Do you know how to rebuild your relationships?
I lived in almost complete isolation for five years.
I know a few things about rebuilding relationships that I would like to share with you. I hope this will help you with your relationships because rebuilding can be slow and challenging.
After living in almost complete isolation from schizoaffective disorder for five years, creating solid friendships took a great deal of effort and time. During both of my episodes, I experienced a great deal of criticism: both self-criticism and criticism from others.
Criticism is the first thing you need to drop
One of the first things I had to drop was criticizing other people for their mistakes. Criticism will create a great deal of anger and difficulty for you. I had been so constantly criticized during my episodes that I had adopted this behavior towards myself and other people.
Disappointments can fuel your criticism: When friends do things that may not resonate well with you, and even when your own behavior lets you down time and time again. I tried communicating how I felt but the message just didn’t seem to get through. I’m a good communicator but for one reason or another, the negative behaviors just didn’t change.
You need to decide what you will tolerate. I briefly considered cutting off ties with some friends because of their negative behaviors. I realized that how I had been treated had worked its way into my relationships and this was influencing how I viewed my friends. Being someone who has been accustomed to continually changing and improving made it difficult to understand that this isn’t the way that others live their lives. I learned that I have to accept them for who they are.
Accept people for who they are
Learning to accept people for who they are means taking the bad with all the good that they provide. There isn’t a single perfect human being on earth so we have to be able to joke about our differences and oddities as a means of getting along better.
Other people put up with my imperfections as I have learned to put up with their behavior. It has been important for me to get some perspective and realize that the things that were once extremely frustrating weren’t worth getting worked up over.
No one is perfect
It was also helpful to see that no one is perfect and if I can deal with their flaws then they are well worth my while for all the good they will bring to my life. I realized that if I continually try to move from person to person, that’s all that I’ll ever be doing because we all have our character flaws. Some flaws are too much to put up with but most of them are acceptable and well worthwhile to deal with. Sometimes I have to put up with these flaws time and time again but that’s a part of being friends with someone. Other times it has been important to stand up for myself when something can’t be left unaddressed and other times I just let things go.
Navigate disagreements by seeing them as misunderstandings
Navigating social situations where there is disagreement taught me to always be respectful and act as though it was a misunderstanding instead of appropriating blame immediately. Doing this has allowed the other person a reason for something they may or may not have intentionally done. Having a reason like this makes them more apt to change the behavior or at least apologize because they are not being blamed and labeled as a bad person.
Most times disagreement begins as a misunderstanding
Most importantly, many times these situations were simply misunderstandings. The other person has sometimes had one thought in mind or they may have been in a difficult predicament that I was unable to see from my vantage point.
Sometimes misunderstandings grew out of a lack of communication. When I have learned what the other person’s true intentions were or saw it from their vantage point, I’ve come to realize maybe they made the best decision they could given their situation.
Never deal with conflict by text. Never.
Text messaging about important issues has lead to several arguments in my friendships. It’s such a major point that my friends and I have created a rule. Rather than text, we have agreed to leave voicemails when we need to talk about important issues. Communication just needs to be clear and concise and texting can be ambiguous and lead us to conclusions that are not intended.
Some situations just need to be avoided altogether.
Sometimes certain social situations can change the way people act, bringing out their worst qualities. For several of my friends, gambling is like this. I have friends who constantly try to take as much money from me as possible when we are gambling. I’ve learned to just not gamble with them.
Accepting each other’s faults can lead to better friendships.
Navigating social situations is never a perfect endeavor. Everyone has their faults and I had to learn to accept this in order to strengthen my friendships. Once I was able to be more accepting it put me at ease because accepting others’ faults gave me the sense that mine would also be accepted. There were certain times I had to put my foot down but I’ve kept in mind the purpose of doing so is to remain friends and just resolve an issue. Making and keeping friends can sometimes be a difficult task but forgiveness and understanding have been useful tools to ensuring that I never become isolated and friendless ever again.
Photo credit: Sierra Club WTC Group Five