Friendships and (de)pending relations

No matter how independent we [INTPs] feel or claim to be, everyone needs some sort of belonging or kinship. But perhaps unlike other, more common types, we don’t need it to be as physical or nearby. I believe we can easily form strong, lasting bonds in a more abstract or metaphysical way because of the scope of and close alignment to our inner world and imagination. And if the other part feels likewise, we already have a strong, mutual sense and understanding of our friendship.

Does that make sense?

I, for one, am no good at keeping daily tabs on my friends or being called upon all the time for immediate confirmation/affection; I find it rather stifling, actually. Some of my best and oldest friends I’ve only seen or heard from every second or third year (or longer) and yet, we fall right back into our old habits and familiar ways when we finally do see each other. Like putting on a pair of old, well-used leather shoes. Though it works fine for me and does nothing to lessen my sense of the friendship, I know this is not the most ideal way of maintaining friendships, since it is not entirely fair for the other part(s) if they do need a more immediate kind of friendship and close support and I’m just too dense to pick up this vibe. I usually let people be because I have faith they’ll manage just fine by themselves (just like I do myself; very INTP) until they need a listening ear. I’ve felt somewhat guilty that I’m so bad at picking up the phone first; I just hope they know me well enough to understand this – and I am grateful when they do call after an extended bout of silence, because that means that they do understand (I hope) and still choose to come back. But it really doesn’t come as a surprise that I have very few close friends, despite easily getting along with most people I meet. The whole ‘friendships are like a garden’-analogy is not lost on me, but like so much else in life I get easily distracted and tend to forget the maintaining part for longer periods. It doesn’t come natural to me as something I should prioritize and I know it must sound so entirely strange in the ears of most people. It is something I need to practise to become better at. A life project.

Basically, I don’t do the whole dependency thing well. When I’m not needed any longer, I accept and retreat until next time; expecting little to nothing in return. I’m easy to take advantage of in that regard, I guess.

I’m not very dependent on my family, either. I haven’t met many people who feel the same way; most react with amazement when I tell them this which I guess is a normal reaction and it’s just me being weird. A good friend of mine is very dependent on her family; so much that it actually has me worrying because I keep thinking that one day her mother won’t be there for her to talk to and what will my friend do then? Sure, she has her brothers and friends but I know her bond with her mother is extremely close and unique (she can hardly make a decision when shopping without calling her mother) that I doubt she will seek to try to be without it while her mother is around. Thus making it all the more harder when she one day inevitably isn’t … Right?

Understandably, I’m not the most obvious person to be able to understand this. My relationship with my mother is cool – at best. Cool in the detached way, that is. She’s an INTJ so that makes a lot of sense. I certainly understand my mother much better after I’ve realized her type. Let’s just say, INTJs are not the most warm-hearted of people. Actually, I’m afraid they are right down there at the bottom when listed from the most to the least warm-hearted types. They are mothers in their very own way, I guess (I really have nothing else to compare to). Independence and logic are core values in both our types, so that is what I’ve cultivated most of all throughout my upbringing. There are various way to teach independence and I have no clue how I would come off as an INTP parent, but in my experience INTJs are not the kindest in that regard. Mind, this is also a very subjective deduction and doesn’t have to count for all INTJs (mothers). From what I have experienced, you do not get emotional support in the sympathetic way one expects mothers normally give but in the rational, ‘reality-is-harsh’ kind of way. Don’t expect verbal back-up. They expect you to handle it by yourself, no matter your age or situation. Note, INTJs are not the best at handling emotional conflict in the first place, so they rather just stay out of it or intercept every now and then with a cool, aloof rationalization which can cool things down (practically ice things over) but is rarely an appropriate solution in matters of legitimate, emotional turbulence and distress. I never received any from my mother – other than the brief pad or obligatory hug. They believe they know what people think or feel and if that doesn’t happen to be true (which it, naturally, rarely is) they scoff and rationalize that people should just pull themselves together. Despite their brilliance and great skills of deduction, they don’t have a great understanding of or sensitivity for other people’s feelings or ways of living, thus paradoxically being rather limited in their POV. They cannot not judge. It hasn’t always been easy growing up under my mother’s stern, judging gaze, since I was a somewhat sensitive kid and still am. I’ve always been apprehensive to show any kind of weakness because I know how much she hates it when people show or give into their weaknesses. On the other hand, I owe almost all of my critical thinking to my mother; she’s always been there to give an alternative (and ultra-rational) answer to everything I relayed which I could take into my consideration and ponder upon. It has helped develop my own rationale and be critical of hers as well. I’ve come to realize how her logic differs from mine; that though I tend to waver from all the possibilities and various, logical outcomes in my mind, I prefer that compared to her sometimes overly black-and-white thinking where nothing is really good enough and where she always find faults in whatever logic you seek to establish. It’s exhausting. But I guess she finds my ‘wavering’ exhausting too.

After I left home, she calls me every now and then to get an update (a bit too often in my opinion because nothing exciting really happens in my life that often), but she could hardly be called a helicopter parent. I don’t know if she could be called a tiger mother, either. I feel she wants me to return the gesture (again, I’m no good at picking up the phone first) and be a bit more interested in her life now that I’ve gotten older, but that’s the one, essential thing that her teaching lacked: Genuine sympathy and warmth. I got the ultra-introvert-logical love package. The back-up I didn’t receive taught me many things but back-fired in a way that I simply cannot give that much in return than what I received.

I feel a profound need to become independent from my parents, to get away, to not return. I love my parents, but I’m afraid I just don’t like them and I sometimes suspect the feeling is mutual. Nothing is really wrong with that – despite how awful it must sound but hear me out – because it isn’t like we cannot function together; we still meet up at holidays, family gatherings and vacations, but there’s just something that hinders a closer relationship than the bond we share by blood (we will always stand by the latter). It’s like my relationship with my parents is as loving as it is, well, professional and detached. Not the most ideal relationship, but I’ve heard of worse family relations and I think you have, too.

I know, I haven’t mentioned my father much, but that’s perhaps because my relationship with him is close to non-existent, despite most of my clashes have been with him (but that’s also because my mum staunchly stays out of conflicts). We never really talk, though his interest in film and music has influenced me the most (again because my mother’s interest in those things is rather limited). He’s very sensitive and defensive and not the best conversationalist since he takes things too personally too easily, is a bad listener and not good at picking up irony, as well as having lived a rather spoilt, isolated life, so he keeps referring to the same experiences and builds most of his deductions on those. Not very progressive, but as a Feeler he has every now and then surprised me with a natural eye for details neither me or my mum notice. Yet, despite his sensitivity and fondness of monologues he’s rather tactiturn and never asks how I’m doing or anything like that (so I tend to respond with the same treatment, but I guess that works fine for both of us..?). Again, I do not think he genuinely likes me. It is as if he sometimes detaches himself completely from the immediate world, so much that you have to shout and repeat things to him in order to get him to listen and even then he seems distracted. He’s prone to show his fatherly concerns and love through giving materialistic things and if one shows reluctance to accept them he gets easily offended. The few instances I’ve been alone with him, without the presence of my mum, have been very awkward because we most likely both realized how little we’ve really talked or even been more than civil to each other and that we literally have nothing to talk about. He seemed either rather sweet in a cowed, childlike way without the obvious, grating dominance of my mother’s presence, or rather destitute and closed-off and, unfortunately, rather fond of finding his solutions at the bottom of the wine bottle without being a raging alcoholic (yet close enough to become slightly unpleasant and volatile; a significant reason for me to dislike alcohol). We tend to – both intentionally and unintentionally – give each other some harsh word and tones (often we’re just projecting, because I do not genuinely dislike him) and neither of us are good at apologizing, so it can get pretty hurtful at times.

So you see? It could be much worse, I know, yet, I’m not overly excited to go home for the holidays.

Still, despite their blind spots, both my parents are interested in politics, food, culture and travelling, given both me and my sister lots of experience and material to cultivate our own interests in life. I’ll be eternal grateful for that. Also, the older I’ve become the more I’ve realized how hard it must be as a parent to be less and less needed. They’ve taught me everything they could and now I’m so fully developed in my own mindset and opinions that I’m critical of theirs in a different way than when I was a hormonal teen. I often clash with them because of that and we are all still learning to accept that we differ on subjects that weren’t relevant before when I was a kid. That I have a right to refuse their offers of support when I feel I can do things myself, though that it is never a refusal of them as my parents, and that I, in return, should be more compliant to commit to various family responsibilities out of common courtesy and tradition.

Actually, the closest bond and sense of unspoken kinship and understanding I feel with another person is with my sister. I feel there’s something about (blood-related) sisterhood that cannot be explained or said in words. It is just there. And deeper felt than with one’s parents. At least in my case. Of course, even sisters can fall out with each other, even beyond repair (has happened on both sides of my family, ironically) which is one of the saddest things that can happen in life, in my opinion.

“Never let that become us,” we say to each other again and again, and I hope it never will.

*revised 18/7/16*

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