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Derek S. Working through stressful relationships

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by Guest, Dec 1, 2014.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

    This question was submitted via our Ask a TMS Therapist program. To submit your question, click here.

    Hi there,

    I'm wondering the most therapeutic way to approach a friendship/business relationship I'm struggling with. I'm co-owner of a company that's in the process of expanding, and with this has came a lot of stress. The most stressful part about it is my relationship with my business partner. We were great friends before starting the company, but over the years we've grown apart. He's very pessimistic, passive aggressive, stubborn, and not capable of running the business. He does production tasks, and is very good at it, but when it comes to creatively running the company, and overall business operations, we butt heads.

    The decisions we make are 50/50, because were 50/50 owners, yet, I'm the only one actually contributing to growing the business. He has no input, gets jealous when I come up with ideas, and overall just really brings me down. Whenever I ask him to do something, he gets super passive aggressive and gives me weird looks as if I'm attacking him. Yet, he never speaks up. I feel a lot of anger towards him, and I've journaled quite a bit about this, and I feel our relationship is contributing to my tms.

    My question is this: What's the most therapuetic way to mend our relationship? Part of me wants to stand up for myself and get angry at him, but it would crush him, and could make things messy for the business. Part of me wants him to like me, which I know is not good for stress. I've also started a letter with the tone of compassion, yet still expressing my anger. Part of me feels bad for him because he has a lot of emotional problems, but he's too stubborn to do anything about them.

    I feel like he'll respond best to a letter, because he hates confrontation, and getting angry at him will just make things worse.

    Not sure what to do..

  2. Derek Sapico MFT

    Derek Sapico MFT TMS Therapist

    Thanks for your question.

    It sounds like a tough situation for you and I can tell how much you care for both your friendship and your business.

    I really think that you're on the right track in processing your feelings of anger/rage in a healthy and contained way which will assist you in learning how to communicate with your friend in a constructive way.

    It sounds like you were friends before you were business partners and I think that there is a way to honor your friendship while advocating for your own needs simultaneously.

    I am going to hazard a guess that the dynamic that has developed between you and your partner is one that is reminiscent of some other relationship dynamics in each of your respective lives. You have found yourself in a position in which you are feeling the burden of responsibility for everything and he is playing the role of the underachiever who is always a disappointment to those who depend on him.

    Attachment at work is truly a wonder to behold.

    The only reason that I bring this up is because in relational problems, there is almost always some kind of precedent that unconsciously compels us to reenact certain dynamics.

    Since you cannot directly control your friend's attitude or behavior, it would be most productive to look at how you might be contributing to this unhealthy dynamic. Do you have a difficult time relenting control of things that are important to you? Is there any way in which you can help him to build on his strengths and try to not worry as much about the things that he is not a natural at? Do you feel like you are creating a safe environment for him to speak up and to contribute more to making important decisions? These are just a few questions to consider in working towards optimizing your friendship and partnership.

    Furthermore, try to remember why you decided to go into business with this particular friend. What is it that he used to bring to the table that made the partnership feel equitable and satisfying? Is there an intangible sense of shared accomplishment or meaningful intimacy that you once enjoyed in your relationship? What was it about him that made you feel cared for and instilled in you a sense of trust?

    I do not mean to put this all on you, as it sounds like he can be pretty difficult to deal with at times. I think that clear and assertive communication with him regarding what your needs are is a must. How can you convey to him in a compassionate way how much the difficulties that you are having in your relationship are affecting you emotionally? How can you more proactively advocate for your practical and emotional needs in a straightforward and non-blaming way?

    I think that writing a letter to him in which you own your struggles, imperfections, frustrations, and disappointment with the current state of things is a great start. Earnestly express to him how much you want both the friendship and the partnership to improve and ask him what his needs are with an openness to helping him to get those needs met.

    If he is unresponsive to your genuine efforts to initiate change, refocus your energy on creating a better and more supportive environment for yourself. Work towards acceptance of the current state of the relationship with a continued commitment and openness to healing the relationship when he is more receptive and motivated to do so.

    You have to make yourself and your needs a priority and not always feel responsible for fixing him or coddling him. Hopefully he will come around in the future, but your happiness and feeling of accomplishment cannot be so intertwined with his ability or motivation to change.

    I wish you the best of luck navigating this tricky terrain.


    Any advice or information provided here does not and is not intended to be and should not be taken to constitute specific professional or psychological advice given to any group or individual. This general advice is provided with the guidance that any person who believes that they may be suffering from any medical, psychological, or mindbody condition should seek professional advice from a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions. No general advice provided here should be taken to replace or in any way contradict advice provided by a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions.

    The general advice and information provided in this format is for informational purposes only and cannot serve as a way to screen for, identify, or diagnose depression, anxiety, or other psychological conditions. If you feel you may be suffering from any of these conditions please contact a licensed mental health practitioner for an in-person consultation.

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  3. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Guest, I like Derek's reply about writing a letter to the person you have a relationship problem with.

    My best friend had a falling out with me some years ago and I wrote him a letter explaining my side of the disagreement and ended
    it saying I hoped we could put it behind us and go on from there. A day or two later he called me and said,
    "Hi, Pope Innocent the Twelfth. Can you come here tomorrow night for dinner (with his wife and kids)? All was well again.

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