The Race and When to Stop

After the last post, two close friends of mine reached out to me, one asking for a clarification and the other asking for next steps. I felt like the answers I gave them might be useful to us all. The summary of the article is that love must be racing to the back of the line (aka sacrificial but only if reciprocated) and that everything everyone does makes perfect sense to them.

The first question: What does it mean to “race to the back of the line”?

Like I mentioned, those two lessons were gleaned from sermons. Without getting too theological, the central idea of the sermon is that you have been called to love as Christ has loved you, which means sacrificially, with everything you have. Within the context of relationships this means putting the other person’s needs before yours, with a huge caveat of only if you expect that the same will be done to you. When you begin that cycle of sacrificial giving, you realize that no form of hurt is long lasting, most of your needs end up fulfilled without you asking, you feel safe, valued, desired. As such, your commitment to returning those emotions is increased, disappointment is temporary and rare, communication is easier and less confrontational, because you know through actions and words that the people around you are truly committed to seeing the best version of you. This is what Andy Stanley termed as racing to the back of the line.

The second question: When do you know when to stop racing to the back?

This question shocked me a little. As someone who spends time reading about human interaction and maintaining healthy relationships, I have never taken the time to write down the process I go through. The important disclaimer of the race to the back is that there is probable cause to believe the other person is aware and is racing with you. Inadvertently, some relationships have expiry dates, and these next few steps should help navigate such situations.

If you are thinking about ending a relationship (friend or romantic) odds are you are already feeling that the other person is no longer racing to the back of the line for you. This could be for multiple reasons, it could be they are incapable of doing so, they no longer want to, they cannot love you in the ways you want to be loved or they just forgot to be intentional. If these thoughts are weighing on your mind, these are the steps I recommend you take:

  1. Introspect, often times we do not understand why we feel what we feel.
    • Why are you feeling like the relationship needs to end?
    • What are the pain points?
    • Name the specific emotions you feel towards the person and situation. Is it pain, hurt, neglect, jealousy, abandonment? The what and why are important.
    • When you have a clear idea of the problem, you then need to answer is what is your ideal resolution and what is the barest minimum resolution you are willing to settle for?
    • Once you have synthesized your points, you are better equipped to not only truly identify if the problem is a personal problem (i.e. you are projecting), or a relationship problem. If the relationship is the issue continue to step two.
  2. Communicate the problem with the other person.
    • Using the answers from the first question, communicate clearly what the problems are and be ready to listen to the response. There are two disclaimers here, you must be ready to receive backlash and you must also be ready to be vulnerable.
    • I personally prefer this format: You said/did (blank) to me. This made me feel (blank). I would like for us to address this so that we can avoid this in the future. (Find some more guidance here)
  3. Listen, truly LISTEN, to what the other person has to say, I’ve found that often it is a miscommunication, or misunderstanding. Ask clarifying questions.
  4. Create a game plan on how to improve or restore your relationship. This is the step for apologies, but that is not enough (knowing all the parties’ apology language can be very helpful).
    • Outline the next steps to avoid a recurrence.
    • Both parties should ideally have action points.
    • Set a date to review the relationship goals you’ve set
    • Make sure the goals are realistic, actionable and timebound.
  5. The last step is to assess and decide. After the time elapses, it is important that all parties give an honest assessment of the work that has been done. At this point, if the progress is satisfactory, the you can set more goals for the future, or continue on with your new normal. If progress has not been made, then you can choose to go through the steps again, digging deeper or end the relationship.

If you decide on the latter, hopefully leave the relationship with a sense of closure and satisfaction that you did what you could. Even if you don’t feel resolved, you might owe it to yourself to enforce your boundaries and re-evaluate the type behavior you accept and want in your life.

Relationships are hard, maintaining good and healthy relationships can even be harder, but it should be the kind of hard that is worth it. Sometimes they don’t work out and it does not have to be catastrophic, it can just be. Once again, I wish you all the best as you attempt to race to the back, and as you resolve your conflicts and outgrow your relationships.

Till next time.

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