Today I want to talk about relationships of all kinds, not just the mushy/romantic ones, but the relationships you have with your friends, your family, your coworkers. For the past several months, I’ve witnessed the same limiting behaviors recurring with people who are at an impasse in the progression of our relationship, no matter how casual. In most of these cases, the other party seems to want a deeper, more meaningful relationship with me, but the things that they are doing prevents this from happening. I want productive relationships, and if I can see that is not going to happen, I stop devoting energy to the situation. I give people a lot of chances and I actively try to show them a productive way to interact, so don’t blame this on me. Sharing is an important component to successful relationships. You have to give honestly and sincerely of yourself, and accept what the other person is willing to share. This involves celebrating the other person’s successes and sympathizing with their troubles. It DOES NOT involve turning every interaction into “all about you” time. For example, a chronic egoist at my workplace uses every conversation as a cue to turn things into their own personal “show”. Another coworker celebrated a birthday last week. The showman in question didn’t even congratulate the birthday person before using someone else’s “happy birthday” wish as an excuse to interrupt the conversation and remind everyone of their own upcoming birthday. As if we could forget- when this person posts it on the company calendar.
The same behavior has manifested itself in a friend. I finally realized this fall that after nearly two years of acquaintanceship, this friend had no idea where I worked or what I did. I’ve had the same two jobs for the entire tenure of our friendship. I know all about this friend’s life – who their employer is, what they do, what they studied in college, but they would be hard pressed to come up with anything about my life, despite the fact that they consider themself to be very “friend-oriented” and have claimed on numerous occasions that “my friends are the most important thing in my life. ”
Part of the problem is the obvious disconnect between reality and these people’s perspectives of the situations. They think they are attentive. They are not. So, how can they be expected to change their behavior when they don’t realize it is dysfunctional? However inaccurate their perception of reality, the fact remains that they feel dissatisfied with the quality of their relationships. One would think this would prompt reflection and self-inquiry. But, of course, the problem always lies with someone else and not them. OR- this reflection provides more fodder for the narcissistic self-pity that fuels these individuals. I.e. if their relationships with others are unfulfilling, it is because “nobody likes me”, saaaad.
The situation becomes more complicated (and dangerous, I MO) because typically these individuals have a deep pool of self-loathing just under the surface stemming from all the usual insecurities that have been left to ferment. These insecurities normally manifest themselves in the type of behavior I’ve mentioned above – needy, basically, but sometimes will rear their ugly heads as bitterness and jealousy – especially when in the presence of true happiness. My life isn’t perfect and I definitely have things I’d like to change about myself (hello saddlebags) but I am happy. I like my life and despite the crap I have to deal with day-to-day am generally satisfied with my situation. I know how to get what I need and am lucky to be surrounded by people who love me. These people either sense that and want to latch on (desire for approval) and absorb it by osmosis or are bitter and jealous that their lives are not what they want and need. This can cause all sorts of unpleasantness.
I guess the thing that irritates me the most is — my life wasn’t always like this. It was HARD work to get over my own “humps”, to change my behavior and self-image, to work on my relationships with others, to overcome insecurities. HARD WORK. Work that is ongoing. If you are an unhappy person, stop whining about it and begin the process of change. It is a long, difficult process, but one that people will be willing to help you with and one that is worth the time and effort. Stop whining about it, stop expecting people to adore you and want to be around you – why would they if you don’t even like yourself? Stop being jealous of others’ happiness and trying to live vicariously through someone else’s joy and go out and get your own. There is more than enough to go around. There is an unlimited supply of happiness. Don’t expect me to do your work for you, though. And don’t expect me to just sit around and wait. I’m too busy enjoying life to be your audience. I’ve seen this show before and misery and self-pity just isn’t a draw.