There are some experts who say that we all have six basic emotions — happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust. I personally believe that a lot of us continue to stay in the emotional ruts that we find ourselves in because we don’t expand past these six when it comes to verbally expressing how we feel (for instance, are you angry or irritated? Are you sad or just tired? — you can download an emotional wheel here). What I will say is, because emotions are a human regulator, it’s always important to take moments, throughout the day, to “check-in” with your feelings to see where you’re at — and if where you are is drained, yeah…that ain’t good.
To be drained is to find yourself in a state and position where you feel…empty. And because we are, in part, emotional beings, that’s not good because being depleted affects our self-regulation and that can infect our processing and the steps that we need to take to do what’s truly best for us.
You know who knows this to be true? Emotionally draining people. Know what else? They absolutely do not care. All they can think about is doing whatever needs to be done to get their own needs — including their emotional needs — met. And if that wears you out in the process…so be it.
More times than not, these kinds of individuals are entitled, selfish, and oftentimes very emotionally immature. They don’t care about this either. That’s why it’s on you (and me) to become self-aware of our own relational needs and then to become aware of some telling signs that you are being emotionally drained, so that you can set boundaries and act accordingly.
For now, here are seven that are dead ringers that boundaries are needed ASAP.
1. You Feel Anxious at the Mere Thought of Being Around ThemGiphy
There used to be some people in my life (and by “people,” I mean relatives) who I found myself damn near hyperventilating at the mere thought of having to be around them. They were controlling. They were manipulative. They couldn’t respect a boundary to save their life. And they liked to abuse Scripture to justify their behavior.
What made it even worse was, because a lot of people around them were either just like them or henpecked to death by them, they would try and make me feel bad for not wanting that kind of toxicity around me. And so, for many — FAR TOO MANY — years, I would stay on a vicious rollercoaster of feeling peace whenever those individuals weren’t around and totally stressed out whenever they were.
Listen, when you’re in the presence of people who are right for you, anxiety should be far, far away from your emotional space. The reason why I say that is because, by definition, anxiety means things like mental distress, uneasiness, and worry — and all of this is connected to thinking that you’re going to be in some type of danger or some sort of misfortune is going to happen to you if, in this case, those kinds of individuals come around.
In other words, in the context of this article, anxiety is signaling a red flag. So, instead of you trying to suppress it, the wiser thing to do is really stop and ask yourself, “Why is it that when [insert name here] comes to mind, I feel this way?” Then really listen to yourself when the answer presents itself — and then act accordingly when it comes to the steps that you need to put into place next in order to experience less anxiety and more calm. Take whatever steps are necessary too. Anxiety is not something that you want to play with. Stress either.
2. “Emotional Vampire” Tracks When It Comes to a Way to Describe ThemGiphy
When it comes to everything that I just said, if there’s a term that would describe those people perfectly, “emotional vampire” would definitely scratch the itch. So, how do you know if you’ve got an emotional vampire in your life — I mean, beyond what I just described?
According to many mental health professionals, there are three telling signs that someone fits this particular bill:
- They constantly need attention and/or validation.
- They suck at self-accountability (and honestly, emotional self-regulation).
- They tend to stay in counterproductive — if not flat-out self-destructive — patterns.
Because of this, having them around typically results in them doing things like:
Gaslighting you — making you think that you’re insane for having the memories or feelings that are directly related to them that you do.
Being passive-aggressive — hinting around at issues instead of directly addressing them (which yes, is super draining). You know the kind: when you ask them “What’s wrong?”, they say “nothing” five times before actually getting to the point. LAWD.
Playing the victim — when you call them out on their ish, either it’s someone else’s fault or they start to act like you are bullying them by addressing what they are actually doing wrong.
Talking too much — emotional vampires SUCK at listening. Listening means that they have to let other people have the floor, that they can’t be the center of attention, and/or that they might hear something that they would prefer to ignore or avoid. That said, watch those who talk over you a lot. Not only is it disrespectful but oftentimes, they are telling you that they don’t want to deal with whatever you’re about to say (even if they know that they should).
Taking control — controlling people are draining because we aren’t designed to be controlled (or to control others). We’re adults and that means we are free to have our own opinions, perspectives, and even ways of doing things. Emotional vampires will always push back on this because, if the way you choose to live your life does not serve them in the way that they want it to, they will try and get some control over you, so that they can (continue to) manipulate you.
I honestly could go on and on with this point; however, what I will say for now is, if this resonated with you more than a lil’ bit, there is an emotional vampire in your midst and it’s time to get some distance and set some boundaries. FIRM ONES.
3. You’re Definitely “Keeping Tabs” on the RelationshipGiphy
You wanna know a clear indication that someone is manipulating and/or using you? It’s when you bring up to them that you feel like you’re the one who is doing most of the “heavy lifting” in the relationship and they come at you on some, “If you’re keeping tabs, you’re not doing ‘it’ for the right reasons.”
Chile, please stop. The reality is that if there was true reciprocity, I wouldn’t need to keep tabs. Keeping tabs is what’s revealing to me that there isn’t.
There are some people in my life who, I couldn’t “tally up” what I’ve done for them vs. what they’ve done for me if I tried. That’s how seamless the relationship is on the give-and-take tip. Then there are those who, I’m honestly embarrassed that I did so much when they offered so little in return. For example, the day ones (of reading my work on this platform) might remember my mentioning a so-called friendship where I spent thousands of dollars (yes, literally) over the years and all I got from them (again, yes literally) was a $5 ring from some museum and a packet of lip gloss…that they actually lost. I used to chalk it up to them giving differently but c’mon — thousands in comparison to 10 bucks? Nah. I was played, for sure.
Someone who takes more than they give, even when it comes to tangible things, is eventually going to emotionally drain you because you will start to feel taken advantage of — and when that happens, it will eventually take a real toll on you. Trust me, I’ve been there.
4. They Treat You Like a Makeshift Therapist (Instead of Going to Actual Therapy)Giphy
Whenever I hear or read that Black people fear therapy, there is a part of me that’s like, “Maybe some of us; however, I think more are afraid of paying a therapy bill.” Just think about it — how many people in your life seem to constantly have something that they need your insight and counsel about? Almost like they think that your main purpose in life is to act like their on-call (and not paid) therapist. SMDH.
Do healthy relationships consist of being safe spaces for two people to share, vent, process, and get (hopefully) some sound advice? 1000 percent. However, if every time that you answer the phone, the same person on the other end has some sort of issue or problem that it seems they want YOU to put more energy into solving (or resolving) than they are even willing to — that will totally get old after a while.
Besides, I tell a lot of my clients that, although relationships can be therapeutic, they are not the same thing as going to actual therapy. And so, if someone seems to be in a hamster wheel of drama or trauma and it’s getting to the point where you find yourself avoiding them because they have nothing else to talk about but their problems, it really is time to let them know that you can be a friend but they should seek a professional — because those things are not the same…because they’re not.
5. With Them, It’s ALWAYS SomethingGiphy
Back in 2015, I went on an intentional “tour” to resolve some things with certain men of my past. I actually wrote about it for the site (when you get a chance, check out, “Why Every Woman Should Go On A 'Get Your Heart Pieces Back' Tour”). Anyway, the main purpose of it was to make sure that I got the FULL CLOSURE that I needed so that I wouldn’t move forward with someone new while still being “haunted” by my past. It was honestly one of the best things that I’ve ever done.
Currently, I have a friend who is doing something similar — kinda-sorta by default. There is an ex in her life who has always been able to come back in, in part, because they’ve both always felt like it was poor timing that kept them from having a long-term committed relationship. Although I’ve seen some, at the very least, pink flags about ole’ boy, because I know what it’s like to not be able to get someone out of my system until I’m personally ready to, I’ve encouraged her to be intentional about getting the answers that she needs — so that if/when she’s done this time…IT’S DONE FOR GOOD (and yes, I am yelling it).
It's a slow crawl yet it seems like she’s starting to come around, because this guy? When I tell you that he’s always in some sort of crisis or he’s always got some sort of problem or he’s always “inconsistently upset” (meaning, he goes from hot to cold in a matter of moments) about something? And here’s the thing — life has moments of hardship, trials, and tests for all of us. Still, when someone is constantly in that space, at some point, they’ve got to be willing to accept that the common denominator in it all is them.
And if someone is always drawing conflict into their life, what do you think you’re gonna be dealing with, right along with them (especially in a romantic situation)? In fact, a lot of times, they will think that treading water (if not flat-out drowning) with them is a part of your role.
One of my favorite quotes of all time is, “Everywhere you go, there you are.” If someone’s always in some mess, you are only doing yourself harm by getting intimately involved with them. Yeah, some folks, you’ve gotta pray for and let them figure THEM out.
6. It’s Hard to Be Your Authentic Self in Their PresenceGiphy
Walking on eggshells is also emotionally draining — and this is what tends to happen when you feel like you can’t be your genuine, complete, and unedited self when you’re around certain individuals.
For the record, I don’t mean that you should ever think that you have the right to be unhinged, rude, or disrespectful. All I’m saying is if you’re monitoring your words because they are constantly getting triggered or having their feelings hurt, if you find yourself backtracking or apologizing even when you don’t think that you’ve done anything wrong, if you are holding back when it comes to expressing your own views, likes or desires — that’s too much work and when relationships require a lot of stress, striving and toiling in order to keep them going, that too is gonna tap you out.
In fact, one of the greatest indications that you have found “your people” is when you can relax, exhale and be totally, unapologetically, and authentically YOU. If that’s not currently happening — I don’t care if it’s a partner, a friend, a relative, a job, a church…whatever, you are setting yourself up to be emotionally drained…if you’re not already right there.
7. You’d Rather Be Anywhere BUT Around ThemGiphy
I’m proud of my friend circle. One reason is that they are out here doin’ the damn thing. They are thriving in their purpose. They are making big moves. Their schedules are full. And that’s why I’m almost honored if, when I call, they pick up — pretty much every time (or will follow up with a text that they will call when they can). One friend, in particular, shared why. He said, “Because I know that you’re not gonna drain the hell outta me.”
Again, when it comes to a topic like this, I could go on for days. For now, though, let’s just end it with this, if you’re avoiding someone because of how they make you feel whenever they’re in your emotional space, that’s another indication that they are probably emotionally draining you and so you need to go about the relationship differently.
Because why would you intentionally avoid someone who brings you peace, who makes you laugh, who brings encouragement and support, who helps to fill your cup rather than empty it?
Again, we’re all gonna have moments — possibly even seasons — when we’ll need people to help us through tough and trying times; this means that we need to be ready, willing, and prepared to return the favor. Yet if tough and trying are all that there is, something is…off.
Healthy relationships are supposed to be helpful NOT draining.
When it comes to yours — which is it? Really?
And if it’s Door #2 — set boundaries. QUICKLY.
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Featured image by Ekaterina Goncharova/Getty Images
- Are You An Emotionally & Relationally Safe Person To Be Around? 6 Ways To Know. ›
- On Being An Empath & Not Taking On Emotions That Aren't Yours To Carry ›
- 6 Signs You're About To Let A Toxic Person (Back) Into Your Life ›
- This Is How A Friend Can Gaslight You — And Make It Feel Like It's Your Fault ›
After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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Sabrina Dhowre Elba Admits To Not Initially Knowing Who Idris Elba Was When They Met
Model and entrepreneur Sabrina Elba recently recalled the intimate moments surrounding the fateful day she first encountered her husband, Idris Elba.
The couple, who have been together since 2017, met at a jazz bar in Vancouver when Idris was working on his film Mountain Between Us. Years later, in April 2019, following a whirlwind romance, Sabrina and Idris would tie the knot in Morocco.
Since then, the pair's love story has become "couple goals" among many for various reasons. The list includes the numerous times Sabrina and Idris have showcased their love on social media. Another factor contributing to the duo's likability is that Sabrina and Idris have displayed over the years that being with the right partner can elevate one's career or passion in life.
Sabrina and Idris have collaborated professionally in several businesses, including their Coupledom podcast and skincare brand S'Able Labs. In a June interview on Jemele Hill's Unbothered podcast, the 34-year-old opened up about the events leading up to when she met Idris and how she initially didn't know who he was.
Sabrina Dhowre Elba on Meeting Idris Elba
Sabrina, who was living in Vancouver at the time, said that the same night Idris was in town, she went out to a jazz bar for an event called Slow Jam Sunday for a friend’s birthday.
Around that time, the model was getting over a breakup and claimed she wasn't interested in a relationship because of how badly her previous one ended. In a past interview, Idris revealed that he, too, just went through a breakup before meeting Sabrina.
"This is so funny. I [had] just gotten out of a really bad relationship, so I was not this person. I was like 'men are trash. They suck.' I'm literally ready to switch it on up or something because I was so over it," she said. "I come to this party with a night off at work that I prebooked because I was working literally every weekend. But it was my girlfriend's birthday party, so I was there kind of by chance."
Sabrina also revealed that, coincidently, the night she took off for her friend's birthday celebration was the same night Idris had the day off and was convinced by his stunt double to attend Slow Jam Sunday.
"Slow Jam Sundays is an amazing night in Vancouver. It's the one night I would probably go to, but you wouldn't see me out often because I was a weekend worker. I was working at restaurants and service industry, your weekends are taken up," she stated.
"Idris was filming this film in Vancouver and had one night off in Vancouver because most of it was filmed sort of up north in the mountains. His stunt double convinced him to go to Slow Jam Sundays. By chance, we were both there."
Further into the interview, Sabrina disclosed that her friend was interested in Idris at first and went to flirt with him. However, the Daddy's Little Girls star dismissed the friend's advances because Sabrina had caught his eye.
When Sabrina's friend informed her about what happened, she admitted that although she tried to put up a front for her friend's sake, the S'Able Labs CEO was happy because she thought he was also attractive. Following the discussion, Sabrina and her friend went to the section where Idris was, and the couple realized how much they had in common, from the music choices to their background.
"So I go over, and we have like one of those conversations that you just feel like you've known this person for ten years because we're singing the same songs. When a song comes on that I love, he's like, 'I love this song.' I'm like, 'what?' Like I just had this like cultural connection. He's African. I'm like,' Where are you from?'" she said.
Sabrina On Not Knowing Who Idris Was After Meeting Him
As the topic shifted to Idris' celebrity status, Sabrina explained that she didn't know who he was until after it was brought to her attention by a few people she met outside of the bar.
"When I went outside, I realized because there's a group of people there, they're like, 'Oh, you're talking to Idris Elba,'" she stated.
When asked about how well-known the actor was when they met, Sabrina shared that Idris was widely famous in America but not so much in Canada and that the one film she saw him in was the 2009 thriller Obsessed.
Sabrina would add that even after being told who Idris was, she couldn't recollect where she knew him from until her friends mentioned the movie.
"Well, so the film that I had seen was Obsessed... I feel Idris Elba now he gets recognized so much. In that moment, unless you were kind of in that zeitgeist, he was definitely a lot more popular in America," she said. "I don't think I would've known it even when they said that was him. I was trying to remember, like, my friends were like, 'yeah, he's from Obsessed.' We're like, 'Oh, yeah.'"
After figuring out who Idris was, Sabrina shared that when she re-entered the venue, she doubted a relationship would form between them given his occupation, the short timeline he would be there to shoot his movie, and the constant temptation that could flock around him due to his status. But despite Sabrina's uncertainty, they would exchange numbers before she left.
"So I went back inside, we started chatting some more, and he was like, 'Let me take your number.' I was like, 'Alright,' and then I left," she stated.
The model explained the reason why she left the event was that her friend, whose birthday she was celebrating, wanted to check out other spots. When the night was coming to an end, Sabrina hailed a taxi to go home when she received a phone call from Idris. The entrepreneur revealed that the Takers star stopped her from entering the cab and urged her to get in the car he was driving, and they spent the whole night talking until 8 a.m.
"I got in his car, and we spoke till like 8 a.m. easy. It was probably like 2 [a.m.] at that time. We just had the most intense, amazing conversation," she said. "It was the first time I ever connected with someone to the point where I was like, I went home the next day called my friends, I was like, 'I think I found my soulmate.'"
Sabrina revealed that from that fateful night, she and Idris became inseparable. The couple would be long-distance for a brief stint of their union until they acknowledged how difficult it was to maintain that type of relationship. Sabrina ultimately decided to move in with Idris although she was skeptical at first, she claimed it was one of the best decisions she's made because she found her "soulmate."
Sabrina Elba's First Night with Idris Elba Sounds Like a Romance MovieModel and philanthropist Sabrina Elba joins Jemele to discuss her marriage to actor Idris Elba, and their heartwarming, love at first sight origin story.SUBS...
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Feature image by Dave Benett/Getty Images for Space NK