Yesterday’s post concentrated on how important friendships are, and yet how hard it is to make those friends when you have Aspergers. Today’s post is about keeping friends. For many of us, we can make friends but the friendships are shallow, don’t last long, and don’t bring us much support.
Googling the phrase ‘how to keep friends’ returned many lists of helpful hints and the hints could be summarized as follows:
- Stay in touch
- Talk about personal things
- Hang out together
- Listen, don’t talk all the time or dominate all conversations
- Have common interests
Again, a simple list of basic rules to keeping friendships healthy and alive. And again, full of issues for those with Aspergers. I brought my son into the discussion again (he actually asked today if he was offering advice – a good sign) and we came up with the following:
Stay in Touch – These days with cell phones, email, texting, etc., it should be easier than ever to stay in touch. Distance isn’t a concern like it was in the past. According to my son, it wasn’t the ability to stay in touch that was the issue, it was the possibility of causing trouble. My son was/is nervous about contacting someone and getting them in trouble about the contact itself, when it occurred (too late), or people wondering who was making the contact. At first it seemed a bit of too much worry until I realized that the specter of past failures of interacting with people was causing him to over think all of his actions and to not make the effort anymore.
Talk about Personal Things – Many people are hesitant to share personal details of their lives, it can be painful, it can leave you open to emotional blackmail. According to my son, he finds it hard to talk about or listen to personal matters except for close family members. He also stated that he feels knowing those personal details puts a burden on him to not discuss those matters. And that by discussing personal details of his, he would be burdening the listener as well.
Hang out together – Being together in the same place, my son agreed this one is a good idea. But for him, since he doesn’t drive, it is hard to do. He is mastering the mass transit system in our area, which will help.
Listen, don’t dominate all conversations – The give and take of conversations does seem to equalize relationships. My son agreed with that, but added that it takes patience to listen and converse and he often doesn’t have the patience or make the effort.
Have common interests – Similar interests does make it easier to have things to talk about. Again, my son agreed that common interests help and make him more willing to make an initial contact and give him stuff to discuss. However, in his words ‘it’s a roll of the dice’ if the person really shares his interests.
Overall, what I picked up from my son about keeping friends is that it is very hard for him. Years of friend failures haunt him and make his first reaction often to withdraw and retreat. Why go through that pain one more time? Since he has never had a positive experience with a close friend, he doesn’t have a clear idea of what it will be like, what he can get from it, why he should go through the effort to get and MAINTAIN it. There is also a great concern with how his actions will be interpreted and if he will offend someone in his attempts.
Keeping friends is confusing to me too, especially female friends. I have only 2 close female friends. These friendships occurred when I was an adult or elder teen. I have to remind myself to take the steps outlined above to keep the friendships alive.
I have the hardest time determining when the friendship is fading and what to do with it when that happens. I really don’t want too much from friendships: just a welcome ear, confidentiality, and support and will gladly offer that in return. But I am not an exciting friend: I don’t drink much and never did the bar scene. I am more logical than emotional. So think about it, would you rather go clubbing with Mr Spock or Scotty? Yup, Scotty everytime. But you would call Mr Spock to bail you out of jail. And I do agree with my son, the idea that someone who I don’t completely trust knowing personal things about me makes me nervous.
But there is hope for all of us, including Aspergians. Just remember, in the end, Mr Spock had Kirk AND McCoy as his close friends.