*Part I of Two Articles about Confrontation and Reconciliation
Come on brother take a ride with me. Something’s got to give between us you see. Either way we’ll speak or fight it on out. ‘Cause this old blood runs far from thin. Thicker than the water we’re drowning in. There’s room for two here to swing or bury old blades.’
Chuck Ragan– Come AroundLike us if you are enjoying this content.
Confrontation: Relationships Gone Wrong
Relationships are like puppies. They’re super cute and fun to play with, and nothing’s better than when another living creature wriggles with ecstasy the second you walk in the door. But sometimes they pee on your bed, and for about 30 minutes, you don’t like them so much.
And they require work. You have to walk ‘em and feed ‘em and pay for their shots.
Friendships and marriage are the same way. A lot of the time they’re awesome, but every now and then, someone pees on your bed.
This is when you have to begin the work of confrontation. Like vaccines, when administered properly, confrontation makes your relationship less susceptible to illness in the future. But, also like vaccines, it’s no fun. No one likes to have to be an adult and do things like paying the mortgage, keeping from spending money you don’t have and certainly confronting people. But that’s life. If someone you’re in a relationship with hurts, offends or wrongs you, you have a duty to the health of the relationship to address that.
So how do you come back from that– from betrayal and despair and hurt?
Someone you trusted has taken advantage of you, and you feel you have every right to hold it against them forever. On the flipside, part of you also wants to ignore the whole mess and go back to the way things were.
You can’t hold on to bitterness forever. That’s like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Bitterness and resentment are only productive in that they derail us from growing in Christ and moving on with our lives. Dr. David Schnarch of the Marriage & Family Health Center in Colorado calls it becoming “emotionally fused.” You sink so many powerful emotions into another person you can’t separate from them, creating bonds that keep you from moving beyond where you are now.
But neither can you just pretend like nothing happened. If you value your relationship and want it to be a source of happiness and support, you must address its weaknesses.
This Means NOT Doing Any of the Following:
1. Becoming passive aggressive because you think they should just notice you’re mad.
2. Seeking revenge/retaliating.
3. Waiting until “the opportune moment,” and never bringing it up– this kind of avoidant behavior just drags things out and increases the hurt. There are no good times for confrontation only better ones.
4. Embarrassing them in public by bringing up what they did– that’s just aggressive and sadistic.
1. Find or set a time (ask them to get lunch, coffee, swing by your/their place) to sit down and hash this out.
2. Consider preparing a letter or note cards so you can say exactly what you want to say. This is helpful when all that emotional stress wipes your brain cleaner than Martha Stewart’s kitchen counter.
3. Remain calm. Avoid aggression or shouting. If you start crying, well, there’s not helping that; but the goal is to present your feelings in a way that does not make the other person feel like you’re attacking them.
It’s essential you have your heart in the right place so the confrontation comes from a place of love and understanding. We’ve all hurt other people (intentionally and unintentionally). If you think the other person hurt you without meaning to, your discussion will be more productive and less painful if you approach it with that mindset. This will help you gain traction toward the reconciliation you are pursuing.
Just level with them and say, “I don’t think you realize how hurtful/offensive it is when you do “X.” It hurts/offends me because “Y,” and I’d appreciate it if you’d avoid doing it in the future.” Remember, it takes one to forgive and two to reconcile.
There were two sisters living together in college. They got along well even though they were pretty different, but they had their spats just like everyone else. Once, they were driving back to the house and went over a set of speed bumps, like they’d done hundreds of times. The younger sister exploded from the passenger seat at the elder, “I hate when you drive my side of the car over the speed bumps! I just think it’s so inconsiderate when the driver keeps their side of the car on the road and forces the other person to be bumped!”
The older sister had no idea she felt this way, and after a few awkward minutes, agreed to avoid driving her sister’s side of the vehicle over the bumps in the future. Sure, after that she’d do it every now and then because she either wasn’t thinking and did it by accident or wanted to get on her sister’s nerves (as a joke, not in retaliation), but she avoided it most of the time because she could tell how much it bothered her.
And even now, a few years down the road, they joke sometimes about how enraged the younger sister became over something as inconsequential as speed bumps.
The point of this charming collegiate anecdote is to illustrate that confrontation is a necessary, healthy part of relationships. While this may not have been the best method of approaching it, some good did come of it. And, as the confronted party, the older sister appreciated that her sister told her she was doing something bothersome so she could avoid doing it in the future. No one wants to hurt their loved ones, even if they’re doing it unintentionally.
Remember– if they genuinely care about your feelings and the relationship you have, they will be receptive to what you have to say. They may not seem that way immediately, but if they care, they’ll come around.
What if They Don’t See it Your Way?
This is an uncomfortable place to be. You put yourself in a vulnerable place and were met with hostility. Thoughts and feelings start trampling over each other, “Am I wrong? Is this not that big a deal? Have I ruined our relationship?”
If you have taken the time to reasonably assess your feelings and prepare to discuss them with another person, it’s unlikely you’re the one in the wrong. After all, whatever happened was significant enough that you decided to address it with someone else.
Listen to what they have to say. Why do they think you’re wrong? Do their arguments hold weight or are they gaslighting you? “Gaslighting” is a term derived from the 1940s film Gaslight (based on the play Angel Street) in which a husband uses various deceptions to convince his wife she’s crazy so she won’t be believed when she reports strange things that are actually happening. 1
Gaslighting usually takes the form of dismissive utterances such as, “You’re so sensitive. You’re so emotional. You’re defensive. You’re overreacting. Calm down. Relax. Stop freaking out! You’re crazy! I was just joking, don’t you have a sense of humor? You’re so dramatic. Just get over it already!” 2 Rather than acknowledging the possibility their behavior is inappropriate, gaslighters emotionally manipulate those they are offending by telling them they’re out of line for suggesting they should change their behavior.
If this is the case, you have a couple options. Try to get the person to hear you out. If they refuse, it might be time to cut your losses and move on without them. It’s almost impossible to have a healthy relationship with someone who takes advantage of you by refusing to consider your concerns.
If that is not ideal/possible, consider seeking Christian counseling for a third-party perspective and to help sort out your own feelings so you don’t succumb to further temptation yourself. As it says in Galatians 6:1, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual restore them gently, but watch yourselves or you also may be tempted”. Odds are they’re going to be reluctant to agree since they don’t seem to think their behavior is a problem. If necessary, attend a session alone to ask for advice about how to persuade them to go. Your counselor may be able to help you find a more productive way of communicating with the other person about your grievances.
You may feel as if you’re being unreasonable, expecting someone else to change for you. But there’s a difference between differing political opinions and hurtful behavior. Sometimes you should just agree to disagree, while other times you need to stand your ground. People are entitled to their opinions; they are not entitled to hurt others.
2. Ali, Yashar. “A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not ‘Crazy’.”
Images cc: freedigitalphotos.com – “Brother Yelling To Sister” by artur84