Pat asked an interesting question in the comments of the last entry, and I wanted to expound a bit further on the idea:
My question is: do you find that the fact that you’re a chid abuse survivor turns people off from you? It’s not that I tell people about my past. When I encounter new people I smile and I’m friendly, but the impression that I have, and my husband’s feedback confirms this, is that people just instinctively feel the sadness I have inside, and they don’t understand it because they don’t know me, and they don’t want to get to know me because they don’t understand it, and they prefer happy, “normal” people.
Getting to know new people and how friendships change and develop over a period of time is an interesting thing. I don’t think there’s really any one thing that I can say to answer this question because how people perceive you is completely random. Simply put, the vast majority of people who meet you at any given time are going to make a quick judgment about you, your personality, or your intentions based on their own experiences and world view.
For example, something I’m sure most abuse survivors can relate to, if I meet someone who physically reminds me of the person who abused me, I’m not going to be comfortable or interested in getting to know this person. It has nothing to do with them, but it’s true nonetheless. Assuming that people see you as “sad” and aren’t interested is much too general a statement. You really have no idea what each of those individuals is bringing to the table in a first encounter. They may see a sadness in you, or they may see something else, or maybe they just simply don’t see anything in common to bond over and therefore don’t really pursue any further contact. Most friendships are formed over shared interests, or shared goals, not as a part of a plan. I don’t believe I can count among my friends anyone who I set out to be friends with, they are all people I’ve found a common interest with, or spent time working on a project with.
Now, having said that, there are some other aspects to friendships that I think people really struggle with. One of the biggest is that people change. I’m not the same person I was 9-10 years ago, expecting the friendships I had then to continue to be the same as they were then is fairly ludicris. As I’ve changed over the years, the roles different people have played in my life have changed. People I used to talk to almost daily, I now talk to once a month. We simply don’t have as much in common as we used to and the roles we’ve played in each other’s lives are different. I haven’t stopped caring about them, and I assume they haven’t stopped caring about me, the relationship is just different, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I think you’l find a few things as you make healthier decisions for yourself and work to overcome the abuse in your past. One, you will change, and some of the people you’re currently friends with, won’t change with you. Either they’ll resent the fact that you aren’t the same person they’ve been used to, or you’ll simply move apart in your lives. Either way, there’s nothing for you to do to stop this, it is the natural way of interpersonal relationships.
Secondly, I think as you become a healthier person, you’ll find yourself more likely to have common interests with other healthy people. You’ll simply become more able to be friends with people and have good friendships because you’re taking care of yourself and it will show.
To sum up a very long post, my advice is simple. Get involved in activities, hobbies or other interests and you’ll find yourself alongside people with the same interests, and perhaps most importantly, continue to improve yourself. That’s the one aspect of this that you control. Other people’s views are beyond your ability to control, no sense in trying.