I've been in CoDA (codependents anonymous) for almost four years now. I sponsor several people in this program and find it to be an extremely rewarding part of my life. Relating to people who are growing, learning, really trying to figure it all out fills a place in me that needs refilling often.
Recently, one of these young women came to me with a question about a relationship. I'll call her Carol because she looks remarkably like a friend of mine from years ago, with that name. (More remarkable, this sponsee has the same birthday as Carol--neither here, nor there, really, but interesting to me, none-the-less.)
So, "Carol" is having an issue with a friend. The details aren't important. what is important is that she is at the point of having to confront this friend about some rather hurtful behaviors.
Turning around the statement by the Dalai Lama, Peace brings peace, sure, but Hurt brings hurt, and resentment breeds resentment. How can Carol set boundaries with her friend, keep herself safe, and stand up for herself without furthering the cycle of hurt and resentment?
Well it's not easy. I know. I have been on both ends of this scenario in the last four years and it is not fun. It can backfire, but when both parties are open, it can be very rewarding. The hard part is, when I feel hurt it feels natural to lash out and spread that around. Hurt bringing more hurt.
I found four things to suggest to Carol. First, stick with "I" statements. Instead of saying, "You did this and it hurt me," say, "I felt hurt when this happened." There is no accusation of intention here. There's only a statement of my hurt. The second thing, take three seconds to respond to whatever her friend replies. Three seconds gives us time to notice our reactivity and--possibly--avoid saying something that will make it worse. The third thing, go in with NO expectations. Expectations are premeditated disappointments. Fourth, if her friend starts the "I did this because you did that" stuff, I suggested she say, "I hear what you're saying and I do want to address that, but I think it would be more helpful to address one issue at a time. Can we finish this first?"
So - I statements, Three seconds, No expectations, and Stick to the topic at hand.
Those are four steps I've learned for dealing with the stress of confrontation, but the biggest, overall piece is to stay in respect and love. That is love and respect both for yourself and the other person. If things are deteriorating to the point where I can't stay in that respect, I say, "I'm getting too emotional to do this rationally right now. Can we continue this a little later?" Then I can take time to get my thoughts together. It's important not to let this tool become a way to avoid confrontation. I sure have developed a lot of ways to do that! Nothing gets resolved if I put it off indefinitely, so I try to find time to finish as soon as possible.
And, as to expectations, if the other person is not responsive and will not discuss the topic rationally, let that be as it is. We have no control over others. It may be time, at that point, to begin grieving the loss of the relationship as it's been. We have complete control over our own actions, over who we choose to spend time with and who we stay away from, but if the other person doesn't hear us there's no way to change that. They may get there eventually, but, as hard as it can be to let people go, it can also feel incredibly validating of our most authentic selves to do just that. Being in a relationship in which we get hurt over and over is worse than being alone.
Hurt bring hurt
Love brings love
Respect brings respect
Peace brings peace
Sometimes, the peace, love, and respect we provide others and ourselves comes from stepping back from the relationship long enough for the other person to gain perspective. Everyone has their own journey, their own lessons. The love and respect we need can only come from healthy relationships that appear as we are open to them.
To me, it seems that we're all in different places on the same path. Some are ahead, some behind, and some are walking right with us, but may not be walking at the same pace. People come into step with us for a moment or a lifetime. Each brings something important, something we need. Looking for the lessons in a relationship can make it easier to move on when it's time, and can bring intimacy to relationships that weather storms and continue through years.
Ah life is good!
*image found on facebook - source unknown