What does it mean exactly to be “close?”
Does it mean you share a lot of personal thoughts and emotions?
Is it when there are warm and fuzzy feelings between people?
Am I close to someone when we spend all of our time together?
I ask people this question a lot. On my intake paperwork new clients are asked to write down a description of their connections to family members they grew up with.
It is common for folks to write “Great,” “Good,” or “Okay.” Once in a while I see “Not great.”
During the intake, I will ask more about this -- specifically, what did the person share with parents when he was young? How were arguments dealt with? What happened when the person was scared or worried? I will ask about friends he has now and what does he share with them?
Many times it turns out the people who described being “close” to family members never told them the truth about anything going on in their lives. They never got into arguments or relied on parents for emotional support.
Lots of times these people have grown up into adults who don’t know what it means to feel others “have their backs.” They struggle with assertiveness and worry about being more real with those around them for fear it will turn people off.
Being attracted to someone who is inconsistent
Problems with assertiveness
Worrying about arguments and disappointments
Having friends but no one to talk to
Being everyone’s “therapist”
These are folks who may look like they are surrounded by friends but who are actually lonely in a crowd. They may give the greatest advice to the people around them, but would never open up about their own problems.
These people believe healthy relationships are ones in which there are only “positive” feelings so when problems crop up, they are at a loss as to what to do.
In these situations, it is not uncommon for folks to avoid seeing things about their loved ones which may make life difficult for them. They may even unknowingly surround themselves with friends and partners who tend to be on the more self-absorbed side.
Therapy that addresses relationship problems can help people learn how to be “close” in a way that makes sense for them.
This process usually involves first learning more about what people have been taught to understand about relationships and the world, usually from their families.The idea isn’t to trash where someone has come from, but to help people pick and choose what things they really like about what they have been taught, and to let go of the parts that have not been so great.
If your relationships don't seem to be working well, I'd like to help.
Abigail Blackburn, PsyD
617 . 686 . 2420