How two people learned to build and benefit from close relationships
By Vic LeBouthillier
Tom: 37, husband and father of two. Works as a store’s general manager. Lonely, but with a chance of a breakthrough.
Tom worked hard to get to where he is and had to step on a few toes in the process. He hired several friends to work for him, but when they didn’t perform like he thought they should, he isolated himself and became distanced from them. According to Tom, “It’s just business.” But then he began to feel isolated and distant from everyone, even his family. When his wife said she felt his work was his mistress, he got angry. When she said she was no longer happy in the marriage, he got even angrier and grew sullen and withdrawn. He retreated to his man cave and turned into a virtual hermit with no close friendships, or even general friendships.
Fortunately for Tom, Chad – one of the friends he had shoved aside – had some emotional intelligence and was willing to let go of the past. He invited Tom over for a beer. During the evening, Chad said in a light-hearted but sincere tone, “I really enjoyed our friendship until I started to work for you. Then you became an ass!” They talked about Tom’s tendency to avoid conflict and become isolated and distant. If not for Tom’s growing awareness of his loneliness, he would have reacted with hostility and resentment. Instead, Chad’s comment sparked a renewed desire in Tom to engage his friends and family, even in conflict. His need for connection overcame his reluctance to face emotionally challenging situations.
Dorothy: 28, single and living alone. Wants to get married, but can’t find Mr. Right and is getting frustrated.
Dorothy is bubbly and fun, but this is often a front for feelings of inadequacy and worrying about what people really think of her. She’d always assumed that many of her relationships were close, but after learning what that really means, she realized that most of the ones she had were actually general. Dorothy did have close friendships with her sister and an old schoolmate, until minor conflicts and her insistence on sweeping problems under the rug relegated these to merely general relationships. As for men: after a few dates, they always seemed to stop calling.
After reading about the characteristics of close friendship, Dorothy recognized that what she was missing were boundaries and self-respect. She had been bringing her neediness and insecurities to her relationships, especially with men, rather than her beauty and strength. Dorothy decided to seek EAP counselling to address, and work through, these issues. She now has much more self-confidence and has embarked on long-term romance.