What do you owe and to whom?

Have you ever lost yourself in a relationship? I mean lost yourself in a way that you or people who know you don’t recognize. Where you look in the mirror, or someone says, “Who are you because you’re not the person that I know.” We have all been in relationships that don’t work. And the reasons that we stay are as numerous as we are.

I’ve been friends with Samantha (not her real name) for many years. As the years went by and I developed other friendships I realized that Samantha wasn’t the kind of friend that I wanted. Samantha always had a dig followed by smile or denial. “You look nice but it would be better if you wore different shoes.” Why was I still friends with her? I wondered. I agonized over this friendship for over a year. I’m a loyal person and though Samantha could be mean, she also had been there for me at times when I needed her. She stepped into my life at the right moment and I couldn’t imagine asking her to leave.

What do you owe and to whom?

Someone said this to me and a light bulb went off. What do I owe Samantha? And what do I owe myself? I realized that I didn’t owe her anything. I voiced my concerns and problems about our friendship many times and in many different ways throughout the years. I felt like I was hitting my head against the same brick wall.  I had been a good friend to her as she had been there when I needed her. I didn’t owe her anything.

But I owed something to myself. I owed it to myself to stop protecting myself from her slights and digs. I owed myself the relief of not emotionally preparing myself to see her because I knew that in some way it would not feel good to me. The freedom that came with the decision was powerful. I typically am nervous before having an uncomfortable conversation with someone I care about. But this time was different. This time I had no nervousness, anxiety, or doubt. Only the clarity and certainty that I was making the best decision for myself. As soon as the conversation ended, as soon as our friendship ended I felt pure freedom, lightness, and joy.

I could feel shame or embarrassment that I stayed in this friendship for so long. But I don’t; I’m not shameful. It took me a year of thinking and talking and feeling before I came to the decision that I needed to end this friendship. That time and process gave me complete confidence and clarity in leaving rather than shame that I stayed for so long.

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