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Friendship

Friendship is still something I’m not very good at. I’m friendly, and I have some friends, people I care about who care about me, but I’ve never figured out how to be a good, day to day friend to someone. I have friends who I can reach out to when big things happen, positive or negative, and I know that they will hear me, and they know that I will hear them. But I don’t have people I call every day, or every week. I’ve tried, very hard, to do better at this. I’ve tried to put myself in positions to have friends like that, but something always stops me.

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Cricket can relate.

There’s a constant monologue in my head judging what I say to other people. Was I friendly enough? Too friendly? Do they like me or think I’m a loser? It’s as if the closer I get to other people, the more rejectable I feel, and the more damage they can do to me. It’s easier to care about people from afar, but them I’m lonely and isolated, and that’s not good either.

I was better at mimicking friendship when I was a kid, doing all of the behaviors asked of me: listening, caring, and showing attention. But I was never very good at requiring friendship in return, or believing that I deserved it. If someone got angry at me, and said that I wasn’t being a good enough friend, I believed it. If someone said I wasn’t interesting enough to be their friend, I believed them. I didn’t like it, but it seemed true to me.

I like where I live now. I like that there are people who live all around me, and even without planning to, I can run into a neighbor (and her dog!) on a random laundry trip. But it’s so much easier to befriend dogs than people. First of all, they always have their own humans, so I don’t have to take responsibility for them. With other humans, I always feel like I’m supposed to help them, take care of them, and do things for them, and I feel disappointed when they don’t fix everything for me in return. With dogs I can just share a nice moment, offer affection and curiosity, and then move on. Except, I usually feel bereft and guilty for walking away from dogs too, as if I should have done more for them, or gotten more from the exchange.

My therapist once said that she assumed I had an attachment disorder, and that’s why I didn’t have more friends. She was so relieved when I fell in love, because it proved that I wasn’t completely detached, even though it also meant my heart was broken when he said goodbye. But the thing is, I never felt detached. If anything I felt more attached than I could stand.

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“Harrumph.”

One of the benefits of becoming a therapist is that I can focus on caring about other people, without requiring them to care about me in return. My job as a therapist is to give, and not to take, and that feels so much easier to me. I like being kind to people. I like helping people, and feeling compassion and understanding for people. But I don’t like being disappointed in people when I have expectations of them, or need things from them.

Cricket is a great customer for this kind of therapy, at least with me. She’s much more of a caretaker with her grandma: guarding her, listening to her, keeping her company. With me, she accepts my support and guidance and attention, and seems to be free of any burdens of care in return.

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Cricket guarding Grandma

I miss my Butterfly, though, because however much she needed me and needed my care, she always had room in her heart for me, and licked my hand to let me know she was with me. Cricket has tried to take on that role, every once in a while, when I scratch her under her chin, but the licks last only for a moment, and then she wants me to take her outside for her walk. And that’s okay with me, because she loves her walks and her joy is contagious.

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“Hi Mommy. Do you need lickies?”

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“Let’s go! There’s so much sniffing to do!”

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

84 responses »

  1. Dogs have a great way of giving love and attention when nothing else will do.

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  2. This is why I stick with plants and dogs!mostly.

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  3. I am a bit of s detached friend, I can go weeks without seeing my friends. Like you I adore my little dog, he is so loving and precious. I feel it’s best to be oneself, forcing it is no good. Take care, you are so sweet to share a bit of yourself.

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  4. Such an interesting topic! I have different types of friends but as i grow older I expect less of them and more of my friendship with myself. I’m alwo making friends with all different types of friends I would never have considered to be friendship material in the past.

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  5. Have a nice day! People say that dogs are man’s best friend. Do you agree?

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  6. Dogs are wonderful friends, always there, non judgemental, loving. I have only 3 very close friends, and alot of acquaintances. I am slow to share with the acquaintances, I would rather be the listener. Sharing can leave one vulnerable and when you don’t know the person that well you never know if you can really trust them. My close friends are more like sisters, there no matter what. I am glad I like my own company too- I have no problem keeping myself occupied and being happy about it.

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  7. Great to read Rachel.

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  8. My dog growing up was a great friend to me, she would stay by my side if I was tearful. The dog I have now is a bit more self centered but I love her anyway.

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  9. What personality type are you? You sound like an INFJ, which I relate to.

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  10. My best human friend is my husband. Otherwise, my dog Chicki comes first. She is always more than willing to provide attention and love. She’s a great one for licking, too. i think it’s easier to trust a dog than another person.

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  11. Dogs are a mans best friend after all and their joy IS VERY contagious!!

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  12. Being hurt is sometimes the price of loving. I hope you resolve this dilemma. Clients do get to care about us as well. I was always very reluctant to put up my fees. One client, in encouraging me to do so, said she had enough to worry about for herself, she didn’t need to worry about me as well.

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  13. I rarely see or contact my true friends anymore, since moving so far away from all of them six years ago. I can go a year without seeing any of them, or months without speaking to them. But real friends are always there for you, as if you saw them or spoke to them just yesterday. And in the same way, you can be there for them too, if needed.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  14. Interesting post I can almost relate to this Rachel. I live in the country now for 18years .Must admit I have fewer friends now than I ever have.
    I love my dogs and they have always brought me Joy.

    Best Wishes good post

    Sheila

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  15. thank you for this. I never thought much about friendship in that way. I had very few friends growing up, because I was the Unpopular Girl, but once I got to high school, I had a lot of friends (big high school). I find the older I get, the easier it gets to make friends, for a lot of reasons. I hope you can find a way to stop judging yourself and just be. I need a new doggy friend in my home!

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  16. Dogs love us unconditionally, are a shoulder to cry on, hugs to enjoy and loyal to the core. It’s probably why I get on better with them than people most of the time.
    I’ve always found the word ‘friend’ a bit confusing. Don’t get me wrong, I know a LOT of people (and dogs) by sight. It’s in my nature to be open and friendly, but so many times we refer to acquaintances as ‘friends’ when in truth they are not besties, bosom pals, those we can depend on in a crisis type friends.
    So don’t beat yourself up if you think you don’t have a lot of friends. The people you know and are comfortable with may soon filter into that category without you noticing it. Just be You Rachel. That in itself is refreshing. 🙂

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  17. Be yourself. If dogs and people don’t like you that way, it will never work with them.

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  18. You’re not alone in your situation. I, too, have trouble maintaining friendships…I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t ‘get’ how to do that type of thing and have made peace with it. I heard (or read) somewhere recently that ‘opening ourselves up to relationships (which friendships ARE) opens us up also to the possibility of pain.’ I think personally that’s why I don’t ‘do’ friendships really. And why dogs are so much easier to befriend. No expectations you see, and I’ve yet to hear of a dog hurting someone emotionally. Sure there’s grief when they leave, but that’s the extent of their ability to inflict emotional pain IMHO. I think you’ve found your niche in life – therapist seems a very good occupation for you. You understand what people are going through.

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  19. Having grown up in what I recall is your part of the world, Rachel, I have an inkling there are people who match up with both what you are willing to give and accept on the friendship scale if you are willing to open up to that concept.
    Have a good July 1 in the scorching heat wave.

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  20. Always enjoy your posts. So thoughtful and artfully woven with Cricket and Butterfly.

    I don’t have the answers, but I think some of us are born or created more to empathize and others more to take. Luck also plays a part in who cares about us. (I’ve known plenty of screwed-up or selfish people with adoring friends and mates.)

    I am always open to new friendships but have learned to be more discerning. After being married twice and living with a few men, I don’t want to have to call someone every day. I also have two sons I feel close to, although their wives are somewhat distant. Yes, it can be lonely, but it has also made me stronger and I think my best chance now for good friendships (including one with a man that might blossom into more) comes from leading the best life I can. Some days are easier than others. I was thinking about this this morning before I read your post and wrote the following in my journal:

    “As I think more about friendships, I realize I was primed early on to take care of depressed people. To walk on eggshells and always consider their needs. To listen, listen and keep my own needs hidden. When they finally pop out, they’re not appreciated. That has been the story of my life and my friendships.”

    “I have tried to correct for this. To be more aware, to speak up, to let people go who don’t reciprocate, to not expect as much, especially from the bubble heads*, to avoid those who suck the air of oxygen. To feel less responsible for others. And enjoy myself more.”

    *can be anyone in a bubble but often they are wealthy, married women I meet who are clueless about what their status affords them.

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  21. Some people are more introverted than others. I don’t think it’s a bad thing you don’t have day to day friends. I don’t either and it sounds like we’ve had the same troubles trying to attract friends. I find comfort in solitude. I have learnt that I need my space, my precious time alone with my thoughts. It’s not a bad things it’s about refuelling for me. I find being around people all the time exhausting! I also find a connection with animals…..you are not alone 😊 you are very lucky to have friends who respect your space and will be there for you when they need them. Look at what you have got rather than what you haven’t. Wow! Sorry babbled away there 😊

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  22. valuable introspection!
    there are teachers
    for everything 🙂

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  23. I can wholeheartedly relate to you. I have never had more than a couple of close friends, who are there if we need each other, but we only see each other every couple of months. I think maybe it is because I have always been so close to my family, and I feel that they and my husband are my closest friends and they are whom I share everything with. I have my darling dog for company during the day and, as I am an introvert, I am happy to be on my own, too.

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  24. I get it, Rachel. I’m much the same way, with never more than one or two friends. I think it may have something to do with being an only child, and also guarding myself from hurt. Maybe one reason why we love our dogs so much!

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  25. This post is one of the most beautiful and most moving that I have read anywhere. It is hard for any of us to view himself or herself clearly and critically, and takes a truly brave person to do this sort of soul searching in public. As we grow up, we develop attitudes and habits that become very difficult to change with the passage of time. Some people search their histories to pin point the choices they made which were later solidified and became part of our personality, but I don’t think that’s always necessary. I’ve heard people say that it’s very important to be your own best friend, and usually I’ve rejected such claims thinking them too clever. But reading what you say here, I think one of your greatest problems is that you have too many expectations from yourself, and trying to live up to these high standards, you’re on shaky ground when trying to establish friendship with another. We all have weaknesses and failures, but we also have strengths, imagination and that which inspires us and what we love. We can share our positive characteristics with others, and beg pardon from our friends for our weaknesses, and learn to accept others’ weaknesses too. Pets can be great friends, but this is because we accept them for what they are, and don’t try to force them into our ideal of what they should be like. And in the same way, in making friends with other human beings, we have to come to terms with ourselves, and then find those with whom we feel an affinity; people with whom we can share similar interests, and who are willing to accept just exactly who we are. From reading your posts, I have the feeling that there are many who would be honored to have you as a friend, and it’s not too late.

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  26. We’re a lot alike.

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  27. I would have never made it without my dog and cats. They take their naps while I write. All they do is love you and never get mad, unlike us moody humans! All you have to do is love and take care of them. They give so much and demand nothing in return except a little attention. They are so amazing! Your dogs are the cutest!

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  28. A lovely blog post – thank you for sharing. Butterfly is beautiful – looks like my Amber. Amber, though, is like Cricket – she needed to cool down in this hot weather and is not talking to me right now after her bath! Keep enjoying where you are living – that is such a positive. x

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  29. Friendship is give and take – you don’t always have to be the caregiver, you don’t have to be there every single day, you just have to be there when you’re needed. My best friend and I go for weeks without talking – and we live very close to each other – but when we need each other, there’s not a question asked other than “what do you need?” If we reach out, the answer is “I’m on my way.” It doesn’t have to be a daily, constant thing. I think you’re better at it than you think you are. I kinda consider you a friend, even though we’ll never actually meet – you’ve shared so much of your life, and I’ve shared mine – that’s really all it’s about.

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  30. Nice post ,Thank you for sharing .

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  31. Well people are missing out for not wanting to know you/befriend you.. You are well loved here…

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  32. I can relate to parts of your…post or what it represents – be it your personality or your behaviors and beliefs. I think that besides Secure, Anxious avoidant, Anxious ambivalent forms of attachment as described by John Bowlby – there may be others that are being researched today or did not go into research yet. Your therapist – does she think you have the Anxious avoidant type of attachment? There is also the Avoidant personality type who are the more shy people who keep themselves away from others, mostly from fear of being hurt. I know I am, in a way, have this personality disorder. “Avoidant personality Disorder” – maybe you know that one? – and the difference is that they do want to be attached. At the same time I don`t know – I really don`t intend to say I know about you. No statements. The over attachment and fear of it. and the tendency to believe you are wrong and no good enough if said so – I am not sure if it is a characteristic of people who have the avoidant attachment. You need to have it since childhood, you know… but the feeling that reminds of a less self esteem is something else. Some of us are used to such attitude – and many times it comes in a relationship that looks 100% fine overall! A person who seem to love us, care for us , be close, and all of their actions seem like they are “love” – yet, not all their actions and words represent respect – and we feel it. Many times we do not allow ourselves to know,. (they are so nice it would be ungrateful to even think that!”) we are not conscious…and then – the thought of being close to someone else is not associated with being respected! Taken care of….Finding ones self respect – in this context – is a life journey isn`t it? This happened many times to the good and relatively or really shy people.

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  33. I get it I’m very much the same

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  34. You know the bit about wondering whether you were too friendly or not friendly enough? We often overthink ourselves into several unnecessary feelings. What I’ve come to realise is, I need to examine how I would feel if the roles were reversed…and I then realise that it’s not a big deal. Your friends know you and it doesn’t matter to what degree you were friendly. As long as they know you, it’s not as big a deal as we make it out to be.
    Also, friends don’t need to be constantly in touch. Sometimes, one of those rare texts or calls to say that you’re thinking of the person, or a picture of something that reminds you of them goes a long way.
    I hope you find people who are able to give you as much as you give them. You certainly deserve it.
    Life isn’t a big deal. Just take it in your stride, you’ll be okay. 🙂

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  35. Your article on friendships hit home to my being; many similarities. I am a twin, and even as a child, my twin sister made lots of friends. I hung back and would let the other person speak first. I assume I felt if they spoke first, that meant they were really interested in knowing me. (Gee)

    Even today, as an adult, if I run into a friend I haven’t seen in a while, I hesitate to speak first.
    Your blog has brought me much pleasure and smiles. Thank you for that blessing.

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  36. You seem like a very deep person. You’re unique and with that comes rarity. Stay true to yourself.

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  37. Be kind to yourself, Rachel. I don’t think it’s unusual to be a person who likes people but doesn’t want them around all the time. As life goes on, you realise that the individuals you really feel are true friends take a long time to recognise; lots of people are really sociable (they get their kicks from being with others and need others to validate them); others just aren’t like that. Pip and the boys

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