One of the pricklier parts of designing one’s dream lifestyle is trying to figure out who fits into it and who does not. People commonly state that relationships are the most important aspect of their lives, and of course I agree with the sentiment. Yet what I frequently observe is that people tend to take each other for granted. For relationships to be sustainable they must be healthy, otherwise they need to be pruned.
So exactly what do I mean by that? For starters, don’t relate on other people’s terms all the time. Of course, healthy relationships call for give and take on the part of both parties, but if you find yourself giving inordinately more than you are receiving, it is time to reevaluate that relationship. As part of our overall simplifying strategy, we must be willing to edit our lives, and that includes the people who are part of them.
The principle of reciprocity suggests that for any relationship to be healthy it must be reciprocal, or mutually beneficial to both parties. Unless both people in a relationship share in the maintenance of it, resentment from the neglected person typically results. Communication is key to resolving the issues that inevitably arise in a relationship and if one party is mute, it speaks volumes.
I once heard a minister say that the people in our lives who we most try to please will also be the greatest source of our pain. And I think we have all experienced the tragic consequences of familiarity breeding contempt. If you have people in your life that fail to respect you for who you are—without trying to change you—sooner or later you will experience their contempt of you. It may be subtle but the underlying message from them is: you are not enough.
Now I don’t know about you, but I am done with the soul-sucking people in my life. Just this past weekend, I deleted about one-third of all the contacts in my phone’s address book. Most were not necessarily leeches, but simply antiquated contacts. Yet several prompted negative emotions in me as a result of the sour state of our relationship. And news flash: the fact that someone is family does not give them the right to mistreat us either.
One of the lessons I am learning as I get older is that so much of life is about its corresponding times and seasons. It is liberating to accept that not everyone is meant to be a part of our lives forever. I cannot count the number of relationships that I have propped up indefinitely because I failed to realize they were meant simply for a season. So, I encourage each of you to ponder your relationships and be willing to pare them accordingly.
I’ll close with a thought-provoking statement I read in an article from The Guardian titled “Why Time Management Is Ruining Our Lives” by Oliver Burkeman: “Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon? Which relationships will you prioritize, during your shockingly limited lifespan [emphasis mine], and who will you resign yourself to disappointing? What matters?”