Whether to cut someone out of your life or just disengage emotionally?

There are people in my life that I have emotionally distanced myself from and then there are people that I have cut out entirely. There are so many questions related to this topic such as: why would you disengage from certain people but keep them in your life or when do I know it is the correct time to cut someone out entirely or do I do the right thing by emotionally disengaging? So I will try to discuss at least some of these questions here.

During the last years I have cut several people out of my life. I am here not talking about some random acquaintances, but really, close people. I have also emotionally disengaged from a number of people. One of the people I have emotionally disengaged from is my mum so I am going to use her example for the first group.

First, why have I emotionally disengaged from her? My mum is unpredictable in a sense that you never know what kind of reaction you will get. One moment she goes out of her way to show you how little you matter to her (not even maliciously, it is subconscious) and the other moment she feels that she should somehow be a good mum and be nice. What happens when you invest emotionally? Well, you get hurt, sooner or later. See, when I invest to someone emotionally, I like to be consistent. I am willing to accept expectations made on me and I expect that I can have certain expectations on them. But what do you do with a person that is completely inconsistent? Well, I have not yet found a way to be close and accept such inconsistency. Hence emotional distancing.

Now, in the second group is my former best friend. Why did I cut her out? She was a good and close friend and a support person. She was reliable and had many good qualities. However, I understood that she was all that as long as the relationship functioned on her terms. She could not accept criticism on her actions and she could not accept my borders. Instead she kept pushing and our friendship ended with a big fight. I felt there was no way of keeping the friendship and keeping myself. Either I kept the friendship and played based on her rules only or I kept myself and my identity. In that situation, I chose myself.

So I guess for me it boils down to – are the actions of the other person harmful for me or are they just acting somewhat aloof and disengaged. If they are aloof and disengaged, but bring significant benefits with themselves, I can maintain the relationship. I only make a pact with myself not to overinvest (this is a struggle on its own). If, I however sense somehow that what the other person does is violating my borders and it cannot be negotiated then cutting them out if the way to go.

On paper it seems simple and logical, however in real life, with emotions everything gets messy and you are probably only able to make certain conclusions about the situation in hindsight.

 

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Intellectual friendships and avoiding intimacy

Today I understood something. I have quite a few intellectual friends. You know, people with whom you can discuss the matters of the world. You can analyze. It is exciting and interesting….. Sometimes I feel I am mentally exhausted however. I feel I would just want to be with someone who does not ask me to intellectualize things. Someone for whom I would not have to constantly be interesting and exciting….

So I was thinking about it and about myself and reached to the conclusion that I have used this same intellectualization in order to protect myself. It is much safer to talk about some random intellectual topics where you do not really have to give much of yourself. I mean, you can even talk about relationships in an intellectual manner. The topic is absolutely irrelevant, the point is that you are scared of revealing too much of the real you, because then people might either reject you, or in my case even worse, hurt you.

I never really understood before how these friendships were there to protect me from really opening myself up and becoming vulnerable. I still have a lot of fear around exposing myself to any kind of harm, because of familial relationships and years and years of bullying. Because of this very intellectual quality of my relationships I have a lot of male friends. I guess males feel safe around me, because I am not trying to invade to their safe zone and force intimacy on them. I allow them to be intellectual if they want and do not necessarily push them to something else.

I think intellectual friendships are fine and necessary. This is not the question. The question is, can you also do something else than intellectual friendships. When people ask you personal questions, do you freeze or become uncomfortable? I know I do. I know I also become uncomfortable when people seem too excited or interested in me. All of this is just pushing on my walls which are there as a result of so many negative experiences from the past.

So I guess I will continue to work on myself and try to overcome the intellectualization and actually be open to other types of friendships as well.

“We do not meet often but when we do it is like good old days”

I have always been puzzled by how some people define friendships. I have one such ‘friend’ who uses the sentence in the title to describe most of his friendships and to be honest, to me they do not sound like friendships. It sounds more like something for consumption. Like when I have an itch that needs scratching, when I need some entertainment, I will turn to my god old friends and then I can feel good on my way home.

To not get me wrong, I do not advocate having to talk to your friends every day. But to me people who just randomly jump into my life perhaps once a year are not really friends. They might have once been my friends, but they are not friends anymore. How so?

Well simply because I consider the groundwork of friendship to be caring. There I measure others by what I am willing to contribute myself. When I care about someone, I want to know how they are doing. Asking my friends once in a while about their lives requires really minimal effort. People who are not even able to do this, well, I cannot really force myself to define them as friends.

I mean there needs to be certain emotional closeness between you and your friends. Maybe indeed our history together means that we can effortlessly talk about more serious issues in my life. Maybe there is a certain intimacy that one would not establish with strangers. However, I can also have certain intimacy with my exes when I randomly meet them once in a while. That does not make my exes my friends.

I am still struggling finding out if my expectations are just too high. Perhaps I am just overly needy person. Perhaps there are degrees of caring. Perhaps people do not always express their care. But to be honest if this is how modern relationships work, I am not sure I want to be part of it. Also, if a random colleague knows more about my life at any given moment than a friend (because lets face it, how much can you really share in one meeting in a year) then I really do not see the reason to call this person my friend.

I truly think that with people we care about, we do not want to have the contact only once a year or once in two years. It would be painful to stay away from them for this long. So the question really is – do you need to care about your friends and vice versa.

From dependent to independent

For most of my life I have been looking for someone that would take care of me. I never trusted myself to take care of my needs nor wellbeing. In my mind I was helpless and in need of some grownup who would take responsibility for my life. I did not really feel I could myself.

If someone was to ask me today if I feel like I can take full responsibility for my life, I would still say no. I avoid taking responsibility at work where I am just too damn scared of messing things up. It is a constant struggle for me to act like a financially responsible adult. In fact this feeling of helplessness and the search for someone who would be able to act as a supervisor shows in all areas of my life. It still does.

This is my big struggle. As I have not yet fully delved into this issue in my therapy, I can only guess why I struggle so much in this area. I think it is because of my mother’s unwillingness to provide me any guidance. Her attempts to curtail my independence just to make me dependent enough so that I would not start complaining over the inappropriate amount of care I received. You know similar to my relationships with commitment phobic men….But I still need to do my work in regards to healing my wounds in this area.

It pains me to look at people around me who obviously never had this struggle. Their lives at this point seem like the lives which are appropriate for their age whereas mine seems to be a standing evidence of my inability to take responsibility. What more, they are living testament of who I would want to become. I want to at some day wake up and say, yes, I trust myself, yes, I have my life in order. Unfortunately this day does not seem to be approaching in at least one years’ time, maybe even longer.

But in the meanwhile I am making baby steps. Like breaking up and living alone for the first time in my life. or making independent decisions. Or starting to calculate my finances. I just often find myself wishing that there was a coach next to me to give me feedback on my development. To give me credit for my successes…. Because lets face it, if I compare my small successes with other people around me and my level of development with them, it seems there is nothing to celebrate.

I guess I just wish that I had a parent that would support and encourage my independence.

Parents that ignore their kids problems

My whole childhood went by with my mum ignoring my problems or telling me to take care of them and somehow not bother her with those. Perhaps the clearest examples were my illnesses. I had a stomach flu a lot when I was a kid and I do not have a single memory of my mum actually getting up at night and doing anything for me. Mind me, the earliest memories I have are from the age of five. At this age I was already completely independently getting up and sleeping in the bathroom because I did not want to ruin the bed. My mum still talks about the one and the only time when I actually vomited in the bed and how troublesome it was for her. Other times when I actually was shaking and sleeping in the bathroom, well she treats as normality. This is how it should work.

The situation is completely different when she is ill. She once asked me to come to the countryside and take care of her when she was ill in the middle of the night before I was supposed to move to another country the next day. Yes. She was not even supposed to be there sending me away to another country, because she had her vacation.

This habit of hers to show remarkable indifference towards my problems still shows. We do not talk about my problems. The most personal I can get with my mum is talking about my work. Overall we usually talk about her life and her work. Just like we did throughout my childhood.

If my problems became so big that they were impossible to ignore, like me considering suicide because of the bullying and finally confessing to my mum, she sent me away. She sent me to the psychologist (which was quite a good move). Mind me not the paid one, but a school psychologist which was for free. We never ever talked about the issue again. She had successfully delegated the responsibility for my problems to someone else.

I learned that no one cares about your problems. I learned that you should not even bother other people with your issues. Furthermore, I learned to take care of other people’s needs and problems and not even expect any kind of mutuality there. I also did not have any successful skills in resolving my problems, because no grownup ever bothered to give me any advice on solving them. So for most of my life my problem solving skills remained to the level of five year old.

I hate that there is a part of me that still longs and wishes that mum would care. That she would show for once interest in how I have managed with all the issues in my life. But no, she is usually there to take the credit for my achievements but never there through my hardships. I just had to write this post about my current feelings. More analysis will follow.

How do people deal with uncertainty in relationships?

Sometimes I wonder how people survive the dating period. You know, you do not have any kind of security, everything seems to be out in the air. Or even, how do people survive any kind of waiting period, waiting for their partner to be ready to get married, waiting their partner to be ready to have kids whatever..

I think my trust in people has never been my greatest strength, but my last relationships have made me just so insecure about people around me. Seriously….First, I move to another country for a guy who then starts doubting whether he wants to be together with me. I mean not that such doubts are ever nice, but such doubts are definitely not nice after you have discussed how many kids you want to have or which kind of house you would prefer. Somehow the security which you thought was there is swiped underneath you feet….Then I have a long relationship with a guy who just makes his own plans and lets me know that he has now planned to go to foreign country for two months, furthermore, he also does not bother to communicate much during this time. Finally, I date with a guy who just disappears without saying a word. My trust in guys is destroyed, I am afraid…

Other people seem to manage just fine, which makes me think, am I somehow with my negative thinking creating these scenarios. Does my insecurity scare these guys away? Or do I choose guys who are insecure about me by definition? I have no idea. Actually I have no idea anymore how I would be able to sustain my trust and cool during the dating period after so many negative experiences.

Even though part of me means that I should work with my insecurities and just learn to accept that I do not know where life takes me, there is another part which says – but if a guy cannot even offer me any kind security in terms of where this relationship is going, what good is he? Maybe trying to keep my cool is what lead me to such situations after all, maybe if I had trusted this insecurity, I had broken off these liaisons way earlier. You see my struggle here?

Honestly, I do not have an answer….The only thing that I can say is that I have not felt myself secure with a man for a very long time.

Struggling with intimacy and mutuality in friendships

I have spent most of my life being afraid of showing people my real feelings and the real me. Well, most of the time I was even not sure myself who this real me was. The truth is that I have always had my depressive episodes. I have done my best to hide those. I have done my best trying to always appear upbeat, not create any waves – in general be low key. My basic fear was that if I set any demands or stress on the people that surround me, they will abandon me.

I spent my mother’s illness receiving very little support from anyone. Some people in my life knew, but most of them just pretended to forget. I did not make any waves about the lacking support, except with my boyfriend at the time who decided to distance himself. All this time I felt secretly abandoned, but I did not make any waves, because I was afraid of loosing the people in my life. It did not occur to me that people who never even ask how my mum is doing during the chemotherapy might not really be my friends…

AT the age of 31, I have to accept that I have no idea how to form close friendships. How do you create friendships where there is mutual support and closeness? I would not know, because I do not think I have ever had such kind of friendship.

When I look at the current relationships in my life, I have to admit that most of them are alive because of my continued effort. No kidding. It is mostly me that seeks contact. It makes me feel devalued and unimportant. It also makes me wonder if there is nothing better out there. But am I really ready and deserving of this something better myself?

Not having close nor trusting relationship with your caregiver really takes a toll on your relationships. Not only romantic relationships. I think there is an abundance of literature focusing solely on romantic relationships, but I am talking friendships. Friendships are often even more challenging than romantic relationships, because there is no warrantee. Romantic relationships become more stable through marriage or moving in together, but friendships…..Will they ever achieve the kind of security and mutuality that I am looking for? Clearly there is a possibility for that, because I see people around me who enjoy these kinds of friendships. It is just that I am finding myself in the situation where I myself do not have this in my life.

People who enjoy crossing your borders

Recently I am starting to suspect that there is a category of people who has no intention whatsoever to respect your borders. When you set a border, they see it as a recommendation or more like a bargain which could be negotiated or ignored. I am not here talking about some border issues which could be discussed inside the relationship, rather I am talking about people who have repeatedly shown their unwillingness to take your limits into account. I suspect that there are two kinds of people who do this.

The first category of people are people who just cannot hear the word NO. It just does not exist for them. When you say no, they assume that somehow NO does not really mean NO. My former boss is like this. Even when I said NO, she would come back with the same task pretending like she never heard the word no. Negotiating your borders with such people is tiresome because it seems like fighting with the dragon, you get rid of one head and another head appears. I suspect that such people might have learned from their childhood that if they are cute enough or persistent enough, people will give up. However, I still have more respect towards this category of people than the other one.

In the other category I would put people who test other people’s borders because it is a power play for them. They are looking for emotional reactions. I guess other people reacting emotional shows them that somehow they care about them or that at least they have some control over these people. One of my ex friends is like that. He would consciously test my emotional reactions just by saying something hurtful or by disappearing in the middle of our conversation. In the end, I barely reacted anymore – I could see through his actions and I was also aware of what he was doing. However, I was interested enough as to how he would react if he saw that he does not get any emotional reaction (plus he was a very interesting person). Happened something which I think is quite common for this type of people when they feel their influence over you is disappearing – he stopped communicating with me. I did not give him anymore the kind of emotional reaction which he expected and that made him feel insecure and vulnerable.

The last category of people are usually uncomfortable with being vulnerable. In the case of my former friend, he has been exposed to physical violence when he was a kid. So he surrounded himself with people with whom he never felt out of control, whom he thought he could control. The problem is, I am not the same kind of person I was when I met him. This took him as a bad surprise. I on the other hand started losing my respect towards him and his controlling strategies. Whereas I can understand where his needs come from and I empathize, I also feel that I do not want to have such people close to me.

How do you trust someone who you know is constantly calculating the power dynamics of the relationship in his head? Interestingly my ex also showed multiple signs of the same kind of behavior. He too was obsessed with power and often spoke about other people wanting to control him. I am starting suspect that the minute someone you meet is telling you about other people being keen on controlling them, you should be very careful because they are probably measuring other people based on what happened in their childhood but also based on their own behavior. So yeah, I am these days more aware of the people who are consciously challenging my borders, especially the ones that do it because it gives them the feeling of power.

Who is setting the conditions in the relationship?

For the past six years I have somehow mislead myself in terms of not even needing a full commitment nor not wanting a family. I have tried to control my emotions as other friends of mine had kids and told myself that I was investing into self-development. Surely that would lead to better results in the end.

Do not get me wrong, I still believe in self-development, but I am also starting to understand that the road to commitment should not be a struggle. I struggled with my ex. My ex was right, we had multiple problems which were at least in the beginning also related to my own commitment fears, however during the recent years my ex was skillfully using my problems to avoid commitment. I became a cyrcus monkey, trying to fulfill all his criteria, postponing my own wishes and desires, because „I was not ready yet“ and „I had to develop more“. For the first time during the last days I came up with the idea of actually setting criterias for my next boyfriend myself, one of them being – „he needs to want a family sooner rather than later“. I know it probably seems riddiculously obvious for the most people, but I have always dated from ‘a one man down position’. I have been so concerned about being liked by my partner that I never even dared to set my own conditions. Rather I was oriented towards fulfilling all his rules and requirements. I perceived commitment as his reward to me.

This is basically dating from the victim position. In your mind you are so disadvantaged that you have no right to have expectations for your partner. Instead you are celebrating having a partner at all. You fully understand that he is not committed to you yet and you think that for you to earn his commitment you must somehow become better, brigther what not. At the time I was struggling with my ex, I was sometimes really amazed by how easily other girls got their boyfriends to behave in caring and loyal fashion. I told to myself that there was something special about these girls that I was missing. I should develop myself more so that my boyfriend would want to committ to me as well.

I am thinking that the fact I see all this now probably means I am finally reclaiming my power. I am finally growing out of my position where I was the one needing to win someone’s love. My love now also needs to be earned and I am ready to walk away if my conditions are not satisfied. Most importantly I will not put myself into a situation where I am fighting for someone’s love for years. Usually, if you have to fight for someone’s love, you will never have it. I have to accept that I never really had the love of at least my two recent exes.

Fear of letting go

Recently I was complaining to my psychologist how several of my acquaintances or friends do not seem to value communicating with me as much as I do with them. Actually I have just recently had few weird situations. Both situations had other people initiating the contact and wanting to meet me and then either failing to show up or constantly postponing the meeting. This kind of behavior is confusing for me, because well – I did not seek out the contact, they did. Even though it is definitely an interesting question – what makes these people behave that way, I would rather focus on my own way of handling these events today.

My psychologist said something interesting as I described him these events, also mentioning that I feel I am done with both individuals. He said that it is good that I am these days quicker to weed out the people who do not behave well with me. However, then I told to him, but inside me there is this feeling that I do not want to go out there and start looking for new friends (or boyfriends). Whereby the psychologist said, well if you keep hanging out with the people who do not treat you well then you will definitely not find anyone who values you and you will just be wasting your time. How very simple and yet insightful.

The deal is, I keep holding on to people and trying to change them rather than just accepting the truth and moving on. If someone does not treat me well, I am hoping that somehow magically they will change or if I behave differently, perhaps they will value me more. Usually there is a bit truth in the statement that you teach people how to treat you, but……Sometimes you just have to accept that the other one will not treat you the way you want to be treated and is never going to. I wonder why this is so difficult to accept and realize?

Perhaps because by accepting this, we actually have to do something. We cannot anymore engage in wishful thinking or ignore the problems in our relationships. Rather we are left with cold hard truth…this person is not treating me well. Now I need to react and show who I am and how I want to be treated. Do I dare to walk away? Mostly I have not dared to walk away. Mostly I have been damn good at trying to change myself or complaning about people treating me badly or just convincing myself that it is all part of my imagination (maybe I am overreacting). The truth is that sometimes behind my faithfulness and loyalty was just a simple fear of moving on, going to the unknown, risking with rejection in this cruel hard world again. I am slowly starting to realize and somehow fix it, but man it is not easy.