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Relationships: Hold on? Let go?

At the beginning of any relationship, romantic or platonic, there is an air of excitement, hope, anticipation. We all experience it and it can be captivating. There is the possibility that this new person may teach us something, listen to us, validate us, or add fun to our lives. There is no end to the joy of feeling connected with others. It is something we all seek in varying degrees, and it is an essential part of life. The hope of feeling understood, loved, and accepted is a great motivator for seeking out relationships and at times the motivator for staying in relationships that have passed their expiration date.

When do we know it is time to let go of a relationship? Does it depend on the type of relationship? Is it ok to let go of relationships with family members? What do I deserve from a relationship? Does forgiveness mean I turn the other cheek and stay?

These are all questions we may grapple with at some point in our lives. These questions are so personal that no one answer could ever apply to all situations. It all depends on you. From my own grappling...

In a new relationship, the time to let go can very well be the moment you stop receiving the respect, love, validation that you deserve. At the very least, notice if the individual that you are involved with displays a pattern toward you or others that can signal that respect, love, and validation are not highly valued by them. You can tuck this information away, address it, or move on. Giving people second chances is a choice not a requirement in a new relationship. The beginning of any relationship is a chance for everyone to put their best foot forward and if their best is not respectful, loving, or validating, then sticking with it may be a reflection of what you feel you deserve.

In an existing relationship with a friend, a partner or a family member, with a solid history of respect, love, and validation, letting go may not be the answer. The individual you are involved with may be displaying a negative attribute or behavior but may very likely be going through something difficult and needs you. In these types of relationships, look closely at the type of behavior, and ask yourself "Is this something that I can accept?" If not, ask yourself, "Is this something I can address with him/her?" If he/she is willing to work through the issue, lean on you for support, listen to your concerns, then persevering together may be in your best interest. True loving relationships are possible but also difficult to develop, if you have one, nurture it. Communicate your needs and concerns, and don't give up. Partners and friends can grow together and learn from each other. If the relationship is important to you, remain flexible while staying true to your needs. If you cannot accept the behavior or attribute, then listen to your heart and acknowledge your needs. Remember what worked for you at one point, may no longer work for you years into the relationship. As you change and grow, your sense of what you deserve and what you find acceptable also changes. What you could accept at age 27 may not be what you can accept at age 47.

In toxic relationships, whether platonic, romantic, or with a family member, with a solid history of negativity, manipulation, disrespect, and harm, please let go and find supportive loving relationships instead. You deserve goodness, and relationships that lift your spirit and bring you joy and peace. Do not confuse the need for forgiveness in these types of relationships with the need to stay and continue being mistreated. Forgiveness may or may not happen in these types of relationships, that is a highly personal decision. Do not feel guilty that you have not forgiven someone who has treated you badly. Do not feel that you must continue a relationship with him/her because you are taking the higher ground. Consider that sometimes turning the other cheek instead of ending the relationship, may be out of fear rather than strength. If forgiveness is something you seek, consider doing it from a distance where you are safe, protected, and nurtured.

I strongly believe you deserve to be treated with love, respect, and validation. We all do. I feel it is a basic relationship requirement. It is also something that has taken me years to affirm. Much soul searching is involved with the question "What do I deserve in a relationship?", and your answer will depend on how you feel about yourself. What you are willing to accept in a relationship, the boundaries you are willing to create are contingent upon your feelings of self-worth. Are you holding onto to feelings of guilt? Do you fear being alone and are willing to stay in a destructive relationship regardless of its affect on you? Do you only seek out partners and friends who dismiss your needs? If so, you may believe that you do not deserve positive, uplifting, healthy, loving relationships, but that is false. You absolutely do!

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