Sometimes we find ourselves in the awkward position of being a member of a group we no longer want to be part of. Is there a graceful way out? How do you break up with a group? Read More
The number of groups today is expanding exponentially. Prior to the Internet the number of groups was much smaller and the groups were often long-established non-profits with by-laws, elections and non-profit status. They had established meeting times and had to adhere to a set of self-imposed rules and regulations.
The Internet has changed all that. Groups can now be started by anyone for any reason and this is a very good thing. All a group needs is a bunch of like-minded people who are able to find each other, a place to meet and many good things can happen. The down side of this is there are fewer constraints governing these new groups. Groups can shift focus, and socially-minded people looking for a pool of new friends rather than a shared interest can infiltrate any quality group and ruin it.
So I get where Anna, the writer, has her issues. Irene Levine had good advice, write a polite email and then move on with your life if you wish to leave a group. The writer wants to become more independent and move away from the group dynamic, I don't blame her.
However, in the event that somebody is reading this, has a similar challenge with a group that has gone awry but wants to continue being part of a group, I'd like to offer this remedy: Start your own group. You don't have to start the same identical group to compete, but add your own twist. Let's say your old group was a photography group and you like landscape photography. Start a Landscape Photography group and assign yourself as group administrator. Keep the same meeting schedule but meet on a different day as the old group so as not to conflict. Make the effort to keep your new group focused on the task at hand, and don't hesitate to defriend anyone that works hard to turn your group into anything else(yes you can do that, and no it isn't mean).
Pretty soon you'll have your old friends back, and your group will return to its singular focus.
On another note, the study of groups is intricate, complex and very timely yet I am appalled that this subject is completely untouched by the Psychology Today blogs, which insists on pounding away at the tired old topic of how to get your dreary old romantic relationship back on course.
I had a similar experience with a book club I joined when my husband and I moved to a new area. It helped us to meet new people, gave us a sense of involvement and was generally a good thing. After about 3-4 years had passed, we had a child, became involved in other groups and felt we didn't have the time to participate anymore. I also became frustrated with the group's meetings -- often conversations hardly touched on the book we were to read that month and particular people were very prone to getting off topic and discussing things that were not shared interests. I made the rather painful decision to leave the group -- my husband already had done so claiming he had too many time constraints (he really did). I felt defensive about my decision for a while and was sure it wasn't received very well by some members of the group, but ultimately, I decided it was worth it. Life is too short to invest in groups that don't meet your needs anymore. I do miss aspects of it, but I know that the monthly commitment wasn't worth it to me anymore.
Takes me back to my college days. I applied group dynamics theory to theater for my Master's Thesis. As another commenter says, it is a fascinating subject, and it can be useful to understand the dynamics of groups, which sometimes mimics individual behavior and sometimes goes its own way. There's a sense of insecurity here if the group is begging this person to stay, but I agree that if she just stays away, they'll soon move on--either healing the empty spot or disintegrating, and that isn't her fault.
I recently left a group and some of the members tried to shame me into returning by saying that my not paying dues meant they could not take part in an activity that the group wanted to do. That's looking more like a dysfunctional family than a helpful bonding of people into a mutual interest group.
That does sounds like Anna's taken the right approach in letting the group know that she's no longer interested. I suspect with time they'll let it go.
Sometimes it just takes time for some people to "get it." They must want you back because you add something to the group, which should please you. But sticking by your guns seems to be the best way to handle your problem.
That also happens when you leave church.
I have left two groups in the past several years, one a business that I was a member of for 8 years, the other - a professional one where I stayed 41 years. We change, the groups change, and it is this desire for change that prompted me to leave. In the first one, the ROI was poor. for the other one, I retired and was no longer practicing the profession. Some people asked why and I told them calmly. After a moment's silence, the reply was : "I understand".
It is the realization that there are many other groups out there that made this challenging. Also, that I could stand on my own two feet and not "belong" to somebody.
I think being honest with yourself is the best way to go. If a group is no longer working for you one way or another, it's time to move on.
I find time is the answer when you are separating from a group. This has happened several times for me during my life. Some people are more persistent than others. You just need to gently let them know your time is filled with other things and express thanks for their interest. Eventually even the most persistent people seem to get the hint.
Groups are groups when all have something to give. Individuals break off when their needs are not met, have nothing to give and more focused on getting. This is my experience with volunteering with a non profit group.
We have been friends with a group of people for over 15 years. We met when our kids were young. Now most of the kids are off to college and we just don't have much in common with this group of friends anymore. We are moving back to the city after living 20 years in the 'burbs (which we always hated but did it for the schools which turned out to be a mistake). We are ready for a new start. Frankly the competition of whose kid got in the best college and whose kid is the biggest "loser" (apparently ours, because she chose not to go to college) has gotten really old. We are ready to live our lives on our own terms- and our friends only want to talk about the kids. It has become tedious, so we've chosen to slowly back away and hopefully distance ourselves from this group and move on to a more interesting and dynamic set of friends. We don't want to hurt anyone's feelings nor do we want to alienate ourselves from them entirely but it is pretty clear that the time has come to move on....
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Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.
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