The Fear of Loneliness Can Make for Some Terrible Friendships

 

I have some truly wonderful and amazing friends my life right now, but I have in the past, had some very bad ones. People who betrayed my trust, laughed at my deepest insecurities, dismissed my dreams. This is not unusual, I know. We’ve all had the experience of finding out that one of our friends isn’t the loving, supportive person we thought they were.

As I look back over these experiences, I’ve realized that those difficult, unsupportive friendships always began when I was at my most vulnerable. New to a city or school or stage of life and believing that I needed companions to help me along the way, I would enter into a friendship with the first person who offered, my gratitude at finding someone drowning out whatever warning bells may have been ringing in my head.

And when it ended badly, I would look back and think, hmmm…. Guess I should have seen that coming.

I’ve been spending a lot of time alone in the last little while, sitting in my apartment with stacks of good books and my houseplants. It’s more alone time than I’ve had in years and I kind of thought I would be lonely as Winter settled in and my inclination to go out for any reason, especially on my own, waned. But actually, I’ve been fine. We’ve had people round for dinner occasionally and my sister and a good friend have come for visits and that’s been really nice. But it hasn’t been every day, or even every week and I’ve been OK. I’ve been fine. Loneliness is not something I actually need to fear. And that’s been a huge relief to me.

I think choosing friends is a bit like choosing tenants for a rental property. The advice is to not be in a hurry. Don’t rent to the first person who shows up. Wait for the ideal tenant.

We didn’t take that advice in the last place we owned and it turned into a total nightmare. I see the value of waiting now. For tenants and for friends.

Fear of loneliness is really a fear of the future. I may be OK on my own now, but what happens if one day I’m not? If I don’t make friends now, what will I do then?

But if you’re resourceful and resilient now, chances are good you’ll continue to be resourceful and resilient till then. I’m not saying you should shun friendships, just set the panic aside. Go about your business and you will meet interesting people, some of whom will become friends, slowly, incrementally, almost without you noticing it, the way a plant grows, slowly, day by day until one day you walk into the room and think, “Holy crap! Look at the size of that thing!!!!”

I like the unforced nature of those friendships, just letting them grow on their own, having the option to step away from the ones that feel unsupportive without fearing that I will wake up in some future life, alone and filled with despair.

Because far worse than not having a friend is being with someone who doesn’t get you at all.

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