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Emotional Withdrawal. Wednesday November 13, 2013

A couple of days ago, mid-afternoon, I received a call from a friend. She was in tears; tears of anger, frustration and disappointment. She had cooked a beautiful lunch for some people who not only failed to turn up but, when contacted, lied to her about why they couldn't come. Furthermore, this wasn't the first time this had happened with these particular people. And they were family! Nobody can hurt us more than family, can they?

Well, we're never ones to turn down a good meal (regardless of the fact we'd already eaten), so we promptly dropped everything, rushed round to her and we soon sitting down to a delicious lunch, at 3.30pm. Hey – I believe that's a fashionable time to have lunch in some circles.

I'm sure you can imagine how my friend felt. It took several hours of hugs, her eleven year old daughter saying "well, you're now spending time with people who want to be with you, mum", and, yes, a couple of strong G&Ts for her to feel validated and wanted again.

We can often put ourselves out for people and then find our efforts are entirely unappreciated. It's even worse when it's family and close friends where there is so much emotional investment. While we know that true love, in the words of the bible "always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres", there does come a time when we need to take some of the emotion out of that love.

There is a very strong argument for dropping those people in our life who are not positive, who do not contribute to us. It's more difficult if those people are family. We can choose our friends; we can't choose our family. What we can do, for our own protection, is withdraw emotion from that arena. It's their loss, not ours. We'll invest that emotion in reciprocal friendships where it will be returned tenfold.

My friend will not be cooking a lunch for these people again, although she'll meet them in a restaurant. She can't cut them out of her life: they're family, but she can make sure she's not hurt by them.

Very much their loss, or maybe ours, as she's a very good cook!

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Anonymous Wed, Nov 13th 2013 @ 7:57am

ummm, very thought provoking, I have had to learn how to take the emotions out of a close family relationship and then to reconnect on a different level, but I didn't think of it on those terms, that would have been very useful information 20 years ago (-_-) hope it helps other folk

Anonymous Wed, Nov 13th 2013 @ 8:19am

We choose our friends … It's good development to look at ourselves and understand but we can't change our families. A few years off the family I came from was very therapeutic!

Anonymous Wed, Nov 13th 2013 @ 8:24am

Amazed to read this as very similar thing happened to me last Saturday.
It had taken couple of months to arrange this, but friends of my partner were finally supposed to come for lunch. This had almost been cancelled once, then I was given quite extreme diet requirements (they would only eat vegetables, chicken or beef). Other guests were my mother in law who is gluten intolerant and my partners son who is bit of a fussy eater.
So it took me 3 hours to put together 3 course menu that would satisfy all, spent more than an hour in supermarket and logged it all home.
Got cancellation call 10am on Saturday morning, not sure how genuine their excuse was...
And you know what. I didn't care. Luckily I was in a really good mindset, I realised I had not been looking forward having those people around anyway as they had applied such pressure with their cancellations and requirements.
I was surrounded by family who praises my cooking (one of the very few things I feel confident about), my stepson finished his chicken (success!) and we had great afternoon chatting, playing games and having great time.
Like comment from the story above - got to spend time with people we actually like!

We will not be asking this couple over again, I'd rather meet up in a pub.
I have learned that when something really takes too much pushing maybe one should stop and invest that time doing things with someone they actually care about and who is as excited about it as they are.

The Entertrainer Wed, Nov 13th 2013 @ 9:17am

Great blog (as consistently so) Mary.
I'm increasingly seeing the value in the Pareto Principle: the so-called 80/20 rule.
Given my vast need for encouragement (I suspect I am not alone), I am seeking to spend 80% of my time with people and activities and energise me.
This is specifically with the intention of still being able to 'give' love to those who either don't return it, or worse - sap my energy.
Of course, given that I'm not particularly good at doing my expenses, I can assure you I'm not tracking the time - just exercising the principle!

Anonymous Wed, Nov 13th 2013 @ 9:48am

Yes I can totally identify with this. After years of emotional neglect or even abuse from my parents, I decided that it was too difficult to see them any more. All they did was fight and be nasty to each other, and I didn't want my own children exposed to that.
Many many years on, my father has died, and I miss him. There are so many things I would like to have told him. I still cannot see my mother, who is just an old lady now, but still has the power to hurt.
I have friends who love and support me, a great partner and great grown up sons.
But even after all these years - and it was definitely the right decision - I have never stopped wanting the love I never had from my parents.

Handsome Wed, Nov 13th 2013 @ 11:18am

This is a very good post, as this is an all too common experience it seems. Families can be difficult. It is also quite painful to be let down in such a manner, one that it is very easy to take personally. I would imagine that a common habit of those that struggle with their moods is our propensity to take things personally, when as has been stated it is more a reflection of them than us.

But I think the post, and all the comments are bang on. Blood may be thicker than water, but we need to take some emotional blood thinners for our own sakes. We need to do the things that make us happy, and trying to cater for those who have no sense of reciprocity is a waste of effort. Life is just too short.

Good idea about the pub.

Thanks for this post and the comments.

Mindwriter Wed, Nov 13th 2013 @ 11:20am

Great story and I really liked Entertrainer's reminding me about Pareto: not sure I would have thought of this as an area to apply the Principle (which I LOVE), but now realise of course it massively is! And your going round to have the meal, and the rest, is just a glorious lemons/lemonade demonstration. Thanks, and love.

Chris Wood Wed, Nov 13th 2013 @ 12:38pm

An excellent, heartening post. Something I needed at the minute. Thank you

Anonymous Wed, Nov 13th 2013 @ 12:41pm

great blog! Don't hate, or hold a grudge.Just have these people who consistently have hurt you hold a lesser part in your life.

Lostinspace Wed, Nov 13th 2013 @ 1:39pm

What a great post. I have a brother who is a nightmare. My poor sister lives in London and she deals with him, my role is to listen and support her on Skype. The only problem is I can't kick the guilt although I prefer to live with that than be damaged by involvement with him. He makes me feel absolutely awful and very sorry that he cannot see that he needs help.

Anonymous Wed, Nov 13th 2013 @ 2:00pm

I resonated so well with this blog. For me it is work. I am actually on medical leave because this kind of thing got to bullying proportions and made me sick. We can allow toxic people into our lives all over the place.
I tend to use the word "detach" as opposed to "withdrawal". Emotionally withdrawing" seems to me to be a defense I use that isn't really helpful. It does not seem that this woman did that really. She reached out in a very healthy way and got the love and attention she needed and deserve. It is semantics of course so what works for you is what is best. Thanks for a great post.

Anonymous Wed, Nov 13th 2013 @ 2:17pm

I've had to learn to let go a lot with my family. I had to realize that they probably weren't going to be the family I needed and that I had to "create" the family I needed. In the end I've found that my in-laws and my friends are very supportive and they are family too and they are the family I turn to. As far as the family I was born into (mostly talking about my parents here) I speak to them but I try not to be emotionally invested in what they say and do or don't say or do.

Julia Wed, Nov 13th 2013 @ 4:13pm

I know I often go off at a tangent in my posts and am probably doing this now in picking up on one aspect of your excellent blog Mary. I prefer to avoid the family issues aspect today which is so important and impossibly complex for me and it seems for the other people who have posted today. They are braver than I am today! I am just thinking about something more simple, about the issue of cancelling invitations at the last minute. I often accept an invitation weeks in advance knowing that when the day dawns to actually attend the social event I won't want to go. It's easier for me to accept it knowing I am free on the day in question and anyway the invitation sounds great. I have read about a rule to avoid cancelling with an excuse as the day looms, and this is, if one wouldn't like to go to the event the very night of the day they are asked, then they should refuse there and then. Of course we have spoken before on Moodscope that often for people like me, who feel down, we feel far better for going out when invited despite dreading the event and wondering how on earth we will manage. So I bear this in mind before refusing and will force myself to go even if I can imagine nothing worse and all I want to do is stay inside and watch telly all evening. I do think that cancelling so late in the day which was obviously what your friend's family did is inexcusable especially if this isn't the first time. I told you I was going off at a tangent. Anyway thank you Mary for raising these issues. I would like to explore the question of how families can hurt another time perhaps.

Anonymous Wed, Nov 13th 2013 @ 9:24pm

I really welcomed this blog. It is honestly just what I needed to hear and has helped to remind me that we have the right to protect ourselves against rejection without reacting negatively. Thanks!

G Thu, Nov 14th 2013 @ 4:30am

My partner is going through the same thing as you have. She never comes to terms with her mother and had been avoiding her for months after the last fight during family reunion. I hope both of them could receive therapy but her mum will never admit she has any problems. I wish my wife can be healed with the help of her counsellor, I'm glad she has a good one.

Anonymous Thu, Nov 14th 2013 @ 11:47pm

I have a slightly different perspective as I have very recently fallen out with a very close friend cause she could not see my viewpoint and she told me that our friendship was over by text. So for me the 4th paragraph is very true as I had invested so much of myself in this friendship and I feel it's been thrown back in my face. I felt so much grief initially but am seeing perspective now.

Belinda Fox Sat, Nov 16th 2013 @ 9:36am

Thank you for your blog. Very interesting & laudable.
May I offer another thought?
I have suffered from needing to emotionally withdraw from friends & family. I have now learned a new way.
What about keeping the lines of communication open? Choosing to give less but at least to keep speaking. it needs an emotional strength & determination, and I did have outside help and constant support. I thank the Lord Jesus for this.
I applied this to my parents and over the years I was able to find love & acceptance.
In their final years. I found a wonderful love which has made my care of them in their latter years something I am glad I have done.

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