Managing Difficult Relationships: A Gas Pedal Approach

Relationships are complex.  They can be challenging, triggering, and painful.  They can also be positive, fulfilling, and healing.  Attachment theory places importance on the relationship between a baby and their mother.  The way the baby attaches to their mother can predict how they respond to their environment in adulthood.  We are social beings that rely on others for safety and support. Before personality development or life skills, we had relationships. But relationships are not always stable.  They are not always supportive or safe. When our relationships don’t thrive, it can cause immense suffering.  

The energy of those around us has an impact on how we feel and behave.  At our core, we all want to be loved and accepted by others.  When we do not feel loved and accepted, it is only normal that we experience sadness or rejection.  Some relationships bring more sadness than others.  These relationships may be filled with dishonesty, manipulation, or conflict.  They make us question ourselves and trigger negative emotions.  We don’t feel safe in these relationships.  

It is easy to suggest to a friend or family member that they end their unhealthy relationships with others.  We see that they deserve better, and we want them to be happy.  But sometimes, we are not ready to cut people out of our lives.  The difficult relationship may be with a close family member or a lifelong friend. Cutting someone off may not be consistent with your culture or values. So, how can we manage these difficult relationships while taking care of our needs?

I recommend the gas pedal approach.  This approach requires presence and flexibility.  You are mindfully aware of your emotions and thoughts in relation to this person, and you have a strong sense of where your boundaries lie.  When this person crosses a boundary, you can choose to lay off the gas. You may even want to pump the brakes if you feel unsafe or a major boundary was crossed.  If or when you feel ready to interact with them again, you can choose to press on the gas again.  By being in tune with your emotional needs, you can be in the driver’s seat and set the tone for the relationship.  Nothing needs to be permanent.  Flexibility allows you to maintain safe and meaningful relationships, while balancing your boundaries and values.





Managing Difficult Relationships: A Gas Pedal Approach

what would that look like for you?