Art by Roza Nozari
“Tell me who I have to be to get some reciprocity.” ~ Lauryn Hill
I have an unfortunate history of being in imbalanced friendships where I was doing most of the work to maintain them. I was the one who kept in touch. I was the one who invited them to do things, etc.. It took me a while to realize that had I not been the one putting in the effort, the friendships wouldn’t have existed. Once I became more aware of my behavior and the dynamics of these friendships I pulled back. Eventually the friendships faded all together.
Many of us have become reflective of our lives over the past year as the issue of our mortality has been more present. Within that reflection a lot of people are making changes to create more peace and well-being which includes reviewing relationships and letting go of the ones that don’t meet their needs, emotional and otherwise. Though this can be hard, I think it’s beneficial to periodically audit our social connections and jettison the ones that don’t add value to our lives. I recently went through this experience. And though a bit sad, the decision to end certain connections was a win for my emotional health.
I realized again recently that I was the one putting in most of the effort to maintain some friendships. I mentioned it to one of my friends and she’d always say something like, “Yeah, I need to get better at staying in touch.” I don’t expect perfection but I have a problem with people who are aware of their shortcomings that impact you and do nothing to correct them.
With the other one I’d text and call on occasion. She always sounded so happy to hear from me and say, “I’ve been thinking of you”, but she’d never initiate contact. I did all the work.
During these unprecedented times our expectations of the people in our lives may have to shift to allow for the fact that many are feeling overwhelmed and can barely even tend to themselves, let alone someone else’s needs. I get it. But we also have to recognize when behavior is temporary or circumstantial or, if it’s just who that person is. And when we can separate circumstances from character and see that someone just doesn’t match our values and needs, we have at least three choices: adjust expectations, implement distance or let the relationship go. We cannot change other people. We can only alert them to our needs and manage our own behavior.
Creating balanced relationships requires awareness of our emotional requirements and the ability to communicate them in addition to setting boundaries. It doesn’t necessarily mean cutting off everyone who’s disappointed you, but it does mean finding a way to mitigate the unevenness in the dynamics so that you don’t experience resentment. If someone truly values you, they will hear you and adjust.
I now turn my attention to people who reciprocate my efforts to stay connected. Honestly, it is a lonelier life, but more fulfilling. Relationships are not always 50/50. There are periods in life where someone will require more attention or just be unable to carry their share. But that shouldn’t be a consistent experience.
We’re all busy and at times let things and people fall through the cracks, but relationships are important. Solid, positive relationships can have great benefits on our mental and emotional health. And conversely, relationships that leave us feeling undervalued and resentful can have adverse effects on our well-being.
So if you’re feeling as if you’re not experiencing a reciprocal relationship it may be time to make some changes. Or, if you may be the one who isn’t giving the energy you’re getting from people in your life it’s probably time to examine why and figure out how to begin making the people in your circle feel more cared for.
Wishing you positive relationships where you feel loved and appreciated.