The last few months have been intense, frustrating and scary. I have found myself avoiding writing because I felt I had been exploited, not in a scandalous kind of way, but emotionally.
This feeling of being exploited and exposed left me vulnerable and led me to withdraw from blogging as I felt it only further fueled the situation.
So what is it that happened….simply this: I had an emotional stalker.
Through social media (facebook, twitter, Pinterest) as well as my blog; I found myself the target of a person who sought me out for relationship.
Over the last 5-6 months this person decided that I was going to be their new best friend/soul mate/confidant/mental health consultant and spiritual accountability partner.
The trouble with this situation is that I did not want the same thing. At all. Period.
What I discovered in this situation is that many people misunderstand the concept of healthy intimacy.
Unfortunately for me, I’ve found myself in a similar position. Last year I blogged about another similar experience I had with someone who pursued me in an unhealthy and inappropriate manner in my post titled, “False Intimacy”.
I found myself asking some hard questions. Why is this happening to me? How did this happen again? Did I do something that may have misled this person? What part if any did I play?
In both cases the people who violated my boundaries, invaded my personal and emotional space and consumed my time and energy did so I believe due to the fact they both acted on a false sense of intimacy.
Both people used social media and texting as there preferred method of connection rather than the traditional means of face to face connection to establish and build a relationship.
The missing element in both of the situations I have experienced is that both people chose to pursue a virtual relationship exclusively rather than taking time to foster a personal relationship. Both people relied heavily on what they “thought” they knew about me based on social media and my blog.
In face to face relationships we do not always have instant access to the person we are establishing a relationship with. When dealing with others in person, we have the benefit of body language and feedback via social cues to help guide us as we move through the discovery phase of a relationship. This limited access allows for a nice pace and flow while building and establishing a friendship.
Online relationships differ as they allow for contact that is both instant and private. This privacy can create an unrealistic sense of being able to bare your soul in a way you might not do in person. There is no body language or social cues to give an accurate representation of the nature of the relationship.
In our hunger for intimacy, vulnerability and to be known, we offer our hearts too soon and miss out on the beauty of a relationship rooted and established in trust and time. We operate under the false assumption that reading about someone is the same as knowing them – and that feeds back into our unmet emotional needs.
Here are a few essential elements that need to exist in any healthy relationship.
Authentic intimacy requires:
1. Honesty – being genuine and truthful about who you are, what you believe. Without honesty there is no basis for the relationship.
2. Effort – anything worth having is worth working for. This is true of relationships as well. Relationships are work – even online.
3. Intentionality – be purposeful in the relationships you develop. You cannot be soul mates with everyone. Select carefully – your heart is worth it.
4. Time – deep relationships take time to develop. Rushing into things by backing the emotional truck and dumping does not equal intimacy.
5. Trust – relationships grow and deepen when we feel safe and when we can provide emotional safety for others. Be a trustworthy for others.
6. Reciprocity – relationships are based on give and take. If you find you are always on the giving end you may need to re evaluate things.
So friends, I’ve learned some hard life lessons in this situation. I’m sure there are a few more blog posts that will come out of this. So here’s a quick take away.
Boundaries are only good if they are enforced. Don’t be afraid to stand up and enforce your personal and emotional boundaries.
Silence is not always golden. Don’t keep it to yourself. If you are receiving unwanted attention or contact from someone, share it with a friend, a spouse or a pastor. You need others to help you keep a healthy perspective.
Sometimes it’s not about you. No really, its not. Sometimes as was in my situation, the person may have some significant issues that have nothing to do with you and everything to do with them needing to get some help. The hard part is in knowing that you can’t be the person to help them.
I hope this cautionary tale helps you to discern and know the difference in establishing and building healthy, appropriate relationships.