"Use it up. Wear it out. Make do. Do without."
The point is: don't be wasteful. Be resource conscious. Get maximum use out of a product or item before discarding or replacing it.
Generally speaking, this is pretty good advice.
But have you ever known someone who approached relationships with this mentality? I have. Trying to engage with someone who operates with a "reduce-reuse-recycle" mentality is exhausting, frustrating, even heart-breaking.
These relationships absolutely suck the life out of you. It's like going from being someone's favorite snuggle blanket, to the rag they use to dust furniture or wash their dirty car, to the forgotten bit of trash crammed in the dark, cobweb-filled corner of the closet in the garage. Before long, you feel completely worn out, used up, and taken for granted.
Of course, the obvious way to not have your soul sucked out by these exhausting relationships is to avoid them. If you discover that someone is a "joy sucker," that they drain you emotionally and bring nothing to the table but drama, strife and negativity, scratch them off your friend list. Life's too short and too precious to waste it on people who take-take-take and who are so small-minded that they can't see past their own noses. People who have no thought for the needs or feelings of others - who needs them?
Except that sometimes, these very people are the people closest to us. They are people we love. A relative. A co-worker. A neighbor. Yes, relating to them is exhausting, but no, we don't want to be rid of them. We are committed to loving them in spite of the fact that they drain us of energy and enthusiasm.
What do we do then?
One approach to dealing with such people is to refuse to play the complaining game. You know the scenario: Lena always has some little negative comment to make about what you're wearing, the way you've decorated your house, how dry the chicken was at dinner, that she'd rather have chocolate cake than the apple pie you're serving, etc. Or she feels compelled to recount to you all the offenses she's suffered that day - the driver that cut her off on the interstate, the server who got her order wrong at McDonald's, how long she had to stand in line at Wal-Mart, the co-worker who talks too loudly and gets on her nerves, etc. Or she creates stressful situations for herself, then expects you to help shoulder her self-induced anxiety. When Lena begins the all-too-familiar litany of what's-not-right with the world, nothing you can say or do will fix her problems or make her feel better. She doesn't want to feel better. No, she wants to revel in her afflictions.
When someone like Lena begins a swamp fest around me, I try to change the subject completely; or, if that doesn't work, I just put my brain in neutral and let Lena vomit while I contemplate the scenery outside the window or doodle around in my head with ideas for tonight's dinner. I do NOT encourage or acknowledge her complaints. No sympathetic looks or sighs. No commiseration. Nope, I'm just not going to join in the drama if I can help it. I don't know if these strategies help Lena any, but it makes it possible for me to be around her without being drug into her muck pit myself. I just don't want to be part of her festival of negativity.
So, what advice can you give, Dear Reader, for dealing with folks who are emotionally draining? How do you cope with the "reduce-reuse-recycle" types in your life? How do you engage without letting yourself feel used up or burned out?
I'm sure I'm not the only one who could use some help in this area, so don't be shy about sharing helpful advice!
3 months ago