When Warmth becomes Wrath

You know that word game, I think it is called Words Within Words?  Considering my pessimistic state at the moment, I pulled out HARM and WRATH from warmth.

My former friends (Marian, Lydia & Don) and my mother-in-law taught me a very important lesson about the sudden warmth of a flame:

“Where there is a flame, someone’s bound to get burned” ~Pink (song lyrics from “Try”)

Whenever I started to pull away from unhealthy relationships – less attention, less adulation, less ‘doing’ – I ignited a change in their behaviors.  They all became nicer, too nice, rather uncharacteristically so.  Marian got me a gift out of the blue, MiL started sending me e-mails/messages (after ignoring mine for years) and Lydia & Don started complimenting me instead of subtly putting me down.

It felt so weird, like syrup coating my teeth.  My response to all this sudden warmth was to proceed with caution (and schedule a dentist appointment).  What happened after:

Marian ~ started talking about me and my projects at work to managers (telling them my projects were delayed)

MiL ~ started telling DH about her messages to me and telling him how much she was trying thereby influencing DH to treat me like I was the source of the ‘problem’ of our ‘distant’ relationship

Lydia & Don ~ only contacted us when they needed a place to stay – after not ‘obliging’ twice contact has virtually ceased

It was a period of a lot of stress in my work and personal life.  The lack of genuineness and one big mess to deal with taught me that sudden acts of kindness (as opposed to random) succeeded by prolonged disrespect, disregard and an absence of mutual reciprocity are something to FEAR.

fire

“A spark neglected makes a mighty fire.” ~Robert Herrick

My fear (anxiety) was ‘kindled’ anew after DH sent an e-mail about NO more gifts to his brother (BiL) and his wife (SiL) – Thank you for all your help.  The boundary was accepted verbally.  What seemed like a great first step in establishing boundaries (DH and I together) soon became a familiar scenario.

After DH sent the e-mail at the end of September, we have dealt with a bunch of odd behaviors throughout October.  The first hint was very small – almost could have been brushed off – BiL brings up gifts for their father subtly.

Then, for the past few weeks there has been an abundant amount of communication from SiL.  DH said:

“There’s no communication for how long and now all this stuff.” ~DH

To sum up the communication of 2014:

Before setting boundary (January – September): SiL sent us two e-mails – the first, their trip itinerary and the second, a link to view 1100 photos of aforementioned trip.

After setting boundary (October): SiL has sent us four e-mails.  All e-mails are of the same type – soliciting Thank You’s.  Indeed, a Thank You was necessary for two of them.

Most communication happens between DH and BiL (e-mails and phone).  DH finds it particularly odd that SiL is communicating with us and not including BiL on the communication (when she normally excludes me from the communication).

All of these behaviors, on their own, are quite HARMless.  And I have that rational part of my brain that says – “this may be nothing to worry about.”

I don’t know if WRATH will make an appearance in the form of smear campaigns, triangulation, etc. like it did before.  BUT I would be naive not to factor in the prolonged disrespect, disregard and lack of mutual reciprocity of our past interactions (circa like 6 weeks ago).  I rely on my instincts not only because of the above patterns but also because I have never experienced authentic affection, warmth or kindness from DH’s FOO.

That’s what it is really about.  The sudden warmth isn’t real warmth, is it?  Sending us e-mails that socially coerce us to say Thank You without extending dialogue, absent of regard for others is not WARMTH.  A fire for warmth behaves differently than a fire which destroys.

The fire you kindle for your enemy often burns yourself more than them. ~Chinese Proverb

The Mileage of Friendship

“Who says? Who says friendship lasts forever? We’d all like it to, maybe. But maybe [pause] it just wears out like everything else – like tires. There’s just so much mileage in them and then you’re riding around on nothing but air.” ~Gregg Lindroff (film Tequila Sunrise, 1988)

Does friendship come with an expiration date? I’ve thought a lot about the above quote over the years as I have let go of many of my old friendships. It has been a hard journey to come to terms that for various reasons – mostly to do with emotional health – my old friends and I will not stand the test of time.

Even with this realization, I still believe that friendships can last and make it through rough times. I was reminded of this by a recent article in the Huffington Post entitled “5 Secrets of People with Lifelong Friends” written by Catherine Pearson.

I found this article to be poignant at a time when the old friends that I had come to terms with as having no future resurfaced after a long absence. The five secrets served as a reminder and a good evaluation.

The first secret, “They Keep Their Expectations in Check”.

This is true for life and when it comes to friendships I failed miserably at this. I know that I had too high of expectations of my friends as well of as my role as a friend. A friend isn’t all things. And some friends you can share vulnerabilities with and others you can’t. I learned this the hard way and when I began to adjust my exceptions of my friends and myself (equally important), my eyes were opened to the realities of our friendship. It was only through shifting responsibility and well, keeping expectations in check that I could really see if the friendship was a healthy one.

This shift in my behaviors helped me deal with #2, “They’re Adaptable.” As I made changes in my behaviors it became painfully obvious how adept our friendship was at handling them. Even small changes like not ‘chasing’ after them and taking on less responsibility of staying in contact (example, sending e-mails, traveling to see them) began to takes its toll. As I adapted, there was little to no room for embracing the new present.

And #3, again becomes an extension of #1, “They Make Time for Each Other”. It turns out that I was the one making time/plans and my friends didn’t have the time. Unanswered short e-mails of ‘how are you?’ to making the plans and literally getting stood up (not fun when it involves long distance) allowed me to see that I did a good chunk of the work. The time I made for them left me feeling drained – leaving little to no energy for friends who honored their commitments.

And lastly, #4 “They appreciate just how unusual it is to have lifelong friends…#5 But they know not to hold on to friendship just for the sake of it.”

My old friends are from school days. And maybe the reason why I held on so long. It is rare and special to have friends who have been through a lot of stuff for so long. Many of them were my lifeline when I was dealing with the abuse at home. They were who I turned to when I needed an outlet, to have fun and numb the pain.

But holding on for ‘holding on sake’ isn’t healthy, it would be repeating the patterns of my relationship with my parents. This is maybe the hardest part, letting go of friends who, at one time, were my lifeboat. I have fun memories, a not total dreary childhood, because of them. I am grateful for them.

“I think it happens to everyone as they grow up. You find out who you are and what you want, and then you realize that people you’ve known forever don’t see things the way you do. And so you keep the wonderful memories, but find yourself moving on.” ~Nicholas Sparks, True Believer