Necessary Endings

Necessary Endings

I stole the title of this post from a great book.  It perfectly captures a phenomenon I’ve been living out personally and that I see in the lives of my clients quite often: This business of hanging on to relationships far beyond their expiration date.

Why do we do this?  The short answer is fear, but let’s break it down more specifically:

Fear of rejection: how many times do we fail to set boundaries, fail to verbalize what is ok or not ok for us because we are afraid that when we do that, the other will reject us? They will not want to be in relationship with us.  Which leads us to the next fear…

Fear of being alone: many of us believe that anyone is better than no one.  We cannot fathom how we could ever be happy by ourselves and so we tolerate all kinds of shenanigans because we cannot be alone.

Fear of violating our responsibility or duty: For a million and one reasons, we feel obligated to the other to “help” them and/or not abandon them.  Anything from blood ties to our own sense of ethics to nice things they did in the past.  Whatever the reason, we use it to justify staying in the relationship because we “have” to.

Fear of hurting another: We are terrified of ever hurting our loved one’s feelings and so we hold back our truth.

So what’s the remedy?

Self worth: when we understand our worth, we cannot help but protect ourselves from dysfunction, even if that results in rejection.  It’s like the difference between a diamond versus a cubic zirconia ring.  The lengths you go to for protection and care of the diamond far exceed that of the CZ ring, simply because of the difference in worth between the two.

Self love: When we take the time to get to know who we truly are and develop compassion and grace toward ourselves, we enjoy our own company…we feel secure in our own skin.  From that place, we realize that while relationships are vital, tolerating any individual who violates our worth is unacceptable and being alone for a season is perfectly fine.

Responsible to, not for: We have a responsibility within our community to monitor our own thoughts, feelings and behaviors to be authentic and kind.  We are never responsible for though – anyone else’s thoughts, feelings or behaviors.  The only partial exception is in our role as parents where we are responsible for them to a certain extent but even in that, our kids have free will to make their own choices and must experience the consequences of those choices if they are to learn how to operate as adults.  There is a big difference between that “to” and “for”, so there is never a situation where it is healthy for us to stick around tolerating dysfunction in order to keep someone from thinking, feeling or behaving a certain way.

Hurt versus harm: When we go to the dentist with a problem, it is pretty much a guarantee that whatever is done to fix us will hurt.  While they make a diligent effort to prevent unnecessary pain, they don’t avoid their work just because some pain will ensue. What they do have to worry about is harming the patient.  If they are negligent or flat out unskilled, they can make mistakes that cause permanent damage to someone’s mouth and that is harmful.  Likewise, when we have to walk away from relationships, there will be hurt and that’s not a bad thing.  What we don’t want is to conduct the leaving in a way that is hateful, disrespectful or deceitful.

These remedies may make all kinds of sense but they are much easier said than done!  Our view of self is rooted in our experiences – particularly those of our early years and it is no small task to change the meanings we have made of those experiences.  Dealing with the inevitable guilt we feel when we begin to set healthy boundaries can be enough to turn us back to our old ways.  If you struggle with taking these steps toward health, seek out a counselor who can help you dive under the struggle to address the foundational meanings driving your resistance!


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