This was on my heart today. It’s actually been on my heart a while but I wasn’t sure how to word it.
One of the things that draws abusive people into our lives, most of us anyway, is we are giving, accepting people. Most of us are empathetic to a fault and always see the good. Some people think that behavior is co-dependent but it’s not. It comes from a different place. Once we heal ourselves we must be very careful to find balance between what we want and deserve and being understanding and accepting. Finding that spot for people like us is extremely difficult.
We, have after all, have been in the role of the doting girlfriend, dedicated wife, the friend who always lends an ear, the employee who picks up the slack. We are the ones who often say, in a very understanding way, they are too stressed, too busy, have family obligations, work obligations and because we are always willing to say “Hey, it is what it is.” And we mean it, we get placed into an option position instead of a priority position, because we will not make a fuss, we make their lives easier and we get taken advantage of. Not intentionally but because we put ourselves in the position of being one less thing to worry about. And I truly mean it when I say I don’t want to be one more thing on your plate. I absolutely mean it 100% but just because I’m giving and open and kind, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt me when I realize that I am an option and not a priority. And I think that is important to recognize that realization and embrace it. I am hurt when you (friend, lover, boss, whoever) doesn’t respond to a text, or is okay with always saying in their head, “MaryLee will be okay with it.” Instead of the mindset occasionally, that “MaryLee will be okay with it but she’s been okay with it the past 6 times, so I’m going to make an effort.” After all, when they purposely know you will be okay with it, they are making things easier on themselves. They don’t have to put the effort in and also, they are taking advantage of you and your giving nature when they make that conscious decision.
I don’t want to be an option person any longer. I know my self-worth. I started the journey of ridding myself of people who treated me as an option about 7 years ago and the journey continues. I am still loving, giving and caring but I try to put myself first occasionally which is hard to do.
I recently had a friend come to town to see her daughter. She was here briefly. At one time, she would’ve said, “You have to see her, come over, I’m only here for a day but I want to see you too even if the time is shared.” Instead, I didn’t see her. At one time, I was the person who took her place at school functions when she had to work. Now I was an option. If I was a priority in her life, time would’ve been found, even if it was shared.
I’m facing the same situation a month from now with someone else. The difference? This person is coming into town for a very personal family matter. The difference? The discussion. I happen to be heading out of town that weekend. “I will come in on Thursday to have some time with you but don’t change your plans because I really need to attend to this matter and spend time with my family.” Do I understand this? Absolutely. Am I hurt? Honestly? Yeah. Why would you not want me around for down time when you need a break to catch any little time with me? But this is where balance comes in. By telling me not to change my plans, it is relieving this person of feeling bad because of the responsibility he must attend to. It is also unselfish while simultaneously being selfish. He knows that he will not be able to give me the time that he would like to. So, in this instance, as much as I would like to be around for stolen moments, it is a healthier choice for me to go away as planned and have a good time instead of waiting at home for something that may not happen. And this to is a mindset. A lot of people would think if he wanted more time with you, he would make it a priority. Since I know what is going on, I think he has every right to make his family a priority. And in this instance, being able to relieve him of feeling bad about being in town and having to deal with a family issue and worry about seeing his friend, is okay. I have a right to feel bad and feel like it is a missed opportunity and he has a right to need to be exactly where he needs to be. And he is giving me some of his time. It’s okay to be honest about being hurt and conflicted. I own that but then I also make the decision that I need to meet my wants and needs. While I want and need time with this individual, I am not going to get it due to circumstances beyond our control so I am going to go on my mini vacation and enjoy myself because that is a want and need also!
One of the things we often struggle with is being direct in what we want from a relationship. It’s important to start. To know your wants and needs. To talk about them and not put them on the back burner. We often put ourselves on the back burner to give the other person their wants and needs. It’s time to level the playing field. Continue to make new friends and spend less time with those who make you an option. Speak up! Even though I know my life partner, we have a long-distance relationship, cannot meet my needs at this point, I still discuss them. Not to make him feel bad but to keep myself and him aware that while I am willing to have this distance between us, I am sacrificing my own wants and needs and trusting a future that has no start date yet for various reasons. We are dedicated right now to our children and seeing them off to college so when we will be together, is not set in stone. And while sometimes, I do feel like an option, I know that he tries hard to make me a priority.
No one will be perfect. I’m talking about the people who always use you as an option and take advantage of your caring and giving nature. It is those people we need to clear out of our space so that we can have positive energy. Focus on your self-worth and internalize it so you can draw on it. Allow yourself to be a little high maintenance. This will be different things for different people. I consider myself high maintenance when I am crying to my life partner about missing him and how hard it is to be separated. To me, that is being vulnerable and weak but I am always strong so I allow myself those moments with him and he validates me. Which in turn gives me my strength back to continue on until the next episode. The important thing is, in my abusive relationship, the conversation would not have happened. In my healthy relationship, we talk and he cares and we both accept it is what it is right now.
You are a priority if that person will drop what they are doing to talk to you when you are clearly upset. You are a priority if they can’t spend 4 days with you but make time for 1 day out of the 4. You are a priority if they answer your texts and call to say hello and check in instead of you doing all the work.
If you have worked through your own trauma, you can find balance. And finding balance doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to feel hurt when you wish things were different. It means, accepting that you are hurt and moving past it for a healthier option. It means, you are honest with your wants and needs even if they cannot be met at the moment. It is not putting your wants and needs on the back burner and keeping your mouth shut because that person is stressed, busy, or whatever other adjective you want to put here. Being honest may make the other person feel bad but that’s okay because it means that they recognize they are falling short even if they cannot fix it right now. So, you do not have to feel bad about making your wants and needs known. I will often say, “I know it can’t be fixed right now but if I wasn’t saying anything, it would mean I didn’t care any more about our relationship.” And for me, that is the truth. When I fall silent, or even have moments of silence, it is a clear indication that I am in second thought mode because rarely am I ever too busy not to at least say good morning.
Be a priority in your own life. The rest will fall into place. Find the balance between caring, loving and giving and knowing your worth. Continue to self-reflect and grow as a person. Know that better things and people for your life are waiting for you. The only way to blossom is to cut off the dead stems and blossoms so that new growth can form.