Pondering…One-Sided Relationships (or Maybe it’s just Friendship I’m Thinking About)

We’ve all had them. Relationships with people who take more than they give. I’ve even had a few where I really liked the individual, felt like I had a lot in common with them, and still had a hard time staying friends with them because I was responsible for their happiness or their problems or their homework.

I hope that doesn’t come across as whiny, like these are the only people I meet because that’s not true at all. I am surrounded by a veritable herd of friendly friends. I have more friends right now than I have ever had at one time in my life. I’d even go so far as to say that there are more good friends in my life right now than several periods of my life combined. So I am not at all complaining, just contemplating there is still this particular brand of friend out there and why I still feel torn as to what to do with them and why they keep appearing.

Maybe it’s the demographic I currently inhabit. I spend a lot of time with other stay at home moms and sometimes all of us fall into the trap of continuous complaining. When I hear a lot of gripping from another mom sometimes it starts feeling like my responsibility. There is also this artificial feeling that gets going between stay at home moms that makes you think you are better friends than you actually are just because your kids are all the same age. I have fallen into this trap with a few women. I’m currently trying to correct it by actually becoming friends with them.

Maybe it’s because I don’t share myself easily. I feel like I share with people I know but there is that conundrum of how do you get to know someone new without sharing first. I find that with new people I think that they don’t know me very well and so assume that they don’t want to or worse, assume they know me on the basis of a few casual encounters. (Of course, I guess by putting all this out here I’m allowing a few more people to know me better.) Maybe this is because I’ve had a couple of good friends for 15+ years and they have all the shorthand of my personality and history so there is so much about myself that I don’t have to explain or that they just “get” because of all of that history. They know me and maybe this is just what I’m missing with new people.

Maybe this problem is because I think everyone should be my best friend. And really, that’s just not possible. Sure you can have a lot of friends, an even wider circle of acquaintances but actual close friends? How many can one person realistically juggle? I think this is too much pressure on everyone involved. So then how do you catagorize the ones you have? I’ve not yet figured out how to be successful with this.

Maybe it’s because so many of us are just broken. I know most of us are damaged in some way over something in our past. Sometimes we deal with it and go on and sometimes we just can’t get past it. And sometimes even when we are actively trying to get pass this stuff, we still run into it in our relationships. I still occasionally deal with fallout associated with my parents divorce (both in my own marriage and in my interactions with others) and I feel like I have pretty successfully dealt with their separation.

I know this is a very girl thing to contemplate but the real question here for me is what do I do with those one-sided people when I encounter them and how can I not be one myself? There have been periods of my life that I have rather ruthlessly cut this kind of person from my life, either because they took so much that I distanced myself for protection or I recognized what they had the potential to be and ran before they sucked my will to live. I find myself less able to do that now and I’m not sure what that means. I’m lousy at being a martyr so sticking it out for the long haul just to be able to say I’ve done so seems silly and a waste of time to me. But at this point in my life I do feel a certain obligation to people even if it seems we are currently in a one-sided pattern.

I don’t have any pat answers. I don’t have any catchy line to tie back to my thesis to go here. Just know that I am thinking about these things. Maybe you are too. I think we are meant to spend at least some time thinking about how we interact with others and how we impact their lives. I want my impact to be a good one.

Update: Someone just sent me an email and I wanted to add her thoughts here at the end because I didn’t say specifically that this is something I am working on but feel it is true for me as well. “I am trying to not put my expectations of friendship, commitments, and life in general on other people. In other words, I try to remember that not everyone is coming from a perspective like mine. I try to be happy with the response I get from people, however small it is sometimes.”

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6 Comments

  1. on May 24, 2006 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Maybe it’s because so many of us are just broken.

    Theologically, I’d argue that we’re all broken.

    I’ll also take a moment and refer you to Dunbar’s number as to why there’s a realistic limit of how many people we can well and truly know.

    But then I’ll say this: I still feel like I’m getting to know you two as we all tell stories and experience things together. So it’s definitely all a process.

    I want my impact to be a good one.

    The impact of the both of you, individually and corporately, on me is invaluable. I literally thank the Good Lord that y’all are in my life.

    But if you break out the Michael W. Smith and start humming “Friends Are Friends Forever”, well … we’re gonna have to throw down! 😉

  2. on May 24, 2006 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    There’s unsaved which is certainly a form of broken I take really seriously but here I’m talking about psychological damage or poor coping skills or just plain ol’ bad behavior.

    I know plenty of people who are unsaved but still manage to have good interpersonal skills and the opposite as well, saved people who can’t communicate or can’t deal with their past very well.

    Thanks for saying we’re a good influence. I promise not to ever ruin that influence by singing “Friends are Friends Forever” in any circumstance.

  3. on May 24, 2006 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    There’s always “Wind Beneath my Wings” if you’re going to nix “Friends.”

  4. Emily Short
    on May 24, 2006 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    There was one particularly bad instance of this that happened to me in college, where I had a friend who I think saw me as a kind of substitute companionship for the boyfriend she didn’t have — she’d call me at all kinds of weird hours and want to go out a lot. Which was usually fun, except it was my senior year and I had a lot to do, and she was monopolizing my social time so much that I didn’t get to see my other friends very much. I tried to back her off gently a bit, but she was kind of a spoiled person and didn’t take well to being told no, on any given occasion. (Once she called me up when I was studying to say she needed to see me really urgently, and it turned out that this urgent thing — I thought there was a disaster in her family or something — was that she wanted me to rearrange the photos on her dorm room wall because she thought I had better design sense than she did.)

    Anyway, I didn’t really know how to deal with this very well, and there came a point where I was studying for finals where I just did all my studying at the library where she couldn’t reach me. Which was good for the exams, but not so good for the friendship. After we graduated, she stopped answering my email at all. I have always felt bad about that, but it was one of those situations where I couldn’t think of a good way to balance what she needed and what I needed.

    Ah well. Long rambly story that doesn’t really give much insight, but I do know what you mean about the one-sided thing.

  5. on May 26, 2006 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Sharing yourself is seldom easy… atleast in my opinion. It requires you to put yourself out there. And I think you’ve done just that in your blog. Everyone longs for a deep relationship; one that’s authentic, genuine, understanding. We’ve all experienced disappointment, pain, maybe even betrayal and disloyalty. That, too, I believe is a conondrum. Call it human existence, call it sin, call it an existential quandry. We live in a both/and world.

    You’re doing a beautiful job of it, if sheerly by your reflections.

  6. on May 26, 2006 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I am sorry it has taken me so long to comment. But what you said really made me stop and think. And even though it’s been a couple of days, I still didn’t quite have my comment put together until we talked about this topic at bible study. I just want to let you know that I appreciate you putting yourself out there. It is a very vulnerable place to be. I may not know much about your past, but I consider you one of my closest friends. You have been there more for me than you probably know. Thanks for being such a good friend.

    And I totally understand the whole friends that are needy thing. I’m kind of dealing with that now and I haven’t found a good resolution to the problem. If I do, I’ll let you know 🙂 Of course, I’ve realized that I have probably been that type of friend to someone, the needy one. All I can do is try to remember that and move on.

    Here’s to good friends 🙂

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  1. By Imperfect Mirror on May 25, 2006 at 1:36 pm

    Our Relationships Are Fractured Because We Love Imperfectly

    Misty wrote a heartfelt entry about friendships and issues with them the other day, and I want to snip out a bit of it, because I was trying not to go all Bible-Ass Man in her comments:
    Maybe it’s because I don’t share myself easily. I feel like I …