A relationship, both platonic and romantic, is something that requires care and nurture to survive; ideally both parties are equally invested in it, but that’s not always the case. In this observation I want to categorise people into three camps. Initiators, followers, and lastly the uninterested. If we take these different categories and match them up we can see some patterns, that perhaps others can recognise in their daily life.
Two initiators in a relationship will equally, or at least partially, initiate contact and figure out things to do. They both care about the relationship and want to see it succeed and not fizzle out.
If we instead take one initiator and one follower we’ll still have a relationship; but it will be heavily reliant on one of the parties investing more energy into the relationship than the other. The follower does perhaps value the relationship equally much, but without the initiator they are incapable of maintaining it.
By circumstance two followers may end up in a relationship. It could be during their school years or at work. There’s less effort tied to this, you just show up. But the end result may be that the relationship is incapable of sustaining itself outside of the common context that the two individuals share.
And lastly initiators and followers will never be able to form something deeper with an uninterested party. They will just get rejected.
Are we only one of these?
Nope. All of us are probably falling under different categories in every single different relationship we have. We may have a tendency to fall under one category, but in general I think that we are more inclined to fall in an initiator role in relationships we care about. Or it’s just all based on our person.
Some people may also have a harder time to sustain relationships; be it due to shyness, an ADHD diagnosis, or simply from being an introvert. For such people there may be a lot of energy that is expended on maintaining relationships. It may just be that an introvert will go to work, interact in a follower-to-follower relationship-by-circumstance and then come home absolutely drained, with no energy at all to maintain personal relationships outside of work. I for one can relate to that. This means that, through no ill will from any party, a relationship can just fall apart. It may be rekindled in the future, or not.
Who am I?
I can’t answer who you are, but I can talk about me. I am a generally shy introvert. I can’t take on the role of initiator in more than a few relationships—it’s just too draining! I will also add that I am frankly quite tired of being an initiator. Maybe I am calling out a few of my friends here—if you get a guilty feeling in your chest, you know I am talking about you—but that’s also partly the point of me writing this.
I understand that there’s no ill will. Some of you have a diagnosis, some have just had children. All of you are busy with your lives. But there’s a hint of a sadness in the fact that I rarely get messages or calls sent to me out of the blue, I have to initiate those. I have to initiate evenings with gaming and other events. Frankly I am tired of it.
I won’t give up on the relationships fully but I am going to be less of an initiator—just to take that load off my back. I have been doing so with some people for the past few months and the result has been a bit disappointing. I love all of you. I know you don’t mean any ill will. But it still hurts and makes me feel alone and a bit unwanted.
Hey, that’s me!
If you recognise yourself in the above paragraph I can offer some ideas that I have tried previously or am trying now. I also want you to know that your friends most likely love you, they are just busy. It sucks, but maybe you can talk to them or send them this article to make them understand your point of view.
One thing I did a few years back, especially to keep in touch with my younger brothers, was to schedule automatic messages. Right now you are probably thinking something like: “This guy is a creep that wants to automate his relationships?” Well yeah, a little bit. You see, I am also a follower. I can only maintain so many relationships as an initiator and if I end up in a follower-to-follower relationship I need something to keep it going. That’s where automations comes in. I pre-wrote 50-100 messages that would randomly be send on a specific day at a random time. These were sent to my brothers and acted as an ice-breaker. If they’d reply I’d have a conversation with them. If they didn’t then it’d happen again the next week. This worked marvelously until my step-dad passed away and one of my brothers got an automated message while we were together, mourning. That was awkward and I regret it.
What I am trying now, instead, stems from my weekly climbing sessions with some friends. It has provided me with an effortless way of meeting them. We go to the same place, the same time (or some of us a bit late), every week. I no longer have to do any work to see these friends. So how can I take this further? I am currently playing with two concepts: recurring lunches and a cocktail club. The cocktail club is a bit more work on my end, but it provides me with an excuse to invite friends over and I can make cocktails for them. The recurring lunches are the best idea of the two. So far I have booked lunches with a few friends and set them to happen every one to two months. Both parties have them in their calendar and it’s up to both parties to ensure that they can attend, or move it. Just by the lunch existing in a calendar it will be easier for both parties to remember the other.
Hopefully you can utilise something like this to your advantage.
This goes out to all of those people that I am bad at staying in touch with. It’s not out of malice. It’s actually quite often you pass by in my thoughts, followed by a severe bout of guilt for not being a better friend. I am actively working on ways for me to be in touch with more of you, but there’s only so much social energy I possess in my day.
And to those that I frequently initiate contact with—and those I don’t—please remember that you can initiate at any time. In fact, I’d probably love it. Please do initiate.