For Happier and Saner Relationships; Love Many, but Rely on Few

By Rachel Puryear

We all have those certain people in our lives who we love, and whose company we really enjoy; but who also drive us nuts sometimes. It can be a pretty rocky dynamic. You may wonder why you bother with some people at times; and then at other times, also wonder what you’d do without them. In any event, this makes for a complicated relationship.

Nowadays, discussions about cutting people out of one’s life – and reasons for doing so – have become increasingly popular. We all know someone online who has publicly posted their sagas about the toxic people in their lives, blow-by-blow stories of the conflicts, how they’re cutting them out for good now, and they make an open plea for sympathy – and often receive it in abundance from others.

Black and white photo of hands holding scissors, with a shadow on the wall, and it looks rather ominous. By Naomi O’Hare.

Now, sometimes it is for the best to end certain relationships (romantic or otherwise), and I’m definitely not here to say that each relationship can or should be saved – that would be absurdly unrealistic, as well as cruelly oblivious.

When a relationship is dangerous for either party, or even simply becomes mainly pain without much pleasure, or it has simply run its course and efforts to salvage things have been shown to be fruitless; it can be very much for the best to each person to go their separate ways.

Nonetheless, it’s possible that some people are increasingly cutting someone out of their lives too prematurely, and having unrealistic expectations of others. People’s conflict resolution and relationship skills may also be declining overall, with some not knowing how to suitably fit others in their lives.

In this post, I want to expand on that latter point – and differentiate that there are many people we can love, but that we should only ever rely upon few of those. Understanding the difference between love and reliance can save one a lot of heartaches, and headaches, throughout our lives.

Fingers adjusting setting on a “trust” button, with low, medium, and high settings available, and a blue light illuminating the button and knob panel.

We often believe that difficult relationship troubles come from loving the wrong people.

No, they don’t.

Most relationship troubles actually come from relying on the wrong people. Let’s differentiate between those two things.

What Does Reliance Mean?

So, before moving forward with this discussion, what exactly does it mean to rely on someone? We all have a general sense of what it means, but let’s clarify it a bit more.

Things like showing up where and when you’re supposed to, doing your fair share of shared labor, and being honest with others are all examples of reliability that people would generally agree on.

Elderly man, wearing a baseball cap and striped shirt and tie, giving a thumbs up. By Aziz Acharki.

There are also more subtle forms of reliability which we might not think of in those terms so much, but which are also just as important, including (but not limited to):

  • Communicating effectively.
  • Listening to others.
  • Empathizing with others.
  • Being generally reasonable.
  • Being considerate of others’ needs.
  • Having an even temper.
  • Handling disagreements with civility and decency rather than manipulation or aggression.
  • Being accountable for one’s actions.
  • Demonstrating sound judgment.

These reliability traits demonstrate trustworthiness and stability, both of which are important in forming and maintaining lasting personal relationships – on top of emotional connection, compatibility, and shared goals (although the extent to which these need to be shared depends upon the type of relationship involved).

You can rely on people you don’t love. You can love and rely on someone. You can also love someone, but not be able to rely on them.

For many people, that last one is counterintuitive. No! They might say. There is no love without also having trust! They believe that someone else who cannot rely on them doesn’t trust them, and thereby does not love them; and that if someone really loves them, that they must also automatically trust them, and therefore feel that they can rely on them.

That’s not true, though.

Love and (trust in the form of) reliance are two things we want to go together. Sometimes they do. But sometimes, they also don’t.

We can love a great number of people. The number of people we can also rely on, though, is pretty small. Love paired with reliance is therefore such a rare and precious thing.

Where Does This Leave Us?

We have inner circle relationships – our romantic partners, our closest friends, our immediate families (though this can vary). We have those further out from the inner circle whom we are also close to, but without the depth of intimacy as with the inner circle – good friends, relatives (again, this can vary), others in our community we interact with regularly. We have our outer circle relationships – acquaintances, people we used to be close to but have drifted further apart from, longtime friends we’re always glad to hear from but don’t talk to regularly.

Layers of circles with the smallest in the center, and getting bigger as they move out, and in varying shades of blue.

With your inner circle relationships, there must be reliability as well as love for it to work. Allowing someone into your inner circle when there is a lack of reliability, no matter how much you might love them, is a recipe for pain and ultimate failure.

For relationships in the further out circles, though, the need for reliability becomes less strong. It’s nice to have, and it’s admirable, but a lack of reliability in someone you’re not close to and don’t need to count on won’t bring the day-to-day pain and hardship as a lack of reliability from someone closer to your inner circles will.

Accordingly; love many, so long as it suits you; but rely on only those who demonstrate they are reliable, and this will save you many headaches and heartaches in life.

Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to understanding, remembering, and correctly applying the differences between love and reliability. If you enjoyed this content and want to see more of it, please hit “like” and subscribe, if you have not done so already. xoxo

4 responses to “For Happier and Saner Relationships; Love Many, but Rely on Few”

  1. This is really wise. But I’ve always wondered why some people consider trust to be binary, something that you either give someone or withhold entirely. The way I see it, many people are reliable and trustworthy in some ways and not, or less so, in others. Especially in practical matters, learning *how* someone can be counted on, and in what areas you need to turn to others either instead or as a backup, can help you develop a loving relationship without so much anxiety and frustration. To me, “I trust or rely on this person” isn’t a complete statement — a compete statement is “I trust or rely on this person in these particular ways.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment, Firecatstef! These are great points, too. I think you’re a few steps ahead of me, as this is a great follow-up subject to build on this post.


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  3. […] possible to set healthy boundaries, and not depend on them for anything important. Having them just on the periphery of your life, rather than being central to it. Just make sure you can both set and agree to those […]


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