I used to try to figure out my relationships in my head.
I’d spend countless hours analyzing our interactions, trying to figure out who meant what and what I should or shouldn’t have said and what I should or shouldn’t do next.
It was not only exhausting, but also confusing.
I could never really figure out why there was this tension between us, or who was causing what, or if things could change, or what my part was in everything.
I would keep making myself available for the same draining dynamics that I was trying to free myself from. It’s like I just couldn’t give myself permission to detach from relationships that depleted me because I used to believe that it was my job to fix myself enough to make any relationship work.
My people-pleasing tendencies used to demand that I spend time with everyone who expected to spend time with me, no matter the effect that they would have on me. I even believed that whatever negative effect I was experiencing surely must be my fault and that I had no right to protect myself from them, because I was in fact the problem.
The upside of all this ruminating and agonizing in my relationships, is that I’ve put myself through endless therapy and self-development programs, both as a client and a practitioner. I’ve tried everything from psychoanalysis, to psychodynamic therapy, to CBT, to ACT, to DBT, to MBSR, to NVC, to SE, to IFS, to RLT, to MBSG – and the list goes on (Acronyms decoded below).
Today, the way that I figure out whether or not someone is good for me or welcome in my life is so much simpler – and more effective – than ever.
The way I decide whether or not someone is good for me today is by simply paying attention to my body (instead of my mind.)
When I am hanging out with anyone – new or old – I start tracking my nervous system and tune into how it’s reacting.
Is my nervous system regulated, relaxed and at ease?
Or is my nervous system activated, alert, on guard or pumping adrenaline?
Essentially, if someone’s presence is stressing out my nervous system by increasing my stress, fear, anxiety, wariness, guardedness, heaviness in my chest or tension in my shoulders, I simply follow my body’s cues about the impact that this person is having on me, and minimize my contact with them.
It’s really that simple.
I don’t have to know why, for me to accept that being around certain people is exhausting, draining and stressful, and to give myself permission to either limit the amount of time that I spend with them, or remove their access to me completely.
Do I still investigate the layers of what might be going on between us? Yes.
Am I still trying to become more conscious of what patterns I might be bringing to the relational fields? Yes.
Do I still wonder about the relationship dynamics that get kicked up and how to shift them? Absolutely.
But, I no longer force myself to continue to spend time with people who stress out my nervous system, because I’ve realized that spending time with certain people can send me into a wobble and a swirl that can take me off-center and off-course for days or weeks – and I’d rather spend my energy on more life-affirming things.
So, the next time you’re wondering whether or not you’d like to see someone again, ask your body: “Body, how does this feel for me? Does this feel right for me?”
And, if it doesn’t? Give yourself full permission to limit your contact or walk away. Limiting our exposure to those things that drain and deplete us is foundational to our self-care.
How do you know if someone is “good for you” or not? And what helps you to set boundaries around relationships that disturb you (not in a good way, lol!)? I’d love to know; leave a comment below.