Do you have any relationship in your life that bears the resemblance of an invisible elephant sitting on your chest?
Well, for the record….
It’s called obligation.
The ol’ feeling of being morally, legally, or ethically bound to do something we don’t really want to do.
We all know it too well.
It’s that irritating voice, in the back of our minds, that is essentially our very own human GPS.
Now I don’t want us to confuse ‘obligation’ with ‘responsibility’.
There’s a slight difference.
“Obligation is something you feel compelled about due to social pressure and norms. Responsibility is rather something you freely decide to take upon yourself because you are deeply convinced about the importance of what you feel responsible for.”
We all have different ones, but nonetheless—we all have them.
Whether it’s calling your parents, or sending someone flowers, or notifying the police of a crime, or even giving up your seat for an elderly person.
Nowadays, obligation doesn’t just limit itself to things we need to do. Its now permeated itself into relationships we feel obligated to have with others– to which I like to call:
Those are the relationships that we don’t really want to put energy into but can’t seem to cut them off either.
Maybe it’s a friendship that’s turned sort of sour, but you see the person weekly at yoga so you keep it up—that woman comes up to you right after ‘slow burn’ and asks when can you grab a coffee. As you’re secretly saying, “never’ in your head, the words “I’m free now” come rolling out of your mouth like you’ve lost control over all your own motor skills.
It seems that everyone wants a chunk of everyone else’s time (a.k.a. getting together, meeting for coffee, grabbing lunch, a drink, popping into a new smoothie place).
Time and energy get chewed up by all our obligationships -all kinds of people you feel you should see but don’t really want to or have time for.
“We have to connect and disconnect, and that’s the dance we do all the time.”
Too often, though, the connection I’m referring to is with our second tier of acquaintances to which I like to refer to as B-listers-or Blisters according to the urban dictionary.
To be clear, these people aren’t “frenemies” (those who act friendly to your face, but scheme and talk smack behind your back).
These interactions don’t even have one ounce of malice, in fact, they are usually totally benign, and actually very sweet.
Which only exasperates our guilt afterward.
It’s a vicious web.
I think the problem only comes when we realize we are spending more time with our blisters than the A-listers in our inner circle.
As women, we juggle many things. We have our children, our partners, careers, families, committees, PTO’s, etc etc etc— the list goes on forever.
Then to add new friendships on top of it all—-
It’s just so much to juggle.
There are so many of these relationships we seem to have to maintain for a variety of reason. So many fires on the grill in order to keep our social lives status quo and our rightful place in the food chain.
So, How do you say no?
It’s like you’re dating someone, and it’s easier to keep seeing them than to have the unpleasant conversation.”
I’ve been on both ends. Believe me.
Sometimes my life has been just way too busy to make plans with anyone other than my closest circle.
But then again- I’ve also been on the receiving side where you ask someone continually for plans and they dodge you to no avail, with every excuse possible of being busy, only to make plans over and over again with other people you know.
Sometimes I wake up late to that party, but when I do—you better believe I’m never asking again.
When you meet someone new who seems so nice, you exchange a couple of texts, maybe you can see the person once or twice a year for coffee or lunch.
It sounds like scheduled checkups, which in a way, these get-togethers are.
At this point in life, most of my inner circle has been grandfathered in with a lifetime membership guaranteed. The chances of making a new best friend/A-lister are rather low but not impossible.
I’ve actually made some very close and dear new friends in the last few years.
Another odd component I have found lately is the relationships people feel they are making through social media.
These are social mediaships, not real friendships and if we’re not careful, can even turn into obligationships out of nowhere.
People think they know you and that you need to respond just because they’ve reached out to you on a social media site.
I was reading a recent comment on my social media. This man left a comment—hey, I’ve just moved to your city, let’s meet up…
C’mom. Responding or meeting up with followers is equivalent to picking up a hitchhiker.
At this point in my life, it’s about quality, not quantity. I’d take 4 quarters over 10 dimes any day of the week.
Rule of thumb—if you no longer get a warm fuzzy feeling when thinking of a person you have some sort of “ship” with—chances are it’s time to cut the anchor on that obligationship and sail away.
Until next time,