The older I get, the more I’ve come to believe in reciprocity: the investment you make in a relationship should be commensurate with the effort put in by the other party/parties. I don’t advocate keeping score, or taking it to ridiculous lengths with a mercenary what’s in it for me? Attitude and I acknowledge that some relationships are inherently unequal (parent/child for example), but I’ve sworn off doing the lion’s share of the legwork and heavy lifting in most of mine.
Picture from Google
I’ve been weeding out my emotional rolodex over the last four months or so. I’ve stopped reaching out to people who rarely respond. I’ve stopped making plans with fair weather friends who consistently get Fs when it comes to follow-through. I’ve stopped forcing myself to hang out with people out of a sense of duty even as I find their personality quirks beyond aggravating. And most importantly, I’ve stopped giving people the benefit of the doubt and limitless empathy when they’re careless with my feelings or my time. There have been no confrontations, no accusations, no drama. In fact, the only thing that’s changed is that my relationship stress level has dropped significantly and I’m able to channel the energy that I was wasting being affronted, slighted and overly solicitous of the feelings of others who had little regard for mine into other, more productive ventures. I’m not angry at the people I’ve let go off. I’m still polite to those I see regularly and I’d have no objection to hearing from those I don’t cross paths with as often, but I have no intention of being the one to make the next and subsequent moves. I’ve simply ceased putting energy into relationships that had a low or non-existent return.
Most of the hurts we suffer at the hands of others are unintentional. Our pain is simply someone else’s collateral damage. And while it’s true that the majority of people who cause you distress may not have done so out of spite or malice and may actually be decent, upstanding individuals, that doesn’t mean that you should cut them slack in the form of elaborate excuses for their actions or by extending your saintly patience to silently enduring their careless treatment. Doing so continues to give them power over you, a claim to your limited emotional energy and the opportunity to continue to hurt you by not responding in the way that your vivid imagination dictates that they should, but that history shows that they never will. In other words, you’re still getting the short end of the relationship stick.
Instead, you need to acknowledge the hurt, recognize that it likely wasn’t intentional and then shut down any opportunity for them to hurt you again. Stop emailing, stop calling, stop worrying and for heaven’s sake, stop martyring yourself on the altar of someone else’s indifference. Cutting these people off isn’t cold or callous, it’s emotionally mature. You’re not hurting these folks, because they’re not actually aware of or invested in you in the first place. They will more than likely not notice the withdrawal of your attention and caring because it held little to no value for them, anyway. Harsh but true. We’ve all been there.
There are precious few people in this world who are genuinely invested in your happiness and well-being beyond a superficial and perfunctory interest. Your emotional energy is best spent focusing on and/or finding those people. Start letting the others fend for themselves. They’d do (and in a way, have already done) the same for you.