Tuesday, October 07, 2008


One of my biggest problems when relating to others is a lack of empathy. If I haven't actually had a similar experience or emotion as someone who's trying to get me to empathize with them, well, then in all likelihood I won't do it. I also have difficulty reading emotions at times, which makes me somewhat socially awkward and aloof. However, I think I've gotten around this for the most part, and I usually do a good job of relating my own experiences to others. I mean, in college most people go through the same things, and even if the specifics don't match, one can make some generalizations about where they've been and where somebody else currently is.

But then there are some issues where I just can't empathize. I want to, and I've tried, but I just don't know how because I can't think of any time I've gone through something similar. "Emotional dependency" is one of these issues. Goodness knows, after hanging around the ex-gay side of the blogosphere for over two years, I've heard about that issue a lot, but I really don't know how to empathize with brothers and sisters who are going through it.

I guess that's largely because I haven't felt it. Or if I have felt it, I looked at it in a different way. I'll admit I have a bit of a difficult time being close to people. I'm fine in very structured social situations (like a student club or campus organization), and I can get by in less formal situations (like mingling at parties, though I always feel awkward there), but when it comes to real deep, lasting relationships, I have a hard time developing them. Of course, the best of those kinds of relationships tend to develop on their own, so I don't stress about this inability of mine, and instead just try to wait for things to unfold naturally.

Obviously, this means that I don't exactly have too many friends that I would consider "close." My brother is probably the closest person to me, and there are two female friends and one male friend who I also would consider very close. There are also a few people I've met online who I've been very open and vulnerable with, but I would credit that to my comfort with both writing and relative anonymity. I have a feeling I would have been very content with the Victorian England method of friendships by correspondence, but alas, it is a different world now.

My ex, Hitch, was also very close to me for the time when we were together, and I admit the months since our breakup haven't been easy. I did rely on him for a certain type of comfort for the six months we were together, and it's taken awhile to get over that, especially since I've been trying to maintain at least a rudimentary friendship with him (the biggest impediment to which is the fact that we both seem to be consistently busy).

So, since we established the fact that I'm a bit emotionally guarded (also note my post about feelings), perhaps that's the reason I have a hard time empathizing with guys who have gone through emotional dependency. At the same time, on a logical level I have a difficult time understanding it as well. Some of the testimonies I've read concerning it seem very legitimate: a guy struggling with SSA attached himself far too tightly to a friend, got jealous of that friend's other relationships, and expected levels of commitment and duty that went beyond the normal barriers of even the closest friendships.

And yet some of the other stories I've read just seem to be overreacting. I'm sure part of the reason I write them off as such is, again, attributed to my lack of empathy, but I can't help but see them that way. There seems to be an attitude out there amongst SSA guys that if you feel like you need someone in your life, then you are emotionally dependent on them and need to start guarding yourself. I call bull on that.

What's wrong with needing someone? I mean, would you ever want your parents to say to each other that they didn't need each other to get by? Of course not! You want them to need each other. In fact, they do need each other. That's why they're your parents. Now, they shouldn't need each other more than they need God, but that doesn't mean that their faith in God should keep them from having a relationship with one another.

I personally need my brother. This isn't to say that I'm needy of him, that I call him everyday or get angry when he doesn't call me. But I do need to know that he's there, and that he loves me, and that he cares for me. I don't want him to care for me more than God or his own wife and daughters, because I recognize that he has higher priorities, but that doesn't mean that I don't rely on him as a source of strength and comfort when I'm down. He's my brother and my best friend; that's what he's there for. At the same time, I also try to be there for him. I'm a lot younger and don't have that much to offer, but if he needs me, I'm there.

I guess when I hear the words "emotional dependency" used negatively, it makes me think that the person doesn't want to be emotionally dependent on anyone. Well, that's just not possible. We're human being, and in order to have healthy emotions, we are dependent on our relationships with others. It's true. God didn't make us to be alone; we were given an entire community of other humans (both believers and non) with which to craft relationships. We don't need to focus all our energies on one person, of course, but at the same time it's fine if we do have a distinct best friend - someone that we couldn't imagine living without. That doesn't mean that we couldn't live without them, but that we value them enough to not want to.

That's my take on it, at least. I admit it's a bit of a ramble because I honestly don't know much about the situation other than what I've heard, and if any guys or gals who have gone through emotional dependency have anything to say, please feel free to comment. I'd love to discuss this further.

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