I can’t count the times I’ve made excuses for others.
And I can’t count the deliberations that have been going through my head when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Do they care? Was that thing they said a sign they care? Was the other thing a sign they don’t? How do I know? How do I judge?
The thing is, a simple metric exists, but many of us refuse to see it. It goest like this: if someone cares, they make time for you. Doesn’t have to be much. Five minutes are all it takes.
I can’t begin to count the people who’ve told me “I don’t have time” through the years. Sometimes it was understandable, of course. People have responsibilities – I have responsibilities, too. But, somehow, I always thought people were more important. They came first. I made time.
They rarely had time for me, though. Those same people who among their nights out and movies and dates and hobbies and everything they did for themselves and those they did have time for, just didn’t have a couple of minutes when you needed them. They didn’t, even if they claimed to care. Even if you were always there when they needed you, no matter whether it was convenient for you or not, if you took time from your family, your work, your sleep. Because you made time for them. You stayed up late into the night, talking when they needed it. You helped solve their problems. You even told your children–who shouted at you, “Mom, why are you still on your phone, why don’t you play with me”–to wait ten minutes, or twenty, or thirty, because you were doing something important. You were looking after someone you cared about.
You made time. You prioritized them. But they just couldn’t bother.
In nine out of ten of all cases, what people mean when they say, “I don’t have time,” is: I have time for a whole bunch of things. I make time for a whole bunch of people. I just don’t have time for you.
All of us, all of us make time for the things and people that are important to us. There’s no exception to this. Don’t try to find excuses for those you hope will, someday, give you their time. They don’t want to. It’s as simple as that. Barring serious problems–health or mental health issues like severe depression or anxiety come to mind–they don’t want to talk to you. (Note: If you have a friend with severe depression or anxiety, please, check up on them at least once a week. It’s important, trust me.)
Some people will make time for you, even though they do have serious problems. I have such friends: with children in therapy, elderly parents with health issues, family members with serious illnesses, being ill themselves, or combinations of the above and more. And yet, they make time. Those I’m holding on to. I’m never letting go.
I know it hurts to let go, but you have to be brave and see the necessity. You have to see it for the truth that it is: they don’t really care all that much about you.
If you’re anything like me, it’s difficult for you to accept this. You believe people when they tell you they’re busy. They just can’t find two minutes to check in. Week after week, month after month; what can you do, life! As if you didn’t have a life, problems, shitholes to climb out of. So, trust me when I say: they won’t make time. Walk away. It will be hard, oh, so hard. But, I promise you, once you do, your life is going to be better. Don’t fall into the trap of the sunk cost fallacy (“I’ve invested a lot in this relationship, so I can’t possibly stop investing now.”). Go on, remove them from your emotional map. It hurts, I know. So many relationships in life just rip your heart out. But, as in the finance world, so it is in relationships: sometimes you have to just let your investment go, because if you don’t, you’ll lose much, much more.
Don’t keep throwing mental and emotional resources into black holes. Use them where they’ll make a difference.