Please Back Away Slowly

In recent years, consent has been widely discussed. What constitutes consent. What doesn't constitute consent. I've discussed with my son--in eye-gougingly (it's a word now, dammit) uncomfortable conversations--that consent is pretty much a completely sober, "Why yes, thank you, I would very much enjoy engaging in sexual activity with you," which is immediately negated if the person changes his/her mind. It's clearly illustrated in this British video about ... tea.

Thinking about it, reading about it, trying to come up with a way to talk to my teen-aged son about it sent my mind wandering into other areas where you can give and then withdraw consent. For instance, you meet someone and get along very well out of the gate. After a bit, you realize you don't have as much in common as you'd initially thought. In fact, you don't enjoy hanging out with this person much anymore and don't think that this relationship has a future. How do you withdraw consent, tactfully and without hurt feelings, from a friendship?

I imagine those of you who date or have dated are better--or at least more experienced--than I am at this. I have been dating the same guy for 26 years so, I rarely practiced, "It's not you, it's me."  How do you make the "I'm just not that into you" point without completely cold-shouldering someone?

Although I've had only one significant love relationship, I've had lots of friendships. I still have a lot. Some have transformed. Some have fallen to natural growing apart and life circumstances. And others to ... nonsense. While I am no expert, I can see more quickly now whether or not a friendship will work out.

A longtime friend and I joke about how we used to fall madly in love with people and jump into friendships with both feet. We'd throw caution to the wind, blindly surrendering our hearts and our time. Yeah, I don't do that shit anymore. I am far too protective of my time and energy and especially my heart.

While, I aspire to be warm, compassionate, and friendly, I don't cozy up as readily. I love to listen to people's stories, but this makes people feel disproportionately close to me. Since they shared a lot about themselves with me, they think we're good friends. However, I rarely reciprocate, so I seldom feel as close to others. Sometimes I share personal things. And I feel very close to some people. But since I tell all my secrets here, I am not so inclined to unburden myself to actual flesh and blood humans.

Recently Brad overheard me on the phone with a friend he doesn't know and said, "You tell her you love her?"

"Yes, I do. Why?"

He kind of shrugged and shook his head in the way he does when I tell him about dreams and spirit animals. The way that says, "I don't always get you, but I love you."

This time, though, his words felt judge-y, and I felt defensive. It's just an eight-count in the ongoing dance of, "I don't work for you, please don't boss me," and, "I'm not your child, please don't parent me," that results from spending many of our days apart playing roles other than loving partners.

I reminded him that while he's working in other states, I sometimes cultivate new friendships. With women. He doesn't really get my need for a tribe, but he doesn't need to. He knows that he wouldn't want to deal with the repercussions of me without my tribe. I wouldn't either. We don't always need to understand each other, but in order to be happy, we must practice radical acceptance.

Now, I've wandered off course, shockingly.

Over the past year, I've started backing away slowly when I realize that a relationship is not for me. My best friend advises, "Just don't engage." She does this masterfully. I'm not very good at it. It's hard for me; as a nurturer, my natural inclination is TO engage. However, when I have stepped back and observed from a safe distance, it's always been for my highest good.

I wonder ... Have you dealt with this? How would you remove yourself from a toxic friendship? What do you do when a friendship isn't going the way you'd thought? Has a friend walked away from you and you don't know why? How many friendships have you lost over the election? Just kidding. Mostly. I mean you can tell me if you want.


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