How to Gradually Ruin a Good Relationship

A few years ago, I was in a dysfunctional situation with a couple of other people — one was my boss, the other was my coworker. And like most dysfunctional relationships, it didn’t happen overnight. Things just built up over time.

Conflicts went unresolved, offenses went unforgiven and nobody was trying to resolve the conflict in a healthy way. Our boss was genuinely being annoying, which made it easy for me to get together with my coworker and bemoan our plight. In retrospect, we were basically gossiping in the name of “venting” and “working through the issues.” It was the glue that held our relationship and our conversations together. We had once related to each other based on common interests, but our common interest became shared annoyance with an unpredictable supervisor.

At some point, I got exhausted by all the drama and ranting, and I disengaged. I starting changing the subject, leaving the negative emails unanswered and stopped initiating the conversations. Gradually, our friendship died on the vine. Our frustrations were the only thing that was keeping it alive, and with that gone, we had nothing left.

This sort of broken link happens all the time in churches, schools, workplaces, friendships and families. You would think such an obvious and toxic dynamic is easy to recognize and avoid, but it’s a lot harder than you think.

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