I have determined that there are two kinds of people in this world; those who have an internal warning system that goes off about 10 feet before they have reached the limit of what is appropriate in personal interactions and those who depend on repeated and forceful external indications that they have reached that limit. The shrinking violet will sleep on a sofa without pulling it out or taking any of the cushions off. The immovable force rearranges the furniture in a hotel room. The first type thinks that she can get along with anyone because she always goes along with everyone. The second type’s philosophy is that you can and should ask for what you want because people can always say no. The irony of life is that these two kinds of people inevitably end up together. The reason they are bound to find each other either as spouses, relatives or co-workers is that they both need each other to bring out the best in them. One has to learn that you cannot live a life of integrity if you think you can please everyone you meet. At some point you end up lying to yourself or to someone else. The other has to learn that you cannot put the burden of limit setting on others, that there is virtue in being selfless and considerate. Both suffer from diseases of the ego.
Come to think of it, the ego is the culprit in almost all cases of our pain and suffering. It is what gets hurt when we don’t get our way or when we feel slighted. But it is also what stops us from saying no and setting limits. It seems almost paradoxical, but sometimes we go along with unreasonable expectations so that we don’t have to deal with assaults on our self by those who will push and demand.
I really believe that we are put in each other’s path for a reason. Each of us has to learn something different. Even the most toxic and painful relationships end up teaching us something about ourselves. I spent years in a challenging relationship with a person very close to me. When she passed on, a friend wrote to give her condolences. Her note said: I am a better person for having known her. My first thought was, I wish I could say the same thing. My second thought was, I am. If not for her, I would not have realized that the biggest lie I had ever told was that I could make everyone happy all the time. She taught me how to say no, gently but firmly. I learned that I am capable of forgiving. Those are huge lessons and I would not have learned them if our worlds had not collided.