Time’s Up! What’s Your Exit Strategy?

October 24, 2016

Time’s Up! What’s Your Exit Strategy?

Imagine being in a weekly bridge group for 44 years and wanting out. This is the dilemma a friend of mine has found himself in. To the outsider, it seems easy. Tell the other person(s) you are leaving and go.

Well, it’s really not that simple. A lot of personal information is shared during those meetings. You become privy to the intimacies of what’s going on with those other people, and you’ve probably shared some pretty personal stuff yourself. It can feel like being stuck in a sticky spider’s web. If you lift your foot to leave, you end up with half the web stuck to your shoe.

You probably know “those people” more than you care to. Not all the information is discussed at the meeting, but may be gleaned on the sidelines. It can come from other sources, like mutual friends or even the newspaper.

The Elephant on the Table

One day when reading the newspaper my weekly bridge-playing friend discovered that one of his bridge partners broke the law. Yep, he read it in the newspaper! This was no small crime, but a pretty hefty embezzlement. You are probably wondering how the subject was broached at the bridge table? Well, it never was. They just kept playing bridge. You can imagine what everyone was thinking, yet nothing was said.

How many times have you gotten together with “friends” and had a running subtext going on in your head? That subtext might go like this, “Why did I say yes again? I am done with these folks. I am ready to find someone else who I can connect with more honestly or who I can grow with or learn from.” While this is going on, the “outer you” is congenial, friendly and, above all else, pleasant.

What Keeps Us Tied In?

When this conflict keeps turning your stomach in knots, this is when you must go within. You’ve got to ask yourself some tough questions. What keeps me coming back? What’s my role in the group or with that other person? What would happen if I left? Could my leaving affect relationships that my family members or other close friends have with members of the group? Answering those questions may cause you to feel that spider web getting stickier. Don’t let that stop you.

Guilt weighs heavily in this equation. By ending your commitment, you might think you are letting the other person(s) down. Of course, this is all supposition, because you probably haven’t asked the other person(s) how he/she (they) feels if you were to leave. And what if they pitch a fit and beg you not to leave? Does that mean you can’t? Did you make a lifetime commitment when you agreed to join this group or meet regularly with these persons? I bet you did not.

And how many times have people left you or a group you are in? You got over it, right? My bridge-playing friend has seen people come and go throughout the 44 years he’s played with these cronies. He’s now found another bridge group that plays at a higher level. He wants to leave. In fact, he’s straddling the line. He’s already playing with the new group, wants to ditch the old, but feels he cannot.

What’s Important?

The simple answer is YOU—how you feel and how you spend your time. A long-time friend once told me when I was wrangling with a decision that involved others, “Do what is best for you. Because whatever you decide will be best for everyone else.” It took me awhile to wrap my arms around that, but the more I applied that philosophy to any decision I made, the more it felt right and made sense.

Why spend time with people just to assuage your guilt, which, by the way, rarely works? If those other people knew you felt guilty, they probably wouldn’t want you to hang around. Don’t you have better things to do that inspire happiness or expand your mind? If you find yourself bored with others’ company or stopped from moving into new areas of learning because the group wants to stay right where it is, then ask yourself why are you there? Guilt is not a good enough answer.

The old cliché “People come into our lives for a season, a reason or a lifetime,” seems to fit here. These groups we join or alliances we make fit into one of these categories. I suspect a season or a reason is the optimal choice in this discussion. Which is it for you? Has the reason been fulfilled or the season ended? If it has, then time’s up. Be kind, honest, and diplomatic. Give thanks and then say “Good-bye.”

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