Caring, loving, supporting, and encouraging are wonderful, positive behaviours. When we genuinely care for each other, we can improve our relationships and satisfy our need for love and belonging.
As we can only control ourselves, it’s helpful to offer our care/love/support without the expectation that others will return the favour. Does he care for me as much as I care for him? Does she love me as much as I love her? Although it’s tempting, keeping score probably won’t make a positive contribution to the relationship.
Nikki and Sherri have known each other since childhood. After Sherri married into money, her social circle changed. However, the girls maintained a casual connection by meeting for the occasional lunch.
Nikki values loyalty, thus she values this longstanding relationship with Sherri. Granted, Nikki does find it a little irritating to feel like the poor relation when they pick a restaurant that’s more expensive than she would like. And, Sherri has occasionally stood her up. Still, Nikki perceives Sherri to be a friend; someone she cares for.
One day, at one of those expensive lunches, Sherri said casually, “Our lives are so different and we’ve grown apart so much. I’m busy. You’re busy. We don’t have very much in common anymore. Let’s call this quits for awhile.”
Nikki was stunned. She knew their lives were different, but…call it quits? Sherri is essentially telling her, “I don’t want to be your friend anymore!” Really? How could she?
Nikki, of course, said none of this out loud. She just nodded and smiled and said “OK, that’s fine. We’ll catch up sometime in the future.” They walked away, wishing each other well. No one would have known there was anything amiss.
But for Nikki, she felt shock. Sadness. Anger. Resentment. Puzzlement. Fundamentally, her response boiled down to, “How could she do this to me when I care so much for her?”
Nikki’s frustration festered. The more she ruminated, the more rejected and disrespected she felt. “Sherri knows I’m not busy; she was patronizing me. Sherri only talks about things she’s interested in, places she’s gone, people she’s met. She never cared about me.”
Nikki couldn’t shake her resentment. She glued herself to Sherri’s facebook page. She got more steamed as she read about every exciting event in Sherri’s life that was, indeed, such a different life from hers.
When Nikki vented to her few friends about her anger and betrayal, questions emerged. Questions like, “What do you want, really? Do you want to be Sherri’s friend?”
Nikki and Sherri were never that close and they do live very different lives. And to be honest, hearing about Sherri’s wealthy life was getting a little tedious.
Yet Nikki couldn’t shake the feeling that she “should” care. What to do?
Nikki decided to take action. She wanted one more look at this “friendship.” She gave Sherri a call and suggested one last lunch, at a nice little inexpensive diner. To Nikki’s surprise, Sherri agreed.
As they ate, Sherri recounted details of her latest cruise and plans for yet another vacation. As Nikki smiled and nodded through the conversation, a new thought emerged: Getting together with Sherri isn’t that much fun!
More enlightenment followed as Nikki realized, “I don’t need to do this to myself. I can leave this relationship and not feel hurt, because it isn’t working for me either.”
With that, Nikki understood, “I can choose to no longer care about this relationship.”
What a gift of freedom that Nikki gave herself with that realization: the freedom from caring about an unsatisfying, unhelpful relationship. The freedom of letting it go.
Have you experienced situations when it’s been helpful to choose to let go of caring?