When I got divorced 5 years ago, I was positive that I was done with relationships for good. My heart had been broken, and worse, after I became single, I saw all the ways I had been playing such a small game to keep the peace in my marriage.
After the time it took for the heartbreak to heal, I really, really started to enjoy my life. It wasn’t always easy, but it was definitely on my terms, and I was more *me* than I had been in a long time. I remembered things I used to like to do, I developed new interests, I made new friends, I cleaned the house when and if I wanted. There was nothing that was off limits.
And then it snuck up on me little by little. The desire to have adult company. So I started dating, and that was fun, but I wanted more. And then the desire got bigger, like, oh, I might want a relationship. I immediately smacked it down and reminded myself that it wasn’t as rosy when I was actually in one.
But it didn’t go away.
And pretty soon I started to wonder if there was a way to have a relationship in which I didn’t get lost, and didn’t sacrifice so much, and didn’t resent every minute of the day with very little reward.
So I started to look at the things *I* did in a relationship that weren’t getting me what I wanted. The biggest one by far was doing something expecting that it would make my husband want to do something else for me in return:
– If I make dinner every night and handle all the household duties, it will make it easier for him to provide for our family.
– If I support him through school, he can have a career that he loves, and then we’ll all be happy.
– If, if, if.
It was so glaring that much of the way I had been in my marriage was with the expectation that my actions would somehow, some way, be repaid. And then I would get the love I wanted, the marriage I wanted, the recognition I wanted, etc. But that’s just not the way it works.
You’re probably asking how it does work, then?
It starts with looking at how you spend your time and your energy. And looking at what that leaves you with at the end of the day.
You have to be full, overflowing even, to create the abundance of the relationship that you want. No man can fill that space. You have to. And you don’t have to do it in isolation, but you have to own the responsibility for getting your needs met – filling your own gas tank, if you will.
This is really the first principle of having the relationship you want without losing yourself in it.
In what I’d expect you’ve all experienced in relationships past, you’ve spent a lot of energy in/on our relationships, and then you’ve felt tired…which leads to neediness and resentment of our partners for not meeting our expectations. This creates a cycle of doing something with the expectation of something in return – it’s not healthy and it never gets us the things that we actually want, anyway.
I want to introduce you to a tool that will help you see where you are now, and what you might want to shift in terms of how you spend (and gain) your energy.
Enter: Energy Accounting.
First, make a list of all the tasks you do in the course of a week.
Mine looks a little something like this:
- Time outside
- Driving my son to/from school
Then, plug them into a graph. The horizontal axis (X) represents who the activities are for, and the vertical axis (Y) represents the amount of energy the activity gives or takes away from you.
Once you’ve got everything mapped out, you can see what’s taking your energy and what’s giving you energy. Ideally, you want as many things as you can in the upper quadrants, and the fewest items in the lower right quadrant.
Are there things you want to eliminate? Are there things you want to approach differently so they can move to a different quadrant? Do you need to add more things to your life that feed you?
And, just for fun, do it again with a sample list from when you were in your last relationship. I promise you’ll see a difference in terms of why it felt like so much work – because it likely was!
If you adopt this tool, and always have some level of awareness on what you choose to do in your life and how it impacts you and your energy levels, it’s a lot easier to keep the things out that don’t serve you (or your relationship).
I’d love to know what you see about yourself after doing this exercise! Share one thing in the comments below!