Mending a Relationship Meltdown

06/08/2010 05:52 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Dr. Cara Barker Author, Analyst, Keynotes, Founder of The Love Project, Love Fests and Retreats

"You have no idea how much of the inefficiency of mankind comes from thinking about the wrong-doings of others, and of ourselves. There is nothing more miserable than to feel that by some mistake in life you have not amounted to what you might have, and that your misfortunes all hinge on that mistake." -Emma Curtis Hopkins

Problems People Face
Who doesn't know the woes of relationship meltdown? Regrettably, ups and downs seem to accompany growth. Only in Hollywood's romantic comedies is there a pervasive scene of overall smooth sailing, and even that doesn't last long. Without change, the human story does not progress. If you think about it, the most interesting tales have layers, levels, texture, conflict that brings satisfying resolution. As audience, you are left with the sense that not only have the characters grown, but so have you.

The blessing of writing for the HP is that many of you share your stories, challenges, and forward movement. Take, for instance, last week. A number of readers were inspired to "go first," by expressing their love to someone where doors have shut painfully. One writer spoke of outreach to her older brother, a war veteran, struggling with major difficulties, including anger, and the relief that came with reaching out, releasing and going first. No one's expecting an "express fix", but, where there's an opening, well ...

Said another reader: "You inspired me to call a friend who's hurt me recently. But I know that he's going through a very hard time because of some poor choices he's made. So before replying to your article, I called him. Our conversation was too distant and I felt like he was hiding something. We'll see what transpires ... in the meantime, it costs me little to show that I'm thinking of him."

Amen. What's expensive is harboring the toxic. As an albatross, the unresolved, unassimilated, returns to haunt.

Moving forward takes some sorting out, some re-evaluation, some blessing, and some letting go. Some weeks ago, one of my favorite HP readers, writerkate, requested input regarding the following sticky situation:

"My friend ... now spends all her time writing for Libertarian and Conservative Republican blogs, and she wants to discuss them with me. I feel the looming threat of that divide. Since I am not in her class in arguments, I try to dodge. Finally, after several attempts at changing a conversation's direction, I managed to piss her off. In fact, I may have permanently lost a friend. This is horrible. I've been there for her in bad times, she's been there for me...

I'm going to try to keep the lines open for re-establishing contact, while leaving the ball in her court. I will NOT flood her with email ... Just an occasional note, kept light but not too much so, indicating that the door is open if she can see her way clear to having a friend who can't discuss these issues in person or on the phone lest I break down. (I've never really managed to control my tear ducts, and feel awe at those who can.)

Any suggestions on reviving an injured friendship, Dr. Cara?..."

The Why of the Problem

You've lost the beauty that once flowered. You want to find your way back to "the flower" (see more on this in this week's blog, and related material, next week, here.) For whatever reason, you've lost the "scent" of sweetness once shared between the two of you, once expressed through beauty, wisdom, compassion, companionship, and shared purpose. In its place, you've entered the realm of "meltdown," that bardo space which has to do with difficult transition. Take heart. Growth is on its way. The pendulum always shifts.

Prescription for Meltdowns: Meanwhile, there are two vital factors in this Love Revival Prescription to consider.

  1. Less is more. Keep contact simple.
  2. Ask a question to establish whether you, like Houston, "have contact."
  3. Listen for their answer. If all systems are a "go," proceed to the next level.

Imagine yourself in an elevator where you've been "up in the air," and are now going down to different floors, each with different possibilities. If your friend "gets off" at a different floor, before you reach the ground floor, no worries. That's as far as they can go. On the other hand, if your friend "hangs in there," this indicates they, too, might wish for revival.

  1. Consider contacting your friend, with the following: "My heart is heavy. May we speak?"
  2. Pause, listen. If the answer is "yes", continue: "When would be a good time?" (You are asking the other person to take ownership, too.)
  3. Once you "have contact" at the appointed time, say something like: "I am grieving. I'm wondering if this is so for you?" Listen.
  4. If you are on the same page, continue, " We've shared so much that's been deeply meaningful to me. Our friendship has gone to levels that are rare, and I cherish that. How about you?"
  5. If so, you've reached ground level. Bingo. Using your own words, cover the following:

    "I am grieving." I'm wondering if this is so for you?" (If "yes,"): "I am saddened that I've allowed distraction to intrude upon our friendship. If you feel the same way, I'd like to send you a little gift. May I?*"

    *The "gift" is a copy of Kahlil Gibran's words from The Prophet, brought to us by HP reader, Soul Therapy:

    "When love beckons to you, follow him,
    Though his ways are hard and steep.
    And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
    Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
    And when he speaks to you believe in him,
    Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

    All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart."

  6. Summary: "Perhaps we can lay aside the things that seem to intrude upon our hearts, allowing our communication to focus on what helps us flourish as friends. Would you like that? Let's make a list of categories we want to delete, like politics. What would you like to add?"
  7. If you've got this far, bravo. If you haven't, bravo. You are in good company, as you will see below. For now, you gave it the old college try. Bless yourself. Forgive yourself. Bless the other, forgive them, too. Most friendships are seasonal. You are simply meeting at different levels. When the time comes, like the old caterpillar skin, they must be shed in order that room is made for the enduring ones, that rare breed that stands the test of time, that "hangs in" regardless differences of politics, religion, and other such opinions. Criticism has nothing to do with the basement level of humane interaction, for they are but opinions, living in the head, playing themselves out through our little monkey minds.
  8. Take a peek at what HP reader David had to say last week that applies to your situation, and what once lived:

    "What you describe in all of these instances are loving, giving hearts. Souls who take the time and dedicate the energy to loving others, and are not too shy to let it show. There is the other side as well, of course ... our willingness to accept and to recognize the gift they are freely giving to us. Then we can pass it along, of course, amplified by our own energy and ability to lift others. But without that willingness to hold what they have given us in the moment, see its light and feel its warmth, the fire will fade in the dark, and our spirits die in the cold.

    Some might say they don't have the strength or energy to love in this way. You show us that when we love this way, when others give us that strength and guidance. Our work, and it is our only true work, is to pass it along to those we meet and love, not only those we know."

  9. Don't take conflict personally. It's only personal to monkey mind. Each of you is doing your best, given wherever you are on your path, and breadth/depth of perception. Return to the warmth of your own hearth, your heart, and revive your relationship with this treasure that you are, and your good intent.
  10. Call it good, and Very Good. You are on your way, into "Loving it like it is."

To be continued ... Next week, we will continue the conversation, looking for clues from nature. We've got a great instructor making a guest appearance! Stay tuned.

Let me hear from you and your musings on relationship meltdowns, and their repair, as well as attitudes, solutions, and role-modeling which have aided you. Any support for writer kate is appreciated. I'm listening.

Become A Fan and be notified when updates are posted. For more material on this thing called love, please drop by for a visit to my personal blog and website where you will find The Love Project, and access to materials of interest. Check out "The Audacity of Love" beginning June 15th, there.
Thank you for bearing with me during the construction of this site!
For those who want a deeper homecoming with what matters to your heart and soul, stay tuned for the new program "Coming Home to Yourself." Consider yourself invited to a new teleconference series on this same subject after Labor Day, 2010. Follow Dr. Cara Barker on Twitter: