I was talking to my therapist today about how I’ve been disappointed recently with some people in my life. Several people have either said or done things that were not what I was expecting from friends – they let me down. I have been feeling sad, frustrated and sometimes angry.
I’m sad because I feel like I need to cut my losses with a couple people in my life because of their actions, so I’m ending a relationship. Grieve and replace.
I feel angry because I think they violated a “boundary” or expectation I have around how friends behave.
That’s where I got my lesson in used cars.
“People often mistake being friendly with being friends,” my therapist pointed out to me. “That’s particularly challenging when someone like yourself is rebuilding friendships and relearning what it takes to be a friend and to have friends.” He then proceeded to describe a used car salesman — friendly as can be, “has your best interest at heart,” is willing to “go to any length” to get you the best deal. He asks me about my dogs, my family, my birthday, my favorite coffee at Starbucks. But, as my therapist points out, “you know he and the sales manager are figuring out how much they can get out of you.” And, do I ever hear from the guy again? Nope…unless I need a new car.
“So don’t mistake being friendly, respectful and helpful with someone who is willing or able to be your friend.”
I can see this pattern even in how I perceive people to be around me in recovery. I go to 12 step meetings and everyone is friendly, supportive, helpful. I start to think (and I know I do!) – wow, everyone in here is my new-found friend – bringing with that certain expectations about how friends interact. It’s a pattern in how I relate to people at work, or as far back as my “Christian cult days” in Ann Arbor, MI. I have such a deep void right now in my life as I rebuild and relearn who I am, that I’m anxious to connect and make friends. Then when these “new-found friends” lash out at me, or don’t respond to a request for assistance with a project, or don’t include me in social events I get sad, frustrated and angry.
But have they really violated a boundary or reasonable expectation? Or, am I perceiving our level of “friendship” as more than it really is – and therefore having unrealistic expectations? This doesn’t question their sincerity or authenticity in the rooms – or in business, or wherever I might run into friendliness and misinterpret it for friends. Perhaps the used car salesman analogy falls apart here — my apologies to any used car salesmen for the stereotype 🙂 I do believe the folks around me are helpful, friendly, supportive and nice. But, that a friend does not make – perhaps, so I’m being told. And since I do trust my therapist, I’m staying open-minded, willing to take this as a lesson in life and a lesson in my recovery as an addict.
What are my expectations of certain individuals?
And how do I grow in my understanding and ability to discern between acquaintances, friends and confidants?
As my sponsor would encourage me, start with some definitions! So, I’ll end here – grab my dictionary (or wikipedia!)- and cuddle up with my dogs for some unconditional love. Because with them, there are no unrealistic expectations — it’s unconditional love 24 hours a day. That and eat, sleep, poop. Not a bad life 😉
From Wikipedia on the Value of Friendships:
Value that is found in friendships is often the result of a friend demonstrating the following on a consistent basis:
- The tendency to desire what is best for the other
- Sympathy and empathy
- Honesty, perhaps in situations where it may be difficult for others to speak the truth, especially in terms of pointing out the perceived faults of one’s counterpart
- Mutual understanding and compassion
- Trust in one another (able to express feelings – including in relation to the other’s actions – without the fear of being judged); able to go to each other for emotional support
- Positive reciprocity – a relationship is based on equal give and take between the two parties.
From Wikipedia on Types of Friendships:
Acquaintance: a friend, but sharing of emotional ties isn’t present. An example would be a coworker with whom you enjoy eating lunch or having coffee, but would not look to for emotional support. Many “friends” that appear on social networking sites are generally acquaintances in real life.
Best friend (or the closest friend): A person with whom someone shares extremely strong interpersonal ties with as a friend.
BFF (“best friend forever”): Slang used primarily in the USA by teenage and young adult women to describe a girl friend or close best friend.
Blood brother or blood sister: Either people related by birth, or a circle of friends who swear loyalty by mingling the blood of each member together.
Bro: Slang used primarily in the USA and New Zealand by teenage and young adult men to describe a boy friend or close best friend. This term is currently used to describe the modern generation of college-age male party-goers. The name is typically associated with attention-seeking males who like to get drunk and party constantly.
Sis: Also slang used primarily in the USA like “Bro” but for women and girls.
Buddy: In the USA, males and sometimes females often refer to each other as “buddies”, for example, introducing a male friend as their “buddy”, or a circle of male friends as “buddies”. Buddies are also acquaintances that you have during certain events. The term may also refer to an online contact, such as the AOL Buddy List.
Casual relationship or “friends with benefits”: A sexual or near-sexual and emotional relationship between two people who don’t expect or demand to share a formal romantic relationship. This is also referred to an open relationship or a “hook-up”.
Family friend: A friendship extended to family members of the friends. Close relation is developed in those societies where family setup is strong. This term usually used in subcontinent.
Comrade: Means “ally”, “friend”, or “colleague” in a military or political connotation. This is the feeling of affinity that draws people together in time of war or when people have a mutual enemy or even a common goal. Friendship can be mistaken for comradeship.
- Are You A Fun Outgoing Guy Or A Used Car Salesman? By Emily (straighttalkaboutmasculinefacecare.wordpress.com)