In the last few years, I’ve gained a significant amount of confidence in my actions and decisions, especially when it comes to relationships. It took a lot of growing, and two things helped most:
- having a better understanding of other people’s experiences in general (i.e. I needed to gain more empathy)
- surviving enough crises that conflicts or difficult conversations — or even my own feelings — were no longer debilitatingly scary
Even though I’m more comfortable with my social behaviour, I still struggle with loneliness. Being more socially capable means I can pursue relationships more purposefully and without regrets; it doesn’t mean my world is immediately filled with loving, stimulating people and needs are suddenly being met.
As a person who tries to be the architect of his world, I’ve always done my best to exercise control over my time. That includes the time I spend with people, which means I tend to be the one to make plans. As a result, I rarely notice when others don’t make a comparable effort, or any effort at all.
It’s been years since I’ve seen some “friends” who were once very important to me. After a certain amount of time, it becomes obvious that I’m not a priority to them when I’m the one performing all the emotional labour (not just the majority), and we never do anything if I don’t initiate.
I understand that not all relationships need to be fair and equal in all aspects to work, but I’ve struggled with unrequited feelings long enough, and I’m at a point where I’m a lot more interested in spending time with people who also want to spend time with me. I’m tired of being the one to make all the effort when it costs so much to make space for people in my life. I’ve spent too many years in unfulfilling, dead-end relationships, and I’d rather have more time to myself (or Heather) than pursue relationships with people who aren’t on the same page1.
Still, it’s a painful and reluctant step on my part. Loyalty is in my nature. I’ve always been one to do everything in my power to prevent any relationships from falling apart. Reducing my effort is the last step I want to be taking, but I know I’ll be better off if I put my energy, time, and expectations in the people who appreciate these things, even if I’ve yet to meet them.
- Being romantically single, yet suffering loneliness for so many years, was a similarly conscious choice, as I didn’t want to end up in a relationship with a person who was ultimately wrong for me when the right person came along. I certainly wasn’t interested in hurting anyone (i.e. when an inevitable breakup happens), just for the sake of getting certain needs met, and this approach has served me well so far. [↩]
Empathy, and recognizing that relationships are never equal help us maintain our emotional stability. Interacting with people who are not on the same page helps us look at ourselves differently, hence grow.