Saturday, March 27, 2010

How to Talk to Friends

Whenever I'm home alone for a few days, I find myself reflecting on my current friends. I have an idea in my mind that if I had really good friends, they would know that I don't particularly enjoy being home alone on weekends, especially in the evening. And they would invite me to hang out with them. But this rarely actually happens when Pete's gone.

I used to plan activities with girlfriends whenever he was traveling. I'd have them over for a girls' movie night or invite them out to lunch or dinner. To deepen friendships, you have to initiate, right? And since we've only lived in the Bay Area for less than four years--and many of our closest friends moved out here after us--I don't have the longstanding relationships that I envision myself having if I had lived in one place for a long time with lots of friends who had also been there a long time. I simply haven't reached the level of friendship where they initiate with me as much as I initiate with them. So I've tired of always being the initiator. And for some odd reason, their lives don't revolve around me. Go figure.

I would love to have the kind of friends who sense when something's wrong. Who call me up out of the blue to ask how I'm doing. Whom I feel comfortable calling out of the blue. But you need a history with a person to reach that level.

And the thing is, I don't really have that history with anyone other than family. I've been tremendously blessed with many wonderful friends through the years in different seasons of life. But none of them have really stuck. I barely keep in touch with my closest friends from high school and college.

I've wondered many times why that is. I'm actually fairly confident that I'm a pretty enjoyable person to be around. I really do care about people. And, especially since marrying a very outgoing husband, I do try to initiate.

But I think I give off the air of having everything together. Like I don't really need close friends. Like I would love to hang out with you, but I have a whole cohort of other great friends to hang out with as well. I don't know how to change that. I don't want to be that person who is always sobbing about her problems just to show people I need them.

All of this has really become more evident as I deal with infertility. Back when Pete and I first started trying to get pregnant, I had two close girlfriends that I told about it. The three of us were getting together weekly to go through a Bible study and pray for each other. It was great. It was the kind of thing you do to make close friends. I shared that I had gone off the pill, but that I suspected that it would not be an easy road for us to get pregnant. They were with me as I waited for a period to come, as I went to the doctor the first time, as I discovered hypothalamic amenorrhea. They were great about asking me how things were going. I would tell them.

But I was great at giving it a good spin. At making it seem like I was okay, I was handling it gracefully. It was hard, I had my moments of freaking out, but I was always over them by the time I talked to these two friends.

Fast forward to this past week. The three of us no longer meet with just the three of us; now we meet in a group of five couples. I shared once with that group that things had been pretty "up and down" for us as we tried to get pregnant. And I have wanted to share again, but it just takes so much energy to talk about things, and I know I'll only be able to get a few sentences out before starting to get choked up. I keep sort of hoping that someone else will have something really tough to tell us about so that I'm not the only drama queen, and so that I'll have the opportunity to reach out to someone else in need.

We were meeting Thursday night, and I was feeling absolutely awful. Physically, yes, because of my period, but also emotionally. Nothing new had happened; it was just one of the really low points on the roller coaster. I had been planning to give everyone an update on where we are in our journey, but as I sat there, I just couldn't do it. Pete wasn't there to back me up. And I looked around at my good friends and just felt really isolated, because none of them know what it's like to deal with infertility. Two couples already have a child and were able to conceive easily, and the other two haven't started trying yet.

As soon as I got in the car to go home, I started sobbing. I sobbed the whole way home, the rest of the evening, and most of the next morning. I knew that I hadn't been myself when we were hanging out, so I was half expecting that one of those two friends would call or email to check on me. Nope. No word from them. But I did hear from the other two women in the group--the two I know the least. Both of them emailed me the next day and said I had seemed really quiet and asked how I was doing.

How does that work? It meant so much to me that they noticed and asked me about it. But why them and not the other two? I'm not at all angry at my two closer friends. I really don't know if I would have the courage to ask one of them if we were in the reverse situation. I'm just confused. Baffled.

I guess I have to give up trying to figure out how friendship works.


Kelly said...

This is so tough. I relocated alone a few years back (before I met DH) and miss those very connections that you described, when you don't have a history.

However, from what you described, it certainly sounds like you've reached out, made yourself available and showed them your vulnerabilities. I'm surprised, history or not, that none of them called you.

I wonder if they would be reacting the same way if it weren't infertility that you were dealing with.


Adele said...

Friendships are hard, but they're especially hard through IF. It's like being in a place where nobody can reach you. And even people who don't necessarily know often sense something. I also think it makes people anxious - a kind of "hear no pain, see no pain" attitude.

It's also really tough to move somewhere new, to start over from scratch on the friend front. It just gets so much harder as you get older. All this by way of saying that I very sincerely doubt it has anything to do with you.

It's such a lonely place to be. These two women reached out - my hope is that this might be the seed of something, however small? Hugs to you.

Hannah said...

I feel like I always have to be the one to call or email my friends too. And with mine, I know they're just busy, they have young kids. And even though they don't totally understand, I have felt that I've been able to get closer to a couple girls after sharing how hard this is. (And I've just finally started opening up in group Bible studies.) Even though my "fertile" friends don't always understand IF, they do understand intense longing and waiting and waiting for something you strongly desire (in their cases it's been jobs for their husbands or a home). I hope you find the friendships and support you need!

Krissi said...

Sorry you're having a hard time right's so hard to make connections with your friends when they really have no idea what you're going through. I've been there. And even though many weren't there for me throughout my journey, I don't blame them. We still connect when it counts and it means a lot to me whenever either initiates. I have to admit that I should be more of a friend that initiates and calls. But, I'm not. Life can get pretty hectic and full of chaos. My advice is: Respond to those that matter and if it bothers you that you are getting a lack of response, then say something! Happy ICLW!

Anonymous said...

It's really a tough situation and I'm sorry you're going through it. I find myself sometimes too exhausted to even go into things, yet I don't want to pretend that everything's fine when it isn't. I think the biggest lesson I've learned regarding friendship is that, as cliche as it sounds, it takes a lot of work! Everyone is busy with their own life. I find that if I make a small effort (sometimes even just an email) then it gets the ball rolling again. But I just think it's important to remember to reach out. I don't do it enough and I know I would have a girls night every week if I wanted...I just have to make the effort.

Wishing you lots of luck. Sorry you're down right now. Hugs!

Leslie said...

I'm sorry you had to go through that-- I've always been an introvert, so what you describe has basically been my situation in social settings for as long as I can recall. I just used to CARE that socializing was painful for me, and since IF, I don't care anymore, I just want to avoid people.

I do have a couple of good friends who I've told about the losses and who know that now we aren't having any luck conceiving again... they basically just feel sorry for me and can't relate. We are still close, but I don't talk about this anymore with them. now i just talk about it with you guys. It works, and and I think will ultimately save those friendships.

Alex said...

I'm so sorry you're having a hard time right now with this. I feel the same way about not having a lot of friends from high school/college. I agree - I think it's hard! But I work on a few of my friendships, and they mean the world to me. Unfortunately, I also relocated about 2 years ago, and I don't have any close friends in town. It's so hard - feeling alone. I don't really have any advice, I just want you to know that I'm sending you a long-distance hug, and offering myself up as your friend!