Think of the energy you need to get through your day as coming from one big battery. Each time you struggle through a task without the right supports in place, it drains your battery—sometimes a little bit, sometimes a lot. The good news is that your battery can be recharged by finding ways to make tasks a little bit easier. Take time to figure out which parts of your experience in relationships are draining your battery and to find the strategies that work for you. You can use this downloadable worksheet to make notes for each area in this roadmap.
Interpersonal relationships are different than social interactions in the workplace or in your neighborhood. Relationships include the ones you choose to enter, like friendships or romantic partnerships, and those you are born into, like your family. These connections do not always come easily, and all kinds of relationships take some sort of work when problems arise. It isn’t always easy to identify relationships that are draining you, but it is very important to take the time to look into these issues.
Other people can bring their own challenges into relationships. Maybe they have their own communication struggles, or they may interact with the world in a way that drains them, too. A healthy relationship should allow both people to support each other without placing the burden of wellness solely on the other person. This means a friend or partner can ask for your support with their problems, but they should not make it so you are the only one who can fix problems for them. Codependency is an unhealthy, excessive reliance on another person which can lead to people feeling “trapped” in relationships.
It is also very important to understand what healthy relationships look like and to know what supports exist if you need to remove yourself from unhealthy or abusive relationships. There are sobering statistics about disabled people in abusive relationships. By understanding what you want in a relationship, it can help you identify “red flags” and develop tools to foster healthy relationships. Remember, a healthy relationship should promote growth and wellness by creating a safe environment for the people involved.
What drains you?
Consider the relationships you have in your life and the people close to you. Boundaries are the terms of a relationship that define what you are comfortable with and how you would like to be treated by others. Sometimes boundaries must be clearly defined. As our relationships grow, so does our ability to set healthy boundaries.
- Do you find yourself repeatedly giving money or items to others, even when it can negatively impact you?
- Are you doing things for friends because “that’s what friends do,” even if it makes you uncomfortable?
- Do you feel anxious about saying no to a person because of how they will react?
- Are you being asked to keep secrets, even from other people you trust?
- Does your relationship feel unequal and like you are giving more to the other person?
What recharges you?
Now think about the relationships that energize you - the people who make you feel happy after interacting with them. Think about the relationships you currently have and the ones you wish to have.
- Do you have someone you can reach out to if you are having a bad day?
- Who is the person or people you can reach out to when you have good news?
- If you want to do an activity, who do you want to join you?
- Are there people you have good memories and experiences with?
- Who do you turn to when you have something you want to share?
What are the risks?
Red flags are things to be aware of and watch out for in your relationship. These can be precursors to more serious negative behaviors down the road.
- Abuse is not just physical. It can be verbal in direct or indirect ways. It can also be in other ways such as mental, sexual, financial, etc.
- A partner in an unhealthy relationship will try to isolate you from your support network and control who you can talk to or see.
- Abuse can be feeling pressured for physical contact, even if it makes you uncomfortable.
- No one should criticize you constantly. That behavior indicates that they are not accepting of who you are as a person.
You might need others who aren’t as close to the situation to help you see the red flags in your relationships. It is important to understand how dangerous it can be if someone is trying to isolate you from people you trust.
- If you feel anxious seeing a message from a certain person, you might not be feeling excited about talking to that person.
- If you have to obey very specific rules when interacting with a person, that isn’t healthy.
- If you find yourself staying away from certain places to avoid running into a person, it may mean that relationship isn’t contributing to your overall wellness.
- If you feel negative towards yourself after talking to a person, it may mean they are not promoting your best self.
- If you are being told your experiences are not real, even when there is proof of conversations or behaviors, you may begin to question your reality. This is called gaslighting.
What are the types of relationships you want to have?
What are the boundaries you need to feel safe and comfortable in your relationships?
- How can you communicate your boundaries to others?
- Do your boundaries vary between different people or are they universal?
- How and to whom do you communicate if your boundary has been pushed either purposely or accidentally?
What are some boundaries, strategies or tools that you want to put in place?
- How do you know when you need to ask for help balancing your needs?
- Who can help you in this area?
When your battery is running low, you may want to reach out to people who make you feel positive about yourself and life.
- How do you know when you need to reach out for connection?
- Who can you reach out to?