caring enough to hurt

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(This was also published to “depressionsgift”.  This version has been edited somewhat for possible post to Facebook.)

I used to think I was too sensitive. It is certainly true that things seem to bother me more than other people.  I “read” people and situations very well, a blessing and a curse. For the longest time, I thought it was a curse. After all, I’m the one whose feelings are hurt, right? I’m the one taking things to heart, right?


(p.s. hope the “more” tag shows up.  First time I’ve used it.)

Lately, I’m coming to appreciate my sensitivity albeit I still wish the volume was turned down a little. It dawned on me today that there are people in my life who would no longer be in my life were I not sensitive enough to identify some issues between us. Of course I realize that the loss might not have been of the same magnitude to them as it would have been too me. Why is that, do you suppose? Why is it some of us seemed doomed to experience more disillusionment than others? Is there something innately wrong with us?

I don’t think so.

I’ve often thought how my life might be different without my sensitivities. Yes, I wouldn’t have been hurt as often but I also wouldn’t have loved as much, cared as much, invested as much. Which is worse? Too care too much or to care too little? I think not caring is certainly easier and less tumultuous. Maybe those people who seem “hard” are that way because they, too, have been hurt so they adopted an “I don’t care about anyone else” attitude. Kind of like a shield. Keep everyone away and live for yourself.

I have to be honest; I’ve tried that lately. It’s not working.

I can no more give up caring than I can give up my five o’clock cappuccino. I even said,”I don’t care anymore.” “I’ve had it.” “I’m not going there again.” Sound familiar? But what’s the alternative? Not caring?  Maybe authentic living is all about:

Caring enough to be hurt. 

I really wish I were different. I’m just not. My husband says it’s my greatest strength-the caring part, but that it also keeps me from enjoying my own life at times.

I knew someone once who sailed through life. I swear if she ever had a deep thought, I’ve not been privy to it. She has an uncanny ability to keep her life focused on herself.  She was pretty high maintenance. Down deep I envied her.  A part of me would like to be like her.

I wish I could make my life more about me. I mean that. I really do. I would certainly feel less stress at times. I’m one of those people who takes life and responsibility a little too seriously. Consequently, I’m too vulnerable. I  guess I’m stuck with me. The me God created. “Hey, God, don’t you think you could have made me just a little tougher?”

I’m trying to think why this post and why today?  I’m having a good day. I think it might be because of a few blogs I’ve just read. It seems that there are many “sensitives” out there, people sensitive to a fault. You think deeper than most. You evaluate your relationships more than most. All of these are really good qualities. I’m a firm believer that “the examined life is the only life worth living”. It boils down to this:

You want to feel an intimate connection with the people in your life and when you don’t, you’re hurt and confused.

There you go. That’s it. That’s it for me. I want to know the people in my life that I care deeply about, care deeply about me as well. And I want more than words. Can I just say, words can be very cheap. They’re also easy. Words by themselves, no matter how loving are simply not enough to sustain a relationship.

I want the phone calls.I want to discuss things. I want others to share with me when they’re struggling. I want to be invited over. I want to know I’m thought about. I want to know what’s going on in their lives. I want to just “chat”. I want to have fun with them. I want to feel I’m a part of their lives, etc.

Are you wondering if I follow my own guidelines?  I do.

So maybe this post is a wake-up call. Maybe there are some of you that are struggling with some of these same issues, but when you look at your own behavior you realize there’s some things you need to be doing. Maybe you’ve been waiting for others to always come to you. From one who does do the initiating, I can tell you that always being the initiator gets really old, really quick.

Of course we need to be aware when we’re too sensitve as well. Being a sensitive person means we care and, of course, that’s a good thing. But we have to be careful that we aren’t so nitpicky in our relationships,we expect too much. From another’s perspective, that can get old, too. We don’t want to always find faults in a relationship.  I’m not talking about that. What I’m addressing here are those behaviors in others that are causing us continual confusion and hurt.

I’m glad that when I was writing this chapter in my book, I actually took some time to define what I want from a relationship. It keeps me from getting caught up in a shallow relationship that’s only one-sided. I read something several years ago that has served me well. It goes something like this: “When you’re in the beginning of a relationship and there are some behaviors in your friend that really bother you, you have one of two choices. Talk to them about it or decide to live with it. Because one thing is for sure, this is how the relationship is going to go.”

We have to realize that no matter what we want, some people may not be able to give it. Or they  have a different criteria altogether.That’s a hard one. A really hard one. How far can we go with that?. Do we want to stay in a relationship where we’re carrying most of the load? Is it worth it to us? It might well be. There might be enough other good aspects of the relationship that more than make up for the fact that it doesn’t fit within our definition of friendship.

I think each of us has to decide when a crossroads has been reached. When the hurts outweigh the hugs.When the balance of the “reciprocity scales”  never tilts to their side.We can put up with it until we decide we’re tired of being hurt and they’re not going to change


We can decide to re-invent the relationship and start all over putting different parameters in place. If it’s a relationship worth saving, it’s worth giving it a try. I’ve had some newly born relationships that I’ve completely let dissolve.The reciprocity wasn’t there from the beginning and I decided I didn’t want a relationship like that. I’ve had others where I’ve been willing to change some of my own expectations because the relationships are that important. There’s a lot of history.They haven’t knowingly hurt me, they simply haven’t defined friendship the way I have.

The issue then becomes how do stay the same person who by their very nature is the initiator, the giver, and yet back away a little so as not to be put in the same situation over and over again. I think that what we do is fine tune our expectations. Wipe the slate clean and start over. We are not obligated to tell anyone what we’re doing. It’s all from our perspective anyway. We continue to give but we’re just a tiny bit less generous. We hold back a tiny bit. We initiate a tiny bit less. We make sure that whatever we give is given freely and we entertain fewer expectations.

We back away a little in the hope they will come forward a little.

If they don’t, we learn to overlook it and not let it consume us. We let the relationship find its normal set point ,like water seeking its own level. This is NOT easy. It goes against our very nature. But for our own sake, it needs to happen. If it’s a strong relationship, it will survive this “settling”.

Life is all about relationships.The best ones are open and honest, with shared responsibility. But even those that are not ideal might be worth keeping. You are the only one that can decide that. Take your time. Give it much thought and if you pray, give it much prayer. No one should give up on any relationship unless they’re one hundred percent sure it needs to end.

We need to decide in other relationships whether there are some bonds that supersede this whole reciprocity issue.  We should never let a relationship disintegrate because of our rigidness.  We can always initiate a little less, call a little less and thus keep from  feeling resentful when the other person doesn’t.

Depression plays a big part in this discussion. When I’m depressed, I’m even more sensitive than usual.  Depression seems to do the thinking for me and so I have to watch out to make sure depression isn’t also doing the  “talking” for me. Depression invades every part of our lives and most certainly our relationships.

I hope today’s lengthy post helped if you are struggling with some relationships in your life. If you’re not, I would question the intimacy of those relationships because I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t shared that particular person in their life that they seem to always be unsure about. I take that back. I have met ONE such person. I didn’t like her. 🙂

One thing is for sure. Don’t keep circling the wagons.  Don’t keep rehashing the same thing in your mind. Make a decision. Take as much time as you need but intentionally bring yourself to a place where you define what a healthy relationship means to you, how much you are willing to accommodate, how much you expect to be accommodated. It’s not easy cutting someone out of your life. It hurts. We’re afraid we’ll be left all alone if we do. But you know what? There are lots of people in the this world that would love a friend. The universe will provide them if you make room for them.

(A marriage relationship deserves far more consideration. Didn’t want anyone bailin’ on their spouse due to what I’ve written.