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How a Family Man Can Be a Loner

I’ve always been an introvert; but, I was once a social butterfly.

“top view of person sitting near gray rock wall during daytime” by Igor Cancarevic on Unsplash

I’ve had friends, good friends, at different times in my life. The names aren’t important, but what they did to improve my life is, so I will mention them.

The sad thing is this: I destroyed every last one of my relationships. It was no one’s fault by mine.

Frank and I were friends when I was a teen. Over the years we talked about everything and shared our dreams. I don’t think there was ever two guys who were closer.

I got in trouble and moved away. After a few months of letters, I stopped writing and never saw him again. He was my first victim.

Later, Paul and I were the best of friends. We worked together and partied together. We carried a video camera around and taped our antics before that was a cool thing to do. We were close, like two peas in a pod.

I moved away and never kept in contact. Years later, we reconnected on Facebook, but, it was never the same. I destroyed that relationship.

There were others: Tracy, Gabe, Bob, Art. I could make friends, but I didn’t know how to keep them. I gave up on every one of them.

I could come up with a hundred excuses or blame it on my illness. That’s what I’ve done until now. I dismissed all the burned bridges as a symptom of my mental issues. That is the easy thing for those of us with a mental illness. We can cop out and blame all our problems on the elephant in the room.

As I grow, I analyze the past. I’ve stopped making excuses for my bad behavior. It is what it is; I can’t change the past and get all those lost years back. It’s just not possible.

What I have decided to do is focus on myself for a while. I socialize, especially with other writers here on Medium. But, I don’t think I’m going to try to create any new friendships until I can be sure I can fully commit myself to someone else.

Right now, the only relationship I’ve been able to cultivate and grow is with my wife. When I need someone to talk to, I talk to her. When I need to cry, I cry with her. My wife is the most important person in the world to me, not just because she is my mate, but because she’s my friend.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

I wonder if there will come a day when I don’t screw everything up? I feel like, in all my fifty years, there are very few things I did right.

I had more than my share of friends, but I screwed up. I ruined my first marriage (sure, it wasn’t all my fault, but, I had a lions-share of the blame), I rarely talk to my parents, and my three oldest boys are strangers to me. I started and failed at a dozen businesses and left my careers behind me when my mental illness was too much to handle.

The loss of friends over the years is just a symptom of the larger issue. What is the issue with me that is the source of the problem?

I just had a short conference with my wife to brainstorm. Her personality is much like mine. I am her best and only friend.

I guess we are drawn to each other because we are so much alike. We are both introverted. If you knew us, you would say we here loners.

Does that mean there is something wrong with us?

I think I am looking at this whole situation the wrong way. Instead of blaming myself or my personality for ruining everything in my life, I should be accepting of myself.

Maybe I didn’t stay in contact with old friends. Maybe I was moving on? Who cares if I failed at so many businesses and careers? It brought me to this point in my life, didn’t it?

I haven’t stayed close to my family, this is true. But I live on the other side of the world from them and they — my parents and my kids — are adults and have their own lives. Relationships are a two-way street. If they wanted a closer relationship with me, they would try harder. The onus is not on me to make every relationship in my life successful.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Maybe this is the nature of life that not everything will last a lifetime. I shouldn’t expect to stay friends with everyone. I can’t possibly be compatible with everyone. I shouldn’t expect to keep up a one-sided relationship with my family.

Also, not every business or career I start with stay with me for life. I can’t possibly be successful at everything I undertake.

Maybe I need to love myself, and those who are important to me right now, like my wife and daughter.

“shallow focus of man” by Mean Shadows on Unsplash

This whole subject I’ve been ruminating on is a good lesson for everyone, I think.

I think that too often we all blame ourselves for things we don’t have complete control over. We can only keep up one side of any relationship. Don’t try to make it work when you are the only one who cares. That is too much pressure on one person.

I think I, and maybe you, need to be gentler to ourselves.