Do you have a relationship this is encouraging growth or stagnation? As you spend time with them are you advancing toward positive changes or are you languishing in further negativity?
This can happen in any relationship. But people with who you have some significant attachment by way of marriage, romance, family ties, and friendship have the greatest impact.
If you spend a lot of time around a person who is closed-minded, negative, and not interested in personal development, you’ll likely be the same. It’s easy to fall into the negative habits, attitudes, and behaviors of those you invest your time and heart. You might not even realize what you are becoming because so much of your daily life is spent with this person. After a while, you see the world as they do.
I see this with couples who don’t appear to be moving in any positive direction. They do the same things day after day. It’s like they support each other’s negative patterns of non-growth and closed-mindedness. They end up strengthening each other’s weaknesses, fears, and unhealthy behaviors. They are like two parasites feeding off each other until there’s nothing left except an empty shell.
A good example of an unproductive relationship is couples, friends, or relatives who live their lives through the actors, athletes, and celebrities they constantly watch on television and in the news. And they do this while stuffing their faces with unhealthy foods and (alcoholic) beverages because there are oblivious to the damage it causes to their health. They are ignorant because they are afraid to face the truth.
Those who eat lavish unhealthy meals while never taking the time to exercise will tell you, “I want to enjoy my life.” They tell you this while they are taking a long drag off their cigarette. Being unwilling to learn anything new, they are completely unaware of how much they could be truly enjoying their life if they ate healthy foods, exercised daily, and gave up bad habits like smoking.
Their idea of enjoying life is ignoring the truth, feeding their addiction, forgoing exercise, and eating whatever brings them pleasure. There is no doubt that it would be a challenge to lead a positive change in a relationship where one person is so fixated on the myth that “Ignorance is bliss.” That is until they can’t get out of bed because of heart disease or cancer.
Then there’s the relationship where both parties feed off of each other’s negative thinking and behavior patterns. One of them talks about how bad everything is and how everyone is at fault except them and the other person agrees. Then they switch. This becomes their standard communication pattern. This type of relationship is even more sinister than those I mentioned above because they’re damaging both their mental and physical health.
Another relationship style that hinders growth is those where one person wants to be pulled toward positive changes and the other wants to be pushed. One person is motivated by encouragement, support, and optimistic forecasts. The other person is motivated by hard cold facts, acts of tough love, and pessimistic projections. When they try to help each other, both of them truly believe that they are doing their best, but their opposite approaches do more damage than good. They must recognize this difference and adjust their approach or their relationship is doomed.
If you come to realize that there are better ways of living, you really only have a few choices concerning your relationship. Here they are.
- You can lead by example by beginning a new journey of self-improvement and hope they follow. And you can give them some subtle and tactful encouragement along the way, which may or may not help. In the end, this transition becomes a decisive juncture in your relationship. You’ll either grow upward together or apart in different directions. Then you must accept them as they are, keep the relationship as it is and risk being pulled back down, or make a change.
- You can take a break from the relationship or drastically reduce the amount of time you spend with them until you firmly establish a new positive direction. Then when you reunite, it’s less likely that you’ll be influenced by them. And you’ll be better able to decide on the future of the relationship. When you reunite, either the relationship will adjust to your new way of life or there will be friction that may lead to its demise.
- You can end the relationship for an indefinite period and see if your personal development converges at some point in the future. If they see the positive changes you are making before you move on or hear about it later, it may plant some seeds that will grow at some point in the future.
- You can end the relationship permanently and wish them well in their life. You make this choice because you’ve tried options 1-3 without any positive outcome or you’ve determined at some point that your association with them is harmful to your well-being.
The trouble with many relationships is that they are usually firmly established early on. It’s hard to renegotiate a relationship after you’ve been interacting in a certain way for years. It’s better to go through the uneasiness of teaching people how you expect to be treated and who you are as a person upfront. In order to establish new behavioral patterns in your relationships, you may need to take a break from those that are incongruent with who you are and how you want to interact. The break might be an emotional or physical separation or both.
What’s important is that your close relationships uplift rather than depress you, encourage you rather than critique you, and challenge you rather than spoil you. Those that bring you down in any way are simply not worth your time and effort.
I wrote a book entitled, “Finding the One Who’s Right,” which is about identifying, finding, and building a relationship with your perfect partner. When I was writing this book, I thought about how it’s just as important to your happiness to carefully pick your friends. Why shouldn’t we put forth a similar effort to find friends who are a good match for us as we do a spouse? I think we should. The process could be as precise as I describe in my book about identifying the attributes and characteristics that you want most in a life partner and apply it to friendships.
Do you have a definitive description of the type of people you joy being around? I am not talking about a vague idea like, “I enjoy people who are into football or cooking.” I am talking about a list of characteristics that represent people who would be in alignment with your personality and goals. It’s unlikely that you’ll end up with the kind of friends who are best for you if you don’t have a clear idea of what you want.
I made a list somewhat like this when I wrote an article entitled, “Rules of Friendship.” I defined those rules for three reasons: (1) To identify the qualities I wanted in my friends, (2) to give myself a reputation to live up to since I was the author, and (3) to share this rare information. That article has been one of my most popular by far! I assume from its popularity that people want higher-quality friendships. If you want to identify the qualities that are the most important to you in friendships, you could adapt the guidelines in an article I wrote entitled, ”How to Find Love With a Person Who’s Right for You.“ This article roughly describes the process in my book, “Finding the One Who’s Right.”
I wrote another book featuring a non-confrontational written communication method for couples entitled, “The Couple’s Review,” which I believe would be useful in other relationships too, with some modifications. The book guides a couple in a written communication activity using a partner-relationship appraisal instrument. This instrument along with some ground rules leads the couple in evaluating a comprehensive list of relationship issues, rating each one, and then offering suggestions in writing and later in person on how they can improve.
This communication method would be particularly valuable in binding relationships like parent/child, teacher/student, boss/subordinate, and coach/athlete, but it would also be useful in close friendships. Both friends would have to appreciate the value of relationship refinement in order for it to work. This is important because most friendships are not bound by blood, ethics, or contracts so they can be easily ended without recourse. The purpose of “The Couple’s Review” is to facilitate a fair and accurate communication exchange. A similar process could be accomplished for any relationship by following the steps in an article that roughly describes the method entitled, “Couple’s Communication Without Confrontation!”
There’s an unhealthy tendency that we often fall into in our relationships. And it’s often the last issue considered when it comes to discussions about relationship problems. It’s our inclination to see that it’s the other person’s responsibility to figure out how to treat us like we want, make us happy, and make us feel motivated.
Well, it’s not their responsibility, it’s yours! It’s your responsibility to take a stand and “clearly” communicate how you expect to be treated, what you want and don’t want, and what inspires you and what doesn’t Ultimately, however, the responsibility for your happiness and motivation is completely yours. This does not mean that it’s your responsibility to tell them how they should live their lives unless their behavior “directly” impacts you. They are responsible for their own life regardless of whether you understand or agree with their chosen path or not.
It’s your choice who you invest your time and heart with and how much you give to each. Choose wisely.