I have an extraordinarily difficult time relating to other people. It often leaves me very bored, lonely, and frustrated. Why am I this way? What can I do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
My whole life, I've felt out of step with other people—as if my brain works in a fundamentally different way than everyone else's. I distinctly remember feeling this way in first grade.
Most people's interests, values, perspectives, and motivations are incomprehensible to me—even bizarre and offensive—and the feeling is very often mutual. People don't get me, and I don't get them. Sometimes people seen so alien it makes my skin crawl. Seriously; I'll be driving down the street, and all the people and artifacts around me will feel like a civilization built by and for a separate species.
For purposes of illustration, here are some of the things that baffle me: sports, Halloween costumes, parties, dancing, poetry, fiction, nationalism and all other forms of tribal/group identity, religion, stage/performance art, fashion and dress, political partisanship, small talk, flirtation, whatever people mean by the word "community" (I've never felt a part of one, so I don't know), television and Hollywood movies (with rare exceptions), conspicuous consumption, ritual and symbolism, and most values and moral judgments which are based on these things. That's just a start—I don't know what general category you'd group these things under, but I basically don't understand any of it.
I had friends as a teenager—I hung out with the stoners, geeks, and counterculture kids—but even then, I felt like a misfit among misfits. More like the anthropologist who lives among the natives, than a true member of the tribe.
I started feeling the sense of alienation more acutely in my early 20s, and since then (I'm now in my early 30s), my social life has been in slow but steady decline. I've had few romantic relationships—the longest and most significant lasted less than a year. I don't really have friends any more. I almost never go out—and when I do, I usually end up bored in the corner and leave early. I spent Christmas and New Year's alone.
I used to go to bars, concerts, parties, art shows—hoping to find people I could relate to—but these efforts were so often fruitless (or downright unpleasant) that I gradually stopped going out at all.
This is key, because I know you're all going to suggest classes, meetups, book clubs, etc. Giving myself more opportunities to connect with others is certainly part of the solution (and I do have some things on my calendar). But I don't think it's the whole solution for me—because even when I've spent plenty of time around other people, I still just don't get them.
I've always had a difficult time fitting in at work, too. I work in a white-collar profession (and have done well, even though I'm not especially motivated by status or money). I enjoy my actual work—but I loathe and resent every second of workplace socializing, from the meetings to the holiday parties to the inter-departmental politics to the daily chit-chat. Yeah, I know—everyone hates this stuff. But you don't understand. It's like a nightmarish fun-house maze to me, and I don't understand why I'm being forced to navigate it—I just want it all to go away, so I can do my job in peace. Work is the one part of my life where I can't just opt out of interacting in ways I don't understand with people I don't understand. I've changed jobs frequently, partly because of this.
On personality tests (such as Myers-Briggs—yes, I take it with a grain of salt), my scores for introversion (as opposed to extroversion) and reasoning/thinking (as opposed to feeling) are both off the charts.
I've often wondered whether I have some neurological condition—Asperger's, say, or an oxytocin deficit. I don't think I qualify for an Asperger's diagnosis, but I did take an online self-inventory which put me right on the borderline between neurotypical and Asperger's. I'm male, if it matters.
tl;dr: in theory, I want friendship and romantic companionship—sometimes quite badly—but in practice, people just weird me the fuck out (and vice-versa). It's always been this way, and it seems to be getting worse as I get older. What do I do?