Maintaining friendships is very difficult for me. This is a very complicated issue and one that isn’t easy to talk about, but I’ll do my best to explain it.
It all comes down to trust. I don’t like who I am on the inside, and so I keep people at a distance because I’m afraid they’ll see who I really am and run the other way. By not letting people in though, trust does not develop. Trusting others is risky, and I think people need to put themselves out there in order to build trust. This includes opening yourself up to others by showing them who you really are, speaking your true feelings, and revealing secrets–all of which I don’t do. Without trust, relationships become disposable. There is no replacement for trust; yet, I’ve spent my whole life replacing trust with constancy.
Constancy is stability; it’s being faithful and loyal. Constancy is part of trust, but it’s definitely not a replacement. In my case, constancy develops through repetition: the more I see somebody, the more I feel comfortable around him or her. It’s vital for my personal relationships. Without it, there is only anxiety.
So because constancy, rather than trust, is the glue holding my relationships together, my friendships never feel right. I always question them. I think the person doesn’t really like me. I think he or she is always talking negatively about me behind my back. I think he or she is always trying to find a way to get out of the friendship. I think he or she doesn’t even really like me. In reality, I am the one talking negatively about myself. I am the one trying to find a way out. I am the one who doesn’t like me.
The problems are with me, and yet instead of dealing with them, I project them onto others.
What’s more, I’m always searching for someone I can have a deeper relationship with. Everyone needs to have some deep friendships. We need someone to talk to about our feelings, someone to confide in and feel save with. I don’t get to have those things in my personal, platonic friendships so I seek out deeper, sexual relationships for my true friendships. Then once I do find that true friendship and start connecting, I abandon all of my disposable friends. I think it’s normal (to a certain degree) to desert friends when one enters into a relationship, especially at the beginning. In my case, it’s hard to view my life objectively at the start of an intimate relationship. I’m lost in euphoria, filled with happiness and excitement. When that phase is over though, people generally reconnect with friends, creating balance between their intimate relationship and platonic one’s. I however continue to cling to the sexual relationship.
So after I find a sexual partner and establish an intimate relationship I don’t reconnect with friends and so I just ignore them altogether until they eventually go away. There isn’t a malicious intent, and I’m not even really conscious of this behavior–it’s a coping technique because I lose the stability or constancy I once had in the platonic relationships.
Let’s look at this deeper. Why is it so difficult for me to reestablish relationships? It’s simple: because constancy is lost. That’s the one thing needed for my friendships to work. Some people can go weeks or months without seeing someone and still be “close”, and when they finally do see each other, “it’s like nothing changed.” They go right back to what they had before the separation. If I get separated from a friend for even a week (depending on the situation, of course), that relationship won’t be easy to pick back up. In a sense, I feel like I have to start over with that person. Often times, it’s easier just to abandon it altogether.
Sexual relationships, on the other hand, are easy to maintain because I generally see my partner every single day. There’s constancy. Plus, I generally open up to my partner so there’s actually trust. But constancy is still more important. For example, if I’m dating someone and we see each other every day for a month and my partner decides one day not to see me, I’ll get very, very upset. I’ll feel depressed, lonely, uncertain. I’ll think my partner doesn’t really like me.
All this because of constancy.
The hardest relationships for me are the casual kind in which constancy haven’t been established. It’s the people I see semi-regularly but not regularly. The people who live in my building. Co-workers I’d see at work but not really know (when I used to work). And those I have to say hello to at my girlfriend’s work. Even deeper relationships–like with parents or life-long friends–can become difficult and anxiety-provoking when I don’t engage with them for some time.
Again, part of the issue is that I’m just not comfortable with who I am on the inside. How can someone else accept me if I can’t even accept myself? I wonder what some of the other causes are? Maybe my parents didn’t give me enough attention? Or maybe I was afraid my dad wouldn’t come home from work–and maybe he didn’t for a while (like he went on a business trip or something)? With my hyper sensitive nature, issues that seem small or trivial to other people can have a profound, lasting effect on me.
Consequently, a number of events could have been the cause for me to have difficulty with relationships. I don’t think it’s that important to find causes from my childhood or adolescence. I do, however, believe it’s vital that I become more aware of this issue and learn to deal with it as it arises. Trying to maintain balance in my relationships is vital when I enter into an intimate relationship. I could also share this with my close friends–and maybe even talk with old friends about this so they have a better understanding as to why I suddenly started to ignore them. Finally, I need to work on becoming more accepting of myself so that I can build trust with people and let them in. By doing so, constancy becomes less of an issue.
I addressed this very issue in therapy a few weeks ago, and my therapist and I concluded that I lock myself into romantic relationships to protect myself. It’s a defense mechanism.
To summarize: It’s very difficult for me to maintain friendships because I don’t open up to people. I replace trust with constancy, which doesn’t really work. The friendships seem superficial and disposable–and in a way they are. When I’m not in a serious romantic relationship I strive to make friends, and I succeed. But there’s just something missing. I feel empty inside. That’s because I don’t allow people inside, to see the real me. Consequently, I settle into a relationship, somewhat open up, and allow that relationship to fulfill my interpersonal needs.
Fortunately, in my current relationship, I’ve recognized this past behavior and am trying to have more balance in my life. It’s been difficult.
“By giving yourself solely to the other person,” my therapist asked, referring to my past romantic partners, “is that your way of showing that you love and care for her?”
Of course not. I’m using them to protect myself from the world. Love is secondary. Up until my current relationship, I don’t think I’ve ever loved any of my romantic partners. There was an intense emotional feeling that I thought was love, but it was only there because I was being saved.
Thanks for commenting on my blog. You make some interesting observations about relationships, and I can especially relate to what you say about friendships. It can be hard to invest emotionally in friendships…I always find myself keeping a ‘safe’ distance for fear of getting hurt.
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What happens in therapy, what sort of therapist is he? Is it expensive?
It’s a mindfulness-based talk therapy. My therapist’s an intern, so it’s pretty cheap. Basically, I just talk about my week, and we focus on specific things that trigger emotions inside. The underlying emotions hold the key to how I view the world. I’m not seeing him directly for social anxiety; it’s more for personal growth. But the social anxiety is addressed indirectly.
I’m also seeing a hypnotherapist for social anxiety, but that hasn’t helped much, and I’m doing CBT on my on.
Are you currently in therapy?
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