Emotional Limitations: When We Have Nothing Left to Give
BY: T. F. Murphy | December 2014 (edited 2018)
We give without noticing the imbalance and then collapse. We must manage the load, refilling our tanks through self care and also receiving loving care from our partner.
We are limited. Life events drain mental resources and we get depleted. We don’t dance through existence without feeling the impact of life. The complex problems don’t always bounce off our thick armor, leaving us unfazed. We interact with the world expanding and retreating with experience. Emotional events deplete strength leaving limited strength to attend to other demands. During these struggling moments, when zapped of strength, we routinely fail to respond to partner’s bids for attention.
We can’t escape the biological limitations of existence—taxed minds get tired. Excited emotional episodes and strenuous demands draw from our reserves, impacting patience, energy, and willpower. A frustrating day at work climaxes and explodes with a comparatively small disruption at home—we snap. Instead of caring support, we pull back in resentful withdrawal.
"We’ve been left with a foggy head, heavy heart and weary limbs and, to make matters worse, it feels as though the world is ganging up on us, wanting more, and more, and more."
Blurt It Out
When emotional resources are low—the deficit bleeds into other areas, creating more demand, more anxiety. Like a tidal wave picking up volume, we gather more frustrations to weigh down our system when we are least prepared to process them.
Limitations don’t excuse unruly behavior. We must take the restraints into consideration, planning before reaching emotional red zones, preventing frustrated responses that interfere with important goals. Understanding the impact of resource limitations on our emotions, we can better extend compassion to stressed partners when they have reached their limits. Under pressure and low on energy, we (and partners) act out of character, speaking hurtful words, ignoring others’ needs and reacting without thought. Many delicate relationship moments, where trust is built happens when one or both partners are stressed.
Daily demands deplete resources—careers, child care, money anxieties. We expend energy on countless fronts. Sometimes we are just done—nothing left. Ideally, as we mature, we develop effective coping skills to preserve mental resources for the inevitable surprises. But we never can be completely successful; life always holds the upper hand, trumps our preparedness with blasts we can’t absorb.
"Although it is important to give, it is equally important to fill our wells, and for many that is the hardest thing to do."
We occasionally wear thin and let down those that love us most. Our shortness sets in motion a chain of events, straining the relationship and bruising tender hearts. Our partners and children react to our tenseness and we react to their reaction. These realities require a mindful approach, offering repair and forgiveness when necessary.
Resource depletion is not one-sided. Everybody operates in this complex world. Partners are human, subject to depletion. Some days, when they are feeling strong, they may cajole the obstinate tired beast out of us, give us the love or space we need. Other days, however, having nothing left in their tank, they explode rather than soothe. They have nothing left to deal with our pettiness.
Partners must be prepared for these days, willing to digest their own emotionally sapping episodes, while simultaneously giving room to their partner in their depleted state. These intense moments build or break relationships; the moments where bids for attention and compassion go unnoticed and sometimes ruthlessly scolded. We say without words, “how dare you be tired when I need you!”
"Partners must be prepared for these days, willing to digest their own emotionally sapping episodes, while simultaneously giving room to their partner in their depleted state."
An emotionally taxed partner casts bids for support, if their requests go unrecognized and unfilled mental notes are jotted in the mind. These ignored bids accumulate. In deprived states of unmet needs, fears increase and security falters. The lonely panic; their patience wanes, as they dwell on the emptiness, they are forced to face the deserts of sorrow and frustration alone. We all must occasionally, but too often and resentments form and love crumbles.
We must make room for limitations—our own and our partner. When energetic and strong, we must give extra energy to developing the relationships we cherish. We must prepare for those moments of weakness, giving extra effort in those moments while we are bursting with love and calmness. If we do, we will find our reward will be a little more patience when we stumble.
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