One of the side effects of leaving behind the trauma of my youth (along with all the places and peace I associate it with) is that I don’t have many relationships that are more than a decade old. I have a few friendships that have finally hit that age, but I wound up losing (or ending) contact with a lot of the people I was close with in my first few years of college and I didn’t really get close to most most of the poeple I’m still friends with until my final year, so most of them are only just now hitting the 10-year point. I have only one person I knew in high school that I’ve spoken to in the last few years and our current time zone difference means we’re pretty much never awake and online at the same time, which would put a damper on reconnecting even if I was so inclined. The only people I’m still in contact with from further back are two of my siblings, and that’s a weird situation to bring up in this context given my complex feelings about family and the life my siblings were a part of. Most of the people who are still a part of my life are from just the most recent third of it, despite the prevalence of social media, and that list seems to only ever get smaller with time rather than bigger.
As a result, I have an unconscious tendency to place a lot of importance on my relationships with people who have been a part of my life for a long time. I definitely prioritize the strength of a connection over the duration, but it is undeniable that I’ll have more emotional investment in someone I’ve known rather casually for almost a decade than someone I’ve formed a deep connection with in the past two years. Which isn’t always a measure of the importance or current strength of a relationship, since the person I’m probably still the most emotionally invested in is someone who hasn’t been a part of my life for almost two years. It’s just a measure of where I’ve put emotional energy in the past.
I had a tendency to invest in people who made me feel needed, who wanted all the time and attention I could give them, often to the detriment of my own well-being. I’ve done a lot of work in the last three years as I’ve distanced myself from the people who raised me to be this way and the family that took advantage of it, but I still haven’t quite hit the point where the scales have tipped from being mostly invested in unhealthy relationships to mostly invested in healthy ones. After all, the pandemic has kind of put a damper on building new healthy relationships.
The main reason I’ve been thinking through all of this lately is that one of the last of these older unhealthy and unabalanced relationships is coming to a close. I had once hoped I could salvage it, that we had both grown enough to rework the terms of our friendship in a more healthy manner, but I eventually realized I was just making excuses in an effort to avoid losing another old relationship whose only positive note was its length. The only reason I haven’t ended it already is because this person is starting a new job in a distant city. I didn’t want to deal with the stress of cutting contact with someone when I knew that their move (which has already happened by now) and self-centered behavior would do it for me. Plus, I can’t help but feel sorry for them as they move away from everyone they’ve known for the past almost nine years, to start a new job in a new city. That’s a difficult transition and I don’t want to make it any harder on them than it already is. I’d prefer a clean break, but I can safeguard my own well-being without cutting all contact while their life is a chaotic mess due to a move and a new job.
I think I’m ready for it to end. I’ve grieved what might have been, I kept the door open for them to change, I genuinely tried to meet them where they were at, and though I’m tired from putting in all this fruitless effort, at least I’ll never need to wonder what might have happened if I’d just tried. I did try. And when it became clear it wasn’t ever going to have an effect, I stopped going out of my way and moved on with my life. It’s a lot easier to handle this sort of thing when you’ve taken the time to feel your feelings, do what you feel you owe yourself, and then set expectations based on the results. Now I’m ready for the balance to tip. For the people who are still an active part of my life to have the most emotional investment as the final unhealthy relationship finally becomes a distant and disappearing connection.
I feel like I should feel bad about this for some reason. I recognize this as the echoes of ingrained behaviors and unhealthy habits, but I can’t for the life of me come up with a single reason, good or bad, that I should feel like I failed somehow. It is nice to be able to recognize that for the growth this lack represents in my life. It definitely helps make letting go of this whole relationship a lot easier.