I Don't Have Emotional Intimacy in Friendships like I do Relationships... Am I Broken?

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I Don't Have Emotional Intimacy in Friendships like I do Relationships... Am I Broken?

Post by reboundstudent on Thu Aug 13, 2015 12:26 pm

Reading through the comments on the Prime article from Monday, there was a very strong community message that you can get all of the things you'd get from a romantic relationship, from other relationships; emotional intimacy, living arrangements, not having to be alone, etc.

What if a person... is incapable? Are they broken?

I've always craved emotional intimacy, not only in romantic relationships, but friendships as well. I've never really had a best friend; the closest I came was in high school, but I was the "second" best friend in a trio. It wasn't an even trio... they were each other's best friends, and they were my best friends. That actually happened to me very frequently, where I was always the interloper. I was never the best friend, or an equal best friend. I was always "lesser," always on the outside circle.

I've gotten better at making and maintaining friendships in my late 20's with a lot of freaking work. These friends are people who I adore, think the world of, and am always impressed by their interests, personality, life, and so on. However, these friendships are rarely intimate, usually because folks just don't have any energy left for me. Their emotional intimacy priorities usually are their partners and their long-term friends. I usually like them more than they like me. They still like me, but for something far more casual and less intense than I seek out.

Like it seems that everyone else already seems to be married, everyone seems to already have their close friends established; they don't mind more friends, but they're not open to more emotionally intimate best friends, because those slots are already taken.

I think the reason I prefer seeking emotional intimacy through a romantic partner as opposed to friendships is because, with a partner, there's room carved out for that (in most normal relationships.) Like, when you get to the point of being a romantic partner, you're kind of expected to be emotionally intimate. It comes with the package. It doesn't come automatically when you make friends with someone. It might never come; it's at best an added bonus, not an expectation, like it is when dating.

To my thinking and experience, trying to find emotional intimacy and closeness through friends is actually an even bigger challenge than finding someone to date (and that's already a tall order for some folks, like me.) Am I broken in some way, since this attitude doesn't seem to be normal?
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Re: I Don't Have Emotional Intimacy in Friendships like I do Relationships... Am I Broken?

Post by eselle28 on Thu Aug 13, 2015 12:42 pm

<mod>This isn't a mod slap, more a notice of a rule change, since I know everyone doesn't read every thread. It's acceptable to discuss topics that were raised on the prime site here, and is probably unavoidable due to the crossover in subject matter. However, we're now asking people not to discuss community interactions on the prime site here, either in terms of specific posters or in terms of general community habits. I'm going to ask that everyone who responds to this topic avoids discussing various messages from the prime site about friendship versus romantic relationships and focuses on the other parts of the post</mod>
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Re: I Don't Have Emotional Intimacy in Friendships like I do Relationships... Am I Broken?

Post by Enail on Thu Aug 13, 2015 12:47 pm

If it helps any, I don't make emotionally intimate relationships of any kind easily. I'm not very good at being emotionally open, and I only rarely even want to, even if I want to form the kind of friendship that could be emotionally intimate, so it's sometimes a bit of a puzzle to me how to get from 'person I care about and see regularly' to 'person I can talk to.'  When it happens for me, it's usually a combination of luck and their skill in creating that sort of relationship, with me not really knowing how it happened.

To me, it just sounds like you also find it difficult, though for different reasons, but you've found the default shape of a romantic relationship gives you a handhold that allows you to make that leap to emotional intimacy more easily. I don't think that's broken (and honestly, the idea of someone being broken because they can't do X seems excessive to me), it's just a skill set that can be hard to learn and you've figured out one part of it but not the other.
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Re: I Don't Have Emotional Intimacy in Friendships like I do Relationships... Am I Broken?

Post by eselle28 on Thu Aug 13, 2015 12:57 pm

Short answer: No, I don't think you're broken. I'll start off by saying that I don't think friendship necessarily fills all of a person's needs for emotional intimacy. For some people it does, for a lot of people it fills in some but not all of the gaps, and for some people friendship doesn't provide much at all.

I also think people have somewhat different friendship styles, in the same way that people have different ways of relating to their emotional partners. People vary in terms of both how intense they want their friendships to be and how much time they have to devote for others. It sounds like there's a mismatch between the kinds of friendships you'd like to have and either their preferred level of intimacy or their preferred number of intimate friends. That sucks! I'll say that it's been pretty rare for me to be someone's best friend, so I can identify with that part of the experience. The two people who I call my best friends would probably third or fourth on their priority list. It's just that I managed to find a couple of people who prefer fairly intimate relationships and who have quite a lot of energy, so I don't really feel like a secondary friend - my guy friend in particular would probably like to talk even more than we currently do. I would also say that there might be some geographic factors involved. I've lived several places as an adult, and I've never been anywhere where people were so caught up in hanging out with their high school/college buddies and so uninterested in making new friends as they grew older as Minneapolis.

As for which is harder, I think it really depends on the person. Friendship is in some ways easier because factors like physical attraction aren't an issue, and a number of dealbreakers a person might have for someone they were contemplating living with or raising children with someday aren't as important in a friend. There are also far more people who are open to having multiple friends than multiple romantic partners. On the other hand, I've long despaired that there isn't anything in the way of internet dating for friendship and that any site that tries seems to turn into a dating venue. The best that seems to be out there is meetup, and that tends to be interest focused in a way that I think makes things difficult for people who are primarily seeking confidantes rather than activity partners.
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Re: I Don't Have Emotional Intimacy in Friendships like I do Relationships... Am I Broken?

Post by reboundstudent on Thu Aug 13, 2015 1:00 pm

Sorry about that Eselle, will make note in the future!

Enail, I think "handhold" is a perfect way to phrase it. I struggle a lot with social interactions, and I've found that more there's a "social script" for an interaction, the easier I do, because I know what's expected. So "X relationship types fulfills Y role" makes a lot of sense to me. It's traditional and uncreative, but I also screw up/make other people uncomfortable a LOT less.

Perhaps it's strange, since I talk a lot about how much I struggle with romantic relationships, but I actually feel like I have more permission to screw up/be imperfect than I do in friendships. Romantic relationships give me a lot more "unconditional" acceptance than friendships do, even friendships with really awesome people. So, I can be a lot more emotionally honest and intimate with a partner, who I only kinda-sorta worry about creeping out (I think part of me figures that if they spend enough time with me, they're gonna be creeped out anyway, so might as well front-load it) where as with friends I'm constantly worried about creeping them out or offending them.

I definitely get how partners should be our only form of emotional connection and social outlet; I work very hard to make sure I can at least occasionally get my emotional needs met from other folks. But I'm not sure I'm one of those people who could ever substitute romantic intimacy with friendship intimacy if single. I wouldn't be miserable, but I wouldn't be fully satisfied, ya know? Does that make me broken, that I'm always gonna prefer to get my emotional needs met in a relationship versus friendship, to the point where I do need a romantic relationship to be fully satisfied?
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Re: I Don't Have Emotional Intimacy in Friendships like I do Relationships... Am I Broken?

Post by reboundstudent on Thu Aug 13, 2015 1:04 pm

eselle28 wrote:
As for which is harder, I think it really depends on the person. Friendship is in some ways easier because factors like physical attraction aren't an issue, and a number of dealbreakers a person might have for someone they were contemplating living with or raising children with someday aren't as important in a friend. There are also far more people who are open to having multiple friends than multiple romantic partners. On the other hand, I've long despaired that there isn't anything in the way of internet dating for friendship and that any site that tries seems to turn into a dating venue. The best that seems to be out there is meetup, and that tends to be interest focused in a way that I think makes things difficult for people who are primarily seeking confidantes rather than activity partners.

Ha, I hear that. I feel slightly ashamed, but nearly all of my friends are folks I met through my exes. (My exes have fantastic taste in friends!) I've met a few folks on my own, but it can be really hard to penetrate a social circle without a permanent "in." I've got a couple of friendships right now that are "Facebook close" but I am despairing on how to take them to the "next friendship level" because the folks are universally already so busy socially.
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Re: I Don't Have Emotional Intimacy in Friendships like I do Relationships... Am I Broken?

Post by Tennessee Ed on Fri Aug 14, 2015 5:51 pm

From my experiences with Meetup, a lot of people are in it to make a couple friends they can get close to and then bail. The activity focus is little more than an excuse to get together, and a very coarse screen for some commonality.

I think a lot of the standard dating advice applies to making closer friendships too. Be cool. Don't wrap up your self worth in success. Be an inviting person that makes people comfortable. Do you ever host things? Whether it's a party at your place, or a group outing to see a movie. It's a great way to get used to inviting people to spend time with you with less pressure than a one one one. Have an event with your existing friends, talk about it with new friends, when they say "that sounds like fun", you say "It was! You should join us next time." If they do, success. If they don't, you're still having a good time with your friends. People like getting invited to things, if they can refuse without cost. It's flattering.

I am with you though on not understanding how intimate friendships can substitute for a partner relationship. I might share my deepest fears with my closest friends, but a partner I share my life with.

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Re: I Don't Have Emotional Intimacy in Friendships like I do Relationships... Am I Broken?

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