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Posts tagged ‘Ending toxic relationships’

How Some People Get Stuck in the Same Toxic Patterns

SOURCE:  Dr. Henry Cloud

In my work as a clinician, a leadership consultant, and a fellow sojourner, I have found something to be true: in both our personal and professional lives, it is often the exact same issues that can hold us back, or even derail us. Find a control freak at home, and chances are that their co-workers have the same complaints that the spouse has. Or, if someone is an enabler in their love life, they are also a boss who doesn’t confront poor performance. In short, we usually don’t have personal issues vs. work issues. What we really have are “me” issues. And they show up wherever we are.

In both the personal and professional life, there are times when reality dictates that a person must stand up and “end” something. Either its time has passed, its season is over, or worse, continuing it would be destructive in some way. The situation requires someone to:

• Fire an employee who should be fired
• End a dating relationship that is not going to go where they need to go
• Shut down a product line or a business unit
• Get out of social ties and activities whose “season has passed”
• Letting go of a dream that is not going to materialize and moving on
• Leave a job or a career that they know is not right, or is even toxic for them
• End a marriage with repeated unfaithfulness that is not changing
• Admit that something is failing and waving the white flag
• Unplug from toxic friendships or family ties
• Give up on an addict who does not want to change

But too many times, with clear evidence staring them in the face, people find it difficult to pull the trigger. Why is that?

The reasons are varied, but understandable, especially in light of developmental psychology, our understanding of trauma, and cognitive mapping. Some people’s developmental path has not equipped them to stand up and let go of something. For example, if they did not develop what psychologists refer to as secure attachment or emotional object constancy, the separation and loss that ending a relationship triggers for them is too much, so they avoid it. In addition, in their development they may not have been taught the skills to confront situations like these.

Or, if they have had traumatic losses in life, another ending represents a replay of those, and they shy away or frantically try to mend whatever is wrong, way past reason. Or they have internal maps that tell them that ending something is “mean” or will cause someone harm. In any case, fears dominate their functioning, and they find themselves unable to do a “necessary ending.” See if you can relate to any of these fears or inabilities that can cause people to hang on or stay somewhere too long:

• You can’t tell if an ending is actually necessary, or if “it” or “he” is fixable
• Being afraid of the loss and the sadness
• Fearing the confrontation
• Fearing the unknown
• Lacking the skills to execute the ending
• You lack the right words to use
• You fear hurting the person
• You have had too many painful endings in your personal history and don’t want another one
• You’ve blown endings before, and don’t want to repeat it one more time

Probably all of us can relate to something on that list. But even so, here is the issue: endings are necessary. They are an essential part of life. Everything has seasons, and we have to be able to recognize that something’s time has passed and be able to move to the next season. And, everything that is alive requires pruning as well, which is a great metaphor for endings. Gardeners prune a rose bush for three reasons:

1. The bush produces more buds than it can sustain, and some good ones have to go so the best ones can have the resources of the bush
2. There are some branches and buds that are sick and not going to get well
3. There are some that are already dead and are taking up space

So, let’s apply that to life:

1. Over time, you gather more activities, relationships, work, interests, etc. than you can really feed with the best of your time and energy. You have to realize that you cannot go deep with everything, and figure out which ones you are going to invest in.

2. Face it, there are people who you have tried everything with to get them to “get it,” or businesses/strategies where you have also tried everything and there is no reason to keep throwing good money after bad.

3. And, there are people, places and things around which have been dead for a long time, and it is past time to let go.

Therefore, we have a dilemma: life and success require “necessary endings,” and we are afraid to execute them. That equals a conflict worth solving. So, what to do?

Let’s start with a few thoughts:

• Consider how you look at endings in general. Do you perceive them as natural? Do you have a world view that everything has its season and life cycle, or do you think that if something comes to an end it means that “something must be wrong?”
• When you see that you need to let go of something, or a person, what happens inside? What fears emerge? How paralyzing are they? What can you do to address them?
• Have you really thought about the fact that if you don’t do the pruning in that area that is needed, then you won’t get what you ultimately want? For example, if you keep that employee then that department will never perform well? Or if you stay in that dating relationship you will not find the one that fulfills? Play the movie forward a year or two and see if you like the results of not making a decision.
• If you are holding on to hope, what is the basis for that? Is it rational and objective? Or is it just a defense against facing the issue?

Endings are a part of life, and we are actually wired to be able to execute them. But because of trauma, developmental failures and other reasons, we shy away from taking the steps that could open up whole new worlds of development and growth. Take an inventory of the areas of life that may need some pruning, and begin to take the steps that you need to face the fears that are getting in the way. If you do, you might find yourself getting unstuck and entering into a whole new season of life.

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Necessary Endings

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5 Things to Remember when Someone Keeps Letting You Down

SOURCE:  Wendy Redden/Lifehack Magazine

If you have ever experienced disappointment from another person, here are 5 things to remember when someone keeps letting you down. It could be a friend, a parent, a son or daughter. It could even be your significant other or a co-worker.

It is often hard to not harbor sadness, anger or resentment when someone keeps saying they will do one thing and then does another. The situation could be someone that you just cannot count on for any help or requests you may need.

It is not easy when dealing with someone that is unreliable, or someone that could possibly be over committing themselves. Here are 5 things to remember when someone keeps letting you down so that you can protect yourself from further harm and also maintain your peace.

1. Avoid Assumptions

You might have someone in your life who often says they want to do certain things with you and you invite them, but then at the last minute they cancel or do not show up at all. It is easy to go into a flutter of thoughts as to why that person did what they did. It is also really easy to take it personally and believe they didn’t show up to intentionally hurt you. The truth is we will never fully know what is going on with someone else’s thoughts or motives. That person could be one that doesn’t like to say no to anyone but in reality they do more damage because the ultimately become an unintentional liar.

That person could be a people pleaser and they want to make everyone happy but they cannot so they end up being out of integrity. When we avoid assumptions it’s easier to stop ourselves from forming resentment and anger at the person or situation. We don’t know the truth as to what the other person is truly experiencing. In my past when I was going through some pretty serious personal issues, I became so wrapped up in my own life, I was not very reliable to my friends and family. Once I became more aware of that fact myself, I was able to reset my priorities and not over commit myself to others.

2. Accept the Other Person for Where They Are

Once we accept that someone is not consistent in their words or actions and we realize that a sporadic relationship exists, we learn to take it for what it is. We can’t control others or somehow force them to be in integrity, even though the thought of that new reality would be nice. We also can’t expect them to all of a sudden change or believe that the next time will be any different from the last disappointment. Once we accept the other person for where they are in life, it’s easier as the broken promises and inconsistent behavior we do not take personally any longer.

If we also have no expectation of future outcomes, it is so much easier to accept the disappointment. The broken promises will still end up hurting our feelings, but we have the choice whether to allow them to hurt us or allow them to turn into bitterness and negative feelings. Once we stop taking things personally, we can still maintain our peace even when others disappoint us.

3. Let Them Know How You Feel

It is never easy to talk about serious things. I was a severe conflict avoider in my past because I did not want to hurt other people’s feelings. I would rarely talk about what bothered me which caused me to live a very unhappy and chaotic life for a while. Now I welcome others to come to me with the hard topics because that means the other person desires conflict resolution and really wants their feelings to be made known. My best friends are those I can trust to come to me with issues so we can quickly resolve conflict if we have an issue.

I now reach out and share my hurts with people I care about. I want the relationship to become better if possible so I am willing to talk about the hard issues. If we do not tell someone that what they are doing hurts our feelings, how would they know? It is our responsibility to confront the issue without anger or emotion involved so that the other person is aware of our feelings. We need to let them know that we feel unimportant when they say they will commit to something but never actually show up or follow through.

4. Stop the Bleeding

Once you have shared your feelings with the other person and let them know their actions are hurting you, and nothing changes – it’s time to stop the bleeding. Why would we keep allowing more let downs and disappointments to occur when we have made our feelings known? If you still want to maintain the relationship, it is time to set boundaries. If you truly care about the person, you can let them know you are no longer extending invitations. If they would like to maintain a relationship with you – it is now their responsibility to make the effort.

That way you can still be involved in their lives but you can choose whether to accept their invitation or not. If the new situation does work for all that are involved then a compromise or solution has been made and we can maintain our peace. We are still able to continue the relationship even though the dynamic has changed a little. If the person never contacts you again after boundaries were set or feelings were made known, at least you know it was a forced relationship and one that needed to end.

5. Move On

If you have made your feelings known and nothing has changed, then it is time to move on. If the relationship is unsafe or abusive, it is definitely time to end it. Regardless of who the person is (it could be a loved one or close family member), it is never alright to stay in a relationship that causes you emotional or physical harm. Sometimes, we need to compromise to maintain a relationship with a family member and sometimes we need to stop seeing someone altogether because there is too much hurt surrounding that relationship.

Ultimately, we can somewhat control how we allow others to treat us by setting firm boundaries and knowing when to move on. If there are a few relationships in your life that are strained or causing you emotional turmoil, it’s time to evaluate them. Then you can decide what you are willing to accept in those relationships. What we allow in any relationship is what will continue. Life is short and it is exhausting to try and maintain a forced relationship that is not mutually beneficial.

Surround yourself with people that encourage, lift up and support you in all that you do. Real friends will bring up the hard issues and will work together to resolve conflict with you quickly so that you can maintain a lasting and authentic relationship with them.

Ending Toxic Relationships: Am I being a poor example of Christ to others by my decision?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Topic: Am I Being a Bad Example?

This week’s question: I separated from my husband after 25 years. I can remember being pregnant with my now 22 year old son feeling distraught and asking myself why I am having this man’s baby?

The emotional destruction took place throughout 22 years of the marriage. I have asked numerous times to go for counseling and actually moved out twice only to come back to empty promises of change from him.

I feel a sense of peace in every cell of my body that I have not felt in decades. My concern is am I honoring God with my decision for self-preservation, my sanity? 

Am I being a poor example of Christ to others by my decision?

Answer: Your question captures the dilemma so many women who are in an emotionally abusive/destructive marriage experience once they prioritize their sanity and safety over keeping the marriage together. They fear God’s anger and his disappointment. They fear being a poor representative of Christ and feel guilty when they finally say “I can’t do this anymore.”

I deeply appreciate that you don’t take your marriage vows lightly. We ought to press pause for self examination, prayer, and Biblical counsel if ever we consider separating from our spouse, so that if we separate, we are separating for biblical reasons and have as clear a conscious as possible.

Let me encourage you that God values physical safety and relational safety as much if not more than you do. For example, in spite of God’s general instructions to submit to the laws of the land and to higher authorities, when David feared for his life because of King Saul’s jealous rages, God didn’t instruct David to “submit to the King and trust me to take care of you” Instead, David fled, always respecting the position of King Saul, but not allowing himself to be abused by him. (Read 1Samuel 18-31 for the story.)

In another example, when Jesus was born and King Herod sought to exterminate all the Jewish babies two years and younger, God told Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt until it was safe to return (Matthew 2:13-15).

When Rehab hid the Jewish spies, she lied to keep them safe and God commended her (Hebrews 11:31). I suspect those who lied to keep Jews safe from the Nazi army were equally commended by God.

Jesus himself valued safety and said even the well-being of an ox was a higher value to God than legalistically keeping the Sabbath by not working (Luke 14:5).

Safety is an important component of trust especially in marriage. There can be no freedom or honest communication if someone feels afraid or is threatened, either physically and/or emotionally or has a price to pay whenever they honestly share their thoughts and feelings.

Women (and sometimes men) fear taking measures to protect themselves because they’ve been taught it’s unbiblical or ungodly. They suffer endlessly with verbal battering, even physical abuse believing that by doing so, they’re being godly martyr’s. Keeping the family together at all costs is seen as God’s highest value.

Yet Proverbs 27:12 teaches us, “The prudent see danger and take refuge.”

Sanity is also an important value to God. By sanity I don’t just mean good mental health from a secular point of view, but good mental health from God’s point of view. Again the writer of Proverbs warns us of the devastating consequences of living with a contentious and argumentative person (Proverbs 15:4; 17:1; 25:24; 26:28).

The scriptures are clear. People influence and impact us, both for good and for evil. When we live with an abusive, destructive, manipulative, deceitful person, it definitely takes its toll on our mental, spiritual, emotional, physical and spiritual health.

Being sane from God’s perspective involves knowing, believing, and walking in the truth. Jesus says, “If your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is (Matthew 6:33). The apostle Paul says by nature we exchange the truth of God for a lie and that the more we do that, we become more and more insane (depraved mind) (Romans 1:25-28).

Walking in the light and truth are important values of God. When you live with someone who prefers deceit and darkness and twists and manipulates the truth, it can be very stressful.

However your question is, Are you being a poor example of Christ to others by leaving? My answer is maybe. You also could be a poor example of Christ by staying. You see it’s not whether you leave or stay that determines whether you are letting the love of Christ rule you, but how you leave or how you stay.

There are people who choose to stay in a destructive marriage (for lots of reasons) and are terrible examples of Christ. They are bitter, angry, spiteful, depressed, resentful, and demonstrate no joy, peace, or hope in their countenance. Likewise, those who leave a bad marriage can also leave with those same negative emotions in control rather than Christ.

So what would it look like to be Christ-like and God-honoring even while leaving a destructive marriage?

Here are a few thoughts for you to ponder. The apostle Paul says that we’re not to only look out for our own interests, but also to look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). You are looking out for your interests for safety and sanity by leaving. That’s not ungodly or sinful. But if you want to be a godly wife, you must also look out for your husband’s interests. So what is your husband’s greatest need right now? Is it to stay with him, make his dinner, be his companion, and meet his sexual needs or is it something far more crucial to his long-term well-being? I believe your husband’s greatest need right now is to wake up from his slumber, from his darkness and to come to Christ and repent of his destructive behaviors. The question you must answer is would you more likely help meet his greatest need by leaving or by staying?

Second, God calls you to love your husband, even if he feels like your enemy right now. That is being Christ-like. However, you must also understand that unconditional love doesn’t entitle someone to unconditional relationship even with Jesus. The scriptures tell us that our sin separates us from close relationship from God. It doesn’t separate us from his love as Paul tells us that nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38,39), but it does separate us from his Presence.

If Jesus doesn’t offer unconditional relationship with everyone even when he loves them, I don’t think he expects that of us either. Sin not only separates us from God, it separates us from one another. Until your husband can see his sinful heart and actions as damaging not only you, but your marriage and is willing to actually do the work it takes to change them, it may be most Christ-like to stay compassionate toward him yet separate from him.

One more thing. For your own peace of mind, please ask God to show you how to represent him well in this time. You must let go of your desire for everyone to agree with your decision to separate. You may be Christ-like in all your actions and attitudes and people still may not like it. Jesus represented the character of God perfectly and yet there were those, especially religious leaders, who did not approve.

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