One of the most difficult things about self-betterment is how much it affects your day to day relationships. As one changes so will your relationships. It’s a fact. For me, this has been rather challenging in regards to my healthier self because it's difficult to redefine boundaries within established relationships. We have all heard the cliché that your friends reflect who you are so what do you do when you change and they don’t?
I had a friend for almost 17 years. As newly formed adults, we were young and completely dysfunctional. Both of us were hyperactive, impulsive and fraught with enabling tendencies; we were two peas in a pod and where you would find one, the other was not far behind. As I began my emotional journey towards a better self with in-depth therapy and accounting for my co-dependent tendencies, our relationship became strained. I constantly felt angry at my friend for being what she had always been. Resentment set in and I began to judge her.
I couldn’t help but notice how unfair I was. Because I had changed, I expected her to change and yet there was more to this. As I released my past as well as my dysfunctional self, I realized that much of my anger, judgment and resentment had nothing to do with my dearest friend or anyone, for that matter. I was projecting, you see. In truth, I was angry at myself. My friend was merely reflecting what I didn’t want to be anymore, dysfunctional.
For me, codependency was similar to an alcoholic with a cocktail. Although not a tangible craving like drinking or drugs, still, my enabling was that addicting. I attempted to control my friend in some vain attempt to control myself and my surroundings. I was constantly haranguing her to such an extent that even I was annoyed at myself. That’s not a friendship; that’s a prison sentence.
In my humble opinion, if you cannot accept someone in your life as they are, then you are doing them a disservice. Being angry and resentful isn’t good for you or your friend; it’s much easier to hold well wishes from afar than judgment when in close quarters.
When I began to understand this, I realized the need to end my friendship of 17 years. Sadly, I lacked any grace or finesse; instead, I was abrupt and awkward as all hell. The entire process was excruciatingly painful for us both. First of all, she was the easiest person to forgive and it didn’t help that I couldn't hold a grudge to save my life; the longest I’d gone was 36 hours, directed at my sister for breaking my porcelain doll.
Being new at this, I thought it best to write a letter explaining what had upset me, glossing over a decade of issues and after that, dead silence. She too had OCD and wanted to talk about it. It was only her frantic texts and calls that showed me how important I was to her. It broke my heart not to text or call back, yet I knew if I did, my resolve would break. Most certainly, she deserved a better good bye but I wasn’t strong enough so behind closed doors, I cried.
When it came to my dear friend, she continued to hold a special place in my heart. For I am one of those souls who once loved, never stopped. And, my quest for healthiness has only deepened that love, that appreciation. The only difference was that I no longer needed to judge others because I stopped judging myself. What did that mean in the grand scheme of things? Well, in simplest terms, it meant that I had lost the desire to control others; I wasn’t so scared of dysfunction or of falling off my "healthy-self" wagon. You could say that somewhere along the way, I had gained an emotional confidence.
I felt the only boundary line that I was fit to hold was whether I loved myself when I was around certain people. I didn't need to shirk away when I noticed emotional unhealthiness. Instead, I asked myself, was it the same dysfunction, different day? Were there changes in how they handled it? These questions allowed me to discern what’s healthy or not healthy in my life without judging others.
As you find your better self, undoubtedly, you will have friends who are incredibly dysfunctional and there’s nothing to be done. It’s who they are. No need to personalize it. I continue to wish these friends the best in life.
At the same time, you will have friends who are good people that for one reason or another are not in the best place of their lives. Despite lingering dysfunction, you will be able to see their growth and changes as to how they handle their business. Fortunately, my girlfriend of 17 years is one of those lovely souls who just needed time to grow into her better self without me huffing and puffing at her. I'm grateful that we've been able to resume our relationship with new definitions, new boundaries and a new future. Our friendship reminds us both of where we've been, our limitations versus where we are going now, which has become limitless.
“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”- Nelson Mandela