When your family and friends experience stress and anxiety, they often pick up the phone to tell you about it. They want to vent and let out their emotions, and you can end up being the dumping ground. There’s a fine line between being supportive and being an emotional punching bag. You get to the point where each time their name pops up on your phone, you sigh heavily before hitting “answer.”
It can be difficult not to let their stress become your own.
These are people you care about; these are people you want to help; these are people who listen to you when you’re upset, but you have to know your limits.
It’s okay to hit “ignore.”
You should always strive to be your best. Be the best student, worker, friend and family member you can be, but when another person’s stress begins to impact your life, you’ll quickly slip away from your best self. And how can you help someone else when you’re not at your best?
“You’re starting to upset me when all you call me for is to talk about your problems. I’d like to have some positive conversations as well. I’d like to share what’s going on in my life. I am here for you, but I don’t have all of the answers. I encourage you to seek professional help if you’re really feeling this badly.”
Saying the above (or something like it) is tough. The last thing you want is to hurt the person’s feelings. Actually, that’s wrong. The second-to-last thing you want is to hurt the person’s feelings. The last thing you want is to be the person’s 24/7 therapist. You’re not equipped with the skills to help that person, and it’s not fair for your relationship to become one-sided.
Know your limits and know when enough is enough. Relationships require loyalty, and I’m not recommending leaving someone in a time of need. However, I am recommending establishing boundaries and maintaining a comfortable distance. A relationship that becomes about dependency and problems is not one that will bring you anything good. You deserve to be happy as much as anyone else, and you must respect yourself enough to know when you need to pull away in order to achieve that happiness.
It’s not selfish. It’s healthy and smart. Remember that!
For some detailed tips on handling relationships with negative people, click here.