5 Ways to Know a Relationship Doesn't Serve You
Updated: Sep 6
Relationships: The witnesses to our lives. These are the relationships that define us. The people that we go to for support, for laughter, and for love. The defining equation for any relationship be that friendship, partnership, or spouse, is whether you are making them better and they are making you better. Do you enrich each other's lives rather than deteriorate? Through the years we all see many types of relationships. From childhood friends to lovers. Our relationships change as we do. The things that are important to us are shaped by those around us. So how do you identify when a relationship no longer serves you?
1) Are there certain topics that are off-limits to you? If you have relationships where you feel like you cannot be yourself, having to hide a huge part of who you are that relationship probably is not serving you. After a very bitter divorce between my parents sides were definitely very clear. As the eternal peacemaker, I tried for years to have a relationship with my paternal grandmother. However, there were only about 10 topics that we could discuss with each other. Otherwise, the conversation would degrade into name-calling, low blows, and horrific untruths I felt I had to defend. This was particularly painful because of all of the wonderful memories I had in my childhood that were filled with my grandmother's love. Realizing that the relationship had changed so much that it was not a source of love and joy but of stress and sadness was heartbreaking but something I needed to come to terms with it for my personal well-being. There was no need to continually put myself into a situation where I had to feel guarded and defensive. Walking on eggshells. If you can’t “agree to disagree“ then it might be time to reassess the importance of that relationship.
2) Is the relationship adding positivity or stress? The second telltale sign is your emotional state before during and after encounters. Is going to see them foreboding? Not the typical situation trepidation that comes with a holiday dinner at your in-law's way but in the actual manifestation of dread. Do you know that every encounter is going to bring stress? Do you leave more exchanges feeling upset than you do feeling happy? Obviously, not every conversation you have with someone meaningful in your life is going to be a positive one but if the equation isn’t somewhat balanced then it might be time to think about how much of your life you want to fill with the unpleasant.
3) Is the support one-sided? It is wonderful to be someone’s person. That confidence that they call with their deepest darkest secrets, emotions, and celebrations. But if you find yourself usually sitting there in silence while they stream of consciousness word vomit on you more often than not, do consistently have to offer them support and condolence but rarely, if ever, receive that type of love and support in return— you may want to reconsider how valuable your time and energy and love is and whether or not this person is where you want to spend it.
4) How do you feel after saying goodbye? Parting is such sweet sorrow. Or at least it should be. But if you feel elated or like a weight has been lifted after finishing an encounter you may want to consider whether or not to continue to put yourself in that situation. If you always leave feeling stressed, sad, upset, or emotionally drained you may want to think about putting your energy and love into a more nurturing relationship.
5) Is your life enriched by having them in it? The most essential question is if your life is simply better with them in it. Do you feel happier? More uplifted and supported? Do you feel proud that you’re able to support and love them and get that same love in return? All relationships go through abs and flows and ups and downs. But being able to identify which relationships in your life make it better is a lifelong skill I wish I had learned sooner
Deciding to stop the activity and participating in some relationships in my life have been very painful. It is a loss. It doesn’t have to be a permanent loss. But you mourn nonetheless. My friendships are very important to me. I never want to not return a text message, answer a phone call, send a quick note of love, and most importantly celebrate life with them. However, as with all limited resources, you have a finite amount of you. Ensure you are placing your valuable resources in the right relationships. People grow apart and grow up. However, they can grow back together as well. As you consider the relationships in your life, and which one serve you I would caution you not to burn bridges but to simply stop actively trying to invite those type of interactions into your life. Being cruel doesn’t serve anyone. But being kind to yourself does. Strive to find that balance as you examine the relationships in your life.