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.”