21 February 2010

Not Reaching Out, Part Deux

After publishing my previous post, I pretty much expected the sort of comments I got. But as usual, being challenged has helped me think through things a bit more (stop rolling your eyes and saying, "Oh great, more thinking." It's what I do. Get used to it). :-)

This sounds like you analyze every relationship at every level as if it were a chess game.

Well it kinda does, doesn't it? But these scenarios I'm talking about amount to about half a dozen times in my adult life. Not a pervasive pattern, but a nuisance. Most of my friendships develop pretty naturally and organically. No, there's no "battle plan" or "model" I try to follow in relationships. People and interpersonal dynamics are too complex, too individual, and too dynamic to possibly hope to fully understand or write a definitive play book. But I try to identify my own patterns, which does help me with future relationships and communication...though it's admittedly sometimes more about trying to solve the puzzle for puzzle-solving's sake (now I'm thinking about the 3 episodes of House I watched last night...I think I may finally be hooked) but telling myself there's a practical application. Dang it.

If you want to reach out, but don't, please don't be mad at them for it.

True. So instead I'll just be mad at them for being jerks in the first place. ;-) OK OK, it's really about the dynamics of the relationship, not anybody's particular personality flaws, theirs or mine. I care about these cusses. I just don't want to give them the remote control to my emotions again.
Detached, carefree person + invested, sensitive person = messiness in many cases.

Unless I'm confident my vulnerability has waned, I worry about ending up in the same mess. I'm trying to learn to let go of that fear and manage the lingering caution. Just going along for the ride again, though, is not an option. What's that saying about insanity being expecting different outcomes from the same, repeated actions? Yeah...

Perhaps they are doing the same and both of you are denied some positive innocent friendly companionship as a result?

It's possible they're doing the same, but most of the people this has happened with are quite different, quite non-analytical. As for companionship, it's about weighing the emotional risks vs. the benefits. Friendship hardly seems productive when one person (*raises hand*) is dysfunctionally hurt-prone in that particular friendship, due to sensitivity and past heartache. I think sometimes it's best to move on rather than be that annoying, needy person in someone's life who just can't seem to let go after the friendship has outlived its usefulness. It's also not fair to contact them out of some thirst for affirmation when I don't really want friendship again. My motives matter, too. But yes, no matter what the trade-offs or benefits, we might be missing out on what could be positive friendship, which is what sometimes brings me back to test the waters.

I bet half the people you are wanting to connect with really don't think of things the way you've described them here.

If you mean they don't analyze things like I do, you're probably right. If you mean they don't see what they've done as manipulative, you're probably right. If you mean they might say, "I don't know what happened: everything was fine on my end," you're probably right.

I've been in that position, where I cared about friends and wanted their friendship but didn't return their feelings or desire for more time together or more emotional intimacy, or whatever. I was unintentionally insensitive to a couple of female friends who I think had feelings for me and didn't know what to do. I might have said, "I value our friendship, just potentially not as much as you do right now." But...ouch. I thought maybe they needed distance for their own sake, to detach a bit, but I wasn't about to ask for that because it might send a signal that I wasn't interested in friendship, when I was. I watched them go through inexplicable reactions to things I said or did and wondered why they were so emotional. It seemed, at times, like they were torturing themselves by continuing to spend time and keep contact with me, manifested by emotional reactions, including anger. Being friends almost became a chore, but I did want to prove I wanted their friendship, so I continued to deal with it and enjoyed the good times and endured the stressful times and repeated mini-DTRs. "Women," I'd grunt.

Then I later found myself on their side, and I understood a bit better where they were coming from. I had one guy friend (with whom I had a sort of romantic entanglement but who withdrew from the friendship more than I did once the romantic stuff was wearing off) later tell me he thought I was crazy-emotional over what happened between us, but he had since been in a relationship that put him on the other side, and he sympathized with me.

If you mean they're not doing anything manipulative, I disagree for the couple of cases I'm thinking of, though I'd be happy to be wrong. I'm not going to discuss the "evidence" here, but I'll just say I'm not just inventing to explain some puzzling behavior. I've observed their manipulative or selfish behavior with other people in addition to patterns with me, and I don't presume to be a special exception. But the kicker: I know I've behaved in ways that were emotionally manipulative without having intended them that way, usually due to some insecurity, and I'm glad my friends who struggled with their feelings for me stuck with it and kept coming back because some of those have become my most lasting friendships, even after their feelings subside and our mutual interest equalizes.

Though I don't think they mean to be malicious, the problem comes when I'm no longer emotionally equipped or interested enough to withstand or entertain their lashes. Maybe I'm weaker than those friends of mine who endured. Or maybe I'm just afraid and insecure and haven't learned to deal with that.

...reach out with the simple motivation of genuine concern and interest in them, no focus on yourself

I think I have done this, with the possible exception of letting down defenses I put up for a reason and believe must stay in place. However, something that's harder but I think is necessary is letting go of the fear of being hurt again. I suspect that fear only makes it that much more likely that it will happen again, a sort of self-fulfilling thing.

You think way too much. Just call. Or text. Or facebook message. Or don't. lol.

I think I get that. I mean, I almost did that the other day when I was thinking of someone I haven't talked to in a long time. But there are actually circumstances in some cases, in addition to the vulnerability thing, which I chose not to go into in the post which are relevant but...just not right to publish, I guess. And with that, I shall let this go, maintaining my throne as King Overanalysis. On the other hand, last night I did just say, "Screw it, I want to contact him, so I'm going to," and I sent a brief e-mail to check in.

I think I've learned a thing or two from all this and responding to your comments, so thanks! But it'll do no good if I sit here blogging all day and thinking about what I've thought about, now, will it? ;-)

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