Relationship Questions for My Blog Friends

I’m a stress-avoider.  I’ve made that clear many times.  Now that the busiest (and most stressful) time of my year is coming up, I’m wondering how far I should go to keep myself in a stress-free zone.  Am I denying myself opportunities for growth, or am I just pruning dead branches that are harmful to my well-being?  Here is my dilemma:

When people who you know are inexplicably nasty, yet you’re tied to them in some way, is it best to just cut them out of your life completely?  I tend to avoid people like that, but sometimes it seems like you’re throwing the baby out with the bath water if you cut off all ties.  Even though I know in my heart that I haven’t done anything to deserve their disdain, it still kind of hurts when they attack.  If  it was a deserved or retaliatory attack I can make sense of that.  But when people who you cared about only pop out of the woodwork to dismiss you or belittle you, what do you do with that?

There are different levels to this.  First are very close relatives.  If my mother wasn’t my mom, we wouldn’t be friends.  She automatically sees the negative in most situations while ignoring the positive.  She’ll make irritating comments.  But I know that’s just the way she is.  If I get irritated, there are plenty of people I can complain to and compare stories with and get over it.  Mom is also good-hearted and I know she cares about us.  She’s there for the good and bad, and she’s rooting for us.  People like mom are here to stay.

Then there are people who aren’t really a part of your life that make you scratch your head.  An acquaintance of one of my sons made a snarky anonymous comment on my blog once that didn’t make sense.  She barely knows me.  Although she had a huge crush on my son, she never even tried to interact with us like most of the other girls that my sons bring home.  I attributed it to shyness, and I always was pleasant to her and wished her a safe drive home.  I’m baffled by her hostility, but I realize it’s her problem and I have no reason to deal with her.  It doesn’t matter if I ever see her again.

The gray area for me is people who have ties to people I love.  When I think of cutting them completely out of my life, I feel no regret.  They were never there to share the good times with us, and in fact, seemed to go out of their way to avoid even acknowledging them.  When I think about never having to be irritated by them again, I feel relief.  But am I short-changing my loved ones?  Am I just being selfish by avoiding confrontation?  Should I just maintain essential contact?  Do I need these irritations in my life to help me grow and learn to be a better person, or are they just aggravations that serve no purpose that I should just avoid?

I would appreciate opinions and thoughts on these questions, even if you have never commented before.  At what point do you distance yourself from someone?  How far away do you go?  Is it helpful or harmful?  Am I just protecting myself, or am I just a coward?

Thanks in advance for your insight!

11 Responses to “Relationship Questions for My Blog Friends”

  1. 1 Cyndi February 14, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Oh boy, a post I can get into! I have a hard time cutting people off too. A really hard time. I guess with people who have close ties to those you love you have to decide just how toxic they are to you vs. how you cutting them off will really affect anyone you love. If you start avoiding them will it really affect anyone else negatively? If there is nothing good at all about your relationship, why bother with them? If you run into them at parties or something you don’t have to talk to them. You don’t need to make any big announcement or anything (unless you want to) and I definitely don’t think it’s cowardly. I think it’s taking care of yourself, which is very important. Life is too short to waste any of it on people who only cause aggravation.

  2. 2 lynette February 14, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    if a person is a part of my life, but not essential to it, and the negativity becomes a far greater factor than any enhancement of my life through the relationship, i let the relationship drift away in importance. i rarely, if ever, cut someone off unless truly necessary. i treat them with civility and politeness, but keep my distance.

    life is too short — i don’t have enough time for those i love and enjoy to be with, why would i populate my time with those who bring nothing but grief.

    i know, i know, my husband… that is a whole different story unto itself…

  3. 3 robinaltman February 14, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    If the people are your family, like your mom, you’re sort of stuck with them, and you’ve gotta hope that the good outweighs the bad on the cosmic scale. It sounds like that’s the case with your mom. With loved ones of your family, that’s tougher. If they’re really going to stick around, then you can’t really cut them off without risking cutting off your own loved one, too.

    I find this problem in my own life with Adam’s mom. She is a giant, manipulative, red headed, monster. Yet, she’s Adam’s mom. So, over the years I’ve come to a compromise. I no longer try to be super nice – she doesn’t appreciate it and that just pisses me off. I don’t let her stick me in the middle of things. My attitude is, “It’s your mom, you deal with her.” Yet, I’m nice to her when we visit her, and she’s welcome in my home. (But when she’s in my home, it’s Adam’s responsibility to entertain her.)

    I don’t know whether that answered your question, but it felt nice to vent!

  4. 4 les February 14, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    Thank you, Cyndi, Lynette and Robin. I think you’ve reinforced my gut instinct to handle things the way I have been. I’ve done a few things to distance myself and spare myself some aggravation, but nothing to completely shut the door.

    I wish I could pick everyone I have to deal with like I can pick great blogging buddies. ❤

  5. 5 Candice February 15, 2010 at 12:18 am

    by just cutting unpleasant people off, could we be missing a learning experience? a chance to grow?

    The answer is, Yes. If I just loved those people who love me, what is that? True character is built when we CHOOSE to love those people who.. plainly, just ain’t right. Doesn’t mean we have to be best friends with them… or call them up once a week and chit chat.

    As I believe, “loving” them looks like setting an example. When we must be around those who are unpleasant, or those who make things unpleasant, it’s a chance for us to set an example of peace, love and compassion. Something that, perhaps they have never seen before or seen much of in their lifetime.

    This does not mean being a push over. If someone comes in your home and starts to talk/act crossly, standing up and telling that person they are out of line, confronting them in a loving manner (not screaming and yelling or belittling fashion) is a healthy thing to do. It puts up healthy boundaries. That person then realizes they are not going to be permitted to act like the ass that they are in your home or around you.

    Many people act like a jerk because people have let them act like a jerk. You wrote about your mother; here my dad is a prime example of being spoiled.. by everyone but me. I call that man out all the time on how he acts, and you know what he does? Most times he apologizes. Why am I the only one he says sorry to or acts better around? Its because, I tell him in love “Dad, you’re not acting right..” Sometimes I just say “would you like to talk about whats really bothering you? whats going on? I care.” That changes things. How many people really care about what is going on in his heart? how many people take the time to care about someone else, really?

    I believe that not only can some of those “unpleasant” people be just dealt with, but i believe they can be loved by us. And i believe that the more love they receive, as trust is built, a relationship can be built, but it takes effort and time. But I know, I’m a better person for taking time with a few of those people. It has not been easy, but I’ve grown.

    Leslie, I love your blogs. You are a sincere and lovely woman who has the ability to take your readers on adventures, bring us to tears, or, in this instance, move us to deep thought. I’m sorry I wrote so much.. didnt mean to but I do wish this brings with it a bit of hope:)

    • 6 les February 15, 2010 at 11:59 am

      Candice, thank you so much for your thoughtful response. You are wise beyond your years. I know exactly what you mean, which is why I had the dilemma in the first place. I don’t think I can be as “loving” as you, but I have already grown beyond the flipping out phase (with a few exceptions here and there). And I will never be a doormat.

      It is true that people that are “not quite right” usually have some painful issues of their own going on. But when I haven’t been the cause of them, I don’t like to be the brunt of their anger. But there is at least one particular instance where someone who was quite antagonistic to me has actually become someone I can occasionally interact without any problems. I don’t hate her anymore, and although I can never imagine being good friends, it’s so much nicer not getting all tensed up when I have to see her.

      For now, though, as my stress-level rises, I will focus on the things and people that make me happy. Thanks for joining in this discussion; you have given me a lot to think about!

    • 7 Cyndi February 15, 2010 at 12:10 pm

      Well, this is a lovely, enlightened and inspirational comment that I partially agree with. I do agree that unpleasant people in our lives can teach us valuable lessons. I also agree that we can still love them. But I do think it is possible to love someone and still have to cut them out of your life when their behavior is too toxic for you to deal with.

  6. 8 Dawn February 15, 2010 at 8:33 am

    I read somewhere about the philosophy of moving trash-bags, and I have adopted that philosophy as a practice with different levels of difficult people. Some people are like moving trash bags. Their contents are: frustration, anger, arrogance, disappointment, fear, and jealousy. As the bag continues to fill up, they need to dump it somewhere.

    If you let them discharge it on you, it helps them move on. Smile, wish them well and keep going on.

    Sometimes it helps me to see people as a five year old child having a tantrum.

    If their tantrums hurt others, like their own children or other children, they need a time out. Like the lady at Walgreens for instance, who wanted to unload the contents of her trash bag on my daughter.

    Sometimes it helps me to see people as wounded, with a gaping hole in their chest, deficient of love or beauty in their lives. Attention, like a smile or a sincere word of concern or care can take away their pain … and help them stop acting like “a pain.”

    I wish I could pick everyone I have to deal with to Les. Great post!

  7. 10 Consuella Banana Hammock February 15, 2010 at 9:10 am

    you ask a good question and one i think we all deal with at some point. for me, i had to deal with this in a very practical way when i moved overseas. with the time difference and not being able to go and hang out with people, i had to limit who i called, emailed etc. i began to think about my relationships and evaluate them. (don’t worry this wasn’t as cold a process as it sounds.) those that drained me i decided not to pursue anymore. and by drained i mean those who always want me to be there for them but are never willing to return the favor. if they emailed or called, i would be kind and attentive but i never initiated. i stopped pursuing those relationships that were toxic and over time they simply fell away.

    now those i don’t have a choice about and they are many….i’m learning how to adjust expectations. i can’t expect healthy interaction from unhealthy people. when i do and i get mad or disappointed then that is on me. so i adjust and dial down the expectations.

    i think we are always to be kind towards others, treating them with respect but that doesn’t mean i have to pursue, or initiate contact or relationship with them.

    those are my thoughts…

    • 11 les February 15, 2010 at 12:10 pm

      Adjusting expectations is huge. It always hurts worse when people we expect to like us, and who we like, dump their crap on us. I’m going to start expecting a lot less from a lot of people. 😦

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February 2010

Pittsburgh Bloggers

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