Belenen (belenen) wrote,

what I learned from my relationship with ashley / mentoring and equal friendships

processing more of my feelings from the breakup with Ashley... I've moved into the final step: assessing what I've learned.

Our relationship was a mentor/mentee relationship for a very long time, which was fine, since I was conscious of the fact that in that sort of relationship, I could not expect anything from her, or ask for anything. During that time, the only thing I got from the relationship was the joy of watching her start to stand on her own two feet. And that was enough -- I knew how it felt to transition alone, and I knew how much guidance would have meant to me when I was first learning to be myself, so I gave to her as a sort of gift back to God/dess for helping me with my own metamorphosis.

(And it's hard to explain what exactly I'm talking about with this 'transition' -- basically, a transition from letting life happen to you, to happening to life. It doesn't fit in linear terms well... the practical part of it was helping her break free of a very abusive relationship with a guy she had planned to marry.)

The problem came in because I had never done this before, and so I didn't really put a lot of thought into WHY she would want to change (beyond breaking up with the guy). I just assumed that she had the same reason as me -- a deep desire to grow and develop for its own sake. I think she did have that desire to some extent, but I think her main purpose was to become what she thought of as a 'better person.' I think she had me on a pedestal, and felt that in order to become this 'better person' she needed to imitate me in every way. I thought she wanted to grow for the purpose of growth itself, but now I think that she wanted to grow because then others would admire her the way she admired me. And I think that while admiring me, she also thought I was 'better' than her, and she resented me for making her feel inferior, even though that was NEVER my feeling or intention. (I believe all humans have infinite worth, and how can one infinity be more than another?) My initial reaction is to want to beat myself up for not seeing this earlier, but that would do no one any good -- and I did start to see it nearing the end, and confronted her about it several times, as gently as I could.

Also, nearing the end, I saw how far she had come and how much she had grown (and I still say it's a lot, even though it's not the same as I initially thought) and I wanted to become real friends with her, move out of mentor/mentee into a more equal relationship. I think that was when she began feeling uncomfortable with the relationship, even though she said it was what she wanted more than anything else in the world. I don't think she was ready for an equal friendship; it panicked her that I was inviting her up onto my 'pedestal.' She didn't want to lose that sense of having someone to turn to for answers that were 'greater' than what she herself could find. I think that when the moment finally came that I needed her to support me, she freaked out because it was a reversal of the roles she was comfortable with.

I now realize that with a mentor/mentee relationship, you can't go straight into an equal friendship, there has to be some distance first, a clear marking of the end of one. The mentee has to come out of the viewpoint of learning from this other person, and be at the point where s/he values her/his own opinions as much as the opinions of her/his former mentor, and that takes some time and distance. Obviously we should keep learning from our friends, but it's a different kind of learning.

This hasn't put me off of mentor/mentee relationships but it has taught me that I will go into the relationship with the expectation that we will NEVER have an equal friendship, and then I won't start hoping for something that can't happen until after the relationship dies. That means a certain amount of distance, but I think still enough room to just have fun. I will also be sure that the person wants guidance to find answers for themselves, not just the answers.

So what I've gained: I'm better able to see when a person wants growth for itself or for other reasons; I understand more how to be a responsible mentor; I learned that when mentoring, I need to be careful to stress breaking from ANY ideal, rather than forming a new one; I learned more how to give without desiring return (because for the majority of it I didn't even desire return) which will benefit all of my relationships; I helped a person get out of an abusive relationship, which benefits the whole world; I learned again that being honest will sometimes cause short-term devastation but after the dust settles I will be far better off. And I learned that my friends love me for ME, and that I am not replaceable or duplicatable, and that I can trust them to be truly honest with me. And as a side effect, I gave up my fixation on having a close-by friend, and poured more energy into the wonderful people who are already in my life (even if I can't hug them every week), and it's been incredible how those relationships have grown.

look closely at my icon -- you can see the shed skin of the dragonfly, and since she is now winged, that is the last metamorphosis: she is a full adult
Tags: ashe, friendship, growth, turning points

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