Monday, December 13, 2010


Throughout my life I have had a struggle with people feeling obligated to me without cause. It started with boyfriends in college. You know the kind of relationships where, because you live in the same building and eat at the same cafeteria, you basically move in together on day 2? Well I would just be cruising along in that style when suddenly it would all come to a crashing halt. The reason? The dude felt "obligated" to spend an evening with me when he should have been studying so now he has to break up with me so his grade point average didn't suffer. I didn't ask him to spend every second with me and if he had just said something he might have found out that I was completely willing to give him the space he needed, so how did this happen?

In the same vein, I've helped more guys dump me or not even start relationships with me than I could count. I've had these crazy conversations where they're dancing around the fact that they are not really sure if they should or shouldn't kiss me or make a move and they always ended with me saying "if you have to think that hard about it, it probably means that it isn't the right thing to do." And so it ends. Are guys really that unsure of themselves that they wrestle with the first kiss out of some obligation to the fact that they had been flirting with me for a few days? Good god, then what? After the obligatory kiss then how long are you required to date me before you have fulfilled your obligation?

The final straw was when a guy was living with me, the guy right before my husband came along, and we were struggling pretty intensely with our relationship. One evening he and I are talking through our problems and I'm saying, once again, that if you have to think that hard about it it's probably not what you're supposed to be doing (being with me of course) when he drops the bomb: well I just felt obligated since I am living in your house....

Really?  Um, don't do me any favors?

The thing is, do I really seem so weak and breakable that if you disappoint me I'll fall apart? Is it really better to pretend to me that you're interested or even keep living with me than to cut it off clean and move on so I can find someone who really wanted to be with me? What the hell?

This crap pisses me off. I do not require jack from anyone. If you want to give? Give. If you want to be with me? Be with me. But I am no frail flower. I have stood on my own two feet, quite alone, for many years. The real fact is that I have a hard time leaning on someone. My husband has to struggle to help me because I'm unwilling to accept it. I do incredibly complicated dances to ensure that no one feels obligated to do anything for me or even reciprocate something I've done for them. I bend over backwards to make people feel free to screw me over if its what they need to get by. So apparently I'm living in opposite world. The more I try to keep people from feeling obligated the more they feel obligated I guess. Or rather, the people I tend to come into contact with are intensely guilty people, the kind who manufacture reasons they have to do things they don't want to do for people who don't want them to do it.

And even knowing this? I feel guilty that they feel obligated to me. There's the irony. I feel obligated to ease their obligation that they shouldn't even feel. Perhaps I should change tactics and assume everyone has an obligation to me and the guilt cycle might end.

I wonder, are there guilt free people walking this planet? I haven't met one yet.


  1. I am one of those people who pretty much tell you to your face that I don't need you or anyone else.

    The thing is, that's not really true. We all need other people, even if it's just a few (hubby is mine--that's really all I need).

    But people who hang on aren't doing you any favors, so cut them loose, guilt free.

    Guilt is a constant companion for some people. And a sign of depression in others.

  2. I can't claim to be entirely guilt-free. However, I have managed to divest myself of that burden by about 90% I'd say in the last decade. It is _amazing_ how this has helped me whittle down my relationships to the ones worth (in my view) keeping, and most importantly it has dramatically affected the way I interact with my family. They may think me heartless sometimes, but the truth is I have a more open, more genuinely giving heart without the guilt. I think that's a far better way to live.

  3. Sarah - your family would suck you dry if you didn't make good solid and narrow boundaries against them. You go girl.