A few months ago, I was talking to my daughter about some relationship challenges I was having. I’d decided I no longer need to be in relationship with certain people.
“I think it’s just COVID, Mama,” she said. “The pandemic taught me that I don’t have to be running around doing all these things for people.” Then, she added, “You know … it’s important to know which relationships are low-maintenance and which are high-maintenance.”
I’m not stopped in my tracks very often during a conversation, but that last part quieted me. I had to think about it for a second, and I told her as much. What does that even mean? Why does it matter?
Here’s what I’ve come up with.
What Does It Mean?
High-maintenance relationships feel tiring. I described one before when writing about my former best friend. She seemed needy and relied heavily on me as her “therapist.” She always had an issue requiring my counsel, but even after a great convo, for some reason, the issue was never resolved.
I’ve had other relationships that are accompanied with thick books for engagement of how to show up. These books included pages of rules not always aligned with my personality: Show up like this. Call on this day. Make me a priority all … the … time.
I’m sure I’ve been high maintenance to others. The tone of the text, the gloss in their eyes, or the exasperation in their voice proves it. Each says: What is it now? What more can I do? I followed the guidelines, but now there’s more. I recognize it because I’ve been that way with others. Like, dang … Haven’t I shown up enough for you?
Low-maintenance relationships, on the other hand, are synchronistic. Rules for engagement are intuited and easy. For me, this looks like reciprocity. Sometimes you pay for the lunch date, and sometimes I pay. Sometimes you suggest an activity for us to do, and sometimes I do. We equally hold space for the other person to vent. But we’re not venting all day. Most of the time, we’re having fun, laughing, talking, and sharing in life. Many of my friendships are like this. My relationship with one of my sisters is like this. It’s easygoing; there is little tension.
Why Does It Matter?
Step into this analogy with me.
A few years ago, I wanted a red, Mercedes-Benz GLK. I contemplated doing all I could to get one, until I spoke with my car-aficionado husband. Not only was general upkeep expensive, like always buying premium gas, but he also told me the car wasn’t reliable. If something broke down, then I’d be paying an astronomical amount for repairs. It was a high-maintenance vehicle I couldn’t afford.
Relationships can be similar.
High-maintenance relationships are expensive. You pay with your time. You pay with your energy. Occasionally, you actually pay with money. But I’m here to affirm this for you. If you don’t have the bandwidth, it’s okay not to have them. Your reason, whatever it is, is valid. Just like that Benz wasn’t the best for my situation at the time; sometimes, some relationships aren’t either. And that’s okay.
Post-script: There is no such thing as a no-maintenance relationship. All cars, no matter their cost or age, require gas and an oil change (or electricity and new tires) 😉