Is there a relationship in your life that always gives you lemons? Learn to make lemonade, even in the toughest situations.
We all run into relationships that test us – those difficult ones that really force us to grow or be goaded.
The easiest solution is to let that relationship go.
But in the toughest situations, that’s just not possible.
Today I’m coming from a very personal space. I’ve been dealing with the shifting, and sometimes turbulent, dynamics of a divorce.
You see, I may not want a marriage with my ex-husband anymore – but I do want a friendship. I really have to say, most of the time, I think we achieve that well. I run businesses with my ex-husband, I co-parent with my ex-husband, and most of the time, I get along with him, too.
Because it’s important to me.
But the challenge is in making and keeping agreements, a sort of standard of conduct, that helps us create an environment of peaceful living at work and at home.
We’re re-learning each other’s boundaries now that the entire relationship dynamics in our family are inevitably changing.
But when there’s a pattern of unwillingness to respect the core agreement you made as a family, and in my case as business partners, that’s when the relationship gets really tricky.
We need to be able to hold each other accountable – without making each other the target.
Both people need to stop making it about the other person and start asking themselves the hard questions.
It’s about asking yourself: What can I do to make peace within myself, so I can then extend it outward, even in the toughest situations?
And then … there are the moments when one person just isn’t there yet.
So let’s talk about all scenarios.
How do we deal with difficult relationships?
And how do we navigate them with grace – even when we lose our cool?
How To Deal With Difficult People: Part 1
“Set & Protect Your Boundaries”
Forming an Agreement
The first step to navigating a difficult relationship is to establish clear and firm boundaries. For me, that looked like creating a verbal and written agreement with my ex-husband about how we would work as co-parents and business partners.
I cannot stress this enough: Write it down – the more specific, the better.
It also has to be mutually agreed upon, so both people are comfortable with it. Or else it will never produce the peaceful environment you want.
Of course, in the future it might shift or evolve as new people come into our lives, but the core agreement – doing what’s best for our children’s well-being and the financial future of our businesses – those things can never be renegotiated.
For example, we agreed on specific promises and values:
- We agreed to always do what’s best for our children, which means building a respectful friendship and partnership.
- We agreed to do what’s best for the business, so we could provide a financial future for ourselves and our children.
- We agreed that no new relationships had a place in our family until the wounds had healed between all of us.
- We agreed to limit our conversations to what was best for our children and our businesses.
- We agreed to do our best to support each other in moving on.
Of course, this all looks great on paper and sounds easy enough – until someone threatens the agreement.
Sticking to the Agreement
Once you have a written agreement, then comes the tough part. You have to stick to the agreement, and more importantly, you have to trust that the other person will, too.
That’s why I recommend being as factual and neutral as possible. Respect each other by sticking to the facts and leaving opinions and reactions out of it.
That doesn’t mean you can’t raise concerns or talk about sensitive subjects. You’re not tip-toeing around each other.
The goal is to create a space where you can discuss important decisions and even share your feelings in a healthy, productive way. If both people are committed, you can do that without having a hurtful argument, even in emotionally charged situations.
However, everyone hits a bump every once in a while. Maybe they break the agreement in either a big or small way. Then maybe you do, too.
What do you do then?
When the Agreement Is Broken
When emotions have taken over, and nerves are being tested, this is where boundaries have to be enforced. Firmly remind the other person of what you both agreed on, and ideally, your boundaries should be respected.
In the case they’re not, the challenge is holding your ground, holding your space. Unfortunately, when you hold your ground and maintain a boundary, the other person might react by blaming or attacking you for the situation they created. It’s a very common and human reaction.
All you have to do is hold onto the truth. Stay in your peace. Forgive their human moment. Do whatever you need to make sure you’re not goaded into an argument.
It’s harder than it sounds. Trust me. When you have someone who is trying to use old, hurtful tactics that never worked in your marriage in the new friendship you’re trying to establish, it’s very tempting to go down that road, too.
You have to remind yourself: You already did this, and it didn’t work. In fact, it never works.
Recognize that the other person is having an emotional reaction not a rational response.
All these principles that I talk about really do show up in my life every day, especially if I’m struggling. So whenever you can, choose to stay in your power – even if the agreement is broken.
But when you can’t, well I’ve got some tools for those moments, too. Because we all have them.
When You React, Too
You will never hear me say I’m perfect. In fact, I don’t even want to be perfect because I know it’s impossible.
Do I struggle in moments like these? Yes, I do.
Do I raise my voice sometimes? Yes, I do.
Do I get pissed when the agreement is broken? Of course, I do.
I am not always successful at being responsive.
I’m not always peaceful and centered and kind.
I’m not always a lot of things.
And I’m not afraid to be honest about it, either. I struggle. I do not always get it right, or say the nice thing, or find the higher ground. If anyone thinks I’m afraid of having my imperfections magnified, I’m not.
I have to be honest with myself because that’s what holds me in my power.
Yes, I make mistakes.
But it doesn’t last long before I realize that’s not who I want to be. And then I work to mitigate it within myself.
I double-down, triple-down, quadruple-down and 10x my practice until I’m consistently showing up as the person I want to be.
Along the way I give myself grace. Because building a friendship out of an unsuccessful marriage is not easy. Or fast.
But I do trust that it’s doable, and the pros far outweigh the cons. So I do it. I entered into something that I knew would require my very best.
Most of the time, I’m pretty successful. When I’m not, I give myself grace.
Then I get to work.
What does that work look like? Check out Part 2 of this blog: 3 Tools For When You Lose Your Cool.
Need More Than 3 Tools?
I’ve been working on this practice for over 20 years, and I’ve learned quite a few tools, techniques and mindsets along the way.
I share all my best strategies for navigating life’s toughest moments inside of my membership community. You can even find a video course on this exact topic that includes everything you need for self-discovery and empowered action.
All you have to do is show up for the journey.
Learn more about the Iconic Woman Course.