Several years ago I heard someone say, “My how you’ve changed since I’ve changed.” It was during a major life transition and I resonated being in the middle of a shift that was impacting how I felt in some key relationships. I was struggling in several friendships that had been significant to me in my life up until that point. When I spent time with these friends I now felt like I was holding back or there was a tension in the relationship. It made me sad because I wasn’t sure how to rectify the situation. It made me uncomfortable because I couldn’t see a future with these people either.
Transitions are a call to transformation.
And transformation means we are no longer the same. The word literally means ‘change the form of’ or ‘metamorphisis’. You don’t see butterflies hanging around with caterpillars. They have transformed and no longer relate to that earlier form of themselves.
I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships during transitions. As we change, our values change, our behaviours change and our dreams change. It makes sense that we would find ourselves in a difficult place of not fitting into our previous social circles. Sometimes we are holding ourselves back by spending time and energy invested in the wrong people. Time is a limited resource. The time you spend with the wrong people is time you aren't spending somewhere else.
There are reasons why we stick with people in our lives. Some of those reasons are valid. Some of them may be rooted in beliefs that need to be challenged. Ultimately, you need to decide, based on your own values, how to move forward in your life. In my experience, there are a few common reasons why people stay in relationships that are not meeting any of their needs.
Belief 1 - Misplaced Loyalty: Do you believe you would be disloyal if you didn’t honour a shared past with someone? I was working with a client who was part of a community that was not healthy for her in any way. Her values were very different from her current peer group. She felt disconnected; she was like an outsider and very lonely. Being with these friends made her frustrated and angry. When I asked her why she continued to spend time with this group of friends she said that they had been very supportive of her 20 years earlier when she had gone through a health crisis. I call this misplaced loyalty. We can be grateful for the journey we have had with a friend and at the same time recognize that we are heading in different directions. We often spend a lot of time maintaining relationships from the past because we feel guilty letting them go. If the only thing you have in common is your past, you may need to move on.
Belief 2 - Misunderstanding the Difference Between Reality and Phases: Have you been telling yourself for months or years that things will get better? Do you make excuses like you are tired, or they are tired, or they are going through a difficult time, or you are going through a difficult time, or fill in the blank? It is possible, it may be just a phase. Your relationship may be in a rough spot. It also may be that you are no longer connecting in a way that provides what either of you need in your life right now. How long is a phase? How will you know if it is a phase or if it is just what it is - a relationship that is no longer working?
Belief 3 - Misguided Ego: Do you believe It would be selfish to move on? If there is one belief I have had to challenge it is this one. I never want to be seen as selfish. However, at the end of the day, we are all selfish. Think about this belief for a minute. Staying in a relationship because you don’t want to be seen as selfish is being selfish. It is all about you. It is all about doing what you want so you can be seen in a certain light. At this stage of my life, I am ready to concede that I am basically selfish. Maybe there is a line somewhere between being selfish and being selfless but I think most of us, if we are honest, are selfish. In order, to do whatever it is with your life that you are called to do, you need to be selfish.
You may have other beliefs around relationships that are keeping you from moving forward. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If that’s true, it is critical that you pay attention to the people you are spending the most time with and make changes if those friendships are holding you back. In the next few weeks I will be writing more about relationships. In the meantime I’ve created a tool for you to help you assess your relationships. Sometimes, it can be helpful to be intentional about thinking through these things. We only have one life to live. I want to encourage you to be truthful with yourself. I believe the only way we can bring healing to our broken world is by getting honest with ourselves.