Friendships are a responsibility. If you don't take anything else away from this article, please try and retain that lil' gem because, I was well into my 30s before I truly did. And with responsibilities, there sometimes comes the need to push through our immediate feelings or situations, in order to handle things in a mature and beneficial way. That's one of the reasons why I wrote the article, "Life Taught Me That True Friendships Are 'Inconvenient'". There have been so many times in my life when a friend has needed me when it wasn't the best time for me personally and vice versa. Still, we were there for each other because, well, that's what real friends do.
Yet what do you do when the moments arise when you feel totally drained, your friends still need you and, while it's totally nothing personal, you feel like you wanna just…vanish for a while? How can you find the balance between still being a good friend and taking care of you too?
2020 has been taxing AF for so many of us. No question. If you want to figure out how to personally maintain without sabotaging your friendships in the process, I've got a few tips that have helped me and my friendships to stay afloat.
Figure Out the Source of Your Exhaustion
The die-hard Love & Basketball fans will remember the scene when Quincy came home to see his mom sad and saying, "I am tired." It was an all-encompassing tired. The kind when the source of your stress has you so worn out and spent that you don't know if you need a bottle of wine, two days of uninterrupted sleep, to sit on someone's therapy couch or—all three.
A part of the motive behind the article, "You're Tired AF. But What Kind Of Rest Do You Need?" is because "tired" is a pretty layered word and, it really isn't until you get down to the very source of what is wearing you out that you can get replenished so that you can give out of your surplus rather than out of your lack. So, if your friends are reaching out to you right now yet, in spite of how much you love and care about them, you really don't want to be bothered because you don't have a whole lot to give, spend some quiet time meditating, journaling or just chilling out and reflecting on what could be causing you to feel the way that you do. The sooner you get to the answer, the sooner you can find a solution that will help to revive you again.
Then Figure Out If There’s a Specific Friend Who’s Draining You
OK, so when it comes to figuring out what could be the root of your tapped-out-ness, be honest—is it actually one of your friends? Man, although there's a fair share of articles out in the world that touch on the topic of high-maintenance partners, there aren't nearly enough that get into how to navigate around a high-maintenance friend. You know the type—they've always got a crisis and/or always want advice even though they never take it and/or they always seem to have a ton of more expectations about what you should be giving them than what they should be offering you.
I once had a friend like this (a few actually, over the course of my life). What I came to realize is, because I was putting so much into their emotional vampire-like ways, I oftentimes didn't have enough for me or for my other friends. As a result, a lot of my other relationships suffered. Moral to the story? Once I started to draw boundaries with that particular individual, I began to have a lot more energy and I was able to balance my relationships so much more effectively.
Listen, sometimes the high-maintenance friend has enough good qualities that you don't want to totally cut them out of your life (or, as I prefer to do it these days, release them). Yet if the reason why you feel so tapped out keeps coming back to one specific person, it is definitely time to set some limits—for your sake and so that your other friendships don't get "penalized" due to what one person is doing. Or not doing.
Share How You’re Feeling—Without Any Guilt from Doing So
I am all about taking out friendship inventory. It's when you and a friend are intentional about discussing where your friendship stands at any given moment, so that you both can determine if there are any needs that are going unmet. Just recently, a dear friend of mine and I had one of these. She's the type of person who tries to find the upswing of bad circumstances which is good; it means that she's a positive individual. However, sometimes her timing sucks. What I mean by that is, I could be sharing something that happened that really hurt me and when she comes with her "silver linings", sometimes that comes off as flippant rather than sympathetic.
When I brought all of this to her attention, her feelings were hurt. When I responded with, "Since we are friends, I trust you to say whatever you want without walking on eggshells. At the same time, you've got to accept that I don't always have to like what you say or agree either." When I expressed where I was coming from in that way, she totally got it. We both agreed that having that conversation would definitely help us to communicate more effectively with one another in the future.
For better or for worse, I've got a couple of friends who, when they are worn out, upset or frustrated (whether it's with me, another friend or due to some other reason), rather than sharing that, they get ghost. All that does is cause me to worry about them and try and seek them out when, if they had simply called or even shot an email to say, "I need some time", I'd be less concerned and they would automatically get the space that they need.
Personally, I think one of the biggest mistakes in relationships is that so many folks expect others to be mind readers. In order for any kind of relationship to be healthy, people need to share their feelings and feel totally safe, comfortable, loved and accepted while doing so. If you love your friends yet, for whatever the reason, you need a minute, tell them that. Only a bad friend would try and make you feel guilty or penalize you for sharing where you are coming from. And if someone isn't serving you well…well.
Ask Your Friends What They Need. Then Negotiate.
Not too long ago, a married friend told me that she heard someone say that they don't like to use the word "negotiate" when it comes to marriage because it means that someone ends up "winning" at the end of the negotiation and that shouldn't be the goal. I really do strive to be as word specific as possible and so, since I know that definitions of negotiate include ones like "to arrange for or bring about by discussion and settlement of terms" and "to move through, around, or over in a satisfactory manner", I personally like the word "negotiate" a lot. At the end of the day, it's all about compromising and, for relationships to remain healthy and functional, compromising needs to happen—often.
That said, when you know that you're in a season when you'd like to focus more on self than others, a way to remain a good friend in the process is to ask what your friends need from you during that time. Share with them where you're at, both mentally and emotionally, and then try and figure out where the two of you can meet in the middle.
For instance, if you've got the kind of friend who needs a lot of quality time, to the point where you can rarely get off of the phone with them in under an hour, let them know that you're still available for emergencies but a half-hour chat, a couple of times a week (maybe even once a week), is all you can do right now. Again, if they're a good friend, they're gonna recognize how you prioritizing them at all means that you value the relationship, so they'll be thankful and back off a bit. Besides, if you are the only person who they can rely on—and more importantly, if they don't know how to do an adult-level of self-soothing—there is some imbalance in your friendship, anyway. Right?
“Love Language” Your Friendships
If you haven't already read it, one article that I encourage you to check out on this platform is, "This Is How To Apply Love Languages To Your Friendships". By knowing if your friends feel most loved by words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, quality time or gifts—that can also help you to figure out how to still be available to them, when you're tapped even, just on a less active level. For instance, if you've got a friend whose primary love language is words of affirmation, while you might not feel up to phone conversations at the moment, sending them a Hallmark card or shooting a text about how much you appreciate them will speak volumes in their life. Or, if you've got a friend whose primary love language is acts of service and you know that they've got a big project coming up, sending them something that can make completing the project easier would probably really make them feel seen and appreciated.
It's been my experience that, a lot of people can handle their friends not being as available as they usually are, so long as they still feel connected to their friends on some level. There are all kinds of ways to let your peeps know that you "got them" without you having to further exhaust yourself in the process. You just need a little quiet time and creativity to figure it all out.
Don’t Force What Isn’t There
Even with all that I just said, sometimes "it's" (the time, effort, energy or even interest) just not in you, no matter how much you wish that it were. This is when your friends need to show up and reveal how much they've got your back. I remember back when I went through my last heartbreak, one of my closest friends literally sat on the phone with me while I cried, pretty much all day long. Not only that but she had food delivered to my home—and she lives in another state. She's married, with kids and has a really booming career, so best believe that all of that was a sacrifice. Matter of fact, she actually had some things going on at the time that she needed to discuss. Still, she put things on the back burner to help me through.
And you know what? If you're so tapped out that you need a little help, your true friends will see that, put their needs (from you) on the side, for a season, as well. Because another beautiful thing about friendship is, when two people are good friends to each other, they both are willing to make sacrifices to help one another out.
We all have moments when we're simply spent. Communicate. Compromise. And allow your friends to be a friend to you when they've got more in them at the time than you do. If everyone lived by this rule, friendships would remain intact. Even during the "Girl, I'm just so tired" seasons of life.
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