How many times have you said this about a relationship? It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a friend, lover, co-worker, mentor or family member. When relationships seem to fade, evaporate or otherwise disappear, we’re sometimes left with a lingering despair. We wonder, “Was it something I said?” We can’t even retrace our steps to pinpoint the moment when we started to drift.
Introverts tend to form deep, long-lasting relationships with a small group of people. We’re pretty selective, because the interactions require an expenditure of precious energy. It’s not that we’re not energized by people we love; I can leave a conversation with a best friend feeling like I could set the world on fire. I can also be drained of every brain cell, because I’ve given so much to the connection. It’s a different exhaustion than I feel when I’m with people who suck the energy out of me. This one is a good exhaustion, like I’ve emptied myself out to someone I trust. Then I can retreat, reflect and recharge from a nourished place.
When one of those relationships fades, we really feel it. We move in intimate circles. We’re not in a big crowd and suddenly one day notice someone’s absence and say “Hey, where’d Beth go?” (This is NOT to imply that extroverts don’t experience a sense of loss; I’m sure they do, they’re human!). Just as closely as we are aware of someone’s presence, we’re aware of their absence.
Sometimes the relationship has served its purpose and run its course. I’ll share a personal example: I had a dear friend that I met during coach training back in 2008. She was (is!) an amazing woman who inspired me, made me laugh and overflowed with creative, positive energy. We were close for a few years, and then we slowly started to drift. A few days between phone calls became a few weeks, then a few months. I felt the loss, while also feeling like we might not have as much in common anymore. So I was curious about the drift, but not curious enough to reach out with any persistence. After all, that also requires lots of energy, as well as vulnerability.
I don’t remember where I heard or read this, but I came across a liberating idea: perhaps some relationships serve a particular purpose in a particular point in time. They aren’t meant to last forever. The relationship’s claim-to-fame isn’t that it lasted 30 years. It’s important simply because something was learned. Something was given and received, and both people were transformed by it.
It’s easy to acknowledge that now. But in the moment, I felt a sense of grief over the loss of her companionship. I wondered if I did something wrong, or had become boring or too dull for her. I assumed that what was happening was my fault.
In these cases, it’s not about fault. Unless my memory is failing me, I didn’t do anything, and she didn’t do anything. It just turns out there was an expiration date on the real-time friendship, and that date arrived. It doesn’t mean the friendship was a failure, or a waste of time. She will always occupy a place in my heart, and I will forever treasure the gifts she gave me.
This idea doesn’t only apply to people. It can be true with anything you have a relationship with. Think about it: a job that was going so well but went sour. An idea that seemed promising but failed to deliver. A client who seemed like an ideal match who decided to work with someone else.
All of these are examples of things that come into our lives and eventually leave, yet we can hold on to them and become almost debilitated by any perceived failure. We’re attached to the way something “should” be, so we can’t let it be what it is.
And what it may be is this: the job that taught us that we can be a strong leader and make our voice heard. The idea that got us moving so that we’ve gotten that much more done on a bigger idea. The client who taught us something about how effectively we’re distinguishing ourselves from the competition.
If we let go of our attachment – that the friendship “should” last forever, or the idea “should” work perfectly – we open ourselves up to the lessons and gifts of the moment. We make room for a more positive flow of energy. And we create an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and how to make choices that honor our natural preferences as introverts.
Letting go of things that don’t fit any more is a liberating experience. Appreciate the experience or relationship for what it was. Find a way to grieve the loss, as well as celebrate that space has been freed up for something new to come in. Blow a kiss out into the universe, and say a loving and grateful goodbye.
For Thought: What energy-draining feelings, relationships or attachments are you holding on to? What would open up if you let them go?