Why can't I connect?
April 8, 2012 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Why can't I connect?

I seem to have a hard time making connections with people. I really don't even know how I feel about it anymore, other than it I know it bothers me on a very deep level but I'm almost feeling numb to it.

I've had some terrible betrayals in the past, & a long history of being by myself that has really hurt my soul. When I was younger I was pretty selfish, & although I didn't have a ton of friends the ones I did have were pretty judgmental, & kinda self absorbed. Also a bit narcissistic. They ended up turning out to not be very good friends in the end. Glad for this I wouldn't want someone like that in my life (my upbringing was riddled with physical & emotional abuse, have a father who is completely emotional vacant & unavailable, a extremely overprotective mother & siblings who were typically beyond cruel to me- could give stories to all the above but this was a long time ago, but still has residual hurt if I think about it too much. One sibling has recently said very cruel things to me & said I no longer exist to them. This hurts but they are very toxic as a relationship & I'm better off without them in my life, I have boundaries that I won't let someone treat my poorly & have no consequences for their actions).

Which comes to present moment. I have fought with depression & feelings of self worth most of my life, but in recent years have come to except myself for who I am & know that I'm worthy of love. I have felt so much better about myself! Really I think I am a good person, & really try to be a good friend, when I do care I care very deeply. I could understand probably why I didn't have many people in my life as I was younger due to low self worth & general unhappiness that I outwardly showed. But I have changed completely & haven't been that person for so long. I am not shy, I go up & talk to anybody, people tell me how funny I am. I do generally really like interactions with people. Although I've been hurt in the past I definitely don't keep people at arms length, I keep initiating contact with people I do like & tell them often how I care for them & want to spend time with them. The problem is I don't have very many people in my life. I've been through a lot of therapy, & still don't know why this is. I just don't seem to be the type that people say hey I'm doing X why don't I invite anonymous to go? And yes, I do tell other people hey why don't we do something together, I'm not waiting for them to initiate.

It's been so long that things have been this way, that I can't really feel anything anymore. I've always had issues with connecting with people, I never have really cared about that many people. It's very rare where I meet someone that I feel a connection with. It sucks. I don't want to be that way. But even if that wasn't an underlying issue, I still don't have any luck keeping people around. There is someone who I really care about & really love, but is flaky at best even though they say the sweetest things to me & offhandedly how much they care & what an influence I've had over them. I contacted them & they said they wanted to get together & would let me know within the week, but never did (usually they do). This after telling me how much they love me. There are past examples of this person being emotionally unavailable that I haven't stated which I'm basing my feelings on- but had been a lot better as of late because of effort I've seen, & my feelings of not trying to judge situations negatively, which has helped me a lot. I'm not smothering, I'm not needy in relationships, I show how much I care with little things & say it too. It feels really good to feel that someone cares about me, it makes such an unbelievable difference, especially when it does come from one of the few people I really do care about.

I don't really feel like going out & trying, cause I've been getting these kind of results for so long. It feels like no matter what I try & when I do feel someone I have a connection with, I end up back in this position. It really feels like what's the point. I don't want to feel that way, but I do. I don't like feeling that way, it hurts. It's a feeling of abandonment that hurts. I want to mean something to someone, but for the most part I can't find anyone that I care about more than a surface feeling. Does anyone else feel like this?? Feeling needed or really wanted is one thing I haven't been able to feel most of my life, & I want to have meaningful emotional connections to people. I wonder if my past is why I seem to be stuck in this situation, as the common denominator seems to be me. I've had therapy, read books on connecting (which of most the things they say I already do, & do genuinely). I go out & volunteer, & am genuinely interested in people. I just wish I felt more of a connection with people. It really hurts when I feel like I've made progress but end up in the same place, especially when it's with someone I do care about. Feels like a nightmare that I just want to change. I have been on meds for depression in the past (though I don't really feel depressed now in the same way I have been before) & currently take a low dose anxiety med, but this seems like it's more situational than any negative talk inside of me. When people do care it really helps, I just would like to feel connected & normal, as that means to me- loved, people to spend time with, share life experiences. I wish I had more people who actively try to spend time with me (like I said I do initiate), it's hard to feel that you mean anything when you don't seem to mean anything to anyone. Though I have a sense of self worth, this point seems to come up with me. Being human just naturally makes you want to connect to other people. It hurts when you don't, but I don't know how to fix it.

Thoughts, comments? I could sure use it :)
Throwaway email: cc48013@yahoo.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not a therapist, but I wouldn't be surprised if your past experiences are somehow influencing your present behavior. With that said, I think some people connect very easily with others, and some don't and that's all fine and normal. Some folks prefer having lots of less involved friends, and some prefer a smaller group of very close friends. I'm in the latter group, and yes, it can definitely be hard to find those people you really connect with, especially if you're in one of those transition periods where you've grown apart from many of your previous friends--I can sympathize!

It sounds like you're doing all the right things with the therapy, volunteering, etc. I think these things just take time, and often, longer than we might like. But finding awesome people is worth it; we appreciate them more when we finally cross paths with them. I do think that you have to keep on consciously letting yourself open up a little each time you meet someone that you think could be a friend--ask for help on a little thing (people like to help other people; shows you trust them), confide a little each time you hang out--nothing too heavy right away, just a little something to establish trust. If they reciprocate, then you're probably on your way to building a good friendship.

In the meantime, if you're able (financially & allergy-wise), have you considered getting a pet to tide you over? Good luck, and remember--you are indeed worthy of good friendships!
posted by smirkette at 8:50 AM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I can't find anyone that I care about more than a surface feeling
I wish I had more people who actively try to spend time with me

These two comments from your post do not go well together. It may be that you're not giving people enough of a chance. Perhaps your past experiences have made it hard to know what kind of people will turn into great friends, and you're definitely not alone in that. But it means you're going to have to give people a chance before deciding against them.

Making friends is hard, particularly as we get older. And thought it's really hard to know from a few paragraphs, my initial feeling is that you may just need to look for more casual connections. It is from there that you develop deeper connections. Going out and looking for deep, meaningful connections often has the effect of turning people away. It's like getting too serious too soon in a romantic relationship. Friendships have a lot of the same dynamics.

One good place to start is with a group of people who share the same interest or hobby. So for instance, a book group, or knitting group or dog walking group, or something else you enjoy. Or even something you are interested in but haven't started. The benefit is a built-in topic to talk about in a friendly and casual atmosphere. Then ask someone nice if they'd like to go shopping for supplies, or get a cup of coffee. Start small, without too many expectations. Remind yourself if you have to, to keep things light and casual.

You're worthy of having friends! But give it time, and don't be in a hurry to have "serious" friendships.
posted by Glinn at 9:10 AM on April 8, 2012 [10 favorites]

In the situation you named above it seems like one aspect of your problem may be setting boundaries. If someone flakes on you regularly without reason then it's reasonable to re-assess their role in your life, stop inviting them to hang out, and turn your energies elsewhere.
posted by bunderful at 9:34 AM on April 8, 2012

I think the mistake you're making is jumping to wanting to have a deep connection with people. You need to try to just hang out with people with whom you have stuff in common. I agree with Glinn, but also, your example of your flaky friend jumped out to me.

It sounds like you like that person because they superficially meet that need you have for an expressed deep connection. You love that they "say the sweetest things to me & offhandedly how much they care & what an influence I've had over them." This is interspersed with them flaking and being emotionally unavailable. That kind of situation, where they alternate blowing hot and cold but give you hope with their "hot" moments, leaves you vulnerable to attachment to someone who is bad news.

So, I think you're giving up too early on people who don't connect in that manner, but I also think you're attaching too quickly and not being skeptical enough regarding people who do connect in that manner.
posted by J. Wilson at 11:46 AM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't know how to fix it.

This is a good start. It's really hard to go through life thinking 'there's something wrong here…'. If it feels anything like what I've heard people describe before, it's almost as if there is an unachievable target floating out in the distant horizon. No matter what good things occur, there's always a lingering feeling that 'it should have been better' or 'I should feel differently'.

Thus, rather than thinking you are currently in a hole and need to climb to get back to flat ground, how does it feel to assume that where you are today is the flat ground. How does it feel to say 'today is fine, today I am good enough. I could live the rest of my life like this, and that would be okay.' Then, you start from a point of more happiness, rather than less unhappiness. It does sound like you have a great base to start from:

I'm worthy of love
people tell me how funny I am
I definitely don't keep people at arms length
I show how much I care with little things & say it too.

And what's great is you know exactly what the primary result you are looking for…

I feel like I've made progress but end up in the same place.

It reads that you are in motion, you have momentum, you have self-esteem, however there is this one lingering piece that seems out of place. So how does it feel if we let that be? Most of your life is really good. The majority of your interactions are positive. You respect yourself. Let's say you are 95% of the way there.

How to get the last 5% of the way there? Your family interactions sound very difficult, especially the sibling comments. Are you subconsciously replicating that in your life outside of the family?

A friend had a problem with deep connections. He was an extrovert, had no problems with liminal connections, however when he reached his 30s, he felt as if he was just floating. Skimming the surface, without ever being anchored anywhere. Turns out that his family had been a mess when he was younger. A proper mess. He went through piles of therapy and it turned out that he had no expectation of relationships that had no end.

I remember the moment very clearly. 'Nickrussell, how long do you think we'll be friends for?' 'I don't Good Friend, I hadn't thought about it.' He was mystified, 'You've never thought about how long we'll be friends?' And I hadn't. Turns out, he thought about it constantly. Then as we spoke further, it was always on his mind. He was actually terrified of imposing on me, for he felt he would drive me away.

I'd always took his lack of imposition as a sign that we were buddies, but not the kind of friends that impose. There certainly are friends that impose. Not all the time, but some times. That's the mark of a friend. It starts out with little things. 'Hey man, can I borrow $20?' and turns into 'Hey man, can you take my girlfriend to the hospital tomorrow?' and then into 'Hey man, can you …"

And that is intimacy. And there's no way of knowing until you practice it.
posted by nickrussell at 12:29 PM on April 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

Not a therapist, expert, or anyone special here, but nonetheless I'll suggest the possibility that you may not actually be over your depression quite yet, despite the efforts and progress you have made. That is, getting out of bed, functioning in the everyday world, and not having thoughts of self-harm/ending it all, etc., while definite signs of progress, don't necessarily mean that symptoms of depression don't remain, only that you've got past the extremes of serious/clinical depression, etc. (again, no small achievement and definitely something to take heart in). At the same time feeling disconnected from others, apathetic about pursuing social connections despite the inevitable road blocks, as well as focusing on "deeper" friendships as an immediate goal, all point to the possibility that you may not yet have entirely recovered. I'd go so far as to say that low-level depression causes more hurt than the better-known, more frequently diagnosed varieties, even though it doesn't receive nearly as much media coverage. All of which is to say, you may want to check on more/different meds and more therapy in conjunction with applying general strategies for making friends, like the sensible ones offered thus far in this thread.
posted by 5Q7 at 2:17 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

From the OP:
Am I ok with this going on? No. Absolutely not. It's been going on for years. About 4+ years. So I've quite been patient with it. That 5% is killing me (& it definitely feels like more than 5%). It's the part of life that I think matters the most, you can go through life & accomplish things, but if you don't have anyone to share it with really what does it mean? Not having anyone who cares or to share it with feels terrible. I'm not trying to dive into deep connections with everybody, nor would I really want that. I'm very much a "few solid friends" kind of person, I wouldn't want a billion acquaintances (of course that wouldn't satisfy what I'm really looking for). I am content with just getting a drink or something & hanging out, really that's the majority of what I'm looking for from a friendship.There are a few people that I genuinely like feel a bit of a connection to- funny thing is when I ask them to hang out outside of where I normally see them, they very much are not into it, making excuses. I would only ask about a drink or lunch or something along that line. This confuses me cause we go right back to talking & having a great rapport. Like I said my self esteem is better but these kinds of things puzzle me to no end & make me feel like I'm not good enough to spend actual longer involved time with. I really don't like that, cause I feel it's not true. Also hard when you go out & see other people with groups of friends & that seems to be the norm, so it reminds me that things can be different. I have "imposed" on people as one person stated trying, but they seem to back away the few times I have. I believe you have to go off cues people give you as to how they feel about you. As far as flaky friend goes we've known each other for years, & I've always felt a special connection with, as they've told me as well.
I feel at ease, peaceful & really content when we spend time together. I don't really feel that with anyone else, it's rare for me, but probably not rare for other people. I guess I feel that my friend really does love & care for me (as they've told me numerous times), & that makes me feel good, I've never really had that. It's just when actions don't match up that I get confused as to why that is. So I don't know how to interpret things like that or what my reaction should be. My friend is a good deal younger than me & has a lot of friends & a big family, so they are well supported. Still I don't feel as special a bond with anyone else as I do this friend, but I guess that's my problem. It just gives me hope that I can be cared for, but hurts when actions are puzzling.

I need that kind of base, I'm sure most people have a few people they really care about, & branch off into other casual relationships from there. When I don't have it, I feel like I'm adrift in an angry sea, & it gets really hard to handle. I probably am currently depressed even though I feel numb, it's probably now a deeper depression cause it's not making me sad which is what it usually would do (I've had issues with it pretty much all my life). I just want some kind of family feeling, I guess I never had it. I try to be as supportive as I can of other people, really I want that with other people. Seems like a common thing to ask for. I'm a totally nice person I assure you, & outgoing & talkative with people. I don't know why things end up this way, I do think it has something to do with my past, I just don't know how to change it as it seems whatever different approach I try keeps yielding the same results. Growing up I was pretty much invisible to my family, nothing I ever did mattered. Support was something I had to learn to give to myself, I really would like to enjoy it with other people now. Seems like a reasonable thing to ask & easy enough. I really do want to be happy, I don't like this situation I find myself in and feel like I am running out of ideas & hope of how to change it.

Sorry for the long response! Thank you so much for your insights, please keep 'em coming.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:12 PM on April 8, 2012

Have been feeling this lately myself. I have realised that I've been placing a lot of importance on a small number of people, which is no longer enough for me.

So I have reconnected with people who I haven't spoken to in a while. These were people I did have strong attachments to once but don't now because of time. It seems counterintuitive in a way because these are fairly superficial relationships now (and i hate superficial relationships - i want depth and meaning) but simply by having more people in my life it forces me to connect with people in different ways that feel freer.

I am also starting classes - language, food, yoga - to learn new things (which I love) but also to meet new people. I don't have the expectation than I will necessarily be any good at any of these things nor that I will develop great friendships from them but the potential is there. The potential is always there.

Are the people you're asking to drinks/lunch people you work with or have some kind of power disparity with? I'm always reluctant to socialise with people from work simply because my lifestyle/beliefs are not necessarily what I want the people I work with/for to know about (not because they're horrid but rather because I'm definitely not conservative and I live in a very conservative city). This is particularly the case if there is a power disparity. So I have a general rule that I don't socialise with colleagues - it is fine after I/they have left but not while I work there. Could this be an issue for you?

We carry a lot of our past with us regardless of how good or bad it was. When I was young I was extremely shy (selectively mute) and overweight and unattractive. I'm not those things now but it doesn't mean I don't spend a lot of my time still thinking I am. These are superficial compared to what you've been through, but everyone keeps something - we have to keep reminding ourselves to let it go.

So maybe you were once invisible and nothing you did mattered - you were once abandoned, you were once selfish. You once had a family who you couldn't trust, who weren't there for you.

Okay, so now you don't have that family any more. What does this mean? It means you get to decide that you're not invisible, that you matter, that you are not being abandoned in the same way, that you are not selfish, that you will find people who you can trust.

It means you get to decide who you bring into your life but that also has to mean you need to pick your players and your roles for those players - but also be mindful of their own roles in their own lives. Maybe you thought they were the lead but they're really just a bit player because thats all their schedule can handle - that's okay, it doesn't mean anyone failed, it just means they got assigned a better role in your life.

All life is is meeting new people, connecting (on many different levels) with different people, and saying goodbye to people. Sometimes we want people we can't have - maybe not at all or maybe not more than as a bit player - it hurts but thems the breaks.

We move on, we find more people we can connect with. If it was meant to work with that person it would. It would just work. If it's not working, it's not working, you cherish that connection you do have, but you keep moving forward to something that works easier. But the only way you can do it is by continuing to do it.
posted by mleigh at 5:42 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

From the OP:
No, there's no ideology conflicts or power disparities with the people I do ask to spend time with, that's not a problem- it's pretty level as a playing field (the only one that might be less than that would be with my flaky friend who's only in their early 20's which is a bit younger than me, but we have spent time together for sure). As far as my family they're still around, cause unfortunately I don't have anything else. When things end up with new people being the same kind of "not getting any further than surface interactions", it relates back to my previous family experience. Maybe that's wrong of me, but my mind does go there. I know I shouldn't connect but it seems to draw that way. As far as a bit player I totally understand that, & would never think of anyone more than that unless they tell me otherwise. This said friend though tells me very often otherwise, how much I mean to them. So how am I supposed to differentiate between it if someone is telling me quite the opposite of what puzzling actions say? This is what I don't get.

I guess also I don't really get what makes you want to keep someone around, I guess I do feel in a way people want you because they're getting something from you or out of you. This belief would come from my family history of knowing self centered type people, & also not being able to find people in the present who I do maintain longstanding ties with. I do wonder in the back of my mind "how long is this relationship going to last", because I've had so many end without any explanation. So yeah, I do wonder that. Why do you keep people around? Common history, commons ties/interests? I have these, but they don't seem to translate into my inclusion of anyone's everyday life. Maybe it's because I don't really feel "normal"? That they'll realize I don't have that much to give? Or get tired of me? I guess I'm a bit afraid of that.
posted by jessamyn at 8:56 PM on April 8, 2012

As far as my family they're still around, cause unfortunately I don't have anything else.

Being around family is a choice - you can still make a conscious decision to not be around them - blood is meaningless if it isn't healthy for you. You don't have to do it dramatically, but you can choose how much time you spend with people.

Maybe that's wrong of me, but my mind does go there. I know I shouldn't connect but it seems to draw that way.

You're in control of how your mind draws associations with things - you have to stop the connection being made between what happened in your family and what is happening now when you try to connect. It's self talk and it's an on-going deconstruction of how your thoughts about your current situation cannot have anything to do with what happened in your family.

Your family was like x - you had to exist with them then, you don't have to now - your family's behaviour is not your responsibility - you did not cause it - not everyone in life is like your family - some will be, some won't be - you don't have to spend time with people NOW who are like x - that includes your family. You are an adult, you make your own decisions, you are responsible for those decisions, nothing else.

I guess also I don't really get what makes you want to keep someone around, I guess I do feel in a way people want you because they're getting something from you or out of you.

Well, framed another way, it's shared ideals, goals, ideas of fun, things to do - you're getting fun, joy, entertainment out of spending time together. Sometimes people are malicious in their intentions, but mostly not.

I do wonder in the back of my mind "how long is this relationship going to last", because I've had so many end without any explanation.

It might last for a little bit - it might last for a long time - it might last for a little bit and you think you won't see them again and then several months/years later you do see them again.

You don't know going into it and you don't know when you're in it, and you don't really know when it will end. But, all relationships end, that is a fact.

Most relationships end without explanation - which I personally hate - so if someone is meaningful to me but I have a feeling I won't see them again/shouldn't see them again, I do try to do a "goodbye and good luck". I have no idea what the other person really thinks, but I'd rather do it than not. But most relationships end without closure or great fanfare - this is not a failing on your part, it just is.

This said friend though tells me very often otherwise, how much I mean to them.

Someone can be flaky and still think that you mean a lot to them. It's confusing to be around, particularly if you're a more structured, ordered sort of person, but it's still possible.

But this is the thing - if you're not getting enough from someone, you can choose to lessen the role they play in your life. If you don't really want your friends to be really confusing - say one thing, do another - you can have that person in your life a little bit but look for a friend who is more stable and says what they mean and does what they say. You don't have to burn bridges with the flaky person, you just look at them and think - you know what, I need more. And that person can't give it to me. I can't make them do it. But I know the sort of person I need and I'm going to find it. It might take a long time to find them, but it's easier than putting up with something that is less than what you need.

It's like with your family - if you're not getting what you need from them, you can choose to not be around them so much. If the pain to you is greater than the joy, then you can choose to lessen the role they play in your life.

That sounds a little counter-intuitive because you might think - well, then I have even less people - but by freeing up those roles for other more positive people to come in, you might get more of what you're looking for.

Maybe it's because I don't really feel "normal"? That they'll realize I don't have that much to give? Or get tired of me? I guess I'm a bit afraid of that.

I think everyone's afraid of that. I'm not smart/cool/successful/rich/beautiful/geeky/whatever enough. I don't live an interesting enough life. I don't do enough interesting things.

I don't know if this helps to hear but most people are insecure about something and are afraid they're not interesting/good enough for other people.

Normal doesn't exist. There is no normal. There are people doing things, all around the world, all kinds of things, some interesting, mostly not interesting, and that's about it. You can feel "not normal" but it's not really going to help you because you're striving for something that doesn't exist.

Own your life. If you don't like some part of it - change it.
posted by mleigh at 11:12 PM on April 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

I came here just to say mleigh has got it spot on. OP, you may be a little more alone than other people but most of humanity shares the same fears and worries as you do, we all feel the same way, to a lesser or greater extent.
posted by moiraine at 2:40 AM on April 9, 2012

You sound a lot like me in my teens/20s. I am introverted by nature so I tend to prefer a few close friends to a big group of acquaintances. Which is a fine way to be. But... coupled with the poor fit I was in my family of origin (understatement) & the low self-esteem & depression that naturally resulted from that... meant I was unintentionally seeking deep connections from people who were just looking to hang out.

Where people have a solid family life, the rest of their world is compartmentalized. They have work friends and school friends and drinking buddies and book group people and hiking partners etc. Sometimes the groups overlap but that happens organically, definitely not when one of the group is trying to make a work friend into an intimate family substitute. And the thing is, even if as you say you're just suggesting coffee or lunch, people know the difference between just lunch and being your new special lunch friend. And they back away as soon as they sense it. That you are seeking to fill the family-void is likely very clear to your acquaintances. And what makes it harder for you is that you prefer small groups to big, so you have a smaller pool from which to draw.

The thing that helped me stop pushing people away was to accept that I was just simply never going to have that family experience, where you have an emotional "home" to go to and someone will always be there and love/accept you. It just isn't going to happen, ever. That acceptance freed me to take a fresh look at my relationships and redefine what *I* wanted from them (up to then it was always me trying to get others to care about me).

And the second part of it is to broaden your social life. It feels weird at first (and having relocated a few years ago I know I need to do this too but inertia is a bear to overcome) but it's really rewarding to have yoga friends and work friends and a tennis buddy and politically minded people and neighbors etc. And not wanting anything more from them than a good time with a particular shared activity, and maybe a beer after, is what makes them sustainable. It gets you out there, fills your time with new experiences, and doesn't put any pressure on any relationship to be more than it is.

Your family of origin failed you by not giving you a solid footing. But nobody else can make up for their failure. You are your own family and you have to create your safe loving home on your own. It's unfortunate and unfair but accepting it is necessary if you want to have adult relationships that are based on mutual respect and affection rather than on need.
posted by headnsouth at 6:01 AM on April 9, 2012 [9 favorites]

A few things about your posting:

1. “have come to except myself for who I am & know that I'm worthy of love.”
a. Everyone, regardless of his/her background is worthy of love.
b. Our past molds us into the people we are today and an honest, worthy, knowledgeable person understands this. I, for one, would prefer to be with someone who knows this and would not care to be with a flaky person.
c. Nobody is perfect, nobody has been without pain, and even if such a person existed, that person would be without worldly experience and, frankly, boring.
d. You are worthy of love. You know this with your comment about being a good friend and caring very deeply when you do care for someone.

2. “I go out & volunteer, & am genuinely interested in people. I just wish I felt more of a connection with people.”
a. Sounds like you’re doing the right thing.
b. Keep doing this. It gets you out, keeps you involved, helps in meeting people, and helps with your social skills.
c. Be patient.

3. “It's very rare where I meet someone that I feel a connection with. It sucks.”
a. If you had the connection with only a few people, doesn’t it make said connection more special? Doesn’t it make it better? Special connections are rare occurrences indeed.
b. It’s difficult to realize that others feel this, too. When you pass a seemingly content couple in the street, do you know how long each of these people have been together? Do you know if they are truly happy? Do you know anything about how they truly feel about each other?

We are all a product of our past: upbringing, personal interactions with other, travels, education, life events, choices we make and a large quantity of other circumstances that happen to us. NOBODY is an exception to this. What we do with our lives is, however, our choice. Sure, certain things that we do in life make it difficult for us to feel comfortable when others seem to react normally. But, what is normal? Do we really want to be “normal”? Normal is as normal does. Worthy people know this. I think that deep down, you know this. It seems like your family (the one you grew up with) has failed you; understand that this doesn’t need to define the person whom you are today. What “mleigh” said about owning your life cannot be over stated. . . Be it! Own it! Live it the best that you can! Don’t be discouraged to follow your heart! Often, your heart knows what is best for you.

Keep a watchful eye out for the people who resonate to you. They are out there. Perhaps you’ve already met some. Perhaps, you have yet to meet them. Patience is key here, and sometimes it takes a lot of patience. . . Do what you do best (hobbies, volunteer work, your job, your passions) and put your heart into those activities. From personal experience, I know what it feels like to be left out, to feel alone, to feel “not normal”, to be let down by others. It hurts, but sometimes you have to roll with the punches and know that you will make it through this troubling period. . .

Good luck
posted by WestChester22 at 9:33 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

From the OP:
Thanks so much for all your comments! They're really insightful! As regards to being an adult of course I am one & know that, I mentioned the past family history because I'm not sure if this is why I don't seem to connect so much. It's not that I don't want to, I really do! Today is especially difficult as I'm feeling that so much time has past & I feel like I'm in the same place with this. I've been giving it patience, that's for sure. Though the comment of "if you don't like your life, change it" is good advice, I really don't know how to do that? I'm ok with other aspects of my life, I just really want people I can call a friend (or at least call!). I'm fine with having a few deep connections & know they're rare (that's not exactly what's troubling me), I really would love the types of connections where you can just hang out & watch a movie, get a drink, or go to a festival type thing with. These are the connections that I can't seem to make. Just simple hanging out, which when I do initiate with people it doesn't seem to go beyond once or twice.

The comment about family is great, I do understand that other people who have a solid family life only really need peripheral ones to compliment what they already have. I'm not expecting to be a part of anyone's family, I am interested in just going places & hanging out. I guess I do feel sad when I find someone I really like & see they have that kind of family support, & it reminds me that I don't & they probably don't need me all that much.

As for being friends with flakes I'm not at all other than this one person (most people I really wouldn't even make another effort with if that was the case), but this friend like I said is special to me, & I really do feel a connection to that I haven't before to another that is so strong. My friend has also told me numerous times they wish I was in their family. Good cue, right? That's why I don't understand the flakiness. But possibly, since they have such a good family support maybe that's why they don't exactly follow through all of the time. My friend's young age could definitely play a part. Normally yeah, I wouldn't put up with it. It's hard when you care so much though, & I've had a history of just giving up on people or just letting them go cause I think that's maybe what they want, so I've been trying not to do that (then I would be guilty of the same thing that I'm seeing in others). Usually I very much go off people's actions, but it seems so strange to say many positive things repeatedly without any prompting, & not mean it. Like a commenter said I guess you can mean alot to someone even if they're flaky at times? I don't want to think bad intentions are behind actions, so I don't know if I should feel slighted or how many chances I should give someone I care about- or maybe except it as a character trait (though I don't know if they really do it with anyone else, so I can't really say).

But yeah, as far as changing I'd like to "own it!", and change things. It just seems this area is not something in my control, & you can't make people want to hang out with you & be in your life. This the problem I want to change (not people's feelings, but how they interact & inclusion in some daily life things). A beer & some conversation would really help! I would like that.

I can only think that maybe understanding it would maybe be the way to change it. It doesn't feel like "getting a new job, exercising, moving to a new house" or something like that which I feel is in my means of changing. This feels more intangible to me, if that makes any sense?
posted by jessamyn at 2:24 PM on April 9, 2012

I really would love the types of connections where you can just hang out & watch a movie, get a drink, or go to a festival type thing with. These are the connections that I can't seem to make. Just simple hanging out, which when I do initiate with people it doesn't seem to go beyond once or twice.

Is that on their part or your part? Some people need more prodding to do things than others. Some people are the initiators because everyone else is too lazy. I used to have a friend we nicknamed MotherDuck because she would keep us all actually getting together and doing things.

I think if you're really wanting to connect with people, then you have to be the one to initiate a lot of it - and if people aren't available, don't take it personally, wait a little bit and try again. If you really want it, you might have to become MotherDuck.

Unless you know you definitely don't want to see someone again, most relationships are kind of open-ended and indefinite. There's nothing stopping you from contacting someone from 5, 10 years ago and seeing if they want to hang out.

It just seems this area is not something in my control, & you can't make people want to hang out with you & be in your life.

It's both - it's in your control and it's not. Say you know someone really awesome and you want to connect with them and every time you try to reach out to them with some kind of common element (e.g. work) they just kind of brush you aside. You don't know why - maybe they're having a bad day, they feel insecure, they think you're an idiot, whatever.

Eventually you go - okay, I like that person, they're an awesome person, but I can't connect with them. Here's this person over here - not quite like AwesomePerson, but they want to talk to me about work. Awesome! So I'll go talk to them. It's a shame about AwesomePerson but what are you going to do? There's only so long you can sit around waiting for them to recognize your awesomeness.

This feels more intangible to me, if that makes any sense?

Yeah, that deep connection is intangible - it's not something you can ever quantify - here we are, we have this much of a connection.

However, the getting to that point is exactly like "getting a new job, exercising, moving to a new house" because it's a doing exercise - you have to do a lot of things to make that connection happen.

something like that which I feel is in my means of changing

I think this is the heart of it - when you believe in yourself, you'll understand why that statement is not true. And for this I really suggest therapy - you need someone to work with you to help you feel that your life is within your means to change. CBT will give you the steps to help you get what you want.
posted by mleigh at 10:05 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

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