What is your responsibility in relationship?
When something isn’t working the way we want it to, we want to know the reasons why. We often look for something or someone to blame. We do this in relationships too.
There are a few ways this can go. One possibility is that we blame the other person.
If only they cared about us as much as we care about them…
If only they invested as much in making the friendship work as we did…
If only they really knew us…
If only they would take our hints and follow our example and treat us how we want to be treated…
If only they were a better friend…
If only we could meet the right person…
…then this longing inside us would be satisfied and we’d never have to be lonely again.
Another possibility is that we blame ourselves. This could look like believing there is something wrong with us and we’re just not capable of having satisfying friendships. We may believe we need to become someone better if we want any hope of having close friends.
This blaming doesn’t help us create the friendship we want.
Instead of turning to blame when something isn’t working, what if we viewed this as an invitation to consider what we want in its place and where we can take responsibility for our part?
This might prompt us to look at where we are unclear in communicating our wants and needs. We might consider where we are holding back or hiding out instead of risking being vulnerable. It can help us remember that, while we can’t control or change another person, we can show up fully for what is ours to do.
It’s a powerful thing to take ownership of our part in relationships. It’s vital, however, to make the distinction between taking responsibility for our part in a friendship and taking responsibility for the success of the friendship.
It is possible to show up fully and still have a friendship end or not become what we hoped it would be. That doesn’t mean you’re bad at friendship or no one likes you. It may simply be a matter of two people who were looking for different things or had different levels of commitment or skill.
Here’s the thing, you can’t be good enough to make someone else who you want them to be. Actually, that sounds an awful lot like people-pleasing. Because deep down at the heart of it, that’s what people-pleasing is…it’s changing ourselves into whoever we think we need to be to make another person who we want them to be.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of believing that if the thing we’re taking responsibility for isn’t turning out how we hope, then we need to take more responsibility. As strange as it sounds, it can feel easier—or at least more familiar—to continue trying to work harder and be better than to grieve the loss of a friendship or our hope that a friendship would be a certain way.
Trying to shoulder all the responsibility yourself is too much pressure. It isn’t fair to you or to the other person. It will not lead to a friendship that feels balanced and mutual.
It can be a tricky thing to draw the line of where our responsibility ends. We carry a lot of beliefs about what it means to be a good friend. Some of them are helpful. Others are not.
Try this: If you find yourself feeling a lot of pressure to make a friendship work, try making a list of all the things you are doing in your friendship.
Alternatively, make a list of all the things you believe a good friend would be doing (whether or not you’re currently doing them yourself). Complete the following sentence as many ways as you can. A good friend would…
Then ask yourself, am I doing this (or do I think I should do this) because it’s who I want to be as a friend (both for myself and for the other person) or because I’m trying to take responsibility for the success of the friendship?
Notice to how you feel while considering your list. Emotions like resentment, sadness, and fear can point us to areas that need attention. Similarly, feelings like contentment, happiness, and gratitude can indicate what is already working for us.
As you consider your responsibility in your relationships, here are a few questions to reflect on:
- What do you want in the relationship? (This can include things like what you do together, what you talk about, how often you spend time together, how you prefer to communicate, whether you invite others to join you, etc.)
- Do you clearly communicate requests and opinions without demanding the other person agree or comply? Do you check-in with yourself and give your true answer to requests?
- How much do you know about what the other person wants in the relationship? How compatible are your desires and preferences with theirs?
- Do you ask about the other person and really listen? Are you willing to share vulnerably about yourself?