You are probably already picturing an example of one playing out in your life. Most people know what a draining relationship feels like, even if they’re not able to label it, usually it is more obvious directly after an interaction with this person. It’s the feeling of flatness, like you’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster and dumped off at the end. It’s feeling like you’re treading on eggshells in case you say something wrong, you seem to get in trouble for things and you don’t even know why. You might also recognise it in terms of a constant blur of your boundaries. You find yourself agreeing to things you don’t want to do, then feeling resentful towards the person but not knowing how to express it.
Then I started to wonder, if this is how I’m feeling, what part am I playing in these relationships? Am I responsible for causing these feelings in others too? When I started writing this blog, I thought it was going to be all about how to recognise and avoid these types of relationships. However, as I started to write I realised, as it always seems to happen, that this is a lesson for me! More lessons in Tash in her humanness and continuing on my journey of self discovery.
As is a pattern of mine, I have spent many hours sacrificing or ignoring my emotional needs in servicing some of these relationships. This stems from my beliefs around self worth and my capacity to earn love. Without realising, I would not consider what a healthy relationship looked like, instead I would focus on ensuring the other person was happy and comfortable in our relationship. I also developed an unhealthy habit of expecting validation for my behaviour and found myself in a cycle of doing things, simply for the recognition of my virtue. I can tell you, this is an exhausting and disappointing way to live. I was constantly putting things out there and expecting others to be able to return at a level or condition that I wanted back, and I was hurt and confused when things were not returned to me, exactly as I envisaged.
As I’ve started to become more aware of what motivates me, what I value and what I seek in a relationship, I have been able to be more clear and deliberate in how I engage with others, communicate and most importantly, I have been able to adjust my expectations of those around me. I have learnt too that not everyone is on the same level (emotionally or otherwise), and by expecting them to meet you at your level, you are setting them up for failure. It took a long time for me to realise this!
I can think of so many examples where I would sweep in to save the day. I had all the solutions, I knew the answers and I knew better. I was on a mission to ‘fix’ people. I would be there at the drop of a hat whenever there was a drama, I was the one that others sought to resolve things. But it was all coming from a place of me trying to establish my worth and earn love. It was not actually me wanting to help or empower others. In fact, it did the opposite at times; my overpowering actions would actively disempower the people around me and render them unable to fix their own problems. So in this, I see the role I actively played in causing the relationship to become a ‘draining’ one.
Because I have been scared to show my real opinion and share my voice, I have put myself in positions to have my energy drained too. Because I didn’t know what I wanted, it was easy to be railroaded or persuaded into accepting what I now see as low vibration connections. As my awareness continues to rise, I am much better at recognising this, and putting boundaries in place to safeguard against these energy draining experiences.
Saying no and pushing back when someone requests something of me, is not something that comes easily. I believe that many women have succumbed to the social ideal of being kind, giving and self-sacrificing. This contributes to this difficulty of declining to take something on, even if it doesn’t suit them, or actually inconveniences their own plans or priorities. I have listed some strategies I’ve put in place to help me to recognise and manage my relationships, and with setting healthy boundaries:
- Be clear on your boundaries – be clear on what is and what is not ok for you and be clear when communicating these boundaries. As Brene Brown has famously said ‘To be clear is to be kind’. I love this.
- Delay saying ‘yes’ – If you’re like me and have difficulty saying no, practice delaying the response to requests, rather than just going to the automatic yes response that you later regret. Rather than just saying yes immediately if someone makes a request of me that I don’t like, I try to say something like, ‘Can I get back to you on that shortly?’ or, ‘Can I let you know once I’ve had a chance to to check my diary?’ etc. This has certainly helped me to then go back and decline when I find it hard to say no directly to the person at that very moment.
- Choose how to react – it is up to me to decide how I emotionally respond to these interactions. I have the power to give in to the low energy and I also have the power to maintain the higher ground, without affecting my integrity or that of the other person.
- Limit contact with these draining relationships – especially when you cannot avoid them completely. If things are too extreme, sometimes there is no other option then to remove contact altogether.
- Walk a little in their shoes – as I realised, there are always two sides to every story and I can certainly recognise my role in creating these draining relationships. Coming from a place of understanding on what might be playing out for them certainly helps my empathy and understanding.
- Recognise your own triggers – know when you are emotionally vulnerable or what triggers you and be able to name that. In doing this, you are taking responsibility for your own emotional state and interactions.
Do you struggle with draining relationships in your life? Do you struggle to implement boundaries? Are you contributing to a draining relationship? How do you manage these interactions, especially when complete avoidance of the relationship is not possible.
Live, Love and Laugh,