I have felt compelled to write this as I have noticed something in my life in the last few years where I have met new people and instead of building up a friendship based on common interests they have started to immediately tell me about their trauma. Why do we all of a sudden think that this is a socially acceptable thing to do? Not that I do, but so many people do not have boundaries.
I think because I seem like an open and non-judgemental person that people automatically feel that this is license to blurt out all of their childhood trauma to me after knowing me for 5 minutes: their relationship trauma, their addiction problems, childhood stuff and so on. What irritates me most is that they just expect you to listen…do these people not have therapists they could talk to?
Don’t get me wrong I do have a sympathetic ear but this is reserved for close friends and family and people in crisis regardless of how long I have known you. I used to have such wobbly boundaries myself that I would actually sit and listen to these people chat about themselves non stop, about all their issues, and I would wonder why I felt so drained after being with them. These people only ask you how you are so they can get that formality out of the way so they can then launch into what ails them. Absolutely self-absorbed. I have tolerated so many of these people in my life but what I have noticed is that this type of person will end up flipping on you at some point because you may not listen in the way they want, or you may disagree, or you suddenly start having your own problems which requires them to listen which is not a dynamic they care for. Because it is always about them.
In the last few years since being sober I have watched this and realised that I have put up with this in my life. Often I used to drink to make myself be around these people, booze would deffo lighten things up. But since I stopped drinking there is no escape from it. And I just see it now.
Recently someone tried to dump their trauma and pain onto me about a subject I am struggling with myself – not that they would know, cause they don’t know me well enough. I knew this was the moment to break the habit of a lifetime – instead of tea and sympathy I responded “sorry for your pain, maybe talking to a professional may help” and left it at that. They kept trying to get me into a conversation about it but I kept “grey rocking” – thing is that person doesn’t know me well enough to know that I have dealt with incredible struggles with that same subject they wanted to dump onto me. What that person didn’t know that is that I then spent days crying because the subject they were trying to get me to engage with to soothe their pain triggered me.
I have had so many conflicts this last year because of this. People feeling like you are a sounding board for their pain and problems. These same people get surprised when you mention something about your life, cause they never cared to listen to you nor are interested in you as a person, they just need any old ear and have picked you as their personal therapist, un-fucking-paid.
Another situation in this area I have had experience with is in dating – I recently was going to meet someone for a walk from a dating app. They started to get a bit sketchy communication wise and I thought hmmmm clearly married I think. When I called them out on it, I get a barrage of messages about his “ex” being awful to him, how he is so down, he needs help, she is ruining his life, he can’t stop thinking about her etc etc. Me a literal fucking stranger and him trying to talk to me about his “ex”. I blocked him and he tried to call me on another number with guess what, a pic of him and his “ex” as his profile pic. I blocked him from that and he tried another way to contact. Mate, get some therapy and some morals and fuck off?
People who have no boundaries in this way are to be avoided at all costs. I have spent my life being an understanding ear. If I have to have more conflicts because I am putting boundaries in place then so be it. But be warned, do not come to me with your trauma if you don’t know anything about me. Don’t expect that people want to listen to you constantly moaning about your life. Stop expecting free therapy from the people around you. Always consider what others’ might be going through first before you unload your problems. I have close friends though who I would listen to all day long because you know what? They have always listened to me. Make sure you have reciprocity in your friendships, that you truly care for each other then the listening to each other is natural.
And I know that in this age of being open and willing to listen and being aware of mental health my take might sound harsh but I am not talking about people who are suffering with mental health issues. I will listen to people (even people I don’t know well) who are in crisis but what I won’t do is be a sounding board for emotional baggage/trauma from people who are trying to be my friend and only know how to trauma bond. People who constantly find things to moan or be self-absorbed about. People who don’t want advice, or will never take it anyway, but just want to offload. Those sorts of people.
When making new friends keep checking on how you feel after you have spent time with them. If you know serious things about their life within a few times of meeting them, they are not boundaried. They will cause you trouble at some point. They will be a drain and they do not think of the relationship as equal, they are just looking to dump. And that is all they will do. The minute you change the dynamic they will freak out. If you do want to pursue the friendship because you can see some common interests try telling them “sounds like you have a lot of unpacking of trauma to do, perhaps speaking to a therapist might help as I am not qualified to really deal with this sort of thing” see how quick they want to meet you again!