You Deplete Me
by Julie Barnhill
Many years ago, a close friend of mine was involved in a relationship that just about anyone who even remotely knew anything about her could (and did) judge as being less-than desirable. Family, close friends and spiritual advisors all joined a chorus of, “Run, Forest, run!”(Um, not her real name, of course.)
But she didn’t.
Better stated she couldn’t. She was unwilling to acknowledge, let alone extricate herself from, the manipulation, control and joy-stealing power this person was interjecting with increasing twisted fervor into their day-to-day interactions and long-term relationship. And thus it went for weeks, months and close to two years. She and I in a back-and-forth, never-ending conversation of her noting more and more of what was going on and how it made her feel angry, worn out, belittled and confused (yet, again, doing nothing).
Until finally, at the end of yet another long (and, I confess, patience-testing on my part) conversation she looked at me, sighed, and asked, “What am I supposed to do, Julie?”
This might be a good time to note that I have consistently scored a zero, yes, “0” in any spiritual gifts testing of mercy. My heart can and does sympathize, empathize and profoundly care about others. However, a counselor I am not. I tend to be a, “Um, why are we still talking about this? Let’s do what needs to be done and move on already!” not-so-much merciful type. For further proof, please continue reading …
My response was as follows: “I guess you just have to pick your poison: denial or fear; because your decision to be governed by either of them will ultimately destroy and kill the life (and relationships) you were created to long for and know.”
It wasn’t easy speaking those words. Nor was it comfortable between the two of us for far-too-many awkward minutes. But I can tell you this: My sweet friend sat up a bit taller in her chair and spoke with a decidedly strengthened tone, when she eventually replied, “I’ve had enough. It’s time I ended this relationship for it’s poison to my heart, mind, body and soul.”
Perhaps you can relate or find yourself in a similar situation as my friend once was? And perhaps you’re asking silently (and hoping for a bit of mercy) and wondering, “How can I break away from an unsafe relationship of my own?”
I’m glad you asked! First, review the interpersonal traits below that describe how unsafe people operate in relationships. They’re taken from Safe People by Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud. No doubt, you’ll begin to see the differences between the safe and the unsafe people in your life.
Unsafe people …
• think they “have it all together” instead of admitting their weaknesses.
• are religious instead of spiritual.
• are defensive instead of open to feedback.
• are self-righteous instead of humble.
• only apologize instead of changing their behavior.
• avoid working on their problems instead of dealing with them.
• demand trust, instead of earning it.
• believe they are perfect instead of admitting their faults.
• blame others instead of taking responsibility.
• lie instead of telling the truth.
• are stagnant instead of growing.
And yes, I’ve dug deep for a large dose of One Tough Friend mercy. Take the necessary steps to examine the relationships in your life:
Don’t go it alone, for help finding safe friends, go to MOPS.org/help.
- Pick your antidote. Rather than denial, choose to assess your relationship with gut-level honesty. Ditch the spirit of fear and instead embrace the power of a sound mind rooted in love and truth.
- Establish some healthy boundaries! Determine any areas you must put up a “Do Not Trespass” sign in your relationships.
- Speak truth in love. Shore up your heart and soul with the power of scripture: “… I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14
Julie Barnhill is One Tough Mother to three children and author of seven books, including the Every Mother Can series and One Tough Mother, available at MOPShop.org.