I recently read this line in a blog post: “There’s nothing good about feeling forced.” The comment was in reference to charitable giving. This young person was raised in a family that values giving back, but he noted “there’s something about obligation that eliminates feeling good about it.”
I know what he means. There are some things in life we are told to do, so we do it (usually) – pay taxes, stop at red lights, find a job, take out the trash, etc. We may enjoy doing some of these things, but we mostly do them because it’s expected of us, either legally or culturally. There are other things, however, that we do because of the joy it brings – holding the door for someone, sending a card, walking the dog, making dinner for someone (actually, for me, this goes in the first category! Haha!), etc. When any of these actions become obligatory, like the young man said, it doesn’t feel good.
There are very few relationships in my life in which I’m forced to do anything. I never feel forced to spend time with my husband – I enjoy that, I seek out those moments. I never feel forced to spend time with friends – we choose to be together, we value it. I never feel forced to FaceTime with my nieces, although they might! 😉
When I’m given obligations for a relationship, the last thing I want to do is follow through. Mostly because I was told what to do, not asked. I don’t see myself as a stubborn person. I follow rules very well. I did all the assignments for school. I follow the running plan for races. I like to stay in line. So, what is it about being given guidelines for a relationship that bothers me so much?
Relationships are about being connected, about reciprocity, about truly caring about the other. Genuine relationships mean that both people make an effort, both people reach out, both people maintain responsibility for the health of the relationship.
Now, there are times in life when relationships are unbalanced. Right now I have several unbalanced relationships – and it’s okay! I have good friends who are in the throes of parenting. They have young children to keep alive. I am not a top priority for them and that makes sense. I initiate communication, I suggest setting up a time to hang out. Eventually these relationships will come into better balance, like they were before children. Until then, I understand how it works. Sometimes it can be frustrating, but I’m willing to push through that because I value and love those relationships.
Relationships are about love, about generosity, about putting the other person first. This isn’t always easy. There are times when I put myself – my needs, my wants and desires – first. Sometimes this is necessary – how can I care for or support others if my well is empty? However, there are other times I’m just downright selfish. In those moments I realize how far I have yet to go – how much more I need to grow.
It’s hard, though, when I’m the only one making an effort. It’s hard to be the first one to call or text every time. It’s hard to reach out when I know I’m “supposed to call” – the joy of the relationship disappears, it now feels forced and “there’s nothing good about feeling forced.” In that instance I don’t want to call – in fact, I feel my heels digging in and my body moving backward. I feel my guard rising and my compassion shrinking. The relationship is slowing falling apart because the connection is forced and no longer feels good.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to surround myself with people who help me be a better person, and vice versa. I want to be around people who shine their light and who help me shine my light brighter. I want to be around people who value the connection that relationships create – not because we have to, but because we want to. I don’t want obligatory relationships; I want genuine, I-can’t-imagine-my-life-without-you-in-it relationships. I want relationships that challenge me and help me grow. I want relationships that offer new perspectives. I want relationships that leave me wanting more, not less. I want relationships that make me feel valued and heard and unconditionally loved.
It’s taken me awhile to get to this conclusion. Like I said, I follow the rules – I know what’s expected of me. However, in order to follow through with my truest desires for my relationships, I must let go of those expectations and start walking on my own path, not the one someone else created for me. There might be backlash. There might be hurt feelings. However, my feelings have been hurt for quite some time without any acknowledgement or apology. I don’t want to play a game of tit-for-tat, but I also think it’s time for this to stop. It’s time for me to recognize that who I am today is not who I was yesterday – and that’s a good thing.
No more obligations. No more forced relationships. It’s time.