Join 3,562 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Friendships, relationships, and my screwed-up brain.
June 6, 2012 7:52 PM   Subscribe

Friendships, relationships, and my screwed-up brain.

I currently have no close platonic friends, and I'm not particularly interested in making any. What I do want is a boyfriend or girlfriend. I'm 29, female, and have Asperger's. I've recently tried developing friendships with people, but everyone already has their best friend, and I don't want to be just one of many replaceable friends in anyone's life. So when it seems like I'm being thrown into that big pile, I lose interest. I don't see the value of continuing the budding friendship at that point.

I don't care for strange people coming into my space (just walking behind or in front of me, or sitting next to me), unless it's someone I think is cute and would like to get to know in a romantic way. I don't really want anything to do with the majority of people. I've never yet been in an intimate relationship. Every time I've shown interest, the person I've been into has rejected me. I do tend to fixate on one guy or girl at a time - coworkers/supervisors, a former teacher, nerdy guys I have brief online exchanges with – and I get so high and hopeful, and then the inevitable crash comes. I think I just scared off my latest crush on a social media site.

To make things more confusing, I get along GREAT with my family and family friends. With them, my talkative, interested, warm, interactive, yet still quirky self comes out. They're the only ones I've really succeeded in letting into my world, and who love and accept me fully. But I'm unable to connect or bond with anyone else, no matter where I go or what social environment I put myself in. I try to do all the right things, share a bit of myself and listen to the other person's sharing, but it never goes anywhere and I'm shut out. Even other Aspies can connect with each other over their special interests. For some reason, I can't even do that. I don't think it's depression, but that something else in my brain is just broken. What's wrong with me?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you're not interested in being friends with people, they won't be interested in being friends with you. Think about it. You don't want to be "just one of many replaceable friends" and neither do they. But you don't have to be someone's best friend to have a meaningful friendship with them.

You have to have loose connections to someone before you have deeper connections. You are closing yourself off to a lot of these loose connections and that, in addition to your fixating on one person at a time, contribute greatly to your track record.
posted by inturnaround at 8:04 PM on June 6, 2012 [21 favorites]


I've never yet been in an intimate relationship. Every time I've shown interest, the person I've been into has rejected me.

That was true of my neurotypical husband until he was 25, and one of my neurotypical friends until she was 27. Yes, your experience is not the norm, but it is not waaaaay out there.

Are you seeing a therapist or counselor at all? Because this is one of the life skills areas they can help you strategize with.

One thing I do see in your post that strikes me as something you might want to think about changing is this: everyone already has their best friend, and I don't want to be just one of many replaceable friends in anyone's life. That's really black-and-white thinking, and it's not going to be a helpful strategy to get you where you want to go. It is very, very rare for people to go from "hardly knowing each other" to "being best friends"---there is usually a long series of orbits through the circles of acquaintanceship, casual friendship, and close friendship before getting into the tiny circle of "best friend" status. What you're saying here is "I want to be a general in the armed forces, but I can't be bothered with working my way up from being a lieutenant, so I just quit, because if I can't start as a general I don't want to do it at all."
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:05 PM on June 6, 2012 [23 favorites]


People rarely start off as good friends. They start off as being 'one of a group of friends', and over time that friendship deepens. You can't really skip that first part, it doesn't work that way.

You might also want to consider that if you are actively rejecting the friendships of people who haven't decided to be your best friend, that other people in that social circle will perceive you as someone who is hard to be friends with, and they won't attempt to be friends with you. You may also want to consider that this 'all or nothing' approach might be scaring people off.

In sum: You make friends by being open to friendship. You make best friends by having casual friendships that get closer.
posted by Kololo at 8:19 PM on June 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I currently have no close platonic friends, and I'm not particularly interested in making any

What's the problem?

What's wrong with me?

Why does there have to be?

We live in a society that likes to pathologize a lot for a lot of different reasons (money!), it's not something you necessarily have to jump on board with, though.

From what you've written, you want strong, secure, deep, and meaningful relationships. We live mostly in a society that cultivates superficial relationships. So it can be difficult valuing ourselves when the society around us wants us to behave differently (because of money!).

So, if you find you can't cultivate a strong, deep, meaningful relationship with someone, you move on from them - at least you're not continuing to have people in life you're not really interested in.

When you find the people who you want to spend a lot of time with and talk to like your family and family friends, you'll know you've found the right people. It might just take a bit of time and patience.
posted by mleigh at 8:21 PM on June 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


I notice three of the four crushes you mention are people who are in an imbalanced power relationship with you (teachers/supervisors) and who are being paid to be nice to you/spend time with you (co-workers). Look for friends/partners that are your equals, and keep in mind that if someone is being paid to be with you because of their employment then maybe you are reading their cues wrong. This is a common problem, a lot of people have trouble navigating it.
posted by saucysault at 8:35 PM on June 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


I've had several very good friends who were colleagues or friends of friends for years before something clicked such that we could form friendships outside of those contexts. It takes time, especially with people pushing 30 who are more set in their lifestyles than younger folks.

So people have pointed out that it helps to be okay with being casual friends with people you find interesting, but it's also true that even "best friend" relationships grow and change over time. That means that people with close friendships will likely, at some point, see them change into something else and end up forming other close friendships (i.e. potentially with you).

And it also means that there is no point at which you will become immutable best friends with someone and never be wanting for companionship or understanding again. This is a good reason to maintain multiple loose connections, IMHO; it's hard to ask one or two friends to fulfill all your social needs until the end of time.

Most of this thinking fits my understanding of how romantic relationships work as well, FWIW. Other than that those usually involve a bit more commitment and shared sacrifice, I mean.
posted by substars at 8:41 PM on June 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


The essence of a real relationship is friendship. Many of the skills required to establish a romantic relationship are the same as those required to make a close friend. If you want someone to hook up with, that's out there and if you network a bit, go to some bars, or look online, you can find that. Because if you don't want to make any friends and are unwilling to cultivate the skills that friendship usually demand, it sounds like you don't actually want a boyfriend.
posted by superfille at 8:50 PM on June 6, 2012


but everyone already has their best friend, and I don't want to be just one of many replaceable friends in anyone's life. So when it seems like I'm being thrown into that big pile, I lose interest. I don't see the value of continuing the budding friendship at that point.

If somebody you just met wanted to be best friends with you, that would be awfully trusting, don't you think? Close friendships don't just happen - you have to start by being a distant acquaintance, prove your value to the other person, and then get "promoted" gradually until you become a best friend.

Refusing to be friends at all with somebody because they don't immediately treat you as a best friend is sort of like graduating college and refusing to accept a job unless they immediately offer you a executive position and compensation package. Does that help put it into context?
posted by wolfdreams01 at 9:06 PM on June 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


everyone already has their best friend, and I don't want to be just one of many replaceable friends in anyone's life.

Kololo has already mentioned this, but to put it a slightly different way, best friends & close friends (which are more common than BFFs in adulthood) often start out as acquaintances. People who are only casual friends can become like family given time and the right circumstances. Still, you have to be willing to take a chance and invest some time and energy even knowing that some of them might amount to nothing more than people you would chat with for a few minutes if you ran into them on the street. Conversely, you might hit it off with someone and develop a deep friendship, but things can happen and some friendships expire, just like romantic relationship. Even with your Asperger's and personal preferences, it sounds like you are able to form deep bonds and enjoy socializing with a variety of people, so I'm thinking the pressure, unfamiliarity, and the lack of social safety net of people you are already comfortable with are what is getting in the way.

I would also suggest being open-minded and think of each interaction as practice. If there is something you care deeply about (a hobby, a cause you want to volunteer for, a team sport, a theater group, etc), find a place where people gather to engage in that world. This will provide an important context for you to meet people and give you time to suss them out and observe each person before trying to befriend them, while doing something you actually enjoy and care about, so it feels worthwhile even if the other people don't interest you. The best friendships form organically, but you have to be in situations that will allow that to happen. Also, most successful romantic relationships have their roots in friendship, so this will pay off when it comes to that arena as well. While I think your Asperger's presents some challenges, I do not think anything is "wrong" with you & things can change, as long as you're willing to take the journey. I suspect the BS of social niceties combined with the pressure to make this work in some way is coloring your experiences. It isn't easy for any of us and we all have baggage, so when you're up to it, give it a shot, and if there are times you just feel like chilling by yourself, that's perfectly alright, too. Best of luck!
posted by katemcd at 9:07 PM on June 6, 2012


On the romantic level, have you talked to family and family friends about setting you up? These are the people who know you best, so they may be able to point you toward people who you could click with.

Of course, if you approach a romantic relationship like you're approaching friendships, you may have similar difficulties. Especially with some of your Aspie challenges, it pays to take it slow and moderate your expectations in the dating world.
posted by freshwater at 9:34 PM on June 6, 2012


I don't care for strange people coming into my space (just walking behind or in front of me, or sitting next to me), unless it's someone I think is cute and would like to get to know in a romantic way.... But I'm unable to connect or bond with anyone else, no matter where I go or what social environment I put myself in. I try to do all the right things, share a bit of myself and listen to the other person's sharing, but it never goes anywhere and I'm shut out..... What's wrong with me?

Erm. It could be that you're trying too hard - it might clear you have a goal, and that may put people off. When people I barely know start talking to me in a way where it's clear they're after a relationship, it skeeves me. If they aren't even attempting to be friends friendly, they really aren't someone I want to know.

You don't have to like everyone, but it seems like you're being incredibly selective, and not making much of an effort for anyone who falls below your radar. I'm not good at dating, and I'm not good at socializing, but almost all of my relationships have come from having friends who have invited their (cute) friends over. If I'd just met cute friend on the street I'd probably botch it up (either being too shy or forward) but since other friend is already there, there's a buffer zone and cute friend can see the good points of my personality with minimal awkwardness.

I think most of the time it's boring and awkward to talk to other people, and it's exhausting. But here's the bottom line - if it's something you want to do, you just have to do it. If you can't connect with other people over the things you LOVE, what about the things you kind of like? (Personally I think it's better I don't share the things I *love*, because then I'd just go on and on about them XD ).

So, I guess what I'm saying is - and sorry if this sounds harsh - you very likely won't be able to have a romantic relationship unless you've proven yourself at least capable of forming a platonic one.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 9:48 PM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


As people have already said, friendships start casually and slowly increase in importance. The small, less intense interactions that may seem not very meaningful are what lay the groundwork for a significant friendship.

The same is going to be true for almost any intimate relationship. It is likely going to start slowly and become more significant and intense over the course of weeks and months. It can be frustrating waiting for that to happen, but being patient is going to help ensure that you do eventually get to that point in the relationship/friendship.
posted by Nightman at 10:10 PM on June 6, 2012


It sounds as though you don't have a strategy, conscious or unconscious, for moving people along this path:

stranger-->acquaintance-->friend-->lover

Try breaking things down, and developing some qualifying criteria for each step.

Come up with a series of internal questions whose answers determine or influence whether you should move someone further along the path.

Examples:

How long must I know this person?

How creative must I be, in order to find ways of making this person's interests interesting to me?

How familiar, and conversely, how mysterious should someone be, in order that I devote time and energy to thinking about or spending time with this person?

What are the clues that indicate that the interests and activities of this person, including those still shrouded to me, might add to my life in some way?

What am I not doing and not revealing to someone, that if shown or revealed, would make this person more likely to reveal some hidden but potentially fascinating facet of his or her life?

As a side-note, bear in mind what others have already suggested: Repeated exposure over (subjectively) long-ish periods are important elements in the foundation of most friendships.
posted by darth_tedious at 9:08 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't label myself as Aspie such, but as you may also realize you are exhibiting a trait of an Aspie right here. This takes self-realization to understand, so just asking mefi is already a tremendous step forward.

The common failure is to lack understanding of the circles of relationships and the inter-relations between things. Your potential partner most likely will be someone who has a scope of this and you may not only try to exclude him from his connections, but bare jealously toward his other relations. This may be socially acceptable for your self-interest in some relations he may have, but you may also do this inappropriately to legitimate relations. It is a matter of understanding what everyone has mentioned here and putting it to action.

You perhaps do the above already to a certain extent by projecting on people you don't know much about yet. "This person is not taking an interest in me because they don't like me" is perhaps the projection before any real dialogue even happens. It is an early manifestation of the above apriori.

That's a shame. There are good friends and partners where you least expect them.

Good luck.
posted by Bodrik at 11:00 AM on June 7, 2012


I think you're putting too much into this "one bestest friend" thing and not realizing that as an adult you can have multiple good, close friends.

I'm 25, and for the first time in my life I don't have a "best friend". I had my best friend growing up, and met a new best friend in college (since old best friend was 2 states away), and now I have a very good close group of friends who are all equal in my mind. Everyone has busy adult schedules and "committing" to a best friend is kind of unreasonable, unless you live together in a roommate situation. I find even committing to a relationship to be very difficult, since it takes more effort and sacrifice than maintaining my other friendships, even though I don't hold my relationship in higher regard than my friendships. Maybe I look at it incorrectly, but relationships are riskier/more volatile while friendships are more concrete, assuming you're not a complete drama queen.

Hate to suggest alcohol, but I've always found the best way to "click" with a person or persons is to get realllly drunk together and wake up next morning on a stack of pizza boxes and empty bottles trying to put the night back together. This is how I managed to find my current circle of friends when I moved to a new city.
posted by el_yucateco at 7:19 AM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older My arches are killing me! Do t...   |  Deciphering government website... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.