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Archive for the ‘Friendships’ Category

I have previously written about the challenges of friendship after child abuse. At that point in my healing process, I was disillusioned about the friendships in my life. These days I am feeling much more positive thanks to one very special offline friend.

Nevertheless, friendship after child abuse continues to be a challenge. It is so hard for me to let my guard down. It is so hard to trust. My intuition tells me that I am safe in this friendship, and I have learned always to trust my intuition. This has given me the courage to share much more than I have felt comfortable sharing in the past. I even told her about the dissociative identity disorder (DID)!!

Probably my biggest challenge is to share when I am weak and vulnerable. I can do that online because there is the safety of distance and anonymity. It is significantly more challenging for me to admit vulnerability (which equates to weakness in my head) when I am face to face with someone.

When I feel vulnerable, such as in this time of year when I feel constantly triggered, I put up walls. I can also get “mean” because I have learned that other people will take advantage of my weakness. I must come across as doubly strong so they don’t see that I am hurting. I cannot risk being annihilated by showing weakness. I learned as a young child that I must always, always, ALWAYS be strong.

The problem is that I am not always strong. I need a safe place to fall, just like everyone else, and I have never had that in my life. My two safest people before this friend still don’t enable me to fall safely. One (my sister) pulls back and ignores it until I pull myself together. We have too much history for her to know how to comfort me. She has a hard enough time comforting herself.

The other is a friend who really, really hurt me a couple of years ago. Once I am hurt, I never fully recover. I opened up my heart. She broke it. She will never get a second chance. I still care about her and confide in her some, but I know that I am not safe with her, either.

And now there is this newer friend. I play the dance of trying to allow myself to be vulnerable without being needy. I cannot be needy. It is not safe for me to need. I would rather be alone and push everyone else away than for anyone to see how desperately I need a safe place to fall apart.

I feel myself doing the dance inside my head. A part of myself wants to push her away so I don’t reveal any more. Another part of myself is relieved to have finally found safety somewhere. I am trying very hard to listen to my intuition and not my fear.

I really hate that something as basic as friendship must be so complicated after child abuse.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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This week, I have been exploring a dynamic in my friendships that I want to change. You can read the other discussions here:

When I am looking for a new friend, I seek out someone who is guarded. I am not sure why that is. Part of this probably ties into their own trauma histories. It is a given that I am only going to befriend a person who has been through a bunch of $@#% in childhood. It might not necessarily be sexual abuse, although that is often the case. I simply do not have enough in common with a person who has not known trauma for a friendship to work.

I put a lot of effort into letting the friend know that she is safe. She can trust me. I am a safe place to fall. I will love her no matter what she is dealing with. I will not betray her.

However, I wonder if my intuition is both the draw and the drawback. I am an extremely intuitive person, so I often just know things before a friend tells me. Because of this, I am rarely shocked when a friend confides in me about something that she has been wrestling with. Also, I am good at interpreting dreams, and most people do not appreciate that sharing your dreams is like opening up your diary for others to read.

So, I wind up knowing more about a person than they might feel comfortable with. Combine this with my only choosing emotionally guarded friends, and that is bound to cause a problem.

But here is what I do not get. I offer my love and a safe place for a friend to be herself. I have had extremely guarded people open up to me. I do not betray their trust. However, they still push me away. Is this because of something I am doing wrong, an insecurity in the other person, or a little of both?

I am an intense person. My topic of choice in a conversation is going to be something very deep. I don’t want to spend my time debating the pros and cons of the color “eggshell” over “ecru.” I simply do not give a d@#$. In the grand scheme of things, what color you paint your window trim is irrelevant. I want to talk about the things I write about on this blog – about healing, emotions, insecurities, and the meaning of life.

However, I also want to have fun. I don’t want to spend hours with a negative person who does nothing but b@#$% about her life. I want to spend time with somebody who has been through h@#$ and back but still has a smile on her face and sees the beauty in life. That is who I am, and I am not the only person on the planet like this. So, why is it so hard for me to befriend someone who is more like I am?

Maybe part of the problem is that I am growing and changing at such a rapid pace. That makes it hard to find a friendship match when who I am continues to change.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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In my last post, Analyzing Friendships after Child Abuse, I shared that I am in the process of analyzing my relationships with my friends. Many of my older friendships are drifting away, and I have a few acquaintances that have stepped up dramatically toward real friendships. I am both overjoyed and scared to death, so I am trying to understand myself – in part so I don’t f@#$ this up.

I am becoming aware of the ways in which I set myself up for disappointment in friendships, which I guess is a form of self-sabotage. For example, I like talking on the telephone with friends. I love sitting down and having a 30 minute conversation or even just having a friend call me to let me know about something that has happened during her day. I also like having friendships where I feel free to call them to tell them about something funny that just happened. I do this with my sister all the time. I will call just to tell her a funny joke I heard on the radio, and she does the same to me. She is always happy to hear from me, as I am from her.

So, why have most of the friendships that I have nurtured in recent years been with women who have issues with the telephone? Some do not like being on the telephone, and so I never feel comfortable calling. When I do call, I feel like I have to have an official “purpose,” like scheduling the next time we are getting together, and then I need to get off the phone as quickly as possible. I don’t like that, so why do I choose friends who are that way?

And then there are the friends who never call me. If I call them, they are happy to chat, but the communication is always one-sided. I will periodically decide to make no effort to contact anyone for a week or two and see who even notices. In most cases, the only time my phone rings during that period of time is when my sister calls me.

There is nothing wrong with being phone aversive. It does not make these people “bad” or anything. However, it is not a good friendship match for me. So, why do I choose these friends?

I think it is a form of self-sabotage. I think that a part of myself does not believe that I deserve to have the type of friendship that I seek, so I nurture friendships that are not good matches for me.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my friends. When I love, I love deeply. I love these friends, even in a bad match. The problem is that my needs are not getting met. I need to understand why I invest so much of myself into friendships that don’t meet my needs when I have other people in my life who want to pursue a deeper friendship that is much closer to what I am seeking. Why do I push those people away?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I am kind of in a weird place right now in my healing journey from child abuse. I am questioning a lot about myself and my relationships with other people. I am specifically focusing on my friendships.

I had an epiphany that I have been the one setting myself up to be disappointed in many of my friendships. I am the one who chooses who to spend my time with and who to confide in. So, I am the one who has chosen friendships that do not meet some of my basic needs.

What has made a lot of this clear is that I have entered into a new phase of friendship with a few friends who are offering what I have been looking for pretty much my whole life. Quite frankly, it scares the h@#$ out of me.

I have the expectation that friendships are not going to be reciprocal and that I will be pushed away at some point for some reason, and so I often push away first. I always feel like I have to prove myself or earn my way into the friendship, if that makes sense. Having people offering friendship on a deep emotional level and being open to receiving me as I am is both what I want and what I fear. That is being offered to me now, and I am alternating between being extremely grateful and extremely fearful.

I have always wanted a friend that embraces me as a sister. Yes, I have my actual sister, and I love her dearly, but she lives far away. I really want somebody nearby who sees me as more than just a default pal when there is nothing better to do on a rainy day. I have a history of offering this to friends but being put on the backburner because their family members always come first, even family members that they do not particularly like.

In fairness, it is much easier for me to place friendships as a higher priority. My father is dead. I am estranged from my mother-abuser. My sister lives hundreds of miles away. I see my husband and his family frequently enough that I can easily bow out of a family dinner in order to spend time with a friend if I want to.

However, even if my parents were alive and in my life, I would still put friendship higher on my priority list than most people do. When I love someone, that love is not tied to being blood-related. Blood relatives hurt me deeply, so being related by blood carries very little weight with me. It hurts when I have no family other than my sister that finds me special enough to make me a priority and then have my friends always put me behind their families as well. It hurts twice as much when I know that they do not even like many of their family members. Why do I rate even lower than people that they don’t even like??

TV shows like “Friends” or “Sex in the City” show the kinds of friendships I want – friends who are as close as, or even closer than, family. So I know that somebody somewhere gets it. However, I have not been able to find that level of friendship in my own life. I am beginning to realize it is by my own doing and nobody else’s. That’s a hard one for me to accept, but it is true.

And now the branch of friendship at a deeper level is being offered to me (I think), and it scares me. I don’t want to be hurt again. And yet, if I do not risk allowing that kind of love into my life, then I am the one choosing the loneliness for myself.

Growth is hard sometimes.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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