Always Expect to be Left

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I am a sixteen year old female and throughout my life, I have moved cities very often and been to 6 different schools in 11 years of education due to my father’s career choice. Because I have moved around so much, it is very hard for me to make close friends now and to generally trust people. I don’t like making close friends because all I’ve ever known was that people always leave and they don’t keep their promises. I have no true friends that I’ve known for a while. I also have a hard time expressing my emotions such as sadness or pain to others. I’d rather keep everything to myself. How can I change this? I would really like to allow myself to become close friends with the friends I currently have.

Additionally, whenever I feel like I am getting too close someone, i tend to try to ruin the friendship by being over-bearing and acting on impulses. I would really like to know how can I let myself get close to people without feeling the need to shut them out and to pull away

A: What you are describing is very common in teens who have been moved about a lot because of a parent’s job or service in the military. It’s hard to settle into a friendship when you know you may be moving in a year or two. Many kids protect themselves from the hurt of leaving by never connecting. Sadly, that strategy means that you never get to have the kind of intimate friends that every teen wants and needs.

The good news for you is that you are part of the media generation. It used to be that once a family left town, it would be rare for young people to see each other again. Now, thanks to Skype, Facebook, and email, it’s really easy to keep in touch and for relationships to continue to develop even if you move 1000 kilometers away. Media contact can help you bridge the distance until you can arrange a shared holiday visit. I know of many friendships and several romantic relationships that are functioning this way very well.

Whether you get closer to the friends you have is a decision. It won’t happen automatically. It won’t happen because of fate or because the stars align in some particular way. You’re going to have to do things a bit differently. That means taking some risks with your feelings. It means letting others see who you really are. Yes, you’ll sometimes get hurt. That’s part of having relationships. But nothing hurts as much as loneliness and isolation.

Trust your instincts. Choose a couple of people who you know in your heart are kind and friendly. Then start slowly letting them get to know you. Keep it light at first. Find ways to have fun together and to talk about things that are important to you both. As you get more comfortable, open up more. If you do, I think you’ll find that it will feel more and more natural. You just have to do it enough to get yourself used to being closer. At 16, I’m reasonably sure that you have what it takes to work on it.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Apr 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Always Expect to be Left. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/04/16/always-expect-to-be-left/