Have you ever just tried and tried (and tried) to figure out what some people want out of a relationship, but no matter what you say or do, it’s always the wrong thing? Well, what’s up with that?
We all have some trying relationships in our life, and some we can walk away from, some we can minimize and some we can eliminate completely. But what do you do when you have relationships with those who you cannot remove from your life? What is the protocol there?
At every interaction you try to be pleasant, cheerful, polite, and helpful, only to be met with anger, sarcasm, rudeness and ignorance. Just how long do you keep trying before you simply stop? Where is that line?
I’ve been struggling with that for a long time now, in several relationships. I’ve got a lot of them sorted out and made decisions on just how far to extend myself, but there are a few very stubborn ones that I’m still not sure about.
I try all sorts of tactics and methods, but none of them ever seem to really work. In the end, my final move is to simply minimize contact, since everything else seems to have completely failed.
What happens when things fail in a relationship? Why do people stop communicating or communicate rarely, or poorly? What are they expecting to happen? Are they hoping that others will pursue them, and come up with more ways to draw them out, like some sort of test? Are they hoping to get more attention than usual, or are they hoping that they will be left alone as a result of the frustration that inevitably arises? How long do people continue to try and make things better, reaching out with the hope that a situation can improve?
I guess that depends on the person trying, and the situation. How long has the relationship been going on? Are they friends or family? How much is invested in the struggle? What’s to be gained by a continued attempt and what’s to be lost if it’s simply let go? I have a feeling these quandaries are pondered on a daily basis by many of us.
Unfortunately I don’t have any answers. And even when I have asked these questions directly, no answers come. At times it feels like everybody’s seen the same movie I have, and they all got the ending except me, and no one wants to explain it.
It makes me sad, because when I see someone struggling to understand something, I do my best to help them, even if I am not the source of their frustration. They say what goes around comes around, but that really hasn’t been the situation in my case. But perhaps I haven’t waited long enough.
I get to live with the questions, I guess. This is what Buddhism teaches. To live with the questions and not to be concerned about finding the answers. It sounds fascinating and intriguing, doesn’t it?
Well, living with the questions is not exactly what I would call fascinating and intriguing. It’s a process. A process of getting used to being in what I have come to refer to as free fall.
We are taught all our lives to pursue information and answers. We are encouraged to find solutions, endings, closure. We work hard to this end, but in reality there isn’t always a nice clean finish and many times there is no closure at all. It’s tough, living in free fall, without the answers. Pieces of the puzzle fall into place here and there, and there are large gaps in between. And sometimes, those gaps can be agonizing.
If you are living in one of these gaps and struggling to understand something that’s happened in your life, I wish I could say I have some great piece of wisdom to offer you here. But I don’t. All I can tell you is that you’re not alone. There are many of us struggling, and there are many who are ignorant of the struggle.
What I can suggest is that you try to understand why the answers aren’t available to you right now, and to try and be okay with that as best you can. Try to move on with hope and love in your heart.
Try to keep a positive outlook. Stay open. If you can be patient, eventually the universe will bring you something to help you heal, an offering that makes dealing with it all a little better. These moments can be few and far between, so treasure them.
There will be days you will be angry and upset and demand to have the answers. That’s okay. Rage at the world in whatever way you need to, but don’t hurt yourself or anybody else. But do get it out of your system. Don’t let it sit and fester. When you’re done, just
breathe. Just focus on the now, the right now and nothing else. Take care of yourself and be gentle. Don’t worry, your problems will still be waiting when you’re done.
When you’re calmed down, remember that things are likely to stay the same. For some reason we expect things to be different each time and get angry and frustrated when they aren’t. And things will stay the same unless you change the script.
So change it.
What will you do or say next time to ensure a better outcome? Write it down and rehearse it while you’re calm so the next time you’ll be ready. It might take one time or a hundred times over to get the results you want, but until you make that first effort, you’ll never know. At least you’ll know that you tried.
Just remember though, that sometimes the winning move is simply not to play the game.
Originally published April 25, 2014.