I feel unappreciated - how to deal?
October 28, 2013 8:21 PM   Subscribe

I feel really undervalued and unappreciated in every arena of my life. I'm already in therapy. What can I do to quiet these feelings?

My boyfriend of six months recently dumped me because he said he didn't love me. My best friend ditched me again to have dinner with her girlfriend after she told me she would have dinner with me, so I didn't get to to out for Thai tonight and ate a microwave dinner alone instead. I am losing my academic funding through no fault of my own (politics) despite being one of the best here - I'm being passed over in favor of people who have not made progress in years.

I frequently feel used and unappreciated. This was a problem before I got dumped - I think it contributed to the breakup. I never felt unappreciated by him, but I complained too much and he heard implicit relationship complaints where there weren't any.

So... what can I do to feel like my efforts are appreciated? I give a lot - people ask me for advice all the time; I'm good at interpersonal advice and I care deeply about helping others. I bake cakes for people's birthdays, listen when friends need an ear, host events at my house, am always friendly and gracious, and I am not resentful of giving time to people I care about. But I don't have anyone who does those things for me, and it's hard.

What can I do here? Is this just another bad period of my life? I was abused by my ex-boyfriend for three years - is that connected?
posted by sockermom to Human Relations (24 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Stop giving to other people. Seriously. I know someone who is constantly giving and doing things for people and then resenting the hell out of it when they aren't getting back whatever it is they want back and it is crazy making. I've had to very bluntly tell them to stop and am now very careful to never let them know some area in my life that could use a cake or a ride, because I just can't deal with the price tag of their "gifts".

I will occasionally bake cakes or help people move, but I never do it expecting anything in return.

I am also much less likely to do it for people who never give back in return in some way, but not out of a spiteful resentment, but because I assume that our relationship is different and we're just not the cake exchanging kind of friends.

If your efforts are not appreciated, then STOP with the efforts. And not in a "this will show those assholes" way, just in a "it's time for me now". Spend that time baking yourself cakes.
posted by Dynex at 8:40 PM on October 28, 2013 [27 favorites]

(And yes, if you have been killing yourself doing other people favours you will get some push back and lose some friends. Thing is, they were never actually friends.)
posted by Dynex at 8:42 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You are incredibly lucky but don't see it that way right now. Got dumped by a guy that doesn't love you? Score, now there's a road paved for a guy that will. Best friend ditched you to go do something else? Sweet, no reason not to go get Thai still if that was the original plan.

I've used this analogy before here, but start thinking of yourself like a bank account and invest your time and energy wisely. If an investment yields no returns or worse, disengage. Don't let yourself run empty. You gotta find value in yourself to do that, and it sounds like you're getting there.

Since this is something that you keep feeling though, you might benefit from some therapy to see what is making you repeat this pattern in your life over and over. It may be that you give much and don't assert your needs proactively or productively. That's something therapy can really help you fix. Once you figure out a healthy give and take, you'll notice good things internally and externally.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:53 PM on October 28, 2013 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Are you doing these things with expectations in return, though? Because that is not true generosity. That's forcing people into a bargain they presumably didn't ask for or agree to. If you make me a bunch of cakes, I usually assume you like making cakes--seriously, I love baking but shove off baked goods on everyone because god knows I don't need to eat it and no god no please don't give me anything back--not that baking me a cake therefore entitles you to some reciprocal generosity down the line.

Anyway, the thing that struck me (probably because I'm reading Seligman again) is nothing in your post is an action taken, it's all stuff that happens to you. You don't do these things, they are things that happen to you. For example, the Thai thing fell through, but you didn't call another friend or take yourself out to dinner, you just sadly ate a microwaved dinner. There's a phenomenon called learned helplessness that's pretty common in abused and depressed people, might be worth looking into and discussing with your therapist.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:02 PM on October 28, 2013 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: I don't kill myself doing things for others - I bake a cake once every few months. Most of my time is spent on my job and hobbies (including baking), not on other people. My friend took her girlfriend for Thai and was odd about it, making it clear that I wasn't welcome.

And I think that's my real problem - I expect nothing back but common decency and niceness. Not favors, not cakes or rides - just people who seem like they appreciate me and care for me.

Sorry to threadsit, but I really don't want this to go on a derail about how I am secretly resentful. I think my expectations for friendship are normal. But learned helplessness and an attitude adjustment will definitely help, for sure, so thank you for those ideas. :)
posted by sockermom at 9:09 PM on October 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

what can I do to feel like my efforts are appreciated?

Setting aside "get new friends who are more considerate and demonstrative" as unhelpful, I guess you could remind yourself that people generally suffer from the illusion of transparency such that they think they're projecting appreciation just because they feel it, when in fact their feelings remain opaque to you, causing you to feel unappreciated.

I would also suggest trying to make more of your altruistic efforts secretly self-indulgent somehow--obviously not to the point where others are displeased, but where you're happy with any outcome, because you did something that was exactly what you wanted and it benefited your own state of mind even if no one else noticed. You could bake that birthday cake, in your own mind, solely as a matter of practicing and getting so good that people can't help noticing in the future. Or you could bake it for someone else but use the frosting that you happen to like because you want to eat it too. Or, you get the idea.

I also think you've just been a little unlucky in not yet finding a decent partner who can help with this some, not necessarily by appreciating every little thing, but you know, by expressing admiration, affection, etc., going to Thai restaurants with you, and holding up their end of the partnership in ways that reflect their appreciation of you holding up your end of things. It'll happen.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:23 PM on October 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

I second Dynex and Monsieur Caution--hell, I could have written Dynex's post. Do things because YOU wanted to do them and it made you happy. Not to make someone else pleased, not to get a reaction from them, not to put some emotional money in the bank so that someday they will "owe you" and make you a cake. Yes, that sounds like it would work, but in reality it doesn't. People usually do stuff because they wanna, not because they "owe." If you give and give and give like that and expect something in return, what you end up with are people who use you and then treat you like shit once the money and cake runs out.

What you need to do is work on having more equal relationships. Do not go "all out" in the way that you have been doing. You give 50% and see if they rise to the challenge or not. But in reality, you cannot help what someone else chooses to do. I mean, you can try to pick better friends and be less self-sacrificing and that would be great, but you can't make your friends give you cake. Sorry.

My mother and a friend of mine have this complaint all the time, almost every time I see my mom and definitely every time I see my friend. "I'm so used! Nobody appreciates me! My friend bailed on me for dinner for the fifth time in a row and I waited 3 hours!" (not making up the 3 hours bit at all). And you know what? It gets old and hurts my feelings to hear this shit every fucking time, because clearly I'm not making them happy enough to stop complaining about how used they are, even though I try to not get into the situations they complain about in others. Even if you have some good friends, hearing about how you always think they treat you like shit is Not Fun for them. Even if you are complaining about someone else, well...let's just say I am 100% sure my friend and mom complain behind my back that I'm just as much of a user as everyone else no matter how I behave with them. Not to defend an ex who didn't love you, but you pointed out that your complaining was probably an issue, and that doesn't surprise me to hear.

Look, "appreciation" is not a big thing that happens in life. You're lucky if you get a thank you for anything--that's just how life goes. It's a fleeting feeling for those who feel it at best, and then they move on. If you're living your life hungering for other people to make you feel worthy and loved--well....you can't make them do it, even if you bake them a pie and give them a diamond ring and all that jazz. It happens or it doesn't, depending on the people.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:44 PM on October 28, 2013 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe you can refocus some of the loving feelings that you have toward others, and turn them into nice actions toward yourself. It sucks to feel betrayed by a friend, and I'm sorry you're hurting. But just because someone else treats you poorly doesn't mean YOU have to treat yourself poorly. (Microwave dinners, unless indulgent, tend to feel pretty sad when they're solo. Even just a sammich and a quick drive to a nearby park for a car-picnic for one--with your music playing, of course-- would feel happier.)

It's a long road ahead, and you will always be your most consistent source of comfort, love, and solace. You know how to be kind and loving; now it's time to start practicing those skills to make yourself feel loved and appreciated.

Good thoughts, friend.
posted by samthemander at 10:11 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: What kind of appreciation do you give you?

Think about that for a minute.

At the end of the day, we are stuck with ourselves, so it's best to be our own best friends. You sound like the type of friend that everyone wants and is rare! Why not do the same for you? As someone who is prone to crippling anxiety attacks, a splash of self loathing, a healthy serving of perfectionist and self deprecating this was a tough one, letmetellyou.

The thing is, as we all age, there are more people and things and responsibilities and such getting in the way as life tends to happen. Start saying "no" to things you cannot commit to or don't want to go to, and say yes to things you do. The rest kind of falls in line itself actually, because then all you are doing are things you WANT to do and that means no expectations except optimism about that thing and the expectation that you WANT to do it. At that point you truly won't expect anything back, because your expectation is already fulfilled. Then when plans do work out or people make time for you or gush thank you, you will get something bigger back; you will feel gratitude and that feels amazing.

Then, in the meantime, get to know yourself. Treat yourself like a friend and just sit with yourself for awhile. You might learn that she likes this and doesn't like that and can be an awesome friend about some things and has a few character flaws about others that maybe she could use some pointers on. And help her out and have her back. Because after all the cakes and rescheduled whatevers, and break ups, she's still going to be there. Don't dump on her. Finally, when you get in these negative thought cycles, break the pattern by doing ONE NICE POSITIVE THING. It can even be so simple as shooting someone a text message or getting a cup of coffee or thinking of something that you are excited about or are looking forward to. It will redirect itself.

Love to you.
posted by floweredfish at 11:07 PM on October 28, 2013 [10 favorites]

I frequently feel used and unappreciated. This was a problem before I got dumped - I think it contributed to the breakup. I never felt unappreciated by him, but I complained too much and he heard implicit relationship complaints where there weren't any.

Please don't take this the wrong way, but I think you're being passive-aggressive. Probably, the problem is just that you're not happy -- but you're complaining around the problem instead of about it. That just makes everyone around you paranoid that what you really want to complain about is them, which, if they're anything like me, stresses them out and drives them away, and doesn't help you get happier.

If you're not asking for what you want, I'm not surprised that you're not getting it, and I also think it's unfair to expect people to read your mind and give it to you. If you don't want to ask or don't feel comfortable asking for something maybe that's because you don't really know what you want after all or it's not actually a fair thing to ask. For example, I think gratitude and appreciation isn't a fair thing to ask for altogether. You can ask for actions, but feelings? That's out of bounds. But happily, dictating your feelings is also something they can't ask of you, either, so you don't have to close yourself off so tightly. You can be a little vulnerable even without the martyrdom armor, and your friends will probably nicer and gentler with you for it (if they're good people).

If you start opening up about what you want, other people might become more open with you -- meaning, they'll also start being more giving with you. But to have more intimacy and reciprocation, then maybe you're going to have to be more accepting and flexible about what they're giving, too. You can't be a control freak about other people and expect relationships to be fulfilling -- it'll just be two guarded people trying not to give each other ammunition instead of friends hanging loose and helping each other out when they can.
posted by rue72 at 11:17 PM on October 28, 2013 [8 favorites]

It really is tough that your friend ditched you for dinner. If it were me I'd be concerned about her relationship; are they really on the rocks... and maybe she felt like taking her girlfriend out for dinner was an absolute last-ditch necessity to avoid a huge fight... That'd suck.

What do you normally do for yourself to have a nice night when you're not going out with friends? I can emotionally understand how you go from being disappointed, to feeling like it's not worth your while to do anything interesting for dinner, so you have a microwave dinner instead. But do you let yourself do special things when there isn't someone else to 'justify' it?

I think the advice above about treating yourself like you're a friend is spot-on; if your friend had just been stood up for dinner, what would you do? Would you take them out? Would you make them a cool dinner you've been wanting to try?

And if you would do a lot of stuff for your friend but not for yourself, unpack that: do you feel like you're not worth it? Do you not really feel like doing the thing at all but feel like you're obligated to do nice things for other people? Sometimes this can be like "well, I like baking anyway, and I didn't have anything planned for that weekend... how can I possibly NOT bake her a cake if it's so easy?" But that doesn't actually mean it isn't a chore on Saturday when you have to run to the store and block out the time and do all the cooking, etc.

I think maybe you've absorbed the idea that it's a requirement of being a friend (or more generally a 'good person'), that anything "not too much bother" should be something you cheerfully do and a sacrifice you're glad to make for each other. But most friendships seem to be based more on doing mutually enjoyable things together now - so perhaps more of that, and less 'giving'?
posted by Lady Li at 11:49 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Not everyone is capable of common decency and niceness. For those that are, well, sometimes people just have bad days. Given enough time, you'll find out who is capable and just having a bad day, and who is just not able to be civil.

When you know who those people are, have less to do with them, or at the very least lower your expectations of what they'll be like. Don't throw your pearls before swine. If you do, those pearls will just be trodden on and smashed, and you won't get them back.

If you're doing 90% of the carrying in a given relationship, such as with friends, romantic partners, pretty much anyone ever, then just stop carrying that load around for other people. Someone who doesn't appreciate it likely never will. People have bad days, or times in their life when they need someone else to carry them, but only you can decide whether or not there are enough good times to balance that load out.

People appreciate things just as much as they have to pay for it. That doesn't always work - sometimes people think that paying more means they're entitled to more (profit margins be damned). Sometimes, though, if a friend has to catch a bus to meet you, rather than them being chauffeured to the meet by you, they'll appreciate it more.

I have a friend who can't drive, so whenever the group gets together, she gets a lift there and a lift back. She always seems a bit embarrassed about asking for a lift, even though she knows it's coming, and she always says thank you. I used to have another friend who just decided one time that she was going to have a lift, who didn't bother to acknowledge the fact I'd driven way out of my route, let alone thank me. Note my use of the phrase "used to have". Some kinds of relationships aren't reciprocal - the relationship I have with my customers at work is quite different to the relationship I have with my friends. But some are, and if it's not working for you, then it's OK to let that relationship go. If someone has very different ideas to you as to what is acceptable, then you'll likely fall foul of that at some point. People get to expect a ride. You get to say "no thank you" when someone asks.

Consider the 5 Love Languages too. I know that I've been in the situation before where I felt undervalued, but it was because the other person was showing love in a very different way to how I would show it. I felt like I was being rejected while they felt that they were caring.
posted by Solomon at 1:19 AM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I recognize your handle – you make really compassionate comments and seem like a sweet person who places a lot of importance on relationships. Like Birds of a Feather and Solomon have said, not everyone is like that... which you already know, but it's been a hard lesson for me to learn as well, the sheer extent that it's true. At the very least, we all hold expectations of decency and respect, and when those are not met, repeatedly, most people have reactions along the spectrum of ignore to DTMFA. It is not unreasonable to expect a modicum of humanity from humans. The key is in the use of the word "modicum".

What can I do to quiet these feelings?

I've found viewing life as an ever-changing balance (modicum!) to be the most helpful. Right now you're at a down point for sure – your studies are threatened, your love relationship has ended, and to top off the water in your bucket, your best friend changed plans at the last minute. Show compassion for yourself too, like floweredfish said so well. For instance, it's entirely possible to imagine that you had made an exception to your budget and time constraints to go out for Thai with your best friend, and that eating a microwave dinner at home was what you would have done anyway, because you've lost funding and live alone. When your friend ditched, it sucked to have a sudden change to plans you were looking forward to amidst a sea of other sucky changes.

I do think this is "just" a bad period (in scare quotes because you're going through some pretty major changes, not trying to minimize it!!). Take time to sit with your feelings, just acknowledge them, don't grasp – meditation. You're coming out of an abusive relationship, so it's a very true reality that you probably weren't appreciated, and that's an okay thing to feel. Losing something as meaningful as funding for graduate studies and an intimate relationship and a tiff with a best friend all at once, would leave anyone reeling.

Sometimes life does happen to us, it's normal to feel helpless at times. We're blobs of water and carbon on a volcanic rock spinning around a nuclear furnace, after all :) Acceptance of helplessness will, as paradoxical as it may sound, help you handle it when it comes again. Do bring this all up in therapy!
posted by fraula at 2:34 AM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Hi sockermom. Like the above commenter, I recognize your handle as someone who gives some really compassionate answers to people on this site. I'm going to take a totally different tack from the learn-to-spoil-yourself (which is also important) school of thought here. I might be totally off base here, but your post made me think of a friend of mine. She does things for other people--more than she should, really--but she's also very good at spoiling herself with little luxuries, and yet she still gets attacks of the "why don't people appreciate me/do things for me?" that you mention here--because even when we're really good at taking care of ourselves, there's nothing quite like having someone else do it from time to time.

What I have observed about her is that she is very invested in presenting an image of herself to the world as invulnerable. She projects a complete lack of neediness and indeed can brush off attempts at sympathy, so everyone just assumes she's fine--not out of malice or even indifference; she's just seen as super-self-sufficient. And being self-sufficient is important, but as you express here, we also all enjoy having someone look after us sometimes.

So, I wonder if you are projecting a similar image of yourself to your friends? Especially if you were in an abusive relationship, you have gotten used to hiding things, pretending things are fine, and not needing anything because, well, what's the point, you won't get what you need anyway.

On the other hand, maybe I'm wrong, and maybe you just have a bad batch of friends, acquaintances, and relationships at the moment. That happens, too.
posted by tiger tiger at 2:41 AM on October 29, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Things may seem worse than they are because you are seeing a pattern where there isn't one. The three things you mention happening to you don't have all that much in common except for the way you interpret them. It sounds like having that boyfriend leave was actually a positive overall; the thing with the funding (ugh, I'm sorry) while a pain in the ass, was not about personal relationships. The thing with your girlfriend was personal and I'm not going to tell you not to let it bug you. It would bug me. With regard to that, I think you have high standards for yourself. Like others, I notice your comments on here and you seem really, really thoughtful and considerate. That's a good way to be, but it's true that a lot of people are not that way and don't attach the same value to it. So the question is whether and how much to go our of your way for people, without assuming reciprocity.

But beyond that, when a friend lets you down, I suggest trying not to see it as a culmination of things that have been bothering you but more in terms of that friendship and whether your expectations need a tuneup. And, as others have suggested, give yourself some appreciation! If you've acted in a way you can feel good about, that is a win no matter how other people respond.
posted by BibiRose at 3:29 AM on October 29, 2013

I expect nothing back but common decency and niceness.

Decency and niceness started going into a bit of a decline in the 1980s and are unfortunately no longer common. Appreciate them when you encounter them, and extend them to others because you understand that what goes around comes around, but really: in 2013, expecting them involves having that expectation dashed over and over and over, and that will make you sad.

Accept the fact that more people than not do in fact behave like venal, self-serving, inconsiderate arseholes. Try recreational hatred, or move out of the big city and go live somewhere small enough that people still give a shit about each other.
posted by flabdablet at 4:22 AM on October 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You got into this relationship pretty soon after leaving an abusive LTR and although you mentioned having had some therapy it's likely there was a lot more to unpack before getting emotionally involved with someone new. The abuse, your shame/relief/pride/dozen other competing emotions, and even your ex himself may have taken up more space than you realize in your new relationship - and in friend relationships too, especially if you are less of a group person and more of a one-good-friend person. It's a lot for the other person to deal with when they just wanted a fun night out.

I strongly recommend taking some real time to focus all on you, with help from therapy, yoga, abuse survivors groups, karate classes, a new software you didn't have time to learn while funded, etc., anything that has you focusing on yourself & finding/recognizing your own value rather than hoping someone else will.
posted by headnsouth at 5:15 AM on October 29, 2013

Best answer: Yes, stop doing things for people.

I often feel unappreciated - like you, I'm the nice one. I host events, I lend money, I lend a listening ear, I am really good at making sad nerdy people feel special and loved, I give people stuff, I cook...de facto, I run the place where I live, make the major decisions, do most of the cleaning and project manage every fucking thing. And of course, as a result, I'm also the boring maternal one who gets treated just like we treat mom - and of course, in our culture, everyone thinks their mothers are foolish at best and monstrous at worst.

It can be really, really painful to let go of your expectations about the world. After a bunch of therapy, I've let go of a lot of mine - and it sucks, I hate it. I look at myself and I realize that I am basically a jaded and cynical person, that I've let go of my belief that people can be decent to each other as an everyday thing, that we are not really mostly controlled by hate, fear, the unconscious, greed, etc. People are terrible, they really are. And the very best people are the people who spend a huge amount of time just not letting their unconscious cruelty, racism, violence, etc control their interactions with others. Basically, just to avoid being terrible pretty much requires a total contemplative existence.

So yeah, it's pretty demoralizing. I expect that I'll get used to it in a few years and it won't seem so awful. My parents raised me with a lot of kind but not very useful illusions about how people are and ought to be, and putting those aside is hard.

But! Also consider why you've been doing things. Mostly I used to do things for people because I thought that would make them like me and care about me, and because I wanted to express that I liked and cared about them. This doesn't work. If you want people to care about you, stop doing things for them. Only do things for people after they care about you already.

Or, alternatively - and this is why I still do things for people some of the time - do things for people out of abstract principles, the desire to make people Not Be Miserable. And detach your emotions, don't expect to be liked. Do things for people because it makes you feel good to make people Not Be Miserable, not because you expect them to like you.

I don't know how to convey this, but there's sort of a mental trick - a mental backflip, if you will - where you can suddenly stand on your own two feet, emotionally-speaking. I used to be a mess. Now, when I worry that people don't like me, I tell myself that it doesn't matter, I'll find other people or enjoy being by myself. And I really believe it - that's the trick. I think I got here through going to therapy for a year and really wanting to change and let go of my old behaviors.

As far as academic funding goes - you should be demanding and make a fuss (when you get funding again). Women don't get enough attention or funding at the best of times, and if you've been being nice and paying attention to others' needs and being honest instead of self-aggrandizing, you will of course get passed over. I've seen people who make the biggest fuss get the most funding, and people who are the best and most dedicated barely squeak by because a few people perceived the value of their work.

Basically, you need to internalize that you have to be on your own side. Even saints tend to be really self-willed and driven - saints aren't just bags of mush who get walked on. It sucks. I would much prefer a world where we could all be attentive about each others' needs, share resources fairly, etc. But that's not this world.

I'm not saying that you should trample on others - but when you're busy Not Trampling and Being Attentive, make sure you get your head right. If you're helping others, make sure that you're doing it for its own sake, because you're shooting for sainthood, or a feeling of power or a feeling of being an insider or getting more understanding about people. It's when you start to expect stuff back that (as you see) you get let down.

I don't like feeling like I have a protective wall around my character, but that's the wall called "boundaries" and it beats the hell out of being nice to others and wishing and hoping and hinting that they'd be nice back.
posted by Frowner at 6:34 AM on October 29, 2013 [9 favorites]

I think you settle in your relationships and fail to see them for what they are.

You gravitate towards people that you enjoy, but who may not be emotionally able to give you the deep, intimate relationship you crave. So they think you're a fun person to hang out with sometimes, and you think that they're one of your best friends. Hence, you go overboard, baking cakes instead of sending a card. Then, when you realize that they don't have the emotional investment in you that you have in them, you feel used and unappreciated.

Sometimes people will cancel at the last minute because their primary relationship needs tending. You can roll with it, and either get Thai anyway, or you can sit home with a Lean Cuisine and sulk and fume.

Scale it all back. Don't GIVE so damn much. Friendships take years to deepen, after you leave school there are no Insta-Friends.

As for romantic relationships, you say you didn't feel appreciated. You wanted love and committment early on, he wanted to go at a slower pace. Again, forcing intimacy. You say you complained. It makes me wonder. Complained about what, exactly? "You don't love me the way I love you!" That's not a complaint, that's a statement of fact. He can't feel what you want him to feel. People who are in tune with relationships understand that feelings of love develop at different times and at different paces. So you love him more? Big deal. If he's not where you are yet, that's okay. It's not a race.

As for your job/school, if you feel put upon and unappreciated, go out and find another position, or just leave and get a regular job. The marketplace will assess your skills and experience.

No one is forcing you to stay in friendships, relationships and jobs/education that no longer provide you with what you are looking for.

I would recommend learning to appreciate yourself, by being alone. Don't jump into a new dating relationship. Don't go out trying to get new friends. Instead, really learn what it is that you like, and learn to shower yourself with the appreciation you feel you deserve.

Also, learn to say no, if something is an imposition. Say yes if you want to, but don't expect anything in return.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:57 AM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, the boyfriend - I felt entirely appreciated by him (until he dumped me out of absolutely nowhere, in a pretty shocking way) - I think that you read that wrong, Bunny. I didn't want love or commitment from him, only respect and trust, which I received marvelously while we were together. True - I told him I loved him before he told me, but also told him that to me that when I said that I was not implying long-term commitment (we mutually agreed on monogamy, but to me commitment is not the same thing - it's much larger). Commitment? I wasn't pushing for commitment; not intentionally - I have no desire to get engaged or married or even attend work functions with him any time soon. I mostly enjoyed this man's company, thought he was a stand-up guy, and liked being with him. He brought out the best in me, and we supported one another really well while we were together (I thought - I still do not understand the breakup, really).

I complained to him about being unappreciated in other ways by other people (particularly by a close friend who did something very hurtful to me - not the Thai dinner thing, something much more egregious, and by my department for not funding my research) and he took that to mean that I was dropping hints about him not loving me. That hurt: I was not being passive-aggressive. I was sharing my fears about things going on in my life with my confidante; something we both did regularly. Whenever I did have issues with him, I talked about them, and we resolved them. It was a healthy relationship, and I was not pushing or harboring resentment or anything of the sort.

Yes, I am now doing yoga, and will look into meditation. I am much happier with who I am and with myself than I have been in a very long time (perhaps ever?) I do, however, need to re-adjust my expectations about other people, I think. I liked the comment that not being a terrible person is incredibly hard work for most people - isn't that a sad truth?

Frowner, I am working on that backflip. I like that a lot.

I think that fraula was spot-on when she said that I wasn't appreciated in my abusive relationship - is that not a large part of the entire underpinning of an abusive relationship? - and maybe some of these things are residual. I noticed in the six months after I left him I was really having a lot of crazy emotions that seemed to come from nowhere, and at some point I realized that they were just stuffed so deeply underneath all these layers of "I'm OK" during that relationship but they still wanted to get out because I hadn't processed them. Perhaps this is just a continuation of that phenomenon.

Thank you for all of your answers, even for the ones that really stung to read. I appreciate everyone's thoughts.
posted by sockermom at 7:17 AM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I liked the comment that not being a terrible person is incredibly hard work for most people - isn't that a sad truth?

No. It's one person's current perspective, that they admit is jaded and that they hope to stop believing as they work through their own changes.

Don't let that be your takeaway. Let your takeaway be about your own growth, not about other people's failings.
posted by headnsouth at 7:26 AM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Uh, yeah, I'm with headnsouth. I don't find myself that not being a terrible person is an incredible amount of work, nor do I find that the case with the people that I am close to.

I am the sort of person who inwardly cringes when someone cheerfully announces that "I believe most people are good inside"--I don't think people are mostly inherently good or bad, they just are--and even I was taken aback by the cynicism of a couple of the answers here. That doesn't mean that they aren't reflective of those people's views and experiences, but don't take them as being any more reliable than any other set of impressions about How People Are. (After all, look at all the people trying to be helpful here, at no particular benefit to themselves.)

From my perspective, I just had an extraordinarily difficult year, and I'm aghast at the generosity and caring I've received from people. I don't have any way of knowing whether you need to adjust the way you relate to people or find a new crowd of people to relate to, but the mutually-caring, look-out-for-you-in-a-pinch types of people are out there.

And I do agree that if people don't like you, do that backflip and go find some people who do.
posted by tiger tiger at 7:49 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I liked the comment that not being a terrible person is incredibly hard work for most people - isn't that a sad truth?

I don't think that's the truth, but I guess that depends what you think makes someone a terrible person. I think most people are simply self-interested and are their own first priority. Or if it's not them, it's their kids. Or their significant other in a committed relationship.

Adult relationships can be very fluid. The notion of even having a "best friend" hasn't meant anything to me since I was in college. That your best friend chose to have dinner with her girlfriend instead of you shouldn't be a huge surprise (especially since it sounds like this has happened before), although yes it is rude if this was already a concrete plan, and she should be aware that that was rude. But keep in mind, since you say she was acting weird and made it clear you weren't welcome, that could've had nothing to do with you and more to do with her relationship with her girlfriend.

I think, for the most part, people aren't intentionally malicious to others, even when they do something that ends up making others feel bad. This of course doesn't apply to abusive relationships, just in general. Stuff like this is often not about you, but more about how other people relate to the world around them and what is going on in their lives. It can suck, and it becomes especially painful and glaring when you're not content in your own life and feel like no one cares about you as much you think they should based on the care you've shown them. But that's how it is sometimes, as you know.

As for how to deal... maybe this is an off the wall suggestion, but one of the joys of pet ownership is that you have this weird little creature who likes you a lot if you take good care of it. My cat can be a pain in the ass, but she is unfailingly incredibly excited to see me every day when I get home from work. She loves it when I get out of bed in the morning, and it's not just because she knows I'm going to feed her. This is something that makes my daily life more enjoyable. Have you considered getting a cat?
posted by wondermouse at 12:56 PM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A couple of things that helped me:
- taking care of myself better
- being a lot more selective about what I say yes to ('I don't feel like it is a good enough reason')
- recognize that almost all of what I do for others I do at least as much for me (now that I'm better about saying no): to be the kind of person I want to see myself as, or to have and keep friends
- recognize equally that most of what other people do or don't do for me is mostly all about them and what's happening in their heads and in their lives, and not about me
- accept that some things are out of my control, there are things I deeply want (like a loving caring relationship, or my mom to be alive to take care of me again) that have nothing to do with fairness or justice or what I deserve or what I have earned but are just the way that life goes.
- acknowledging my own shortcomings and all my many (I hope mostly small) shortfalls and transgressions and flakinesses etc) that I 'get away with' because it isn't about fairness and justice.

Good luck. It sounds like you are in a rough place. I don't think now is the time to make any new life decisions or any changes more drastic than a haircut. It sounds like a time to cocoon and curl up and luck your wounds until you're feeling stronger and better.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:03 PM on October 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

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