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Personal Update, And The Berlin “Three Meeting Rule”


It’s been more than a month since I last posted so somehow I feel that the best way to ease back into writing would be with a personal update.

Some time… I guess a month ago? I was hit by triple misfortune: my landlord gave me an ultimatum to move out, I lost the job I was going to start at the beginning of September, and my handbag was stolen. In that bag was my passport, among other things, and I spent several days pretty much working full time on trying to solve the bureaucracy involved in getting a new one. As a knock-on effect of having no ID my marriage to my partner was delayed, basically meaning that I will have to wait even longer to see him. (And I’m still working out how to deal with the latest head-breaking bureaucratic puzzle this has brought up. But I’ll save you the details).

I’ve sorted out a new job and a new place to live but I can’t exactly feel jubilant yet because I’m still going to have to deal with a lot of adaptation and uncertainty as I start with both of these things. I feel pretty exhausted right now and am mostly just hoping for 2015 to be over and a sense of normality to have returned. Probably everything will be rather a lot better after that – in particular I’m looking forward to not being poor anymore, and also I expect to enjoy my new flatshare and my work (vegan cooking)… sometimes you have to go down to go up I guess.

Social Life In Berlin

One thing that seems to be going better in my life is the social aspect of it.


Adapting to social life in Berlin has not been easy for me. I remember making new friends in Barcelona being rather easy; here, in the same situations, where I like a person and I think they like me, I don’t get the same results. Overwhelmingly often, I tend to have a brief period of hanging out with a person before they decide not to keep hanging out with me — either by telling me that straight, or simply just never proposing to hang out and never accepting any of my proposals. It’s happened so much I coined a name for it: “The Three Meeting Rule”, as in, I most often have two to three meetings with someone, and then they drop out of my life.

Sometimes, of course, I keep seeing someone in some regular event, in which case I might call them my friend, but then I know that if I stopped going to that event, they would disappear just as readily as anyone else. And by going to events I might not be lonely, but then if I had a crisis and needed help, or just wanted to talk to someone about my deeper feelings and not just chit-chat, I’d suddenly find myself really alone.

It’s Not Something About Me

It’s tempting, especially because of my own insecurity, to assume it’s something about me, but I don’t think it is. I mean, I may have changed a lot in the last three years, but I don’t think I’ve become less likeable. Perhaps living as trans makes a difference, but the vast majority of the people I want to hang with are either trans themselves or radical leftist and trans positive.

In fact, I’ve talked to some other people who seem to have the same problem; upon moving to Berlin, they find it really hard to make friends. So, apparently, I’m not alone in that. I even talked to someone from around here who seemed to observe the phenomenon. Incidentally, he and I met up exactly three times.

Values

Well, my difficulties here seem to be lifting. Despite it being incredibly frustrating to be turned down time and time again by people who I think would make great potential friends, it only takes a few to say “yes” to change my situation, and over time, this has happened. In particular, my flatsearch seemed to incidentally connect me with two people who I genuinely believe are going to stick around for a while, and my life feels a significant notch better knowing that they have my back. The cynical side of me warns me not to get my hopes up, but reasonably speaking, I do not think I’m wrong here.


This whole situation makes me think about my values and the values of society as a whole (German society in particular and Western society in general). It seems to me that friendship — real friendship, the kind where you can talk about your deeper feelings, where you can expect help in a crisis, and naturally where you can expect to hang out more than three times without the pretext of going to the same event — is not held in particularly high esteem. Western society, for some reason, glorifies romantic love, which often fulfills those needs, but which should not be the only recourse we have for fulfilling those needs. Particularly in Germany where real friendship is harder for me to find than romantic partners, I’ve often depended on a romantic partner, only to find that when they left I had no support network anymore.

Because of this I find myself rather drawn to media which depict a different view: the anime Fairy Tail, the cartoon My Little Pony… that’s only two, I’d like a third to make the list more punchy, but really that’s all I have at the moment. In these series, friendship and non-romantic bonds are often the focus, and it feels inspiring to me. Particularly in Fairy Tail, you see characters struggling through life-threatening situations with nothing but the thought of their friends to keep them going. Somehow, that’s something I want in my life. Friendships that matter. Friendships you fight for. Not this shallow disposable crap that passes for friendship in our society.

Despite now being more or less fulfilled in this area, I still harbour a little resentment towards the people of Berlin. Obviously I’m not entitled to anyone’s friendship, but being rejected so many times hurts – no matter how much I try to remind myself it’s not about me. I think sometimes this feeling of resentment has leaked out a little into my interactions with people. I’m trying to release that now, and just remember that the “Three Meeting Rule” people don’t matter to me — no matter how cool they are in other ways, they are still three-meetingers, and I don’t have to invest my feelings into them. I just have to filter through them all, a long, frustrating process, until I find those people who really should be in my life. Perhaps the best lesson I’ve learned is simply not too get too excited about someone until after the third meeting. Until then, I can just enjoy the meetings for what they are and not look too far to the future.

As to the “why” of the three-meeting rule: I still don’t really know, but I’m starting to think it comes from some kind of fear of commitment. Perhaps some general shallowness, a fear of people, or a general inability to value true friendship. In any case, now that I’m dealing with it better, and seem to have ruled out personal flaws as a reason, I feel less desperate to understand the reason. That’s just how it is.

 

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{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Tina September 21, 2015, 8:44 pm

    I have also recently blogged about something related: https://wunder2welt.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/alltagliche-ubergriffe-und-traumabearbeitung-community-und-andere-fragen/
    The question how to build meaningful and reliable communities or chosen families has been on my mind recently a lot as well. I think the urban life style with people living spread out over the city, either alone or in flatshares who meet every now and then when arranged beforehand via phone or messaging is not very helpful to build communities. Especially in a city like Berlin where there are so many people to meet and where distances are big so you can’t just pop around the corner to your crowd because you want to see them again.
    Don’t know. I have come to the conclusion that for committed connections among people, you need some kind of living arrangement that makes sure you meet each other automatically every now and then or at least makes it very easy to do so, like in a house with several flatshares or something like that.
    The other thing is that we are so individualistic, have unlearned communal living so much, that it is really hard for us to do. I know that I have a lot of challenges in that area, especially when it comes to dealing with conflict.
    And yes, I am also not talking about romantic relationships nor reproductive families. I think expecting every kind of emotional and practical support from them is unrealistic not even considering the fact that not everybody has those connections.

  • Sophia September 21, 2015, 9:08 pm

    “I have come to the conclusion that for committed connections among people, you need some kind of living arrangement that makes sure you meet each other automatically every now and then or at least makes it very easy to do so, like in a house with several flatshares or something like that.” — I don’t think so – quite apart from idealistically feeling this *should not* be true – it also doesn’t explain why making friends was so much easier in Barcelona for me. Distances are a bit shorter in Barcelona but not by SO much, and I’ve found promising potential friends who actually live really near me to be three-meeting-rule types. Actually when a potential friend is pretty much a neighbour and seems to like my company, it feels like an extra slap in the face when I encounter the three meeting rule with them.

    I suspect it’s something about the culture here. I have the feeling that a lot of Germans seem to have some kind of unspoken fear, perhaps fear of rejection or general social anxiety – something I can identify with, but which I think might be extra strong in this country.

  • Tina September 22, 2015, 8:08 pm

    Yes, I agree, I think what you are experiencing with the three meeting rule is something more than typical urban individualism, which is more what I was getting at in the comment and in my blog post. And I also agree that it is something cultural. However, I don’t think that it is so much related to social anxiety. This might be the case with some people from the queer subculture, because having experienced a lot of discrimination can make you socially anxious, but I think there could be another dynamic at play here. I think the fear a lot of people have, is that people will get clingy, which in turn makes people try to appear really cool, often not expressing their needs for fear of putting people off with that. Of course, that makes it difficult for people to actually connect, also with their needs, but that’s a dynamic I have seen at work often.

    And then there are the more “usual” things, like Germans in a broad sense taking a lot of time to make friends and having fewer friendships who then are supposed to be more meaningful/deep. That makes it harder to connect, because you need to become part of those few people. And of course there is the problem with the newcomer, where the people they try to connect with already have an established circle of friends, contrary to the newcomer. But with Berlin, and especially the queer subculture basically being a group of newcomers (all the people fleeing from conservative places to Berlin), that shouldn’t be a complete roadblock.

    And also, I have heard it from others, also from Germans, that they found it hard to connect in Berlin.

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