3 Things I’ve Learned About Emotionally Draining People

Do you have a friend, family member, acquaintance or maybe an ex-lover that is/was very demanding of your time and emotions?

The Unconventional Social Worker
4 min readMay 27, 2021
Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Sometimes we find ourselves spending lots of time and energy listening to these people talk on and on. We find ourselves leaving the conversation feeling like a worn out sponge that once again have soaked up all their crying tears, scrubbed furiously at their life frustrations and likely also wiped up a whole lot of unnecessary word vomit. Don’t get me wrong, we all go through our own challenges, ups and downs and always need a place to vent out all those emotions.

What I’m talking about here are those one-sided relationships where you question what value the relationship brings to you at the end of another 3-hour listening session. Another “catch-up” where they have not even bothered to ask or listen to you talk about…well, you…and your life and how you are doing after you have listened to theirs. Instead, they emotionally shut down at the first sign of your cry. They give short to no responses with a blank look on their face. They don’t feel happy for you when something great happens in your life. Or even worse, they start talking more about themselves and somehow find something relevant to bring up or send consecutive text messages about relating to themselves every time you share with them something that is going on in your life.

Here’s 3 things I’ve learned from people who demand your emotional support but are unavailable themselves:

1. They are self-absorbed.

It’s always me me me. This happened to me. I’m so this and that. The other day I…did I tell you about the time I?

Lesson: Don’t expect to receive any reciprocating emotional support from this person. The reason they are self-absorbed is, as you may have guessed, they have too much sh*t going on in their lives. Think of it as a glass that is already full to the edge — you can’t add more water (aka your problems) in their glass or it just overflows and spills everywhere, making a big mess. Something neither of you want. Find someone else who is emotionally available to chat and discuss your life struggles with. Talking about your problems with this person will leave you potentially more frustrated, unheard and empty inside.

2. They are attention seeking.

Well, you might be thinking no shih tzu, sherlock. That’s why they require so much of your time and energy to begin with. Attention seeking behavior may include things like fishing for compliments, looking for ego strokes and pity — whether it’s from you directly, or you watching them stoke their own little ego.

Lesson: Don’t fill that void. Let them stroke themselves, you don’t need to stroke it if you don’t want to. You really have no obligation to despite how much you may want to alleviate your guilt and conscience as a good human being and friend. The more you shower them with words for the sake of fulfilling their needs is not healthy for either of you. In fact, you might actually be rewarding bad behavior. You’re not only signaling that you are okay with being treated this way but also setting yourself up for more to come by continually enabling their behavior (be careful of what you sign yourself up for!).

3. They need to work on themselves.

Once again, duh-doy!…But seriously, take a step back. Take a look at the bigger picture here, beyond just your relationship with them. You might look around them and even notice that they have trouble maintaining long-term, healthy and quality relationships with people. They might tell you that you are one of their closest friends (somewhat honoring) that have stuck through all this crap with as much of a loving heart as you could (tad embarrassing)…and clinging tight on to hope that they will one day magically change and become the person you had once liked or the person you are likely imaging in your head (rather cute and naïve).

Lesson: Keep a clear mind, safe distance and continue to tread with caution. No amount of love, empathy and patience will change them unless they make that decision and take steps to change for themselves. Consider the concept that you can’t help someone that doesn’t want to be helped. Do something that is in your hands and that you can control. For instance, it might be time to re-evaluate your relationships and re-invest your time and energy in the ones that do support you and make you happy — the relationships that are reciprocal…which is what you deserve and the way it should be.


There may be feelings of guilt, empathy, hope and thoughts about what if…or perhaps no thoughts or feelings at all. Personally, I found that getting to know my limits, standards and needs, helped me decide how to proceed (or not proceed) with these type of people in my life. However, every situation is different and everyone may feel differently.

Best wishes in finding what works for you and cheers to having healthier relationships.



The Unconventional Social Worker

Personal snippets on family, friendships, society and life learnings.