I’ve been ruminating a lot lately (the PMS is certainly helping) about the difficulties of relationships, and my own part in those difficulties.
I’ve given up on changing the dynamics with my mother, as she’s approaching eighty. With her, I just observe and take note. With my friends, however, I would like to improve things, but I am ill-equipped for confrontation. In the past I’ve sometimes held things in until I’ve erupted. Not a good strategy.
I think if these were romantic relationships, it would be a little easier, as the expectation would exist that the relationship needed to be worked on and is of such high value that the participants would be willing to do the work. In my experience, “mere” friendships crumble all too easily.
I have a female friend, a no-mo (meaning not-mom, and to be treasured), who I have a long history with, and who used to be quite emotionally supportive and kind-hearted. I suppose she was always a bit long-winded, but we used to have a good give and take. The dynamics and frequency of our exchanges underwent a rapid shift over the past few years as she entered into romantic relationships, but I got over that and accepted it.
What bothers me are the conversations that are left. They follow a predictable pattern. I talk for maybe five minutes about what it going on in my life, and she either responds with silence, indifference, or, on occasion, a lecture that has more to do with what is going on with her than with me. The rest of the conversation centers on her issues, which she could easily discuss for hours. I listen, and empathize, and give input, and then at about the fifty-minute mark have started saying I have to get off the phone. I can’t escape wondering what I am getting out of this friendship anymore.
Should I confront her? How? It’s hard for me to imagine how to word it so that she wouldn’t take offense. It’s occurred to me that she could be angry at me about something, but then I’m miffed that she’s being passive-aggressive about it.
I recently had a great conversation with another no-mo friend, and it put into stark relief how little I am getting out of the former friendship. On the other hand, the latter friend only calls every three months or so and then disappears. I’ve just accepted that’s how is is with her because I can’t figure out how to confront her on that one either.
Then there’s my roommate. From all appearances, he has an internet/ TV addiction, and/or a possible health issue that affects his energy levels. My fear is that he would respond to any voiced concern about this with the same reaction as the typical subject of the reality show Intervention. He also has become increasingly unable to tolerate conversation that doesn’t fit his immediate mood and/or interest level– not just with me but with others as well. He’ll just cut people off.
Should I be feeling compassionate? Try to intervene? Mind my own business? Feel angry that he’s an adult but occasionally acting more like an adolescent? Just tell him to move out?
He’s not only a friend (or has been) but a work colleague, so it’s delicate. I’m also waiting out my PMS and trying to determine what part in this dynamic my own adjustment to a roommate is playing.
In the meantime, I’m pouring it all out to this blog in place of an ear.
With respect to female friend #1 (formerly warm & supportive), why don’t you tell her you want to have coffee or dinner or whatever “to discuss a problem” you’ve been having and that you would really value her advice. Then when you see her, ask her what she thinks you should do re the roommate. If she can focus on YOU for half an hour before launching into her own drama, then it’s a friendship worth keeping. If she can’t, well, then, maybe it’s time to let the connection wither away. No need to have a big “breakup” as you would with a boyfriend, though.
As for female friend #2 (pops up once every 3 months): I have a few friends in this category, who, from one circumstance or another, I see or speak with only occasionally, but they are some of my oldest friends. We may no longer move in one another’s daily/weekly/monthly orbit, but when we do meet, we pick up as though no time had passed. No need to confront or jettison this one. Just accept it for what it is.
Which brings us to the roommate: He’s sounding more problematic by the week, but given the former professional relationship, I agree that you should take a “wait and see” attitude. No need to make an enemy just when you’re looking for a job . . . Why not give yourself until the end of the summer to make a decision?
All good advice MissBates.
Friend #1 doesn’t live here, but I did bring up the roommate situation with her during our last phone call, and she reacted with indifference. When she has so little to say, I can’t help but feel she is judging me silently on the other end of the phone. It’s very uncomfortable. We talk quite infrequently now, so perhaps I should just let it dwindle into a few times a year. I hate to lose a NoMo friend but I guess sometimes you just have to let people go.
The only thing that bothers me about friend #2 is that she will ignore my phone calls and emails during those months she drops off the face of the earth. But I have just learned to accept it. She lives far away so we are limited to phone anyway.
My roommate got out of the apartment yesterday evening and came back in a much better mood. Have to wait and see there.
So because your roommate doesn’t have an interest in constantly participating in activities the way you do, he may have some sort of medical disorder or form of internet/tv addiction? Really? Well count me as having the same disorder.
There’s the catch, my style of living is to prefer an undemanding job and not do much outside of it, just like your roommate, simply because that is the sort of person I am. I honestly would be totally miserable and exhausted if I had to live your life, it wouldn’t suit me at all. That doesn’t make me, or your roommate, ill or in need of an intervention.
You are not the model which all human behaviour must conform to. Would you appreciate some intervention aimed at getting you to reduce the frenetic pace of the lifestyle you choose to lead? Since I could just as easily turn it around and accuse you of being the one who has an unhealthy need to run around and constantly be doing something.
My suggestion is either you mind your own business, or if you really can’t stand living with your roommate, kick him out and make sure you thoroughly vet any future potential roommates, now that you know what character types you are incapable of tolerating.
Having read your blog for a few months, I can see that you are well read and thoughtful. Reading this particular post made me think of attachment styles and how they govern so much of what we feel as ‘instinctive’ behaviour in our dealings with others. Are you familiar with these? I find it very useful to be aware of my attachment style (mine is slightly avoidant) and how this interacts with people who have a different style (ie. anxious, which prompts them to ‘pursue’ people). Sometimes I can’t ‘give’ as much – or as often – to a couple of my oldest and closest friends as they want me to give. That’s because I’m taking care of myself and also giving to others. I give what I can and when I do it is heartfelt. In turn, I have other friends whom I would love to see/ hear from more often, but I accept that they only have so much time and energy. I love what David Richo says about how to deal with times when we don’t feel we are getting enough attention from others – it is precisely then when we should lavish ourselves with attention.
Interesting– I’ll google him (Richo). Thanks for reading and writing in!