How to protect yourself from an emotionally draining person

Does someone in your life leave you feeling exhausted and frustrated? You may be dealing with an emotionally draining relationship.

A man sighs and covers his face.
A man sighs and covers his face.
Image by @darby via Twenty20

by: E.B. Johnson

Not every relationship in our lives is happy, rewarding, or fulfilling. Sometimes, the people we love most bring the most chaos and pain into our lives. We have to protect ourselves from these emotionally draining connections and understand the importance of putting our happiness (and our mental health) up front as a priority.

Are you building a life with someone who is only nice when they want something? Do they emotionally manipulate you, use you, or otherwise make you feel as though you only serve a purpose in their lives when they need you? All of these are signs of a relationship which wears us down emotionally and detracts from our quality of life. In order to find happiness again, we have to set boundaries and start protecting ourselves the right way.

Some relationships are a lot of work.

The relationships we share with others are important, and they are filled with ups and downs which must be managed with compassion and understanding. While some people we bring into our lives offer us balance and love, there are others who have a tendency to take more than they give. People who drain us emotionally or run us down with their poor behavior.

Some relationships aren’t worth the work they require. People who drain us without giving back literally take more than they offer. The world takes enough from us. We don’t need to fill our personal space with people who want to take even more in the name of their own happiness.

Are you dealing with someone who drains you emotionally? Do they only reach out when they need something? Do they saddle you with blame, regret, or hurt any time you to try to reach out or improve things between you? Building better relationships is a core part of finding happiness in this life, but it can’t happen until we believe in our right to be surrounded by people who love us.

Signs of an emotionally draining relationship.

Are you in an emotionally draining relationship? Does dealing with your partner leave you feeling worn out, low in self-esteem, or otherwise angry, upset, and miserable? Your relationship may be eroding the quality of your life, but you’ll never know until you’re brutally honest with yourself.

Ulterior motives

Ulterior motives are one of the most common signs of an emotionally taxiing relationship. Your loved one may only contact you when they want something. Or maybe they are only nice to you when they need you to do a favor for them. This constant game of take-take-take leaves you on edge and never sure of how they’re going to react. You can find yourself walking on eggshells and going out of your way to make life convenient for them.

Blame games

What happens when there’s confrontation in your relationship? Are you both able to take responsibility for what you got wrong? Do you give one another credit for what you did right? Blame games are toxic, and they can leave us feeling confused and resentful. Over time, this leads us to a sense of emotional exhaustion and can cause serious divides in the core of our relationships.

Outright denial

Does your partner or loved one always deny your feelings or even your needs? What happens when you confront them about their behavior? Or when you ask them to commit to change? Do they deny their mistakes and turn the conversation around to something far more insidious or hurtful? Outright denial comes naturally to the draining person, and it’s emotionally exhausting for everyone involved. There can be no resolution when we deny things. It draws things out.

Constant comparisons

Making constant comparisons in any relationship is unhealthy. When someone tells us that we aren’t as good as someone else, it’s hurtful and it can eat away at our personal narrative and our self-esteem. Every relationship is different, and while we can look to others as a guide, comparing ourselves step-by-step will only make us more confused and feel even smaller than we already do.

Throwing up the past

Emotionally draining people are often draining because of their behavior and the way in which they choose to relate to others. When they get confronted about this behavior, they usually relate to diversions and denial. One way they do this by bringing up the past. They will throw old mistakes back in your face and do what they can to ensure you remain small and too exhausted to deal with them properly.

Settling in fear

What happens when your loved one throws a fit or lashes out? What about when they make demands? Do you stand up for yourself and ask for respect? Or do you roll over and generally give their bad behavior whatever it asks of you? When someone is draining or exhausting, we’ll often find ourselves giving in rather than standing up for ourselves. That’s because we perceive it to be both easier and safer.

Being worn down

Feeling worn down after interacting with someone can be a sure-fire sign that they are emotionally draining. You may feel physically exhausted even though there was nothing physical about their time with you; or you may just find that you’re mentally drained. Either way, your subconscious is trying to send you a message about how much energy this person is taking from you.

Endless conflict

Do you and your loved one fight all the time? Do the smallest irritations turn into an all-out conflict? When we’re emotionally drained (or around emotionally draining people) we get on edge and it becomes harder to think clearly and control our emotions. The littlest thing can send us spiraling over the edge and taking the bait to lash out or blow up.

How to protect yourself from an emotionally draining person.

While it may not be possible to remove an emotionally draining person from your life entirely, there are some techniques you can use to protect yourself and your wellbeing. Don’t settle for poor behavior that upsets you or makes you feel small. Focus on rebuilding your self-esteem and create a safe environment for yourself and those who love you as they should.

1. Focus on your self-esteem

The first step you need to take is focusing on boosting your self-esteem. This self-belief is so important in creating a life which is both fulfilling and authentically ours. When we have low self-esteem, we allow others to push us around or tell us how to define ourselves. This only leads to their happiness, though, and not ours (on any plane).

Look inward and find the ability to celebrate yourself. You are strong, capable, and powerful. You have what it takes to change your life in whatever way you want, but you have to believe in your skills and the vision you have for your future.

Rebuild your self-esteem from the ground up. Both meditation and journaling are great places to start. Focus first on the things you love about yourself and the things you do well, then (when you begin to see how strong you are) look to your weaknesses and accept them as a complete part of who you are as a person. Fall in love with yourself and see yourself as just as deserving as anyone else in the world.

2. Create a safe space for yourself

While it’s not always possible to remove a draining person from our lives entirely, we can protect ourselves by creating a safe space free of their influence. These spaces can be both mental and physical, and they are a space we should go to whenever we’re beginning to feel the drain or the aggravation. Don’t allow the drain to swallow up your life. Build a space you can run to in order to process and regroup.

Come up with creative ways in which you can get some alone time when you’re beginning to feel drained. It’s okay to walk away from someone who makes you feel bad, and it’s okay to take a temporary time-out. Pull away and get some quiet time to think, recharge your battery, and consider how you want to proceed.

These safe spaces are so important and often serve as the launching ground for our future plans of action. You’re going to have to set some boundaries with this person, and you’re going to have to fight for them, but this can’t happen until you’ve regained your emotional strength. Give yourself a chance to get it right by making sure you’ve got the time and space you need to relax and process everything that’s going to come next.

3. Stick up for your boundaries

All relationships benefit from firm, well-thought-out boundaries. Our boundaries allow us to communicate our expectations, and they allow us to protect our wellbeing and our happiness. These boundaries become especially important when dealing with someone who takes advantage of us materially or emotionally. We can’t just set boundaries, though. We have to enforce them too.

When you imagine the ideal relationship, what does it look like? How does the other person treat you? This is a great place to start when setting boundaries and considering how we want to relate to other people. Where does your comfort line lie? What behaviors are you unwilling to accept from the people closest to you.

Once you’ve figured out how you want the people in your life to treat you, you need to communicate your boundaries and do it explicitly. Don’t leave any room for misinterpretation and make it clear what the penalties are for crossing the line. When someone pushes past your limits, stand up for yourself and re-enforce them. Remove access to your physical presence and ensure they are clear on what won’t be tolerated.

4. Don’t settle for less

We are the ones who decide how we will be treated by those closest to us. If we’re constantly being taken advantage of, at some point we’ve made the decision to allow that. If we want to stop being run down emotionally by the people that we love, then we have to stop settling for poor behavior and disastrous decisions that leave us unhappy.

Stop settling for people who don’t value you. Stop settling for mistreatment and individuals who take advantage of you just to make themselves happy. There are people out there who love you and value you for everything that you are. There are people out there who will prioritize your joy alongside their own.

Until you make the decision to elevate your environment, it will stay the same. You are responsible for making changes in your life. You are responsible for filling the space around you with high-quality people who appreciate you. Until you believe in your right to thrive, you will continue to flounder and struggle against those who are also lost and trying to make sense of it all.

5. Make yourself a priority

When we don’t love ourselves the way we should, we have a tendency to surround ourselves with people who don’t love themselves either. This self-love is such a crucial part of understanding how to connect and relate with the world around us. Loving yourself allows you to see your value, it also allows you to see that you deserve to be a top priority in your life.

Stop giving yourself away for the sake of other people. You can make room for your own dreams and needs without taking away any love that you hold for others. Think of it this way, if you’re not fulfilled and emotionally stable — you can’t give your all to the people who need you most.

Protect your happiness and your wellbeing. Know that your future is just as important as anyone else’s. Stop sacrificing your happiness for the superficial pleasure of other people. Safeguard your emotional stability and refuse to give yourself away. Stand strong and hold true to the worth that is intrinsically yours. Make yourself a top priority and become determined to thrive on your own terms.

Putting it all together…

Does your relationship with a loved one leave you feeling tired, drained, or otherwise burned out and exhausted? These are signs of an emotionally draining relationship, and one which can seriously undermine our happiness. To get ourselves back on track, we have to lean into our self-esteem and take action in the name of our futures.

Focus on rebuilding your self-esteem and remembering who you are. You have a right to be treated well, but that won’t happen until you realize you deserve it. Create a safe space for yourself and make room to process your thoughts and emotions. Set boundaries for yourself and stick up for them. No one has a right to push you around or make you uncomfortable. But they will unless you learn to be assertive. Never settle for behavior that is less than what you desire and deserve. Beyond that, ensure that you are always making yourself an equal priority to those you surround yourself with. You have as much of a right as anyone else to be happy, content, and fulfilled.

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E.B. Johnson, NLP-MP

Written by

Certified Life Coach | NLP-MP | Entrepreneur | I write about relationships, psychology, and the growth mindset. Founder @ Dragr LLC. 📱: about.me/EBJohnson

LV Development

Improve your relationships, your state of mind, and your future — from the inside out.

E.B. Johnson, NLP-MP

Written by

Certified Life Coach | NLP-MP | Entrepreneur | I write about relationships, psychology, and the growth mindset. Founder @ Dragr LLC. 📱: about.me/EBJohnson

LV Development

Improve your relationships, your state of mind, and your future — from the inside out.

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