You can Google “how to let go of toxic relationships” and find plenty of advice. But what about the kerfluffle, the cotton candy relationships that peck away at your energy? Or the people you love who either don’t have the time and energy for you or choose to spend it elsewhere.
Like everyone, I’ve received a lot of advice over the years about friendships, family and staying healthy. One of my favorites after I was hospitalized for a stress-induced “heart incident” was this:
Only give energy to relationships in which the other person is also giving energy.”
He went even further to tell me, it doesn’t matter if that person is a member of your family.
I know. Here’s the thing: you deserve love. If you find yourself pouring love, caring and energy into a bottomless pot, what happens? You get exhausted. You are not getting anything back.
If you can take some time to get quiet, even if it’s just 5-10 minutes a day to breathe without doing anything, you’ll get some clarity on who you want in your life.
When my mother cleaned the kitchen, she would periodically give our stainless steel teapot a really good scrub so it shined. It made the rest of the kitchen look extra clean. Recently, my husband scrubbed our Revere Ware pot (Mom’s brand). It looked like new even though it’s twenty years old!
I started thinking about how good it would feel to be shiny and new after all that time. Cleaning away the relationships whose seasons have expired is one way to get there.
This doesn’t mean you need to hurt people. Or yourself. It also doesn’t mean you’re cutting people out for life. It’s just an intention to spend your energy on relationships that give back.
Some folks won’t even notice when you fade from their radar.
When I left the pot crusty
I let a nearly 20-year friendship go too long. I became a “fixer” in the relationship. I wanted her to be someone else: she needed to fit my vision of healthy and whole. I thought I was doing it because I loved her. That may be partly true. I also think I held on to that friendship because I wanted her to be there for me in a certain way. She couldn’t. My actions were hurting her. I’m deep in my heart sorry for that. She ended the friendship in a grateful handwritten letter. It was the best gift. A space opened up inside me. Not surprisingly, my energy cleared, and within a few weeks, I met a new friend who is absolutely lovely. And it made me recognize my own unhealthy behavior of attachment. I wrote about expectations and attachment in a past post you may want to read if this resonates with you.
When I started scrubbing
That growth experience also allowed me to tell another friend, “I get why you choose not to put energy into our friendship. And it’s okay. I’m not a priority. These other things are more important in your life right now. I recognize that we won’t get together unless I initiate it.” She thanked me for understanding and being supportive of her life choices. She said she wished others saw her that way so she didn’t feel like people were upset or disappointed with her so often. She says she loves and misses me and doesn’t put any action behind her words. I realized she can have those feelings even if she doesn’t take action.
In our relationship, I employ a loving detachment, which I read about in Father James Martin’s Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything.
So I put my energies into relationships where the feelings and actions are reciprocal.
It’s keeping my pot shiny and full.
Shine your pot, fill it up and let the most important folks in your life fill it too.