Friendship: How Survivors Can Deal

Hello again! I know I am blogging (quite a lot) in 24 hours. This is what happens when on a sabbatical. You discover places you probably have not been in a very long time.

As I mentioned before, this site is for adults who survived this abuse. It is a place for all to be accepted. Despite any differences people should be treated decently. There is far too much nasty out there and I am not adding to it.

Who needs it anyway?

One thing I hear from survivors is that they struggle with friendship and acceptance. Yes, all of our experiences are different. We all came out of this differently. Some of us fear leaving the house it is so bad. Others?? They came out unscathed. Sadly, some became abusive themselves. Psychology is a subjective beast after all.

I know this has been something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. When one goes through this, it can be hard to learn healthy social skills and social awareness for that matter. You miss out on a lot! You find ways to cope that are not always healthy. You develop problems that stay with you for life. However, you can also relearn these things with time and patience.

It’s scary territory! Even in my 40’s it can be scary! Anxiety develops and it can be crippling. The punch in the stomach feeling is the worst. The nervousness around people you desire to know better. However, we need each other. That is something I have heard over the past nine months more than I have in my lifetime.

Here are some things I have learned about friendship. A few do’s and don’ts. Lets list them.

The Do’s

  • Get to know someone that you can learn from that does not insist you are like them. A friend will love you regardless. Sure, it helps to pick those who are similar to us. They are our safety nets. The ones who “get” us. However, do you want to grow? Go outside the box and get to know those who are different.
  • A good compromiser: In all relationships, we give as much as we take. We do not always get our way or what we want from others. If you find someone who does know how to compromise, you are probably going to learn to give as much as you get. Its worth it at the end of the day.  Its healthy to do this in relationships.  You like to call people and your friend does not? Let them call you and you FB or text to them in reply. On the same note, if they call take time to listen. If you text or inbox them, they should do the same for you. There are so many ways to communicate now. We all have our preferences. Not everyone will have the same as you.
  • Encouragers: Friends should not tear one another down. They should be our greatest cheerleaders. They do not try to change you. They accept and love you! At the same time, they call you on the carpet when you screw up…its because they care! I have a friend I made online during my healing. We both have clinical depression. When I screw up, she will call me on it. I need that! We all do!
  • Honesty: A friend should be honest. No, not the brutal stuff that leaves you in tears but someone who will tell you what you need to hear. People need to hear things sometimes. You don’t want someone to drown so to speak. If they ask for your opinion, give it but in a tactful manner. Enough with the brutality….that’s just abusive! Next!
  • Space: We all need our space. Sometimes we need to take time to regroup and recharge. A friend will respect your space and time. You do not need to call them daily or go everywhere with them. We all have our boundaries and friends need to learn that. If someone does not want to share an aspect of their life with you, respect that. People come into our lives for various reasons. Friends will understand and respect them. Also, some of us need contact more than others. Its okay…..just agree to meet halfway in how often you wish to hang out or just chat.
  • Needs: One friend will not meet all of our needs. We should not expect them to do so. This is why having a variety of friends is important. Sure, we have our lifelong friends. I have a handful of those. They have known me in person and for many years. I am talking middle, high and college schools. Developmental years! I knew them in different seasons and to this day have stayed on this journey with me.  However, I have made room in my heart for new people too. We have to do this in order for us to grow ourselves. Don’t shut or limit yourself. At the same time, do not put everything on one person and expect them to carry it for you. Its not fair and no growth happens. Discern those you meet. Do not give your heart to just anyone. Not everyone has your best interests at heart.
  • Communication: Yes, we are all busy. However, find time to stay in touch. This is why I like Facebook so much. It gives me opportunity to keep up with all friends plus family. I know they are as busy as I am and but getting inbox messages, cute pictures or just a quick hello mean a lot .I know they are there regardless.
  • Common Interests: This always helps. What are things you enjoy? Do you have the same faith? Even though this is important, it does not always have to be this way. Allow yourself to know someone who is different. We can learn a lot from each other. At the same time, it is refreshing to find others who read or go to parks as I enjoy doing.
  • Trust: Most importantly, we have to trust our friends. Will they keep our secrets? Will they come through for us? Will they insist that we allow toxic people into our lives? Do we trust them with our lives? A true friend will respect all of this. They will help us when down and celebrate the good times.

The Don’ts

  • Someone who tries to get you to know too quickly. Friendships take time to grow and develop. These days with our face paced schedules, it can take longer for these things to happen. If you meet someone one day and they are calling you bestie within a week, you may want to rethink getting to know them. People who do this are likely to end the relationship as quickly as it began. This makes me very uncomfortable…..someone getting close too fast!
  • Clingy: Yes, we can get needy at times. Its human nature and we are wired for socializing. We need each other. However, you do not want to be clingy or allow others to cling to you. Its a draining feeling. Allow yourself to become aware of your needs and see if others are seeking the same in return. Or, if they can fill those needs. As I mentioned earlier,  we all need space. You cannot save people…..you cannot carry them…..
  • Trigger words: If someone uses these particular words be very careful. Phrases such as “fit in”, “in crowd”, “elitist” or those who shut others out, are not careful words or actions. If you struggle to become part of a group like this, you will just about have to sell your soul to get in. These are people who want you to conform and be like they are. Trust me, you can do better. A healthy person will have enough room for you in their hearts regardless. I have learned this hard lesson several times in my life. Its that need to belong and be accepted. We just need to be careful……..very careful……
  • Isolation: If someone want to isolate you or seems to do this, please get out as fast as possible. They tend to have two things on the mind: Control and power. You do not need this stress in life. When I lived in California, I made a friend who lived in the same building I did. At first it was refreshing to have someone so close. However, she started to get clingy and would call up to five times a day. Then, at least twice a day knock on my door. It was affecting my work and space. She did not understand the concept of compromise or boundaries. I had to move on, it was too much. She was trying to listen through the door while I was on the phone helping people. I came thisclose to getting a restraining order. After a period of time, it started getting abusive. The emails were full of drama and I had to back off. Enough was enough……
  • Conflict: This is normal in any relationship. Nobody agrees 100% of the time. Its unrealistic to think otherwise. There will be tension and drama. Toes may unintentionally get stepped on from time to time. However, once upset, do they come to you and let you know how you made them feel or do you take your frustrations elsewhere? If you go elsewhere, nothing will get resolved. The problem will fester inside and become a sore spot. Please, if in the midst of conflict, please go to the person who upset you. If you don’t, you are going to get maybe 1/8th of what really happened. You will develop misconceptions about the other person. Its not worth it and you could miss out on getting to know a genuinely good person.
  • Trust: This is by far the most important element in any relationship. If you share a part of your heart with others, you expect them to keep it where it belongs: in the vault. I know when we see mutual friends we ask about others and share superficial bits and pieces on how they are. However, you share a secret you expect that other person to keep it. If you cannot trust someone, how can you expect to have a meaningful relationship with them? Do they talk badly about their other friends to you? If so, chances are they are doing the same about you. It gets toxic getting together and just nitpicking on someone. Yes, we will bug each other but do we need to take it elsewhere? What is it proving?
  • Constant Criticism: If a friend is constantly criticizing us, be careful. Constructive criticism is healthy. The stuff that makes you feel horrible inside is not. Trust me I know………

In my own healing, these are things I have learned. We must handle one another carefully. Nobody is perfect and we seek different wants and needs from other people. Please also know there is no right or wrong to any of this. I can list pros and cons but I know one person will not fill all do’s and do nots. We just have to be cautious as to who we accept and let inside. If our spiritual gift is discernment then this is a great time to put it to use. Listen to your instincts! As a survivor myself, I always wanted to be accepted and be part of something. This was because I was rejected so much in life. However, I learned through many trials and errors what to and not to do.  It is different for everyone…..I can only share what I know….

I have a handful of friends who have been in my life for most if not all of my life. Let me talk about them for a few minutes.:

One friend I had made in the 6th grade. It turns out that our mothers grew up together and their families were good friends. We are a third generation of friendship between the two families. My greatest comfort here is my friend has been a constant in my life since I was 11. We had history. We grew up together. I spent late childhood, puberty, adolescence, young and middle adulthood with her as a friend. We went through different storms at different times in life.  We had periods of separation. However, I know I can pick up a phone, inbox a message and its like we can pick up where we left off. I learned history more than anything from this friend. Someone who grew with me. Saw me at my best and worst. I am blessed to call her friend.

Another I made a couple of years after that. She and her sister were a package deal at the time. They were both older than I was. They lived around the street from me at their older brothers house. For a long time we had lost touch. However, we reconnected on Facebook back in 09. Despite time and experiences, I still value this friend. For starters, they accepted me despite being younger than them. When people are in those developmental years, age differences are obviousAs adults, not so much. Most importantly, when I was being abused by my peers she and her sister never believed rumors or added to the problem. I valued it then and value it now. I will always be there for her. I learned from her that not everyone will follow the pack. People will make up their own minds and give people a fair shake. Today, this is something I value in others. I told her the other day that the next time she came to town, we needed to go on a bike ride….we did these as kids back in the 80’s.

Another lifelong friend I made was in high school. This is one friend I have known since I was 17 and have never lost contact with her. The longest I have gone without talking to her all of these years has been three months. She has always been there for me and visa versa. Things I learned from her were loyalty and consistency. To this day, I feel as if she is a sister and would feel lost without her. I remember my final year of high school. We wrote over 50 pages in each others yearbook that year. Everyone was saying how we were ruining these and would regret this as we got older. Ya know what? I loved it then and love it now. So many memories shared in there. I can go back in that yearbook, read these things and remember how we were then and how we are now. We think outside the box and beat to our own drums. Regrets? No way! My favorite yearbook is the one we wrote so much in.

My fourth friendship I value is one I made in college. This friend and I met during my early 20’s and she is older than me. Yes, a baby boomer and knows my thoughts completely on that. We were both psychology majors at school. We were in different places in life. I was growing out of adolescence and into adulthood when we met. (Remember, the brain does not completely develop in full form until a person turns 25.) She was in her 30’s and had a family. After we graduated, we stayed in touch. Through the years we had our share of conflict and troubles. She is highly independent and dares to be herself in our nutty world. These are things I learned from her. Conflict is okay and being yourself is the best way to be. Again, things I have learned to value.

I have had others friends in my life. People have come and gone throughout the seasons and years. However, these are the ones who stuck around despite my own dysfunction and I look back and see how they played important roles in my life. How they helped form my value system during the years of growth. They are also sisters in Christ. So I know I will spend eternity with them. Sadly, I struggled with the many others and made many mistakes. Many I tried to get to know and got rejected. I have rejected only three friends in my life. Several who were abusive in the past I chose not to reconnect with. Its that wisdom to know the difference thing.  I am learning where to find people who are healthy and stay away from toxic. Those I rejected as an adult were toxic. Those who I already knew were toxic I cut out of my life. Who needs it?

Anyhoo, to you ladies above….I am blessed to know you all. Thank you for helping me become the person I am today. You are all pure awesomesauce!

This is long I know. If you read this far I commend you. I wanted other survivors to know there is hope. There are probably people who impacted you as these have me. Not everyone was a beast. Think back to those early years. Any positive there? Also, I hope these suggestions help you. I can only speak through experience here. Shutting up now….

Blessings,

Elizabeth

 

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