After agonising for hours about how to position this blog piece (for fear of hurting anyone’s feelings), I decided to just have fun with it. But just in case of fragile egos, please note this important disclaimer: The characters portrayed in this blog post are semi-fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), should be inferred.
Relationships have the potential to either build you up or break you down. In your late teens and early twenties, you generally have more acquaintances than true friends. As you grow through life and the responsibilities of work and family increase, you have less time for the energy drainers in your life.
We’ve all either encountered gremlins, vampires and superhero type people in our lives or we’ve all been a gremlin, vampire or superhero to someone else! Here’s an overview of the three main types of relationships you will encounter in your life and tips on how to manage them so that you can focus on the healthy relationships in your life.
Gremlins: You know that feeling you get when you see a text from someone and you cringe inside because you feel an obligation to respond and you just don’t know what to say? You’re dealing with a gremlin, my dear…
When you first meet them, they seem cute and cuddly. But if you keep feeding them your time and attention, they grow into a power-hungry monster set on mass destruction.
Think I’m being a little too dramatic? Think again. It’s the “little foxes that spoil the vines”, as the saying goes. The main danger with gremlins is that they come across as harmless.
And yet, Gremlins grow into fully fledged frenemies. They are passive aggressive by nature and you just don’t feel comfortable when you’re around them.
No matter how much kindness and generosity you pour into their lives, gremlins will never really contribute anything to the relationship, because they have a way of making the world revolve around them and their constant issues and drama.
Tips on putting up a red light on the gremlins in your life:
- Limit your interaction with them: You can’t always avoid contact with the gremlins in your life. The way that you can maintain a safe distance is by limiting what you share about your personal life. Keep interactions brief and professional (where necessary).
- Say no when you need to say no: It’s ok to say no, especially to gremlins, because they will expect you to do things for them that they are perfectly capable of doing themselves. They will be annoyed when you don’t drop your plans to cater to their every whim. Once you do one favour, it is a slippery slope to becoming a personal slave.
- Don’t accept invitations if you are going to regret every minute: This is where healthy boundaries come in. If you don’t feel like hanging around them, you are not obligated to do so. Social engagements should be enjoyable, not regrettable.
Vampires: Vampires are dangerous because they are hell bent on making you just like them. They may pretend to be enamoured by your unique idiosyncrasies at first but they are merely tolerating it until they can pressure you into conformity.
Their strategy is to entice you into a feeling of false safety so that you trust them. These relationships are the ones that will keep you comfortable, keep things familiar – but will also keep you stagnant and stuck. They deter you from growing because it will show up the lack of development in their own lives. Misery loves company, doesn’t it?
Vampire relationships often occur in family groups, as the need for homogeneity is strong. Because you’ve known them for a long time (decades in some instances), it takes a while to notice the patterns: you’re always going over to their house, doing what they want to do when they want to do it.
Conversations are superficial and there is low mutuality or shared interest.
If you always leave an interaction with a vampire feeling drained and overwhelmed by the negative deluge, this is a sure sign that you need to employ some healthy strategies in freeing yourself from their grasp.
Tips for limiting vampirical interactions in your life:
- Meet at a neutral venue: If you do have to engage socially, opt for a neutral venue. If they insist that you come over to their place (and they have never made the effort to meet you halfway), then the tone of the relationship has been set. Stop pitching up on their territory.
- Set a schedule: Vampires tend to take up a lot of time and energy that you didn’t plan on having to give up. If it has been a long-standing relationship, it is difficult to establish new boundaries. If you do accept an invitation, be clear on how much time you can spend with them and when you will have to leave. And then when the time comes, stick to your original statements and leave promptly (despite the protests).
- Maintain healthy boundaries: You don’t need to be friends with everybody (even if they happen to be members of your extended family). If people are not adding to your life, don’t allow them to take from it.
Second disclaimer: Do I believe that gremlins and vampires can grow to become superheroes? Absolutely! After wasting years trying to incite change in others, I’ve learned that the best way to ensure peace of mind is to focus on your own growth instead of trying to improve someone else. Support and encourage them when you can – but taking responsibility for someone else’s life is a recipe for disaster.
Superheroes: Why do we love superheroes? Because they are selfless human beings who are champions of truth and justice!
If you’ve been lucky enough to happen upon a superhero, aka true friend, you hope they stay around for a lifetime. These are the people who encourage you to grow. They see the true potential within you, they keep challenging you to be the best. They motivate you, prune you, help you be the highest, truest version of you. They love you with joyful, unselfish abandon.
Superheroes are often undercover, but not like the gremlin or vampire. They are often the people that you didn’t expect to have a good connection with. The remarkable hallmark of superheroes is that you don’t need to have homogeneity to build genuine connection.
They can be a different race, gender, age – it doesn’t matter. You see something in the other that resonates and you just enjoy being together. It doesn’t feel difficult or weird to be around them. And you really miss them when they’re not around.
Oh, that we would all have an abundance of superheroes in our lives – and become superheroes for many others. We know that to have good friends, we need to be a good friend. No one enjoys people who are needy, clingy or desperate. The best friendships are the ones where the other person enhances the greatness in you and you do the same for them.
Tips for supporting the superheroes in your life:
- Invest in their lives: If you’ve found a devoted friend, you want to invest in this relationship and keep it mutually beneficial. Make time for them and be there for the major events in their lives (like moves, birthdays, weddings). Reciprocity is the fuel of superhero relationships. Yes, building healthy relationships involve work – but it is a labour of love.
- Be their champion: Superheroes (like all of us) are fallible. They will have days where they are feeling down, uninspired or moany (as do we). This is the opportunity to give back the unconditional love and support that they’ve given you. Remind them of who they really are and they will live up to your positive expectations of them.
- Celebrate the milestones: Success is a journey. If you’re sharing in the secret life of a superhero, remind them of all the little things that add up to their greatness. They will be sure to remind you of the same when you need it the most.