When I was going through a big life change, my sister and I scheduled an evening at the ballet together. She thought it’d be perfect to reconnect because I loved ballet. I went because I thought she wanted to go.
Lo and behold as we left the theater, go into our car, and started decompressing after the event we found us both quickly in tears not understanding why things didn’t feel good anymore and why this thing that at one point had been fun was now a source of tension and conflict.
It’s one thing to have that “Come to Jesus” moment with someone. That moment when you realize the way things were isn’t the way things are and what are you going to do about it?
That is the big question: what are you going to do about it?
You have to decide if you’re willing to put in the work to make things feel better or if you’re calling it quits.
That fateful day between my sister and I could have ended with us refusing to talk about what happened. We could have walked away before either of us understood why the ballet was such a big failure. That would have left us both in the dark and in a really disadvantaged place to make things better.
If they aren’t willing to hear you out, to show up to a conversation, and avoid talk of what’s not working. That’s sign #1 that you might need to walk away.
Literally, I’ve had someone that I needed to talk with because they did something disrespectful and rather than facing me, they completely avoided contact with me by not coming into the house and driving away before I knew they were there.
This is another important one.
You should be able to tell that they are doing work themselves on their own time.
This means if you have a conversation about what’s working, maybe a day or two later they continue the conversation saying, “I’ve been thinking about what you said. For me, I would need this…”
In other words, they are showing that they are still thinking about the situation and are thinking about what they need in it - because each of you is really only able to speak on behalf of yourself.
This is really at the heart of those phrases when people joke that they couldn’t shake someone away. This means when the time comes that what was going wrong is happening again, they make a clear change in what they do to try something that may (or may not) make it better.
This is demonstrated in actions like when you ask about their day, and before they didn’t bother to ask you, the next time they do ask you about your day too.
For example, the next time my sister and I were going to an event, instead of doing what I thought was “criticism” over my clothing choice, she came ahead of time and talked with me through my options to find something I wanted to wear that also matched the venue she had booked for us.
Here’s another example: early in the relationship with my partner, there were things that came up whether in an interaction with family or friends that were things I didn’t appreciate. I remember thinking, “well, once I tell him, let’s see how long he stays around.” To my surprise, after a conversation, the next time I noticed a dramatic change in behavior to match more closely what I had asked him to consider. In other words, any time I asked him to “do some work”, he did, and he demonstrated that the next time we were in the situation.
This is evidence of growth.
Whether you are thinking about a friend, romantic partner, family member, or whoever it doesn’t matter. No matter what type of relationship you are questioning right now, romantic, platonic, familial, or friendly, these are the ways you know whether this is a relationship worth your time.
Why? Because if they do any one of these things, they are the kind of people that are going to take the time to grow the relationship as you each change and they care about the relationship enough that they are willing to invest in it too.
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