Relationship problems take shape in many ways.

Joannie came to my office extremely angry withher mother-in-law.No matter what Joannie did, her mother-in-law was critical, inconsiderate, or never satisfied. She would show up late to events, evenmake snide remarks aimed at Joannie’s efforts.

Whythemother-in-law seemed togo out of her way to be hurtful was beyond Joannie’s understanding. Shekept trying to please,but nothing seemed to work; the MIL would not budge.

Joannietried talking about her feelings to her mother-in-law.That backfired. The MIL made herself out to be thevictim. Afterward, she held a grudgeandtwistedJoannie’s words. TheMIL did not change.

What Changed?

Most of the time, communicating your concerns is the most effective way to resolve relationship differences. Sometimesthatdoesn’t work.When this happens over and over, it can lead to frustration and resentment, especially in situations where youre expected to get along with others regardless of their behavior think co-workers, in-laws, relatives, and friends.

Have you ever had a friend who rarely returns your phone calls or who suddenly goes AWOL when youre supposed to meet somewhere?

Maybe it feels like she takes your friendship efforts for granted. And the more you try to do, the worse those feelings get?

Maybe a boss repeatedly is unappreciative of your efforts and always focuses on criticizing.

If this kind of scenario sounds familiar, and youre feeling increasingly resentful, you might need to “go neutral.”

Going neutral meansdoing nothing. Simply take a hiatus from trying in your relationship. It’s not that you are giving up or evengetting out its about taking a breather to allowyour emotions to settle into a peaceful state.

Ways You CanGo Neutral

  1. Take a break fromefforts designed toplease or impress.
  2. Lay off of nurturing, taking care of, or focusing on the people causing yourdiscomfort.
  3. Take a stepback and intentionallystop the cycle of victimization and resentment you experience.
  4. Shiftyour energy to people, places and things that feel good, make you feel appreciated.
  5. Nurture your self-esteem and personal growth.

What Not to Do

  1. Do not directnegative energy toward others: Being negative is still effort.
  2. Do not make sly comments or hurtful statements, throw mean looks, or intentionally ignorethe other person.
  3. Do not hurtthe other person or try to get her/him to see your perspective.
  4. Do not hopeyour neutral stance will lead the other person to change his or her behavior toward you.

For going neutralto work, you must have noexpectations for outcome. Think of it as a rest stopwhere you canget your bearings and release yourself from resentment and frustration.

You Don’t Have to Completely Withdraw Focus on expending yourenergy only where it feels good.

There’s Only One Person YouCan Change That’s you.Realizing this is powerful. Enacting this is even more powerful. Have you ever tried going into neutralwith a difficult relationship? Tell us about it! We want to hear what you have learned. Or tell us about a relationship wherethis could help.

Take care, Cherilynn

Cherilynn Veland is a therapist living in Chicago.She also blogs about home, work, life and She is author of the book Stop Giving It Away.