Certain relationships are draining. Not the ‘I’ve had a long day’ draining, but the kind of draining that sucks away all of your positive energy and a good portion of your hope.
Draining people can take any form in your life – a friend from your school days, a parent, a coworker, and it is these role titles that can make change harder. Their attributed title might make you believe that the relationship cannot change or that you are unable to do without the relationship in your life. In the past I have felt the strong pull of commitment and loyalty to people who drained me, and a large dose of guilt at the thought of trying to leave. No matter how difficult it might appear, it is possible to free yourself from draining relationships.
Who Are They
The drainer is often a negative person, who is likely to blame you or others for any number of things otherwise known as having the victim mentality. They put a lot of pressure on you, expecting a great deal and if you don’t meet their standards you will know about it. This person will create drama and they will require a lot of your time and effort to help them. When you are about to see them you feel anxious and when you finish spending time with them you are left feeling empty and exhausted. Worst of all this person will stop you from growing, changing or improving yourself. Any attempts to do so will be seen as an attack causing them to either attack back or play the victim.
How To Help
Approach the person with what you need to change within the relationship in order to keep them in your life. Consider the following to ask yourself and the other person:
- Do we have the same values?
- What element of this relationship needs to change? e.g. time, topics, activities
- Set boundaries – What is no longer acceptable to you? e.g. how you’re spoken to, being listened to
Asking these questions should first be done privately, helping you to have a deeper insight into what you need from the relationship, then you can approach the person in question. Make this process easier on yourself by choosing a time or place where they are most likely to be in their best mood but comfortable enough that they can talk honestly about their feelings.
In many cases people who are draining you aren’t ‘bad’ people. The behaviour they express can be due to many things such as how they were raised, being in a bad relationship with their partner, being stuck in a purposeless job or feeling unfulfilled and incapable of changing. These are not however excuses for treating you poorly. If you have attempted to talk to them with the aim of changing aspects of the relationships and nothing has since improved, then it might be time to take a step back. Begin by keeping them at a distance, minimizing the amount of time you spend with them, reducing the amount of energy they can drain from you. If the space isn’t quite enough, your values don’t align and the attempts to change the situation have not created positive change then it is okay to leave the relationship. This can happen one of two ways:
- Naturally dissipates – the draining person finds something new to focus on and you quietly slip away
- Formally – tell the person that you no longer want to have the relationship. Whether you talk to them in person or by letter you must be straightforward about what isn’t working and why you’re out. Writing to the person can be cathartic whilst allowing you to get everything out clearly.
When you do walk away from a draining relationship you might feel your social circle shrink. Although you will no longer be losing your energy to another person you may still feel lonely, now is the time to seek new friendships. People who share your values and will support you do exist. At first glance its easy to feel that without a certain workplace or school there is no way to meet new people, let this old mindset go, it is not serving you. Consider your true interests and values and then go to the places that embody them and get involved. For example if you value literature and it is a passion in your life try these ways to meet people with similar interests and possibly similar values:
- Find out if your local library needs any volunteers or if they are holding any events.
- Create or join a group whose focus is getting more books into schools in your community.
- Join a book club.
- Talk to the owner of your favourite book store about having an author do a reading that your book club can support.
Not to be forgotten is the fact that you live in the age of technology, there are thousands of great websites that link people with similar values. I met two of my now dearest friends through Instagram and I have heard of others making friends through twitter. This is one of my favourite sites for meeting new people:
Meet Up is an amazing website created for local groups, linking people with similar interests to one another so they can meet up! This website covers groups from 181 different countries, so yours is most likely included. I recently joined a meditation group in my local area from Meet Up. You can also create groups if you don’t find one that suits you. There are social groups for people who are new to a particular area and just want to get to know other people.
People inspire you, or they drain you – pick them wisely. – Hans F Hansen