How often do you “need” to spend time with others?

I’ve been trying for a long time to arrange to meet to catch up with a particular friend. We used to be close and live in the same city, but we haven’t met since a very brief meeting at Christmas, and before then the last time we met was at a an event at her Church in September. I miss her a lot and have been feeling very sad that we live so close but meet a handful of times a year and never in such a way we can catch up properly.

Part of the reason we don’t is that she has a family now, including young children, and I completely understand and agree that family comes first before friends. Still I’m sad to see her so very little – and also (and this is a big part of my feeling) worried for her. She gives all her time to her children and various numerous volunteer works at her church and parish. She home-schools her two older children. She almost never suggests meeting up, she never seems to socialise except for seeing other mothers at home-ed groups, and she told me she hasn’t met up with a friend for over a year. She never takes any time for herself and she does not seem to have any desire to socialise.

Should I be worried about her? I am, very. I feel like she must be so tired and drained and stressed and never have a moment to take care of herself or do something she wants to. Most of all I fear she never has any time that really is for talking and sharing with her friends. I know I wouldn’t be able to cope with even one day of her schedule let alone the foreseeable future.

I think she is amazingly strong, dedicated and generous to her family and she is responsive to their every need (let alone all the time she volunteers). She has clearly made big sacrifices. She says she loves it and never feels the need for any break or to see any one. I just can’t see how she can possibly be well or happy and it seems really isolating to have so little contact with others.

At first I was hurt that she had no interest in meeting – i made no end of suggestions and she declined them all and didn’t suggest any alternatives and pretty much said she doesn’t do that kind of thing. I was lonely and upset already and I’m sad that we are no longer close friends. She really matters to me and I care for her and miss her. There’s only so much you can keep a friendship going and only so close you can be when you only text message and email. And I’m worried for her welfare, as I said.

Perhaps I should just accept that she says she’s happy and she is. It got me thinking, perhaps it’s a difference of personality. She’s happy not to leave the house for several days at times, whereas I usually feel compelled to go outside, see the outdoors, be around people,  even if I’m not meeting or speaking to anyone (except when I’m very low and not going out is then a sign I’m very unwell). Meeting up with someone is of no interest to her, whereas it’s very important to me, although there are few people I trust and am able to be with at the moment. That probably is a particularly bad combination and makes me particularly needy with the few people I do trust! I need time alone too and have times it’s all too much but loneliness is a big struggle for me. So I’d silence, which is another thing she loves. Perhaps it’s as impossible for her to understand my needs, or values in a relationship, as it is for me to understand hers and how she can be well and happy in her current situation.

I wonder whether she doesn’t value meeting in person, spending time together in friendship, catching up, doing some things for herself outside the family and so on? Or does she just need less of them?

This got me thinking, do we all have such very different needs firstly for contact with other people, and secondly beyond that, what I somewhat inadequately call deeper or more meaningful interactions (a good conversation with a friend you trust and can be “real” with,  as opposed to eg a passing interaction in a shop or talking to a work colleague – all are important but I know I very much need to be able to share how things really are sometimes, not just keep up the acceptable businesslike front where I seem to be well and in control of myself! ).

What do you find that you need? What is important to you in a friendship? How do we know which is normal?! I think my therapist would say that’s one of those questions where there isn’t a definite answer right or wrong. … I’m left wondering in this friendship,  firstly if she’s really okay or not and then how can I be there for her, when she has no interest in regular contact? How do we keep up a friendship with someone whose values here are very different from ours?

Ginny xxx

3 thoughts on “How often do you “need” to spend time with others?

  1. I can understand where you are coming from. My friend and I are in a similar situation to you and your friend, except I am the one that prefers not to go out or talk to people. Let me just say, she will know you are there, and she probably really appreciates all your efforts to have contact. Obviously I can’t speak for her since I don’t know her, but yes, I would say everyone is different in how much they “need” others, but as long as they know you are there, if there is a problem then they know where to find you, and that’s really important x

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    1. Thank you very much for that. I think you’re very right and I think I have to remember that because we enjoy or need different things. something that may appear to me to suggest she doesn’t really care about or want contact may not actually mean that for her. And I certainly have times too when I don’t want to go out and don’t want to talk. There are very few people that I’m able to be comfortable talking with. It’s often easier on this blog than it is in real life, partly because it feels as though it’s possible to find real empathy between us here in this ‘community’ and we come together having shared experiences and feelings in common. It’s very rare I find that and that’s one reason I’m so thankful for these exchanges.xxx

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