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May 11, 2016

The Importance of Focusing on the Relationships that don’t Drain Us.

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What would our lives look like if we only gave our time and energy into the relationships in our lives that nurture us?

Recently, this question has been on my mind. I’ve been wondering what life would look like if we stopped devoting time to the relationships in our lives that take from us, giving little or nothing in return.

There is nothing wrong with being a person who gives to others.

However, I’ve noticed that when I give my time, talent, or energy to people who don’t appreciate them, I find it more draining than rewarding. This has been the case recently, and I’ve begun to question why I continue to put the time and energy into relationships like this. When we give ourselves in any way to people who take us for granted, we only find ourselves diminished.

As I’ve been evaluating my life and the relationships in it, I’ve been paying close attention to how I feel. I’m learning to trust my own intuition after years of carelessly ignoring it and paying the consequences of that with a failed marriage and a life I didn’t want to lead. Now, post-divorce and enjoying my life, I’m trying to be more in tune to how I feel around other people.

When a relationship makes me feel sad and tired and depleted, I examine why that is and see what can be done about it. Sometimes, simply communicating better about it is the key. In other situations, I find that the issue is that I’m giving my all into relationships where the other person has clearly demonstrated by their actions that I am not a priority or consideration in their lives.

While I cannot change how anyone else treats me, I can certainly choose what I will and will not allow in my life by my own actions. By setting boundaries, communicating clearly, and even limiting my time and attention toward those people, I can change how I feel. It’s imperative in my new life that I live authentically and that I create a life filled with happiness. As a single mother, it’s my job to take good care of myself so that I’m able to take good care of my children. This is how we lead happy lives, and part of that authenticity is having full, strong and authentic relationships in our lives.

So here are some questions I’ve been asking myself:

What if we stopped texting the person who so easily ignores our messages until it’s convenient for them or they want something from us?

What if we stopped making space in our lives for that person who will never commit to a plan or commits only to cancel at the last minute?

What if we stopped calling the person who only wants us to listen but never takes the time to hear what we have to say?

What could we do with the time and space in our lives if they were no longer being occupied by relationships that only leave us feeling used or unappreciated?

What would our relationships look like if we focused on giving our time, energy, talents and appreciation to the people in our lives who are focused on us?

Here’s what I think will happen when we stop focusing on those relationships:

We will find that we have the love in our lives that we need because we aren’t settling for someone who refuses to make us a priority.

We’ll find that our friendships are stronger because we aren’t spending time with friends who deplete us with their drama or neglect.

We’ll find that our families are stronger because we change the way we’re defining family to include the people in our lives who love and support us rather than just including blood relations.

We’ll find that our relationships with everyone we interact with grow so much brighter because we have the time and energy to give all of ourselves without feeling drained, discouraged or unappreciated.

We may also find that the people on the other side of these one-sided relationships sit up and take notice. This may be the action needed to help them realize what we mean in their lives and how they value that connection. It may help spur them to the realization of how they treat others and to recognize the imbalance of their own relationships. Or it may have no impact whatsoever on them. Regardless, we need to take care of ourselves by limiting our contact with people who only take without ever giving of themselves.

I have found that taking these steps has been empowering for me. I had a friend who often put me on the back burner, ignoring messages as he chose and only calling when he wanted something. Not only did this cause frustration and anger on my end, I also felt sad, lonely and used. When I got tired of feeling depleted by the contact, I removed him from my social media and stopped making contact. I doubt that he noticed or cared, but I immediately felt lighter.

Another relationship in my life was beginning to weigh on me. In that instance, a friend complained with every phone contact and only had negative things to say in response to my every statement. Each conversation left me feeling discouraged, and I stopped calling. I decided that as much as I love that friend, I cannot continue a relationship where every positive in my life is turned into a negative by her constant toxic energy and dark commentary.

Taking these steps is not an action of anger. It serves to protect us and makes space in our lives to turn to the supportive relationships that are available.

With the time that I once devoted to maintaining relationships that depleted my energy, I now can take the time to send an encouraging message to a friend who is clearly struggling. I can make space for a phone conversation with another friend who is always kind and supportive to me. I can reach out to acquaintances and offer to listen or even make new friends with the energy that I have left over from no longer directing it toward the black hole that is a one-sided relationship.

It is a powerful step to focus on the relationships that empower us, support us and make us better human beings. The ones that make us kinder. And stronger. The ones that make us brave. The ones who call us on our bullsh*t because they love us and don’t want to see us hurt, by ourselves or anyone else. The ones who stand by us to support our decisions even when they don’t agree because they know we have to make our own choices, and they know that all they can do is voice their concerns and then stand with us.

The ones who are there when we are right and when we are wrong.

The ones who love us with every fiber of their being and know that we love them with equal strength and fervor. The ones who let us know they love us and never leave us hanging. The ones who will be our biggest advocates and will never speak an unkind word against us. The ones who value our place in their lives and know they are valued in return.

These are the relationships I want to nurture. This is the life that I want to lead. I have a large circle of fierce friends, and I find that when I’m focusing my energy on the positive relationships in my life this circle only grows larger and stronger. I’m slowly eliminating the dead weight from my life, not in anger and not because of a lack of love.

I simply want to enjoy relationships that are authentic. I want to be fully present in them because I’ve made the time to do so and because I don’t want anyone I care about to ever doubt that I do.

Our lives are imperfect and filled with imperfect people. All I know is that at the end of the day I want my focus to be on the relationships that fill me with gratitude for their presence. I want to stop devoting myself to relationships that diminish me with their lack of focus and true caring. I want my life to be whole, wonderful, raw, authentic, brave and intense with all of the loyalty and love and vitality that I have to offer available to those who see me as I am and love me without wanting to change me.

 

Author: Crystal Jackson

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Image: James Wang/Flickr

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Crystal Jackson

Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned full-time writer. Her first fiction novel Left on Main, the first in the Map of Madison series, will be released by Sands Press in October 2019. Her work has been featured on Elephant Journal, Medium, Elite Daily, Your Tango, The Good Men Project, The Urban Howl, and Sivana East. You can follow Crystal on Facebook or at www.crystaljacksonwriter.com