I have been thinking quite a bit about healing relationships lately. There are relationships in my life that need to be healed and there is also a need for healing in a few relationships of people close to me. As I began to think of how to initiate the process, I realized I first needed to look at the cause of the rifts. I think that more than anything it has to do with our roles in relationships.
I believe we have a slightly different way of being with each person in our life. In some relationships we give more, in some we take more, in some we feel more confident, and in others more insecure. With one group of friends we may be a boisterous leader and with another a shy follower. For the “seasonal friends” or the people that come and go throughout, our roles don’t become that vital. If we change, it’s OK, we move on and let go. With our life-long relationships any change in our roles can become make or break.
Change is inevitable. We outgrow ideas and shift our perspectives. But change like this is threatening to relationships. If a subservient wife starts reading The Feminist Mystique, it might just scare the hell out of her husband. If a straight A student starts getting C’s, alarms go off. If the middle-aged chubby guy buys a convertible and starts hitting the gym, there’s a good chance his wife might start to question the motives behind these actions. In these moments we must realize the change has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the path the other person is on.
I thought of a couple of examples to use to illustrate. I know there are a lot of families or friendships that thrive on gossip. So say you have two sisters who talk often and almost always share stories about what the other family members are doing. One sister makes the decision that she wants to be more positive in her thinking and speaking. This isn’t something she discusses with others, but just decides to do. In the following week she gets a call from her sister, Sally Sue. The very first thing Sally Sue says is “You won’t believe what our brother, Bob did this week.” And goes on to tell the story. The sister responds with a simple “that’s interesting” and then asks about the weather. When the conversation is complete Sally Sue is left feeling hurt and confused. She and her sister have always connected this way and she immediately begins to think her sister is mad at her and pulling away from their relationship. In reality her sister is just trying to make positive changes in her life. Now it is up to the sisters to shift their relationship or allow it to sink. The roles have changed whether they both wanted them to or not.
There is also the parent/child relationship. A father may raise his son always under the guise that he is the adult and he knows what’s best. Eventually the son grows into a man. As a man he is very educated and knowledgeable. He learns a lot about his father’s interests and tries to offer advice. His father is unwilling to see his son’s perspective and refuses the advice. He is trapped in his role of “father knows best.” This refusal to shift his role puts a wedge between him and his son. The son was only trying to help and even gain respect but is instead was left feeling belittled and unimportant.
There comes a point in everyone’s life where they want to do things differently. It may come as a response to growing resentful of some of their roles. A caretaker may become exhausted by always giving and reach a point of feeling they deserve to be taken care of for a while. It could be an answer to a calling of wanting to have a bigger life, be a better person, or contribute to society. That kind of calling will shift the personal relationships because it forces a person to pull away and examine their essence. But if we truly love those that are closest to us, those who hold these life-long positions in our life, we must be willing to seek to understand the change and hopefully embrace the new roles that are created (knowing that those roles may not be the last either).