Episode 24 | (00:00):
Hey there, friend. Today, we're going to be talking about getting your midlife relationships in order. I am going to give you a simple — oh my goodness, a deceivingly simple — life hack to help you evaluate your relationships and energize your connections after 40.
Because relationships are unequivocally the spice of life. So let's take a moment to evaluate them and make sure we are grabbing all that spicy deliciousness out of every single relationship in our lives. What do you say? You ready? I know, me too. I love this topic. I love this so much. Let's do this. Let's dive in. .
Hey there, Easy Ager, if you aren't already an Easy Aging® Insider, go to theeasyagingshow.com right after this episode and sign up today.
Ooh, today we are talking about a life hack that I absolutely adore. This little life hack is going to help you know where someone stands with you. I bet you thought I said that backwards, didn't you? You're probably thinking, "No, actually Michelle, you're trying to say to help you know where you stand with someone else." But nope, that's not it. I mean, you need to know where people stand with you.
You're probably thinking, "Well, don't I already know where people stand with me?" Not necessarily. Because by the time we hit midlife, we get stuck in some relationships that may not be benefiting us anymore, and until we take an evaluation, we're not going to know.
So if you're wondering why talking with someone makes you tired or makes you feel drained or why you feel that sense of dread every time you look at the phone and it's lighting up with the text or the phone call and you're like, "Ugh, I don't wanna talk to that person."
This is a really fantastic evaluation tool for you to become more aware of your relationships and how you're feeling about them. It will also set you free, not necessarily free from the person, but free from the expectations that you put on that person.
Because every relationship has unspoken expectations and if those expectations are being met, it's fantastic. It's a great relationship. But when those expectations are not being met any longer, that's when things start to feel kind of meh.
So I'm going to tell you what this life hack is, then I'm going to give you three examples of how I've used them in my life.
First of all, picture a target. It's got the bullseye in the middle and then the ring, and the next ring, and the next ring. The rings just keep going out. Now that bullseye is your inner circle of people. These are the people you spend the most time with. These are the people who know you the best. These are the people who are the most important in people in your life.
By the time we hit midlife, we should be treating that inner circle like it's the red velvet rope at the club. Ooh, remember clubbing? Yeah. Disco Duck, here we come. So yeah, I know. I just said Disco Duck. I'm sorry. I still like that song, I don't care what anyone says.
The only thing between us and the door of the club is that big, burly guy in control of that red rope. I think actually those red ropes are called stanchions or something, if you want the proper name for them. But for right now, we're just going to call it "the red velvet rope."
When you start treating your inner circle of people like the red velvet rope at the club, you are going to be able to manage your energy and manage your focus significantly better. And who doesn't want more of that? I don't know about you but here in midlife, I am grabbing tooth and nail trying to hang on every ounce of energy that I have.
So the important thing to understand about this target, it's organic. There are going to be times when your inner circle consists of five or six people, there are going to be times when it has two people. So if your inner circle fluctuates a bit, don't worry about that. That's kind of a normal thing. I think that's just, you know, life.
So let me give you an example. Actually, I'm going to give you three examples of how I have used this in my life. I have a friend. Yeah, I know you're laughing, going, "Really? You have a friend?" ;)
I have a friend that is an absolute blast to hang out with. She is just a lovely, high-energy person. She comes in and just takes the joint over. You know, a very intense personality, very big personality. And yet we have these conversations that go from deep and significant on through laughing about some of our goofy, embarrassing stuff that happens to us.
She would come roaring into my life and she'd say, "Oh my gosh, let's go have margaritas. Let's do this, let's do that." And we would do this and it would be great. And then I wouldn't hear from her for like weeks, even months. So I'd text her, "Hey, what's going on?" She'd say, "Oh, it's kind of busy now. Sorry." And she would just disappear like the wind, she would just blow out of my life.
Initially I got my feelings hurt over and over again. And then you go through that whole process, "Well, I just don't wanna be her friend." Then I thought, "But when she is here, I really do have a good time. I have a lot of fun with her."
And I started paying attention to the patterns, and her pattern was she would just roar in like a hurricane into my life. We'd have a great time. And then she would just disappear into the wind about every three to four months. So I said, "Oh well, cool. I'm on the quarterly schedule. So yay. She'll be back in three or four months."
When I realized this and I accepted it, I finally decided she's going into my inner circle for a day or two, and then I'm going to move her out to one of the outside rings, and I'm okay with that. When she swoops back in, I'll make myself available. We'll go have a great time and then she'll disappear again...and that's okay.
So by having the option of moving her in or out of my inner circle, I'm much happier. I don't stress over this particular relationship anymore because I don't have to worry about whether she's going to call because she's on an outer circle now. When she calls, she gets into the inner circle, so there you have it, right?
Here's another example about an ex-friend. Yes, I said ex. That means this one didn't end so happily. I've known her for many years and in general, she's just a bit of a worry wart. You know, the person that wrings their her hands and oh my gosh, no matter how many blessings she has in her life, there's always going to be something wrong. And I had kind of accepted that.
I was used to it over the years. She would have these downward spirals where she just couldn't seem to pull herself out of it. I was okay with all of this until...The pandemic. In 2020, her behavior was worse than normal. Her downward spirals would just go and go and go, and I just had to quietly start distancing myself.
The spirals just kept getting worse and worse and worse, and I thought, "You know, I'm going to have to talk with her." Because I valued this relationship, I wanted to be honest with her. So I said, "Hey, you know, 2020 was kind of crazy. I love you, but the downward spirals are really starting to get to me. Can you help me think of a solution for this?"
She said, "Oh, well, you know, I could just not talk with you when I'm spiraling." And I said, "Oh, okay, great idea. That that would be really helpful. Thank you for doing that." Then we chatted for a bit and I said, "Let me know if you wanna talk about this anymore." I was opening that door if she needed to talk.
Now I kept up with her, and I kept doing this over the next three or four months. I noticed she was not responding or she would give me very short, curt answers. So after the fourth month I said, "Okay, whatever," and I let it go. Now, in this case, she didn't get moved to one of the rings on the outer edge of the target. She fell off the target.
I'd like to say that I miss having her in my life but honestly, I don't. Life just became lighter. It became less cumbersome without having to deal with all the spirals. I felt the stress melting off of me. I mean, I felt like every time I sat on the couch, I just kind of melted into the couch because I was so relieved to not be dealing with this any longer.
It's like the frog in the pot. You put a frog in boiling water, he's going to hop out. But if you put him in water that's room temperature and you slowly heat up the pot, he's going to be a crispy critter now, isn't he? So I do believe that's what happened to me.
I just kept tolerating this behavior and tolerating it, and it just kept going and going and going. Then when I said something about it, I guess... I don't even know what happened. I guess she couldn't handle it so she didn't want to talk to me anymore.
This is an example of how sometimes when you are speaking up and when you speak your truth to someone, they're not going to be able to handle it and they are going to fall off the target. Then you have to decide whether you're going to pursue them or whether you're going to let them go.
So while that was an example of how sometimes relationships run their course and then they're done, here's a great example of the complete opposite. This example is with my mom. She was 88, I believe, when her last remaining sister died.
You know, everyone grieves differently. Sometimes, people get stuck in a phase. I know that personally, when I grieve, I kind of get stuck in that depression part. That's just where my grief lands but for her, she got stuck in the anger phase and she started becoming very negative.
I let her go on for a number of months, I can't remember how long. Then it was getting to a point where I was going to have to talk with her or make a decision to move her out of my inner circle. She was going to move into one of the rings outside of the inner circle.
I really didn't want to do that because again, I wanted to be honest in this relationship because I loved her so much.
One day we were sitting at my house and she started up with the negativity. I said, "You know, I love you so much. I'm so genuinely sorry that your sister died. But I feel like you're hitting a point where your negativity is starting to concern me. I feel like you're kind of stuck in this negativity loop, and it may be time to start getting out of it. "
Her response was, "What? What am I doing? I'm doing that? Oh my goodness. I had no idea. Thank you for letting me know." And then she thought about it and said, "You're right. I'm stuck in this negative pattern. I need to just pull myself out of this because I don't want to be like this. Oh, Michelle, I'm so sorry. I apologize. I don't want to do this to you either. I'm so sorry I've been doing this, but forgive me, please."
During all of this, she starts crying, and then she's crying, and then I'm crying, "It's okay, Mom, we're going to be fine." Then of course we ended it with a hug and a cry and a really big glass of wine, which is kind of how we ended everything back then. ;)
The next morning she woke up and we were chatting over coffee and she said, "You know, I prayed about it last night. I was asking God to help me get unstuck. I need to get unstuck, and I'm going to do better. And Emma..." (That was her sister who passed away) "Emma wouldn't want me to do this. She wouldn't want me to be grieving and being so negative. She'd want me to move forward with my life. Not that I'm not going to be grieving, I'm going to have my bad days and my good days, but I am going to be more focused on the way I'm thinking."
Just hearing her say that, she never got pushed out of the inner circle. She stayed. If there was an inner circle inside the inner circle, she would've been in the center one. Because she said what everybody wants to hear: "I'm going to do my best. I'm going to be better. I'm going to be paying more attention."
It's amazing how someone at 89 years old — that was when she literally changed overnight. She went to bed, prayed, woke up the next morning and really had a complete change of attitude. A complete outlook change. Her perspective had changed.
She did have her days of sadness and grief, and that's perfectly fine. The beautiful thing for me was that she loved me enough and respected me enough to make the change to improve our relationship, to get us back on track. I mean, unlike the previous example I gave of my ex-friend, this was a completely different perspective of looking at it.
So all that to say, you know, sometimes being honest is a little risky but for the people who genuinely love you and respect you, it is so worth it.
This evaluation tool is just for you. It is for nobody else. It'd probably be wise not to write it down or, you know, if you do burn it. Nobody else needs to see who's in the center and who's out and who's on the rings and all of that. This is yours.
It's just a little mental picture to help you manage your energy and manage your relationships more effectively so you are focusing on the people who energize you, give you that kick in the seat of the pants, and bring you joy and refresh you, versus the people who don't.
So to recap, using this little mental picture of your target does a few things. Number one, it helps you set expectations so you don't get upset or you don't get angry or get your feelings hurt like the example with my first friend who kind of drifts in and out of my life.
Number two, it helps you set boundaries so you're not getting taken advantage of, or you're not getting beaten up regularly. Because the key is for you to take care of your mental health. If someone else can't handle that or doesn't respect you enough to work through this and continue moving forward with the relationship, then they're probably not the right person for you. They're not a person you need to be in relationship with.
Number three, the little target helps you see clearly who is sincere in the relationship, who really and truly loves you and respects you, who's listening to what you say, and who's willing and ready to make improvements in the relationship. This is a sign that somebody values the relationship.
No matter what, don't listen to what people say, watch what they do because in this case, actions DO speak louder than words.
And the fourth one, which is always a benefit, this is the little bonus one. When you're in relationships that are good for you and they're healthy and they energize you, you are going to manage your energy so much better because you're spending more time with the people who refresh you and make you happy and bring you joy.
And you're not going to worry so much about the people who don't. Those people can go on one of those outer, outer, outer rings, if you really want, or they can fall off your target completely. And that's okay.
I hope that this helped you today. I hope it gave you some ideas of how you can really take a quick evaluation of the folks in your life and see who is energizing you and who's draining you. Once again, if you're not an Easy Aging Insider yet, go to theeasyagingshow.com and sign up right now. Until next time, peace, love and blessings to you and yours. Take care. Bye-bye.