By Frances Molina
If you read my Broad City article about New Year’s Resolutions, then you know how personally thrilled I was to leave year 2014 in the dust and move forward. I’ll admit that I seriously censored myself in that article for the sake of holiday cheer. To be honest, the last months of 2014 hung me out to dry. In a matter of five weeks, I managed to get myself into the most social drama I’ve seen since my sophomore year of high school. I suppose one of the reasons I was so eager to escape 2014 was because I was hoping to simply outrun all my problems. But time didn’t erode much of anything except my confidence in the future and the drama was still waiting for me when I woke up still drunk on the morning of January 1st. I found myself in the middle of several relation-shits.
Now when I use this term, I’m not using it to reflect on the other people involved. It would be childish of me to shift the blame so entirely. It wasn’t just them. It was me too. It was the entire situation and all of the fallout. When I use the term “relation-shits”, I’m talking about a wide variety of broken down or toxic relationships (for more info on these types of relationships, check out fellow blog writer Andrea Martinez’s article here). Relationships, both platonic and romantic, where things just aren’t working; where feelings have been hurt; where reconciliation seems impossible or just too damn difficult; where neither person is growing and the thrill is gone. They happen to all of us and it’s always hard. Because I found myself wanting to work through these relation-shits and come out of them with my friendships and my personal dignity intact, I came up with a few pieces of advice for anyone else out there who might be struggling with these kinds of interpersonal problems.
- Admit to yourself when and where you’ve messed up
This first step is of course the most difficult, especially if you’re a proud person like me. I would do a lot of uncomfortable and disgusting things rather than admit I’m wrong. Being wrong just isn’t a good look for me and I try to avoid the feeling of guilt at all costs. Doing the right thing, the grown up thing, isn’t always satisfying and admitting to yourself when you’ve done wrong certainly falls under that category. But allowing yourself to not only be honest with yourself and with your friend, but to also apologize and accept blame where its due is the first productive step toward helping your friend do the same and letting the smoke clear in a relationship that is in need of airing out. When we can remove our ego and our pride from our conversations and our interactions, we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable which is necessary for honest and uplifting communication.
- Make your best effort
Once everyone’s opinions have been clearly communicated and you have accepted some amount of responsibility on your part for the failings or shortcomings of the friendship or relationship, it’s important to keep moving. Ruminating on sore feelings will only feed your bitter pride and if the relationship is already at a stalemate time is precious. I encourage you to make your best effort to rebuild what has been broken and actively eliminate the latency that has settled between you and your friend or loved one. Reflect on why this person is important to you, why the relationship is worth saving – and then act on it! Do what comes naturally and never force a pretentious, heavy-handed courtship. Spend more time with this person, communicate with them more clearly, be more sensitive to their feelings, and always bring more into their life than you take away. Accepting blame and making apologies mean nothing if you don’t follow up with genuine effort.
- Know when to step away
If there’s anything I hate more than admitting I’m wrong, it’s giving up. I possess an arguably dangerous level of tenacity and if something matters to me (like a close relationship) I’ll commit myself to it completely, no matter how hopeless the case. But recognizing when it’s time to step away and – dare I say it – give up on a failed relationship is difficult but necessary if you’re going to escape the nagging angst of a relation-shit. Bear in mind that this piece of advice is listed third for a reason and should only be taken once you’ve exhausted all your other options. If you have apologized and made amends, if you have worked hard to reassure this person of their value in your life, and they still do not respond or even reject your offer of reconciliation, moving on is simply the best and least embarrassing option. No matter how angry or stunned or heartbroken you might be over their response and no matter how much you might want to respond with bitterness, you have to maintain your respect for them and your respect for yourself. It’s hard to walk away from something when you feel like you’ve given it your all, but it’s far more beneficial for you and your loved one than beating a dead horse.
- Remain open
So maybe your friend didn’t respond well to your apologies or your efforts. So maybe you haven’t made any progress in your relationship and it’s still generally shitty. So maybe you have had to let someone go that was really important to you. And that all sucks – but it’s okay. We’re all human and we hurt each other and mess up but if we’re especially good at adulting then we can repair the damage and learn from our mistakes. It’s important to stay positive when faced with personal difficulties especially when they involve friends and loved ones. I know that when I get hurt by people close to me I feel the urge to close up and resist emotional vulnerability at the risk of getting wounded again. But the reward that comes out of making ourselves vulnerable to the people we care about– the greater intimacy, the warm feelings of trust and comradery, the ability to have your friends and loved ones see you for who you are – far outweighs the potential risk.
Life is too short to let one frustrating relationshit ruin your outlook on the future. Because you never know who might be waiting around the corner, ready to brighten your life.