Don't Ignore These Common Relationship Problems

Jordan Brown

I hate to make things worse. But I've done it in the past.

There's a reaction that seems effective, but the longer you do it, the worse things usually get for your mental health.

It's ignoring a relationship problem and hoping it will go away.

It almost never works.

So when should you ignore a relationship, and when should you face reality?

Don't Ignore These Relationship Problems

Let's go through a few common scenarios that most people have experienced at least once in their lives.

The Family Member Who Hurt Your Feelings

When you grow up in close quarters with others, there are going to be times when a family member hurts your feelings, whether they meant to or not.

Maybe they made a comment about the way you look. Or maybe they don't approve of who you spend your time with. Whatever it is, it's the ones who are closest to you who can do the most harm. And that's why you shouldn't ignore the bad comments and actions of the people closest to you.

Like an open wound that never gets disinfected, comments from loved ones have the potential to fester and grow worse over time.

We're Not Only Talking About Families of Origin

I'm talking about any group of people that, because of the close-knit nature of it, could be considered a family--work, school groups, places of worship. All of these "family" units can make mistakes, which can, in turn, cut deep if let unaddressed.

Take work scenarios, for instance. Because so many people derive a lot of their value from the work they do, it can be especially difficult to tolerate hurtful remarks and actions. But, like you would with someone related to you, you must respond to the work relations in your life.

All relationships need love and attention, no matter what kind they are.

In fact, as people get older, they often spend more time with their work family than they do with their real family. Not dealing with bad blood in the work environment means that hurt feelings eventually spill over to other relationships and affect the dynamics there as well.

It's even worse if you work in a family business where family and work are mixed together. Ignoring problems in settings where multiple relationships and identities overlap can multiply the damage. Now, instead, of a localized infection, you could be dealing with wounds in multiple parts of your life.

What's the Opposite of Ignoring Relationship Problems?

So what should you do when a relationship goes sour? What's the opposite of ignoring?

It seems obvious, right? The opposite of ignoring would be confronting those who have harmed you, wouldn't it?

Not exactly.

Every situation has a narrow scope of proper actions. And sometimes harmful actions and situations do not need to be called out directly. Instead, you could lead by example. You could model good behavior. You could share a resource in an indirect way that demonstrates the point you would like to make.

When people think of taking action, they often think of aggressive, forceful action. But if you slow down to think through the choices you have, there is often a gentler way to prove a point.

You could:

  • Share a book or article that has influenced you way of thinking
  • Ask a trusted friend to help intervene as a mediator between you and another person
  • "Kill them with kindness"
  • Truly try to understand where the other person is coming from, with the hope that by knowing more about their guiding principles, you are better able to respond and work together
  • Take action by walking away from a relationship altogether (Decisive, thoughtful action is not ignoring)

The Choice Is Yours

Ultimately, the type of action you take is up to you. You're the decider in your life, remember that.

Ignoring something is passive. It's pushing the problem down the line to address later. That often makes things worse.

But deciding not to act is different than ignoring. It's making a conscious effort to choose a way forward.

As long as you're choosing, you're winning. You're voting for your mental health because you're in full and conscious control of how you respond.

Instead of burying your head in the sand, take a deep breath, look into your heart, and figure out what you need to do next.