Okay, so here is what I am learning: I give too much. I expect too much. And I am horribly bad at friendships because of it.
Something tonight just 'clicked' for me while I was talking to a 'friend' of mine. This person does not know me incredibly well, and that is actually a good thing in this case. The 'click' I heard was the maximum number of people saying something until I finally believed it. I have had so many people tell me that I expect too much from friends and that is why I always feel lonely or like people are not really my friends. Family has said this, friends have said this, my ex has said this. And now I am thinking it must be true. I admit that the amount I talk to someone indicates the level of friendship I feel with them (with offline friends). (Online friends are different and will not even be mentioned here. Expectations are different. I can somehow feel close to an online friend I do not talk to every day, perhaps because conversations are longer and more honest via e-mail or IM. For whatever reason, I do not take issue with online friends unless I truly feel the friendship dwindling.) If I talk to someone once a week, that is a decent friendship to me. If I talk to them more than once a week, that is a close friend. If I talk to them every few months, that is an acquaintance. I have been told this is wrong and that I should not expect to talk within certain timeframes. Unfortunately, this is always how I have been and I will likely never be able to talk myself into thinking differently.
I had this friend tonight tell me, as I have had other people tell me, that you can remain close while not talking often. I have no idea how to do this and I do not really want that in my life. If that person has the ability to call me and hang out with me, why are they not taking advantage of that? I am told that I have to accept this as being the way things are. I feel like if someone cannot make time for me, they are not really a friend. I know people get busy, of course, and that is fine. But should you not be talking to these people regularly in order to remain 'close'? How are you close with someone you only talk to every few months? Imagine being in a relationship where you only talked and saw each other every few months? That would be hell and eventually, one or both people would tire of it. (I say this based on experiences with long-distance relationships. They never work.) I just do not know how to equate 'closeness' with 'talking every few months.' To me, that is not a good friendship. That is more like an acquaintanceship. Time, unfortunately, matters when you do not have consistency with people in your life. Time does not matter to everyone, but it matters to me.
The second part to that is... yes, the type of conversations are also indicative of how close I consider myself to that person. If we discuss superficial things like work and movies, they can be a friend but not a close friend. If we discuss personal issues, self-esteem, relationships and things of this nature, I would consider that person a close friend. Typically, I do not have those discussions with people who drift in and out of my life (I term these as "acquaintances"). I have never felt like someone I discussed those superficial things with has been a close friend, even if we talked about those superficial things every day. Close friends open up to each other about their feelings and are able to have friendly debates or intellectual discussions. Close friends are able to be vulnerable with each other and discuss personal flaws they would not discuss with just anyone. There is some sort of line, I feel, between an acquaintance and a close friend in that respect. I do not discuss personal relationship issues (if I am in one) with an acquaintance, for example.
So yes, the way I define a good friendship is two-fold: intervals of communication and topics of discussion. Obviously, included in topics of discussion would be having that person care enough to listen when I am having problem or offering me help when I need it. This would include me being able to be there for them in times of need as well. In other words, the person is around often enough to know when you are going through a rough time and need some extra support. I would call this a third point, but it should be a given. A close friend should be there for you, and you should be there for a close friend... any time possible.
I am told, time and time again, this is all wrong. I have been told by friends and exes that I should not expect anything from anyone. I love how I am called a cynic by so many people, and yet I seem to have the most optimistic (and I am told stupid) outlook on friendship. I believe you can have a friend for life. I believe that you can connect with someone so strongly that you are able to overcome every bumpy road and every challenge the friendship faces. I do. I also believe, even if not from experience, that a couple in love can get through anything together and survive a lifetime (or close to a lifetime) together. I believe that type of love exists. In fact, I thought I found it once and it was the most earth-shattering thing to admit it was obviously not it. I just believe in these things. And people keep telling me I am so foolish and that I expect too much. Why? I think I see other people have these friendships. I feel I have them for certain periods of time. I feel I have been really, really close to people for a long time... and then it usually ends terribly with them completely betraying me in some way. I am never the one to let go first, and maybe that says something about my determination... or something about my foolish optimism.
This is just making me more and more depressed, all of these people telling me that what I want and what I (believe I) need does not exist. I am starting to believe them though. Tonight, as I said, I felt like, 'Okay, this is the x person to tell me this. This is obviously reality and I am the one who is wrong.' But I mean, really? I just want someone I can share everything with, someone I am not afraid or embarrassed to talk to about anything. I want someone I can talk to on the phone or hang out with and have it be equally as meaningful. I do not want someone who is dependent on me, but I want someone who feels like they need me or at least really want me in their life. Is this so weird? I think I see it all the time. I feel like so many people have those friendships. In fact, I feel like the majority of people have someone like this in their life. Am I wrong? Am I watching too much Sex and the City? I joke about that, but in all honestly, that is sort of what I am looking for in a friendship. I want people I talk to every day or every other day... or at least weekly. Is that honestly bizarre? Is there something wrong with me for wanting that?
Everyone has told me that I need to change my outlook. Everyone has said I expect too much. Am I? I want to know the answer. I want to know if there are friends out there who talk every day and are very close and share everything with each other. I want to know if this is some fantasy I have made up in my head or if I actually did witness people having these types of friendships in life. You read about them, at the very least, these people who have been friends for years and years and still do a weekly brunch... or still maintain some sort of ritual that they do every year or every month. Friends who know each other's families. Friends who will offer you honest advice. Friends who will be there when you really need support. I feel like this does exist. But everyone keeps telling me to get my head out of the clouds.
Has this caused a strain on current friendships? Absolutely. Has it caused a strain in new friendships I have built this year? Yes. I have had friends scream at me for complaining. I do not consider myself 'needy.' I would never describe myself that way. But when I go without hearing from someone I consider myself close to for weeks, I will ask them what gives. If it is someone I have known for a long time, I can be a little abrasive about it, which I know is wrong. But yes, I have confronted friends I feel I do not speak to enough or ones where I feel the conversations are getting into 'neutral' territory. For example, I recently had a friend I was very close to for almost a year. All of a sudden, he stopped telling about anything personal going on with his life or expressing any feelings that could make him vulnerable in any way. All we talked about, suddenly, were superficial things like movies or video games. When something was wrong, it was like pulling teeth trying to get it out of him. There was this drastic change and I confronted him about it, angry and upset, asking if I had done something wrong. I cannot stand people that I am close to cutting me off or the contact suddenly dwindling for no apparent reason. Let's say for example a close friend has a baby. Would I be understanding if that person suddenly talked to me less? Yes. It is when there is no real reason for a drop in contact or personal conversations that I get upset. Back to the friend above, I had no idea how to handle it. At that point, I just kind of felt the friendship was over. Or at least, the close friendship was over and we had moved into acquaintanceship territory, so certain things were off limits. Again, I was left devastated. This always happens to me. Once in a while, I will get what I need out of a friendship... but then I lose it for either no real reason or a bad reason, like the friend betraying me.
I seem to spend a lot of time trying to define my friendships with people, and this is likely because I do not know what is okay and what is not when people do not draw me a line in the sand. If I only talk to someone once every few months, do they even care about something that happened to me a month ago? When I have a "close friend," I do not have to worry about that. We catch up all the time, so of course I am going to be telling that friend what happened. I will likely talk to that "close friend" the same day or a few days later. It only makes sense to tell them. Not only do a spend a lot of time defining my friendships, but I spend a lot of time trying to turn them into what I want. I do not do this in a selfish way, but I just assume certain things will happen when things are going well. Like, if I am having great conversations on the phone with someone, I assume we will likely hang out somewhere in person. And this is where all the disappointment comes in. No one can ever tell me flat out that they do not want 'that' type of friendship with me. I suppose people think I will get really upset, or perhaps they are lying and trying to spare my feelings. Once I start trying to turn the friendship into this, things start going terribly wrong. 'What's wrong with not talking for a few days?' they will ask. At that time, it seems like "nothing" would be a good answer. But in reality, it bothers me. Why not? Why can we not that often? Is there something wrong with that? Do I bore them? Do they not want that type of friendship with me? I start feeling insecure. And I start feeling disappointed that the friendship is not going where I thought it was going. In this way, it is sort of like a relationship/lover. You expect it to evolve and grow, and when it does not, it just sort of fizzles and you go your separate ways.
I do not try to turn every friendship into a "close friendship," of course. I only start having expectations when things have been consistent for a long time. I just kind of expect it to continue (if nothing else, like a baby, gets in the way). When friendships in high school did not survive graduation, I did not take it badly. That was something I expected. It is when I do not see a real reason for communication to seize or become more spread out that it starts bothering me. So I do realize that I suddenly expect people to start living up to expectations we have not blatantly discussed. I just feel that if a friendship going in a certain direction I remain positive about it, feeling confident that we will grow closer and continue communicating regularly. This, yes, might be wrong. But how the hell do you know when you are both on the same page? The only way is to ask, and if they lie to spare your feelings, you will continue having those expectations and not have them met. I am not trying to point a finger at the other people, but I really do not feel like people are honest with me when they should be (which is always). I am then left very confused and sometimes hurt. I suppose I see potential a lot of others do not.
I have no idea what any of this means. I could be some intensely needy freak and not even know. I feel like people are trying to suggest this even though I am perfectly happy with a lot of alone time. I just also, in addition to being alone a lot, want some close friends whom I can depend on and call over for dinner and go out with on a fairly regular basis. I want my phone to ring sometimes. I want to text someone and receive a reply that same day. I want someone to go to when I am really upset, someone who does not feel it is a burden to comfort me (which acquaintances usually do). I just want everything I am giving or willing to give. But if what they say is right, then I am giving far too much to everyone I know. How do you just stop giving? I suppose in one respect they are right: I cannot expect what I give if I give excessively. In most ways, I honestly do not expect everything I give back. I know I give a lot and it would be hard to keep up. Sometimes I just do things because I am a nice person, and I do not expect anything in return. But with close friends, I sort of want them to want to spend the same amount of time with me that I want to spend with them. I do not always want to feel like I care more than they do. But I always, always do. And this is another reason I feel like these people, who are telling me this is a stupid way to live, are right. If I am always left disappointed or feeling sort of empty, perhaps the fault is mine.
I almost hate myself for being as giving as I am. At some point, no matter how selfless you try to be, you want something back. You want someone to care. You want someone to really like spending time with you. You want someone else to initiate contact for once. I do not expect much from most people. But when I really, really connect with someone and open up to them--and they open up to me--is it so wrong to want that to continue? Am I only allowed this in small doses? I just... thought other people had these types of friendships. Maybe I am wrong.
The worst part is not admitting these people are right in that I expect too much and those friendships do not exist. The worst part is that after I admit that, I am not sure I can live with it. I am not sure I can live with mediocre friendships or just a ton of acquaintanceships for the rest of my life. I like friendships that last years and years, and even better if it is for life even though I realize that is rare. I am, in a way, dependent on these to be happy. If I do not have at least one person I talk to consistently, I feel angry, resentful, depressed and lonely. Like right now, for example. I feel like there is a constant void within me, and that void is due to a lack of meaningful friendships... friendships that stay even when the love of your life does not.
I am not sure I can settle for what people are offering me. If that makes me a bad person, so be it. In my eyes, I do not feel it makes me terrible. I just want something really meaningful. I want some of what I give back. If this does not exist, I am going to be really unhappy in life. Friendship is important to me. No matter how much I tell myself that I am fine alone, I am not fine being completely alone or only with people who drift in and out of my life whenever they want. Eventually, those drifters stop talking to me all together, and I suppose that is why I need to know if it is that sort of friendship or not. I need to know how much to invest.
Even tonight, when I was talking to my friend, I realized I am probably going to get really hurt again. We have been really close over the past few months and I really want it to continue, but he drew the line in the sand. First of all, he said that I will likely never hang out in his social circle. This hurt. A lot. He said I would probably not like most of his friends (because they are superficial party animals) and that he is not the type to bring new people into the circle anyway. He also said that at some point, the communication might die down and he is perfectly fine with that. Already, I know I am too invested in it because I am not okay with that like he is. And it hurts because I feel like I really have something good with him. We have such amazing conversations and debates. We can talk for three hours on the phone and not run out of anything to say. We see each other every week, for the time being, and it is always great fun. But he seems terrified to make any sort of commitment to this friendship, suggesting that we may drift but that is okay and we would still be friends even if we barely talked. (And I do not mean in a relationship sense because we both agreed we do not want to date each other. I realize this entire situation has a stigma attached to it because he is male and I am female, but I assure you, it is not like that.) Like, why? Why is it that someone cannot ever say to me, 'Hey. You are worth having around for a long time. I hope we stay friends.' What is so wrong with that? I am starting to think it is wrong to feel this way and that I should never expect anyone to tell me those things. I am starting to feel that asking someone for commitment to a friendship--not a lover--is wrong. Is it?
I know, I know I am going to get terribly hurt with this friend. I absolutely know, after that conversation, I am far more invested in it than I should be (or than he is, whatever way you want to look at it). I thought things were going really well. He has assured me time and time again that he really likes what we have and that he really enjoys spending time with me. But on the flip side, he also says there is a good chance this will not last. Why? Why? Why? How does he know? Has he already decided this? Why even say that if you are not sure? It confuses me. He did say he wants to remain friends, but he also said even if we drift, oh well. I just do not take the "oh well" approach when it comes to people I really enjoy. And I suppose that is a huge flaw. I have to approach everything more casually. But I am incapable of doing this. I want everything to be lasting and meaningful, fun and inspiring. I hate the superficial. I despise it when it comes to friendship. I despise social networks like Facebook (admittedly, I do have a Facebook account but I bitch about it on a weekly basis) where people just write about meaningless garbage and where "liking" a post means you read it or even cared what it said. Bullshit. It is all such bullshit. I want more than that.
The truth is, even though I now have to prepare myself to lose yet another friend, I am glad we had that conversation. It will not stop me from investing in the friendship or prevent me from being there for him in any way I can. But the conversation felt like the beginning of a new chapter in my life, the chapter where I either have to get help for these feelings of loneliness I experience when I do not have a close friendship in my life or the chapter where I somehow accept a variety of mediocre friendships in the place of one or a few very meaningful ones. I have to decide what I can live with. And right now, I think I am going to opt for getting help because I do not feel like I can live happily without close bonds, especially now that I have lost the love of my life. I feel like the word to describe what I am feeling is "suffering." I feel terribly, terribly depressed about this on a daily basis, and I have for a very long time.
If anyone was crazy enough to read all of this, I would be very interested to hear your critiques on what you think my problem is or how you view friendships. Feel free to be as critical as you like. I am open to hearing anything on this subject.
Okay, so here is what I am learning: I give too much. I expect too much. And I am horribly bad at friendships because of it.