How to Let Go of Grudges and Negativity in Relationships
I remember just about every negative interaction I’ve ever had.
I remember my “closest” high school friends not inviting me to a New Years Eve party.
I remember my girlfriend insulting me in front of my mother on her birthday.
I remember the anti-Semitic email I received from some alt-right crazy.
I also remember the instances where I was at fault.
I remember turning on my nerdy best friend when I was trying to be cool in seventh grade.
I remember insulting another dating coach in a fit of arrogance.
I remember screaming at my two-year-old son and seeing the fear in his eyes.
Thousands of happy experiences have come and gone, but I have perfect recall of all the conflict I’ve ever been a part of.
This, by the way, is relatively common.
We have negative run-ins and hold onto the feelings of the conflict way beyond the expected expiration date. The question is why? What do we stand to gain by turning people into the worst caricatures of themselves? Why not bury the past in the past?
Are people selfish? Sure. But most (not all) negative interactions can be ascribed to two people wanting different things and failing to communicate (or disengage) properly.
It’s not like we’re talking about the man who murdered your son; we’re generally talking about isolated incidents from years ago. Those incidents may have left scars but there is nothing redeeming about focusing on ones’ scars. You become an angry person, a bitter person, or worse, a victim, who sees the rest of the world as selfish people who are out to hurt you. The problem is that it’s not true. Are people selfish? Sure. But most (not all) negative interactions can be ascribed to two people wanting different things and failing to communicate (or disengage) properly.
Since this is a blog about dating and relationships, let’s think of all the past relationships where someone got hurt.
How do you get past that without carrying the anger around with you?
According to the article, full forgiveness has four actions. But before that, we need to recognize three things: 1. Forgiveness is for you, not the offender. 2. It’s best to do it now. 3. It’s about freeing yourself — forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to like what they did or become their friend.
From there, the first tactic is to calm yourself down in the moment. This can mean just taking a deep breath to collect yourself or going on a jog, but the idea is you want to slow down and collect yourself to create a little distance between what happened and how you’re going to react to it. “You have to counter-condition the stress response when it happens,” Dr. Luskin said.
Next, shift how you think and talk about the source of your grudge. “Change your story from that of a victim to a more heroic story,” Dr. Luskin said.
The final two pieces go hand-in-hand. Pay attention to the good things in your life “so you have an easy way to balance the harm,” Dr. Luskin said, then remind yourself of one simple truth: Life doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to. Combining those two ideas can “shift the ground, and it lowers very dramatically” your general level of stress.
I feel like an authority on this because of my natural personality: I am confident, I am opinionated, I’m not afraid of conflict, I’m introspective, and I have tried and failed a LOT.
In other words, I’ve had a lot more conflict and negative interactions than most normal humans who tend to be more conflict-averse.
After all that, I feel like I’ve arrived at largely the same conclusion as the article – I’m always going to try to listen, communicate, and do my best to own and repair things. And, at a certain point, if there are diminishing returns and little hope of resolution, I learn to let go – of exes, friends, contractors – anyone where the bad outweighs the good. And, for the most part, rather than talking shit about them, I write off the conflict as a function of difference and incompatibilities as opposed to character flaws. People who don’t like me aren’t wrong; they’re just not my people, that’s all.
That’s a valuable relationship philosophy that I teach in Love U: relationships should be easy. If they’re not easy, they’re not that good. Move on.
Your thoughts, below, are greatly appreciated.