There's a point in every relationship where you come to a crossroads. Whether you're coming to terms with a new manager at work, trying to figure out the future of a friendship or doubting the endurance of your marriage, there's a moment (or many moments) where you'll ask yourself, "Should I stay or should I go?"
Just typing that sentence gives me a pit in my stomach remembering how plagued I was by that question during the end of my marriage. (And when I say "end" -- I mean the last seven years of it.) This question of leaving or staying, the is-this-really-over question, it can be debilitating, paralyzing and more than anything: it can waste so much precious time.
Whether you're wondering about ending a friendship, leaving a marriage, setting hard boundaries with a family member or quitting a job, these three steps will help you clearly define when it's over (and when it's not).
1. Fully accept the other person. (Stop trying to change them to fit you.) This means that you stop judging, criticizing and wishing they were different. You stop hoping that they become a better version of who they are. You stop trying to change them to fit your idea of who they should be. You stop fantasizing about who they could become. This doesn't mean that you have to condone their behavior or that you even have to like their behavior. It simply means that you come to reality and accept reality as-is. If you haven't accepted them fully, it is extremely difficult to decide whether or not to stay in the relationship because you're not in a relationship with them. You're in a relationship with your idea of them.
2. Fully show up as yourself. (Stop trying to change you to fit them.) This means that you have to get to know yourself -- for reals -- and then you have to share who you really are with that person. This includes all six steps of Courageous Intimacy. It means you need to know yourself well enough to know who you are, what you love and what you want (in small ways and in huge ways). It means that you need to be living life as yourself. It means that you know your own opinions, your likes and dislikes, your personality quirks, your strengths and weaknesses. It means you show up as 100% you; the fully alive, fully engaged, you -- not the trying to please, trying to second-guess, shape-shifter version of you. If you haven't done this step, it's almost impossible to decide whether or not to stay in the relationship because you are not in a relationship with them. Pretend You is in a relationship with them - and that pretty much never works.
3. At that point the decision makes itself. (You fit together or you don't.) When you fully accept another person and see them for who they really are AND you fully show up as yourself without any people-pleasing filters, the decision becomes evident. You're either a match or you're not. You're either in alignment or you're not. When you've done the work to accept and to show up, the ball is in now their court. They get to either meet you as-is, try to change you back (yuck) or they bounce (ouch). This doesn't necessarily mean that they have to be banished from your life. Depending on the nature of your relationship, it might simply mean that you remove them from your inner (intimate) circle and see them more as an acquaintance or colleague.
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