Article by Wendy McCance
I have never had trouble making new friendships. I guess it has to do with the amount of times my family moved when I was very young. We first moved across the country a year before I went to pre-school. We moved three more times before I entered 3rd grade. I became a pro at meeting new people and forming friendships.
My first trip down the road towards closing off myself from relationships came in 5th grade. I was one of a group of three friends. We were best friends with each other except I had two strikes against me. 1. I was in a grade lower than my two friends and 2. They had been best friends for a few years before I had moved into the neighborhood.
By 7th grade, power struggles between the three of us turned nasty when one friend was diagnosed with a terminal illness. All the anger about what was happening in my friend’s life fell on me. I was the scapegoat who was picked on. My locker was continuously broken into because my former friend had access to the locker combinations (she got to work in the office). I was called names and because I was in a different grade, the older kids began looking at me and wondering who I was that caused all this hate from my former friend. The other friend in our group jumped on board the hate train and middle school was a disaster until they moved on to the high school.
In middle school, right as one friendship was dissolving, I became friends with a girl who already had a best friend. Well, I soon found out that she was a flaky friend who jumped through friendships as she got bored. I became her closest friend, as she dumped her best friend. A few years later she moved on again.
In high school, I bounced back and fell into an entirely new friend group. We stayed friends through high school and to some extent keep in touch these days. By the time this group came along, my way of handling friendships had already begun to change dramatically.
I no longer opened up about my private life. My friendships were very superficial in that way. I always knew more about my friends than they knew about me. I became guarded and very private. Most friends looked to me as the person to help them with their own problems. I think, primarily because they would open up to me and I would support them, but they knew little about who I was. To this day, none of those friends could tell you any of my favorite things other than who my favorite band had been (we all loved Duran Duran back then).
During high school, I dated a guy for two years. He ended up cheating on me. He was the one person I had taken a chance on and opened up to. It really made me feel like I couldn’t trust anyone ever and the amount of doubt I had in myself that anyone cared enough about me to treat me decently vanished.
The summer after high school, I met a guy that would become my husband. I had just come out of a bad relationship and I was in a very fragile state. He made me feel safe and was so upset about what my former boyfriend had done that he threatened to beat him up. I thought he must really care about me and although there were several warning signs, continued on in the relationship.
The relationship was disastrous. The guy was a good talker. I believed all the lies he told me. One by one his anger built over the years and he began turning me against friends and family either by lying about what they did or said or by practically forbidding me to hang out with them for one reason or another.
By the time I called it quits, I had a really messed up way of looking at family, friendships and romantic partners. I trusted no one. I was lonely, had low self-esteem and felt unworthy of being loved.
I decided I would never get married again. I wanted to be in a relationship, but was scared that I would choose worse than I had with my husband. I took time to rebuild friendships, cast away anyone I felt was toxic and take another look around at what I wanted to surround myself with.
I rebounded quickly when it came to finding friends. Eventually I was in a good place and my now, husband came into the picture. You would think everything ended okay, but there was still leftover triggers that held me back.
I have trust issues that make it hard for me to really open up with anyone. I am terrified that once I give away too much people will leave me or expose my insecurities in some strange way. I am still fantastic at making friends, but once they get too close, I find myself getting scared and backing up. I have dissolved several friendships over the years because I became too uncomfortably close.
My husband is a saint. I have been triggered by unfounded fears so many times and my husband patiently rides each situation out. He is good at talking things out with me. He always shows me he cares and he holds nothing against me.
I still have challenges that I am working on. I am working through a new friendship I don’t want to lose. I am trying to keep myself from running. In the past, when things were good, the closer a friend would get, the more I would end up blowing them off. I just got too freaked out. I am consciously making an effort to break that pattern and instead I am focusing on what I have missed in close friendships.
As for my husband, the other day, he came home and I was in a bad mood. I went to go do the dishes, but he came into the kitchen and insisted I go relax and he would take care of them. I try to walk each day and especially when I have a lot on my mind, it’s great when I can get out and take a walk. My husband filled two containers with wine and we went for a walk.
With him, it’s these small gestures that are so big in my eyes. He doesn’t just say the right things, he shows me daily how much he cares. I have to admit I still get stuck in that pattern of feeling insecure and doubting anyone could really love me. I have to remind myself to keep my eyes wide open and see that right in front of me there is a man who each day shows me I am loved.
To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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