He said, she said

Relationships, whether between friends or lovers, can be a source of joy and happiness but they can also bring stress and anxiety into your life.

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A badly-phrased sentence or something said in the heat of the moment can lead to bad feelings and result in the conversation echoing around in your head for hours or even days after the event, often the person firing hurtful words at you having forgotten what they’ve said or not even considered that what they’ve said is at all hurtful. And you will replay the events in your mind, getting angrier and angrier as the thoughts spiral out of control.

Then before you know it, you’ve sent over a sharply-worded text or email and all hell breaks lose. Is it really worth the effort?

One common concept in Buddhism is about changing yourself because you cannot change others.

In this context, what does it mean? Well, as you have probably experienced many times before, the person you’ve had an altercation with is repeating what they’ve done before (whether it’s doing something or saying something) and despite bringing the issue up in the past, it’s still recurring. So short of bashing them over the head with a bat (and this isn’t the type of site to promote such actions), what can you do?

My suggestion is to learn to control your thoughts. Naturally, it’s easier said than done, but with a bit of practice, it can help you feel better about the situation.

Here are a few things you can try next time you start to have those negative thoughts whirling around inside your head:

  • take 5 deep breaths, focusing on each breath
  • think of something that makes you happy such as a joke or a scene from a sitcom
  • sing a happy song
  • visualise sending the other person loving thoughts even if you don’t want to
  • focus on the now – practice mindful meditation and focus on whatever you are doing whilst having the negative thoughts eg washing the dishes or hanging up the clothes
  • create a plan of action to permanently change things or stop wasting your energy thinking about what was said
  • learn to treat what people say as being said with love rather than malice even if the latter is true.

With a bit of practice, it will become second nature to resort to one of the above tricks to stop you descending into the emotional pit from which nothing good comes of it.

Warning

Naturally, this advice is not to be taken if you are in a toxic relationship, the victim of domestic violence or in a friendship with someone who just “drags you down”. I would strongly advise that you seek professional help, in particular, if you’re the victim of domestic violence. Where possible, it is sometimes best to simply cut ties with the person who brings misery into your life.

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