As part of my new year’s resolutions I wanted to make my writing more open and vulnerable, so hear is another attempt! I saw the quote "Hearing someone is healing them" as a meme on facebook somewhere (which I cannot find now! Typical!) but it resonated with me regarding a recent experience of mine, and feeling unheard.....
While I was recently describing to my husband the loneliness I had been feeling lately; he got defensive and immediately started listing off all the wonderful people I do have in my life. (Himself being top of the list!) Of course, he was right, but that did not appease my feelings of loneliness. Actually it only heightened my sense of feeling misunderstood, unheard and alone. Why? Because he was invalidating my emotions and trying to explain them away. He couldn’t accept that I was feeling that way. He couldn’t understand my feelings.
I tried to explain my feelings, and the fact that I wasn’t feeling heard, by him, or by anyone else at the moment. I expressed my confusion and frustration that my feelings were being minimised and I was basically being forced to recognise all the reasons I was wrong to feel that way. I told him 3 times that all I wanted was for someone to hold me and tell me it was ok to feel sad, that they understood.
He suggested I make another appointment with my psychologist! Men! He just didn’t hear me. He needed to fix the problem. He doesn’t like it when I feel hurt and sad and alone. He finds it offensive even; because he is a very loving and attentive husband! He is communicative, and always wants to support me and lift me up. Unfortunately for him, he can’t always do that and just being with me while I am hurting isn’t his strong point.
That’s ok. I have often found women to be my soft place to fall when I am sad anyway. I turn to my friends when I need to express my sadness because they seem to be better at understanding and empathising. I don’t expect my husband to meet every single emotional need I have, nor should I. One person cannot be all things. I should remember this in my friendships too...
So, I tried talking to friend A. Friend A is the friend who I can go to if I am having a bad hair day, or feeling insecure about myself in some way. We have known each other for close to 10 years and although I know listening isn’t her strong point, she is familiar enough with me to understand me and the way I respond to things. She was so great at empowering me (as she always is) and telling me all the ways in which I have improved this year, and all the wonderful things I have to look forward to. I appreciate her positive attitude so much, but I wasn’t ready to be positive yet. My loneliness increased. She wasn't the friend to "hear" me on this topic.
So I tried talking to friend B. Friend B is the friend I turn to for some down time, to relax and unwind and enjoy some child free time together. Friend B is a relatively new friend, but she is a sensitive soul. She has often expressed her own need to feel comforted and understood, so I felt she might be able to give me the comforting that I needed. Unfortunately, she didn’t make much room for me and my feelings in the conversation. She quickly reverted back to chatting about how unsympathetic her own partner is and went on to discuss all their current drama. This friend also wanted to point out what a great life and relationship I have and that she was envious. All though I know she genuinely means that as a compliment.... She basically said I have no place to complain. I felt even more disconnected than I did before we spoke. She was not the friend to "hear" my loneliness.
Friend C is lots of fun. I turn to her for a good laugh as she is always up for an adventure. I wanted to raise the issue with friend C. I feel that if I could open up and be more vulnerable with this friend she might be able to comfort me the way I need. Unfortunately this friend and I have only just reconciled. Although I had hoped she might recognise that I had reached out to her because I was feeling lonely - and she may therefore raise the issue; she didn’t. This friend isn’t the type to ask intrusive questions. She did ask me how I was and I regret not telling her the truth. I said I was doing well, because I am, but I had hoped she would show more interest so I could trust she wanted the whole truth and not just the pleasantries. She accepted the pleasantries and moved the conversation along. This is not her fault exclusively, it is a communication issue I must also address. Anyway, the timing wasn’t right for friend C to be my soft place to fall, especially when she didn't know I needed one. She was not the friend to "hear" me this time.
I tried to talk to friend D about the issues at hand. Friend D is a wise logical friend. If you need practical assistance, she is your girl. Friend D listened and was attentive, however seemed unable to comprehend what I was trying to say. Friend D implied that I was over thinking things (I admit I am guilty of this) and that she didn’t know how I had the time to focus on such trivial matters. She didn’t say they were trivial but I felt that was the implication. Friend D is a very very busy woman, so I can see her perspective on this, however, I still felt invalidated and small for feeling the way I do. I laughed it off, but it didn’t feel particularly funny. Friend D, was not the person for the job of "hearing" me.
Friend E is my one size fits all, jack of all trades friend. Friend E keeps me accountable for myself. Friend E is no nonsense.. yet somehow, also; full of nonsense! I always enjoy her contradictions.... Anyway, I was reluctant to mention this sense of loneliness to friend E. Friend E is someone I talk to nearly every day. I speak to her about everything – nothing is off limits with us and I adore that. We share so much of ourselves, our lives and our hearts with one another that I knew it could feel like a personal attack if I were to mention my loneliness to this friend. Alas I had to try because we do talk about everything! I explained to her that I had tried reaching my husband but that he hadn’t heard me, and nor had my other friends. This friend did show care and concern; she asked the reasons contributing to this feeling, and even stopped talking long enough to listen to my answer. It was a good start. However as I started to express the reasons, she almost angrily told me off for using those reasons to feel bad and bully myself. I felt myself shut down like a clam as I stared into my dinner and tried to deflect the conversation back to herself. My poor friend spent the rest of the evening trying to pry me back open, but we cut the evening pretty short because I suspect we both felt disconnected.
As expected with this friend, we discussed it when we got home. I expressed that I know she cares for me and has my back and wont allow me to bully myself or enable my pity parties and that I need that so much from her, but essentially I wanted a loving compassionate response of understanding. The thing with hurt feelings and sadness is the more you try and push, justify, rationalise or explain them away (or just plain ignore them,) the more they push to be heard. I just wanted someone to tell me they understood why I was feeling that way and let me believe I am not the world’s worst person for feeling sad when I have so much good in my life. I wasn’t ready to move on from the hurt because I needed to feel connected and understood and validated and heard in order to heal. In the parenting workshop I attended recently they called what I needed “Being With” (sadness) and most people, myself included struggle with this.
I knew the friend I wanted. Unfortunately she was also the friend that led me to writing this blog in the first place and the friend who could be the person I need if only she could find the time. Which she can’t. Still, I reached out to her anyway because I figured if I was feeling this disconnected and lonely, she probably was too. I was right. Unfortunately she couldn't see me for 2 weeks. However just knowing that she was going to see me and I was going to have that safe place seemed to be enough. By the time I saw her, this feeling had passed but I knew when I told her about it she would understand, she wouldn't tell me it’s stupid, trivial or that I am ungrateful. She will not throw facts at me, empower me, scold me, criticise me or be mad at me. She will gently guide me into drawing my own conclusions about how I can feel better instead of telling me off or telling me what to do. That is what I wanted in this scenario.
Being aware of what I want and need and who I should go to for meeting these needs is important.
None of my other friends were wrong, bad or deliberately insulting. Friend A empowers me so much, Friend B shares so much of herself with me in a way I admire, Friend C is so much fun to be around, and Friend D is super supportive and would do anything for you. Friend E actually sent me flowers a few weeks after this post was written, but before it was posted.) It occurred to me then, that once again, my expectation for people to respond to me in a certain way was letting me down rather than letting them all comfort and hear me in their own way. I do know they all care for me after all, or we wouldn't be friends in the first place. If I don't expect my husband to be all things, I shouldn't expect my friends to be able to give more than they can either. One is better for one need than the other, but none are of greater value.. just depends on the need.
There are other friends I could have tried, but again, I didn’t see them that week. Time is cruel like that. Each of my friends has their strengths, things I enjoy about them, and I need them all in my life. That said I need to work harder at fostering a deeper sense of connection with them all. That might mean telling them and asking for what I need, it might mean being more vulnerable, it might mean not deflecting or waiting for permission to speak. It will mean getting to understand them better and know how they feel connected to people - to make sure they want to feel connected to me. And it will also mean staying open to new friendships with people who have both the ability and the time to meet my needs. Just as I thought my rotation was full, the universe points out there is always room for one more!
And, yes, I do know, that after all of that; my husband was right. I made another appointment for my psychologist. Haha Women!
Your Best Friend ForNever