When you enter a friendship with someone, or really any type of relationship, there is an expectation of commitment. That when they need help, you will be there. Or an expectation that you will invest time and emotional energy into that person. Which makes sense – that is part of a healthy, sustainable relationship. Although, things can get foggy when deciphering how much you are “supposed” to invest into a relationship. Just because someone asks to hang out every night, does that mean you are supposed to? Does that mean you are a bad person if you don’t want to fulfill their requests? When do you have space to ask for what you need? What do you even “need” in a relationship??

To have a sustainable relationship with someone, peopleneed to invest “resources” into each other. It is a two way system of exchanging time and energy. Moreover, you have to figure out what type of resources you like to give and what resources your friend likes to receive (i.e. quality time, gifts, words of affirmation, etc.)

When we can’t identify how to exchange resources effectively in relationships, issues start to arise. For example, have you ever been in a relationship with someone who gave you a type of resource you didn’t like to receive? Or you felt like you gave more resources than someone else? Or feel like you just don’t have what the other person is looking for?

When there isn’t a sustainable balance between giving and receiving resources, then resentment starts to bloom. Resentment most often looks like “I did this for you, why won’t you do it for me??”, “Give an inch and they take a mile”, or “I feel smothered”.

In these situations it is really easy to internalize, or personalize, the imbalance. “I must not be important enough for them” or “I like them more than they like me”. Although that could be true, it most likely is not.

Here is an example. Despite the desire to have friends, someone who works 90 hours a week at work may have a hard time building lasting relationships. They try so hard to give every extra resource they have, but people always end up leaving frustrated. Despite good intentions, its not likely someone will have enough resources left over after working 90 hours to give to a budding relationship. Not because their partner isn’t enough, and not because of lack of trying, but it is because we only have a limited number of resources and we have to be purposeful with how we spend them.

To properly disperse your limited resources, your time and energy, you have to decide how to split them up. How many areas in your life require resources (work, family, friends, romantic, personal, etc.)?. Which ones require the most/least resources? This prioritizing is what creating boundaries is. You have to know when to say “yes” to high priority settings and when to say “no” low priority settings to sustainably invest resources in your priority list.

Moreover, without these boundaries your output will not be stable. So if you choose to be in a relationship with someone who needs 10 resources a week, but you don’t know how to regulate your resource output, then you can not sustainable guarantee them 10 resources a week. Some weeks you may have space to give 20 but if work picks up, then you may only have 5 left over. Which will lead to a sense of resentment or instability in the relationship.

To have sustainable relationships, you have to know how you want to delegate your resources and be able to set boundaries to maintain those numbers. You need to prioritize, which is usually where people get hung up. Just because your boss is calling you at 10pm that does not mean you need to pick up. Why? You chose to give resources between 9-5 to work then 5-10pm that is family time. Some may call it “lazy” or “selfish” but in reality it is sustainable. We need routine and so do our relationships.

As grown adults, in our part of the world, it is 100% our right to divvy up our resources as we wish. Whatever split you choose is not “good or bad” it just “is”. Similarly, however someone else chooses to split up their resources is not “good or bad” it is just factual and you have a choice of whether or not you fit with it or not. Like puzzle pieces. You can not manipulate someone into spending resources similar to you, you just have to find someone who already has a similar split as you. That may mean you find someone you adore, but the relationship is just not working because of a resource mismatch. So you can either consensually negotiate together or find someone who can better match you.

If you find that it is hard to find and keep relationships or if you feel like you don’t know how to sustainably divvy up your resources then reach out! Resources and relationships can be complicated!