How many people do you know who are struggling or frustrated with some aspect of a relationship in their lives, any relationship? Many, I would guess. In fact, I would venture to say that everyone is dealing with some unease or discomfort in some relationship right now, whether with a co-worker, a boss, a spouse, a friend, a sibling, a child or some other family member.
Relationship discord is so so common and for this reason, I wanted to offer one thought and suggestion to all. If it makes sense to you, wonderful! If it’s not your cup ‘o tea, that’s okay too. It’s just that I had an incredible “relationship moment” the other day in conversation with a group of good women friends of mine that made me think and suggest something that was SO simple and made all the difference. I wanted to share our conversation with my readers here.
One of my friends in the group expressed sadness and frustration about a relationship she had had with a long-time friend of hers who she's now estranged from. She and this friend used to get together as a foursome, the two of them with their husbands, to share and enjoy fun experiences together- vacations, dinners out, discussions about their children, on and on. Their children grew up together. They were close friends for decades.
And then something happened. My friend who was expressing the sadness said that when her own husband died some years ago, this close friend of hers “dropped off the scene”, as she explained it. Her close friend didn’t spend much time with her anymore. Yes, she sent a condolences card but didn’t do much more than that. My friend was very offended by her friend’s disappearance at a time when she needed her support more than ever and, as a result, she decided not to reach out to her friend anymore. The story goes on, but the basic gist was that they lost touch with each other, and this was 8 years ago. They had had a wonderfully close relationship for decades, but now…. nothing.
A month ago my friend told the group of us that one of her goals this year was to reach out to her estranged friend because she was so distraught by the separation and ask her if she would be willing to discuss things and how she [my friend] felt offended by her friend disappearing at such a critical time in her life.
Here’s our group conversation…. yes, via text of all things:
My sad friend, “Well, I just reached out to my [estranged] friend this morning. Not an easy note to write but I’m sticking to one of my goals for this year!’
Friend 2’s response, “I’m glad you tried. Now the ball is in her court and you will know for sure if she is still your friend. Well done. I know it wasn’t easy but you stepped up!”
Friend 3’s response, “Agree”
My response, “Yes, amazing and courageous of you to take that step. My added input is to suggest that in your conversations with her, you be open as much as you can be, even in the face of being hurt by her, to listen to her and her views. Always assume good intent. She has been a close friend of yours for good reason. If there is any misunderstanding to resolve, it will only resolve when you both listen carefully to each other without judgment.”
Friend 2’s response. “Damn, Kim, you are SO GOOD at adulting! Me? Not so much.
Friend 4’s response directed to our sad friend (and the final response in our text chain), “I am proud of your step! Someone always needs to start and you took the risk! Whatever happens next, you can feel proud!”
So, what’s to come away from this conversation?
First, someone does need to take the first step and be willing to reach out and say something to the other person she/he is in conflict with.
Second, it is the responsibility of the person who feels wronged to have the courage to act from a place of assuming good intent, of believing in the other person and that she or he did not intend to harm. The wronged person must come from a place of being 100% responsible for placing NO judgment on the so-labeled “offender”. None of us knows what the “real” story is. Each of us only knows the world through our own glasses, which is why it is SO critical for us to listen, truly listen to the other from a place of acceptance and to really hear and come to understand the other’s point of view.
Reaching out to those we’re in conflict with takes courage, but it is absolutely worth doing so. Reaching out, listening, accepting, and taking 100% responsibility are the foundation for repairing our relationship hurts.
If you are someone struggling with an important relationship in your life, I encourage you to take a courageous step and approach the person you're in conflict with. If you want some assistance, or simply just talk to someone before you engage, please feel free to take the pre-courage step to reach out to me for a free Discovery Session call. I'd welcome our discussion!