There is an incredibly obvious downfall to this approach, things get too big to handle. Not dealing with issues when they were small, allowed them to grow into monstrous thorns in my future interactions. Resulting in one of two things; there would be an emotional eruption by yours truly or else just a complete cut off from the person as I could no longer accept them. I am fairly easy going, especially now as I get older, so has taken me a long time to really see the pattern here in my relationships. But I finally have a little clarity, and what's more I have support in changing this terrible flaw. As I am writing this with the hindsight is 20/20 approach I have a flood of examples to choose from in illustrating this flaw of mine. It's almost scary how many I have to choose from. I'm 90% sure that if you know me in person, you will probably know of an example yourself and that is really humbling. If you don't have an example, perhaps you are one of the lucky ones who I have never ever fought with, or even had a disagreement with. This may not always be a good sign, or I am just that awesome to be around??? Nope, I most likely have just been passive and overly accepting of you being who you are and finding an inscrutable way to see you for your positives.
I have a family member who every few years or so manages to gossip and put herself into a position of wedging a rift between my best friend and I. This has been going on every 3 years or so since I was about 9. The same pattern always occurs, this person builds up confidences in all the family and really good strong bonds and relationships. Then there is a disagreement between 2 people that does not concern her, however she has these confidences and decides that it is her duty to try and fix or solve the problems. I am either one of the two people involved in the issue or more often I am asked my opinion or knowledge about the issue. As I have mentioned before I am a straight shooter whenever I am asked a direct question and we have a fairly small family. The result of my honesty is each and every time she tries to bate my best friend and I against each other. Wham bam there is family drama that I get to make apologies and make atonement's for. I`m sorry that I cannot give specific examples and this sounds concluded, but I am trying my best to protect the identities of any of my family members who may read this. The lesson that I learned was to keep my mouth shut whenever there are issues. I didn`t ever want to fight or be put in a position where I could be swayed to give an opinion. And I learned this lesson so well that it branched into all my adult relationships.
Which is a great example of why I so desperately try not point out any even seemingly little things. I too quickly have seen how even a tiny or innocent comment has evolved into a large family battle. These battles suck, no one wins, and everyone involved gets hurt. So I have spent years avoiding conflict of any kind, as a direct result. Like I mentioned there have been many many instances along the same lines of the example written above. So what has changed and what has allowed me to try and work past this flaw making more real relationships that now have the potential for growth?
For one, the realisation that if there is a person, even family who constantly makes me feel bad about myself or sabotages my relationships, then I can not interact with them without first letting them know. This is such a taboo in my family, and I know there will be some major flack for it, as I have been raised that family is first. When the most recent occurrence of the example about happened last year, I wrote a very passionate email to the person. I tried to brainstorm out a few ways that I felt we could stop discussing any other member of the family behind there backs, thus breaking the potential for something to be said out of context. I also requested that she give me feedback for things she would like me to try and change so we can slowly rebuild a healthy relationship free of this very painful pattern that has been developed. I did not receive a reply. I parted ways in the most mature way I could, where the door is open if she would like to discuss having a healthy relationship in the future, but with a clear indication that I would no longer keep things inside until they reached a fever pitch, or were drawn out of me in her manipulative tactic (whether for good intent or not).
The next thing which I am taking in very baby steps and uses a lot of bravery on my part, is to only take a couple of minutes to decide if I need to bring something up that's bugging me. I historically would take hours or even days coming up with a well rounded argument weighing all the pros and cons, and in my head formulating my plan to discuss in great detail. I was very afraid of saying something in the heat of the moment, or misspeaking, so afraid that I would ensure emotions were completely out of all dealings with issues I had. Now I take 5 minutes or less to decide what the issue is, and trust that if it took me a whole 5 minutes to decide that when I speak about it my intelligence will kick in enough to articulate my thoughts. Even if emotion sneaks into it, it is better it out there quicker and allow both partners the same time to discuss or think about the issue if need be.
With these two little changes in place my happiness level has gone up exponentially. I don't have the lingering feeling that there is a major issue I need to give thought to. I have the ability to send an email or try and bring up an issue in a timely manor. If the issue can't get resolved then it is not the end of the world for the person not to be a part of my life, family or not. Its a sobering thought to realise how your family interacts with you plays a role in your adult relationships. Spend some time thinking about how you bring up disagreements or issues with your partner. Try and take it a step farther and think about how you learned to fight with your siblings or parents and what was necessary for resolutions. I would love to hear your stories, so please add your comments or find me on twitter