There are a couple of men who have stayed in contact with me over the past few years of my work/life ordeals. For a variety of reasons, including some enormous logistical ones, I’m not interested romantically. I both appreciate the effort and attention and simultaneously am irritated that I feel like I should appreciate it, as if I should be grateful for whatever scraps come my way, with no determination on my part of whom I might want to spend time with. The more comfortable I get with the idea of being alone, the more irritated I am at the years I have spent believing this, years in which everyone seemed to partner off and I felt grateful for whomever was left to spend time with.
I have some of the same issues with my friendships. I also have felt obligated in that realm to give largesse, whether it be knowledge, connections, driving, a place to stay, or parties, with little expectation of return. One of my kindest and most moral friends told me a few weeks ago that I could afford to be a bit more “mercenary” in my friendships. I agree to a certain extent, yet I kinda hate that we have become such a mercenary society in general.
On thing about all my current acquaintances is that they are kind. There is no backbiting or “frenemy” type behavior, which is an enormous relief.
I put up with a lot of that from a “friend” a few years ago because she was connected to a larger social scene which intrigued me. I loved having that connection; someone to go out with and with whom to dissect the scene. But she was unkind.
My connections are now isolated… a person here, a person there… none connected to each other or a larger social whole of which I am a part.
You raise some excellent points here. For me anyway, as I also become more comfortable being alone (both the idea of it and the actual being alone) I do resent or at least regret, all the years I spent trying to be endlessly adaptable to whomever came my way, romantically speaking. How exhausting that all seems now
As far as friendships, I understand the ‘mercenary’ comment but feel there may be a way to state it that is more positive to you. It isn’t necessarily so mercenary as respecting yourself and feeling like you don’t have to be there for everyone (especially when they are not expected to be there for you, due to other obligations, spouse, child/ren, etc.) You are allowed to have limits, say no etc. even if you don’t have those kinds of obligations.- you have obligations to yourself, your own time, and should not feel always at others’ disposal. For me at least many times I have facilitated others’ using of me by presenting myself as so accommodating, for need of having some ‘friends,’ I suppose. The very fact of referring to this as mercenary seems to indicate a lack of self-respect, too. Really, it is recognizing that you have needs just like those others for whom you are providing x, y, or z, have needs.
Better to start giving a little push-back now (be a bit ‘mercenary’ I guess) because in my experience once you start to limit your previously bottomless largesse you will receive some flak, even if it is subtle.
Thanks for writing and I understand the exhaustion!
I felt a little bad after posting this because I don’t mean to imply that I have no generous friends– that would be untrue– or that I am hoping (from friendships) for gains only in terms of career, social connections, or practical help. Gratifying conversation would be quite satisfying! Also, sometimes people in my life are generous in ways that I don’t particularly want or need, which isn’t their fault but more of an indication of mismatched friendships. In those cases I often feel guilted into continuing to “give” and then a bit resentful– which is on me.
Good point about the “mercenary” comment and I think he also meant it in that sense– that I don’t have to take care of everyone else at the expense of myself and my own needs, especially when there will be little in the way of return help.
This is a new experience for me but I believe once you reached ‘adult maturity’ your forced to choose friends who will be of use to you on your life path. It becomes more of, you scratch my back and I scratch your back, type friendship. I say forced because as an adult, the rules and standards your held against are different then when your in your teens or even your 20s. The consequences of not having certain things in order by adulthood is costly.
I have a friend who I have known since the 6th grade who I am in the ‘process’ of letting go and ending our friendship. Why? Because if we were both still 21 he would make a fine friend for that life stage. But at 31, he still has not gotten his shit together, won’t work, doesn’t drive, still lives with mom, broke….anytime we hangout I have to financial cover for him. This gets old after a while and you become resentful.
As an adult the rule changes and you enter friendships that benefits both parties!