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The Empowered Woman’s Guide to Evaluating Relationships That Don’t Serve You

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

Written by Nira Macaspac
Art by Mara Gollena
Produced by Mara Gollena, Kitkat Pajaro, Nira Macaspac

Life is a series of interconnected experiences where relationships significantly influence the path we take. The relationships that empower, motivate, and align with our vision are invaluable. They give us the necessary support and encouragement to continue even when the going gets tough. Such connections resonate with our present and future selves, reflecting who we are and who we aspire to be. However, not all relationships serve our best interests. Some relationships, rather than help us grow or move forward, can bind us to the past or entangle us in cycles of negativity. These relationships can cloud our judgment, hinder our progress, and divert us from our true path. Such connections might be built on old habits, fears, or comfort zones that no longer align with our current or future aspirations.

To dive deeper into understanding when relationships aren't serving our current and future selves, we asked three women to share their opinion on this topic. Their insights shed light on the internal dialogues and realizations that many face in their journeys.

The Person We Are & Aspire To Be

Atty. Mirriam Ebreo, lawyer and author, paints a vivid picture, noting, “We create relationships knowingly and unknowingly. Sometimes, it's by chance. On other times, we really seek out a person to get to know them because of a goal we want to achieve. Just like how relationships are created, we know a relationship isn't serving our future and current self through various ways. It can be on a positive note, meaning there is no fight happening but it's existence simply does not appear to be in line with our goals. It can be negative such as when the relationship becomes difficult to continue; it becomes toxic. Another sign is when it begins to change our lives in ways we do not truly desire. People come and go, that is true. I think what is important is what we do with such relationships. If it exists on a negative note and starts to take away parts of us, it is always ok to let go.”

Value Adding, Not Hindering

“Is their presence instrumental and impactful to the life I am building? Will their presence still be instrumental and impactful to the life I am building?” These are questions posed by Sofia Del Carmen, account executive, as she weighs in with a guide to our introspection. “ In the continuous discovery of oneself, the tendency for differences to surface is inevitable. It's important that you are able to validate their being part of your life as value-adding and never hindering. You should also always be instrumental/impactful to them”

What Needs Changing

Glenda Dela Cruz, founder of Wellness for Life, shares a profound perspective on relationships that don’t serve our well-being. “Relationships that aren’t serving your current and future self are those that are exhausting and draining to your health and overall well-being. This could be with people you are in a relationship with who have problematic behaviors or maybe a job that you are keeping that are really overwhelming in that the demand is more than what you can realistically give. The negative impact of such problematic relationships can be huge on your mental health if left unchecked and ignored. But, given the proper attention, these relationships present valuable opportunities for you to explore and dive inward to ask yourself what needs changing. There are relationships that undoubtedly need to be extinguished and run away from, like those that threaten your safety, i.e. domestic abuse or jobs with unfair and unsafe demands. But there are certain relationships that, if processed well, you may find that it isn’t really the person or the job that’s not serving you well but actually more of how you yourself are relating to them. The opportunity, then, is that you get to look within yourself to see your own beliefs and perceptions about yourself and the world, which is an essential process because your beliefs and perceptions impact how you relate and behave in relationships, with people, in life circumstances, and even with yourself.”

Glenda urges us to ask questions like, "Is my safety, health, and well-being a concern? Am I being limited and restricted? What personal growth is possible within this relationship? What do I need to change to relate better?" Glenda’s ultimate advice is clear: Listen to your gut. If something feels off, explore it, discuss it, and decide mindfully.

Being Genuinely You

In my experience, relationships that are based on false pretenses are unhealthy. If you feel you have to pretend to be someone you're not or hide parts of yourself because you don't want to feel rejected or you desire to maintain a particular status, that relationship might not be serving your current and future self. One of the foundations of meaningful relationships is authenticity. When you're not genuine, you're preventing the other person from truly knowing you, resulting in superficial connections. A relationship based on false pretenses doesn't just harm the integrity of the relationship, but it also harms one's self-worth and emotional well-being. Embracing authenticity, even if it means facing uncomfortable truths or altering the nature of the relationship, can pave the way for deeper and more genuine bonds.

Beyond these insights, here are four questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your relationships:

1. Do I have to alter my personality when I’m with them? Altering ourselves for approval can lead to loss of identity.

Authenticity is a cornerstone of healthy relationships. If you constantly feel the need to modify your personality, beliefs, or behavior around someone, it suggests an absence of acceptance in the relationship. Over time, such alterations can erode our self-confidence and lead to feelings of dissatisfaction. A truly enriching relationship will accept and love you for who you are, imperfections and all. Continuously modifying oneself can make it challenging to determine where the other person ends and where you begin, eventually leading to a loss of personal identity.

2. Why do I always feel tired after hanging out with them? Introspect if the relationship energizes you or drains you.

Every relationship has its ebbs and flows, but it's vital to monitor the overall trend. If you frequently leave encounters with someone feeling exhausted, emotionally drained, or mentally taxed, it's a sign that the relationship might be taking more from you than it's giving. Healthy relationships should generally uplift, encourage, and recharge you. Such patterns of consistent energy drain might indicate emotional vampirism, where one person continually takes emotional energy from another.

3. Do we share common values? As we evolve, our values might diverge, and it’s essential to ensure that shared values still exist.

Shared values are a foundational element of long-lasting relationships. While it's natural for minor disagreements and differences to exist, a significant divergence in core values can lead to conflicts and misunderstandings. As individuals grow and evolve, it's possible for their priorities and values to shift. Regularly checking in and discussing these values can ensure both parties are still aligned or at least understanding and respecting each other's paths. If there's a vast gap in shared values, it might be challenging to find common ground in the future.

4. Are they the problem or is it me? Sometimes, self-reflection can reveal internal struggles that we might project onto our relationships.

It's easy to point fingers and lay blame externally. However, true growth and understanding often come from introspection. By reflecting on our actions, reactions, and feelings, we can often uncover underlying personal issues or insecurities that may inadvertently affect our relationships. This doesn't absolve others of their actions, but it does provide a more holistic understanding of relationship dynamics. By addressing these internal struggles, not only can we improve our relationship with others, but also our relationship with ourselves.

There's no shame in outgrowing a relationship. The true test lies in how we respond upon recognizing this shift. Relationships thrive on reciprocity. It's our duty to communicate our feelings, offering the other person clarity. Such transparency preserves the mutual respect that forms the relationship's foundation. At the end of the day, what truly counts is safeguarding our well-being and staying true to our genuine and authentic selves. After all, empowering oneself often starts with self-awareness and evaluating the company we keep.

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