As you move toward the center of health (if this is an undefined term for you, see article on “The Four Corners of the Relationship Grid”), your tolerance will decrease toward unhealthy people. You will have a heightened awareness of those that have not done his/her work, those that exist at the outer edges of emotional wellness. Although you might grow in your compassion for the pain and hurt they hold inside or mask with acting-out behaviors, you will choose to hang with them less and less. You will naturally drift toward folks that are more moderated, those that are self-respecting and respecting of you. In other words, when given a choice, you will opt for calm over drama, easy over hard, direct over indirect.


That being said, when starting a new relationship, how does one know if this will be a person to bring into your inner circle or is this one best left intentionally limited or worse yet, is this one that suggests an about face and a run to the hills?  


  1. Collect the Data. Like a good detective, you are on an unfolding path of discovery as to the true character of another person. Whether embarking on a friendship or a romantic partnership, the only thing that reveals the underbelly of a person’s true make-up is consistency over time. In other words, it is the behaviors and actions that a person reveals over time that will show what he/she is really made of. Given enough time and varied real-life experiences, crafted masks and impressions will be shed and the game of “come-out, come-out whoever you are” begins. In my experience, usually this revelation of truth takes about 18 months. So, no permanent decisions best be made in this initial phase of relating. And sadly, it cannot be rushed. Just trust that life will show you what you need to know and with time and patience, the truth will surface.


  2. Assess the Landscape. Now you see the person for who he/she is … an imperfect human being, with both good and not-so-good parts. You like this part, but not that part so much. As a result of this clarity, the question becomes, “now what?” How inhibiting are this person’s edges? Are they destructive and damaging or just annoying? Are they preventing you from having the relationship you would like to have with him/her? But most importantly, is this person available and responsive to how his/her character flaws impact you and the relationship and is he/she willing to own and work on his/her stuff? If you got that, you got gold. I would think twice before throwing it away.


  3. Accept or Let Go. So, now we come to the decision-tree. If this person is responsive, humble enough to own his/her issues, willing to work his/her edge toward the Circle of Health, then green light. Furthermore, if what you get from the relationship outweighs what you are not getting, then all systems are on go. You move into a space of grieving and accepting. In other words, you grieve what you are not getting (and may never get) and accept this person for who he/she is with all his/her limitations. On the other hand, if your attempts at real and honest relating are met with defensiveness, blame, control, the need to be right and/or retaliation, then this might be life’s gift to you in the shape of a warning. It is time to let this fish back into the water. Or at the very least, to curb one’s contact with a healthy boundary.

As I review these steps, I am reminded of the wise old adage of the Serenity Prayer. To change what I can, accept what I can’t and learn to distinguish which to do when.


But what about those people in our lives that we have no choice around? You know the type – Aunt Suzie, your boss, your neighbor or your customer? Next month, we will discuss survival skills to navigate the waters of these limited and at times, toxic relationships.