces of their lives.

And thank heaven, we're there to do it.

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Your Happiness Depends on This

If you're like most people, you find yourself saying things like, "Oh, she makes me so mad!" Or "He loves to say things just to hurt me!" Or "I have to do it or they'll be really disappointed!"

Many people go through life believing their feelings are controlled by the words and actions of others when, in fact, this is impossible.

No one can make you feel anything in particular. You are always in control of your own feelings and responses to whatever happens around you. If someone is insulting you and saying hateful things to you, it's up to you to decide whether or not to feel hurt, offended, or disappointed.

You could look at that person and just think, "Wow, that person has a lot of emotional wounds to behave like this. It's not about me and I'm not taking it on as mine."

No one can make you angry. No one can make you sad. No one can make you feel disappointed. Another person's behaviour is that person's choice and responsibility. Not yours.

Let's look at the idea that people "push your buttons." The truth is that you don't have any buttons to push; you have simply taught them that if they say or do a certain "something", you will respond in a specific way. So how do you break that cycle?

If you don't like that dynamic, you are always free to change it by showing a different response. When you do this consistently, eventually the other person will give up attempting to get the desired result. They may step up their efforts to get you to be the way you used to be, but if you refuse to give them the old response, eventually they'll stop trying to get it.

It might not happen overnight but if you continue to honour and respect yourself and not allow yourself to feel hurt by what amounts to a demonstration of another person's emotional wounds, eventually you will see big shifts in the dynamics of your relationship.

You get to choose your responses, and that includes the decision to end a relationship in which you are subjected to a continual or frequent barrage of negativity. I am not suggesting that if you're in relationship that includes verbal and emotional abuse, you should just continue to ignore it and tolerate it.

The point I'm making is the same though: Although an abuser's toxic words and actions are not your fault or responsibility, your reactions are.


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