Posts Tagged ‘dysfunctional friendships’

I am traveling this week, so I have limited time to do the work I usually do to find and quote reader comments. A reader posted recently that s/he has concerns about labeling other people as “healthy” or “unhealthy.” I have thought about that comment a lot and have come to agree – that the relevant issue is not whether another person is “healthy” but, instead, whether a relationship with that person is healthy for me.

As an example, I have written several times about my long-term friendship that ended last year. We became friends before I started my healing process, and I was very emotionally unhealthy. Since then, I have grown and healed at a mindboggling rate in many areas of my life but continue to struggle with being emotionally unhealthy in some areas.

This friend also grew during the same period but not at the same pace. I can point to several areas of her life where anyone would view positive healing progress from where she was then to where she is now. So, when I last talked with her a year ago, she was a healthier version of herself than she was eight or nine years ago.

This friendship was actually healthy for me during a time that she was not as healthy because she was so much healthier than I was in the areas I needed growth. It was more of a comparative thing. No, she wasn’t 100% emotionally healthy (nor is anyone), but she was leaps and bounds healthier than I was in the areas I needed, and my friendship with her greatly helped me along my healing journey for years, and did mine for her.

At the time our friendship ended, it was no longer healthy for me because I needed the focus to change from our mutual pain to other commonalities, but she was unwilling and/or unable to make this transition. If she had been willing to change our time together from talking about our pain and misery to other commonalities, such as our love of books, teaching, or parenting special needs children, I think we could still be friends today in a way that is healthy for both of us. However, for whatever reason, we could not/did not make that transition, and the friendship ended.

More tomorrow…

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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PhotobucketAs I shared here, I ended a nine-year friendship at the end of August. We didn’t have some big discussion in which we said we weren’t going to be friends anymore. Instead, she blew up over something stupid, and instead of reining things in by playing my role, as I always did before, I said, “F#$% it,” and discontinued contact.

The dysfunctional pattern was that it was my job to make her feel better and reassure her that she is “in charge” of the friendship. I’m done with that. If there isn’t room in a friendship for me to be myself, then I don’t want the friendship. Period.

Unfortunately, the ex-friend transferred her daughter to my son’s tiny private school, so there is no way that we are going to avoid seeing each other. Ironically, her daughter gets along with my son just fine (and that’s what her blow up was over), and her daughter still adores me. The three of us are fine – it’s just the ex-friend who is “out.” Both of our children stay for the afterschool homework program, which is how I continue to see her daughter. She always greets me with a huge smile on her face.

So far, I have managed to avoid seeing the ex-friend. Twice I have been driving out of the parking lot while she was pulling in. Thankfully, we have yet to overlap in pickup time.

Yesterday, I picked up my son early from the afterschool program to take him to get a flu shot. We then went to Target to reward him for getting a shot. As we were leaving Target, the ex-friend’s daughter came running up to us, squealing in delight to be bumping into us. I purposely did not look in the direction from which she came, knowing that my ex-friend would be there. My son, however, did look. He said that she gave a look of disgust as if she couldn’t understand why her daughter would like us. Then, she walked into the store as if she didn’t even know her daughter. Whatever.

I am relieved to get the first “run in” over with so I can quit dreading it. I figured that she would ignore me and pretend that I don’t exist, but now that has been confirmed. It’s high school all over again. Goody.

It’s just as well. I, personally, would prefer to be able to say hello and goodbye like two mature adults, but I can do the “I don’t know you even though I know all of your secrets” thing, too. It’s so stupid.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Yesterday, I wrote about some positive things that came out of visiting my hometown over the weekend. Today I would like to focus on the challenging things as part of processing the trip.

I was much more aware than I usually am of the negative energy of most of the people I visited with. For example, when I visited with family (my father’s side, not momster’s), I was overwhelmed by the constant flow of negativity. Every conversation was about how terrible and hard life is. Yes, I am painfully aware of how difficult life can be, but I also choose not to dwell on the negative stuff 24/7.

When I am visiting with someone that I only see every few years, I ask about how they have been and talk about the good stuff in my life. I reserve the venting for my close girlfriends as I need to process the hard things. When I choose to focus on negativity, I try to have a beginning, middle, and end to the process, not experience negativity as a state of being. I used to be negative constantly, and that was a miserable way to live. No, I am not perfect, nor am I saying that these people don’t have a legitimate reason to be unhappy. My point is that I don’t want to spend the majority of my time complaining about how miserable I am, and it is hard for me to spend time with people who live their lives miserable as a state of being.

I do give these people credit for being authentic, though – they are authentically miserable. There were others I visited with whose energy did not match who they presented themselves as being. A huge part of the direction of my growth is being authentically me. If there is not room in a friendship for me to be myself, then I don’t need the friendship. I might not always be pleasant, but I am (or really strive to be) always me. I need and expect the same from the other person.

The energy of people who are pretending to be something that they are not is actually harder for me to process. The inauthenticity messes with me and is so much harder for me to be around – the dichotomy is draining. What is also difficult (and is an issue whenever I get together with people who “knew me then”) is when others say and do the same things they always said and did, but it’s like it is toward a stranger because that person is not me any longer. The dynamic no longer works because I am no longer that person.

These are the people who were in my life as an emotionally shattered teenager. Being around them was my comfort zone. Now, I am so thankful that there are hundreds of miles between that life and me. I don’t mean this in a judgmental way, nor do I mean that I don’t care about these people. It’s just too draining for me to live like that. I found it interesting that it was the people, not the place (where the child abuse happened), that was so challenging for me on this trip. This doesn’t mean I don’t love and care about them — it just means that I no longer fit in there.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I am feeling a tad depressed at the moment, so I thought I would blog about it, express the emotions, and then put it all behind me.

I spent the weekend visiting with some friends from high school. After I got home, I received an email from a friend from 2004 (who moved away in 2005) and wound up talking on the phone with her for a while. These are all people that came into my life before (or in the early stages of) therapy when I was much less emotionally healthy.

If I ever needed a barometer of how far I have come in my emotional healing, all of these ladies provided it for me. I find it d@#$ depressing to see where they are in their lives today, and it really opens my eyes to the amazing healing progress that I have made. After all, like attracts like, and I was drawn to these people because we were in the same (or a similar) place when we met. Good golly have I grown!!

One of these people has lost custody of her children after bouncing from one abusive relationship to another. Another has been working hard through therapy to heal from childhood issues and finds herself in a home repeating certain dynamics that were painful for her in childhood. A third is only now awakening to her own childhood traumas and has all of this healing work in front of her. Another is living a life that seems very full from the outside but seems to be very lonely and empty from the inside.

I am not saying that my life is perfect, but I am not in any of those places (thank goodness!). I feel amazingly fulfilled in my life. I have some great (and emotionally healthier) friends who I can depend upon. My family life is not perfect, but I have found ways to meet my needs within those constraints. I feel an incredible purpose in writing this blog and in my part-time job (online college instructor for non-traditional students – I am their “cheerleader” who believes in them until they can believe in themselves).

Most importantly, my kid is not paying the price for my emotional crap. I am far from the perfect parent, but my son knows with every fiber of his being that he is loved and safe — the two greatest needs in my childhood that were never met. He might have his own issues to work through, but they will never be the mammoths that I have had to fight.

Setting aside the huge child abuse issues, my son’s reality does not include many of the realities I had to deal with that can happen even in non-abusive homes. He does not brace himself when his father walks in the door in preparation for being yelled at because his father had a bad day at work. He does not receive mixed messages about his value in our lives. I am sure he would tell you that his childhood is not perfect, but he is loved, safe, and secure. Of all of the changes I have made in my life over the past seven years, I am most grateful for providing my kid with the love and stability that I never had.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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