February 1, 2018

To Whom are You Attached?

For some of us, romantic relationships feel easier than friendships. There is almost a more clear pathway to romance than friendship. We grow up hearing things like, “break ups are hard” and “they wouldn’t call them crushes, if they didn’t hurt.”

But what do they tell us about friendship?

They tell us to be friends with EVERYONE!! But we don’t like everyone and everyone doesn’t like us. What Disney movie explains that?! With Valentine’s Day around the corner, Let’s Talk about the unsung loves and heartbreaks that leave us high or dry… our friends.

Do you remember your first friend? I don’t. I can tell you about my first love, he was blonde with dimples and big chip on his shoulder but I can’t tell you about the first friend I made. Maybe that’s because when we are little, other little people are fascinating to us and even if they steal our toy, the hurts are quickly and easily forgotten.

Do you remember the first friend that hurt you? Or the first time you were made to feel less than by a peer? That is probably a wound you could remember if you tried. And what did you tell yourself about that friend? What did the grown ups around you tell you? How does it impact your friendships today?

I have been reading "Attached.”  And while it focuses on romantic attachments, I couldn’t help but wonder how it impacts our connections (or lack thereof) to friends.

First, what the heck is Attachment?

Put simply, attachment theory is about how we connect to other people. The good news is that this is a plastic (or changeable) thing so if you have struggled with this in the past, you may not always struggle with it. There are basically three types as defined by “Attached”:

Anxious People who are often preoccupied with their relationships and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back.
Avoidant People equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly trying to minimize closeness.
Secure People feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving.

Keep in mind, these definitions were created to address romatic relationships. So it is important to note that you may feel totally secure if friendships or even certain romantic relationships, then you meet someone who seems to make you want to behave in ways that you never thought you could or would.

But what if we tried to apply them to friendships?

With anxious, perhaps instead of often being preoccupied, you are often find yourself feeling left out, separate or unsure about where you stand.

With avoidant, perhaps you feel like friendships are too likely to cause pain so you simply do not spend the energy on investing in people (even though you’re lonely).

Both positions seem problematic. But what do you do if frienship is scary?

First, if you haven’t read Seth Godin’s “Tribes,” I recommend it.  He wrote it for people who want to create, lead and market (it is a quick and easy read) but I think we could apply a lot of his attitude in the book towards relationships.  He basically says that if you believe in something, there are other people that believe in it too and your job is to find them and connect with them.

So following that train of thought... Do you believe in YOU?  If you are the product, are you feeling good about getting it out on the market?  Do you feel like the customers (friends, family, partners) have respected and/or been excited to see that product on the market?

If the answer is no.  I have to wonder two things; are you getting the product (YOU) in front of the right customer and are you valuing it properly?  None of us need a gaggle, hoard or a gang of friends but we do need friends.  People to reach out to when we’re board, people to celebrate the good and share the not-so-good.  But if you don’t believe in your own value, you will be more likely to tolerate the crapy treatment of others.

In a romantic relationship, we all of a preconceived notion about what that should look like.  Most of those are probably a bit faulty but we have them.  With friends, we think we should listen and trust them.  And while we should be able to, yes, they have their on issues too and if we aren’t careful about who our friends are, we can get swept up into their messes.

I know, it sounds complicated.

And it sounds that way because it is.  Someone we added to our lives ten years ago may have been the perfect fit back then.  But now because of time, changes and growth (or lack thereof) they may not fit out lives anymore, or at least not the way they once did.  That is no one’s fault.  People change, life changes.

Perhaps, if we are struggling with our friendships it is because we have not been good friends to ourselves.  There are people who would want to be close to you, who share your vision of friendship, closeness and life.  And it is scary to put yourself out there and find them.  Do you believe you are worth finding them?

As always, I’m here and would love to hear from you.  How are your friendships treating you?

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