I'm going to put myself out there and say that I struggle with maintaining friendships. Not only is maintenance a struggle, but I find that my love for meeting new people has diminished for the fear of them wanting to get too close to me, because that often doesn't end well. I can meet up with you for lunch and chat here and there, but actually moving to that next level of friendship is hard for me.
I've been on an internal journey to figure out why, and after much self-reflection, 90% of it comes down to boundaries.
I realize that I try to set boundaries in my relationships with people entirely too late. I like to allow the relationship to take its course and build authentically, which is great but a fault. By the time I realize there's actions my counterparts act towards me that I don't like and I communicate it, that respect isn't there. It's almost like I never communicated to them as they continue to do the same things, or I'm labeled "a bitch, or taking things too seriously" for simply communicating the guidelines that don't make me feel safe on the inside and out.
I find that most people already have a perception of my personality made up before they get to know me. This is usually a "she's put together well, has everything figured out, has done so much" approach matched with a tad bit of praise. So when I get to a level of comfortability, open up, and share personal struggles, it's usually always used against me in some form. I open up about my struggle with body image, and a week later that same person I trusted to lend listening ear and a shoulder to lean on makes a comment about my weight, like I didn't just give them the entire back story on the eating disorders I've battled with for years.
My favorite is when I express passion towards something like traveling, money moves, or even blogging, and a subtle passive-aggressive comment hits me from someone I thought I could trust trying to convince me that I'm not good enough. An arrow aimed with the target being my self esteem. Are you a supporter, or keeping me close as an enemy? By the time I find myself asking that question, I place distance between myself and that person leaving them to try and figure out why this friendship didn't work out. I saw red flags and I ran. If I can't open up to you the way I want to and I have to avoid talking about certain things in fear that you will aim that arrow, what is the point? I'm not interested in fitting myself into a bubble so others can be comfortable.
When this happens I retreat to my favorite form of setting a boundary: establishing a barrier. That's a nice way of saying "cutting you off". Not allowing any more access to me. No phone calls, texts, hanging out, lunch, brunch, nada. It's like we never knew each other. One day we were sitting in each other's presence sharing all of our family trauma, and the next we don't even have each other's phone numbers. I do this all the time honestly, especially to family members. There comes a point where it's not that people don't understand, they simply do not care.
I don't have time to teach grown people how to have mutual respect for others. How to consider the feelings of those around them. How to listen when communication is being promoted, which is really the calm before the storm for me. I exchanged the storm, consisting of blowups and harsh words, with silence and diminished access to me. No explanation, no warning, no nothing. But I know that I don't like the same thing done to me so I'm trying to grow.
I've grown extremely comfortable with myself and I don't need friends honestly, but I often come across good people with big hearts who prove me otherwise. I deserve to go through this life with supporting people by my side who I can make memories with for years to come.
A part of me will always be skeptical, but I have to trust that the good will always outweigh the bad.
As I sit here writing this, there's only one person who has ever seen me for me. No expectations, ever disrespecting me, uplifting me when needed, kind, compassionate, celebrating my accomplishments like they were her own, and always knowing what to say. I love you for that Mirlanda.