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Friendship marks a life even mor...

Posted Sep 29 2008 10:44pm

Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing. ~ Elie Wiesel

I replied to Bill on the post “On The Dark Side” but wanted to elaborate it here. I don’t know if Bill’s friends are being catty and difficult for no reason or if they are feeling that he is pulling away from them and they don’t like it. I don’t know. I’ve seen it go both ways.

Sometimes when things start going well for us, friends are not that supportive and it hurts and upsets us. We don’t get how they could NOT want us to be happy. However, sometimes we pull away from friends as if we don’t quite need them anymore. When a friendship is threatened by a new relationship, it can be very problematic. Both sides need to try to understand the other’s feelings.

Friendships can be difficult when we get into relationships or out of relationships. Friendships can be difficult when one of us succeeds while the other is still finding their way. I’ve ended friendships when I felt that I was being asked to not be who I was and not to have any feelings/thoughts about my friend and their relationship and it’s impact on us. Friends are important and should be a priority in one’s life, not a placeholder until the person of our dreams comes along Our friends deserve their relationships. Everyone needs to have a well-rounded life that involves both friends and relationships. It’s very sad when a relationship forces friendships out of one’s life or, less often, when a friend forces you to choose between your relationship and their friendship.

I’ve beaten the drum of BALANCE so often on here. Often our attention to the balance in our lives suffers when a new love comes along. Suddenly we become willing to chuck it all to cozy up at night and be swept up in the excitement of new love. Yes, it IS exciting! But it’s important to pull back some and give some time and attention to you, to your special treatment of you and that incudes time with your friends. If you get into a series of relationships and each time you lose your focus and ignore your friends, they start to feel used after a while. BALANCE BALANCE BALANCE. A good and healthy life includes friends who are a priority in that life.

Friendships are like relationships in that they often need work too. They often need us to look at it and work to understand our friends’ feelings. We want one thing from our friends (being happy for us) and when it seems like they are not, we immediately are ready to end it. Most of us are much more tolerant in relationships where the other person is asking so much more from us and giving less. WHY IS THAT? Friendships feed our soul and don’t ask much from us in return except for our time. We give up friendships so much more easily than relationships when good friends are usually harder to find than a boyfriend or girlfriend.

We need to support our friends when they get into relationships. We need to be honest and upfront. We also need to understand that not all of our friends will just take the seat furthest in the back because we don’t need them that much anymore. Friendships can be just as complicated as romantic relationships, but they should NOT be second best. Ever. We all need our friends.

I have some wonderful friends. I have one friend that I have had for over 15 years and my best friend and I have been friends for many years (going on 8). So these 3 that I’m going to talk about are not representative of my friends but these 3 were very close friends of mine once upon a time. These 3 scenarios read like relationships and I think that with each of these people we were closer than many (most) relationships I’ve been in. I don’t think that friendship endings get the respect that romantic ones do.

Like romantic breakups, I learned a lot from these friendship breakups. They were all sad endings but some were more emotional than others. And there was a grieving process when each ended.

FRIENDSHIP ENDINGS HAVE TO BE GRIEVED JUST LIKE RELATIONSHIP ENDINGS!!! And like relationships, we take some endings much harder than others.

Most of these happened years and years ago (I don’t get into friendships with people like this anymore, so it’s a non-issue. I’ve recovered in friendships as well but it was actually harder than recovering in relationships):

1. Friend A and I were friends through many difficult times over many years. We both got into serious and semi-serious relationships during our friendship, dated people and helped each other through those experiences as well as spent time being single and enjoying each other’s company. People we worked with would tell us that we should be a comedy act. We played off each other and could make each other cry with laughter. We were there for each other during being single and being in relationships. We were inseparable most of the time. It was truly a nice, close two-way friendship. We both agreed that our friendship was a priority in life.

Then he got involved with a woman who did not see things that way. I started to realize this whenever I invited him to lunch, they would both show up. I had to have lunch with both of them and we never really got to be alone again. I asked him for some time alone so I could speak to him about this, and my requests went unheeded. During one night out with a group she made a lot of nasty comments to me that he couldn’t hear. She made it very clear that she didn’t want me in his life. I asked him, again, if we could talk and he never accepted any invitations out alone. He wouldn’t tell me he wasn’t allowed but I pretty much knew that was it.

I eventually just stopped talking to him when I couldn’t resolve it. I was never a friend of the couple and didn’t want to be. They asked (yes “they” — he never asked anyone by himself) mutual friends what was wrong with me. Mutual friends told him (Yes just him) to ask me himself and he never would.

They married and divorced. I tried to rekindle the friendship and wanted to let him know what happened way back when but he really didn’t want to hear it or revisit it. Okay, I can accept that. We had/have a very surface communication now. He was and always will be a special person to me. I’m sorry we could not become friends as we once were but that is his choice and that was my choice, long ago.

2. Friend B was a friend for many years. I helped Friend B for many years on many levels. Friend B got into a relationship with a guy who was better than other guys (all of whom I heard all the drama about). But they fought a lot and had issues. B would call me and go on and on and on all day about this guy. We would go away on the weekend so she could get away from him and talk to me about it.

We talked and talked and talked. I would drop what I was doing to talk to her. She once came for my birthday and seeing all the presents from my boyfriend depressed her. My boyfriend was going to spend the night and we were going to go to breakfast the next day but because she was so depressed, I asked my boyfriend to downplay the happiness in front of her and to go home so we (she and I) could spend the morning talking. Boyfriend was furious (and can you blame him? I was wrong here and often did this to him for her.).

After two years of listening to her go on and on about the things this guy did to her, she announced to me that he had proposed. She described the proposal as by the lake, under the stars, and how romantic it was. Instead of thinking this was just HUNKY DORY, I was stunned. I didn’t say congratulations. I just questioned her about it. It was SUCH an about face and she immediately focused on the wedding, not on marrying this person. I mumbled something and we hung up. All I could imagine was the next twenty years of my life listening to her being upset about him. Most of our phonecalls had been about him. I thought she would get it and be done with him eventually. Not so much.

A week later she called me and said she was very upset that I was the only one of her friends who did not offer her congratulations when she told them her news. I said I was the only one who had heard all the intimate details of their relationship issues and I found it difficult to be happy about it. She didn’t like my answer and I didn’t like her comparing my reaction to so many others who were not privy to all their problems. We were at an impasse. I was furious that she wanted me to disregard my feelings and all that she had told me about him and just be happy for her. I had no idea how to do that.

She usually called me once a day. After that second phone call she didn’t call me for a few months. I was in graduate school and the relationship I was in at the time took a swan dive shortly after that. My life was busy and complicated and she was off doing whatever. I knew it was all about her, always had been, and I wasn’t interested in dealing with this while I was so busy and my relationship was ending.

After 3 months, she called and she was very cold on the phone. I had a feeling she called to tell me off but she didn’t and we had a surface, uncomfortable conversation. I wanted her to tell me what she was thinking of feeling, but she never did.

I expected that even if she was mad at me for not fully endorsing her relationship, that she would understand as she told me every last thing this guy ever did to her and that with all I had done for her over the years I would be forgiven for not jumping up and down for joy. Wrong. I never heard from her again. I was expected to be happy for her and nothing else was acceptable.

A few years later I talked to a mutual friend who said that she told everyone I couldn’t handle her being happy and that I was only happy when she was having problems (something Bill mentioned in his post).

She said I would never be friends with anyone who wasn’t a “project” and that when her life got better, I was gone. That was completely wrong. She didn’t get it. She HAD been getting better all along and I had applauded it. I thought she could be even better and deserved someone better than that guy. Even if that was not my place to think so, I HATED so many things he did to her–all the things she told me about–I wanted someone who had not done these things to her. How could I be a friend to her and still like him and be okay with the fact that she was marrying him after all the things she told me he did that hurt her? I guess I was just supposed to forgive and forget him as she obviously had done. Very hard. And did I want to? Did I have to? Just because his mistreatment of her was okay with her didn’t mean it was okay with me. What was I supposed to do? Just sit down and shut up? Apparently. Well, I didn’t feel like it.

I couldn’t be happy after all she told me. I expected, at the very least, that she would TALK TO ME ABOUT IT. I was hurt that she would think it was okay to just dump all those things on me about this guy, to expect me to NOT be happy when a boyfriend gave me a gift, to do so many things for her, and then she couldn’t even let me not be as happy as everyone else. She had NO desire to work this out with me.

I saw B on AOL a few years ago and tapped out an instant message thinking maybe we could talk. The minute she saw my name, she signed off. I never tried again.

3. Friend C and I were friends for many years. I became her friend when her best friend left her for a relationship. They had lived together and had been inseparable. Then her friend met this guy and disappeared. C would say she now lived with her friend’s furniture. She was devastated. I went over there almost every night to talk to her and help her through the “breakup”. I had experienced a few deaths that year and was also grieving. We supported each other. We cried together and laughed together. The friendship was very important to our healing.

We became fast friends and promised to NEVER do to each other what her friend did to her. We promised not to disappear for a relationship. Even when I was in a relationship I spent so much time with her. We went through thick and thin together. I was probably closer to her than I had ever been with anyone in my life.

After 8 years of being closer than anyting, she got into a relationship and she knew I was sensitive to being abandoned and knew about Friends A&B (and sided with me at the time and went away with me and friend B many times and listened to what I had listened to and was just as surprised as I was when she announced her engagement).

After her relationship started, she virtually disappeared. She would come over on Saturdays while her partner was working and I would watch her watch the clock. We had a standing Tuesday night outing and she just stopped coming out on Tuesday nights. I was just supposed to be okay with that. It took me a long time to allow myself to realize that I wasn’t okay with it and that I missed her and that a huge part of my life had gone away. Not only was Tuesday night gone but we used to call each other all hours of the day and night and now her partner insisted they go to bed at 9 pm and there was no way to call after 9 pm. There was no way to call during dinner or most other times. All of a sudden, she was gone from all these times of my life.

Despite her promise to never do this to me, she was doing this to me. I expected that she would realize it or would miss me and it would stop. I kept thinking that she would just figure it out on her own. I believed in her that much. HUGE mistake.

She would never ever take time away from her relationship for me. The only time I saw her or talked to her was when her partner was working. I felt like something she did while waiting for her new love to come home. Everything changed and the thing that bothered me the most is that it was okay with her that I was now relegated to this tiny spot in the corner. It bothered me that her relationship replaced our friendship in the same way her friend had done it to her. But unlike her, there was no one there for me when she did it to me.

I tried, for two years, to just put up with it. I did not want to give up. I thought that once the relationship was no longer as new, she would come back. But they continued to be enmeshed. And it continued to get worse. Many things went on that drove me further and further away. Because of our history and what we said to each other, I gave her every benefit of every doubt and just waited for her to come back and be present in my life again.

She told me that her partner did not like her referring to me as her best friend. Her partner wanted to be her best friend. It was not hard for me to see that the partner’s influence and the jealousy of me was also playing a big role in it. But someone asked me years later if I hated the partner. I said no, the partner did not betray their true self. I knew this person was like that AND the partner had no loyalty to me nor did I expect any. It was my friend who betrayed me. Even under the spell of her partner, she still allowed it to happen. If your partner is unduly influencing you and affecting your relationships with others, it’s still your fault. You are allowing it. You are deciding it’s okay.

I met my husband and he got along with them but it then seemed like the expectation was that we would be friends as couples (though they blew us off when we tried to plan a weekend away).

There was SO much that went on that hurt me, angered me and upset me but I said nothing, trying to be the supportive friend. The time we spent together was less and less and less. Before I met my husband, I went over there one night very upset over a breakup and she said to me, “You know we have to be some place tonight.” This is someone I would have stopped the world for and it was very hurtful. In fact, her partner gave her a look when she said that, not really believing what she said. And I kept going in the friendship and tried to forgive her everything.

When she finally said to me, the last time I saw her, “I know I said that I wouldn’t disappear into a relationship, but this is different.” it was over for me. I said nothing. I was on my way to the airport and spent a week thinking about things but for me, it was over. The person I knew, the person I loved, would have never said that to me.

I knew she was never coming back. She had changed in every way. I didn’t get in touch with her when I came back (very unusual). She sent me a note saying that they couldn’t go on the trip we had planned (the four of us). That just sealed the deal for me. I never answered her and she never asked why. After a few weeks I knew it was over and it was very painful for me.

After we stopped speaking a mutual friend told me she was angry with me. The friend reported that C said she should have known that after what I did to Friend A and Friend B that she would be next. She said she understood my actions with Friend A&B but now I was wrong. She backtracked on almost everything she had always told me. I felt that not only wasn’t our friendship a priority in her life but that once she was in a relationship, I didn’t matter at all. And that hurt. I thought I held an irreplaceable place in her life and I was so wrong.

Apparently giving it two years was not enough. She wanted me to accept only the bread crumbs she threw me and when I refused, she said very nasty things about me to mutual friends. I was beyond hurt. It was one of the hardest things I ever went through. It was like a death to me. I never trusted anyone as I had trusted her or believed that she simply wouldn’t do what she did. I used to say that anyone is capable of anything at any time but I truly believed she wasn’t. How wrong I can be sometimes.
___________

Those are 3 scenarios of when friendships ended because of relationships. What I learned about these 3 friendships was that I should have done things differently.

I felt as if I was a very good friend to all 3 and had not deserved how I was treated. But I couldn’t just sit around feeling sorry for myself or sailing away on the good ship self-righteous. I had to take responsibility for my part in what went wrong. If nothing changes, nothing changes.

Love is as love does.

Friendship is as friendship does. In these 3 instances, it didn’t do much when a relationship walked in the door. Although all 3 said they cherished my friendship, they should have said, “Unless I get into a relationship.”

I took the ending of my friendship with friend C very very hard. I grieved for 2 years and when I met my current best friend I did not want a friend because of what happened with C. My current best friend basically chased me and kept asking me to go to dinner. She would call me and I didn’t call her back. She made me laugh and we became friends despite me. She basically made it happen; and I’m glad she did.

I met a friend later on who had recently ended his friendship with his best friend because his friend got into a relationship and disappeared. They talked it out but the friend did not understand and wouldn’t change the fact that they didn’t see each other anymore. He said to him, “I know that x gets 99 percent of your attention but I want my 1 percent.”

I overstood. He and I became very close friends. We each get our 1 percent.

But in light of what I teach and live what is the point of this post? Well, for one, I think that it’s important to be sensitive to your friends, especially if they just nursed you through a bad breakup, when you get involved.

Second, if this happens to you over and over again as it did happen to me 3 times, it’s time to change things in YOU.

What have I changed? I’ve changed my expectations of my friends and steer clear of codependent moves (like telling a boyfriend not to shower me with gifts because my friends can’t handle it). I’ve stopped thinking that just because someone says they are loyal, they are. Loyal is as loyal does. And if there’s no competition for your time and attention, loyalty really doesn’t mean a lot. When friend C got into a relationship, she basically replaced me. Meaning that what I had been to her wasn’t special at all. I was just, for years, the closest person to her. The thing that hurt the most was that I was that expendable. It didn’t really matter who was closest to her, just that someone was. She refused to make my friendship a priority in her life and I thought I deserved to be more than an aferthought and I do. Her message to me was: you don’t matter. And that was something I could not accept. I have to matter to everyone in my life.

For me, the grieving over friend C was long and arduous. I annoyed someone who tried to be friends with me at the time because I could not shut up about it. That was poor performance on my part but like relationships, I was not ready for a friendship. It works the same way. If you’re still thinking and talking about the last relationship (or friend), you’re not ready. The other thing is that I was processing and needed to process, but like relationship breakups, you need to process in APPROPRIATE places. I was so angry at myself for just spewing about this all the time to anyone who listened. I just couldn’t believe what happened. I kept wanting someone to tell me something to make me feel better.

I was also upset, as I know many of you are over a relationship breakup, that I could not seem to get over it. I was hurt and angry for over TWO YEARS. I was sensitive and not really “there” in friendships that I did make.

It was a time process and I had to let it take what it took. The process DROVE ME CRAZY. I wanted it done with. I felt like she didn’t miss me and after she got into a relationship, she didn’t care if I was there or not. And I was the one left with the pain (sound familiar? I’m sure a lot of you know how this feels!). UNFAIR!

Another friend told me, years later, about something painful that happened to Friend C and my reaction was that I really didn’t care. Sounds cold, but the opposite of love is not hate. It’s apathy. I did my grieving. It took what it took. And I moved on. C’s problems or hurts were not mine. I tried to care and considered sending her a note but I was done.

I knew I had to do my grieving process with C, but It seemed RIDICULOUS to me that I needed TWO YEARS of being very hurt to get over this friendship but that is what it took and when I was done, I was very done.

And I learned…and I picked better when I was ready for friendships. It is a REQUIREMENT of mine that I matter to my friends, that I am not just a placeholder until the love of their life comes along.

The friends I have today are WONDERFUL and I love them dearly. I just had a wonderful night out with two very dear friends (one who just got into a new relationship) that lasted ALL NIGHT LONG! It was fun fun fun to spend that much time, like we were teenagers…out all night! But I am always happy when I get to spend time with people who value my friendship as they do and who will say, “I want to stay up all night and talk to you!” We had a GREAT time!

Friendships need to be healthy just as relationships do. As I got better in my relationships I transferred some of my codependency to my friendships but did not see that for years. I had to get healthy with those as well. I had to really think about listening to a friend, as I did with B, ad nauseum….just thinking and hoping that they would “see the light.” I had plenty of reason to give up on B but never did. I should have pulled the plug a lot sooner.

Sooooooooooooooo……………………

If you’re in a new relationship and your friends seem resentful… PLEASE talk to them!!! Maybe it can be salvaged and maybe it can’t. But don’t hurt people who have been there for you before.

AND if your friend has just gotten into a relationship, try to understand and if you’re feeling abandoned, tell your friend, or at least try to.

In other words, no matter what side of the street you’re on… DO THE RIGHT THING. Try to understand each other. Give your friends their one percent…even if it’s not convenient for you…try to go out of your way for your friends who were there for you before your new love came along. If your friend is in a new relationship, cut them some slack. If everyone tries, the friendship can be maintained.

We all need our friends. Take care of each other.

peace,
Susan

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