Making Relationships Right
With the end of this most difficult year approaching, it is a good time for us to evaluate our key relationships. At the time of Covid, we are more aware than ever of who matters in our lives and to consider how we are treating those who are dear to us. To make our relationships right, we need to recognize and acknowledge the conflicts and cut offs we have with significant people in our lives.
Most often, cut offs occur between family members. Sometimes people have very specific reasons for the split. Other times we can’t even remember where the problem started or why it persists. Frequently, the problem has to do with money. One family member feels that another received more money from their parents. When I hear about such resentments, I usually discover the issue has more to do with who got more attention from parents.
Another significant problem at this time of year is dealing with family members who have been abusive to them. Whether to forgive a parent or sibling who has been abusive in the past, is one of the hardest decisions to make. While sometimes people are able to forgive, no one who has been abused can ever forget. Abuse is a complicated issue which can often lead to emotional problems throughout life. When we hear others tell stories of their abuse, it is important to listen carefully and not judge their story or doubt it. We should never force someone to have to spend time with a person who has been abusive toward him/her.
If you are a person who is cut off from another family member, here is a process I suggest following if you want to reconcile with that person.
First of all, recognize that you can only do what is in your control and that you cannot get the other person to do what you wish they would do. Of course, you would like them to admit they are the person who is in the wrong, but they are unlikely to do this just because you asked them to.
Second, do what you can to reach out to the person with whom you are at odds or cut off from. Try to listen to that person about why they are taking the stance that they are. If they are asking for an apology for some grievance, take that under serious consideration and think about whether you are willing to offer an apology. If you do, be sure the apology is sincere and that you do not expect them to apologize in return. Apologies are not reciprocal by nature. If one person apologizes, do not expect an apology in return.
Third, take a hard look at yourself and see if you have cut off from someone out of spite or some hurt that is long past. Can you be the person to reach out to the other person and say that you would like to try again.
Fourth, if you cannot resolve the conflict, consider talking to a therapist to help you come to peace about the relationship.
Mainly, here I have been discussing conflicts within the family. However, there are other kinds of cut offs as well. Too often, friends cut off from one another. Sometimes they can’t even remember what happened to cause the cut off. While at home during the Covid lockdown, it is a good time to pick up the phone and call old friends and explore how you have drifted apart. With 3,000 people dying a day, it’s a thoughtful deed to check to see that the friends from the past are healthy and well. Who doesn’t like to receive a message from an old acquaintance saying, “Thinking of you, hope you are OK.” Today is no time to stand on ceremony.
I recently called a friend who I had not talked to for several years. There was no conflict, we had just drifted apart. When I called, he was not only happy to hear from me, but he was able to tell me that he was about to undergo a very serious operation. I realized how important it was to have made the connection when I did. As it turned out, he recovered well from the operation. Connecting with him made me realize that we cannot wait to reach out or to hear from an old friend or relative. Every day is precious and we can never be sure what tomorrow will bring.
My mother-in-law, Jean Carino, turns 98 tomorrow. Living with her the past several weeks, I am impressed by how connected she is with her friends and relatives. She talks to several people a day on her cell phone. When I ask her about the key to her longevity, she identifies her strong connection with family and friends as essential to her success and happiness.
We had 50 enthusiastic leaders participate in last week’s Leaders Connect event. If you are interested in learning about how the vaccine will be distributed and what the outlook is for Michigan in terms of the Covid crisis, please check out the zoom cast from last week’s Leaders Connect, Update on the Covid Crisis: Medical Perspective.