How to End a Bad Relationship

You can get along with all of the people some of the time; you can get along with some of the people all of the time but you can’t get along with all of the people all of the time.    A spin on the old adage.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that we simply can’t get along with everybody. If we are lucky, we have good relationships with our family and friends and in-laws, but every once in awhile, there is someone who becomes a ‘literal thorn in our side’. Sometimes, it is apparent why this happens. But other times, as much as we analyze and pick the relationship apart, conversation by conversation, we can’t understand totally why this happens.

Call it karma, call it fate, call it ‘that’s life in the big city’, it can play havoc with our lives. This is especially so, if it is a family member, a spouse, or an in-law.  It can be someone we are close to and see frequently; or it can be someone we’re not so close to and see infrequently. The latter can be spaced out in visits (if you have to visit them at all) and can be managed. Somewhat.

But, what do you do when it is a sibling, a parent or God forbid, a spouse?

If and when you are immersed in a dysfunctional relationship, emotions can override logic. If it is a parent or sibling, we are talking a major challenge. If it is a spouse, it can be catastrophic.

    

What do you do? Do you bite your tongue in all conversations, hold back lashing down to a minimum, feign sickness to avoid them? Work more; socialize less, bury yourself in a book?

Or do you join in when they are around, feel stressed out and pray that the day turns out ok and not into a fiasco. Others are counting on you to ‘join’ in the group and just ‘keep cool’ or ‘chill out’ or anything short of sitting on you and duct-taping your mouth.

Well, there are many variables here.  In a family matter – a parent, a sibling, a child – there is a history here and lots of interchanges. Some issues are so interchangeably tangled, that unless the ‘diametrically-opposed players’ come to a prayerful compromise and exchange of promises and a sincere heart change, there is little hope that they will link arms and have a drink together. In fact, drinking may make it worse.

A spouse you don’t get along with is much more challenging. This is a life commitment you both made. Serious and truthful conversations, role playing (perhaps with a third party), and a sincere desire to change the situation is warranted if you want to right it. It’s not going to go away by itself. One person can’t change it; it needs both. Make that three – add God. Positive actions, prayers and verbal affirmations help to get issues out in the air and looked at.   Three steps forward and two steps back – but keep forging ahead and praying while you do it.

It may work out.  It has worked out.  And made relationships stronger. But it also hasn’t worked out.  And relationships end.

I had such a person in my life. This was a ‘long-history person’. We simply were like oil and water. Things said were not taken the way they were meant; get-togethers became strained with stress; attempts to make it better made it worse; and the chasm opened wide and threatened to swallow us.

This relationship caused additional spiritual stress for me: didn’t God tell us to forgive seventy times seven?   Aren’t we supposed to ‘love one another as He loves us”?  How could I reconcile this fractured relationship with my faith?   How could I change into something I wasn’t?   I tried and tried and couldn’t and didn’t .

One day, at church service, there was a visiting minister.  His topic was ‘You Can’t Get Along With Everybody’.  I was all ears.   His sermon was loving, prayerful, scriptural and reality. He looked out at all of us and said, “You have to face the fact that you won’t get along with everybody in life – it could be someone close, a loved one or even a child of yours. You simply will not have a good relationship with them.” And then he offered, “Even Jesus did not get along with everyone. As a native Nazarene, he was not always welcome in his own neighborhood; people mocked him that “he was a carpenter’s son – how can He think he is a Son of God; we knew Him as a child playing’.” Jesus left his hometown and started traveling with His ministry. And when He and/or the Apostles were not welcome in a town, He told them to ‘wipe the dust off their feet’ and move on.

Please understand that this minister was not suggesting that you disregard any and all people that you don’t get along with and wipe them off like dust.  Remember, we are all imperfect.

Life is a compromise with almost everybody. It is usually a loving compromise and returned as such. Sometimes people have life changes and within those changes, people temporarily behave differently and relationships change with them. They may be going through a rough time; and they need your patience and love. I’m not talking about these kinds of ‘not getting along’. They are transient and natural in all our lives.

I’m talking about the constant, never-ending, always-the-same negative and destructive relationship that causes stress every time you connect.

I talked with the minister after the service and told him I felt bad about this relationship that I just couldn’t seem to embrace. He answered, “There are some relationships you can’t fix. Thank God they are few, but they simply will never be what they are supposed to be. You have to walk away and leave them. Withdraw from them; they will eventually harm you. Wipe the dust from your feet and move on. But always, always pray for that person, forgive them and forgive yourself.   But always pray for them.”

I found a serene feeling of letting go that day. And I followed his advice. I also began praying for that person. And that was very difficult for me.  The first few prayers were stifled and stiff and seemed to get stuck in my throat.  But I kept at it and in time, sincerely meant the prayer. I pray for this person to this day. I pray for her peace; I wish her well-being and remind myself that she is loved as a child of God just as I am.   With my change in attitude and prayer, I feel differently about this person.  We may – never be close but the awful feelings of animosity are gone.

There is no judgment or blame here — it’s just that….”As one face differs from another, so does one’s heart.”

©Marie Coppola  Revised May 2013