High-Maintenance People

Robert Terson

One of the great epiphanies of my life hit me when I read Codependent No More by Melody Beattie (it was 1991, I was 47 at the time) and discovered that there were people out there who required such high-maintenance attention that they could drain you dry in a very short period of time. It was an even greater epiphany to discover that that could be me at times. That’s when I vowed to curtail my own inappropriate high-maintenance behavior and stay away from others who suffered from that particular character flaw. It wasn’t long before I could quickly spot them and run for the hills.

Let’s take “Bruce,” for example. It doesn’t matter that Bruce means well; you met him a short while ago through Twitter and he’s a decent enough guy, but he’s attached himself to you like a flea on a dog and just won’t let go. You’re now his “best buddy” and he just has to share everything with you. He’s sending you emails left and right with all kinds of information he wants you to be aware of; he tells you that he’s positive the two of you are going to be able to do wondrous things for each other; why, he even, without so much as asking you if you’re interested, does an analysis of your website for you.

What a guy! Like I said, he means well. But even after you ask him to back off, after you directly tell him that you don’t have the time or the inclination to peruse through everything he’s sending your way, he doesn’t take the hint and the material keeps coming. You tell him how uncomfortable you’re feeling, you tell him this more than once, but it just won’t register with Bruce. He’s bound and determined that the two of you are going to do great things together.

Alas, there are a lot of Bruces out there. They want to talk about their problems, goals, you name it, and they want you to be their sounding board; they want a relationship with you that hopefully will be the salvation for both of you (never mind that you don’t need, nor are you looking for, salvation), and now that you’re a “best buddy,” you get to hear it all, whether it be by email, telephone conversation, over a cup of coffee, whatever, until you’re blue in the face and ready to throw up at the site of another email.

What do you do?

See paragraph one and the words “run for the hills.”

Yes, Bruce is going to have hurt feelings when you break it off, but remember, Bruce’s emotional choices belong to him, they’re not your responsibility. In fact, there is nothing about Bruce that is your responsibility. You’re entitled to live on your own terms, not Bruce’s. He’s just going to have to understand and accept that. You can send him a copy of Codependent No More if you want to, but that isn’t your responsibility, either.

You want to live a healthy existence, emotionally as well as physically. And you’re never going to do that until you keep the Bruces of this world at bay. What do you think? Can you do that?

My own mother never could. See “Do you Reward Inappropriate Behavior” posted on March 4, 2013


Get your free Preview of Selling Fearlessly’s Chapter 1 here.