Relationships are not simple. At least not all. Sometimes we have to deal with people who behave in ways that are downright selfish or even harmful. Their words and attitudes can have devastating effects, but whether we like it or not, it is not always possible to get them to change.
Sometimes, after having tried everything – actively and passively – we reach a point where we have to accept that our efforts have not borne fruit and, what is even worse, that they probably will not. There is a moment when we must assume that these people are not going to change. What to do then?
The 3 steps to accept – and deal – with what makes us uncomfortable about others
1. Assume the pain for the lost hope
When we have a conflict with a person, especially if it is someone close to us, it is easy to get excited thinking that we can do something to make them change. When we finally realize that that person cannot make the transformation we want – either because he is not capable or because he does not want to – we can feel terribly frustrated and angry.
At that moment all the pain from broken illusions can come to light. It is normal. When we have conflicts with a significant person in our life, such as our parents, children or a close relative, it is understandable that we harbor the illusion of change. We imagine what the relationship could be like if that metamorphosis occurred.
When we realize that that person will not change their way of thinking or behavior, we experience a kind of pain for what was not and will not be. Giving up that dream can be difficult. That is why we can feel deeply irritated, resentful or disillusioned.
However, to move forward we must understand this suffering and go through its different phases, until we reach the point of acceptance. We need to assume that the change we want will not happen. Only through radical acceptance can we find a viable balance in the relationship.
2. Adjust your expectations
There are difficult people. There is no doubt. But sometimes our expectations about how the relationship should be or how they should behave add fuel to the fire. We all have preconceived ideas about certain social roles. We have formed an image about how parents, partners, children or families should behave, so if a person does not fit into that mold, but does just the opposite, it is in dissonance with our conception of their role.
At other times, we expect others to behave as we would. We expect them to show the same level of commitment, dedication, love, attention or care. Obviously, we don’t always receive what we give. These broken expectations add even more pain, being one of the causes of the disappointment we feel.
For that reason, it is essential to adjust expectations, but really. And that means stopping expecting the other person to change or behave as we would like. Ask yourself what you can really expect from that person and answer honestly. Letting go of expectations will likely improve your relationship, and if it doesn’t, it will at least free you from a heavy weight.
3. Break old patterns by changing your responses
Just because the other person doesn’t change, doesn’t mean you can’t change. To achieve this, we must get rid of that “evangelizing” mentality according to which the others are the ones who must “convert” because only we are in possession of the truth. Instead, we need to accept that when we cannot change circumstances, we have no choice but to change our attitude towards them.
Think about what bothers or hurts you the most in your relationship with that person and your response to it. The key is to create a protective shield that prevents you from reacting emotionally. The next time your mother or father starts yelling at you, you can sit quietly instead of yelling back. The next time your uncle talks nonsense or is sarcastic, you can leave the room.
Responding differently changes our experience of the interaction because it gives us back control. In this way we also reduce the impact of the actions of others. We no longer just react, but decide how to respond. When we choose to get out of those old patterns of stimuli and responses, we can find more serene ways of responding that are in tune with our values and, above all, that protect our emotional balance.
Seek support from those who share your reality
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of having to deal with a difficult family member is the feeling that you are the only one who notices or feels hurt by it. However, are you really the only one who is bothered by that aunt’s disparagement humor or your father’s angry outbursts? Probably not.
Other people in your family may also feel frustrated, but don’t talk about it. Many families are specialists in letting an elephant into the room; That is, they reach a tacit agreement to ignore the problem or accept the unpleasant behavior per quieto vivere, to avoid further conflict. However, if you find it difficult, you may feel alone in your indignation and pain or even begin to doubt yourself and your vision of what is happening. Calmly reflect on your perceptions and experiences. Share them privately with others who can understand you and give you the emotional validation you need. A listening ear and a willing shoulder can give you all the support and strength you need.