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Crap at friendships!

(21 Posts)
msbuggywinkle Wed 15-Jun-11 19:20:56

I'm trying to improve my ability to have friendships, background: I was a neglected, abused child didn't have any friends right the way through school. Got together with DP at 16, we married when I was 21, we have 2 children and I'm pregnant with our 3rd.

Since having DD1 I have made friends with a great group of women, we have lots in common and they are all lovely. The problem is that as our children get older we don't have the twice weekly playgroup that made it easy for me to spend time with them.

Today I was supposed to go visit one of them who has just had her DC3 but I had to make an excuse as I just couldn't do it. I just can't work out how to do it, it seems horribly complicated to me! Do I need to take anything? How long is acceptable to stay for? Once I've cooed over the baby what do I say?

In one to one situations I tend to gabble on about nothing in particular because it makes me anxious and I know it must be irritating, I don't seem to be able to just chat. My other problem is that if I invite someone round/to go somewhere (which takes me a while to work up the ability to do it!) and they say they're busy, I don't know what to do next. I don't want them to feel like I'm hassling them or that they're obliged to say yes because they know my background and that I'm vulnerable to depression if I'm on my own too much.

I've known them all for 3 years now and I just don't seem to be able to figure things out! Any thoughts, ideas, anything?

perfumedlife Wed 15-Jun-11 19:28:52

I've never wanted to hug someone more than you op. You sound absolutely lovely and a good friend.

I wonder if you feel anxious because your abusive childhood left you with low self worth? Clearly you are living a good and happy life, but the hangover from what you suffered will have left it's mark. The truth is though, most of us are just feeling out way. I hate to feel I'm putting pressure on anyone to go along with suggestions, it's a common enough thing.

Are you worried about outstaying your welcome? Your new mum pal will no doubt be delighted to see you, why not call her and ask when suits her, ask if you can do anything, chores or shopping whilst there? Ask her outright if she is too tired for a long visit. Don't worry, the truth is, I think most of us would rather we were all agreed how long a visit will be. Practise at home being forthright, it becomes second nature rather quickly. smile

notsogoldenoldie Wed 15-Jun-11 19:34:59

op - you sound great to me, and lucky to have met such a nice bunch of women. However, with respect, you seem to be using your background to validate what you see as your inability to feel relaxed with your friends. I'm terrible at chit-chat too, and need to make a real effort.

This is what I do: I think of (let's say) 3 topics - current affairs, school, whatever I feel is common ground between me and the other person. I then think of a list of questions to ask on each topic to try to focus the conversation; this should stop any gabbling.

Try this and then, with your lists in mind, relax and enjoy the conversation!! It seems to help too, if you try to draw out the other person rather than relying on them to draw you out!

Finally, they must like you to have kept in touch for three years, so try not to worry too much and remember - they may be finding things as difficult as you!

TheSkiingGardener Wed 15-Jun-11 19:35:32

Oh I so know where you are coming from. I had a childhood that meant I feel I missed out on the "how to make friends" thing.

It's a real struggle for me but I am tying to just relax, remember that they WANT to spend time with me and not sweat the small details. If I'm not sure, I ask, or say something like "I wasn't sure whether to bring anything, so I stopped by the shops and bought some cake"

It seems to be getting easier but it can be really, really hard to get out and face people some days. It is never as bad as I feared though.

I really, really sympathise and just keep trying.

buzzsore Wed 15-Jun-11 19:36:53

You could take a small gift for the baby or you could take a small gift for her, (sometimes it's nice for the mum to get some attention instead of the baby grin) like a box of chocs or something, something she likes.

You sound lovely, don't fret. smile

BerylOfLaughs Wed 15-Jun-11 19:47:45

Do I need to take anything? - Since she's just had a new baby you might like to take a little something for the baby, a toy or sleepsuit, but it's not required. Had she not just had her baby I would say there's no need to take anything but if you want to take a packet of nice biscuits I'm sure they'd be appreciated.

How long is acceptable to stay for? - Because she's just had a baby I'd say to stay for about 1hr, other times 1.5-2hrs should be fine. If you want to leave earlier any time that's perfectly acceptable.

Once I've cooed over the baby what do I say? - You will probably find that she comes up with conversation, but if in doubt you can always ask people about themselves or their kids, you will be seen as a good listener. If you have a story to tell that relates to what she is talking about do mention it as people feel closer to you if they know more about you.

You'll soon get the hang of it!

quiddity Wed 15-Jun-11 19:48:18

msbuggywinkle I have no helpful advice, I'm afraid, just wanted to sympathise and say same here, you're not the only one who feels like that.
Congrats on becoming part of the group and I hope you find a way to keep the friendships going. You sound like a very nice and thoughtful friend.

ohmyfucksy Wed 15-Jun-11 19:55:54

I think the best advice on how to get on with people is to be interested in them and ask questions about them and their lives. People like to talk about themselves and what they're interested in. If you're similar, then hopefully you will be interested in those things too. If you can't think of something to say, say you like their jeans or their necklace and ask where they got it from. Then you can talk about shops and things. Or ask a question about their baby.

If you ask someone if they want to do something, mention a specific time. If they say they're busy, just say 'No worries, let me know if you want to do it another time'.

If you're not confident about socialising, just take your lead from other people. There's no 'set time' to stay for, basically until you run out of stuff to talk about. Then say 'I'd better head off, I've got to do xyz' (even if you haven't).

mollythetortoise Wed 15-Jun-11 20:01:40

coo over baby
ask about the birth - most new mums love the opportunity to talk about it - how did it compare to births one and two
does new baby look like siblings
ask how the siblings like the new one
how were the siblings when they met baby number 3
where did they go when she was in hospital
what's it like having three - easier/harder than going from one to two (this might be useful info for you as you are also pregnant with number 3)
pay compliments , say how lovely baby is, how well she looks, how is she managing school run etc with other kids.
can you help? (don;t offer this if you can't of course)
how is her dh doing?

I don;t mean you should ask questions one after the other in a drill like fashion but as a natural conversation.

I would genuinely be interested in all her answers too
(you can also talk about how your own pregnancy is going, your hopes for birth, your children etc)

I agree an hour is perfectly acceptable - not too long but long enough - and deffo bring a gift for mother or baby

also as she is new mum, offer to make the tea for her and bring nice biscuits and bring cup to sink when finished, rinse it too

MizzyFizzy Wed 15-Jun-11 20:06:41

If you never know whether to take anything on a visit or not...keep some poshish choc's in the car/hidden in the pram....then if you get there and think "Oh flip I should have brought something/anything"...tada...choc's awaiting!

Once you've cooed over baby you talk about 'stuff' any 'stuff' the weather, the time it took you to get there, odd occurrences on the way to the visit, odd happenings during your week, funny/silly stuff your other DC's have done...ask about their DC's/DP's ....failing all else ask for a bit of advice about something...peeps just love giving advice and feeling helpful....by then hopefully the convo' should just flow for a while...grin

As for the time to go thing...usually once you start having to think really hard about what to say next or there are too many awkward silences to not notice them...that is the time to make your thank yous and goodbyes.

Oh and if the person you are visiting asks you to sit down....please do sit down! I have a lovely friend who I have been friends with for 15+ years who is very, very nervous and even after all this time if my DH is home will NOT flipping sit down...we just sorta hover in my kitchen dancing around the kitchen island - I can't sit unless she sits, it seems bad manners if I sit and she doesn't...so please if your host offers you a seat please accept.

...and above all have fun! grin

omletta Wed 15-Jun-11 20:20:33

I don't really have any advice but wanted to say that you are not alone. I am exactly the same & had a very odd childhood. At work I'm super confident, I head up a big team & have no problems with interaction, in fact I'm told I'm great communicator, but when it comes to friends I just can't hack it. I make plans to do social things & then worry about them ( to the point of not sleeping) & generally end up cancelling. The relief that I feel when I cancel is massive, overwhelming

There is some good advice here ( which I'm going to try and follow ).

Good luck

brass Wed 15-Jun-11 20:21:56

if you've been around them for 3 years then you're doing something right aren't you?

Arrange another time to go see her and baby.
Take a small gift for the baby, could be clothing, toy, baby equipment. Vouchers even.

Stay for about an hour as a guide but don't feel you have to clock watch.

Ask her how she is and coo over the baby.
She'll probably want to tell you all about her birth experience!
You could ask her if she's had lots of relatives to visit.
How are her other children taking to their new sibling.
Tell her what you've been up to.
Talk about the other DC and anything interesting happening at school.
Don't panic it'll be fine.

If someone says they're busy it's ok to ask when they might be free next. You could leave it as 'shall we try next week on Xday' or whatever. Depends on what they say as to why they're busy.

I'm sure you're a lovely friend to have. Good luck.

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Wed 15-Jun-11 20:56:44

Also wanted to say you're not alone msbuggywinkle. I feel exactly the same as you for the same reasons. I want friends but tend to feel that the people I know couldn't possibly want to hang out with me, that I don't know people that I like well enough to have the temerity to propose a get-together, I agonise about any social events I do go to before, during and after, ... all that and more, which I sense you also feel and do.

Other posters have given you plenty of great tips on social graces. Here's what I try to do to deal with the mental anguish side of things:

- acknowledge the stabbing feeling of fear and self-hatred when writing e-mails to people I want to be friends with. Acknowledge that this simple act is difficult for me, even if it might not be for other people, and that that's OK. And then send that e-mail.

- remind myself that if, by some chance, somebody doesn't like me, that is not a reflection of my worth. It just means that that person, because of their own baggage, opinions, whatever, doesn't like me. Their opinion does not make me unloveable.

- expect less: not all bonds need to be intense to be "real". Casual friendships are still friendships. I don't need to be BFFs with someone to have the right to phone them.

- remember that the people you interact with are just that: people. They are not the measure of your worth. Try to see them as individuals in their own right, rather than as mirrors being held up to you for you to scan for deficiencies. You are doing your friends a disservice if you see them first and foremost in terms of what they might think of you. Look at them for who they are. (I wish I could express this better.)

- remember that you are loveable, and you are worthy. Everyone is. You don't need to do anything to earn anyone's appreciation.

...and you know what, I'll bet the farm that you are a really nice person, who is well-liked, and that the ladies you want to hang out with are also delighted at any chance to hang out with you. So go on and offer them - and yourself - those chances!

(also, practical tip: when you feel yourself starting to nervously babble, ask the other person a question and let them do some talking while you quiet down your anxiety. It will also make you look like a good listener.)

mummyofonegirl Thu 16-Jun-11 09:55:51

I did not have a particularly difficult childhood but i still suffer from this anxiousness. I am just so crap at small talk. It took me 20 minutes to leave my office to say hello to my bosses daughter yesterday who just happened tp be in the office. And all I really wanted to do was leave to go home.

It happens to alot of us so do not feel bad about it at all.

You have been given some sterling advice above ... so go for it. smile You sound very considerate and looks like you coud be in for a lovely visit enjoy!!!

msbuggywinkle Thu 16-Jun-11 10:45:39

Right, am going round next week now. Will make lemon and polenta cake as I know she loves it and aim to stay for an hour ish.

Some great ideas here, I feel like I have to learn how to do something that most people have been doing for years, I'm 27!

Ephiny Thu 16-Jun-11 11:06:20

You're not alone, I struggle with knowing how social situations are supposed to go as well, and have often avoided doing things for this reason. I had a very isolated childhood too, and my parents had almost no social contact with anyone ever either, so I never really learned how this sort of thing works. My DP says (affectionately!) that I'm a bit like an alien from another planet sometimes blush.

I'm sure you'll have a great time next week - good idea about the cake, that sounds lovely and cake is always welcome! You've got some good advice here, so bear it in mind, but remember to just relax and don't over-think things. It really does get easier with practice smile

ScaredOfCows Thu 16-Jun-11 11:10:50

MizzyFizzy - I have a great image of you and your friend dancing around your kitchen island.


Maybe she'd sit down if you did????????????? grin

MizzyFizzy Thu 16-Jun-11 11:28:10

I wish she did sit down if I did ScaredOfCows....but no...I just end up with a crick in my neck trying to maintain eye contact whilst she wanders around the room.

I've tried pulling the chair out opposite me....beside me....putting her drink on the table mat in front of a chair....moving to the sitting room and sitting down...she just hovers in the doorway then! grin

I do 'get it' though, when I first met her she had a very controlling partner - so I think she instinctively keeps her options open when my DH is around.... so that she can make a quick get away if needs be....even though my DH is the softest/kindest guy you could wish to meet, he still makes her wary. sad

She is lovely though and we've had many a giggle about our island dancing when she's here and DH isn't....she sits down fine when DH is out!

ScaredOfCows Thu 16-Jun-11 12:29:57

Mizzy - ahh, that's really sad, though understandable. Nice that you can have a giggle about it.

superjobeespecs Thu 16-Jun-11 12:39:04

really glad to see im not the only person like this i really feel for you OP ppl try to make friends with me and im great with them but when i next see them im thinking oh they'll not want to talk to me best just leave them to it then when they do keep trying i dont get it thru my head and eventually they think im antisocial when really im just so nervous they'll hate me sad its rubbish. sorry ive no advice to give but you've had loads of good advice so far dont fret smile you'll prob end up gushing about the baby the whole time anyway grin

MizzyFizzy Thu 16-Jun-11 13:02:17

ScaredOfCows

<whispers>

My friend has a new chap in her life now....a younger model, who is doing wonders for her self confidence....she said she thinks her island dancing days may shortly be a thing of the past. smile So here's hoping...

-----------------------------------------------------------

I've also just had a thought re the nervousness thing others are struggling with....if the people you are trying to be friends with are compassionate people they will see past your nervousness and encourage the 'real you' out. Yes, you may have to actually partake in any conversations but it shouldn't be terribly hard work....friendship is a two way thing...the other person has to 'give' something of themselves to the relationship too.

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