Relationships in small communities[advice/discussion/a little rant]

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Relationships in small communities[advice/discussion/a little rant] Empty Relationships in small communities[advice/discussion/a little rant]

Post by Randomly Rolled on Tue Oct 28, 2014 4:01 am

Hi everyone,

After this topic came up briefly in another thread, I was encouraged to start one for people who live in smaller towns or cities, and who have problems related to that. I thought that there might be some people who could find it to be a relevant discussion. The discussion covers relationships, both romantic and platonic, as well as some broader social issues within such communities.

I've labeled the thread both advice and discussion; so that people can talk about their own experiences as well as give advice. I'd like it to be more about how people have found coping strategies than just advice for myself. Anyone is free to comment. I'm sure most people have something useful to add, regardless of their living situation Smile

*sorry I ended up ranting a bit, as some things frustrate me to no end*

I currently live in a small community, with a total population of about 10,000. I'm not native; I grew up in Ann Arbor, and moved here about 7 years ago. Being both non-native, and a geek, I haven't had much success being accepted here. While there are good people to be found, it's generally dominated by people who cling to intolerant ideas and misconceptions. Also, being an economically depressed area, with little to do, has developed it into a strong drug culture. I was amazed at how high the addiction ratio is here, and I'm from a relatively large city. I don't judge individual addicts; addiction is one of the reasons I moved here, but by and large, it's a shady, irresponsible community. It teaches blatant, public displays of bigotry. The  people that I have met that aren't tied into that, aren't all that accepting either. There are geeks; a few rpg groups, (one) hobby shop that has a magic night or two. But that's it. So being a stranger, I'm out. No admittance. Everyone has known each other forever, and they don't really let outsiders in. I've had someone say 'You're from Detroit. I can tell by your accent. Why don't you go back where you came from?'. Even the nerds in my IT classes aren't interested in befriending me. Now, all of this isn't new to me; I've always had trouble fitting into society at large, but to be excluded by nearly everyone, is kind of tough. Between the intolerance and the lack of entertainment and social venues that I'm comfortable in, it's been difficult to find both friends and lovers. To avoid being disingenuous and saying it's 'ALL BAD!!', I Have had a pair of intimate sexual relationships, and a few short-lived friendships.  So here are a few examples of what I've seen, and face frequently.

I was waiting in line at McDonalds, and was asked my name for the order. As I have a hard time projecting in crowds, I had to answer a couple times. Biker looking guys standing next to me give dirty looks. A couple minutes later, one gets his order, pushes past me, even though he doesn't need to, takes his order, looks at me and says 'Faggot!'. First instinct: Knock his bag out of his hand and stomp on it in front of him, while daring him to do something. Something I may have actually done a few years ago. My actual response: disgusted look, shaking head, not wanting to escalate things, feeling powerless to do anything. Repeat similar events or comments under different circumstances every few days.
My upstairs neighbor, a woman, has...um...separation anxiety, I'll call it. As we aren't compatible, I don't hang out with her or her friends. Every day or so, some random guy that's staying there that night walks by my doorway (which is in the hallway that leads to the stairs to the upper apartment). Cue standard tough guy insults yelled Through my door. I've called the landlord, the landlord doesn't care, because she pays the rent on time. Time rolls on.
Those are in regards to me. There are some black people living here, mostly from Chicago; I don't speculate on why they live here. One that I've seen around town is missing a leg, and I've seen guys drive by him at the supermarket and scream racially offensive words at him, and then drive away, laughing their asses off. Most likely because they know he can't run them down.  Suspect

So it's not like I haven't seen this back home, but it's the frequency that's hard to take. Part of the reason I left the city was to escape the chaos and violence, but part of me would rather deal with that than this. The neighbor thing especially gets to me. There's little I can do about that one; I looked for an apartment before I signed the current lease, and came up with nothing. So I'm stuck for yet another year. Part of me feels like they are sheltered, and feel that they can get away with this kind of behavior and that they wouldn't behave like this if they were in the big city. Someone might actually retaliate in a much more violent way than a simple bar fight. Being bullied most of my childhood kind of got me used to it, and made me unafraid to fight. Physically anyways. Socially it's different; I still feel quiet and powerless and have a hard time sticking up for myself, at least until they manage to depress the Do Not Touch button hard enough. I got called all the usual things as a kid, being naturally quiet and sensitive, and having some trauma-based brain damage. Being insulted like that is a huge trigger for me, regardless of the content of the insult. Having it so in my face is frustrating, to say the least. One good thing that has come around: I have a great counselor, who is from a big city as well. I don't think she likes it here much either. We came up with a plan I was willing to try, it's been remarkably effective, and where I am now is light years ahead of where I was at the end of my last relationship.

Some specific issues that people may face:

1. Feeling like it's not worth approaching people, thinking they'll reject you even if they don't know you, based on groupthink.
Are there ways you might get around this feeling, finding an effective internal dialogue that promotes confidence.

2. A serious lack of entertainment options: things you like to do just aren't available or you aren't welcome.
What are options people have found?

3. Difficulty finding romantic/sexual partners: lack of compatible social groups, ages, demographics, distance, and lifestyles.
How have or could you find people of your preferred gender when faced with obstacles like these?

5. Intolerance, especially when it's right in public.
How do you stand up to it, resist it, or try to educate when it's so widely approved of?

4. Are some of these difficulties more about ones own flawed perceptions, rather than within the community itself?


If anyone has suggestions, personal experiences, or something they need help with, feel free to discuss.

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Post by eselle28 on Tue Oct 28, 2014 1:38 pm

1. What's helpful for me, living in a community where I don't particularly want to live and don't feel I fit in terribly well, is to remind myself that while my perceptions of my own community and neighbors have truth to them, there are also perfectly nice people here as well as a few people who are probably quite compatible and who are also struggling to meet kindred spirits. Before I talk to someone, I have no idea if they'll be unpleasant, pleasant but not very compatible, friendly acquaintances, or my new best friend. It's good to remember the other few of options exist as well, because I think it's easy for people's brains to focus on the most negative experiences.

2. Unfortunately for newcomers, some of the more entertaining options in small towns tend to be at people's homes, which requires meeting and befriending them, which requires that you find people who are willing to accept you. What happened with the short-lived friendships? Are there good or bad lessons there in terms of how to meet and befriend people in this town? Also, are any of the venues you described places where you're...well...tolerated? I don't think you should try to enter a social group where people believe you should go home, but if there's one you can think of where people seem a bit standoffish but not hostile, you might try to hang around every now and then. Sometimes small town groups open up to newcomers a bit more after exposure, and being around the same group of people for awhile might give you idea whether anyone in the group is feeling stifled or left out and might be more open to cultivating a new friendship. If you're feeling up to a little organization, you might want to consider starting a meetup group for newcomers to your area. Most places will have at least some fairly new residents, and if your town is as cliquish as you say, they might be feeling much as you do.

The other entertainment suggestion I'd have other than expanding efforts to make friends is to schedule yourself at least one short trip to a larger town to do something you specifically enjoy. You'll probably have to go on this trip by yourself, but having a vacation from your usual entertainment options can be nice in and of itself, and knowing interesting things to do in whatever the nearest larger town is will up your credibility as a local.

3. This one's tough - for me too. One thing I'd suggest considering is how wide your dating radius is, particularly since you're dating online. Some people need a partner who lives in their specific town, but small town daters are often a little used to the idea that they'll need to look a little further away if they want to find someone single who isn't their friend's ex or their ex's friend, and in some cases a relationship that consists mostly of hanging out on weekends can be satisfying. It's sometimes also helpful to go through your list of what you want in a partner and separate out the "must haves" from the "would be nices." The sort of woman you want to date might give off slightly different cultural cues than a woman you would have found compatible where you last lived, and if that's the case, it is sometimes helpful to focus in on the core of what you want in a partner rather than the details we generally use when sizing people up.

Unnumbered general comment: When it comes to some of the other unhappy things about your community, I'd suggest listing out dates at which specific problems can be addressed. For instance, say in January you'll get to go do Fun Thing You Haven't Done in Awhile, next year you'll be in a position to look for other housing, at some point you'll be done with school.
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Post by Randomly Rolled on Tue Oct 28, 2014 11:45 pm

Thanks for your input eselle:)

As for your first point, I agree that there are perfectly nice people here. I have met quite a few. I often feel like I don't or wouldn't fit in with their lifestyles..or standards of living, I guess I would phrase it. It's intimidating to think about approaching a couple that's about my age who look well-to-do, for example. I also feel like some of the issues I have might relate to my 5th topic (incorrectly labeled 4 I see..hmph lol), in that my own awkwardness and my own cognitive distortions are coloring who I think will reject me. I have, as you were asking about, made some short-term friends in the past. Unfortunately, most didn't work out because, being who I was at that time, I was over-eager to be accepted and had boundary issues such as having difficulty saying no. They ended up not being genuine friends, which I finally accepted and broke ties with them.

I know exactly what you mean when you say the entertaining options are at people's homes. Which is why it bums me out that it's usually partying, which I'm not interested in anymore. I'm thinking I'll take your suggestion about finding groups and hanging out now and then. I've never considered paying attention to who else might be getting left out-at least not to hang out with. Some selfishness on my part. I believe there is a Magic night or two at the hobby shop. I did go to one once, but no one really talked to me, even when I tried (which was admittedly limited). I own a lot of Magic cards, but none are tournament legal. It still might be a good 'In', and could lead to inclusion into RPG groups. I like how you mention gradual inclusion. Maybe when they see me hanging out more often, they'll be more inclined to say 'this guy is actually interested in this', and give me a chance to show that I'm cool in my own way too. I'm definitely going to try it.

There are a couple bigger cities, both about 90 miles from here. Apparently one has a really cool lakeside amusement park. The problem is that I don't have a car at the moment.  Disapproving It's going to be awhile so that has to stay on the future list for now. That also makes it hard to find dates, because if I had a vehicle those two cities, plus some others, would become viable options. Right now, it's literally this little square chunk of land to look at. Smile And I haven't bothered messaging some of the more interesting women I've seen on OKC; most are in the 'within 100 miles' category, and they almost universally list 'car' as a must have. Funny about that lol. I think it's all good in the hood though. I thought about it the last few days, and one thing I considered was that a relationship might not be the best thing to pursue at the moment. Not to resist it if it happens, but that with the work I've been doing in personal growth, finishing becoming comfortable at the base before actively searching might be best. Another great thing you showed me was that women might give different cultural cues. I hadn't considered it. I'll have to find out how they might differ from where I grew up. Finding the core of what I want in a partner is a great idea too. I've put some thought into it before, but never came up with a definite picture; or one that didn't feel unrealistic or offensive anyways.

I'm definitely going to put together a timetable, as to what and when I can do to improve things.
Those were excellent, insightful comments. Thanks Smile

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