Like water, life has its ebbs and its flows. It moves and at times can be still. It shakes us like a storm, with an angry wind and a forceful wave, pushing us to where it wants us. It calms us with serenity and a soft breeze allowing us to rest and catch our breath. All around us, everyone is ebbing and flowing, life pulls and pushes us each on our own path. In doing so, relationships change, my ebb to your flow, so to speak. The best relationships, whether they be intimate romantic relationships, friendships, or family relationships can ride out the ebbing and flowing, can sustain no matter what is happening around them.
These long term surviving relationships seem to allow for all the waves, for all of the ups and downs. They take for granted that the other person is moving to their own rhythm and will be there, eventually. They learn to not take personally when there is distance, knowing that the strength of the relationship sustains time. Each person understands that the other is in their own world, tending to whatever they need to at that moment. Even with these gaps they make sure that they reach out with a thought, with a sentiment so the other person knows they are being missed, thought about, etc. Friendships, like intimate relationships do need tending, but these long term surviving relationships understand that tending may be an errant text or a quick hi, never to be mistaken for no longer loving or caring for each other.
Sometimes, though, the ebb becomes constant. There is no flow any longer. One person is always doing the reach out, always doing the tending and trying. The other doesn’t even respond when asked to help. How long do you hold on to that relationship, whether it be family, friend or lover? When is it enough time and opportunities that you walk away and realize that this is personal? This is no longer a sustainable relationship, this is someone treating someone else with no respect, no regard for the other person. Either that person really doesn’t want a relationship and doesn’t have the courage to talk about it or they are so self absorbed that they don’t care if their behavior hurts anyone else. Either way, they have stopped the ebb and flow and have decided that the relationship is not worthy of their time.
I think that for many, the answer of when to walk away is simple. People get pushed to a point and decide they are done. I remember when I was being certified to be a master practitioner for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the instructor and I were the same 4 letter type. He looked right at me and said, “you hang on to relationships a lot longer than needed, you try to fix them and give the other person everything that you have.” I sat there and chuckled, thinking somehow he figured me out. I hung onto my first marriage. I had so much trouble letting go of my husband, letting go of the 16 year relationship, the marriage, the couple. I kept looking back, trying to figure out how to mend it, how to change and twist myself into a pretzel for him to still love me. I struggled to move forward and it took a lot longer than it probably needed to for me to take a step. This has held true in friendships that I have tried to hang onto only to have the person completely ignore me and treat me like I don’t exist. Being treated as if what is happening in your life is of no regard to someone you were once close with is hard and, for me, hits me in the “I’m not worthy” inner critic.
I’m not worthy of a better relationship, this is what I deserve. What I now know to be true for me is that I have hung onto a lot of relationships a lot longer than the other person did, many times because of this critic telling me this is all I am worth. Whether they be friendships or intimate relationships, I hung on. Part of my growth over the years has been in my own self-respect, self-love and self-worth. What I have realized is hanging on was an old Suzy trait due to not loving myself enough, not ensuring that I made me happy so I looked for it in others. I wasn’t worthy of a better relationship or better friendship than what this person could give me. Obviously they had other more important people in their life, but I would stick close, hoping to get a crumb or two that would sustain me.
No longer having that inner critic working double time to keep me safe, I know I am worthy of much more than some relationships give me. I understand that I am giving all of the time, with very little getting. Perhaps it is more about outgrowing that relationship than worthiness of the relationship. Again, no matter who it is and what the relationship is, not everyone grows, or grows at the same time. Sometimes that is okay, we catch up to each other eventually, one perhaps pulling the other along. Sometimes we can’t catch up to each other. Sometimes that just means that the relationship has run its course, there no longer needs to be an ebb and flow.
A relationship running its course is still hard. For some, the memory of how important that relationship has been, how loved we have felt, how much we relied on that person makes it difficult to walk away completely. For some, it means still hanging on hoping that at some point the person you did love that was there when you needed them, will realize that they still need you. For some, it means closing the door completely, wiping out contact information and behaving as if it was never really important to begin with. For some, it is seeing it for what it is and for what it has become and allowing for a new ebb and flow to begin, where it no longer has the hold on you it once did.
Relationships, life, all have an ebb and flow. Allowing it to happen without getting caught up in that inner critic and knowing it is what it is versus what you could do to change it, allows us to move with some grace and ease. Certainly none of it is easy, at least not for my personality type! But it is necessary for our own growth and our own path. The more we can ebb and flow, the more we will be true to ourselves.