All relationships require effort, but in healthy ones the give and take should feel about equal. If you feel like you are putting in more of an effort than the other, or you don’t feel satisfied with the return on your investment of time and/or money on someone, eventually you are bound to hit a wall. This is normal, and when this happens, you will find yourself lacking the same motivation you once had to do or say nice things, plan anything fun, buy thoughtful gifts or even hug. Then what do you do?
Hopefully, when you catch yourself losing enthusiasm in a relationship you once held dear, you can have an honest conversation with the other person to try and repair your bond. Together, if you are both committed to working things out, you should be able to come up with strategies to improve your relationship. Unfortunately, however, some people are incapable of receiving critical feedback. Truly, these people are not going to be able to hear you say that they did or said anything wrong. So if you are dealing with one of these people, repair efforts may not be very fruitful, and sooner or later you will realize that instead of being able to connect more with this person, you need to switch gears and start building a wall. Why a wall? Because you need to protect yourself from further injury by creating boundaries.
Boundaries are the limits we set for others not to punish them, but rather to prevent us from getting hurt. So for example, if I feel like I am always the one making an effort to reach out, do nice things, etc. and I find myself constantly disappointed by the other person’s lack of response, then I will stop going out of my way for this person not as punishment but rather to spare myself any further disappointment. Now is it possible, and in fact probable, that the other person will think I’m being mean? Of course, but remember we each are entitled to have our own perception of reality.
How do you know when you need to set up boundaries? Easy– when you sense that what someone expects or asks of you is going to seriously hurt you or it goes completely against who you are, then you need to listen to how you feel– pay attention to how your gut feels tight, and your breathing has probably stopped, and how your mind is desperately racing to find a way to escape. All these are signs that you need to respectfully create a safe-place for yourself.
So, as the holidays approach and the pressure mounts to try and satisfy everyone, please stop and take a few deep breaths. If you find that your are tired of bending over backwards for someone that does not appreciate your efforts, maybe the best holiday gift you can give yourself this season is a backbone made of steel– and reinforced in concrete. Seriously, stop trying to be such a people pleaser and instead take some of that caring tendency and apply it to yourself. Establish boundaries that will work for you, knowing that those that deserve your love and efforts will always be there for you.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.