I had to let go of a friendship this week. It's opened me to so many new levels of understanding about myself. I've discovered a few things that are really important when deciding how much to invest in a relationship, and when to move on. I wonder if they might be useful for others to consider?
#1 Compatibility of Core Values
There are certain things so fundamentally true or important for me, that disagreement in those areas ruins my interest in getting to know a person better. It's inevitable that I will clash on these areas. So, if I'm hoping to minimize conflict, the friendships I pursue will be among those who honour my core values, or hold those values themselves. Identifying and understanding my fundamental, core values becomes crucial.
#2 Compatibility of Conflict Style
It's inevitable that any relationship of depth will provide a chance to work through conflict together. There WILL be an argument, about something, sometime. Certain styles of conflict really trigger my animal fight-or-flight. Specifically, passive aggressive ignoring, dismissive/excusing, throwing in irrelevant accusations, bringing up old stuff, and denying the conflict is important enough to deal with. These particular styles drive me CRAZY - they set me off, leaving me too angry to be nice enough to resolve the conflict effectively. If I'm hoping to minimize the stress and negativity of conflict, avoiding people who use these as their primary conflict styles becomes important.
I think I can probably handle a lack of compatibility on core values when our conflict styles mesh well - logic, reason and openness to support each other's needs allows disagreement to resolve into understanding. I think I can probably handle a lack of compatibility on conflict style where core values match up, since conflict will be about things that are not core or fundamental, allowing me to maintain an emotional distance and move through to resolution. But when both core values and conflict style are in opposition, the amount of time and energy required to maintain the friendship may be more than I can spare. It may be more than I choose to spare. The distance to common ground may be further than I am willing to stretch right now. And I might not have the capacity, despite will.
The process of being myself, and investing in relationships and community from that place of "selfness" that will turn off some people while attracting others, this process is hard. And painful. It was easier when I could just be what people expected, and get most people to "like" me by only showing them what they liked. It's harder to admit that aspects of what I am are simply unpalatable to others, and aspects of what they are, are unpalatable to me. There are hurt feelings, maybe anger or resentment. "Unfriending" in real life is not clean or simple.
And, in my quest for balance in my life, there are hard decisions, hard conversations, that depend on my clarity of values. To those values, I cleave. And the people who matter most are right there with me.
I am grateful.