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April 27, 2007

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Marti

For years I had a roommate I didn't like. Oh, there were moments I felt affection for her - mostly before she moved in and after she moved out, though. She'd lived in the house - which has long been rented to groups of single women - before, and when the actual landlady moved out she asked if she could come back. I didn't see any reason why not.

But under the circumstances there seemed no way to get her out without her own volition: she paid her rent, and we had an equal right to be there. And since she had grown up in a pretty unpleasant environment, she did not mind the tension between us, the fact that she drove me crazy. So I was the bad guy. Even when she decided she wanted to move and I warmly encouraged her she felt pushed out, tried to change her mind at the last minute, suggested I should move instead.

Well, I could have. Didn't want to.

Of course the fact that I am a missionary and a bit of a skinflint and she is a pauper who acts like she grew up in the depression made both of us cling to our low-rent housing situation pretty fiercely. Who could find a $250/month deal anywhere else?

I think it was a boundary issue more than anything. Some of the problems were practical - sharing the bathroom (she had her own downstairs but after starting a physically demanding job, she wanted to use the upstairs one to take hot baths), taking care of the house (I wanted to throw old things away and buy nicer ones. She filled the house with ugly houseplants and cutesy knickknacks; I hated the clutter). Or she'd invite herself along when I was going someplace, or join a group I was part of, until I felt she was following me around.

She seemed to really LIKE me.

I was not the only one who had a hard time with her lack of boundaries. Ironically, when I think of how her family members have hurt and rejected and excluded her I still feel a righteous indignation: how can they be so mean?

But I was mean, too. Meaner. I knew I was becoming unreasonable. I would ocassionally check in with someone else for another perspective, but came to realize that most things she did irritated me not just on their own merits but because she had done them.

One trait - filling up dirty dishes with water and leaving them around the sink and counters so they would be easy to clean up later - continued after she moved out. It was actually my other roommate who did it - and still does. But I love Deb, and find it does not bug me anymore.

It was only when the difficult roommate did it that it really drove me crazy. So I was now an irritable person and did not like to be at home. Somehow it did not bother her so much, having an angry, irritable roommate.

Boundaries? I think so. Mostly not physical ones, but emotional ones. The difficult roommate was extremely emotional. She filled up our small house with her emotions - sorrow, sometimes; and more often, perhaps exuberant joy and energy. So, this is a little different from what you describe, Lu: she wasn't negative so much, she was positive more often!

For example... sin of sins, she was almost always cheerful and wanting to talk in the morning when I wanted to be alone. If I stopped to listen or answer her questions I was inevitably late for work.

She always answered the phone in big round tones, "good MOOOOR-ning!' I found this unforgivable. I was hostile.

There seemed no solution for it but to claim irreconcilable differences. I think it felt to her like we were getting divorced, when she left. But it was such a relief to me, to like being at home again, not feeling like I was always trying to dodge her behavior, her stuff, her emotions.

Yet I know Jesus would like her. Does like her. And He likes me. Doesn't He have scandalous taste?

Christy

Energy Creatures.....never heard that term, but yes, that's exactly right.

A Texan friend of mine likes to say, "Two ticks, no dog," when two Energy Creatures are together.

Boundaries are good. But they are so hard for those of us just learning about them!

KatRose

I prefer the term "energy vampire" because it has a very visual and viseral feel to it. :-) I have several of these creatures in my own life. They're hard to deal with until you realize that by feeding the monster what they want, they refuse to go away. Once you realize that, accept that, and understand what to do (i.e. respond if you need to, but not in the way they're anticipating), then you can change not only your behavior, but theirs.

But sometimes, even after changing the way you react to these EVs, there's no change coming from them and you have to decide whether or not having these people in your life is worth the drain on your own psyche. Sometimes, no matter how much you love that person, it's best to walk away, even if it's only for a short period of time or perhaps keeping only limited contact. I've had to do that with my mother - which you know hurts me, but it's better than the hurt and anguish I felt before I took that step back. I know it's hurt her, this disconnection from me, but my own soul was at risk for even more chaos than I was capable of handling if I'd stayed.

EVs or ECs may be good people in their hearts, but their actions and reactions don't always play out that way. They are often their own worst enemies and we, as caring individuals, have to decide which is worse: letting them go to bring chaos to others' lives or keeping them around and taking on the task of being trying to subdue their EV/EC-ness. Personally, I don't have a hero-complex, so I let them go (wholly or only partially) and try to understand that I'm not a bad person for doing so.

Lu

Marti - I've known people like that too; people who just suck the life out of you and then get upset and feel rejected when you have nothing left to give. And yeah, that's also a boundary issue. I BIG one. They are just as much energy creatures/vampires as the ones I described. Leeches, is actually how I've heard them described by one pastor friend of mine. Emotional leeches. And you do have to set the boundary at your picket fence, the farthest out your "self" goes, and keep them there in order to keep yourself from being drained of everything by them.

Christy - I LOVE that analogy! Very true.

KatRose - Vampires is also a very good term. It's got to be sooo hard to have to hold your mother at a distance! You are such an amazing woman of strength!!

Can you really change their behavior? I haven't seent that yet - but I'm still new to all this. Mostly what I see is them still behaving the way they used to, I just don't let it get to me now, or let them drag me down with them, because I'm holding them at arm's length. I'm changing MY behavior... but so far they haven't changed theirs. Then again, this new life is still "young" and anything is possible! :)

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