Friday, March 12, 2010

Choosing Healthy Friendships.

When it comes to my own relationships, I'm a "slow learner." (I love that phrase, first heard in a meeting.)

I've been having a strong sense of deja vu lately, with one friend, and haven't been able to figure out why that is. Yesterday, while out walking the dogs, I was wandering along the shores of a lake, admiring the brilliant plumage of the male ducks, and it hit me with a jolt - I know where this is headed, because I've been here before.

I've been on the receiving end of precisely this same kind of behavior, and I decided at the time that it was unacceptable to me, and I was not going to tolerate it in future. I can recall talking to my spouse about it, saying I had found it very stressful to deal with, and it was not my idea of a good friendship. Their reply? "You'll know better next time, because you'll recognise it."

Well, it took me quite some time to get there, but I did recognise it finally, and have ended the friendship. Ouch. Very difficult to do that, because I didn't want to hurt this individual, but I also do not want those behaviors in my life anymore.

What was causing the sense of deja vu with this person, was the strong feeling I kept getting, that they couldn't see me, they could only see themselves as reflected back to them from me. This is a disconcerting experience - it goes something like this:

Me: When you did that, I felt this.

Them: Yes, I was feeling this and that and this.

Me: I hear you, and understand you, but what I'm trying to point out to you, is what I was feeling, when you behaved that way.

Them: I didn't think about you feeling anything, really, I was feeling this and this and that, and I think it's because of this in the past, and that in my family of origin and...

Me: Right, I get that, but my point is that when you said/did whatever it was, I didn't like it. You were overstepping my boundaries.

Them: You know, I wonder if I feel what I feel, because of what happened to me when I was in my first marriage, because I've noticed that...

Me: Do you think that the behaviors you choose in a relationship affect the other person?

Them: (bewildered) Other person, what other person?

Me: The other person in the relationship with you.

Them: There's another person?

I exaggerate, but those of you who've been in a friendship or any kind of a relationship with someone like this, will recognise what I'm talking about instantly - it's like we don't truly exist for someone like this - we're vague shadowy figures in the mist, holding up a mirror in which they can see themselves.
We could be a cardboard cutout, with a tape recorder behind it, and that would work, too.

There's a bland disregard for anything that isn't directly related to them and their wants/needs/demands/expectations. They can behave outrageously, and if we protest, we'll be dismissed with a comment about "Aren't you over that yet? Let's talk about something interesting - ME!

My last experience with this, was someone in program, who if pushed, could parrot a program sentiment, and then go right back to talking about herself. It was eerie.

What I'm learning in Al-Anon, is that I don't have to befriend anyone who won't respect me. It's not up to me to show them the error of their ways, to love them into behaving differently, or any of those misguided things I used to think before program.

My responsibility is to myself first. I need to do whatever it takes to keep me healthy, and in active recovery. When I begin to get that uneasy feeling, I need to pay attention - to listen carefully to the voice of experience whispering into my ear: "Um, can I just point something out here?"

The last couple of years have been rocky for me in some ways. I'm having to deal with aspects of my personality hitherto hidden, (although most likely, only to me.) How I accept unacceptable behavior from other people - how I give loyalty to those who do not give any back, and why do I do this?

It can be confusing and tiring, wading through the knee-deep detritus of my co-dependent thinking, but I know that if I make the effort to keep slogging forward, I'll get there eventually.


  1. Here, here. Sorry it had to work out that way, but nice job laying out your thinking and the deja vu of the situation. I think it's a good sign of our progress when we can describe what's going on and what we're going to do about it. Wayne Dyer refers to it as something like "becoming an observer to our own life" and I think it's a real tribute to what we can take from our programs. Have a good weekend!

  2. Thank you for this post & for sharing your experience.

    I strongly relate; I had a similar experience with a person a month or so ago. I felt so grateful for Detachment & being able to 'see' a wide variety of choices and glad I made the choice that was best for me. I didn't like hurting this person but I also knew from experience that there's not a whole lot that doesn't hurt her so kept it in the I, kept it simple, didn't say it mean. I see her as a person who thrives on crisis and if I were to feed into her drama then I deserved any or all resentment & debilitating negativity, so best we end it here, as friendly as we are in the now.

    I too am finding it a hard slog through all my life-long co-dependent behavior and agree, it's well-worth the effort. I think the benefits are priceless and I'm glad I chose this path. I'm also learning that the process of making right choices and changing from old people-pleasing ways is sometimes as painful as living with the choice of accepting bad behavior. My sponsor suggests the after-pain of doing a right thing is the pain of a wound that's in the process of healing. I'm grateful for healing.

    Thank you again for this post. Have a great weekend.

  3. Ooh, that gives me the shiver of recognition. Although I think I might have been guilty of being on both sides of that friendship, at different times in my life.