I have a confession to make; for the past few months, when I have been able to, after I tucked my family in for the night I have been binge watching the television series Lost on Netflix. I just watched the finale the other night and after crying my way through the final 1 hour and 44 minutes, I closed the lap top I and felt a sense of loss. The first question I asked myself was, “how did people last an entire six years waiting for this to end?” While I mulled that one over and started to grieve the departure of my new friends, the second question started to creep into my head, “why would you allow yourself to get so emotionally invested in a damn TV show?” This struck me as quite odd and got me thinking about all of the things, some worthy and others not so much, that over time I have focused my feelings on, and I had myself a little aha moment. I can look back and see where I have given so much of myself to people who have given nothing in return. This triggers me. Being emotionally invested in someone is wonderful, if there is balance.
Okay so using Lost as an example of becoming emotionally invested in something may seem silly but if you really look at it, it does makes perfect sense. We watch films and read books for entertainment and enjoyment, sometimes to escape reality for a brief moment in time. We are interested in these plot lines and stories because on some level we can relate to them and they hit us emotionally, oftentimes expressing feelings that we can’t put into words. Characters become familiar and we find ourselves connected to them. When we close our book or shut off our TV and leave them for a while, they’re right where we left them when we go back. This is our payoff in our emotionally invested relationship.
Now when we apply that same observation to our real life relationships with people this is where things aren’t always so neat and tidy, because other people have feelings just like we do, and a lot of times they don’t jive with ours. We become emotionally invested in people right from the get go if there is a chemistry of some kind there, and I’m not just talking about physical or sexual attraction. When we meet a new friend that we’re interested in getting to know, we put an investment into them assuming that they will do the same. Sometimes we feel such a strong connection that we jump into these relationships with both feet and no thought and oftentimes this leads to a relationship fizzling out just as quickly as it started, which can result in heartache and hurt; we’ve all been there. The only advice I have to offer here is to pace yourself and get to know each other, there really is no rush is there?
Being emotionally invested in people is what makes us human. Having the capacity to love another and put their feelings before ours is a very admirable but if we’re doing it all of the time and getting nothing in return, that is no longer admirable, it’s just unhealthy. That balance that I was talking about before requires a give and take in equal proportions. If you’re the person who is always giving yourself to please someone else, whether it be because you have a habit of people pleasing, are expecting the relationship to turn in another direction, or are afraid of the relationship ending, then you’re going to be in for a world of disappointment. It’s wonderful to be someone’s rock or soft spot to land, but are they also your rock when need be? Do they provide you with a soft spot to land? If you’ve answered no to those questions, it may be time to reevaluate that particular relationship because once you’re in that place of continuously giving and giving it’s really hard to get out of, but not impossible.
It may seem a bit odd to state what your intentions, needs and wants are when it comes to a relationship, but it really isn’t. If your feelings aren’t being validated or even acknowledged then a relationship like that is doing you more harm than it is good. Communicating your feelings in a clear and effective way, without laying blame, can get your relationship back onto a healthier path, or it can give you the courage to end it and find someone who will value you for the person that you are. Sometimes people don’t realize that their actions, or lack of them, are hurtful to us and it could be that once it’s pointed out to them they’ll work on changing those behaviours. You’re a pretty awesome person and they don’t want to lose you, but you have a right to be treated the way you should be and accepting nothing less than respect and kindness is doing yourself a disservice.
It’s hard to look at a relationship that we know is not in the best state and make the call on whether or not it can be saved, but sometimes it’s a really important thing to do for your own mental health. Have you ever looked at the caller ID on your phone when it rang and got an overwhelming sense of fatigue when you saw the name of the person calling? Is there a person in your life that actually sucks the energy from you after spending a day with them? What about the person that is so negative all of the time that you find yourself viewing life through their pessimistic eyes after that coffee date? Sometimes there are people that just will not change their ways or views and you have to ask yourself if you want to remain invested in that relationship. I had two of those; one triggered me so badly that I ended up voluntarily admitting myself to psychiatric care for a little respite to find a way to work it out. I cut ties for my own well-being. I loved her dearly, but when I found myself reaching for my anti-anxiety meds before going out for lunch with her, and then agitated and irritable for days after, I couldn’t do it anymore. There are only so many coping mechanisms that I can employ myself and one of those was to stop putting myself in that situation.
Obviously the only way to get a relationship moving is to become emotionally invested and sometimes that’s hard after we’ve been burned before, this is where some of us can become emotionally unavailable, and that’s also not a great spot to be in. We’ll touch on that in a future blog. The biggest connections in your life come from being emotionally invested in people, you’ll probably find your biggest rewards there too, and sometimes the balance will shift, but it’s when there is no balance that you’re going to get hurt. If you’re grieving the loss of a relationship I would suggest acknowledging and accepting. Opening a book and getting invested in a story can’t hurt either.