Monday, March 20, 2006


I have a confession to make. I make a lousy good friend. Other than my husband and family, I don't do friendship well. I'm good at meeting people, making others feel comfortable and having conversations with them, but they seldom become good friends. I have what I'd call lots of friends and acquaintances, but very few are close friends.

I know some people who are constantly surrounded by good friends. They hang out, go for coffee, they call each other on the phone and chat. They talk to each other about all the important things that go on in their lives. They laugh together and cry together. I'm not good at that. In my lifetime, I can probably count maybe three people (excluding my husband) who fall into this category of friendship.

I don't know what it is exactly, but I keep most people at arms-length. They get only so close, before I think, nope, that's close enough. If I were to get really analytical, in a pseudo-psychological sense, it probably has something to do with my relationships with people close to me in my childhood. I've thought about this a lot lately.

My mother died when I was quite young and I have no conscious memory of her. I then got passed back and forth between various relatives, eventually ending up with my father's family (I never ended up actually living with my father). In my preschool years, I remember visiting my maternal grandmother regularly, then one day, I didn't – visit, that is. I now know that it was because she died, but no one ever told me that at the time. She just disappeared from my life. Later on, my maternal aunts and uncles made regular visits, they took me on outings, and I played with my first cousins. Then one day, it stopped. After awhile, I stopped thinking about them and they too, seemed to have disappeared. I lived in a succession of different households with different aunts, uncles and assorted cousins. Each time I moved, it seemed like the previous family just disappeared - only to be seen at family gatherings. In the passing years as my aunts and uncles aged and died, I realized their deaths never seemed all that real because in my mind, they were already gone. Pretty messed up, eh?

(I didn't think I'd wander so far into my family history, but it just spewed forth, so instead of deleting or revising it, I'll just leave it as is.)

Well, to finally get to my point, I think, subconsciously, I've decided that people simply disappear from my life, so there's not much point getting too close. I'm okay with short-term, closer friendships, but back off when I start spending too much time with anyone. It's really quite irrational, but it's a tendency I know I have.

The other thought I had about this friendship thing is that I'm afraid people will find out I'm a big fake and won't want to be friends any more, so I may as well cut it off before they do.

Which one is true? I don't know. Maybe a little of both? Maybe neither? This little confessional may or may not help, but as I mentioned to someone not too long ago, it's cheaper than a shrink.


chuck said...

i am the same, I am very social in a casual way, I love to chit chat but rarely make friends.

I do notice people sometimes feel that they are closer to me than I think they are. I think because I often listen and don't give much up of myself, they kind of make me up as they go :)

The moving around to differnt relatives may have something to do with it, I did that as well for different reasons. I often find myself wishing I had close friends but I just can't bring myself to do it, I pull back before it happens.

Haha, hey, shrinks are people too.

ell said...

Hey, chuck. Maybe we can start a support group or something. :)

Wenda said...

I'm fascinated by your confession and the self-exploration it contains. I don't agree with the "pretty messed up, eh?". I like the depth and honesty you express.

What I really stopped here to say is thanks for stopping at my blog and leaving your encouragement and tea suggestions, but this sounds a bit trite in the shadow of your self revelations.

Wenda said...

Cut myself off there before I was finished. I also want to add my condolences for the tremendous losses you endured as a child.

Hay said...

This sounds pretty familiar. I can't say I have it exactly the same but some way I have the same problems with friends and anyone else who might get close.

I have no doubt that the moving around had a lot to do with it and the loss of your mother. If people try to make connections and then they are broken before you get to far because you move or something like it, you are natural to retract from that kind of realtionships.

I think both the options are related. Saying that you feel that people might see you as fake, makes me wonder why you would think that. When your fear that others won't like you I would think it's a reflection of you having a problem with accepting yourself.

My wannabe shrinks [last semester psykology students connected with my univeristy, so they are free] tell me that I have a need for control over everything in my life, and have become so good at controling my emotions that I cut them off even before I become aware of them. This gives me an attitude of apathy towards a lot of things.

Will it help that you have written about it here? Hardly. You have had these thoughts before and have been aware of it without it apparently making a difference.

ell said...

Hay, I think it helps in the sense that someone else might have similar feelings. As far as my mental health, I think I'm pretty healthy with probably fewer neuroses than most. I've always been an introspective person, so this is nothing new. I think the self-analysis and introspection has helped me get through a lot of things in my life. This blog just puts it out in the open a bit more. It's really me, thinking out loud.

I don't worry so much about people not liking me, as much as (like Chuck mentioned) I think they may have a false image of me that I won't live up to, thus making me seem like a fake. Come to think of it, that's most surely, the part that concerns me more than being liked or not liked - the thought that someone might think I'm not genuine.


Joy said...

This makes sense to me that you learned from early conditioning. You have, however, forged quite a close relationship with your husband which is wonderful.

I grew up in a small town where people knew my family for generations back and was always close to family members. My parents had a good marriage; however, I haven't been able to do marriage. Mine lasted 9 1/2 years, but I've had friends I'm close to for decades.

This is all something I've thought about, too. Thanks for this post. You're quite a woman!

Hay said...

But why the "fear" of them thinking you are fake if not for some fear of them not liking you?

ell said...

Hay, thanks for asking the question. It's helping me clarify my thoughts. The fear is not about someone liking or not liking me. I KNOW some people don't/won't like me - that's just life. The fear is that their perception of me is different than what I really am.

If I have a concern, it's probably about people mis-reading me - thinking I'm something I'm not; thinking I mean something I don't. Do you recall a discussion on TMP where Sergo misunderstood what I meant and was quite offended? That's the sort of thing that bothers me more than someone liking or disliking me. It's probably why I go to such lengths carrying on conversations such as this one.

Do you think if people spent more time clarifying things, we'd have better understanding of each other, overall? Maybe that's my hope. (Just a little more thinking out loud.)

chuck said...

Support group should be a hoot, but I should warn you that I must bring my cat, she is my therapist as well. You may like her, she is very understanding :)

I think clarification is key, I don't really want to make people like/or dislike me but it's important to me to be honest. If someone asked me a personal question, I will answer and try to be honest and thorough. I don't like to feel as if I'm misleading someone but I'm not very good at explaining myself, I will keep trying usually until the person thinks I'm completely deranged and then I give up in frustration. I often walk away at that point and have left friends feeling hurt and confused. I hate that, I think some of my own reclusiveness is about protecting others as well as myself, I know I will disappoint and be flakey and leave things badly, so I try not to get relationships going in the first place. Some persist and hold on like my husband and his family, they have held on no matter how much I have pushed and listened to my endless sorting out of details, my constant disclaimers and occaisional recalls, I love them for that.

Hay said...

Clarifying definetly helps, but you can also spend to much time doing it to get anywhere.

I don't think anyone can ever really understand each other. I don't think we ever really understand ourselves. When you explain something to someone, you use words that might not have the same meaning to the person you are talking to. It takes a long time to get a grasp of how another person feels or thinks about a word.
The danish word for love (elsker) seems fake to me and I'll never use it, but to others it might be the one of the best words they can hear. Wouldn't it take me quite a while to understand such a person?

I understand the thing about wanting people to like/dislike you for who you are instead of who they think you are.

jane said...

i'm going to post here at the last post to comment. first cheers on bb, i have been away and did not know what was going on. i am shocked that anyone would have the audacity to say what is appropriate or inappropriate to write about one's own life. no where did dan say, but make it cheerful folks.

second, lots of good stuff here, reading it all together is making my brain rattle around a bit which is good because i have been stagnant for writing material of late.

thanks ell.