…and we won’t be until you do your work. This is a sentiment that each of us have permission to express to those we value. It doesn’t mean you value or love them any less; it usually means that your willingness to bend has come to an end. When we preserve decaying relationships at our own expense, we run the risk of self-destruction. A positive relationship is a libation: the purest offering to the divine dust that is humanity. It’s what keeps most of us humming and the world turning. Sometimes the fantasy of that makes us obscure the reality of the ways our relationships are currently functioning. Resist the urge to be so full of hot air and fantasy that you remain emotionally starving. Reject the urge to paper over the cracks with more doing to make up for a lack of reciprocity.
My clientele mostly consists of high-achievers. If they have diagnoses, they are usually are/are related to C-PTSD, common forms of neurodivergence (ADHD, ASD), anxiety, and/or intergenerational traumas. One message that high-achievers internalize is that they have to bleed to succeed. To win, there’s “naturally” some self-harm. They learn to go along to get along, and, when they can’t withstand anymore self-betrayal, to isolate themselves. It’s “normal.”
When you learn to do this, you often lose the language for setting boundaries. Sometimes you may even lose the instinct. This is dangerous because it helps us survive - a living being immune to peril is one that is imperiled. (Please note: running away is not setting a boundary. That’s avoidance.) There is a difference between removing yourself from a situation where you can no longer meet your own needs and escaping without examination and assertion. Both are valid; the former is usually healthier in the long run. When your instinct tells you to leave, by all means do. The “why” can come later but make sure you do send it an invitation to sit with you once you’re safe.
If there is a relationship you value that is breaking down but you feel can be repaired, invite the other party(ies) to participate in the work. It’s the only way a repair will hold and mature into a new normal. Even when there’s a clear pattern of wrongdoing on the part of someone specific, any repair will require the other person’s active cooperation. To do this, there is a need to shelve resentment to have a clear look at what needs to change. The resentment will give you a roadmap, but do not be fooled: you will have to go beyond its obvious contours. Unwillingness of the other party(ies) to do their part means the relationship cannot continue as it stands.
As you examine the roadmap, you have a golden opportunity to really consider if you truly want to repair the relationship. What patterns do you see? What was (is) that relationship calling you to look at? What need were you attempting to fill? Is this relationship a proxy for another? Where can you give them credit and where have you been doing so wrongfully? What communication is necessary to begin going off-road?
Fundamentally, a relationship where one party is unwilling or unable to meet the emotional needs of another is neglect. Neglect is a failure to take care. Continued neglect constitutes abandonment. As adults, we get to decide if we will abandon ourselves.
Tell the truth. Feelings are rarely logical as often as we try to rationalize them but they are no less valid. Don’t deny them: that never works. Acknowledge them. Validate them. Take things down to the root so you can respond appropriately to them. Try not to be so hard on yourself if you don’t (respond appropriately) the first few times the feeling is presented. It’s trying to show you something.
“We are not okay, and we won’t be until you do your work.” If the person you are attempting relationship repair with is not receptive, they are not safe at the moment. All you can do is extend the invitation and assess how safe you feel to continue. Above all, know this: if you’ve come this far, you will be okay. If you go even further in your self-examination and self-affirmation, you will be more than okay. (You’re already miraculous.)