I’ve been saying for the longest that I wanted to make my life my own. I feel like I’ve let so much pass me by. There are and have been so many things that I’ve wanted to do and have not done. Sometimes, I haven’t done those things because of laziness, particularly when it comes to planning. I’m big on making sure I’ve done what I need to do before doing what I want to do because I experience the worst guilt when I don’t. At other times, I waste my down time on things that don’t bring me enough satisfaction.
But there’s this other problem that I’ve been slow to acknowledge: I don’t have a squad. As a 40-year-old, single, childless, entrepreneur who despises surfacey conversations, chronic complainers, and long lines, it seems that I need to shop in a rather exclusive boutique for friendship. For the longest, this reality made me sad and set me up for some rather stale commentary from well-meaning people who say things like, “All you need is a man” as their assumption is that only somebody who is romantically involved with me would go along with (as opposed to enjoy) my ideas of fun. I guess it would give them challenges anew if I explained that the men I meet typically don’t have the ability to roll with me either. It appears that nearly every 40-something year old man I know is an active parent (I don’t intend to parent, co-parent, or step-parent), is separated (which still means unavailable), simply doesn’t enjoy the things that I do, or fails to think that I am the best thing since sliced bread.
In an attempt to have a social life despite not having a squad, I invited two friends to go to a festival with me. Before the event, I’d told them what I wanted to do and thought we were on the same page; I was wrong. I said that I wanted to go to the event to check out the vendors and do the wine tasting part; but, I didn’t plan on carrying a chair around for hours so that I could sit later. Therefore, (I’d) just leave when later came. Essentially, I thought we were going to taste wine, eat, spend, and go. At the last-minute, I learned that my companions actually wanted to hang out for the music festival and didn’t mind carrying chairs for hours.
No big deal, right? WRONG! At once, I was annoyed about the change in plans and really hate lugging crap around! Further, these two friends have more in common with one another than with me; thus, I also knew sitting for the festival was going to mean drinking bad wine (it tasted like Robitussin), listening to crude and harsh language (I despise gratuitous profanity), and trying really hard to keep the conversation light so that they wouldn’t think I was drag. Frankly, that prospect didn’t motivate me.
Because I knew what I knew about our vibe differences and my preferences, it is beyond me why I stayed once they began hunting for a spot to park themselves for the festival, especially since we drove separate cars! Then, it occurred to me that part of my squad problem is fear. Yup, good ole fear. I realized that I am often reticent about embracing my authentic self when I’m with others. I want to be thought of as the perfect hang out buddy and fear being kicked out of the cool kids club for not being that. Essentially, I sold myself out at the festival (and countless times in the past). I chose to frustrate myself for no good reason because I was afraid that they would decide that my friendship wasn’t worth it.
Of course, I needed to explore why I was so conflicted over something so simple. I mean, do I really think they’d “quit me” over it? When it came down to it, I had to acknowledge that I do think people tend to resist relationships with individuals who require additional or atypical effort (or don’t go along with the group). Bluntly, I believe people prefer relationships where they don’t have to bend to others’ preferences and boundaries simply because such is inconvenient and doesn’t let them be their proverbial selves.
(On that day and during times in the past, I had, in fact, asserted my preferences. In particular, my “vibe boundaries” were clear (I cannot articulate how much I hate the crude language.). Simply put, sometimes they’re respected and sometimes not.)
My real belief about people is that they say they want love and acceptance when what they actually want is pacification. They want somebody to be part of their agenda. The only real question here is whether people believe they’ll get enough reciprocity to make the pacification worthwhile.
Then, it hit me: I, too, am people! I am just as self-centered as those who I pacify, and much of my resentment about unfulfilling relationships should be directed back to me for two reasons. First, I want a “Yes!” squad, too. I want people to go along, enthusiastically and genuinely, with my agenda. On the other hand, I have yet to master not pouting when I’m asked to do the same. And when I do refuse, I feel guilty (Why this foolishness?) Second, I’ve failed to articulate what makes the give and take of relationships worth it: studies say that a person needs a 4:1 give to take ratio (4 positive experiences for every 1 negative one) to remain vested in a relationship. By quantifying what I want in general and what I get from a particular relationship, I am forced to acknowledge what I value as well as what I have to lose when managing the connection.
So, my challenge is to free myself of the pressure to be the perfect super-conforming friend which also means freeing them from being so as well. Then, my goal is to train myself to get what I want by first giving what I want: genuine interest, love, and respect so that I can leave the festival without guilt.
What is the source of your problems in your relationships?
Are you mad at them when you should be angry with yourself?