Why Some Relationships Can’t Be Fixed

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    135 people had breakthroughs this week. Will the next one be you?

    Two things for you to think about

    All relationships require work. Good relationships get better with work. Bad relationships need constant work just to stay the same.

    Sometimes it can be the constant desire to “fix things” that is breaking them in the first place.

    Reflect: Then consider sharing this thought with others.

    Two things for you to ask yourself

    Are you stuck in a bad relationship? It can be a friendship that’s always in crisis, a family relationship that is always causing drama, or a romantic relationship that never seems to quite heal.

    If so, what’s the pattern? What’s getting broken repeatedly and who is doing the fixing repeatedly?

    Recommended: Use these as journaling prompts for the week.

    One thing for you to try this week

    Stop feeling compelled to fix other people or their problems. It may feel cold or heartless at first, but simply allow the people in your life to take responsibility for their own problems. Then see what happens.

    Remember: Small changes lead to lasting breakthroughs. Reply to this email and let me know how it went for you.

    Last week’s breakthroughs

    In last week’s newsletter, I distinguished between narcissism and confidence. This clearly hit a nerve, as hundreds of you replied with comments, stories, and breakthroughs. A few of them are below.

    First, in response to my prompt to build genuine confidence by admitting the possibility that you may be wrong, an admission from Natalia:

    Recently my whole belief that life is about accomplishing things is crumbling. I’ve been very confident in my ability to constantly endure lots of stress and achieve more things in a shorter amount of time than most people. But now at 31, my health is getting worse because of it and my relationships suffer. I’ve come to realize that maybe the people I have looked down upon as underachievers had something important figured out (and my ego didn’t even let me consider that possibility).

    Mohamed, a university teacher, not only admitted to his students that he was wrong, he apologized:

    Last week, I blew up in class because the students I’m teaching had issues with attendance, participation and attention. I decided to use my authority to force the students to ‘shape up.’ I threatened to give withdrawal grades to some students, to be very strict with marking the tests and assignments, and to be serious in class.

    Despite the fact that I managed to restore order to some extent, I ended up feeling emotionally depleted. I knew deep inside that I was wrong. I knew that my borrowed strength had built weakness in my relationship with the students, as although they were outwardly submissive, they were inwardly rebellious.

    This week, I decided to apologize to the class. I told them that I overreacted and that I was wrong. Then I proceeded to discuss the classroom issues in a more constructive way. I felt that the students were more ready to listen as the emotional gap between us was closed after my apology.

    Many readers supplied their experience of how narcissism can look like confidence to unconfident people. Here’s Jeff sharing how recognising the difference saved his sanity:

    This past year I had to take a crash course in figuring out the difference between narcissism and confidence. A few years back I went into business with a good friend. I always thought they were confident and it’d help our business. Over time I realized that they were actually a narcissist and it started to have long-term mental health issues for me. I went on antidepressants, my view of reality became warped, and all because narcissists have a way of leeching off of your life energy and making you feel crazy.

    I finally made one of the hardest decisions of my life and ended my friendship and my business with them. I literally walked away from all of it. My whole ecosystem disappeared in a day and six months later I can honestly say it was the best decision I ever made. I feel sane again, I have a newfound confidence that has made me more aware of how destructive a narcissist can be.

    I’ve found true confidence is the ability to simply walk away from something that you know deep down is unhealthy. I always had a knot in my stomach knowing I was involved with a narcissist yet I pretended I was wrong. I had to blow it all up to reclaim my sanity and I wish I would’ve done it sooner.

    Last but not least, I heard from Andrea who candidly reflected on her relationship with narcissism:

    I think my path to narcissism began the moment I started thinking […] I was the most hurt person in the room, so I deserved the most attention. Safe to say, it didn’t go well. I was trying to make up for the lack of connection I felt to others, and in the process of trying to get everyone’s attention, I lost sight of the fact that to connect to others you have to listen to them and see them as they are. This, in the end, pushed people further away.

    Confidence is not just thinking that you can do whatever. It’s the peace to know yourself, and know that whether you do great, or fuck up and face the consequences, it will not make a difference to how valuable you feel as a person and how you see yourself. When you are a narcissist who craves that attention from outside, nothing will ever be enough.

    I think the only thing that narcissism did for me was isolate me more from others, and make me invisible to myself.

    What Andrea describes above, is what I call “vulnerable narcissism” and is slightly different from what we traditionally think of when we think of a narcissistic person.

    Whereas a grandiose narcissist falsely believes they are life’s biggest winner, therefore they deserve the most love and attention, a vulnerable narcissist falsely believes they are life’s biggest victim, therefore they deserve the most love and attention. Opposite reasoning—same shitty result.

    As always, send your breakthroughs by simply replying to this email. Let me know if you’d prefer to remain anonymous.

    Until next week,

    Mark Manson

    #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
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