Why did no one teach me how to make and maintain friendships?

When I was six, I came home one day with a little girl and introduced her as my sister, it was day one of my family’s visit to my granny – lol. I insisted that my new friend stayed for lunch and my mum obliged me – it was later in my late teens as I was sat listening to her tell me about my childhood that she would mention this incident and what an inconvenience my lunch invite was. But my little six year old self did not see the inconvenience, I had found a friend I loved and she was having lunch with me. I never had trouble making friends as a little girl and as fleeting as childhood friendships were, it thought me that friendships do end most times. My lunch bestie and I’s friendship ended because my mum and I returned back home. However, looking back, what I wished my mother had done was tell me then what an inconvenience that lunch invite was – because later on in life, I would find myself in friendships constantly giving of myself and putting myself in inconvenient situations to keep friendships! And may I add that unlike my childhood friendships, some of these friendships over the years ended with some heartache and bitterness – and I was not innocent in the demise of my friendships.

I have been self reflecting lately – and as hard as it is, it’s been a real eye opener! I realised that I glossed over the shadow parts of myself while concentrating so much on what was more visible to everyone. As much as I would like to tell you that I was living for myself one hundred percent, there were areas of my life I was still living for others. The thing with healing is that it is a continuous journey and once one part of you is healed, another comes up that needs work. This time, it was my friendships! It was the one area I was betraying myself majorly – as I started living more consciously, it was more visible what I was putting up with and also what I was dishing out to others. I was part of the problem – as much as I would like to write that I was innocent, it is not the case. I am learning to embrace all of me – I am flawed, impatient, insecure, a bit mad sometimes, silly, brave, hardworking, impulsive and yet too careful – I am many things, both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ but I accept them all! I am working on being my true authentic self unapologetically.

I was talking to a close family member recently and they were sharing a request from a close friend to them – I could hear the guilt in her voice for saying no. This relative had recently had major surgery and was asked to not do anything strenuous for some weeks. Within that same period, she had a friend call to ask for her to perform strenuous activities for them because they were themselves having issues with a health condition. I asked my relative why she felt guilty for saying no – and she would state how this friend had been in her life for such a long time and that she felt bad because her friend sounded quite low on the phone. I then asked my relative a few questions – may I remind you that I had been there at the inception of this friendship and I had seen how one sided it had been over the years. I asked my relative that when this person had good news, how do they announce it to her? Is she one of the first to know or is she always the shoulder for this person to cry on? How many favours had been asked of her and how many had she also asked in return? As she answered them, I heard the confidence return back to her voice – being a friend is a two way street. It is not the job of one person to be the saviour constantly – and in this case, for over 20 years, I had seen my relative save this person over and over and I wanted to draw her attention to it. While looking at the friendship of this relative, my fear was that most friendships these days were very much one sided.

I don’t think I invited many people to lunch at home as I grew up – but instead of lunch invites I gave of myself liberally with no boundaries because I had an attachment wound! I wanted to be needed and so I gave and gave of myself and lost my self in the process. Lunch invites turned into asking people to live in my home because they had ‘no where to live’ and inconveniencing my family and myself in the process. Lunch invites became buying expensive birthday gifts because it was demanded and so the thought no longer counted. Then lunch invites became using my personal information to process requests for the relatives of friends because I just couldn’t say no. There were times when I was not physically able to perform certain requests, but betratyed my health to appease people who had no problem saying no to me – mind you, they had no problem lying when they were in positions to help with a situation. The realisation finally came one afternoon in an act of utter disrespect to my person – this behaviours were not the first nor the fiftieth time, they had been ongoing for years. Instead of my usual trauma response of flight, I fought this time, which is not the best response anyway. As I sat reflecting for the first time, I was done and most importantly, I saw what I had become. I was not a good friend, I was using others to soothe my attachment wound – this time, I was happy to go through healing, no matter how hard it was. My first step to healing was to learn to be alone and befriend myself.

In reflection, I remembered that day listening to my mother as she told me about my childhood – and I wished with all my heart that she had said no to my lunch request. I needed her to teach me that friendship did not have to inconvenience us always – that it involved moments of saying no! To teach me that true friendships survived moments of no and when you needed to hide from the world for a while to find yourself. True friendship allowed you to make mistakes but comforted as you broke apart – only to laugh and joke about it later. True friendship did not judge your mistakes and held themselves superior because their mistakes were not the same as yours. Friendship respects choices and understands the dark moments in life. If being your authentic true self costs you a friendship, they were never your friend to begin with. True friendship is not one sided – it is efforts from all involved – one party can not keep making the same tired excuses and refuse to evolve. The thing with growth is, you not only outgrow your former self, but you outgrow environments and relationships too. It is work from all involved and sometimes requires sacrifices – friendship is a partnership and never one-sided. 

I once saw a borrowed quote on a profile that said “a toxic person leaving your life is like the trash taking itself out”. I couldn’t agree more with the quote – but the person I am now understands wholly that behind every toxic personality is a wounded person and I am finding more and more that these “toxic people” most times form attachments with people who trigger them. I am learning to look beyond the surface and be kinder in my analysis of how people behave – my aim is to be in control of how I respond to people. I have stopped deluding myself that I can change anyone but rather come to accept that, I can control how I respond to people and situations around me. At the end of the day, I can choose who I allow to stay in my life and who visits – that is my right as a human being and I own that fully!

So, if like me, you are trauma bonded then watch out for certain traits – because like I said, the fault also laid heavily at my door. I threw out my values to fit in where I clearly did not belong. To keep people happy, I portrayed habits and behaviours that I am not too proud of and hurt others too. When I reflected, I realised that people pleasing had caused me to betray myself immensely. I have so much to unlearn and I need to work on the healthy friendships in my life – thank goodness, I have those. I am accepting that I am enough and I do not need to be everything to someone to be accepted – I am enough, flaws and all. Self awareness and reflection were my catalysts for growth. To heal my unhealthy attachments, I needed to go cold turkey and have the time to meet myself properly. I needed to be friends with myself first and foremost – choose me and learn to love and trust myself.

To leave a friendship does not make you a bad person and it does not make you enemies – with all the bad, there was good too. I carry the good with me. Who knows, maybe leaving their lives will also grant them the time to self reflect and grow. I encourage you to take the time and sit with yourself – get to know the good qualities and the bad side you keep in the shadows and embrace them fully. It is only when you have fully accepted yourself that you can truly accept others too.

It’s been a while since I posted – wanted to say thank you to all who reached out, it meant a lot to me. Thank you for taking time to read, comment and share – let’s effect the change we need by sharing our experiences.


8 thoughts on “Why did no one teach me how to make and maintain friendships?

  1. very deep.

    i can relate and couldn’t agree more with, “what I wished my mother had done was tell me then what an inconvenience that lunch invite was”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There is something very liberating when you learn something significant about yourself.
    After my brain injury I found out pretty quick who my real friends were. Those who’s expectations I couldn’t meet faded away. Those who couldn’t accept my changes I realized were only focused on their own needs.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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