On my blog entry entitled Reframing Process (Challenging Faulty Premises), a reader posted the following comment:
Speaking of friends and reframing, I had an idea for a possible post. You may have already posted abou this, but, since survivors are so used to the people closest to them being abusive it messes with their ability to form healthy relationships. By that I mean many times we are attracted to and attract people who end up exploiting us in some way while we jump through hoop after hoop to be a good friend… that is till we wise up or get some counseling. It really sucks and is just another nasty side effect of abuse. ~ Mia
Yes, this pretty much sums up the first four decades of my life. This is an area of my life that I am working through right now with many tears and is what prompted last week’s series on reframing.
Let’s start with the positive part – The more emotionally healthy you become, the healthier people you will attract into your life. This is not something that you need to practice – it is a natural result of growing into a healthier version of yourself. As you become healthier, other people at a similar level of emotional health will be drawn into your life. I did not seek out any of my current closest friendships – they naturally evolved because we are in similar places. These are people who truly love me and do the things that people do when they love you.
Now for the hard part – I have been kicked in the gut with the realization that the vast majority of relationships in my life that started before therapy were with people who didn’t love me. I only have three exceptions – my sister, one friend from high school, and my child (who was only two when I entered into therapy).
Keep in mind that as an adult, I have been popular in just about any circle I join. I have great social skills (learned through observation), which people like. I am dedicated to whatever cause I am active in, smart, and resourceful. I am also kind, trustworthy, and dependable. When I put my mind to something, I make it happen. These characteristics make me well-liked in any group, whether in the workplace, at my kid’s school, at church, in the neighborhood, etc. If I died tomorrow, my funeral would have a large turn-out.
However, the people I attracted into my life as “friends” and family before healing were as emotionally unhealthy as I was, so they did not have the capacity to love me other than “in their own way” or be real friends. They were attracted to my resourcefulness and what I could do for them (how I could make their lives easier), not to who **I** am, which runs much deeper than what I can do for other people. As soon as I stop “doing” for other people, I don’t hear from them again.
I have finally awakened to this reality about another long-term relationship in my life, and it hurts. I have known the truth for a very long time but chose to continue lying to myself because the alternative was facing the reality that this is another relationship in which I invested deeply but am not loved. Yes, I can tack on the “in his/her own way,” as I have with just about every relationship that started in the first 35+ years in my life, but that is really just a way to soften the blow of facing that I am or was not loved.
Thankfully, because I have “known” this for a long time, I have made changes over the years so that my internal awakening is not noticeable to the other person. As long as I keep doing as I have always done, it appears from the outside that nothing has changed. However, on the inside, I am grieving just how alone and unloved I spent the first 35+ years of my life. (I had also written unwanted, but that is not true. I am wanted for what I DO, just not for who I AM.) This involves grieving as well as pushing through feeling like an idiot for lying to myself for so many years.
I will get through this as I always do. (Sadly, I have been through this reframing process numerous times.) I know that I will find this relationship much less hurtful and frustrating now that we are “on the same page.” I have also thought through what I want out of the relationship and what I am willing to put in. The sad part is that the other person already appears happier in getting what s/he wants without recognizing the loss of me. This is now a relationship of “doing” rather than “being” on my end, which this person prefers. It feels a little silly to grieve the loss of a lie, but it’s still a perceived loss, so I am giving myself room to do this.
Image credit: Hekatekris