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Getting you to open up is like squeezing blood from a turnip
May 30, 2013 11:19 AM   Subscribe

In addition to wanting to make new connections who are the oversharing, vulnerability exposing type (see previous askme questions) I would also like to improve (increase) the amount of friendship intimacy with my current set of friends. It's failing miserably, even with those friends I've had for years and I can't help wonder if I'm doing something wrong, or if my views on what's appropriate and desirable are off.

I have many friends who seem by almost all objective accounts to like me. They willingly hang out with me whenever I invite them, they go on trips with me, they show up whenever I call when it's really important (like during the death of my father, or if i desperately need a ride somewhere and my car isn't available), they buy me presents for birthdays and holidays, etc. But rarely, RARELY do *any* of my friends call, email, or drop by to invite me to do anything! I am almost always the planning initiator and it drives me nuts. I feel it's really unbalanced. I've done the little self-pity party "tests" of not reaching out just to see how long it takes before they notice and reach out to me and what i've discovered again and again is that it will take weeks or sometimes longer before even one of my friends will finally reach out to me to ask where did i disappear to. It's a sinking terrible feeling that you could disappear and nobody would really seem to notice.

Additionally (even with my best friend) getting people to share their inside emotional state is like pulling teeth. Even when i try to go slow and do the i share a little, now its your turn and you share a little routine, they rarely want to share. My best friend and i at this point have a one way accountability relationship in that i tell her most everything that i'm wrestling with and she tells me almost nothing. This is not how I'd like it, but I seem powerless to change it. I didn't find out she was planning a baby until she dropped it into casual conversation with a whole group of people at once. I didn't find out she was going out of town for a new job stint until she mentioned it on FB to everyone. And I've gotten the same treatment from almost all of my other friends. I feel like i am not truly in anyone's inner circle, i'm never the first to know, and i'm rarely trusted with the most intimate secrets. It really really hurts b/c to me that is what friendship (especially best friendship) is all about.

If I sit down and remind a particular friend that I consider emotional sharing and initiating activity to be a key part of friendship, then for a time they will put in more effort to do both. But it's pretty short lived and pretty soon it goes back to the way it was where I am sharing/initiating and they are not.

Today in a fit of passive aggressive angst I posted on FB that instead of stressing over unbalanced friendships and intimacies i am going to just stop worrying about it and just dial back my investment to match that of the other person (i.e. you don't share your deep secrets and big news with me, and i don't share with you). Well several of my friends 'liked' my post on FB, including my best friend! Of course that wasn't the desired outcome at all, I was rather hoping they would step up and say, so sorry, i will share more and initiate more.

How much emotional sharing, secret telling, big news sharing is considered healthy and standard between close female friends? Am I just expecting too much? Do I just need to find different friends? How could I (an extrovert) have attracted so many introverts as friends? Is it common to have one friend doing most of the initiating and i'm just putting imagined norms on behavior that i shouldn't that are creating unrealistic expectations?

Finally, for details on my friendships- what kind of people they are and where i've made them- most of my friends have come from folks who joined the meetup groups I was organizing, some come from church, and some come from other social events or friend of friends. I've got a healthy mix of liberals and conservatives, a blend of friends who share my religious views and those who don't, and a mix of male, female, married, single, and DINK friends. I can't identify any unifying factor to most of them except that they all tend to be introverted. I draw introverts to me apparently.
posted by TestamentToGrace to Human Relations (98 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do you ever host parties or dinners? I am an early twenties white boy, but that's where I get a lot of my "scoop." Facebook is not your solution unless it's a means to an end. Have a midsummers night party!
posted by oceanjesse at 11:27 AM on May 30, 2013


I've done the little self-pity party "tests" of not reaching out just to see how long it takes before they notice and reach out to me and what I've discovered again and again is that it will take weeks or sometimes longer before even one of my friends will finally reach out to me to ask where did i disappear to.

I dunno. I'm an introvert in the classic sense of needing time to myself to unwind- yet, I love my friends and I will take any opportunity to go out with them. But I rarely initiate this because 1. I cherish unexpected chunks of alone-time and when gaps in my calendar appear, I'm like "YES time to drink wine in the bath and and read books all weekend" and 2. honestly, I sometimes get a bit insecure and assume that if I arrange an event, people won't come, so I ought to leave it up to The Planners.

That said: it sounds like you're courting intimacy by volunteering information about yourself and expecting them to reciprocate. But have you tried asking for the details you want? They might just not know what you expect. Hell, they might worry they'd be imposing or oversharing.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:28 AM on May 30, 2013 [21 favorites]


Your friends may be balancing out your extensive extroversion/expressiveness by not expressing much. How's the talk time in a conversation with a friend? All you? 50/50? Do you have the need to be expressing all the time? If so this may be making it difficult for others to contribute to conversation. If so observe that, and practice needing to talk less.

Ask your friends questions about important things in their lives. How is your life? Are you happy? Is there anything new going on in your life? Are you happy with your job? Are you and your S/O happy? and then resist the urge to talk about yourself afterward. Listen and nod, and ask them follow up questions.
posted by Holidayalltheway at 11:28 AM on May 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


You know, I'm going through this with a group of friends as well, and the main issue seems to be that everyone is just a lot busier than I am - babies, important jobs, etc. Are most people at different points in their life than you are, relationship or career wise? That might have something to do with it. Anyway, in my case, I've decided to back off with trying to initiate plans and just find other people to hang out with.
posted by something something at 11:32 AM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Even when i try to go slow and do the i share a little, now its your turn and you share a little routine, they rarely want to share.

But your friends didn't sign on for "turns" at oversharing -- to use your own word -- when you first established your friendship, so it seems unfair to seemingly impose this as a condition for continuing your friendship.

It's fine if you're comfortable with sharing more than most people are. But the solution is not to make other people more like you; it's to accept that other people have the right to maintain their own boundaries and comfort levels, even when they are different from your own.

Today in a fit of passive aggressive angst I posted on FB that instead of stressing over unbalanced friendships and intimacies i am going to just stop worrying about it and just dial back my investment to match that of the other person (i.e. you don't share your deep secrets and big news with me, and i don't share with you). Well several of my friends 'liked' my post on FB, including my best friend! Of course that wasn't the desired outcome at all, I was rather hoping they would step up and say, so sorry, i will share more and initiate more.

This level of passive-aggressiveness, self-pity, and expectation of other people as mind-readers has the potential to be absolutely toxic to interpersonal relationships. It's not healthy and -- more to the point -- it is not conducive to forming the close, emotionally intimate bonds you say you actually want to form with those around you. Let me be blunt: keep that sort of thing up, and you are going to start actively driving people away, which is the opposite of what you say you want.

Shorter: your strategies of getting closer to other people aren't working. I would suggest you consider that these strategies are the thing that need to be examined and perhaps changed, not the people around you.
posted by scody at 11:34 AM on May 30, 2013 [42 favorites]


If I sit down and remind a particular friend that I consider emotional sharing and initiating activity to be a key part of friendship...

Is it [that] i'm just putting imagined norms on behavior that i shouldn't that are creating unrealistic expectations?


It does sound like a big part of the problem is that you frame the things you want as normative, and what other people want as abnormal. In that way, you are asking why people don't open up to you after you've been critical of their preferences.

Even when i try to go slow and do the i share a little, now its your turn and you share a little routine, they rarely want to share.

Here you're framing it as a transaction, as if they owe you some disclosures to balance out the disclosures you've made. It doesn't work like that. Sometimes allowing yourself to be vulnerable by sharing will help someone else to feel safe enough to share something they feel vulnerable about, but they most definitely don't owe you it, and I imagine that the implication that they do owe it to you would be rather repellant, because it means that your sharing was a manipulative attempt to make them vulnerable, instead of keeping them safe.

I think this is all fairly separate from the event planning, which has more to do with the fact that introverts don't generally go out of their way to plan big get-togethers, combined with the fact that you've trained your friends to expect you to do it. If you don't want to do the planning, you're free to stop.
posted by jon1270 at 11:35 AM on May 30, 2013 [25 favorites]


I'm wondering how your conversations go specifically with your quieter introverted friends - that is, to you feel a strong need to fill up silences? I know that personally, since it's less natural for me to share stuff about myself, I often need a lot of little quiet pauses and inane conversation about cats and other things that seem to have no emotional resonance at all before I can mention something that's really important to me. My best friend from college is the absolute opposite, and we fought for YEARS before finally coming to a balance that works for us. Nowadays, I struggle to open up more and she sits quietly and lets me come out on my own.

Of course, you're framing someone else's sharing of their own personal emotions, as something that benefits YOU and not THEM. That's not the sort of attitude that encourages openness.
posted by theweasel at 11:40 AM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


It frankly sounds to me like the kind of behavior that people adopt around someone who is prone to drama: they shut down and carefully manage what they disclose.

So ... might consider that possibility.
posted by rr at 11:43 AM on May 30, 2013 [16 favorites]


It sounds more as if your friends are framed around your own life than you are an integral part of theirs. You need more of a balance and to allow yourself to sit in the passenger seat some of the time perhaps?
posted by 0 answers at 11:46 AM on May 30, 2013


Something I've noticed about my more introverted friends that is different than my extroverted friends (I'm an introvert who can pass for an extrovert when I need to), is that at the point of conversation (after a confession, an anecdote, etc.) where an extrovert will immediately jump in and share their similar experience, an introvert will just respond with something along the lines of "that's really cool" or whatnot.

You have to ASK an introvert.

"That ever happen to you?" "Have you ever been scared of telling the truth to someone? What happened?" "Have you ever had your heart broken?" etc.

This is not a matter of rudeness or people not "opening up." This is a matter of different communication styles.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 11:47 AM on May 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Maybe you won't 'get' someone to open up but you can create the conditions where they feel it is possible to do so.
posted by 0 answers at 11:48 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sometimes allowing yourself to be vulnerable by sharing will help someone else to feel safe enough to share something they feel vulnerable about, but they most definitely don't owe you it, and I imagine that the implication that they do owe it to you would be rather repellant, because it means that your sharing was a manipulative attempt to make them vulnerable, instead of keeping them safe.

Just chiming back in to draw attention to this. It is a really, really important insight that is very important for you to consider in moving forward.
posted by scody at 11:48 AM on May 30, 2013 [17 favorites]


The best way to get me to shut up about my inner emotional state is to try to specifically get me to talk about my inner emotional state, either by asking me directly or by putting me in a situation where it's "Okay, your turn to share now!" Some or all of your friends may be on the spectrum somewhere.

I have several longtime friends (not counting my spouse) and sometimes we talk very explicitly about our Feelings, but mostly it's between-the-lines stuff that leaves the conversation open - one person can ask more about the subtext, or the person who brought it up can choose to talk more about it. It's more guess than ask, I suppose, although I'm more ask than guess and so are most of the people I hang out with most (I think, anyway).

Data point: Introvert, of the "recharges from being alone" type, not the shy/socially awkward/misanthropic type.
posted by rtha at 11:54 AM on May 30, 2013


It's worth noting that a lot of times, people use oversharing as a sort of shorthand for closeness, when it is by no means universally that. Different people have different interpretations of what makes a friendship--even a good, close friendship. So you may be feeling like your friends' reticence = lack of caring, but it might not be that at all.

Thirding scody and jon1270 that accelerated intimacy is not always perceived as *safe*. Someone who's trying to force a closeness on you that you're unready for is actually a big interpersonal red flag! Gavin de Becker even talks about it in The Gift of Fear.

Your FB post was passive-aggressive, but the reason people might have "liked" it is they might have read it as, "hey! that's a healthy development in understanding boundaries and managing expectations. Good for her, for being so introspective."

(Because seriously, understanding and mirroring a person's level of emotional investment IS a healthy way to proceed with many relationships in life.)
posted by like_a_friend at 11:55 AM on May 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


With most of my intimate friends, the intimacy is not constructed out of secrets. That's not to say that we never reveal secrets to each other, but the friendship is built rather than transactional. Like, we're close because our conversations have created a shared frame of reference and because we can bring issues or topics to each other to discuss. I can have ten different conversations with different friends about [Local Issue X] and each conversation will build the friendship I have with that friend. It's not that I have a secret and I trade them another secret and that trade is the bond; it's that we mutually construct ideas, jokes, conversations together and those are the bond.

I do have friends with whom I talk a lot about feelings, but with one exception, those are friends who talk a lot about feelings with everybody - it's not unique between us.

I feel like your expectations are extremely transactional in a way that strikes me as unusual. Maybe consider your childhood friendships - do you have early traumas around friendship? Are you one of those "awkward extroverts" who had to teach themselves friendship skills?

I also get some "I want to be your Very Best Friend" vibe from this question, coupled with a maybe inaccurate view of what Best Friendship entails. (Obviously, some people have that joined-at-the-hip best friend who is always around and always wants to share a lot, but I don't think that's the norm.) My own social circle seems to be much more "people have a group of roughly-equally-close friends" and "who hears something first" has much more to do with random factors than anything else. I don't do Facebook, for instance, so I don't hear about some things right away; other things - even important things - friends may forget to tell me because we're having so much fun talking about Mutual Hobby that we don't even get to it.
posted by Frowner at 11:55 AM on May 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


How much emotional sharing, secret telling, big news sharing is considered healthy and standard between close female friends?
As much as each party is comfortable with. You seem like you believe that you are somehow entitled to have people "open up" to you, regardless of whether they want to or not.

Am I just expecting too much?
Yes.

Do I just need to find different friends?
If you really found a friend who was as demandy as you seem to be, would you really like her?

How could I (an extrovert) have attracted so many introverts as friends?
See above -- are you driving people away?

Is it common to have one friend doing most of the initiating and i'm just putting imagined norms on behavior that i shouldn't that are creating unrealistic expectations?

Some people are initiators, some people are not. If you've been the initiator for a while in a relationship, others are just going to fall into the habit of not doing so. Playing passive-aggressive games like "testing" your friends by disengaging isn't going to prove or fix anything because it takes people a while to realize that the dynamic has changed.

Nobody owes you their emotions/confidence.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:58 AM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


oceanjesse asked about dinner parties: I was holding a weekly dinner party (5-6 courses, 5-15 people, lots of fun and great food, i prepared everything and ppl just needed to show up), a quarterly tea, and many other events but I scaled waaay back to uh, nothing, as of 2 months ago b/c i was ticked that i've never been invited (not once!) to that sort of thing by any of my friends and it was feeling very unbalanced. I still plan trips - usually at least one weekend a month- and have many friends who come along for the domestic or overseas weekend adventures i plan (i plan out the itinerary, make all the reservations, etc) - but not the weekly dinner parties.

I guess a few posters have hit upon at least once conflict- I *do* feel that friends, especially "best" friends owe each other an emotional intimacy whereby you share your deep and big news. That's a "need" for me the way some people say they have X need in a relationship or y need in a relationship and i think it's an essential part of close friendship. I don't want to share less to make it even i want (expect) my close friends to share more. and initiate plans more.

/end threadsitting
posted by TestamentToGrace at 11:59 AM on May 30, 2013


I just think that relationships kind of get shallower as we get older. And that's good in many ways. If people have partners at home then they are likely to share a lot with them and not feel the need to have very deep discussions with their friends. I think that unloading deeply emotional stuff on friends can feel like drama-mongering or an undue hardship on the friendship. I also have a limited time with my friends. Between work, spouse time, parenting, hobbies and wanting my own quiet time, I often see my friends in quick bursts -- a dinner out, meetup for gabbing while shopping at the farmers market, an hour or two for beers. The only time I have really intense conversations with friends is when we all go away for a weekend...which happens too little. And, even then, we are often focused on relaxing and just enjoying each other.

Occasionally, I'll get into a deep conversation with a friend if a certain topic comes up and they have some shared experiences. It's always pretty rewarding but it has to happen organically. We are also a fairly fractured society in terms of media consumption so even assuming that someone is up to date on a hot, local issue is a crap-shoot. I think rather than strive for shared emotional bonding, you should strive for shared interesting experiences.

I've been trying to do that lately. Make shared experiences which are unique and end up forming the building blocks of lasting friendships. I'm organizing a backpacking trip for a group of moms this summer who are all super nice but we mostly just talk about our kids. So, we'll see if a shared experience like that deepens the friendships. I'm going out to a "out there" dinner this week with two friends who are pretty adventurous eaters. Etc. But, if you're always the planner and are sick of planning, that's tricky and I totally get that. Just try to cultivate those friendships with people who are in a similar phase of life and I think you'll have the most success.
posted by amanda at 11:59 AM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's a sinking terrible feeling that you could disappear and nobody would really seem to notice.


Just as a data point, this is a terrible sinking feeling, but also kind of just a thing that happens in adult life. Most of my friends are actually the extroverted, oversharing, True Confessions types. And they still wouldn't notice if I vanished off the face of the earth, because they have like 200 other friends to distract them. (I actually have "vanished" every now and then, for a few months, because of work, depression, what have you--nobody ever noticed.)

You kind of remind me of a friend of mine, who thrived beyond measure in boarding school and then at a kooky liberal arts college (you know, the kind where people routinely wear circus face paints to things that are Not the circus...), and now as an adult is constantly trying to replicate that feeling of an intimate, emotionally open "tribe." It's just...realllllly hard to do in real life.
posted by like_a_friend at 12:03 PM on May 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Thirding scody and jon1270 that accelerated intimacy is not always perceived as *safe*. Someone who's trying to force a closeness on you that you're unready for is actually a big interpersonal red flag!"

But that's just it. I have these issues with even my longest friends, of more than 6-10 years. We've traveled the world together, shared all kinds of experiences (again there for each other through some harrowing deaths and big life changes) and yet they still won't open up to me on a regular basis without prodding. They say they hate talking on the phone (they rarely answer their phone or initiate calls to me), they say they just aren't used to sharing and that it isn't personal. but of course it feels very personal and lonely. i just want to find friends who will put their heart into their friendships the way i do. and mostly it seems everyone is replying with that's not how friendship works.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 12:06 PM on May 30, 2013


I was holding a weekly dinner party (5-6 courses, 5-15 people, lots of fun and great food, i prepared everything and ppl just needed to show up), a quarterly tea, and many other events but I scaled waaay back to uh, nothing, as of 2 months ago b/c i was ticked that i've never been invited (not once!) to that sort of thing by any of my friends

Yeah.

Reiterating the drama thing, that goes hand in hand with this sort of over the top behavior. You are very likely turning off these friends and while they'll put in an appearance they're not excited to engage.
posted by rr at 12:06 PM on May 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


I *do* feel that friends, especially "best" friends owe each other an emotional intimacy whereby you share your deep and big news

I don't know how old you and your cohort are, but me and mine....we just don't have a lot of Deep or Big news. When a friend was diagnosed with cancer, she told me, and we talked about it some, and I knew that she knew that I was always available for more talking if she wanted, but I sure as shit wasn't going to push it more than "So how are you doing?" and leave it there if all she wanted to say was "Pretty good, considering. Did you see that crazy Giants game the other night?"

The thing is, I feel safe with these friends, and that safety has been built over years of shared experiences, not feelings. I believe that I could have a crying fit about something upsetting and they would help me and support me, both in the moment and afterwards. But I don't need any of them to do that same thing in return, as a demonstration of our mutual intimacy. People are different and you have different needs, and the friends you have now may not be (are apparently not, from what you say) filling them. You don't have to give up your current friends in order to make new ones, so go make some new friends. But outside of certain contexts that basically force people to live together and deal with each other no matter what (college, the military, religious orders, etc.), a lot of people just don't operate that way as a matter of course, and it's not something you can force, or find out in the first month of a friendship.
posted by rtha at 12:11 PM on May 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


They say they hate talking on the phone (they rarely answer their phone or initiate calls to me)

Your friends tell you that they hate talking on the phone, and yet you call them and expect them to "share"?

You don't sound like a very good friend.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:12 PM on May 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


You sound like someone who is great at planning fun activities and bringing people together, and I'm sure your friends appreciate that. I'm not an initiator either, and I suspect it might be a bit of a blind spot with your friends. I don't know what their level of busyness is in life, but for some it might be more than they can handle to plan something elaborate but a huge benefit to be able to relax and connect with people. If you feel as though you're putting more energy into it than you're willing or able to do, than feel free to scale back, but recognize that not everyone may have the same skills, time, or energy to put on activities as you do.

I (as somewhat of an introvert) only have that kind of closeness with certain people, and for certain subjects. There are only one or two people who I'll talk about mental health with, several with whom I might talk about relationships, a wider circle with whom I might talk about other stuff. As far as I can tell, this is pretty normal. And furthermore, I won't bring these things up except when I am particularly in need of help, or feeling particularly safe and comfortable - I don't want to feel like I'm burdening people or adding unnecessary heaviness to a casual and relaxing setting.

I think you might need to find another outlet for your need to share and have it be reciprocated, and accept that people have limited resources to contribute to friendships and for these people those resources might already be committed elsewhere.
posted by lookoutbelow at 12:13 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


They say they hate talking on the phone (they rarely answer their phone or initiate calls to me), they say they just aren't used to sharing and that it isn't personal


Yeah....why can't you believe them when they say this? And if you can't, why are you friends with people you think are liars who dislike you?

If you want friendships with people who behave like you do, you have to find those people. You can't make existing people, who aren't comfortable with that, into those people.

I don't think people are trying to say "friendship never works like that" so much as they are saying "YOUR PARTICULAR friendships aren't like that; you will have to find new people to meet this need." I think the advice along those lines (find activities that create shared experiences, etc) is generally on-target.

Also, as rr noted, the events you mention hosting are actually kind of Official Events, which is just about the opposite of "comfortable place to be open emotionally." 15 people! I'm not saying SHIT about my personal emotions in front of 15 people unless it's Christmas and I'm related by blood or marriage to every last one of 'em.

They're also the sorts of things that 90% of people aren't interested in organizing; did you get Not Invited to your friends' quarterly teas? Or do your friends just not host Quarterly Teas? Those are two very different situations.
posted by like_a_friend at 12:13 PM on May 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


Wow, if I was seeing somebody once per week and occasional trips, I'd *never* initiate anything -- I'd already feel totally plugged in with them (and slightly overscheduled if I had any other life)! And I'm often an initiator!

Perhaps you need to find some other extrovert friends (to supplement, not supplant, your batch of introverts), and/or make peace with the fact that not all relationships are balanced on all fronts -- you may give more in these logistical ways but also get plenty in the sense of support for the big things that come up for you and need to be discussed (of which there are fewer for your friends) and in getting the company for your activities that you want. Or you might be way off the spectrum in the sharing/drama department, and these folks are already being good friends by meeting you where you are, even if they're quite different themselves.

Hard to judge from over here, but I honestly don't think you can expect every friendship to meet every measure of worthiness, any more than you (or most people) can expect one romantic partner to fulfill all your social and emotional needs. You need to put together a constellation of people who you value and who value you, such that you get your broader needs covered -- some who are great company when you want to plan things, others who generate ideas you might not have had, some who love movies, others who get into political discussions, etc.

But I also agree with those who say that intensity varies (declines? cycles?) with time, such that the intense soul-searchings of my 20s and early 30s have given way in my (overscheduled) 40s to just enjoying the company of sympatico people with whom I have some history, even if all we talk about is our recent vacations or crappy bosses. You have to allow for other people to have different needs from relationships, as well as different skills to bring to them.
posted by acm at 12:15 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't want to share less to make it even i want (expect) my close friends to share more. and initiate plans more.

Yes, but the point that several of us are making is that, if you actually care about the feelings and needs of your friends and not just your own, you may need to find ways to adjust your expectations so that you don't get to unilaterally set the terms for closeness. (Note: this is not the same as you now having to share less as a way of bringing the bar down to the level of where other people are comfortable sharing; this is, as others have noted, a very transactional/tit-for-tat way of viewing relationships, and it's one that's not universal.)

You are essentially asking for ways to make the people around you change their essential behavior, boundaries, and comfort levels, while at the same time ruling out any responsibility for changing on your part in terms of developing a more accepting, empathetic, adult view of other people. In other words, it strikes me that although you reiterate that you need to know about other people's feelings, you are actually showing some real disregard and lack of empathy for their real feelings. This may very well be one component of why people aren't sharing their inner emotions with you -- because (based on what you're writing here) you may come off more as a spectator to their emotions and experiences (and how they relate to your own), but not someone who actually cares about them very much.

At the end of the day, your friends are who they are -- and they primarily exist in the world not as friends of yours, but as independent human beings. Can you truly, deeply, lovingly accept them for who they are, different boundaries and all? Because to a lot of people as we get past high school or college, that's a deeper signifier of friendship and closeness than who got to find out first about so-and-so's big news.
posted by scody at 12:16 PM on May 30, 2013 [35 favorites]


If I may be frank, I think a lot of this seems from control issues. You want to control the level of emotional depth of a conversation, what your friends share with you, how your friends interact with you. And this:

I was holding a weekly dinner party (5-6 courses, 5-15 people, lots of fun and great food, i prepared everything and ppl just needed to show up)....I still plan trips - usually at least one weekend a month- and have many friends who come along for the domestic or overseas weekend adventures i plan (i plan out the itinerary, make all the reservations, etc).

You are training people that you are the social coordinator, and people love that because it means they don't have to do any of the work. They have been trained by you to not initiate stuff, because you always do EVERYTHING, which is in part why they're not initiating stuff with you. That pattern is really hard to undo and taking a step back for a couple of months will not undo a long period of that kind of social structure.

However, this kind of thing is also you giving yourself a TON OF CONTROL over interactions with these people -- including what they eat and where they go and when they do both. At some level, you must enjoy this aspect of it and trust me, I get it. I like having control over stuff too! Being unable to control certain things is really hard for me. But you are making yourself crazy by also trying to control other people's emotional reactions and responses and their emotional investment in you and it just does not work that way -- life doesn't. People don't. You literally can't do it. It's not effective and it actually will drive people away. You are trying so hard to control things that are at least partially out of your control and that almost always backfires. Relationships are kind of like a glass of water. Hold it carefully and gently and it will be fine, but your iron grip is going to shatter this thing and spill all over you. I really, really do sympathize, but I also (frankly) think that if we were friends you would be driving me nuts right now with all this. People can legitimately love you and care about you and want to be your friend and truly truly want the best for you while at the same time feeling like you are driving them nuts, you know?

I hardly ever say this, but I think it might be useful for you to talk to a professional about all of this -- just to get an outside perspective from people other than the internet, you know?
posted by Countess Sandwich at 12:17 PM on May 30, 2013 [14 favorites]


most of my friends have come from folks who joined the meetup groups I was organizing, some come from church, and some come from other social events or friend of friends.

It is extremely unlikely that anyone from that group of people will ever become close "intimate" emotional friends of the sort where you have oversharing emotional moments. The only people you would ever do that with are people who are both long time friends from your past and people who have a very specific personality type. From what it sounds from your longest-term friends you've traveled with and have lots of significant life experiences with, they just don't have that "personality type." I would chalk this up to the luck of the draw-- you only had a few friends for whom this was going to be possible, and they had to have a very specific personality type, and of those few friends, none of them had the personality type necessary for what you were looking for.

I was holding a weekly dinner party (5-6 courses, 5-15 people, lots of fun and great food, i prepared everything and ppl just needed to show up), a quarterly tea, and many other events but I scaled waaay back to uh, nothing, as of 2 months ago b/c i was ticked that i've never been invited (not once!) to that sort of thing by any of my friends

I live in the DC area, as you do, and, honestly, this is part of the landscape-- people are just not into "house parties" as they are elsewhere. Seriously-- I am the only person in my very large circle of friends and acquaintances who will clean up my place, cook a bunch of food, and make an effectively "open invite" to everyone I know to come over and party on a Saturday night. It would be the same thing with dinner parties. There's something cultural/regional about this. At best, we have "everyone meets at a bar" get-togethers. Someone who has a house will host a BBQ from time to time (and that's just one person).
posted by deanc at 12:18 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Two things.

1) I sometimes find that "open up emotionally" can be a synonym to "is always complaining about something emotional."

I don't know you, or what you talk about, but I honestly can't think of anything overly emotional to share with friends unless I had something bad/stressful going on. Even then I don't like to burden other people with that.

Maybe you friends:
a) Don't like sharing close emotional things because they just don't like to, or don't have something specifically to share.
b) They don't like to complain about stressful emotional things
c) They just aren't those kinds of people.

2) That being said, find new friends. Find people on your same wavelength. Clearly you can hang out with them casually, but there is a disconnect between what you want and what these people can give.

I think you are expecting too much of these friends, as you know how they behave. I don't think you are necessarily expecting too much from a close friendship, but it may need to be with new people. I'm sure there are others who want to hang out all the time and constantly be planning things like you are. On that note, I agree that you are doing too much.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:18 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


In other words, it strikes me that although you reiterate that you need to know about other people's feelings, you are actually showing some real disregard and lack of empathy for their real feelings. This may very well be one component of why people aren't sharing their inner emotions with you -- because (based on what you're writing here) you may come off more as a spectator to their emotions and experiences (and how they relate to your own), but not someone who actually cares about them very much.

What scody said. Times a million. Please, be the kind of person you are - share your heart out, host big blowouts if you truly enjoy them (having a friend who hosts quarterly teas sounds lovely, honestly) - I swear to you, you'll be appreciated as such. But listen to your phone-hating, non-sharing friends and do them (and yourself) the big favor of appreciating who they ACTUALLY are. Enjoy their company, enjoy your time together, continue your quest for more like-minded sharing friends. You might see some cooling off of some relationships, but you might also find that once the pressure is off to share, the introverts might step up to the plate more often. Even if they don't, you'll be less frustrated with them. Nothing stresses a friendship more than the constant indication that you're doing it wrong.
posted by theweasel at 12:27 PM on May 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, what scody said.

Also, you sound needy. Like really really really really needy. And you equate information with intimacy, when they are actually very different things. People open up when they feel safe, not when you've put together a party. And people who are able to spew out their feelings to random other people are either 1) totally ok with who they are 2) not in touch with their feelings at all.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:32 PM on May 30, 2013


A lot of people don't do the emotional-infodumping that you seem to be looking for. The way you learn about someone is usually a slow buildup, through conversation and experiences, over time. And, yes, there is kind of an correlation between high-drama relationships and knowing everything about what your friends are thinking and doing. That kind of high-emotional investment is rarely sustainable in the long run, and it's something that a lot of people try to minimize after they've experienced it a time or two. (Not a judgement thing; some of the most important friendships in my life have had those kind of high-drama, high-investment periods, and I don't regret them--but it was also really draining and the friendships had to eventually be shifted into less high-stakes relationships, or else we would've drained one another dry.)

And, yeah, it sounds like you're coming on a little strong. Someone who kept trying to get me to open up after I'd repeatedly put them off politely would be someone who I'd mentally mark as "not good with boundaries", which is not someone I want to share personal stuff with.
posted by kagredon at 12:35 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Your post reminds me of a woman I used to work with. She seemed very friendly and open on the surface, and she was also into the whole oversharing thing. Way, way too much sharing, with everybody. She also thought other people owed the same to her and would get upset when they didn't respond in kind.

The problem was this: what went along with her tendency to overshare and try to force intimacy was the fact that she was nosy, intrusive, and a gossip - so we did not trust her with any sensitive, personal information. We knew all sorts of awful things about specific people in her life we'd never met because she would talk about everyone all the time. It made us uncomfortable. I realize this might not describe you and that you're talking about friends, not coworkers, but since I could imagine her posting this exact question and having no idea why people don't treat her exactly how she treats them, you may want to examine if you might be coming across like this.

They say they hate talking on the phone (they rarely answer their phone or initiate calls to me), they say they just aren't used to sharing and that it isn't personal. but of course it feels very personal and lonely.

Do you not believe that some people really just hate talking on the phone? I hate talking on the phone. My friends and boyfriend and I never call each other unless a phone call is needed to make specific plans. The only person I ever call "just to talk" is my mother.

It's possible you've simply made friends with a bunch of introverts who don't bother to organize events. But if you do like spending time with these people for reasons other than this, it's worth trying to truly understand and appreciate who they are and where they're coming from, rather than making the unreasonable and unrealistic demand that they be more like you.
posted by wondermouse at 12:46 PM on May 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


I can't identify any unifying factor to most of them except that they all tend to be introverted. I draw introverts to me apparently.

Two comments about my own experience with extrovert/introvert friendships. First, it makes sense that the extrovert is going to initiate contact more often than the introvert, since they presumably feel more comfortable with frequent contact. And the hub-and-spoke dynamic is a pretty common one in friendship circles, I think. I was one of the introverted spokes in a large social circle where most of the activities were organized by my super-extroverted friend. I simultaneously appreciated that she reached out to me so often, yet remained afraid to initiate contact myself-- I variously worried that I wouldn't do it as well as she could, that she might already be busy, etc. It might be hard for your introvert friends to organize activities when you set such a high bar by doing it so well.

Second, I'm not sure there's a rigid correlation between extroversion/introversion and how much intimacy you prefer in your friendships. I'm an introvert who desperately craves the kind of oversharing you describe, while my extroverted friend who always organized our gatherings was really uncomfortable with that. (Or at least, uncomfortable doing that with me.)

I'm surprised you're not getting a little more sympathy here-- you're not alone in your desire for intimate sharing. But it seems to be a personal preference-- some people want a lot of it, and others simply don't.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 12:47 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


To echo what everyone else is saying, what you're looking for and the way you're looking for it is not consistent with friendships/relationships I have observed or been a part of.

That said, it's not necessarily a need of yours that needs to go totally unaddressed! Rather than looking for new friends, I think you might look into other ways you can fit feeling-sharing into your life. For instance, maybe group therapy? Or maybe there's a support group you're legitimately eligible to participate in -- people join those to share feelings, so you can hang out with a whole bunch of people who are sharing feelings about something you can also share feelings about.
posted by cranberry_nut at 12:51 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


A lot of people have told you how your expectations don't match how many adult friendships work, but I have the feeling that knowing that won't by itself make you feel better. Here are a couple of other thoughts about how to cope with where you are.

-- Please stop doing friend tests where you withdraw and silently wait to see if anyone chases you. I know it can be hard, but by making up these tests, you're setting yourself up for resentment and sadness, especially given that your friends don't necessarily even know that a test is in progress.

I used to do this kind of thing myself as a teenager but it never led to anything good and it also turned out not even to be a very good measure of what people really felt. For me, this amount of scorekeeping happened because I was secretly afraid that I wasn't cool/special/worthy enough and therefore maybe my friends didn't really like me and were just hanging out with me out of pity.

I don't know that this instinct comes from a similar place for you, but you might want to think about what's going on that makes you need this level of reassurance, and whether it's really about your friends at all.

-- As a mental exercise, think a bit about how your friends do express their caring for you and intimacy with you. For me at least, my intimate friends are the ones I'd feel okay about inviting to my apartment even when it was a mess and I had no plan worked out other than ordering Thai. It's the less-intimate people that I'd feel I had to impress with a formal dinner party, assuming of course that I ever threw formal dinner parties. YMMV, but people have all kinds of ways of feeling close to others, and I would guess that your friends demonstrate some of that in other ways.

-- If you feel a need for more emotional connections in your life, there may be other ways to find some of those. Other people have suggested seeking other friends more emotionally like yourself or having a larger, more diverse friend group, which will mean you don't need quite such a strong hold on the current set.

You may also find that there are hobbies conducive to sharing: for instance, I've found that writing circles, improv groups, and certain types of RPG groups are sometimes contexts in which people build trust and then intensively share selected aspects of themselves. Even if you don't learn everything about them, you get compelling glimpses into their inner lives. I'd guess that a lot of collaborative creative fields are like this.

In my life, those interactions supplement the other interactions I have with my friends and contribute to the part of my mental health that depends on feeling close to others. At the same time, they're not high drama and everyone gets to go home to his/her own life.
posted by shattersock at 12:52 PM on May 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yikes! Honestly, I think you're out of balance and that you're expecting too much from your friends. They are giving you exactly what they want. You may be giving them MORE than they want to know. (Hence the many LIKES you got on FB--hintity, hint, hint.)

I have a wide circle of friends and I've known them for over 30 years. We very rarely share intimate secrets with each other. Because it's not appropriate.

Fran Liebowitz said, "Spilling your guts is exactly as charming as it sounds." Truer words.

The actual fact of the matter is that most people have friends to do fun things with, and good friends will hold your hand through the hard times, BUT, we draw the line at the gory details of your hysterectomy or exactly how you like to have sex. TMI!

You seem very focused on getting your needs filled, and doing Drama Llama stuff on social media for attention. That will put people at arms length.

I'd feel awkward if someone started oversharing with me, and Wondermouse has some excellent insight as to why your friends may not want to overshare with you.

Adult friendships are different than those you had in childhood, high school and college. They just are. We tend to be intimate with our significant others, and enjoy our friends on a more cursory level.

Also, FWIW, I'm a big 'ole extrovert.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:55 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I found this quote online (here: http://natalie-christine.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-greatest-thing-youll-ever-learn.html ) and i think it sums up why being emotionally intimate with others is important to me:

“I don’t want to be known on a surface level. I want people to know who I am, where I come from, and why I am the way I am... so that way I know that they truly love me for me. I don’t want people to just know me as the ‘nice, funny, girl who loves God’. I want them to know why I am that way. I want them to know me beyond just labels. I want them to know my heart.

I don’t think there is anything scarier and at the same time safer than being fully known by someone. It is a vulnerable place because there is risk involved…but once you can get past the initial fear…it’s a safe place to rest. You can rest their knowing that you are accepted, you are loved, and you are understood.

I have several people in my life who fully know me. Deep at a heart level. They know my unspoken thoughts, my tendencies, my weaknesses, my strengths, my pain…they see my heart and they love my heart. And it is the best feeling in the world. These are the friends who speak truth to me. Who I tell everything to. Who I cry to.Who I laugh with. Who I share my life with. Because I know that they love me for all I am. I don’t have to hide. I can just be me."
posted by TestamentToGrace at 1:06 PM on May 30, 2013


Do you gossip? At all? Even a little bit? Do you share any information about your friends with other people, even information you believe to be completely harmless? Because I have a relative who looooves to gossip, and is also very interested in having deep and personal connections with their friends and family... but they gossip. I know even trivial information is going to be passed on down a list of phone numbers like it's their job, so I've shut down on sharing.

I share more with my friends, but I know we all talk and I stick closely with the idea that if I don't want the world to know, well, it's not a secret if two people know. (And I just assume any married couples share any and everything I might say.) It sounds like you have a list of Deep and Personal Issues that you share with people, but also that you'll share them with anyone to attempt to form a type of bond you are seeking. Most people don't have that list, and they aren't hunting down people to share their hidden moments with.

I think kids are more like that, I remember meeting people at camp and having giggling Truth or Dare games, or I Never, and over-sharing our lives. I can't imagine doing any of that as an adult. Maybe you are trying to relive those moment from your childhood?
posted by Dynex at 1:09 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


You keep reiterating about how a very specific form of friendship is important and necessary to you. Does what is important and necessary to your friends matter equally in this equation? (This is not meant to be snarky or unkind, though it may come across that way on screen.)

Do you care about knowing your friends' feelings and experiences because they are your friends' feelings and experiences and knowing them says something about them? Or do you care about knowing your friends' feelings and experiences because they mirror your own and knowing them says something about you?
posted by scody at 1:14 PM on May 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


Also, this question is sort of a bummer because I was hoping that you would find an "oversharing friend" by meeting a n extroverted organizer of things in the DC area.

I might add that while the social norms of the petite bourgeoisie get a bad name around here, what you're missing is that the social norms of the people you meet and work with are not conducive to this kind of emotional oversharing. Among the professional classes in the northeast, people just don't tend to air their problems and emotional state in public. It gets coded as "drama."
posted by deanc at 1:15 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


While that kind of deep connection is really lovely, it's not something you can or should force. Not everyone in the world is going to want that with you, not even people who are otherwise good pals, and it's not very nice to push them towards it when they've made that clear. Even people who can grow into that space eventually aren't usually going to do it all at once (again: that seldom happens outside of stressful situations.) It's sort of like AskMe questions that go "I've gone on all of these first dates, and none have turned into the love of my life, why?" and the answer usually boils down to "you can't force that connection, you just have to be patient", sometimes with a side of "do you think perhaps your expectation that casual dating will quickly transmute into true love is scaring people off?"
posted by kagredon at 1:16 PM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Today in a fit of passive aggressive angst I posted on FB

I've done the little self-pity party "tests"

getting people to share their inside emotional state is like pulling teeth

I sit down and remind a particular friend that I consider emotional sharing and initiating activity to be a key part of friendship

friends, especially "best" friends owe each other an emotional intimacy

Stop doing that. Really, really truly stop doing that.

If I were your friend all of this passive-aggressive (or in some cases actively-aggressive) pushing would have exactly the opposite effect of what you want. It comes off as needy and a little off-putting, to be honest.

I find that the older I get, the less need I have for the kind of "intimate sharing of deep secrets" you seem to equate with friendship. I like my friends just fine, but the idea of even having deep secrets to share seems a bit... I don't know, overdramatic, maybe. Yeah, new job, thinking of having a baby, whatever -- it's just life, you know? I don't need to plan out who should hear my news before other people, or keep score on who's sharing what with me before everyone else or who "owes" what to who... god, just the idea of keeping track of that sort of thing is exhausting even to think about.

Which, well, that's the difference between introverts and extroverts. Socializing of the type you want is really draining for me, even though it's energizing for you.

How could I (an extrovert) have attracted so many introverts as friends?

This is normal, to be honest. True extroverts -- which you seem to be -- seem to be quite uncommon. It's a spectrum, not two opposite poles, of course, but the vast majority of people are (I think) much closer to intro- than extro- (and become more and more introverted as they get older, or else reserve the sort of deep intimacy you're talking about for their spouses, or both.) I can think of a grand total of five people I've met in my entire life who I'd classify as true, 100% extroverts -- maybe this is selection bias on my part, since the people I've met are just the people I've met, not a true cross-section of society -- but with those few people there's an intensity and desire in the way they go into a conversation that really obviously stands out as different from everyone else; even on first meeting you can tell.

Is it common to have one friend doing most of the initiating and i'm just putting imagined norms on behavior that i shouldn't that are creating unrealistic expectations?

Totally, totally normal and common. Most social groups tend to gravitate around one or two extroverts who do most of the organizing and initiating, because the majority of people don't actually enjoy doing the organizing and initiating but are more than happy to come along for the ride when someone else does it. You're that person. It's a valuable and important role! You should feel good about it!

This doesn't mean that your friends don't like you, or that they don't value your friendship. You don't need to feel lonely or needy, you just need to accept that what most other people get or want from friendships is not the same thing you get or want from friendships.

And most importantly you need to accept that that's okay, and stop "testing" and pushing and pressuring them into trying to be more like you, because that will only push them further away.

Either that or find new friends who are more like you.

I found this quote online [...] and i think it sums up why being emotionally intimate with others is important to me

Even as the more-introverted-than-not person that I am, that quote nicely summarizes how I feel about my close friends. But that doesn't make me enjoy talking on the phone. I'm still less likely to invite them to things than some of them are, I don't share every single secret and detail with every one of them. I've known them for years, I've been through lots of stuff with them, therefore I don't need a constant stream of gossipy "sharing" and intimate moments and validation to make me feel safe and loved and understood.

Maybe your friends are more like me than they are like you. You can't make people want what they don't want, or make them express their feelings in ways that aren't the way they express their feelings. It's probably not a good idea to try to force it.
posted by ook at 1:19 PM on May 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


Because I have a relative who looooves to gossip, and is also very interested in having deep and personal connections with their friends and family... but they gossip. I know even trivial information is going to be passed on down a list of phone numbers like it's their job, so I've shut down on sharing.

This. A million times. I am really sensitive to gossip, and particularly when people try to emotionally bond with me by relating, in detail, the personal and emotional problems of someone else. I start to feel, "ok, if I ever tell something personal to this person, he/she is going to have a 'bonding session' with someone else where MY emotional and personal situation is going to be picked over in detail" and I will realize that I can't talk to that person about anything personal.
posted by deanc at 1:19 PM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I found this quote online [...] and i think it sums up why being emotionally intimate with others is important to me


But um...that whole quote is about people knowing YOU. It isn't about YOU knowing OTHER PEOPLE.

Do you really want oversharing friends? Or do you actually want friends who respond better to YOUR emotional oversharing? I am starting to think it's the latter.

If it is the former, I think you really need to bring yourself to an understanding that some people do not want to be known the way you want to be known.

That quote describes a kind of intimacy that I would probably not grant to anyone short of a spouse or parent. And in practice, neither my (ex) spouse NOR my parents have ever had that level of connection with me. Nobody on this earth knows me the way your quote describes and that is because I like it that way.

It's impacted my relationships with people who want what you describe, and I was sad to see those relationships die/change/be diminished. But the alternative would have been torture for both parties, can you understand that? They would always want more than I wanted to give, and I would always feel more exposed than I can stand.
posted by like_a_friend at 1:21 PM on May 30, 2013 [15 favorites]


I understand where you are coming from in this. I think a few things might be going on here:

1) Oprah has brainwashed a lot of people into this whole myth of a best friend thing in a way I think is really unhealthy. Most women I know don't have the kind of best friend the books all talk about. My mother is a classic extrovert, and she has a lot of friends she sees a lot, but the only people she really confides in are her husband and her sisters.

2) People really do go through different stages of life and that's normal and nothing personal. Most of my university friends have moved away. I don't have a lot of local friends right now. Most of my 'sharing' of the the type you describe happens with my significant other and, to a lesser extent, my sister. I'd love to have some more people to go to a movie with. I think the next big friend push for me will be when I have kids and they have friends and we all hang out together.

3) The way you seem to be keeping score here is a little problematic, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. If you told me, as my friend, that you wanted me to make more of an effort, I would be flattered you cared so much and I would do my best. If you told me that the cost of entry was a five course dinner party, which I would have to plan and cook and pay for, I would drop you like a hot potato. I simply haven't got that skillet. That isn't me. If you do enjoy putting on those things, I might be happy to come. And I might be able to reciprocate by treating you at a restaurant or something. But to imply that they have to throw these lavish affairs for you just to be a good friend is IMHO unreasonable.
posted by JoannaC at 1:26 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


That quote...just yuck.

I have several people in my life who fully know me. Deep at a heart level. They know my unspoken thoughts, my tendencies, my weaknesses, my strengths, my pain…they see my heart and they love my heart. And it is the best feeling in the world.

Not for nothing but that's narcissism.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:27 PM on May 30, 2013 [20 favorites]


The quote is fine when taken literally and directly, as a description of how the speaker appreciates the people who know and accept her. You're turning it on it's head so it's more like this:

"I don't want to know others on a surface level. I want to know who people are, where they come from, and why they are the way they are... so that way they know that I truly love them. I don't want to just know people as the 'nice, funny people who love God.' I want to know why they are that way. I want to know them beyond just labels. I want to know their hearts.

I don't think there is anything scarier and at the same time safer than being fully known by someone. It is a vulnerable place to be because there is risk involved... but once they get past the initial fear, it's a safe place to rest. They can rest knowing that they are accepted, they are loved, they are understood.

I have several people in my life who I fully know. Deep at a heart level. I know their unspoken thoughts, their tendencies, their weaknesses, their strengths, their pain... I see their hearts and love their hearts. And it's the best feeling in the world. These are friends to whom I speak truth. Who tell me everything. Who cry to me. Who laugh with me. Who share their lives with me. Because they know that I love them for all that they are. They don't have to hide. They can just be themselves."


Does that not stand your hair on end?
posted by jon1270 at 1:34 PM on May 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


A few DC-area MeFites piped up in your last thread offering to meet up, and several others had great suggestions on where to find fellow extroverts. It seems like it would be more productive to find people who meet your criteria for friendship than to force your existing relationships to conform.
posted by evoque at 1:37 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


None of us are denying that establishing intimacy with others is great. It's great not to have to be guarded with somebody and to feel accepted and loved for who you are. But you're equating intimacy with emotional sharing. And intimacy in adult friendships is generally established through respect and trust and shared experiences and values and outlook on things. I 'share' plenty of emotions with people I feel close to...but that does not necessarily include my saying anything. For example I will share my reaction to something or somebody I observe by glancing across to close person who will have similar reaction and share that emotion...no need to say anything. I will share an experience with my close friend because I get a one sentence email from my close friend where can tell the frustration/pain or whatever and I'll write back three paragraphs that I know summarises all her concerns, acknowledges the feelings she has expressed and encourages her and she'll feel supported and understood and cheered up without my having voiced any of my feelings on the matter.

So repeat after me - Talking about feelings does not equal intimacy. Intimacy in adult friendships does not work like that for most people.

You may also want to consider that the sort of expectations you voice here and the sort of reactions and behaviour you describe reads drama to me. I would not want to be your close friend because, based on what you have said here today, I would not feel comfortable sharing what little I may want to share with you because I have to expect that my feelings, preferences and boundaries would not be respected. The exact opposite of the safe place you want us both to be in.

I would be much more comfortable to share my innermost feelings and thoughts with people who respect my boundaries and don't start to throw tantrums on fb. The sort of person I know well enough to know that they will glance back at me across the room when observing whatever it may be...sharing the same reaction without ever having to expressly establish that. The sort of person who I can send the one line email to and get half a page of support and encouragement and diversion back without having to explicitly share anything.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:37 PM on May 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


“I don’t want to be known on a surface level. I want people to know who I am, where I come from, and why I am the way I am... so that way I know that they truly love me for me. I don’t want people to just know me as the ‘nice, funny, girl who loves God’. I want them to know why I am that way. I want them to know me beyond just labels. I want them to know my heart.

The thing is, I feel this way about my closest friends, and I hope they feel this way about me. But it really hasn't come about from deep emotional sharing - at least, not regularly. Ingrid saw me through some tough shit; likewise Jen and Joellynn and several others. And I've seen them through tough things too. But we don't talk like that all the time. I don't feel like I have to come up with a secret inner thought to share with them in order to keep that sense of intimacy. The sharing and helping and being vulnerable stuff has all happened pretty organically. And none of that is the sole basis for our relationships' intimacy, which also includes stupid fun shit we've done, TV shows we love, cat stories, etc.

On preview because I type slow: Yes, you can want what the quote outlines. But you can't *make* other people give it to you, and you can't expect them to want that in the same way.
posted by rtha at 1:39 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Although its focus is on romantic relationships, your pose reminded me of the Five Love Languages. It's not wrong to want the kind of sharing you seem to want, but it's also not wrong to NOT want that. Do your friends contribute goodness to your life in other ways? Maybe they think that's the valuable part of the friendship--accompanying you on world-wide trips, giving you the limelight to make you the center of the social group.

They may also simply not have that level of emotional complexity to give. I mean, for real, most of my internal life is spent thinking about knitting patterns and food and the funny thing my toddler did yesterday. Pretty much only my mom and husband get greater depth; other friends maybe once every few years (and very few of them). If you were looking for this from me, it wouldn't be possible to get. Which doesn't mean I don't love my friends, and love caring for them in ways that I can provide.
posted by tchemgrrl at 1:42 PM on May 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


You talk in this post about trying to drag information out of people, or force it out of them. It seems like you're feeling really anxious and desperate to change your situation, but this isn't the way to do it. I am a big introvert, but I have a bunch of good friends and we talk to each other about a lot of big things, not just superficial stuff. Here are my suggestions:

1. Stop trying to squeeze or scold people into telling you what they're feeling. You are totally allowed to ask people questions about themselves, but if they give you a short answer or deflect the question, then change the subject to something more neutral. You may feel like you're abandoning those friendships to banality, but what you're actually doing is signalling to people (maybe for the first time) that you're going to respect their boundaries and let them tell you things in their own time.

2. Start telling people stories because you want to share the story with them, not because you expect them to then immediately reciprocate. Sharing confidences works like that when you're in elementary school, but not in the adult world. I usually tell a new friend something small, and then I pay attention to how they react. If they make me feel safe, I will share more. If I regularly feel judged about small dumb things, then there is no way I am going to share more intimate details with that person, no matter how long we've known each other.

3. You might also consider what counts to you as "sharing." Do you think emotional intimacy only looks like big, melodramatic outpourings? Do you discount smaller gestures of intimacy because you're only looking for the big ones, and thereby accidentally signal to people that you're not a safe person to tell things to?

4. I share things with people I trust, and how they act matters as much as what they say. In this post you've mentioned a couple of behaviors that would make me reluctant to share my inner world with you; anyone who badgers me about how I need to "open up more" gets relegated to the outer foyer of my heart and never gets invited closer, unless they figure it out one day and stop badgering me.

5. Do you like animals? Have you ever had a cat? Ever dealt with a cat before? Introverts are a lot like cats, I think. You've got to signal to them that you're going to let them do their own thing (without being guilted into doing anything they don't want to do). If you pointedly ignore them: "Look at me, I'm not talking to you!" or if you try and smother them with affection, they are (both cats and introverts) going to twig to what you're doing and either stay away or wiggle away at the nearest possible opportunity. But if you walk around in the world, happily doing your own thing and being kind to them when you cross paths, then they're much more likely to come to you of their own voilition and get closer.
posted by colfax at 1:53 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


On preview, maybe it might help if i explained the sort of "emotional" information I want to share and be shared with me. I don't share for the express purpose of manipulating others to share back but b/c i like sharing. And i want them to share also b/c i'm interested in them and what's going on with them and b/c it makes me feel dangerously vulnerable (instead of just good vulnerable) knowing that it's all one sided and they know all my stuff i don't know much of theirs. It feels like they have all the leverage and advantage and potential to hurt me if they wanted.

The kind of stuff I want to be able to share in a relationship and have shared with me:

-the current and confidential struggles/temptations we are each facing in our Christian walk (accountability partners; and obviously only applies to my friends of shared faith). lets help each other stay strong and lean on each other in this way.

-really big exciting news, and if i'm allegedly your "best" friend i want to hear it first, not along with everyone else in the world on facebook at the same time. when i get exciting news the first thing i want to do is run and tell my husband and also my best female friend. i want to be that same female friend to someone else.

-fears, dreams, aspirations. these things aren't things you think about or talk about every day, but if we are good friends i should be able to say, yes, i really know her, i know what she values most in life, what she's most afraid of, what her favorite foods and childhood memories are.

-etc


Does this addl information help?
posted by TestamentToGrace at 1:53 PM on May 30, 2013


You could look for a drinking buddy. Friendships in my younger days often included getting plowed and saying a bunch of shit I normally wouldn't. Bonding occurred. I'm not sure it would still work now--I might just fall asleep. Don't turn yourself into a drunk.

As I've gotten older I am less interested in deep sharing friendships than I used to be. Sometimes I miss having a best buddy but mostly I don't. You may need to lower your expectations.
posted by mattu at 1:56 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay, so, when asked, your friends have actually told you why they don't share more deep thoughts with you, but nothing they said was enough to appease you. Even though they said they just hate talking on the phone, you take it personally that they never call you. Let's assume they were being honest. There seems to be something intangible that you still feel you're missing out on, no matter what they say. I get the impression nothing they do will be good enough unless they communicate exactly the way you do.

What if your friends really don't have any intimate secrets they are interested in talking about with anyone? What if they enjoy the events that you throw, but they aren't compelled to have events of their own?

Going by the way they responded to your passive-aggressive Facebook post, maybe they like you but find you a bit overbearing or dramatic, but they're too polite to tell you that.

It also seems like maybe you're a bit oblivious to the hints they've tried to drop when you prod them about it. I say this based both on how you've said they react to your prodding, as well as how you've reacted to the responses you've gotten to this question. You just keep wanting to force this stuff out of people, and you seem to expect that everyone wants to talk about this stuff with their good friends, but the fact is a lot of people just aren't interested in doing that.
posted by wondermouse at 1:57 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does this addl information help?

Frankly it makes me think you haven't heard a word anyone in this thread has said.
posted by ook at 1:58 PM on May 30, 2013 [19 favorites]


I would be much more comfortable to share my innermost feelings and thoughts with people who respect my boundaries and don't start to throw tantrums on fb.

In this post you've mentioned a couple of behaviors that would make me reluctant to share my inner world with you; anyone who badgers me about how I need to "open up more" gets relegated to the outer foyer of my heart and never gets invited closer, unless they figure it out one day and stop badgering me.

Please pay close attention to these sorts of comments. This is exactly what I meant by saying that your strategies for intimacy aren't working, and are in fact likely to accomplish the opposite of what you say you want.

Does this addl information help?

It's revealing that you keep talking about what you want and need, but don't really seem to recognize that what other people want or need is equally a part of the equation of genuine friendship and intimacy. Do other people's needs matter even a little to you?

If you really want true mutual closeness with some of your friends (whether existing friends or new friends), it is URGENT that you start to develop the adult skills of empathy, acceptance, and respect for other people's needs, boundaries, desires, and true selves. (You may indeed have these skills, but they don't seem all that evident based on what you're sharing here.)
posted by scody at 1:58 PM on May 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's especially painful that i am having trouble finding a christian friend who is willing to share regarding her christian walk. with my closest friend i have made it a point to share this stuff and she knows the worst most ugly things i wrestle with (and she is receptive to being that person, i don't just randomly emotionally vomit on her, and she is helpful and encouraging in helping me tackle things and be a better christian). so we've got one half of the intimacy down. on the other hand she rarely shares items of this nature with me and so i sort of end up feeling like she must have everything figured out, not wrestle with any temptations and that i'm just a loser. i KNOW intellectually that isn't true, but the fact that i am giving her the raw guts of how things really are in my life and in my heart (versus just what people tend to expose on the surface) and she's not ends up leaving me feel like she's "above" me and breeds resentment. it's like "here are my struggles" and she's implying "oh, i don't have any struggles myself" like she's better than me, or i don't know what. gah. does that make sense at all? it makes me feel like we aren't really equals in the friendship, in life, in anything.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 2:00 PM on May 30, 2013


Gently, meant with all kindness--your earlier posts indicate a pretty harsh and isolated upbringing, that seems to have left you with some gaps in how the world works. Did you, as was suggested in these threads, ever seek therapy, by any chance?

Your most recent update is really sad, and actually sheds quite a bit of light on what's going on here. Your emotions make sense, but they have literally nothing at all to do with your friend, and everything to do with your internal state. You are drowning in so much pain and perceived rejection that you can't even see your friend. You see only the judgmental picture of her that your own brain pretty much made up out of nothing.

Therapy. It's a MeFi cliche for a reason; most of us in the internet-having world really, really need it.
posted by like_a_friend at 2:04 PM on May 30, 2013 [18 favorites]


does that make sense at all? it makes me feel like we aren't really equals in the friendship, in life, in anything.

Yes, it does. But do you realise that all of this is about you, how you feel and about your insecurities, not about how your friends feel in general and about you in particular? You may want to explore that in therapy. But this has NOTHING to do with your friends or the esteem they hold you in and everything with your insecurities.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:04 PM on May 30, 2013


Re: your most recent update -- It sounds to me like you want to be someone's christian therapist. Or you want to be an external processor's sounding board.

People don't all work like that/need that. Maybe this is somewhat related to you wanting to feel needed the way you need people? If so, learning about other people's actual needs -- rather than hearing about their struggles using the language/method you use -- might be helpful.
posted by cranberry_nut at 2:05 PM on May 30, 2013


the fact that i am giving her the raw guts of how things really are in my life and in my heart (versus just what people tend to expose on the surface) and she's not ends up leaving me feel like she's "above" me and breeds resentment. it's like "here are my struggles" and she's implying "oh, i don't have any struggles myself" like she's better than me, or i don't know what.

The competitive subtext that you're reading into your friendship is really unhealthy, because this is a huge extrapolation to make just from someone not sharing as much as you. Plus, if you really do think she feels that way, why are you friends with her? You might find this thread helpful, concerning friendship and advice. To sum up, people are different in how they give and receive advice, and just because she doesn't ask you for it as often doesn't mean that she thinks she's smarter or anything. (Consider, too, that talking you through problems might be part of how she learns to deal with them herself, and that you're actually helping her as she's helping you.)
posted by kagredon at 2:08 PM on May 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


It feels like they have all the leverage and advantage and potential to hurt me if they wanted.

It's especially painful that i am having trouble finding a christian friend who is willing to share regarding her christian walk. with my closest friend i have made it a point to share this stuff and she knows the worst most ugly things i wrestle with (and she is receptive to being that person, i don't just randomly emotionally vomit on her, and she is helpful and encouraging in helping me tackle things and be a better christian). so we've got one half of the intimacy down. on the other hand she rarely shares items of this nature with me and so i sort of end up feeling like she must have everything figured out, not wrestle with any temptations and that i'm just a loser. i KNOW intellectually that isn't true, but the fact that i am giving her the raw guts of how things really are in my life and in my heart (versus just what people tend to expose on the surface) and she's not ends up leaving me feel like she's "above" me and breeds resentment. it's like "here are my struggles" and she's implying "oh, i don't have any struggles myself" like she's better than me, or i don't know what. gah. does that make sense at all? it makes me feel like we aren't really equals in the friendship, in life, in anything.

Okay, here's the meat of the situation. Hooray!

So, look at why you are afraid that someone will turn on you if you don't have leverage (which is basically what you're talking about). Or why you feel that someone will turn on you in general. I have struggled with this feeling that friends - even people I really liked and admired - might turn on me for reasons I could not control. I did not realize, actually, that I don't worry about that any more until reading what you wrote here. But I worried about it into my mid thirties. Why don't I worry about it? On one hand, I've developed (mostly through therapy) a stronger sense of self and more of a "well, if these people don't like me, there are other people who will" attitude. On the other, I actually had a conversation with a friend - who has been a good friend to me, actually - in which I said this, and somehow just talking about it made it dissipate. I'd suggest looking more closely at this fear.

And then, it sounds like you need someone from your church community who will also be a good friend to you. To me, that's a bit of a different ask - it's more specialized and thus more reasonable, as if I said "I really want a friend I can talk deeply about literature with" rather than "I really want a friend whose ear I can talk off just because". So you need a highly specialized friend! Can you do more highly-specialized friend-seeking via religious organizations or projects? Someone whose religious practice supports these kinds of conversations is a much better candidate for friendship than just a random person. Basically, you're looking to have conversations that are also spiritual exercises - clearly, not everyone is going to be up for that, but it's a perfectly reasonable wish! Perhaps getting more involved in some religious activity might help?

I'd suggest letting go of your wishes about your general body of friends and seeking out a friend or friends whose interest in ethics/spirituality is closer to yours.

Also, explore the fear angle.
posted by Frowner at 2:13 PM on May 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


on the other hand she rarely shares items of this nature with me and so i sort of end up feeling like she must have everything figured out, not wrestle with any temptations and that i'm just a loser. i KNOW intellectually that isn't true, but the fact that i am giving her the raw guts of how things really are in my life and in my heart (versus just what people tend to expose on the surface) and she's not ends up leaving me feel like she's "above" me and breeds resentment.

I can picture myself exactly in this situation, and here is how I would respond to you: basically, it would go like this:
You: [detailed description of an emotional experience in which your beliefs were tested with intimate details of the situation and your emotional state and perhaps a little bit of TMI about the situation]

Me: Mmmm... Yes, I've been there. It's tough. Hang in. Read the writings of so-and-so who mentions grappling with this.
It's not that I don't particularly like you in this situation. It's that I'm just a by nature very private person and am really, really uncomfortable with re-living all those struggles. Plus, much of my own identity is tied up with being able to present myself as a stable, "has-it-together" person despite my own problems and turmoil. You're expecting people to put aside their identity as a favor to you, and they're not going to do that.

I don't know how much of this is about inner nature and how much of it is just social norms. But if someone said, "I talk in a really loud voice when talking with friends, and my other friends don't really like that and only respond to me in a softer voice. How do I get them to talk in a loud voice with me?", I don't think we'd say, "You are a loud-talker and need to find other loud-talkers." What I think we'd say is, "You have to learn that people speak in a moderate-volume when speaking with each other." This may be an issue of you learning social skills and expectations and adjusting them accordingly.
posted by deanc at 2:16 PM on May 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


it's like "here are my struggles" and she's implying

If she's actually a friend who cares about you, then I hope this isn't something she's implying. It may well be something you are inferring - but that is on you.

It sounds like a friendship that doesn't make you happy (breeds resentment, etc.), and it doesn't sound healthy for you. Your options include ending the friendship, changing it to a less deep level, or adjusting your expectations.

It's very hard to find the One Perfect Friend who is in one single person. Perhaps impossible. So quit blaming yourself and your friends for not being able to attain the unattainable. If you really want a friend with whom you can explore the more frightening aspects of faith and doubt, then that may be someone who is only that kind of friend, and not also the kind who knows every detail of your childhood, first pet's name, etc. They may (I hope!) also be someone you can just have light-hearted chats with as well, but you're putting an awful lot of weight on one kind of relationship.
posted by rtha at 2:18 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


This reminds me of another situation... there was this person who was really persistent and really good at dragging out some personal information and experiences from me. Things that were difficult and a stage in my life that I don't really enjoy talking about and am proud of having moved on from. Now, did this make me feel more "bonded" to that person? Actually, just the opposite: I am very uncomfortable talking about those things, and after hanging out with her, my mind made the mental association of "this person == feelings of discomfort." And that kind of screwed up our whole interaction, because my subconscious always associates her with being uncomfortable. So when you're trying to get what you want out of these friends of yours, you're making them uncomfortable, and you're pushing them away because they think to themselves, "every time I am with TestamentToGrace, I feel uncomfortable and awkward," and a Pavlovian response develops.
posted by deanc at 2:23 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


It sounds like you're anxious and sad and scared you're not good enough, and that you think the solution to this is to force other people to confide in you, which will then make you feel good and validated and loved and happy. But if you're really as unhappy as you sound, then I predict that even if you could get people to open up to you, you would still feel sad, anxious, and scared you weren't good enough, because you'd hear everything they told you through your own mental filters, and so you'd only hear the parts that made you feel even worse about yourself.

So maybe instead you need to focus on how to start feeling happier with yourself. Do you have a priest you could talk to about your spiritual worries? Can you find a therapist? Or at least read some books, like Feeling Good by David Burns? Can you start keeping a journal of some kind? Make a list of how you help yourself feel better when you get sad, and start consciously doing those things when it happens? Can you find some mantras to help you when you're getting scared and panicky that you're a loser? I'll share something slightly embarrassing with you: when I'm feeling down and worried that I do everything wrong, I listen to Poco's song, "Keep on Tryin'", because it helps me remember that all I can do is keep trying to live my life as best as I can.
posted by colfax at 2:32 PM on May 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am a passive, insecure-about-putting-myself-out-there, introvert. I think I must be just like your friends. I rarely communicate without being prompted to. I almost never, never make a plan that involves inviting people somewhere or organizing something. I am scared of intimacy. I share things in great drunken-type bursts. Yes, I know I am a bad friend, but I can't seem to change this about myself, except for that as I get older, I see how important friendships are and I am doing my best to initiate things on my own.

I really just wanted to strongly, strongly second this:

You have to ASK an introvert [to get them to share things]

and this:

Is it common to have one friend doing most of the initiating and i'm just putting imagined norms on behavior that i shouldn't that are creating unrealistic expectations?

Totally, totally normal and common. Most social groups tend to gravitate around one or two extroverts who do most of the organizing and initiating, because the majority of people don't actually enjoy doing the organizing and initiating but are more than happy to come along for the ride when someone else does it. You're that person. It's a valuable and important role! You should feel good about it!
posted by kitcat at 2:42 PM on May 30, 2013


most of my friends have come from folks who joined the meetup groups I was organizing, some come from church, and some come from other social events or friend of friends. I've got a healthy mix of liberals and conservatives, a blend of friends who share my religious views and those who don't, and a mix of male, female, married, single, and DINK friends.

I was holding a weekly dinner party (5-6 courses, 5-15 people, lots of fun and great food, i prepared everything and ppl just needed to show up), a quarterly tea, and many other events


Lots of really good answers, but just one thing about this. I'm an introvert who usually makes friends with people who are somewhat more extroverted than I am. I do initiate plans, mostly because logistically I usually will be the one traveling when I meet people. But I would be extremely hesitant to initiate plans or even just email you to say hi. Because I would assume you have a million people to talk to and events to go to and your schedule is full, and if you (confident extroverted person) wanted to talk to me (lame quiet person) you would do that. I wouldn't want to impose on your busy social life with my little plans.

Have you ever said to your friends, not in a passive aggressive way but just put it out there, that you're often alone on weekends [or whenever] and it would be cool if they/someone would text you and ask you to go for a walk [or whatever]?
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:56 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


The comments telling you that you sound needy are really pissing me off. No, it's not expecting too much to want emotional intimacy from your few closest friends. No, it isn't at all abnormal to get frustrated when there is no reciprocity. You are justified in your feelings, and you should bring them up to your friends in a calm, and non judgemental way (ex: "I could use some support right now" or "I've been missing you, can we make plans?" or "I'm interested in what's been going on with your life?")

Passive aggressive tests like the one you put on Facebook will get you nowhere, though. If you have a problem with specific people you should speak to them about it. It's uncomfortable, but open and direct communication is the best method.

Also I would bet that no one in your life does this specifically to hurt you. Don't take it to heart - a lot of people are focused on their own responsibilities and will just drop out of contact for a while. That's normal.

Lastly you should go out to these meetups, maybe take some classes, if you have a dog you could take him/her to the dog park... & just meet people! You don't need to drop your friends, but expanding your social circle could really help. Good luck!
posted by fireandthud at 3:08 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's especially painful that i am having trouble finding a christian friend who is willing to share regarding her christian walk.

So, yeah, there's a LOT to unpack in this followup.

To start with: This particular type of spiritual struggle is maybe best shared with people who aren't your closest friends -- is there by any chance a discussion group at your church, or a pastor or other church member you could have these talks with instead? Because -- I feel like this keeps getting hammered on but it's really important -- different people handle these discussions in different ways. Not everyone thinks of this as "struggles" or has a lot to wrestle with, not everyone who does think of it as having a lot to wrestle with will interpret those struggles within the same spiritual framework (even people within the same religion!) -- basically there is just waaaay too much opportunity for you to talk past each other or to use different vocabularies to say the same things. Friendships are complicated, spirituality is complicated, mixing the two together is overcomplicated.

... so we've got one half of the intimacy down. on the other hand she rarely shares items of this nature with me...

...and then you load her up with all sorts of interpretations of the meaning of her actions which are clearly not the actual meaning of her actions; they're maybe what you would intend if you were behaving the way she was, but -- again, to hammer this in again -- she is not you, she doesn't necessarily deal with intimacy or sharing the same way you do. You're treating her actions as though they're springing from your motivations. Which they are not. You seem peculiarly resistant to the idea that the way you think about friendship is not the same as many (based on this thread I'd even say most) other people do. "One half of the intimacy down" you say -- but that's just not the way many people express intimacy, and it's not fair of you to expect everyone to be the same as you or to express themselves the same way you do.

The resentment, the feeling that she's somehow implying superiority over you, this is entirely coming from you. This is your issue that you're projecting onto your friend. It's not something she's doing. Scorekeeping is bad for you. This is why it's bad for you. It breeds resentment and anxiety out of thin air. You say that you know this intellectually, but in the very next phrase slip right back into talking about it as though you have no understanding of it at all.

I'd really suggest maybe taking some of these questions to your pastor or, yes, even a therapist, because it doesn't seem like the advice of Internet Strangers are going to be sufficient.
posted by ook at 3:13 PM on May 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Even within your religion, not all Christians process their faith walk the same way you do. (I don't, and I'd be super uncomfortable if a friend insisted I had to lay bare all my faults and temptations in order for us to be true friends -- not least because some of my biggest pitfalls have to do with dwelling too much on certain types of thoughts. Talking about them would be the exact opposite the practice I'm trying to follow!) Also, in my experience, mentorship about these issues is often unbalanced because there's no guarantee in a particular pair of people that each one will have mature insights on exactly the needs of the other.

Anyhow, if you want to share your spirituality in that way, you need to pursue something pretty specific, maybe by joining a church-based group or going on spiritually focused retreats. And maybe you could make yourself available to someone who needs you that way, without insisting that person is the same person you turn to as a mentor.

People offer one another different things, because they have different resources and abilities, and that's okay. Your friends may really value your awesome dinner parties without having the money or houseroom or cooking skill or social savvy to throw dinner parties themselves.

Finally, I think the "know someone totally, accept/be accepted totally" ideal assumes that people are static entities and that there is a totality that any person could know and also that such a validation has special value.

Certain people in my life see a part of me no one else has seen, not because I was keeping secrets, but because even I didn't know that aspect of myself existed until I met someone who brought it out. Part of what's amazing about meeting someone new is discovering an outlook on the world I'd never imagined before, discovering them, discovering things about myself I hadn't known. In the same way that if you take an intensive studio art course suddenly you start seeing the world in terms of negative spaces and color mixes and greyscales, if you take an intensive amount of time with a new person, you are changed and expanded by the act. And not because they're giving back the same thing you're giving them, but because you're each offering something new.

So I guess in my view, that's what this knowing-people thing is about: not to get someone to tell me I'm okay, but to be challenged and expanded and made a bigger and better human by contact with other humans.

The eternal worth of my soul, however, is between me and my creator. It cannot be granted or taken away by anyone else.
posted by shattersock at 3:28 PM on May 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


I want to publicly apologize for this; that was glib and unnecessary and I regret expressing my frustrations in that way.
posted by ook at 3:32 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I sympathise a lot with your struggle, because it is something I recognise in myself from time to time, but I will add my agreement to the general tone of the answers so far. If I may be so blunt, there is this ideal of reciprocity that exists in your mind, and it exists in its perfect form purely on your terms. You must let that go. You have to. It is literally poisoning your every thought. At my lowest, I fall into this trap and it colours every interaction that I have and I begin to ascribe motivations that don't exist. Your fears would be valid if you're certain your friends are a petty sort but if they are that petty sort, your best bet is to slowly disengage from them. But it seems likely that they are not.

I feel also that you are operating out of some kind of playbook of human interaction (perhaps due to your upbringing/cultural consumption/socialisation). Follow it if you like, and certainly if you enjoy being the hostess par excellence, then do so, but realise and understand that not everyone may be reading even the same guide to human interaction. If you want to follow this playbook though, then you need to do what I mention earlier, that you need to let go this idea that they must reciprocate in the exact same manner.

I urge you to go beyond asking for sympathy; I urge you to develop a sense of empathy for your friends. Have you seriously put any thought to how they are as people? Have you given some consideration of their own internal logic? Why they act the way they do, it's apparent by now isn't following the same internal logic as yours. Understand that, and be free of your desire and expectations for a mirror. That is what weighing you down. And listening to what they say is the first step. No one can ever be mindreaders, and the quote you shared I find is the daydream of naif. Listen to your friends. Understand perhaps they may be speaking using vocabulary different from yours. Once you begin to acknowledge them, perhaps you can revisit your recollections and see anew that they have always been there for you and have shared, in their own way, their thoughts and dreams.

The key I think, is not to expect to be the first, or the best, or the top in some kind of imagined hierarchy, but to acknowledge humbly that if they shared anything at all, that is a gift. Because if there is a secret to building confidences, it's this: most people subconsciously recognise a personality that acts in this way, that can be a safe harbour, and they would come to you. When you grasp, in that passive-aggressive way, even if they can't articulate why, something about it disinvite sharing. I wish you the best of luck in coming to terms with your need.
posted by cendawanita at 3:34 PM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


In my opinion, your need for intimate conversations is perfectly legitimate. But I'm guessing that there's something in your personality that makes people unwilling to open up to you.

Here's an experiment that will tell you whether I'm right. When you're with three or four other people, notice who each speaker addresses most of the time. Is it you, or is it someone else? This will give you a sense of how people regard you as a listener.

If I'm right—if people tend to address someone other than you in a group—you might try to find out what the problem is. Asking your friends is probably the wrong way to go, for obvious reasons. But if you were to join a therapy group as some others have suggested, it won't be long before you'll have the answer.
posted by markcmyers at 3:39 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think you need a neutral third party. Either a church group where people go specifically to discuss their spiritual journey or a pastor or a therapist (or all three). When we have something that we are ruminating over at length, our friends are often not the best outlet for a solution to that rumination. And, as others have stated, even people in the same church will have different ways of working through their journey. Some aren't struggling and won't be able to identify with that as readily though they may certainly sympathize and be willing to listen. And this is also why we turn to therapy. It's hiring someone who will listen to us process at length and also, hopefully, offer specific ways to cope. They can do that because you are paying them. If your friend says, "why don't you try this exercise...." you'd totally blow them off because what do they know about anything? And it might even feel belittling or sanctimonious. People are aware of not wanting to come across that way so even if they have some advice, they might be hesitant to give it to you.

It kind of reminds me of girls and fat talk. You know, there's this annoying bonding ritual among young people about whether they are fat or unattractive or do-these-pants-look-weird which is based in insecurity. Almost everyone goes through it. Women seem especially prone to standing around exclaiming their faults and then commiserating. It's a way of processing your anxiety, getting positive feedback and offering positive feedback. But, as you get older, you find that your friends tend to get away from that. You have less anxiety. You've accepted that your ass is just doing its thing and there are likely no "miracle jeans" out there. And you like your friends and realize that your liking them has nothing to do with how pretty or thin they are and you hope they feel the same. Those friends who don't have anything better to talk about drift away. But, if you are still having a level of anxiety and looking for a positive feedback loop from your friends that they don't have the energy and inclination to give, you need to try and work that out yourself.

You need to find your people for this discussion and let your drive for spiritual bonding find another outlet. Think about the fact that your drive for connection may actually be driving people away -- I know that doesn't seem fair. Try to see everyone as whole people with their own needs and desires and respect their boundaries while accepting the friendship they are offering you.
posted by amanda at 3:53 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Your most recent update does get to more of the heart of the matter. I feel like what's going on is that you want people to (over)share with you as a way of managing your own discomfort regarding your own feelings and anxieties: that it is soothing to essentially spill your guts and to have someone spill their guts in response, which you then read as confirmation that you are not alone in experiencing painful emotions, nor are you a bad person for having them.

This is an understandable impulse, but at the same time if this is the only model of emotional intimacy that you have, it is -- paradoxically enough -- a recipe for continued unhappiness and lack of intimacy. That's because any sense of being soothed by the existence of someone else's intense private feelings (which function to confirm that you're not alone or bad) is necessarily temporary. Moreover, it can never actually fix the underlying issues -- the fear of inadequacy that you mention, for example, or your questions on your spiritual journey -- that are the source of your intense and sometimes troubling feelings. (It's also a bordering-on-narcissistic way of viewing other people's experiences and feelings, in which their importance is based on what they mean for you rather than what they mean for them.)

This creates a cycle whereby you need to continually (over)share with your friends and expect them to (over)share with you in order to manage the ups and downs of your life. This is almost certainly exhausting and even alienating for your friends. On top of that, even if you could get every single one of your friends to overshare with you every single day, it still wouldn't actually heal what's hurting you.

I think that seeking out spiritual companions/mentors through your church or through Bible study or through Christian meetup groups is an important step. But I also think you must face the fact that not everyone (and possibly not anyone) you meet in that setting will also be ready for Instant Best Friendship of the type you want. They can give you some of what you need, but not necessarily all of it.

Similarly, I think that you need to start appreciating the friends you do have and the ways they do show you their love and concern and the great qualities they possess in general. Truly, sincerely cultivate gratitude and count your proverbial blessings for the people who are in your life. This means looking at them on their own terms, not on yours.

Finally, I think therapy (particularly from a Christian perspective) is really important for you to consider, for the points that others have outlined above. You have a lot of pain that your friendships cannot, by themselves, heal -- not because you have bad friends, nor because you are a bad person, but because it's not the primary function of friendships.

On a certain level -- and this is not to be glib, but truly sincere -- you need to start making the adult realization that we don't always get what we want. You've made it clear that you want an Instant Best Friend who can fill a pretty long laundry list of needs and expectations for you. It's OK that you want that, but at the same time there is nothing, anywhere, that says you're guaranteed to get it. As a Christian, you may find that you can develop an understanding of God and Christ that accounts for this need; existentially, you may find that you can develop a relationship with yourself in which you know, accept, and love yourself unconditionally as well. But as a grownup, I think you have to start finding ways to stop placing this expectation on all the people around you.
posted by scody at 4:01 PM on May 30, 2013 [27 favorites]


If I knew that my friend thought of emotional sharing as conferring "leverage and advantage and potential to hurt", I would never share anything important with that friend.

Have you given your friends grounds to trust you with their intimate emotions and secrets? As others have pointed out, your motivation seems essentially selfish. The reasons you want people to open up to you appear to be (a) you have an image of the kind of friendship you want to be in and you want your friends to conform to it, and (b) so that you can keep spilling to them but feel less vulnerable because you know you have the same leverage over them that they have on you. This approach is not going to inspire trust or a sense of safety in most people.
posted by zeri at 4:18 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


One more thing (sorry, I know I'm commenting a lot) is that I suddenly seem to remember from a previous question that you skipped at least a few grades in high school and entered college a few years earlier than your peers -- is that right?

The reason this suddenly occurred to me, and why it seems relevant, is that I've known a number of people who entered college at least a year or two early (and even earlier in a couple of cases), and every single one of them had some rather significant issues around friendships, sharing, boundaries, empathy, etc. that they had to grapple with in adulthood. They generally seemed stuck in a fairly adolescent sense of what to expect from relationships (whether romantic or platonic), and it wasn't until their 30s that they could traverse the more typical social/emotional ground that most people go over in moving from adolescence to adulthood in terms of understanding what friends are for.

So the point is not just that most people happen to have a different expectation of friendship than you have (though I suspect that is true), or that most people aren't extroverts to the degree you are (though I suspect that is also true). The point is that if this was indeed your experience, it may be an important part of what's anchoring you to strategies that maybe seemed natural or workable as a teenager, but which don't actually have a place in happy, healthy relationships (whether among Christians, or among extroverts, or whatever) once you're an adult.
posted by scody at 4:46 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, I just thought of something relating to people confiding in you. It sounds like your Christianity is a major part of who you are and how you live your life, and presumably your friends all know that. I wonder if some people, even sort of subconsciously, think that means you'd possibly be judgmental or too "good" to relate to their secrets. Obviously that doesn't apply to things like starting a new job, but what if their private matters are things they assume pious Christians would disapprove of? I know that I (not at all religious) have sometimes been the last to find out about somebody's random hook-up or their crazy past just because I don't outwardly come off as subversive enough for them to tell me. It's a little annoying, because I'm totally not judgmental, but for some reason I just strike people as some kind of 19th century prude who would be SHOCKED!

But that happened a lot more when I was younger, like early-mid 20s; now that I think of it, feeling you have to tell people everything about yourself to be their friend happens less the older you get. Which is kind of nice imho. I don't know how old you are but maybe that's something about you that will actually change over time and not be as difficult to deal with for that reason.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:52 PM on May 30, 2013


it's like "here are my struggles" and she's implying "oh, i don't have any struggles myself" like she's better than me

They way you are interpreting this likely bears no relationship to the truth of what your friend is thinking/feeling when you share your struggles with her.

She could just as plausibly be thinking any one of the following:

"I really admire the way TestamenttoGrace is able to share her struggles so openly. She's very brave. And boy does she think deeply about spiritual stuff! I feel so shallow sometimes in comparison."

"Wow, my struggles are so much darker and more shameful than TestamenttoGrace could even imagine. It's hard to even think about, much less talk about. If she asks about my stuff I better change the subject so I won't get too uncomfortable."

"Huh. How interesting! People's Christian walks are so different."

"I gotta remember to make that vet appointment for Scruffy. Oh, and I need to bake three dozen cookies for the bake sale on Saturday!"

"My butt itches. Hope she wraps this story up soon! I really need to scratch."

Point being, since you have no way of reading her mind, you've defaulted to filling in the blank with what to you is the worst-case scenario, that she either thinks she's better than you, or that she actually is the same as you but won't admit it which makes you feel judged.

You could choose not to make assumptions about what she is thinking, and just take your interactions with her at face value if you find benefit in talking to her about your issues even if she doesn't reciprocate.

What you know for sure is that she is, for whatever reason, not willing or able to say "yes, me too" (at least not now and maybe not ever.) And if that is really the main thing you're hoping to get out of your spiritual conversations with her, then you really need to accept that you are barking up the wrong tree, and you should stop sharing things with her that make you feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. It's making you feel crappy and there's not really anything else you can do to change the situation.

I agree with the people above who have suggested you might be able to find what you are looking for in a group setting. Not a gathering of your closest friends where the stakes are high if someone overshares something that turns out to be shocking and appalling, but a therapy group or a spiritual retreat, or maybe even an online forum where people may be more open to discussing their struggles and not so much concerned with being private or saving face like they might in their main social group.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:10 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was a bit confused by this and how it's important to you to actively seek out sharing secrets, etc. I always think of it as something that unfolds naturally and not some big ritual that needs to be orchestrated.

Also, a lot of these interactions start with really low-stakes exchanges. Like I'll be out with a friend and one of us will make some off-hand remark being candid about something someone said or the scenery and then we'll start giggling, and that's the gateway to the intimacy part.

It isn't like "ME: By the way, this breakup has been really tough on me. HER: I want to have a baby. ME: I had to give a huge presentation at work and I was really stressed about it. HER: I had a fight with my mom."

Maybe you're making the environment a little uncomfortable for them somehow and that's why they're not sharing those things. Maybe they can tell that it's a really big deal to you.
posted by mermily at 5:18 PM on May 30, 2013


i'm chiming in here to say a few things. to some degree - i was you. late 30s. i ran a meetup group in the dc area. most of my friends from college had gotten married and were in the child-rearing phase and just didn't have much time to spend with me. so i made a bunch of friends with whom I hung out with several times on a weekly basis for like four years. but over time, as i realized that i was doing most of the initiating, and outreach and that they rarely ever checked in with me, I realized those relationships are totally shallow and conditional and extremely disappointing. i'm really not close to any of them because like you, i got tired of organizing everything, putting forth effort, organizing dinners, etc. Your experience and that of deanc, who mentioned that it is so rare to find in the DC area folks who actually want to hang out in eachother's homes, is exactly what i have experienced. there's girls in my group of friends who not once had any of us over, after hanging out regularly for four years.

i took a serious look at my interactions with the gals that i was friends with and tried to really understand what was going on in their lives and why they weren't open to a closer relationship with me - like your friends, for the most part, they're introverted, and yes i am a little more extraverted. they were very focused on trying to date men and not having much success. i had a lot more success. i think they were jealous of me and tired of hearing about my dates when they were not able to really get any. could that possibly be what is going on with you and your friends?

also, they were grappling with other stresses in life (loss of parents, job, etc.) and didn't find comfort in sharing with me cuz i wasn't facing those issues. i have my parents nearby, i sensed they were jealous of that.

So, after spending hours, days, weeks, stewing in resentment towards these women, i just slowly withdrew, though I have been careful to nat have cut them off completely, but withdrew to the point that if i do see them, its pleasant and maybe fake, but i feel less resentment - now that i've reframed my relationship with them. and the irony is once i took a step back, they sure didn't come after me. sometimes, i get really bitter though that i spent like the greater part of four years of my free time doing a lot of fun stuff with them - lots of dinners out, trips abroad, road trips, etc. but i eventually i came to just accepted it. Radical Acceptance. And I am more at peace. I'm sad but at peace. Now that i have a BF i just do confide more in him than anyone else. they probably resent that i have a BF too. its toxic. i also feel like i've just had a lot of bad luck with finding and keeping female friends. btw, thanks for letting me share.

in sum: other people experience this too - and as soon as i stopped obsessing over it, the feeling of such great disappointment and loss diminished a little. time helps too. and going out there to find likeminded people helps too. good luck :)
posted by dmbfan93 at 5:32 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even when i try to go slow and do the i share a little, now its your turn and you share a little routine, they rarely want to share.

You aren't sharing because you want to share, you are sharing so you can demand to be paid back.

"Sharing" your feelings isn't sharing in the sense that one can share some personal possession.

You want to talk about your feelings. Your friend is kind enough to listen. You aren't giving them something they need to pay you back for.

My best friend and i at this point have a one way accountability relationship in that i tell her most everything that i'm wrestling with and she tells me almost nothing.

Accountability!? You actually think she lacks accountability? If I was your friend, and found out that you felt I lacked accountability because of my personality, we wouldn't be friends any more.
posted by yohko at 5:43 PM on May 30, 2013


yes scody, that is correct, regarding skipping grades. I went from 8th grade to college when I was 14.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 6:07 PM on May 30, 2013


it may be that your friends are *quite* introverted and you do sound pretty extroverted. so, maybe befriend more extroverts or introverts-who-are-more-extroverted. i am an introvert and find i do fall into the habit of being a listener/counselor type and am not so good at sharing my own stuff. it is both a habit but also naturally a part of how i am. asking questions of your friends is always good but if there is any whiff of pressure to share that isn't really going to work. you do have to be a safe person to open up to and know how to make space for the person to do that.

the thing is you can't change people and it does sound a bit like you are trying to change your current friends by their reaction to your FB post. i think toning down your expectations and befriending more extroverts is probably your best bet. also, realizing that your friends are sharing with you their listening and acceptance and counsel so it isn't like the friendship is unequal--it is just different in what you both are bringing to the friendship.

as for the faith aspect is there an accountability group you can join or some other sort of healing/recovery/growth/prayer group? when i've been in those people usually share quite a bit because it is part of the dynamic of the group. you can't exactly have an accountability group or prayer partner when only one person shares.

it may also be the environment of your church if that is where most of your friends are from. some churches have a very accepting vibe where you can share pretty much anything, even publicly, and know you will be not be judged. some other churches--not so much. those are the types of churches i go to and really those environments are rather amazing. (that isn't really a factor of liberal or conservative either; it's more about a church being recovery & healing oriented where everyone knows they have issues to deal with and so are humble and accepting about others' issues as well.)
posted by wildflower at 6:11 PM on May 30, 2013


A church-based reflection/discussion group sounds like a good idea. If there isn't one within your church, maybe use your planning skills to start one.

Other than that: don't force intimacy. This is a major, major cardinal rule of friendship. I will never reveal what I'm really feeling to someone who attempts to force it out of me. I will never cry on the shoulder of someone who acts like they get off on it. During times of grief, I actively avoid people who would use any evidence of vulnerability as an excuse to get close to me. If anyone insinuated that I owed them the kind of intimacy you're describing, I would drop that person like a hot potato.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:15 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I went from 8th grade to college when I was 14.

It's much harder to skip emotional and psychological development than it is to skip grades! Please be kind to yourself. Your need for a particular kind of intimacy doesn't make you a bad person or a bad friend, or anything like that, though it is making difficulties for you. Treat yourself as you would a friend going through hard times: be kind, have patience, and seek some sort of counsel - whether that's with a spiritual support or discussion group that can fill that particular bit of need, or one-on-one with a counselor, or both. Best wishes to you.
posted by rtha at 6:20 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I went from 8th grade to college when I was 14.

Me too, actually (and I just reread your comment in the AskMe about that from a few months ago, and it sounds like we were in similar programs, with respect to the peer group we had there.) This is what I had to learn about friendship after I graduated.
posted by kagredon at 6:25 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want to thank everyone who replied. I tried very hard to be transparent with my thoughts and feelings and likewise I will now work diligently to really and seriously consider the constructive criticism many of you provided.

I do wrestle frequently with selfishness (oh look there I go bearing my struggles) and so of course you can imagine it stings to read that my behavior as described is evidencing selfishness. I didn't think originally it was selfish b/c hey I want to share AND be shared with so that's all even, but I see now that framing the entire purpose of friendship and expectations based on what *I* think it should be about is inherently the wrong way to go about things and selfish. I can't pretend it doesn't make me a lot sad that apparently most other people don't seem to want the same thing out of their adult friendships (christian accountability, a safe space for fears and hopes and dreams, someone who will know you intimately and accept you and challenge you) but instead are mostly seeking companionship and shared experiences. But at least know I can understand that it's more a facet of how adult friendships tend to be structured and not an inherent sign that i'm just not lovable or trustworthy.

A bit more oversharing before we close out: I have a number of half-siblings but have been rejected by them all (really not being overdramatic; it's a statement of fact) as my mother was "the other woman" who my father abandoned his 6 children for and ran off with to have me. So they pretty much all hate me, except for my one sister who said late in adulthood that she realized it wasn't my fault they were abandoned, as in i didn't choose to be born, and began to draw closer to me (sob story: she tragically died in an accident a couple years ago after we began building a relationship). You all who have read my previous questions know I had a pretty shitty childhood so I don't really have any decent parents or other relatives to bond with and feel loved by and close to either. i know that God can heal a lot of the wounds from this sort of childhood stuff and I continue to ask for that ongoing healing and i know that poor boundaries are often the result of these giant holes in our hearts that we want to fill with love and we have to put our minds to improving those boundaries.
I will continue the journey, working toward better acceptance of my friends and their personalities, what they bring to our relationships, and their boundaries.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 6:33 PM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm very late to the party here, but I just wanted to chime in with my experience as an introvert with more extroverted friends who I've felt I can share things with, and those I have felt unable to.

I have a very low tolerance for personal emotional sharing in any given conversation. I mean, I'm willing for it to happen when I have a good friend who needs to talk, but it makes me slightly uncomfortable, and there's a point at which I feel like enough is enough. This is my own issue, and I fully admit this. But it means that any friend or relative who shares deep emotional stuff in every conversation fills up that space and I don't feel I can reciprocate because I've already reached my limit just with their stuff.

Likewise, I am unlikely to ever reciprocate with my emotional stuff in the same conversation where someone else shared theirs. I do feel it creates a bond and an opportunity for me to talk about my issues, but I will wait until a less uncomfortable moment when we've been talking about less consequential things and we're both no longer emotional about their issues. In fact, it feels very rude to me to turn the conversation towards my deep feelings and experiences when they were just talking about something important to them. It seems like if a conversation is about them, then it should stay about them.

I really struggled with this for a while with a friend who was going through cancer for a couple of years, and wanted (understandably) to talk about her struggles and fears every time we spoke. I basically stopped sharing anything with her, because it felt so rude and trivialising to do this with a conversation:

Her: "So I've been thinking about death and God, and wondering about what God has in mind for me with this cancer, and what the deep meaning of it all is. And I felt like he was really speaking to me deep in my soul last night."
Me: "Cool. So at work the other day Horrible Colleague told me I looked fat in my new skirt."

Like, seriously. I couldn't do that. And so because I am not good at subtle transitions, I was never able to bring the conversation around to anything in my life without feeling like I was hijacking something.

The people I have been able to share my stuff with are people who maybe only talk about their own deep feelings and issues once every six or seven times we hang out. Otherwise they keep the conversation light, and we do stuff together where we don't talk much at all, which gives me the space I need to open up. The best and deepest conversations I've had with friends (including about my "Christian walk" back when I was Christian) were when we were hiking together and only talking at all every half hour or so.

***

I socialise with friends at all like once a week or once a fortnight. If you were my friend and hosting dinner parties every week that would more than fill up my social needs all by itself. Even your once a month activities would be enough for me to feel like I was seeing a lot of you, and possibly might be my only social interactions some months. It takes about six months of not seeing a friend before I register that we are out of touch, and maybe even a bit longer than that before I get around to instigating plans to catch up.
posted by lollusc at 7:41 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


So I'm really late to the party, but I really relate your struggle as well, and I think people are being a little harsh on you.

I'm naturally introverted, but I feel that one of my best qualities is that when I trust someone, I am able to open up to them, and ultimately they to me, in a way that makes me feel like I have truly connected with another person, way beyond the superficial "how was your weekend?" smalltalk that so many of our social interactions revolve around. Growing up, I had three friends who knew everything about me--if I went to the bathroom, they probably knew about it--we did everything together, all the time, so much fun always. Then I went to college far away and never quite found the same intimacy with another group of girls, and that was hard for awhile because I felt like there was something wrong with me, like I was too weird and annoying for the rest of the world.

It took me a long time to figure out that adult friendships are not like those inseparable childhood bonds. I used to take great offense when I learned through Facebook about someone's major life event, especially when it seemed like I was the last to know. "Why didn't they tell me sooner?" I'd ask, and answer with, "It must be because they don't care about me and aren't interested in sharing their life with me." This is a faulty narrative. This way of thinking assumes that everyone's actions are centered around me, and that everything somehow relates to me and is a reflection of my character when the truth is, most people really do have a lot going on, and in between work, relationships, weekends, families and other commitments, don't get around to updating me about every little thing going on in their lives. But if I ask, they are more than happy to tell me. It's not about me. I tell myself that whenever I go for awhile without hearing from someone, because chances are they're not sitting around thinking about how awful I am and how they're purposely not going to text or call, they're probably just busy.

I'm also a Christian, and I do have those friends who hold me accountable, accept me, and challenge me. It took a long time for those relationships to develop. I also have other friends with whom I share very intimate details of my life, and they with me. It's possible, even in adulthood, but not everyone is that way, and it really just takes time. Some Christians are also wrapped up in being perceived as the perfect Christian, and it can be really difficult for these types to be honest, as they are concerned with maintaining an impeccable image of themselves. There are some girls I've known for years that I would never dream of sharing certain things with, and some I've known for a few months who have my complete trust and openness.

I have a diary that I've kept for 13 years. That's where all my deepest, darkest secrets lie, and I never have to worry about it rejecting me.
posted by thank you silence at 7:53 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wanting something specific out of the nature of a friendship is poison in the well.

Every friendship is different and there is no way of knowing what kind of friend you are making going in.

You are wanting really specific things but not getting them and that is making you de-value all the good things you are getting. Your expectations are creating disappointment and resentment.

These people are who they are: kind, giving, thoughtful, maybe a little introverted but you are going to wind up hating them because they are not who you imagined them to be or hoped they would become. That is a disservice to both you and them.
posted by French Fry at 8:29 PM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


apparently most other people don't seem to want the same thing out of their adult friendships (christian accountability, a safe space for fears and hopes and dreams, someone who will know you intimately and accept you and challenge you) but instead are mostly seeking companionship and shared experiences.

I'd say most of us DO want these things in our adult friendships (maybe minus the spiritual aspect) - it's how we get to that level of friendship that is different from what you seem to be expecting.

The companionship and shared experiences are what build up a level of trust and empathy between two people, until eventually they are willing to share some of the deep dark secrets. In their own time, and in their own way, because they trust each other, not because there's some kind of tit-for-tat expectation of "I've opened up to you, now you open up to me."

If I need to go to my friends with a heavy burden, I know they'll listen and empathize and do anything in their power to help if they can. But that's after years of hanging around drinking beer and talking about punk rock bands or going to weirdo art movies or trying the new hot restaurant in town. Shared experiences are a very important step on the path to deep friendships, and a crucial way of maintaining those deep friendships.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:15 PM on May 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


If you went to college at 14, you're used to being an outsider of sorts. This speaks to an accepting nature:


most of my friends have come from folks who joined the meetup groups I was organizing, some come from church, and some come from other social events or friend of friends. I've got a healthy mix of liberals and conservatives, a blend of friends who share my religious views and those who don't, and a mix of male, female, married, single, and DINK friends. I can't identify any unifying factor to most of them except that they all tend to be introverted. I draw introverts to me apparently.


But I read it and I think "These aren't her friends. These are people she's friendly with. These are people she likes and who like her to varying degrees." But the fact that there is no common thread suggests your use of the word "friend" is overbroad. And, really, what you're describing seems to be relationships that feel shallow to you, where no matter how hard you try you are left hanging—and wanting.

So you give what you have to give, what you're good at: Elaborate parties. But what you're doing without realizing it is giving in trade. "Here is what I'm good at! It's all yours! Enjoy! We're really, really friends now, right? I've given it my all."

I've done that. Oh, boy, I've done that. And my experience is like yours: People like me, they attend my parties, they think fondly of me, but it doesn't add up, really.

You can't enact a trade if the other person doesn't realize you're trading. It's like giving a gift, but thinking of it as a loan. To put it yet another way, friendship is not a transaction: You can't buy friendship, even with all the best intentions in the world. It's confusing because society tells you if you're nice, you will be rewarded. And you are, in a way. People probably think you're fun; they certainly think you're popular, and they enjoy the environment you create, especially if they're introverts and need a little help from someone more extroverted to enjoy a satisfying social life.

But that doesn't mean you have enough in common to be really close friends. And given your religious convictions, I wonder, too, if you aren't still a little bit of an outsider, much as you were in school. By that I mean religious culture differs not just from church to church but also from region to region in this country. Expectations about how to practice your faith and interact with other Christians are different from North to South, to use the most obvious example. So I don't know where you come from, but if you came from a very religious part of the country and now live in a more secular part of the country, this, too, could be hampering your interactions with other Christians....

Anyway, I disagree with the harsh commentators on the thread. I don't think you're being selfish. You're talking about longing and friendship and trying very very hard. Those are all admirable qualities. And the fact that you don't feel that people are trying back, and the fact that what you really want to do is connect, through your faith are also very human desires.

And, yes, I think you've been trying to do your part. I also don't think it's impossible to have one or two really close friends, including ones with whom you share religious convictions. But it can take a while to find friends like that, and sometimes even the best of friendships fade away due to the usual life distractions. In this sense close friendship is a near constant search, with intermittent periods of satisfaction. Or at least in my experience. Sometimes, it's also just the luck of the draw.

I think you should keep giving parties if you really enjoy giving parties. And, darn, you sound good at it, so I really hope you do. I also agree with the commentators who said you might consider reaching out to others within your religious community to find others who seek to integrate their personal and religious lives in the way you seem to want to.

For what it's worth, I always found I was happiest when I had three or four close friends at a time. (It's hard to pull off, but there have been periods....) Thus, with one friend I could talk about certain kinds of specialized interests; another would function as my closest confidante; a third I would just have lots of fun with.... Having a small group of close friends is helpful because it allows you to express different parts of your personality with different kinds of people, and therefore not have overly high expectations that any one individual to fulfill all your needs. But again, finding, nurturing, and maintaining friendships is not always easy.

If you visit this link you'll find a whole blog all about female friendship. I include it here because I thought the chart and commentary on the five circles of "connectedness" within friendship seemed very apropos. Until I saw it, it had never occurred to me there were more than say three (overbroad) categories of friendship: friendly acquaintance, friend, close or best friend. But the author instead describes contact, common, community, confirmed, and committed friendships.

Her framework is helpful in rolling back expectations of "friends" because identifying and naming different kinds of relationships is an effective way to begin to understand their role in your life, and yours in theirs. And maybe that will help you understand both what you've got and what you seek a little better.

Best.
posted by Violet Blue at 12:33 AM on May 31, 2013 [10 favorites]


Hey OP, I just wanted to reach out and give you a hug. You sure got a lot of criticism in this thread, and even though I do not really have the time to write out my thoughts on this subject, I wanted to let you know you are not alone.

So, full disclosure: I, too, am a Christian. And I have experienced the whole "being more into (some of) my friends than they were into me" stuff. And yes, it's painful, but it's also an opportunity for growth. Not just clinching your teeth kind of growth, but the joyful kind of growth.

I do believe that any desire, however selfish, has something good and pure and wonderful at its core. A longing for justice, a desire to love and be loved, the pursuit of harmony, there is this kernel of goodness in everything. And this desire you have to know and be known, on the deepest possible level, I believe to be good at the core. The resentment, the need for control, the fear of rejection, the self-absorption we are tempted to are all bad things but they do not negate the goodness.

So, what helped me in the past and still helps: sitting with this craving for a while, without talking to my friends about it. Really feeling the feeling, and letting myself be sad, and grieving the unfulfilled need. Also, realizing that, on some level, this thing I want is something that cannot be given to me by any human being [more grieving there]. When I spend some time sitting with my unmet needs, I feel kinda cheered after a while. And then I go out and talk to people, and somehow it's easier to connect with them when I am less unhappy, and more receptive - paradoxically, when I'm more relaxed, letting go of expectations, it's easier to notice moments when the other person is putting out their own "feelers", and connect with them in some unexpected way.

On preview, sorry for the ramble - but I hope some of it helps, even if just to confirm there are other oversharers out there :)
Feel free to MeMail me if you want to chat.
posted by M. at 1:46 PM on May 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


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