People, love ‘em or hate ‘em, are everywhere these days. It’s nearly impossible to go anywhere without bumping into them. They hang out at the mall, at work, the farmer’s market—hell, they’re in your living room! People seem to be out in droves, taking up space, physical and emotional, wherever they happen to be. They try our patience, they place unrealistic demands on us, and they can be unkind. Some treat us in ways we’d never treat mere strangers, these people in our lives do.
People, simply put, can be detrimental to your health and well-being. So what to do about the people in your life, whether on the periphery or in your close inner circle, who cause you distress? You know, those humans who make you feel inadequate and suck the life out of your, well, life?
As you may have guessed, I am pro trimming down, in order to embrace the big, bold, beautiful life that we were all meant to live. Big, bold, and beautiful is our birthright, no? To be fully human, to be our best selves, to be fed, not diminished, through the choices we make, and by those we love (or at least sorta like). So here’s my take on this people thing:
People are fragile and complex creatures, and if you’re reading this, you’re one of them (or some other type of literate sentient being [Ed. note: Please email us if that's the case; we'd love to talk with you.]). In addition to fragile and complex, the human heart and attendant emotions dwell in the gray areas of life. Few things are truly black and white. We see things from our point of view—that which we believe is true. And often, one person’s truth is another person’s malarkey. Except for gravity, pretty much everyone is in agreement about gravity.
So what to do when another’s fragile complexity gets mixed with a big ol’ heap of malarkey and then they spew the whole shebang at us? The only place where we have control over this scenario: we can decide if, on balance, the relationship feeds us, or if it harms us. Then we can make another decision that may determine the fate of our future well-being: we have the choice to either delete the offender from our life or accept the behavior and make our peace with it.
Yes, there are several hybrid permutations to this: passive-aggressive retaliation, cajoling and manipulating, hoping things will change, etc. but the enlightened way to deal with a repeat offender is to do so with swift resolve. If you chose to keep this person closer than arm’s distance, allowing them to stay in your sphere, all the while jabbing little thorns into your side, then be honest with yourself and accept that YOU chose this. Keep it to yourself—no complaining to others—and get on with your life.
But, should you desire to rid yourself from this irritation, the constant demeaning insults, the unkind and untoward behavior, being stood up, being let down, etc. well then, beautiful, you have a ripe opportunity to be big. You can lighten your load. You can live your truth. So here it is (cue sound of band-aid being ripped from flesh): you may have to say good-bye. If you have tried all the ways you can to bridge the divide, but your partner-in-opposition isn’t playing by the same rules (remember they are your rules and not necessarily his or hers), then you are doing yourself and that person a disservice by staying in the relationship.
There seems to be two main reasons why people stay in unsatisfying relationships: 1) habit, and 2) obligation. Habit, that familiar painful state of complacency that we humans seem to abhor, but do so well, is difficult to escape. Sure, we talk about making changes, ending bad habits, and starting new, healthful ones, but habits are hard to kick. Or to make stick. Most of us are just not wired to embrace change so we stay in jobs, relationships, or tacky apartments with popcorn ceilings way beyond these situations serving us well.
Obligation is Habit’s twin. Some people think that obligation is valiant, yet when people speak of their obligations, it is rarely with joy and often with a heaviness or resentment toward the responsibility. I realize that life cannot be all carefree and light, and there are things and people we must attend to, but when we have a choice to weed out toxic people from our lives and we choose to keep said toxins in our realm, then we really have little to complain about.
It may not be feasible to eradicate all of the toxic people from our lives (some situations are more difficult to do this than others), but when there is an opportunity to do so, getting significant distance from those who cause us grief and indigestion is the healthiest thing we can do for everyone. It’s sad to see relationships linger past their prime, especially when one or both parties stay in it out of habit or obligation. I don’t know anyone that would feel comforted knowing that a partner or friend stayed involved for these reasons.
So how, you ask, do I do this? Where do I begin? Since I knew you’d ask, I’ve assembled a few real-life, tested, and practical tips on how to weed out those who cause us pain:
Since it’s just a few weeks into the new year and thus a symbolic time to make changes for the better, why not take this opportunity to be a big, bold, and beautiful new you? How about evaluating those relationships that no longer serve you, the ones that keep you up at night, and doing something about it? Because you know, sticking it out isn’t doing anyone any favors. And if it’s not good for you, it isn’t good for them, either.
Image by Flickr user “What What,” used under a Creative Commons license.
Shanna Trenholm is a writer, muse, catalyst, and yoga teacher. She is passionate about sustainability, living small [hooray tiny houses], travel, love letters, square brackets, and dark chocolate. A left-handed, redhead poet with a penchant for the delightful, Shanna is sure that counts for something. You can hire her for legal things (mainly writing) or follow her witticisms and sage commentary on Twitter, Facebook, and on her website. Photo by Lori Brookes