Donna says: I’ve had this article in my guest blogger file for a while, but it seemed like a perfect follow-up to yesterday’s article, 7 Ways to Build Trust in a Relationship. I’m scratching my head, trying to think of a common chart pattern for the promise-breakers I’ve been close to, but my answers skate perilously close to astrological profiling of the Air signs!
With Saturn in Libra square Pluto, it’s time to rethink relationships with charmers who aren’t reliable or accountable and then to find new ways of dealing with them. The articles in the category RELATIONSHIP HELP on this blog are meant to assist you in that process.
By an Anonymous author at WikiHow
Associating with a person who makes a lot of promises but consistently breaks them, or simply doesn’t keep them, is challenging. It is even harder if they’re a member of your family or somebody whom you consider to be a close friend, or even a boss or mentor whom you have trusted.
In particular, a history of shared experiences and feelings can make it very hard for you to know how to handle this person. Nevertheless, if their continued broken promises are making your life unpleasant and you feel used up, discarded, ignored, or just plain messed about, it is essential to deal with the promise breaker and then forgive them. Note that forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting or letting them get away with it; it means that you reach a space of letting go and no longer allow this person to call the shots and ruin your chances at enjoying your life.
Is the Person You’re Involved with a Chronic Promise Breaker?
Assessing a promise: a promise is an offer to do something that will result in you gaining a benefit, or an involvement in something, or a strengthened tie with someone, or a tangible gain. In other words, someone says that they will do/give/be X,Y,Z for you, so that you get/are involved in/are kept informed about, etc. something. The promise-maker has made a pledge that he or she will do precisely what they said they’d do. And you, as the recipient of this promise, can be assured that the person will do as they have said.
Assessing a broken promise: a promise can be broken obviously, for example, Uncle Joe promises to come to your 30th birthday party, and he doesn’t get there. A promise can also be broken in minor ways, gradually, or partially. For example, someone might promise to involve you in the team planning a new project but they simply forget to call you after the initial few meetings, and you are left thinking nothing is happening. All of a sudden, a completed project is presented and you’re left wondering why you weren’t involved any further without your being told. The project leader shrugs and says “Oh I thought you weren’t that interested anyway.” You know deep down this is just a lie to escape from the fact that they stopped involving you.
Stereotypical traits: Promise-breakers are often people who use others without thinking through the consequences. They are often untrustworthy, unreliable, and they abhor active listening. Frequently, a promise breaker doesn’t understand how this impacts on their credibility and future prospects. Their behavior is very much driven by the “me, me, me” mentality, so woe betide you if this person is more senior, older, wealthier, smarter, better looking, etc., than you, and they know that this pushes your buttons. It is better to reconcile with your lack of self-esteem in relation to whatever it is that pushes your buttons than to succumb to wanting their “mojo” to rub off on you; it won’t but they will know that they can use you in the meantime.
Steps to take in Resolving the Situation
Consider your position. It is important to acknowledge your feelings about the broken promises. If you sweep these feelings under the rug and keep allowing yourself to fall for this person’s promises in the hope that he or she will change, it’s time for a reality check. The very fact you are reading this title shows that you have started to wake up to the potential damage the constant promise-breaking is doing to your psyche. Own your feelings and use these to guide you through the remaining steps.
Consider the behavior in question. Think about the “promises” that this person has broken and how many times you have been in the position of letting them get away with it by excusing their behavior for many reasons. Then ask yourself these questions:
- In what way do you perceive these as promises being made to me? Are you justified in this viewpoint? (See “Tips”)
- Why do you let yourself believe in this person who makes promises to you that you know he or she will not keep?
- Why do you keep hoping that he or she will make good on what is promised?
- Why do you need to have this person fulfill the promise?
- Why are you giving this person yet another chance?
Write down your responses to these questions. Think about the answers. You should begin to ascertain the pattern and your own weaknesses. Consider those weaknesses – do they surface only with this person, or generally? Consider the ways in which you might meet these weaknesses with better self-talk, clarity of thought, and promises that you make to yourself not to let another person be your source of hope and direction.
Think about how it makes you feel when this person breaks promises. The previous exercise had you asking yourself the reasons for why you respond in the way that you do to what you perceive as promises. This one is about asking yourself to express your feelings:
- Do you feel lonely without this person’s input/guidance/friendship/authority?
- Do you feel worried about losing this relationship?
- Do you feel that there is something “special” between the two of you that you want to guard (jealously) from others?
- Do you feel needy, sad, lonely, depressed, down, angry, scared, lost, etc. in general and find that this person somehow alleviates these feelings even though you know that he or she will rarely come to your perspective or aid?
Confront the situation through visualization first. Do this in two stages, the first talking back to yourself and the second, talking to the promise-breaker.
- To yourself – Acknowledge that you are fed up of the broken promises, that this person cannot be trusted, that this is not worth subjugating yourself to any longer. Trust yourself, believe in yourself, and stand up for yourself.
- To the promise-breaker – Write a script and play it over in your head. In this script, tell the promise-breaker how you feel about being constantly subjected to broken promises and how it has reached a point at which you no longer wish to be friends unless they make an effort to keep their promises.
Confront the promise-breaker for real. This is the time for assertive behavior and constructive criticism. Avoid blame, avoid saying “you” statements. (See How to Practice Nonviolent Communication.) Stick with how their broken promises make you feel, and why you see their promises as both “broken”, and as “promises” (hence the reasons why you did the exercises above). Tell the promise-breaker:
- How this has made you feel
- How it has impacted your personal/professional life (give concrete examples)
- How you feel that you can no longer place the same level of trust in your relationship with them (give examples of the key time or series of times they have proven incapable of maintaining the promise)
- How you still care about them as a person but that this is to let them know you will no longer be asking for their word as you simply cannot rely on it (this ties in with the next step on forgiveness; you are not rupturing the relationship, just ordering it clearly).
Forgive. For your own sake, it is important to forgive. Be compassionate in your approach; the promise-breaker often doesn’t see this anywhere near as seriously as you, even if they feel a twinge of guilt. For them, it could well be a case of “easy come, easy go”, especially since they don’t hold promise-keeping to a high enough standard. In forgiving, you will need to do the following:
Assess how serious the promise breach actually was. Is it worth breaking a relationship over? Or is it simply better to just make it clear to the promise-breaker that for now, you can’t trust them (or maybe ever), but that you’ll remain a friend/colleague/project collaborator, etc. In general, try to find the path of least resistance for the sake of maintaining cordial, even friendly, relations. Yet, if it is so terrible for you that you cannot bear this person any longer, part amicably and sincerely, but with clarity that things are finished between you.
Put yourselves into their shoes. Ask yourself what you would have done in the same position. Are you being too judgmental, too harsh? Was the promise one that was easier said than done?
Think about your relationship with this person 5 years from now. Do you want this? Or not? How easy will it be to walk away and start anew with a new spouse/colleague/boss/friend/coach/mentor, etc.?
Is this the lesson you had to learn? Remember the Danish saying that “eggs and oaths are easily broken”. How much a role did your own naivete play in what panned out? Perhaps it is time for classes in assertiveness, where you can comfortably learn to say “no”, and to recognize when someone is behaving in a way that is just no good for you.
Live the forgiveness. You don’t need to forget to forgive; indeed, to do so would be foolish or you’d repeat your errors. Learn from the experience and apply it wisely down the track. But do let go. Don’t wear this issue around your neck forever more, bleating about the injustices to others every chance you have.
By all means talk things through with someone you trust as a means for righting your perspective and moving on, but don’t harbor anger, or harp on about what happened. To do so would be to allow the promise-breaker to keep on breaking your heart. Ultimately, your compassionate empathy in understanding their motivation and in distancing yourself and shoring up your own defenses is the best form of forgiveness possible.
See more articles in the category RELATIONSHIP HELP.
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