Ok, so it’s weeks like this when I realise how much work I still have left to do on myself and my relationships with others. I thought I was pretty sorted when it comes to friendships. Mainly because I have so many amazing people round me, that I feel like I must be doing something right. Relationships are funny things though and require hard work and communication. Maybe my communication isn’t quite what it should be….
In The L Word I wrote about the loneliness I felt and in Humans I talked about discovering a co-working space which led me to meet a network of people and develop a squad. This is an amazing and beautiful thing and I’m really lucky but it also comes with its own problems. I now have to navigate and create brand new relationships with actual human beings who all have their own expectations and needs. *Gulp!* Apparently I’m out of practice. (In fairness to me, I have basically been sat in my house or in a hotel room on my own for the last 2 and a half years). The relationships I’ve been maintaining during that time are with people I have known for years. They are also (on the whole) long distance. So this situation, where I find myself developing lots of new relationships, totally from scratch, with people that I see every day, is weird and a bit uncomfortable.
I think the main thing I’ve noticed is that not everyone wants or needs the same things (who knew?!) and that actually the way I communicate with people should change depending on their needs. So for example, one of my neighbours appreciates very clear communication. She doesn’t like fluff or the subtleties of ambiguity. She likes direct, clear, black and white. One of my other new friends is the exact opposite. He enjoys the fluff. What he could say in 5 words, he would prefer to say in 10. He likes the word play. It’s not just the communication element I have had to be conscious of, it’s also the actions I use to demonstrate my friendship to others.
For example, I have two new best friends, both boys and together we are a weird, slightly dysfunctional little family. I love them both dearly and they literally give me life. One of them pointed out to me that perhaps I don’t give him the same level of attention as I do my other friends. So in a group setting that can leave him feeling like I don’t value his contribution as much as the others. That was hard to hear because I would never want someone I value so highly to feel that way. But I’m so glad that I now know, so that I can adjust my behaviour and ensure that he knows how much I rate him.
I’ve also had to think about how I set the tone of my friendships. My other bezzie pointed out that I offer lots of help and support to everyone so I design these friendships that are very one way, where I’m giving lots and not getting much in return. He basically said, you’re defining your friendships this way so you can’t get frustrated when you don’t get back what you invest. He made a bloody good point. It comes back to what I said in What are you worth? about setting boundaries. So how do I do that? Well, I do what my bezzie did, I communicate my needs to others. It’s simple really when I think about it. So why don’t we do it? Maybe because it’s uncomfortable. It makes us vulnerable because we’re putting out there what we want and why. As hard as it is, the only alternative is to live a life filled with relationships that we aren’t happy with.
So, I sat down with my two new bezzies and told them what I wanted from them. You know what happened? They were grand with it! It wasn’t a big deal. It now means that we’re clearer on how we interact with each other which can only lead to growth for all of us. It wasn’t scary. Ok, it was slightly uncomfortable to begin with but once we opened up and cut the bullshit, it was easy.
I have a few other people in my life I need to do that with. I’m looking forward to redefining the dynamic and actually living a life that is less about me people pleasing and more about what I need as well as what others need.