How important is it to process negative feelings in a relationship or friendship? One of my friends feels the need to almost constantly be delving into issues between the two of us or else issues that she is dealing with in her other relationships. I have grown tired of all this processing but then she experiences that as distance and denial in our friendship. I used to have more interest in exploring all those things with her but now I don’t. Yet I really care for her and we have been friends a long time. What do you think?
L.N., Portland, OR
Being available for nearly constant relational processing when it is wearying to you is not proof of your affection for your friend. You may want to let her know that, while you don’t judge her for her own interest in these matters, it is not the way you want to spend your time together since you don’t share that particular interest. Our relationships work best when we understand the optimal time and distance ratio for them. Some relationships are as water into water. No distance and no time apart. Some are best as the occasional email. Sometimes our relationships with people we have been close with (water into water) need an adjustment for a different ratio of time in order to keep the relationship fresh and loving. There is no blame in this, just the recognition of change.
As an environmental activist I have been watching the collapse of the economic system with schadenfreude, I confess. The problem is that I also feel the ecological system is heading for a similar collapse, and it could happen just as fast. Systems such as these can exponentially accelerate in ways we can’t predict. People think that because they can no longer buy their new cars or live in their big houses, it is the end of days, but a far worse fate could befall all of us in the not distant future. I worry all the time. Do you?
Sleepless in Seattle
No, I don’t worry all the time. When worrying takes up so much attention that I start to feel gloomy, I usually shift my attention into the recognition that we don’t know how it is going to work out. It certainly looks as though some very difficult times are ahead in all ways, but, on the other hand, I sense a much greater awareness of these problems and more global cooperation in addressing them. We may be able to imagine hard times ahead, but we probably cannot yet imagine the solutions that could reverse many of these dire problems. It is best to sit quietly in not knowing. One’s own steady calm is a great offering, no matter how it all turns out.
I am writing to you from Slovenia so please excuse my English. I am totally aware for being madly in love with a beautiful guy. The energy is very strong when we look into each other’s eyes. I just love him! But, he has a girlfriend and he seems happy with her, but he always take time for looking at me when we see each other. This is going on one year and a half. I want him to be happy with her, but I cannot stop being in love with him. So what can I do when I dream of him and when my heart is beating so much when I see him? How to just be relaxed in this situation? I feel like I am 18. I really wish that your words bring me back to presence.
A Woman in Love, Slovenia
Dear Woman in Love,
I know the power of those kinds of feelings when all you can do is think about that person who you imagine will be the cause of happiness in your life. But since he is not available, this obsession becomes a form of torment, waiting for something that may never come to beand even if it does, it may not be the happiness of which you dreamed. Do you want to spend your precious time waiting on the chance that he becomes available someday? Turn to the delights in your life right now and let your well be filled with the love of your family and friends. Your fantasy about this particular man seems like a case of “being careful what you wish for.”