Sometimes, the burdens we carry, we carry not because nobody else will; but because we aren’t able to allow ourselves to put them down so others may have the chance to pitch-in, help, do their share of the work.
Observe and introspect on the balance of giving — physically and emotionally — in the significant relationships in your life today. What burdens do you tend to carry, what roles and responsibilities do you automatically take, what kind of dynamics do you most find yourself drawn into, across relationships?
This feels like a message especially for me, on the heels of a particularly challenging week in terms of love and friendship in my life. A week in which I became aware of my tendency to take on certain burdens that I have assumed come from my love and caring for someone, but are sometimes just my inability to say no to bullshit, or my proneness to believe I am inherently too much for my friends to handle and so to take the entire responsibility of backing away. Which is effectively me choosing inauthenticity in order to maintain a status quo. Doing this takes a lot of exhausting labour out of me, and most often doesn’t fetch me the results I am looking for. Leaving me bitter, unhappy and lonely.
Emotional dynamics in relationships should ideally be shared more or less equally, in order for the relationship to flow in a harmonious way. But sometimes the balance goes askew to facilitate something else. For example, the control or holding of power can lie with the person who does the bulk of the labour. We sometimes choose to take the entire responsibility as a means to control or steer a relationship in a certain direction.
Or it can be easy to delude ourselves about the true health of a relationship, as long as we keep engaging in “doing the work”. This labour unfortunately is then not going into healing or growing the relationship, but in keeping it from falling apart. A subtle, but important difference.
To lay down unnecessary burdens requires a high degree of honesty. When we engage with that, we are invited to get deeper in touch with our authentic selves. And we are encouraged to show up as we are. It helps us see what we can and absolutely cannot do, what burdens we can and cannot take, what roles we can and cannot perform, in a relationship. And what emerges from there is connection in a true form, free of roleplaying and people pleasing.
This process has been particularly challenging, and a painful one for me this past week as it has meant confronting some of my own judgements around the sharing of emotional labour and how I view people’s reasons for staying or remaining in relationships that have long passed their expiry date.
Taking responsibility for only as much as we can and realistically want to and should do, is an act of deep humility and respect. For the self, primarily, but also for the other. Learning this is to allow freedom, for love and connection to flow freely, and for a respectful, mutually balanced dynamic to emerge between people.