The Line


There is an invisible line that runs between two people, in all relationships. Whether it be a business relationship, a romantic relationship, a family relationship, or otherwise. A connection is made, whether temporary, superficial or long term. If a line is crossed, the connection becomes broken, blurred or damaged.

Where is this line and how is it determined? This is the very question I have asked myself this week, after a series of line crossers took place. Here is one example.
Three potential tenants contacted me, responding to an ad, for an apartment for rent. Emails and phone calls were exchanged. Appointments were made, specifying the exact date, time and location to meet, to show the unit. It was requested that if that appointment could not be kept, to please advise me at least one hour prior.

I scheduled my day to accommodate the appointments, arriving early, on a Saturday afternoon. I showed the first set of potential tenants – they were great. I then receive a text, minutes before the next appointment, cancelling because they were busy and couldn’t make it.

I then waited until the next appointment time. Waiting, after the scheduled time, I realize that they may not be showing up, as well. I email the individual back and immediately receive a message. Two things were apparently keeping them for being there – their phone died and they were stuck at another commitment.

At the moment of receiving both the ‘cancellation’ text and ‘sorry I missed it’ email, lines were crossed. I realized I had two choices: continue to deal with these individuals, to attempt to schedule other viewings, or not. I have come to realize that the correct response for me, in both of these cases, was the second choice.

Time and time again, when I have given someone a second or third chance, it has come to bite me. I have ended up regretting it, stating that I saw red flags from the beginning and realized that I should have paid better attention when the first ‘message’ from them was received.

The line means that I have a set of clearly established guidelines of which to do business relationships or personal relationships. When someone crosses the line, I draw conclusions. Sometimes, the conclusion is that I am being disrespected. Sometimes it is that the person is not organized or is inefficient. Sometimes it means that there was a perfectly rational explanation for their behaviour and I should learn to lighten up.

The problem is that it is often difficult to tell which conclusion to draw. When we have been disappointed by people, over and over again, we tend to become sceptical, suspicious and overly cautious about what to allow from others. People send us ‘messages’ about how they will treat us or how they will act, in the future. We must pay attention to the messages.

Sometimes, our conclusions are based on the fact that we have been burned before, by allowing ourselves to trust people. In these particular potential tenants’ cases, I wished them well in their search and decided that I would not be proceeding any further with them. I surmised that it may have been the start to an endless stream of excuses as to why rent is late or why the unit is damaged or why they simply could not get their garbage to the curb on time…again.

When it comes to more intimate or deeply personal relationships, in our immediate circle, we tend to allow people to cross back and forth over the line, much too often, because we have hope that things can actually change or get better. It also means that we are much more disappointed and hurt each time they let us down.
I guess the key is that we must be aware of our line. We must decide what our tolerance threshold is and what we are prepared to do about it. We must figure out when and why we are giving our power away. Since we can’t change anyone else on this planet, all we can do is figure out what we need to change about ourselves or our behaviour.

This process can be frustrating and sobering because we need to constantly adjust our sails when dealing with people who we might label as ‘challenging’ or ‘difficult’. This process can also be exhausting. Either the person will get it or they won’t, but at least they won’t drag us down with them.

Perhaps it is time that we vent, let go of any anger, allow the individual to experience the consequences of their choices or actions, while being as healthy as we can, in the meantime. Either that, or we can continue to be infuriated and miserable with people.
What do we need to do differently, when dealing with challenging relationships? Once we answer this and take action, we get our power back.

‘Whatever you are willing to put up with, is exactly what you will have.’ ~ Anonymous

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