Emotionally Low-Maintenance

Are you aware that May is Mental Health Awareness Month? If yes, have you been doing anything to care for your mental health more than you usually do?

Otherwise, start now! we still have 2 weeks!

I have been thinking a lot about how in my early 20s I was emotionally low-maintenance. Some people are emotionally low maintenance by nature or personality. I wasn’t.

For me, it was a defense mechanism.

You know how you feel that you need more of something, but you dare not ask for more? Usually because you are afraid that if you ask for more, even what you are being offered will be taken away?

That was me.

Growing up with addicts and co-dependents leaves many emotional needs unmet. As children, we internalize this neglect – consciously or not – and we train ourselves to not need the attention we are not receiving. As adults, we realize we need the attention, the emotional connection – but we have no tools or skills to ask for it.

Worst case scenario, we don’t even know how to connect emotionally to others. So we lock-down our emotional needs in a small steel box and throw the box in the sea of fear and disconnection.

This manifested for me in various ways, but mostly in the 3 below:

1. Agreeing with people even when I disagreed

If I met a friend or date who didn’t like daily communication, I said I didn’t like daily communication either. Though I really thrive in a communicative environment. It doesn’t necessarily have to be daily, but it has to be consistent and considerate.

I had friends that would stop talking to me for weeks or even months because they met someone more interesting. Or because I said something they didn’t like. Maybe I even questioned an opinion.

When these friends came back to talking to me, I was open to it and moved forward as if nothing. Reducing my own opinions or controversial questions to the minimum to avoid a repeat of the disappearing acts.

2. Ignoring or minimizing my needs

I die a little inside when I am ignored. Slowly by slowly I feel like I don’t matter at all. So having another person ignore a question I asked them and let for example a WhatsApp message go unanswered for 2 days doesn’t work for me. However, in my former self, I would not say anything in protest. I would just be grateful when I finally received the answer after 2 days.

A few years ago, a very nice guy asked me out on a date. He had been ranting about his love for Italian food so when he asked me if I had any preferences for the date, I said Italian! I would really rather have gone to a Chinese restaurant because I really wanted a wok.

But I never even told him this, because I was minimizing my needs, and putting his needs first.

Easy going dame!

3. Putting other people’s needs before my own

Have you ever dated someone for 3 years because you felt sorry for them? Not because you love them. Definitely not because you see a future with them. Simply because you can’t bare to hurt them by telling them that you don’t really feel that strongly about them.

Well, in the end the break up has to come and you feel like the worst person alive.

Because your need for someone you can love (emotionally connect with) is not as important as your need to be emotionally disconnected.

Healing & moving Forward

Alas I find I have healed & evolved! I can no longer accept emotional unavailability in friendships or relationships. I thrive in the loved up bubble of deep open communication & deep emotional connections.

I had a break through when I met someone who treated me as if my existence mattered. A person who insisted that I have my own taste in food so I didn’t just choose a restaurant that fit their taste. This one asked me a question and waited in silence for me to reply. However long it took for my reply to come.

Ever met someone who asks for your opinion and then listens to it as if you’re the smartest person in the universe. And then this person follows up with a question regarding your opinion. Because often, people just contradict your opinion and laugh as they move on to next discussion.

Once, they were traveling and couldn’t talk to me for 2 days. When finally we spoke, they apologized for “dropping off the face of the earth.” I replied it was no big deal and this gem was angry at me for not missing them enough to react to their absence.

It was the first time someone confronted me with my “emotional distance” in a constructive manner. I had never looked at myself as a person who maintains emotional distance.

There it was. Who was I?

Emotionally Low Maintenance

Being emotionally-low-maintenance is a trauma reaction & comes from either:

  • fear of rejection or
  • closing down oneself to protect oneself from heartbreak or loss

It is emotional freedom/independence at the expense of deep reciprocal relationships.

A person who is emotionally-low-maintenance expects little from people around him/her. They give lots of love, support, motivation, attention etc to loved ones, without receiving it back. Or expecting it back. In the end, they’re emotionally drained.

A person who is emotionally-low-maintenance attracts emotional vampires. & energy vampires. Energy & emotional vampires are looking for shallow connections with kind people who have no boundaries & expect nothing.

A person who is emotionally-low-maintenance may subconsciously keep low contact with others as a way of avoiding emotional connections. This can make it an egg-hen situation where the emotionally-low-maintenance person actually expects others to communicate less. Which forces others to adjust to the person who is emotionally-low-maintenance.


Recommended Reading: Have you read this poem by Silent-era actor Charlie Chaplin entitled:

“As I Began to Love Myself.”

Dreams of a Better Future

Have you ever bonded with someone too quick? Almost too quick? And discovered a few weeks or months later that it was not the best idea to bond with this person at all? That there was too much pain there? Or anger?

Whatever it was, it made you regret bonding too quick with that person?

I did that not so long ago. It was the intellectual conversation that caught my attention first. The easy banter. A needy presence and we love being needed.

Then there was the grief just under the surface.

I connect easily with people who are grieving, or have lost someone close and not properly dealt with the loss yet. Perhaps I understand grief well because I grieved for my father and it was the heaviest grief I have ever felt.

I connect easily with people who have been abandoned as children. Whether it was physical abandonment or emotional abandonment. I don’t quite know why I connect with abandonment so well. It could be an abandonment I haven’t identified as abandonment yet.

Something I lacked in childhood that I want to heal in myself?

The challenge with Trauma bonds is that you eventually want to break them. It may take weeks, months or years, but eventually, you cannot sustain them emotionally. They are too intense. Too damaging. They are all consuming leaving no energy for other relationships – not even the relationship with yourself.

Trauma bonds are also hard to to break. You get too immersed in them, almost drowning. Ever felt pity for someone you know you cannot live with? Guilt that you needed something more? Or you felt anger and desperation and started acting out of character? Just to make them leave you so you didn’t have to leave first?

As for me and my trauma bond not so long ago – it didn’t last too long. One morning, I woke up and stopped communicating with the person. I had warned them that it wasn’t a bond I wanted to keep in my life.

That didn’t make it easier to break.

To have the life we are dreaming about, we have to be brave enough to do what we have to do to keep ourselves safe, healthy, and growing.

Sometimes, we have to be brutal. Other times, we have to be kind. Often, we have to be decisive and discerning.

2020 seems like the year to make these difficult decisions. As nature cleanses itself, we get a chance to cleanse ourselves and our surroundings.

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Recommended reading: Go to Tolbert Reports and read Sunset and Mental Health Questions. Browse that beautiful page! You will enjoy it in these times when we have so much time in our hands.

6 Types Of Boundaries You Deserve To Have and How To Maintain Them

This is copied from MBG relationships authored by By Elizabeth Earnshaw.

Many people have the wrong idea about boundaries. They believe that they already have good boundaries when in reality they have brick walls, or they believe that boundaries are “unkind.”

Healthy boundaries are the ultimate guide to successful relationships. Without healthy boundaries, relationships do not thrive—they result in feelings of resentment, disappointment, or violation. These feelings, unchecked, can lead to being cut off from others or enmeshment, where there’s no clear division between you and others’ needs and feelings. Neither of these situations is ideal.

Because so few of us understand what boundaries actually are, we rarely see evidence of them working. But when they do, you feel it—it does wonders for your mental and relational health.

What healthy boundaries look like

Boundaries are what happen when you can sense yourself and what you need and want and access your voice to speak to those things. We all have “limits,” and we all experience violations of our limits.

Most of the time, people are not trying to violate your limits—they just aren’t aware of what they are. Sometimes, this is because we are not clear with ourselves or other people about what we want or need.

Here are six boundaries you deserve to have and what they might look like in practice:

1. Physical boundaries

Physical boundaries include your needs for personal space, your comfort with touch, and your physical needs like needing to rest, eat food, and drink water.

It is OK to let people know that you don’t want to be touched or that you need more space. It is also OK to say that you are hungry or that you need to rest.

Healthy physical boundaries might sound like:

  • “I am really tired. I need to sit down now.”
  • “I am not a big hugger. I am a handshake person.”
  • “I need to eat. I am going to go grab something.”
  • “I am allergic to [insert here], so we can’t have that in our home.”
  • “No. I don’t want you to touch me like that.”
  • “Don’t go into my room without asking first.”

Physical boundary violations feel like receiving inappropriate or unwanted touch, being denied your physical needs (told to keep walking when you are tired or that you need to wait to eat or drink), or having someone come into your personal space in a way that is uncomfortable (entering your room without permission, for example). This can vary on a spectrum from mild to severe. The most severe violations result in serious physical abuse or neglect.

2. Emotional boundaries

Emotional boundaries are all about respecting and honoring feelings and energy. Setting emotional boundaries means recognizing how much emotional energy you are capable of taking in, knowing when to share and when not to share, and limiting emotional sharing with people who respond poorly. Respecting emotional boundaries means validating the feelings of others and making sure you respect their ability to take in emotional information.

It might sound like:

  • “When I share my feelings with you and get criticized, it makes me totally shut down. I can only share with you if you are able to respond respectfully to me.”
  • “I am so sorry you are having such a tough time. Right now, I am not in a place to take in all of this information. Do you think we can come back to this conversation later?”
  • “I am having a hard time and really need to talk. Are you in a place to listen right now?”
  • “I really can’t talk about that right now. It isn’t the right time.”

Emotional boundary violations include:

  • Dismissing and criticizing feelings
  • Asking questions that are not appropriate for the relationship
  • Reading or going through personal and emotional information
  • Asking people to justify their feelings
  • Assuming we know how other people feel
  • Telling other people how they feel
  • “Emotionally dumping” on people without their permission
  • Sharing inappropriate emotional information with your children

3. Time boundaries

Your time is valuable, and it is important to protect how it is utilized. Setting time boundaries is incredibly important at work, home, and socially. Setting time boundaries means understanding your priorities and setting aside enough time for the many areas of your life without overcommitting. When you understand your priorities, it is much easier to limit the amount of time you are giving to other people.

Healthy time boundaries might sound like:

  • “I can’t come to that event this weekend.”
  • “I can only stay for an hour.”
  • “Do you have time to chat today?”
  • “I would love to help, but I would be over-committing myself. Is there another time?”
  • “We have family time on Sundays, so we won’t make it.”
  • “I am happy to help with that. My hourly rate is…”

Violated time boundaries looks like asking professionals for their time without paying them, demanding time from people, keeping people in conversations or on tasks for longer than we told them we would, showing up late or canceling on people because we over-committed, and contacting people when they said they would be unavailable. Article continues below

4. Sexual boundaries

Healthy sexual boundaries include consent, agreement, respect, understanding of preferences and desires, and privacy.

Healthy sexual boundaries include:

  • Asking for consent
  • Discussing and asking for what pleases you
  • Requesting condom use if you want it
  • Discussing contraception
  • Saying no to things that you do not like or that hurt you
  • Protecting the privacy of the other person

This might sound like:

  • “Do you want to have sex now?”
  • “Is this comfortable for you?”
  • “Tell me what you like.”
  • “Tell me what you don’t like.”
  • “I don’t like that. Let’s try something different.”
  • “I don’t want to have sex tonight. Can we cuddle instead?”
  • “I am really into [insert desire here]. Is that something you would feel comfortable with?”

Sexual boundary violations include:

  • Sulking, punishing, or getting angry if someone does not want to have sex
  • Not asking for consent
  • Pressure to engage in unwanted sexual acts
  • Unwanted sexual comments
  • Leering
  • Lying about contraceptive use
  • Lying about your health history
  • Criticizing the other person’s sexual preferences
  • Unwanted touch, assault, or rape

5. Intellectual boundaries

Intellectual boundaries refer to your thoughts, ideas, and curiosity. Healthy intellectual boundaries include respect for the ideas of other people, and they can be violated when your thoughts and curiosity are shut down, dismissed, or belittled. Respectfulness and willingness to dialogue and understand are important here.

Healthy intellectual boundaries also mean considering whether or not it is a good time to talk about something.

They might sound like:

  • “I know we disagree, but I won’t let you belittle me like that.”
  • “I would love to talk about this more, but I don’t think talking about it during Thanksgiving dinner is the best time.”
  • “When we talk about this, we don’t get very far. I think it is a good idea to avoid the conversation right now.”
  • “I can respect that we have different opinions on this.”

Does this mean that you need to be accepting of all thoughts and opinions? Absolutely not. It is also important to learn to recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy discourse. If someone is sharing an opinion that is inherently harmful—i.e., racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc.—then you have every right to put a hard line in the sand. You can set the boundary in your own way. It might sound like letting the person know you do not tolerate that kind of talk, distancing yourself from them, or cutting off. You do not have to have “intellectual” discourse with someone who is violating you or other people.

6. Material boundaries

Material boundaries refer to items and possessions like your home, car, clothing, jewelry, furniture, money, etc. It is healthy to understand what you can and cannot share and how you expect your items and materials to be treated by the people you share them with.

Having limits on how your material items are treated is healthy and prevents resentment over time.

This might sound like:

  • “I can’t lend out my car. I am the only person on the insurance.”
  • “We can’t give any more money. We would be happy to help in another way.”
  • “Sure! I am happy to share my dress with you. Just a heads-up, I do need it back by Friday.”

Material boundaries are violated when your things are destroyed or stolen or when they are “borrowed” too frequently. Another material violation is the use of materials (money and possessions) to manipulate and control relationships.

The more we set boundaries, the more we recognize them. In setting boundaries, we help people show up for us, and we also become better at showing up for them.

In the words of BrenĂ© Brown, “Clear is kind.”