Change difficult relationships by changing how YOU show up

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Are you stuck in a difficult dynamic with another person?

A toxic coworker? A lazy partner? A self-absorbed friend?

For some reason, every time you’re with this person, you fall into the same cycle of negativity.

Every interaction you have with them leaves you feeling icky, resentful, pissed off.

Soon, you start dreading them. Avoiding them. Despising them.

There’s something wrong with them. They need to work on themselves. They have issues. They need to change. They need to learn. They need to grow up.

Them, them, them.

What about YOU?

Um, what ABOUT me? I’m not doing anything. I have nothing to do with why they are like that.

Really? Because that person you think is the worst probably has people in their life that absolutely adore them. Is something wrong with them, too?

Here’s the thing. You’re half of the equation. And cycles can’t run with just one person.

Whether you realize it or not, you are playing a key role in the relationship dynamic you hate so much.

So if you want to change the relationship, change how YOU show up.

Focusing on anything else is a waste of time and energy.

Most of the negativity you experience is created inside your own mind in the form of judgements, unspoken retorts, rehashed arguments and made up stories.

You’re so primed to see them in a negative light, that anything they do—anything. A glance. A pause. A sigh.— becomes further evidence to support your claim.

Stop trying to change them by force of thought.

Last I checked, that still doesn’t work. And it’s polluting your inner landscape.

So let’s get real: You’re part of the problem.

Read: You have the power to change it.

The funny thing about negative relationship cycles is that in some twisted way, both people are getting something out of it.

That lazy boyfriend is sure making you seem very high functioning and superior.

That self-absorbed friend is sure making you seem like a very generous and nice friend.

That toxic coworker is sure making you seem like a sympathetic victim.

You may not like it, but it agrees with how you see yourself.

If you see yourself as “too nice”, somehow you’ll find people who take advantage of you.

If you see yourself as a bad leader, you’ll find people who question your decisions.

If you see yourself as “better than”, you’ll find people who are “less than”.

Change your story, change the relationship.

Simply stop holding up your end of the bargain.

Reconnect with your inherent worthiness, vulnerability, self respect, humility, lovableness—whatever you need to interrupt that story.

Be brutally honest with yourself: How are you perpetuating this cycle?

Take ownership of your part in it.

And if you’re feeling brave, share it with them.

“Hey, can I tell you something? I want to share that I’ve been avoiding you because I made up a story that you somehow don’t trust me. But what I realized is that it’s because I don’t trust myself. So I apologize that I’ve been distant and defensive. Can we start over?”

“Hey, I’ve been feeling resentful because I have all these judgements in my head about you being a lazy and unresponsive partner. But what I realized is that it’s because I’ve been expecting you to read my mind. So I apologize that I’ve been so critical. Can we talk about what we want and need from each other?”

When you acknowledge your part, you welcome them to do the same.

But even if they don’t, you’ll be amazed at how quickly the dynamic will shift.

Because YOU have shifted.

Eddie Shieh, PCC, MFA