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Archive for the ‘codependency’ Category

So far, in our Tough Cookie Series we have taken a look at The Demanding FriendThe Unaware FriendThe Disappearing Friend and The Unforgiving Friend, The Guilting Friend.  We’ll close with the Confusing Friend.

With the Olympics these last few weeks I’ve noticed how meaningful each country’s anthem, played in their language, feels to the gold medalist. They suddenly hear their language, unique and special to their identity.

In friendship, we all speak a language unique to us. And our family of origin or our spouse know it better than anyone else. The key to good friendships is finding someone who wants to learn our language. And I’m not just talking about love language, I’m talking about the specific words we use that mean something nuanced to me or you.

When my husband and I find our son with a tummy ache, our first response is, “I’m sorry.”  This is our family’s way of saying “I’m sad you are in pain. I wish I could make it better.”

But that’s just our family. When our babysitter hangs out with our son, she was intrigued that a two year old is so quick to say, “I’m sorry.” She’s surprised that he tells her, “I’m sorry,” when she scratches her arm on the hike.

She and most of the world use “I’m sorry,” to communicate personal responsibility in the pain.  But in our family it means something different.

This doesn’t mean that the way we use, “I’m sorry” is the right way.  It is simply our shorthand to empathize.

We all have ways to communicate unique to us, our language. But to others this dialect can feel confusing.

The longer you walk with a close friend the more chances you’ll have to face their confusing side.

We communicate one thing, but our friend hears something else.  The only way out of confusing-ness is to learn how to communicate, not necessarily better, but more appropriately. Friendship is nothing if not learning another language.

Each friendship gives us new ways to communicate. In the end we’ll both know another language.

Friendship is one way immersion. Each friendship is a two-way language course, with new confusing ways of communication crossing and hopefully forcing each of us to stop and evaluate how to communicate better. We’ll both leave changed, not just one of us.

If your friend requires you to do all the language learning and has not learned your ways of communicating, guess what?

You’re being treated as a foreigner in your friend’s country with no emotional culture or language to share.  Instead you need to be acting as two sojourners traveling to each other’s countries.

Sometimes it’s easier to spot these foreigner friends in other situations than in our friendships.  You see the mother who requires her child to fit into her life from food to bedtime to travel. She makes no accommodation for her child’s sleep schedule or eating needs. The child’s language is being erased by the mother’s. Or you see the mother who terminates all her work, interests and outside-the-home hobbies for her child. She forgets what used to make her feel alive, she stops having friendships outside of her children’s friend’s parents. She loses her own language for her child’s.

Both mothers are losing something precious.

The same with friendships. We each have friends who have required that we learn their language. The question that is key is how have your friends learned yours? How have you asked them to change their communication for your needs?

If your friend asks you to text her back immediately to show you care, how have you (say you’re an introvert) explained that you feel close when your friend doesn’t expect to see you each week. How has your friend learned your language enough to respect and speak your language (maybe an email instead of demanding a get-together each week).

Confusing friends are normal, but one-way confusion leads, inevitably, to an imperialistic relationship.  We don’t want to be the colony that our friend takes over and remakes her image.  We all need to know that our language, even if it at first feels like confusing communication, is cared about enough for someone to learn our native tongue.

But if you find yourself learning lots of new languages with your friends, but not seeing your friend’s learning your language… it’s time to find a better friends.

Good friends want to know how to speak with you, in your language. And they will make the effort to keep trying, even if their pronunciation is off and their grammar silly.

They will try because they think you are worth it.

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So far, in our Tough Cookie Series we have taken a look at The Demanding Friend, The Unaware Friend, The Disappearing Friend and The Unforgiving Friend.  In August, we begin with The Guilting Friend.

Pack Your Bags, We’re Going on A Guilt Trip.

Have you ever felt like this is someone’s motto?  Or that you suffer under so much guilt that there is a stack of heavy emotional luggage by your front door?

Guilt is an emotion.  It has a specific place in our lives and is appropriate at certain times.  Guilt is the feeling we have when we have done something wrong or failed in an obligation.

Feeling guilt is like carrying a heavy suitcase.  Once you have this suitcase, you have to carry it wherever you go until you can get rid of it.  So, as you can imagine, carrying around guilt is a burdensome task that most of us try to shed quickly, even if it means we welcome another negative emotion like anger, bitterness or resentment.

There are two ways guilt shows up in friendships:

  1. You use guilt to motivate others.
  2. You respond to guilt used by others.

Why Does Guilting Work?

Living inside discomfort and awkwardness is very challenging.  I question myself, I feel alone, I feel sad and afraid.  Knowing that I have upset someone, knowing that someone does not approve of me and what I have chosen, knowing that these feelings won’t go away until I give in…that is why guilting works.

When I put my well-being, my happiness, my self-esteem into my friend’s hand, she becomes responsible for me.  Instead of me being responsible for me.  So, if I do something she does not like or say “no” to something she asks or wants, the way she responds to me determines what I do next.  This means she has more control over the flavor of my mood and my daily happiness than I do (because I gave it to her).

  • I change my schedule to accommodate her, otherwise she will be upset.
  • I say “yes” to too many activities when I know I do not have the time. I don’t want to argue about it.
  • I include a friend on all my activities because she makes me feel guilty if I don’t.
  • I don’t say what I really think and feel to avoid feeling guilty about hurting someone’s feelings.

The Removal Of Love, Approval or Affection

Two common responses when someone does not do what we would like for them to do is to remove something they find valuable or attacking the person’s character.  So, until my friend says yes to my subtle demand, I might

  • withdraw my love, affection or availability from her.
  • withdraw my approval so that she questions her actions/decisions.
  • put an edge in my voice or become a bit icy so that she feels the coldness of my behavior to her.
  • show my disapproval in my facial expressions, nonverbal language (sighs, huffs, raised eye brows, eye rolling).

If I can hurt her enough with my words, then I have succeeded in making her question herself enough so that her “no” turns to a “yes”.  My criticism is strong enough to hit her in a spot that makes her feel insecure or disappointing.

  • You are so ___________. (forgetful, selfish).

Dealing With A Guilting Friend

One of the best ways to deal with a friend who uses guilt is to begin with yourself.

It is easy to fall prey to guilt so that I can find quick relief from being alone, shunned, emotionally punished, shamed or hurt.  However, there is a cost to my giving in, a high cost.

When I give in and act out of guilt, I give small parts of myself away to this person.  Inside, my heart and my spirit lose stability because I have not stuck to my no, my instincts, my own wants, desires, beliefs – I have set those aside to avoid feeling guilty.  So I gain relief from guilt, but forfeit self-respect.

There are a few things to do within a friendship like this:

  • Practice.  The more you practice handling difficult feelings while honoring who you are, the easier it gets.  You also become more aware of when guilt and manipulation are used to get you to do what someone else wants.
  • Make sure you have healthy friends that encourage honesty and balance in a relationship.  A friendship like this allows each person to speak their honest thoughts and works with a “No” answer.
  • Honestly evaluate this friendship.  Without honesty and balance, is this really a friendship?  Is this a place you feel honored, encouraged and accepted?
  • Be aware of where you falter.  We all have weak moments and give in to being guilted.  Review the situation, have someone to talk to that can support you as you practice.
  • Confront.  We grimace at this and the discomfort it can bring, but talking to your friend is one way to keep the relationship honest.

The Lighter Suitcase

To take responsibility for my own okay-ness is a bigger task than most people think.  It means that I do not use guilt to motivate people to take care of me, but that I accept who and what they are right at that moment.  Even if I disagree or wish I could get my way, even if they withdraw their love or approval, I hold onto who I am. This is hard and often challenges me to actively withstand someone being unhappy or disapproving.

When I am not “for sale” and there is no haggling over my choices, I am free to be responsible for my own happiness.  I do not give anyone else the responsibility of keeping me happy, secure, whole.  My own actions help me lighten the  load in my friendships, allowing me to be me, you to be you in a space full of safety, openness, goodness, forgiveness and acceptance.

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We’ve been watching a lot of Winnie-the-Pooh lately. Throughout this 2011 movie, Pooh must struggle to help his friends or feed his rumbling tummy. Piglet makes the decision easy.

Piglet offers to reach into a swarming hive to get Pooh some honey.

When Pooh suggests catapulting Piglet up into the hive, head first, Piglet says the most unbelievable line, “Well, I’m sure you’ve thought this through Pooh.”

He then steps bravely to the board and Pooh teeter-totters him splat into the hive.

Pooh doesn’t apologize, instead Piglet calls out from inside the hive, “I’m sorry I messed up the plan, Pooh.”

Pooh is busy trying to find a large branch to bat the hive off the tree, meanwhile Piglet says, “The bees are really quite friendly as long as I don’t make any sudden movements.”

Then, Wack! Pooh batters the hive to the ground as Piglet genuinely asks, “Are you sure that’s a good idea, Pooh?”

Pooh reassures Piglet it is.

Piglet and Pooh remind me of myself. I can be the self-assured bossy Pooh who uses his friends to get what he wants and the naive and easily persuaded Piglet who sacrifices his personal safety and intelligence to to give his friends what they want.

The over-apologizing is something I did just today at the store, apologizing to people for their inattentiveness, apologizing when someone had to help me figure out the dog food I needed (I mean, come on, Jonalyn, it was their job!).

Next thing you know I’ll be apologizing when someone trips me.

Do you know what causes this abundance of apologies?

The belief that I’m responsible for other people’s feelings or actions.

By apologizing to the person who put my head in the bee hive I’m forgetting the one person I do have responsibility over: myself.

What about you, have you ever apologized to someone for their mistake?

or gotten into a sticky situation to help someone else get something they could have reached by themselves?

 

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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.

Built On…

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.”.

Photo Credit: Sally H. Falwell

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.

Who Me?!

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
  • codependency
  • 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.

Resources

Boundaries: When To Say Yes, When To Say No, To Take Control of Your Life

Please Don’t Say You Need Me

The New Codependency

Forgiveness and Reconciling: Bridges To Wholeness and Hope


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Spider-y Women

I saw the 2009 movie Coraline last night. Claymation alone the movie was beautiful, but the main character’s hope to escape her biting and over-worked parents lead her into an alternate reality where her “other mother” is a lot nicer.

She cooks, too. And decorates her room and sings her sleep. Her “other mother” also has buttons for eyes.

And in the end this other mother is a pretty freaky Cruella de Ville character with a skeleton of Shelob. The movie is Stepford Wives meets fairy tale. The ending is terrific.

Both Dale and I agreed the “other mother” reminded us of people, ahem women, we’ve known.

Do you know women who use their feminine skills (cultivation, sensitivity, nurturing) to spin a web and trap you?

Women who feed on other people like they were a trapped beetle in their web rather than a human made in God’s image.

For instance, the woman whose children feed her sense of worth by succeeding, their awards she seizes as her own, their strengths she takes full credit for creating.

Or the woman whose home is immaculate and who can throw a party like nobody’s business, but who cannot admit to needing anyone.

Or think of the woman whose need to be needed makes you pretend you need help when you’re actually fine.

Or the woman who can only befriend those who agree with her on every point, but stand up to her, disagree with her and she stonewalls you or talks behind your back.

Or the woman who collects friends for the way it makes her look on Facebook albums.

The Other Mother’s transformation Photo credit: darkinthedark.com/other-mother/

Know any spider-y women, spinning a web to get what they need, to trap people.

To feed on people.

Why do women become modern day Ariadnes?

Well, if Coraline taught me anything its because women believe they will die without using people for themselves. And worse, they believe they must trap people to make them stay with them.

What is to be done about spider-y women?

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In third grade the most popular girl in school invited me to go to Disneyland with her.

We got to take off school. We were in heaven.

Photo credit: socal.catholic.org

I wore a pair of flowered pants that I thought were pretty. My friend wore spandex pants that looked really good on her legs. A long slouchyT-shirt came over the top, tied at her hip.

Then entire day she kept looking at me and saying things like, “Can you pull your pants up, they’re so baggy.”

I tried, but seriously, baggy pants are hard to find.

I couldn’t tell her my mom wouldn’t let me out of the house in spandex.

I couldn’t very well defend my choice as the best pair of pants for the occasion.

I just sort of slunk around in my bagginess.

On the way home I felt pretty ambivalent toward my friend. Why did she invite me if she was going to spend the whole day telling me how embarrassing I looked to her?

I guess she didn’t realize my behind-the-times wardrobe since we, mercifully, wore uniforms to school.

Disneyland wasn’t as fun as I had hoped it would be.  And our friendship sort of fizzled after that.

She took someone else with her to Disneyland the next year.

Photo credit: stylehive.com

I never convinced my mom to buy spandex.

Thank goodness for the uniforms.

The times a friend has corrected me live eternal in my memory.

There were my closest friends who once all told me to stop being so bossy.

They were right.

There was my third grade friend who wanted me to get with the spandex fashion.

She was wrong.

There was my husband, yesterday, who told me he felt like my voice was too stern for the situation.

He was right.

How to give your opinion?

A few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Do not . . . 

– offer advice or correction when you’re not invested in the friendship long-term.

– ask your friend to change something she cannot currently change whether because of finances, family upbringing or personal courage.

– require your friend to take your advice after offering it.

– assume you know what it’s like for her before speaking into her life. For example take time to investigate the feelings of a stay-at-home-mother before critiquing or broadly summarizing their lives in public or in private.

Do

– share if an outfit looks unflattering with your friends who are safe and long-term, with whom you have both received and given suggestions and advice on fashion.  This is especially true if they ask you for your honest opinion about their clothes.

– explain the thing that bothers you about a friend when it personally tramples you. For instance, if a friend has hurt you it is appropriate to share this with them, most particularly if they have indicated their openness and safety to listen.

– pray about the things that bother you to determine if it’s your issue or theirs. Consider using these phrases to share if you’re not certain, “I have a problem, I feel confused, left out, etc. . . ” or “I’m not sure what to do right now, I feel (fill in emotion word here). . .”

Overall, it’s a good rule of thumb to avoid fixer-uper friendships.

I do not feel flattered or loved when I find out my friends have taken me under their wing to fix my fashion or my habits or my career choice.

I want friends who see me and say, “Oooh, I like that girl” (Thanks, Molly Aley) because of someone I already am.

When I’m believed in and loved, and know it, I can hear almost any correction.

Do you agree?

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Last year I wrote about stitching the cloth of friendship. I want to re-visit some of these threads and push them a little deeper.

For the full conversation, take a moment to re-visit The Recipe for a Good Friendship.

In the comments one reader asked about self-aware-ness, how was it valuable to friendship and what exactly made it good.

Good Self-Awareness

How is self-awareness richer than deep breathing and mat work at a gym?

Photo credit:yogaworldtours.com

Self-awareness is actually a vital ingredient in authentic friendships. Self-awareness is the fuel that powers humble people, those women we’re all drawn to because of their ability to be simply, themselves, no more, no less.

Self-awareness begins with an accurate assessment of who we are, what we can offer, what we can be and what we cannot be.

Self-awareness is precisely the reason most friendships don’t last a lifetime. The more we know about ourselves the more we come to realize our current friends simply don’t know or don’t want to know us.

Not Who I Was

Bee and I used to connect over mocking feminism, now I’m a feminist. What do I do?

In high school Lauren and I played sports together, now we don’t even live in the same town. How can we connect when we don’t have much to connect about anymore?

Ana has kids my age and lives in my town, but we don’t have more to talk about than our kids. Is our friendship worth pursuing?

If friendship requires connection points, and the more points we connect the more close we can be (for more see The Recipe for a Good Friendship), then how are you connecting with your friends?

Are these authentic connections?

Or do you long for more?

If I’ve been faking (so as not to hurt feelings) my interest in knitting club, but then I grow to realize I’d rather watch The Office and make cookies during that time, my knitting friends don’t really know me.

Photo credit:unappreciatedknitter.blogspot.com

By skipping knitting club I’m being more Jonalyn, than by going and making everyone happy. Of course, skipping out on groups that expect you bring up another barrel of issues.

What about hurting their feelings?

Faithfulness

And isn’t friendship about working hard when then going gets tough?

Sally and I are big proponents of sticking it out when friendship is hard. We recently got a chance to practice this with each other.

We all want to be faithful friends, but faithful to what?

Faithful to each other

and

faithful to who we really are.

With a masters degree in ethics, and a firm knowledge of Scripture, I think doing the right things is very important. But as my therapist once said, “Most of life isn’t black and white, right or wrong. We know a few moral commands (think 10 Commandments), but most of life we make decisions with complete freedom from God.”

God says, “You get to choose and remain faithful not to what others expect out of you, but to what I put in you.”

Self-Aware of God’s Ingredients

What did God put in you? What if you were free to find out?

If you want to go or not go to knitting (or any other) club?

To forego the playmate when I really don’t connect with her.

To leave the church because I am more fake than known.

To stop attending that group because I simply bores or exhausts me.

We do too many things because we think they’re “moral issues” when God has said, “You are free.”

So what could you do that would make you more the person God created?

What do you need to stop doing?

What friendships do you know won’t last a lifetime? and for good reason?

Sally writes well on how making changes with our friends involves both kindness and compassion, not simply dropping off the face of the earth. For more about transitioning check out her P.S. What I Haven’t Said.

Regardless, being self-aware in order to become more of who you are will require more work, but it will make you more free.

And this world needs you, the faithful you, the one God made.

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