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Doing “The Work” In Relationships

Last updated on October 18, 2022

My mother, brother, sister, and I all went to Burning Man together. Sometimes this shocks people, but for our family it makes sense. I grew up in a family that valued close relationships.

That is why it cut so deeply when I felt like I was being labeled as the black sheep at family affairs. It didn’t surprise me exactly. I’ll admit I have never been afraid to stand up for things that are important to me and be a voice of passion for those who might not have one. I am not afraid to go against the grain or question the status quo. That’s just who I am.

I’ve also taken the road less traveled. While all of my siblings followed their dreams to start their own businesses and pursue their passions, I gave up my lucrative career as a realtor to travel the world. I abandoned the career where I made $170K working only 5 months of the year to, instead, pour all of my savings into my inner work and personal development, get certified as a Master Life Coach, and study with some of the greatest teachers of our time.

No matter how much I love the path I have walked, I can’t say that it’s been easy to accept how living my truth has caused cracks to form in some of my most important relationships.

Take this past year for example. I sat alone on my birthday and New Year’s, eating a cake by myself while family who I was once super close with celebrated, just a five-minute drive away. My texts and calls have gone ignored, even though they contained pleas for peace and conversation. I’ve even been left out of a large family party, spending the weekend alone while all of my family flew into my city to celebrate.

I know how excruciatingly painful it can be to be on the outs in the relationships that are so central and important in this lifetime. Our families are some of the most significant influences on our early childhood conditioning.

Parents teach us everything: how to take care of ourselves, how trusting we can be with allowing our needs to be met, how to treat others in relationships, and even our core values. Siblings can pave or block the way of our own path. They can be role models or our harshest critics. They can be our best friends or our biggest bullies. And sometimes they can be all of these things rolled into one.

But no matter how frustrating, irritating, or triggering our family can be…I also believe they are our greatest gift.

A Wiser Response to Difficult Family Dynamics

A big mistake I see a lot of people make is cutting all their family members off in the name of holding strong boundaries. I’m a big believer in powerful boundaries, but cutting someone off completely doesn’t address the grief, pain, anger, disappointment, or any of the other feelings that will linger despite those people being blocked and deleted.

What you can control is YOU. You are your own responsibility, and there are some serious lessons to be learned in the triggers your family sets off.

No matter how frustrating, irritating, or triggering our family can be…I also believe they are our greatest gift.

One caveat is knowing when something is a trigger versus when someone crosses your boundaries. 

A trigger is an immediate emotional reaction (i.e. someone does something that activates an intense feeling within, and you immediately do something back). Within a boundary, there is more space. There’s an awareness that whatever is happening doesn’t feel okay, and you need to draw a line or remove yourself from that situation.

My approach, and the one I use with clients, is in taking 100% responsibility for my internal experience. Bringing awareness to my reactions when a trigger hits, I do my best to breathe through it while I notice and collect data of what’s coming up for me. I then break it down in the moment—what feelings, thoughts, and sensations arise—to then be worked on and worked through later. 

Based on the intensity of the triggers and the willingness of the other people involved to explore the dynamic, boundaries can be set to properly honor the process of healing.

It’s not your job to change anyone else (thankfully, because… mission impossible). However, it is your job to extract what you can learn from all life’s circumstances and use that wisdom to become a better person.

In fact, the best way to “change” someone else is to question yourself and how you exchange energy with them. For example, if someone says something that bothers you, you can make inquiries like:  “Is what they are saying true? How do I react when I believe it? Are these feelings familiar?” Then stay curious and explore other times where a similar response has come up.

More often than not you’ll realize that the intensity of the weight doesn’t simply stem from this one interaction. Chances are that its roots will lead you back to a totally different (but similar) scenario. The beauty of this gift is that as you bring awareness and acceptance to it, the trigger dissolves, and life doesn’t have to replay the same patterns.

Break Free From the Cycle

This is the process I have used for the past year (yes, sometimes it does take that long) to free up the energy I’ve held stored in my body. I have felt anger, frustration, sadness, grief, righteousness, hope, relief, and acceptance. With every emotion, I’ve had to lean in before I could move through it, and there was no skipping steps along the way.

However, I’m now at such a place of peace, where I can truly accept where my relationships are at, pour energy into the ones that are serving me, and wish the wholehearted best for those who aren’t currently a large presence in my life. 

optimistic woman on swing at sunset

There is no shutting out, shutting down, or ignoring. I see it as simply space that we both need to grow and evolve on our own paths. When life is ready for us to be together again, if it is ever ready, it will find a way to bring us back to each other. That is something I 100% believe to be true, and I trust it.

Here’s how to work with your triggers for your own (or your clients’) radical transformation:

  1. Bring awareness to the situation. What are your thoughts, feelings, behaviours, sensations, and beliefs that surround the scenario?
  2. Question what comes up. Ask if the judgments around it are really true and how you treat yourself (and others) when you believe these judgements. Be with whatever comes up. Give it space to B R E A T H E as it is without trying to change it. Essentially, sit with acceptance.
  3. Forgive yourself and others involved in the situation.
  4. From this more spacious place, what’s one aligned step that you can take that feels good moving forward. Is there a letter to write, a call to make, something to do? 

Editor’s Note: Want to know more about Samantha and her work? Don’t miss our interview with her here at Life Coach Magazine.

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Samantha Ruberto - Guest Author
Samantha Ruberto

Samantha Ruberto is a retired realtor turned ICF-certified Purpose Coach who has helped hundreds of women through her group programs and 1:1 containers create magnetic confidence and release imposter syndrome. She is also the host of the Hello BeYoutiful Podcast, where she shares vulnerable stories from powerful women.

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