SUMMER SERIES: TOUGH COOKIES
Let Me Be Me is writing a Summer Series! June starts our Tough Cookie series off with “The Demanding Friend” (Sally) and “The Unaware Friend” (Jonalyn). July and August will bring some more examples of the difficult types of women women we can be (oh no!) or run across. To whet your palate…you will read about The Unforgiving Friend (aka: Grudge Holder), and The Guilting Friend…and a few more!
THE DEMANDING FRIEND
Hiding in Plain Sight
Getting straight to the point, a demanding friend is one that requires you to behave a certain way to keep them “okay” and keep the relationship in tact. In such a relationship there is a lack of freedom and safety to be who you are. Demanding friends find sanctuary in relationships that do not challenge who they are; they prefer relationships that do not threaten their inner-secrets, their bad behavior, their immense sadness, their insecurities, their self-aborption. These relationships usually have a feigned sense of closeness and usually last until one person is not able or willing to meet the demands of the other.
A demanding relationship is built on similarity and unspoken agreements about relationship roles. Most people feel comfortable with similarity, and we can find similarity everywhere.
- skills and interests
- spiritual beliefs
- religious practices
- personal history
- eating styles and practices
- emotional health
- eating styles, preferences, practices
- hobbies (e.g. reading, cooking, writing)
- marital status
- political views
- sexual practices and beliefs
- work and career
Unspoken Agreements: People set up unspoken agreements all the time…its the ones that restrict freedom that get us into relational and emotional trouble. You call me, I don’t call you. You seek me out. You let me care for you. We don’t talk about the real me, we don’t talk about the real you. You must not change. I am never wrong. I dominate discussions. You need to agree with me. I am strong, you are weak (or vice versa).
Supply And Demand
In a healthy relationship, there is a balance between individuality and connection. If one is more than the other, one person is likely to have lost some individuality. When one side of a friendship is more demanding, there is less freedom to move with your own thoughts and feelings, similarities and differences, share and speak freely, or say, “No.”.
An interesting thought on this account is that freedom is always there for the taking…if I give into the emotional demands a friend makes on me, it is not only that she takes my freedom, it is that I let her have it. (Yikes…chew on that a bit!). This is where the “supply and demand” play on words fits in – two women’s unhealthy ways fitting together like puzzle pieces – one supplies what the other demands. In healthier relationships there is no need to fit like puzzle pieces, both women can maintain their individuality without being threatened by their differences, there is room for more than one opinion, both champion the other…more like holding hands, rather than fitting like pieces.
Me, demanding? No. Absolutely not.
But truthfully, we all do it. We all use other people to keep us emotionally stable. Many of us can correct or apologize for ways we demand others to care for us, but demands can also get out of hand. For instance, if I am high on the demanding side and prefer not to hear things about me that hurt or bother other people, I will likely respond with coolness, sharp words, interrupting, explaining myself, punishing responses (e.g. I am no longer available for our weekly tennis game and coffee), instead of listening and absorbing, discussing and learning.
So in essence, if you poke around my sensitive areas, if you upset me, if you hang out with someone else, if you don’t invite me – I respond in ways that demand that you return to normal behavior that soothes me. I demand that you keep me happy in this relationship. Your hurt and your experience,your wants and needs, your input and your insight are much less important, since my asserting control over areas I feel insecure becomes my main task.
To regain control, I might talk about you behind your back, swear off the friendship, get a new “bestie”, not return your calls, pout passive-aggressively, say ugly things to you that hurt your feelings or pick a fight with you… I might be subtle in my actions, or I might be loud. Anything to help us return to our “normal” way of being. Then, we will probably not talk about what happened, so that honesty and reality can be kept at bay.
What Does A Demanding Friend Look Like
- focused on getting their way
- uses words or tone of voice to change your mind
- reacts with anger or coldly to bring me closer or push me away
- the relationship runs hot and cold, on and off again
- minimizes my role in the relationship, my thoughts, feelings, my decisions
- strong preferences, strong reactions
- reacts if you are not “there for them” or available…they emotionally faint without support (i.e. so they require relationships to hoist them to stronger positions)
- the friendship centers around her needs, her schedule, her house, her skills, her interests…or – during times of stress, the friendship entered this territory and is less balanced and inclusive of both individuals.
- Can exist in any type of female relationship – family relationships (e.g. mother/daughter, sisters), church or religiously-linked friendships (e.g. spiritual mentor), long-time friends.
Uh-Oh, My Friend Is Demanding…What Do I Do?
Relationships that grow who we are are relationships that let us be, and encourage us to pilot our own lives (which can be quite scary at times). Friendships that do not have these qualities are worth looking at and deciding your next steps, your level of involvement and commitment. If you are on the other end of the demanding friendship, over-offering yourself, constantly giving in, losing your individuality to keep the peace…consider that this friendship gives you something to do, offers you a feeling of being needed, a special significance (i.e. supply and demand). But the counterpart to that is a murky self, a lose sense of value in a relationship.
There is always the option of confronting a friend, which is scary, difficult and revealing. Most people want to confront someone as much as they want to drink sour milk, but there are strong, loving ways to confront. If the relationship is heavily unhealthy or borders on codependency, a “break-up” might be in order. Any change in a relationship brings risk, and with risk there can be loss; you may have to grieve the loss of a friend.
Ready For Something New
If I am moving out of a demanding friendship, I can remember that new friends await me. Not all women are demanding, not all women require that you be other than you are. A genuine friendship is quite valuable and requires effort, openness and patience, and sometimes as an adult the task seems much more daunting than it did on the first day of second grade. I might also need time to heal, and getting support is always an option. Confronting myself can be as challenging as confronting someone else, but the rewards are indescribable and my relationships reap the benefits of how I take care of myself.
One of the most beautiful, prized things on this earth is who you are. A gem, a masterpiece. Another person does not need to fill you up, it is not necessary that you, the masterpiece that you are, be hidden under someone else.