01/30/2013 06:55 pm ET Updated Apr 01, 2013

Clutter Busting a Relationship That Doesn't Serve You

I was talking with someone who said that she felt it's hard as a woman to let go of a relationship that no longer serves her. She felt she was raised to think that a woman's role was to be a nurturer and put other people's needs first. She said she has some friendships where the people were constantly taking from her and giving nothing back. But she just couldn't seem to say no to them.

I said that it's hard to take one for the team. It takes a toll to put ourselves in harm's way. We can reason with ourselves that it's okay to be hurt. But I encouraged her to look deeper at the effects it produces on her both physically and psychologically.

She said the pain she endured from these relationships made her feel hallow, like her insides had been removed and she's just a machine. She said it made it hard for her to find joy in other parts of her life.

I said that's a huge toll to pay for pseudo companionship. A relationship supports us when it makes us feel connected. Our hearts relish that feeling of unity. But when we suffer to maintain a relationship, we lose that beautiful feeling of connection. It made sense she felt like a machine.

I said that I recently had a difficult relationship experience. The other person would occasionally become harsh and critical of my life. I let them know that I didn't like their behavior. They apologized and stopped being that way for a while. But then they went back to it. So I mentioned again that it was making me uncomfortable. They stopped. And then about a week later they left me a mean-spirited phone message. So I contacted that person and said that I no longer wanted to be friends with them. It felt good to take care of myself.

She said it was sobering to look matter-of-factually at her experiences. She felt deep down that there was a quiet and gentle part of herself that needed the nurturing she was giving to others who weren't kind to her.

Please write and tell me your experiences clearing relationships that are clutter; it helps inspire people when you share.

Brooks Palmer is the author of Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What's Holding You Back (New World Library, 2009) and Clutter Busting Your Life: Clearing Physical and Emotional Clutter to Reconnect With Yourself and Others (New World Library, 2012). To schedule an over-the-phone clutter busting session, go to

For more by Brooks Palmer, click here.

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