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Posts Tagged ‘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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I believe I have shared before that my son goes to school with my ex-friend’s child. (If you need to catch up on the ex-friend drama, you can do so here.) I have also shared that her child told me that my ex-friend was having some sort of medical issue back in February. Yesterday, my son came home from school and said that ex-friend’s daughter shared that her mother **might** have cancer.

Keep in mind that this is hardly a reliable source. The daughter has told me inaccurate medical information about her mother before, such as telling me (back when ex-friend and I were still friends) that her mother was going to have back surgery and be on bed rest for six weeks. It turned out that this was an option but never seriously considered. I also don’t know if “might have cancer” could be confusion over the explanation for the purpose of a mammogram – to “screen for” cancer. So, I am not jumping the gun and assuming the worst case scenario.

Even if ex-friend does have cancer, I have no idea what type of cancer or what stage it is in. I have known people with Stage 1 skin cancer where removing it was not that big of a deal. However, I have known other people with aggressive cancer in the later stages who have had to go through surgery, chemo, and/or radiation. So, I certainly do not take cancer lightly.

I guess the most relevant part for me is whether any of this information changes anything as far as my role (or non-role) in her life and vice versa. She is a single mother with limited support (in part because she drives away those who love her and does not welcome in new friends very often). If she has to deal with chemo or surgery, she doesn’t have a strong support system to help her through it.

Does that change anything with me, though? The compassionate part of myself wants to help her if she is mostly alone and dealing with cancer while the logical part of myself says that my ex-friend’s physical health is irrelevant to the reasons why this friendship ended. The practical side of me says that with school letting out soon, I probably won’t know either way, and I have no interest in investing in that friendship again. I am conflicted about this information.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I have made an observation about myself that I don’t quite understand. I have cut two important women out of my life. The first one is momster, who made my childhood a living hell and who is directly responsible for numerous abusers having access to me. Why I would want to cut her out of my life seems pretty obvious.

The second woman I have cut out of my life is the friend I blogged about here. She was a good friend for the most part for nine years, and she was there for me during the early years of healing. In fact, she was the first person I had the courage to embrace deep in my heart as a friend. That friendship ended because I outgrew her. I needed to “stay sick” for the friendship to work. I couldn’t stay “sick,” and she could not endure me “well,” so that friendship is over.

The friend brought much more of value to my life, but I have absolutely no desire to have any contact with her. I wouldn’t even consider sending her a Christmas card, not because I wish her ill but because I think it would be cruel to send her mixed messages. I am out of that friendship and don’t want back in. That bond is severed. Period.

Then, we have momster, who brought very little good to my life and mountains of pain, and I felt compelled to send her a Christmas card?? Why??

Why is it so clear that the friend needs to be removed from my life 100% but that momster does not? Why is it so easy to see that sending the friend mixed messages would be cruel, but I view the same act as a kindness if I do it to momster?

I truly don’t understand this about myself. Am I being influenced by society, which says that a mother’s love is forever? Am I feeling “guilted” into this by my religion? Is there a part of myself who still holds out hope that momster will change? (I truly do not think this is even possible.)

Why do I still feel a pull toward momster but not toward the friend when the friend was better for me than momster ever was?

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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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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