Friends or not?

Not too long ago I saw a post from a friend that said that there is no such thing as having new friends of the opposite sex. If you haven’t been friends with them for at least two or three years then you’re just out of luck. The first thing I thought about after reading that post was that there may be some truth to that. Depending on the situation, most people of the opposite sex don’t meet people just to be friends. There are ulterior motives that include networking or additional “benefits” that motivate people. I’m not saying that no one meets new friends of the opposite sex but I doubt that is always the primary motivation. People meet other people for personal gain as adults. Things aren’t as simple as it is when you have friends as a kid. I’ve met a lot of people in the last few years. However, the process of making someone of the opposite sex a “true” platonic friend is much more complicated than it used to be. There’s always something that one person wants from the other and very rarely does this include “true friendship.” It’s just the way of the world. Friendship is often given as a consolation prize or a compromise because both people aren’t on the same page. The point of all this is to say that it’s rare as an adult to be absolutely 100% friends with someone of the opposite sex from the very moment you meet them without thinking of what they can do for you, who they know that they can connect you to, or if there’s a chance for some additional personal gain in some way.

A good day

Today was a good day. While I don’t usually characterize my days as good or bad, I must say that today was the exception to the rule. I guess part of the reason I had a good day was the fact that I had a pretty good weekend. Traveled a few thousand miles back to the South and had a random adventure in the urban section of Atlanta with a friend and some others. Witnessed an altercation that could have quickly turned into a fight and did some advocating and mediation that actually had some positive results. But I digress. Today I got a chance to spend some time with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while and I really enjoyed it. As I grow older I have found that good conversation is a luxury that is often disregarded. While there are people I talk to fairly regularly and keep in touch with through phone calls or texts, there’s no substitute for a genuine human face to face interaction with someone I enjoy talking to. It’s a great feeling to have an intelligent conversation without constantly backtracking and feeling like you may be offending the other person and that they don’t understand where you’re coming from. It was also great seeing a familiar face because that rarely happens unless I travel a significant distance. I personally enjoy good conversations because they can be so enlightening and helpful. Those kind of conversations are even better when you have rapport with the person and there are mutual interests and a history of shared experiences. Those are the conversations that keep you awake, alert, and engaged despite just finishing your 12 hour shift and being beyond exhausted. Yup, it was a good day. 

Retiring a Discussion

I ran across this article pretty recently and it quickly caught my interest. I’ve included a link here .   I’ve seen seminars, books, webinars, and programs all addressing this topic. So many people (both men and women) claim to have the magic formula and list their own love story as the proof that their way works. This article was specifically addressing a Black women as a group. Between the interpersonal cues, relationship coaching, speed dating, and other means of “catching” a significant other. The article challenges that thought behind the idea that a woman’s life should be defined by her relationship status. But let’s face it, unmarried women who don’t have kids aren’t typically looked upon with the same level of respect as career women who are married and raising their kids and balancing it all in a (seemingly) effortless manner. The article highlights the fact that shame is often a part of the internal narrative of black women and explored how one’s relationship status can contribute to levels of shame. That thought made me wonder how many products and advertisements are targeted to someone’s level of shame. Products that are marketed in a way that make you feel inadequate unless you become a consumer of the product.  Very thought provoking read.

It’s Over

I don’t know if I’ve ever posted a John Legend song in the time that I’ve had this blog and it’s been a shame. Now, I would not go as far to say that I know ALL the lyrics to ALL of his songs, but I will say that I’ve been listening to his music since before I was allowed to listen to secular music and had to sneak around. Quite a feat for a homeschooler.  This is one of my all time favorite songs that he’s done. It’s been on repeat all this week for some strange reason. John has a way or writing songs that are super easy to relate to. The melodies are unique but not distracting from the lyrics. And John’s voice has a signature sound that adds to the genuineness of his music. This song reminded me of some of the times where I’ve had to delete numbers and then re-save them in my phone under “never EVER answer.” The thing about this song is that it’s catchy but also makes a declaration in some fashion. There will always be people who have trouble letting go. Whether it’s their favorite food, or a relationship they are incredibly intricately involved with, sometimes things have an expiration date. It doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing, it just means that we have to make some adjustments. Life changes and people change as well. Sometimes those changes require some reconsideration of close relationships. There will always be people who don’t want to take “no” for an answer. But if it’s over, it’s over.

Starter Marriages

In the past few months I’ve witnessed or rather observed from a distance the demise of several marriages. While some of the marriages have been second marriages, there have been a few that have been in the category of what I like to call starter marriages. It’s the same concept as buying a starter house or even starter car. The only thing that you take from it is experience and it is a stepping stone to the object that you actually want. Starter marriages have been around for quite a while. I’ve met couples who have been together for decades but started out with a starter marriage where they had a different partner before they met “the one.” Starter marriages tend to happen when individuals are younger in age. Impulsivity, immaturity, and being “lovestruck” tend to play a big part in their formation. Both people have made the decision that they want to get married without truly counting the cost. They want the feeling of extra security while refusing to let go the single mindset and truly becoming a “we.” These couples are the ones you see arguing about the stupid petty stuff on a daily–even hourly basis because they never took the time to get to know the other person before marriage. Now that they are together, they see a lot of things differently and begin to get irritated quickly and even second guess their decision to marry. Both people refuse to compromise and as a result, they quickly learn that the only way to avoid arguments is to not talk, avoid each other, or bury themselves in other pursuits. This does NOTHING for the overall quality of the relationship. It’s at this point that most couples realize that they really don’t work as a couple. The newness has worn off. They are changing as people and their spouse is as well but they’ve never connected on that level so it starts to feel as if they are living with a stranger. Both people realize that their long term personal goals aren’t compatible and that they both want different things out of life. All this usually occurs within the first 1-3 years of marriage and hopefully before the couple decides to have any kids. The absence of kids allows both partner to separate without having to ever see each other again. They may even go as far as to have a divorce party to celebrate the ending of the worse decision of their life to date. Both people go on to live their lives and marry again with more experience and wisdom the second time around. Hopefully.

No-contact Order

The quality of self-control is often disregarded nowadays. People offer numerous excuses for their actions and blame the circumstances on choices that they themselves have made. “I couldn’t help myself” or “I just could not say no” are two of the excuses and the reasons why many people miss out on opportunities for success. Self control and discipline can be similar but they are very different. You can exercise self-control without being a disciplined person. One example of this is the choice to not assault someone who says something rude to you even though in your head you imagine your fist connecting with their face. We all know people who have been sucked into the drama of their friends. This can manifest in many different ways and many times a plan of action is required in order to entangle oneself from the messy web. For some, that person is their weakness or their drug. They can have their whole lives together but that one chink in their armor sets them up for pain because they just can’t say no. They can’t ignore the phone call, text, or facebook message. The interesting thing is that the person did not always have the amount of power over them. At some point you gave them the ability to suck you in. Many times this happens in romantic relationships that have gone bad but emotions are still heavily involved. Sometimes it becomes necessary to put yourself on a no-contact order with this person. This order is self-mandated as opposed to the legal ramifications of a restraining order. It requires a firm choice and enough self control to follow through even on days that are rough. You are making the choice to go “cold turkey” in order to break some relational bonds that are no longer benefitting you in any way. This means that you might experience some sort of emotional withdrawals because you’re breaking a habit that has become almost second nature. You have to be honest with yourself and also realistic in making this a life decision and not a “for right now” choice. The thing about a self-imposed no contact order is that it doesn’t work unless you actually stick to it. You can’t afford to have a weak day and sometimes this even requires an accountability partner of sorts because you have to break the habit. A few years back I had a friend who I talked to every night for a MINIMUM of two hours that sometimes went to 7 hours. This nightly practice continued for about 5 or 6 months. When the friendship suddenly disintegrated one day, it took me almost 7 months to get back on a regular sleep schedule because this person had occupied such a prominent place in my life and suddenly they didn’t. No contact orders also work when you need to take a break and evaluate a friendship or relationship. You aren’t required to explain to the other person that you won’t be taking their calls, responding to texts, or talking to them for a certain period of time. You can let your actions speak for you. How the other person handles you taking time away from them will be very telling of their maturity level and the true nature of the relationship. No contact orders can also be good when you start to question your investment of time and energy in a relationship that does not appear to be reciprocated. When you’re always the one making the effort and giving, a no contact order can give you some clarity on your expectations and what needs to change in order for the relationship to be successful.

Anticipatory Grief

One big part of my experience as a social worker who worked with patients in hospice care was provide emotional support to the families as they went through one of the toughest times in their lives. There are literally no words to describe the feeling of going into someone’s room who is surrounded by their family and knowing that they are mere hours or minutes away from death. I say all this to say that many times family and loved ones start to go through some or all of the stages of grief when the person is still alive. This is generally referred to as anticipatory grief. One thing that I’ve seen as a therapist is how people start to demonstrate some of the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) when the relationship is about to die or appears to be on life support. However, one thing that has been interesting to me has been the people who are going through the stages of grief over a relationship that does not exist. This is what I mean. Let’s say someone is attracted to someone else but they have not taken the time or the initiative to show their interest to the one they find attractive. This person, having no idea that they are being admired from afar pursues other relationships to the horror of the one who likes them from a distance. The person admiring from a distance can go through the stages of grief because of the rejection that they feel and also at the many thoughts of having this individual and then losing them. But yet, the relationship never existed except in the mind of this individual. It’s funny how our minds can be creative and innovative but can also imprison us. Sometimes we have to get out of our own heads and stop inflicting the emotional wounds on ourselves because of distorted thoughts. Definitely easier said than done, but possible with self awareness and new thought habits.