What We Accept, We Teach

Are you in a situation that makes you unhappy? Have you tried everything to make it better but nothing's worked? Are you staying because it seems too daunting to leave?

We often think an unhealthy, unhappy situation only affects us. No, it's affecting everyone around us. We're teaching them THIS is what a relationship looks like. THIS is how people treat each other. THIS is what life looks like ... people suffer but don't do anything to change things for the better.

I remember one deeply unhappy woman who told me, "When I got married, I took vows for 'better or worse.' Well, this is definitely worse, but I'm a Catholic and no one in our family has ever gotten a divorce, so I'm stuck. It is what it is."

We may think we’re doing the “right thing” by staying in a situation where we’re deeply unhappy.

We’re taught that winners never quit.

We're taught to keep our commitments – for better or for worse.

So, we stay.

We stay in a job we hate to "pay the bills."

We stay on boards and committees with non-stop in-fighting because “it is what it is.”

We stay in a toxic marriage “for the kids.”

The thing is, when we’re deeply unhappy, we’re affecting the people around us, whether we intend to or not.

We have to ask ourselves, “What am I teaching by staying?”

Am I teaching my kids that THIS is what marriage looks like? Two adults who don’t even like each other? Who bicker and co-exist in a loveless relationship?

Am I modeling that this is what a career looks like? Sacrificing decades of our life at a soul-sucking job to provide for our family? If you ask the kids in those families what they want, they’ll often say “We don’t want you working all the time and coming home exhausted and angry every night. We want you to be happy.”

Am I teaching that this is what it means to be on a committee or board? People jockeying for position, embroiled in personality conflicts, spinning their wheels and not getting anything done or making a positive difference?

Am I modeling that the “responsible, right thing to do” is to stay in an unhealthy, unproductive situation even when it’s not adding value?

Wouldn’t it be better to model it's our responsibility to create a healthy, happy life?

Wouldn’t it be better to be teach - that if nothing we've tried has improved a situation - we find/create something better so we’re honoring the time we have left?

Wouldn’t it be better to demonstrate wisdom by leaving a consistently abusive relationship and seeking one where the people involved treat each other with respect?

Isn’t that what we all want, need and deserve?

Isn’t that what we want to teach?

Isn’t that what we want for our loved ones and what they want for us?

Happiness sets up a ripple effect. So does unhappiness.

What ripple effects are you setting in motion?

If you won’t replace a toxic situation with something more positive for yourself, will you do it for the people who are watching and learning from your example?

Please note: I’m not suggesting we act impulsively or irresponsibly. I understand there are circumstances where we do what we don't want for a certain amount of time because it serves a greater good. What I'm suggesting is we stop waiting for things to get better and start initiating sto make them better ... now, not someday.

One day or Day One. You decide.

(And if you're in a toxic relationship that is causing the unhappiness, you might find this article helpful. It has questions to help you decide if you're dealing with a toxic 5%er who is not motivated to change because they want CONTROL, not cooperation.)