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Should I just stop trying?


catmania

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*Long Post*

 

For almost eleven years I have not had many long-term friendships, and the short-term friendships have been very scarce. The two friendships I did have in this time were online and not always healthy. They both ended after a couple of years of talking online, never having met, never having Skyped, never having sent each other anything in the post. These two connections seemed deep at the time, but ultimately I don’t think they were really going anywhere and eventually contact just stopped.

 

In the past few years I have had to learn to accept and enjoy my own company. I like my solitude, and at least I know what I'm going to get from myself. However, I am still human, and loneliness can really take a hold of me. And it has done recently. To an unhealthy extent, I have felt this desperate need to find friendship. Having no success in that area has made me depressed, amongst other issues in my life, and I’ve felt kind of pathetic for not being able to contain this desperation.

 

I’ve been wanting friendships in the “real world”, as I have not had any since I was fourteen years old. Unfortunately circumstances prevented this, so I resorted to online. Once those circumstances cleared up a little, I was able to socialise a little more, showcase who I was to people. Nothing ever came of the effort I made to connect with people, to make a friend. So…I went back to the online world.

 

I had conversations with people, but none that ever lasted a few months. I tried being less shy, less reserved, less blunt. I opened up to people, talked about a variety of things, asked questions, listened to what people had to say, I thought I did my best at communicating with people. But, no one ever seemed to take much interest. I’ve changed the way I talk to people so many times that I was starting to become someone I wasn’t. I was just desperately trying to talk and be a certain way to certain people just to interest someone, anyone, and it never worked. I don’t mean to say that I ever pretended to be someone else, I just simply tried to do and say the right things all the time, when I thought I was saying and doing all the wrong things in the past. But nothing ever changed.

 

In recently weeks, I discovered a pen pal website. One of many I have been on, but this one “seemed” different. It was where people advertised their email, and to whoever was interested in being a potential friend or pen pal they could send through an email. To my mind, this seemed like a guaranteed way of making friends. These people were specifically looking for someone to talk to and connect with; I thought this was my chance! The desperation really drove me with this; I was all in, even if what I was experiencing was on the unhealthy side.

 

So, I read through many profiles, finding people who I thought I shared similar interests and ideas with, and I emailed them individual personalised messages. All up, I emailed fifteen people. I was so excited. I was hopeful, even though being hopeful has never helped me in the past. And unfortunately, this time was no different. Three people responded to me; two were blunt, disinterested, didn’t bother to ask me any questions like a pen pal would, and then eventually they just stopped replying to me. So that left one person. I guess this was the only positive; they’re still responding to me two weeks after I sent the email, which is nice. But one out of fifteen?! Even after these people were looking for people to talk to, they still don’t bother to answer or contribute to a conversation? It just boggled my mind and completely deflated me again.

 

However, still also having this desperation nagging me, I signed up to a different site dedicated to friendships. Was less hopeful this time, but thought I would try anyway. Again, I found people who seemed similar to me, who I could easily start a conversation with. Writing ten individual messages to ten different people, I just sat back and waited for a few days. Three responded; again, never bothered to ask me questions despite me asking them several to keep a conversation going; they responded to my questions and personal notes with short sentences and lack of interest. I wrote up a document and posted it on this site, asking what people wanted and why they were on this site if they didn’t want to bother participating in a conversation or responding. Didn’t get any helpful or legitimate answers.

 

What the hell am I to do?

 

I’ve tried all that I can. I have messaged so many people, written so many personalised messages, dedicated so much time and effort, opened myself up more than ever for so many years and yet I’ve got nothing to show for it. What do people want? I just don’t understand.

 

All I’ve ever wanted was friendship. I’ve not always been desperate for it. I thought I’d let things happen naturally, happen when they’re meant to happen. Nothing ever came of it. So I took action, put myself out there, and still nothing comes of it!

 

Should I just stop trying?

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So, how would you rate your listening skills - do you actively listen without kind of rehearsing what to respond with? Are you genuinely curious about what other people are interested in even if it's an interest you know nothing about? How do you show that? Have you tried meetup.com or doing volunteer work like working backstage in community theater? Have you joined outdoor activity groups?

 

I think online friendships are really valuable and can be really meaningful -I have and have had a number of them and will continue. And I think if you want friendship it's essential to also seek friendships in real life (because if you don't have those skills it's going to show in your online interactions as well). Also why do you want friends and what do you want out of friendship? Different people want different things and I suggest getting very clear on what you want out of a friendship -be specific. That will help, I think whether you write that here or otherwise.

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What exactly is your situation? Are you handicapped? Are you not able to leave the house? What exactly are you saying to these prospective pen pals that make them not want to write back?

 

You may be trying too hard to make friends. Do you have any hobbies? A lot of times you can make friends with people who have similar interests. As Batya said, it's best to seek friendships in the real world. If you let us know more about your situation, I'm sure people here can give you better advice.

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@Batya33 - There's nothing wrong with my listening skills. I know I am a good listener, as it is what I've been known for; I would listen to others because I didn't open up myself, but I was always there to lend an ear. I'm always curious about what other people have to say; I ask questions about them more than I talk about myself, and this has always been the case. I'm aware I need to seek friendships in the real world, but it doesn't just happen overnight, and as I have mentioned in my post...all the effort I put in goes no where. Why does anyone want friends? I don't see the point of this question. Everyone wants, and in fact needs, friendships. It's part of life. And when one doesn't have it, loneliness can set in.

 

@DanZee - Not handicapped, can leave the house. I'm not saying anything that makes them not to write back! How is this my fault? I come here to find support, not to be blamed. I show an interest in them, ask them questions about things they've written about themselves. I mention a few things about myself; I like cats, I'm writing a book, I'm looking for work, etc etc. Nothing that would make someone not want to respond. And I literally said in my post that I have always messaged people who share the same interests and hobbies as me, and still they don't bother to reply or participate in a conversation.

 

@catfeeder - I had depression, anxiety and agoraphobia. Couldn't leave the house for several years, hence no social interaction. But a few years back I overcame this and found work and socialised a little. Tried my best to communicate with people, and no one seemed to share that same interest of getting to know me.

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@Batya33 - There's nothing wrong with my listening skills. I know I am a good listener, as it is what I've been known for; I would listen to others because I didn't open up myself, but I was always there to lend an ear. I'm always curious about what other people have to say; I ask questions about them more than I talk about myself, and this has always been the case. I'm aware I need to seek friendships in the real world, but it doesn't just happen overnight, and as I have mentioned in my post...all the effort I put in goes no where. Why does anyone want friends? I don't see the point of this question. Everyone wants, and in fact needs, friendships. It's part of life. And when one doesn't have it, loneliness can set in.

 

@DanZee - Not handicapped, can leave the house. I'm not saying anything that makes them not to write back! How is this my fault? I come here to find support, not to be blamed. I show an interest in them, ask them questions about things they've written about themselves. I mention a few things about myself; I like cats, I'm writing a book, I'm looking for work, etc etc. Nothing that would make someone not want to respond. And I literally said in my post that I have always messaged people who share the same interests and hobbies as me, and still they don't bother to reply or participate in a conversation.

 

@catfeeder - I had depression, anxiety and agoraphobia. Couldn't leave the house for several years, hence no social interaction. But a few years back I overcame this and found work and socialised a little. Tried my best to communicate with people, and no one seemed to share that same interest of getting to know me.

 

Why do you personally want friends? I think it's a very valid question with answers that differ widely. What does a "friend" mean to you. No, not everyone -some people don't want close friends because they have family, others don't want friends who are really acquaintances.

 

I relocated to a new city after 43 years in one city my whole life -all my family was there. Really? Friendships don't happen "overnight"? It's hard to make good friends. So what. Put in the time, put in the effort, do what you consider your best. If what you are doing goes nowhere, look inward as well to see what you could be doing differently. And that is why i asked my questions about friendship. I had to mostly drop a longstanding but toxic friend over a year ago. I kept my distance. Lately we are getting closer again but I'm really cautious. She probably wonders why she triggers this in people-not just me - she is very self-aware and yet not as aware of what she does to drive people away. For example.

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I really think asking about why you want friends is very important. Motivation says a lot

 

I honestly have little need of friends. I have always been quiet the loner and that has never bothered me. I like it that way. I also happened to find a woman who is like me in this.

 

I am very talkative and socialable but maintaining a friendship is more work than I have ever cared for.

 

Also, everyone here is trying to help you. That is why we take time to write on here.

 

I can tell you DanZee was not attempting to insult you. Yet you took it so negatively.

 

It seems you are pretty aggressive towards posters who have no aims but to help you. That alone might be telling as to why you have an issue maintaining a friendship via messaging.

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@catfeeder - I had depression, anxiety and agoraphobia. Couldn't leave the house for several years, hence no social interaction. But a few years back I overcame this and found work and socialised a little. Tried my best to communicate with people, and no one seemed to share that same interest of getting to know me.

 

Most people are not our match. That's true of lovers, it's also true of potential friends, and it's true for all of us. That's not cynical, it's just odds, and it's liberating because you're off the hook from judging yourself based on the limited perceptions of others.

 

Getting clear about what you're looking for is foundational. Don't confuse finding friends with finding a lover. You can form friendships based on shared interests through meetup or a volunteer org or craig's list or through civic groups--you have the whole Internet at your fingertips to explore avenues through which to pursue new interests. Consider the people you meet to be 'acquaintances,' and respect the limits of others in timing and investment.

 

Most adults don't find the kind of 'besties' we could form as kids. We were blank slates then, and kids can homogenize well with others based on exposure. Adults--no so much. Our personalities have solidified and we're not everyone's cup of tea. We each have external demands and limits on our capacity and willingness to form new friendships. That's why adults tend to form different KINDS of friendships to meet different needs. A tennis friend might be lousy at conversation, a shopping friend may not share your politics, and a friend in whom you confide may not like crowds and won't attend events with you. So respect limits and don't be too anxious to form intimate friendships right off the bat. Allow acquaintances to remain at arm's length, or you may come off as too needy. Most people run away from needy. It's too much work and demands a premature commitment. Allow friendships to evolve over time.

 

Seeking lovers requires clarity as well. If you want to find a loving commitment, then make it known up front that that's what you're seeking, and screen out bad matches. Don't behave in ways that degrade your standards by settling for casual sex with hopes of converting that into more. That's messy kid stuff, and it positions you to be treated casually.

 

Consider using dating apps to set up quick meets over coffee, maybe 15 to 30 minutes. This allows you to check one another out without investing in exhausting and expensive first dates with anyone who you could tell in 5 minutes would make a lousy match. Don't message a lot before meeting--that's just fantasy building and isn't healthy or productive. Meet as many men as possible for quick meets. Rules are that neither can ask the other out for a real date on the spot, but either can contact the on the afterward with an invite. If the answer is yes, the other responds, and if not, then no response is necessary. This takes squirmy rejections off the table and allows you to move on to the next meet. The goal is to screen OUT wrong matches, and most people will NOT be a match, until you eventually stumble upon someone with whom you share simpatico and can view one another through the right lens.

 

If you can grasp that most people are not a match, then you won't view yourself as flawed for not striking the needle in the haystack quickly. The search process itself helps to develop resilience, coping skills, social skills and autonomy to the degree that any lack of success is merely a byproduct of the pursuit while the rewards of building skills and exploring new interests become self evident.

 

Head high.

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I have a boyfriend, I'm not after a lover. I'm after friendship.

 

I'm fully aware that forming an intimate friendship "right off the bat" is not realistic. I've not said that I want a friendship to suddenly spring into existence. I know I need to put in the effort, and I have been doing so most of my life. I've done and continue to do what I can, but if people are not interested, there is not much else I can try to do unless it's completely change who I am every time I message someone new. Which I will not do. If messaging people who share the same interests, or even people who are a little different to me, still doesn't bring any chance of making a friend, then I don't know. I'll just have to accept that people aren't interested, but I certainly will not blame myself for what other people choose to do or not do.

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They've not aimed to help me. People here have very clearly put the blame on me; it's something to do with me why people aren't responding, it couldn't possibly be the people that I message. I do what I can, I respect boundaries, I don't come across as needy despite the fact that I am desperate for a connection, I still have self-control and I don't put that desperation onto other people. I know that how I approach people is perfectly normal, and if people don't want to respond then clearly it's got more to do with them than it does me. I just simply wanted some opinions or advice from a different perspective perhaps, but the perspective of others here is that I'm doing something wrong. Then thank you for your "help", but I think I'm better off without it by what's been said.

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They've not aimed to help me. People here have very clearly put the blame on me; it's something to do with me why people aren't responding, it couldn't possibly be the people that I message. I do what I can, I respect boundaries, I don't come across as needy despite the fact that I am desperate for a connection, I still have self-control and I don't put that desperation onto other people. I know that how I approach people is perfectly normal, and if people don't want to respond then clearly it's got more to do with them than it does me. I just simply wanted some opinions or advice from a different perspective perhaps, but the perspective of others here is that I'm doing something wrong. Then thank you for your "help", but I think I'm better off without it by what's been said.

 

And that is why this is not going to work out for you. Being a friend requires a sense of humility too. And if you're having the same pattern then it's time to look inward and part of that is why you are choosing to reach out on line, whether your "picker" is off -the people you pick might not be good or available for potential friendship. I think I speak for most of us when I say being a good friend is a constantly evolving process and constantly requires looking inward -not "blaming" -that's ineffective - but looking inward and seeing what can be improved/worked on. And applying it to individual situations. i have to do that every day as a parent and also as a spouse (but more as a parent because that's a newer relationship with some different skills, relatively speaking).

 

If you're not willing to look inward you cannot be a good friend -"good friend" is evolving not static and depends on individual situations. If you're not willing to be a good friend t to yourself you can't be a good friend. And reacting with this level of defensiveness is not being a good friend to yourself and your personal growth. I suggest the briskest walk possible, preferably outside -listen to music or podcasts if you like - for at least 30 minutes and let the thoughts flow. Or yoga. That's a good start to get out of this negative comfort zone you're in.

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It's not about 'blaming' anyone, including yourself. It's about recognizing that everyone you meet will have their limits, which means that their disinterest doesn't have to mean an internal dislike for you. Limits can be anything: timing, too many people in their lives making demands, their own shyness or issues, etc.

 

So when you 'get' that most people are NOT our match, you develop a resilience that allows your private sensitivities to work FOR you rather than against you. You don't personalize rejection, you see it as another's incapacity to view you through the right lens at the moment. Maybe over time and exposure to shared interests the timing will become better or their private issues will resolve. Maybe someone who rubs you the wrong way will redeem themselves to whatever degree or visa vera.

 

This is where online pursuits are useless and continual social exposure wins the day. If you involve yourself in some interest or cause that you're committed to regardless of whether anybody else manifests as a friend, you'll have your win based on the activities alone, and your sensitivity meter will become more generous toward people who you might otherwise write off as anti-friendship with you.

 

Your history of reclusiveness has built into you some anti-social attitudes regardless of how well you believe you can pull off the appearance of countering those. This is true for any of us who have rolled through a funk of seclusion. That's not 'blameworthy,' it's just a realistic admission of certain weaknesses that can work against any of us.

 

None of this means you're flawed. None of this means you're unusually incapable of forming friendships. We're all just a bunch of frightened human animals doing the best we know how at any given moment. Perfection is not only elusive, it's a dirty word, especially for those who block themselves from experiences because their private definition of perfection keeps them miserable.

 

Skip that, and embrace the human race as equally flawed beings. Nobody is better or worse than anyone else--we're all just unique in our combo plates of strengths and weaknesses. The great equalizer is that we will each leave this Earth in the same way, and we each get to decide whether we'll use our private experiences to help the next person through this.

 

Embrace a healthy generosity of spirit in your perceptions of others who don't 'get' you. Plow forward with your focus like a laser beam fixed on the greater good of whatever motivates you to participate in activities.

 

I can only tell you that the more relaxed I've become with age about any desire to please people, the more amused I've become whenever someone misunderstands me. I employ patience and humor, if not directly with them, then at very least with myself. But usually with them. I've found that whenever I'm lacking in defenses, I'm not only less likely to offend, but I'm also more likely to bridge perception barriers simply by relaxing my focus beyond those.

 

Whenever I take myself too seriously, I lose. I lose the battle, and I lose the whole point. My goal isn't to find offense just to prove some arbitrary assignment of misery to myself, it's to age gracefully and relax into maturity in ways that benefit myself and those around me. So whenever I'm not someone's cup of tea, I find it liberating to enjoy our differences as illusory, possibly temporary, and largely irrelevant. I'm clear that striking simpatico with people only becomes easier the more relaxed and open minded I become.

 

Head high, you're among your fellow passengers here--and we're not perfect, either.

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