Where to find emotional support

My husband is a fun and funny guy, and we enjoy our time together for the most part. But he is not an "emotionally generous" individual, and it has always been hard for him to empathize with others. His parents are both fairly aloof and the entire family's coherence is based upon rather superficial ties and discussion, so he really has no foundation from which to address the complexity of other's emotions, let alone his own. It has presented us with many challenges, especially given my own sensitivity and life's challenges. Kids, geography, and the overall harried state of our generation's lives have consumed most of the close female friendships that I once had, so I often feel patently alone. I am also staring down the harrowing road of aging parents. I know that my parents' deaths will be a huge blow to me, as they are and always have been my primary emotional supports. I had imagined that this type of support would come from my life partner, but that has not proven to be the case. We have gone to meditation retreats and couples counseling together, but it has not helped to deepen the empathic connection. I know he works on it, but I also know that we have to accept our partners' limitations.

I am someone who feels things extremely deeply, a "highly sensitive person" if anyone is familiar with that term, and as a result, life feels very intense for me most of the time. In my encounters with others, especially other parents, it does not seem that this is common. Most people I meet and speak with seem to take things at far more of a face value than I do. On the other hand, I am often overcome by the suffering I see in others and just as often shocked that I brought two children into the world to witness it as well. I wish I had someone to connect with around these things (a friend, rather than a therapist). 

I am not a religious person, and do not find myself drawn to groups or gatherings, whether formal services or meditation groups, for example. I have tried many of them, and group settings just don't resonate with me. I am wondering how others have found this type of emotional support, in their 40s, with two small children, and as an introvert to boot. I am the type of person who can listen to another person "complain" for hours without judgment or censure, just as a supportive ear, and can feel deeply for them. I wish I could find someone like that, aside from my parents. Suggestions to aid my search?

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Your post really resonated with me.... I too would describe myself as a highly sensitive person, and both my kids are as well. I've lost a lot of close friendships due to the rising costs of living in the Bay Area (so many good people have moved away!). It's tough in this busy world to make those connections, especially when you are raising two kids and don't have the kind of time you used to. 

A few of the friendships I really value have been made through my kids. Being involved in their schools, volunteering in my community. I love to read and have enjoyed book clubs in the past, though can't say I've made any close friendships there (but you never know!). One thing I ponder a lot is whether switching careers to something that I'm much more passionate about (but that pays less) will pay off in the long run in terms of forging close bonds with like-minded people. I look at my parents and a lot of my friends and see that some of their closest friendships are with those colleagues who they really bonded with. 

Not sure if any of this is helpful, but just know you're not alone! Feel free to ask moderator for my contact info if you'd like to talk more!

It's hard to know how to help you.

You have married a good person who can't meet your emotional needs in the way your parents do, your friends are too busy, and you are an introvert who doesn't feel comfortable in a group and (I am guessing) takes a lot of time to warm up to people. So your odds of actually making new friends with compatible emotional styles who can offer the kind of support you want are small.  You are essentially boxed in a corner with things as they are. And for what you want, you will need not one person, but many supportive people in your life.

You know the saying--you can't change others, only yourself. Maybe you need to take a look at your needs, actions, and expectations.  Here is what I read from your post:

  • You sound ready to have what is called "an emotional affair."  It's as if your husband is part of your "public functioning life" but you are starved inside for connection. You sound quite dissatisfied with your partner choice but you will not say so openly.  Be more frank with yourself.
  • We all want someone who we can be emoti0nally open with, but what you really seem to want is a friend who will be a therapist who can meet all your needs (i.e., listen to you complain).  That is part of a good friendship, but your definition seems  ... a little engulfing. Is it possible your friends are tired of the "mutual complaint" dynamic and need you to be in other modes to feel close to you?  Because a mutual complaint relationship is very satisfying at first, but it isn't a full, whole friendship; it's actually shallow and repetitious. Are you open to other dynamics?
  • You also sound overwhelmed by the pain and dissonance of the world. Could "highly sensitive" be a code word for "depressed?"  The book "Listening to Prozac" provides some insight into this dynamic. If you feel things so deeply and painfully that only hours and hours of talk can sooth you, you do need a therapist, and a new way to get your needs met, and a new friendship definition.
  • And perhaps one reason you are not getting your needs met elsewhere is that your picture of a "good relationship" is too closely modeled on your relationship with your parents.  Of course you love and rely on them, but have you developed a separate identity?

I don't have a single solution for any of the above, and I've had many of these issues in my own life (so I'm not judging you).  I think you have some hidden issues and should examine how you have gone about getting your needs met so far.  I think you might make much more progress with a therapist and perhaps an anti-depressant.

My 2 cents, hope it helps.

Hi. I'm so sorry that you are having difficulties with what most think should be an easy part of life. My daughter didn't come along until I was 38, so I was always the oldest mom in school, thereby disproving the theory that "Don't worry - you'll make friends with the other moms in her school!" (never happened).  I even tried to join a local "Moms' Club" at the time and was shut out by ageism and clique-ishness. My husband and I are both very outgoing and outspoken, although we're both from very dysfunctional families, with his family ties also being superficial and unemotional (whereas my crazy family is overly emotional).  I'm now in my mid-50s, my kid is graduating high school in June. Having young kids and being in your 40s is tough, I can look back and say I felt the most isolated and lonely during that decade.  If you're not a "groups" person, it's going to be that much harder, especially while the kids are so little. I do have my 1 best friend who I met in grad school, before we were married and had kids. We've kept up the commitment to chat by phone once a week at least (usually more often), with no-holds-barred - any topic is fair game. Sometimes we even disagree. We used to live close by, but over the years the geographical distances have only grown, and now we're on different coasts! So my advice to you is to think about whether or not you already have a friendship that could be deepened and strengthened, rather than try to start new ones from scratch? And while you make it clear groups and therapy are not for you in general, maybe you could consider joining a support group for people with social anxiety? You might meet real kindred souls that way, and by nature the groups are tiny. Wishing you all the best.

Hi there, I relate to so much of your message, especially around issues of high sensitivity. I'd be happy to connect. Feel free to send me a message.

Some churches have laypeople who offer one-on-one listeners. 

This sounds a lot like me. I am in my 30s with my first child but I struggle with this same dynamic between me and my partner. It is hard, and I don't know of any specific places to seek support, but I just want to tell you you're not alone! 

I read your post and felt like I could have written it (except that I am now divorced with 2 small kids). It was very validating,and I am so glad you posted it. I have also had trouble in my busy life finding  support and tried meditation groups, retreats, meetup, women's groups, etc with limited success.

I do get support from a few practitioners I work with (therapy, massage, meditation) and a few friends I met along the way who are also "highly sensitive", but am always looking for more. I would be happy to meet up with you ((I think you can message me directly), and am interested what ideas other people have.