I had a friend from college, with whom I had a great long-distance post-graduation relationship. He’d call me on my birthday and croon “Happy Birthday” into the message machine, complete with vibrato. We exchanged funny letters and referenced various private jokes. It was a nice, light, uncomplicated relationship. Despite not seeing him for years at a time, I still felt very close to him and felt his presence in the world as one of my treasured friends.
Suddenly, one day, he stopped responding to my emails. He offered no explanation. I wrote several times, apologizing for whatever I did to offend him. Finally I asked him to just explain and then I would go away. NOTHING. One day, he emailed me by mistake from his office, referencing some business matter that was clearly meant for someone close to my name in the alphabet, but not for me. THAT was really weird. I wrote back to say, “Hey! Can we be friends again?” Silence.
I suspect that his wife didn’t like our relationship or saw it as a threat to their relationship, which it really was not. I say this because it is too hurtful to think that someone I thought I knew would just turn his back on me forever, so it feels better to blame the wife.
Friends come and friends go, but usually there is a reason. Someone gets offended, someone gets hurt, someone’s interests change, someone gets much busier than the other friend, and so on. Maybe the reason we state isn’t always the accurate reason, but usually there is some kind of explanation. It may not make sense to the recipient, but at least there’s something to ponder. This was so different. I can’t make sense of it.
I have had friends who were once interesting but then became boring. As my husband said after we visited one of these old friends and her husband, “That was about as exciting as watching paint dry.” I guess some people enjoy living a surface-level kind of superficial life, and do not choose to open up or give of themselves. They probably have good reasons – past hurts and so on – but it does not make for an interesting evening. So what is one to do?
Sometimes, for old times’ sake, I will suck it up and continue to see the friend, maybe once or twice a year, figuring I should be able to spare a few hours (I can bring my knitting, or we can meet at a fun shopping center so it isn’t a total waste of my time). Sometimes, though, it becomes unbearable. Usually this is not due to boringness, but more to smugness or one-upmanship or the spouse is the type of jerk who can make himself feel good only by putting everyone else down.
That is when the dilemma of ending the friendship looms. In some cases, our children remained friends, and that made it especially difficult. It felt bad either way I chose.
Lately, I have decided to try to reframe this awkward feeling in an effort to lose those guilty feelings. I was in the waiting room of my new chiropractor the other day, and who should walk in but my OLD chiropractor. Apparently OC goes to NC for his adjustments (I guess they can’t adjust themselves). He spoke to the staff at the window but ended up leaving because he didn’t want to wait while others went before him. Before that, though, I was DYING, thinking he would sit down in the waiting room where I was and realize I was not seeing him any more, but instead going to this other chiropractor. I felt so embarrassed, and then hugely relieved when he left. But why should I feel embarrassed? I don’t owe him anything. HE’s the one who lost a patient. HE should be embarrassed.
But it doesn’t seem to work that way for me. I decided not to represent someone last week, and wrote her a letter explaining we can’t represent all the people who need us and I was sorry but sure she would find some other attorney to help her (the private bar represents poor people in Social Security hearings because they can be paid from the retroactive benefits if the client wins).
This is not easy for me to do, but since having pneumonia earlier this year, I am trying not to take cases for clients from whom I get a certain dishonest vibe. I have been a legal aid attorney for 21 years, and I have developed special antennae that warn me. In the past, I would try to look past that feeling (often the dishonesty is part of the client’s illness) and just try to persevere with the nuts and bolts of the case, but for the moment, I am unable to do that. So what happened? The client called and left a long sobbing message on my voice mail begging me to take her case, how could I do this to her, what will she do now, etc. I felt just awful but luckily my devoted assistant was willing to call her back, comfort her and point her in the right direction.
Causing endings, receiving endings, and wallowing in between – all are problematic. I would love to hear how others deal with this.
10 thoughts on “Endings”
Randi so sorry about losing your friend. Life is weird and so are friends. I would have a hard time letting it go and not taking it personally. It’s too bad for him because you are an awesome friend!
Awww, thanks, Bev! Yeah, right — it’s his loss! But I don’t like unsolved mysteries, and I’m hoping someday I will find out what happened, even if it implicates me and something I did.
My mother always said men and women can’t be friends, because the men would always secretly want to jump your bones. I have not found this to be true in my life, and I have many wonderful male friends, married and not married. I love their points of view because they are different than those of most women. One of them spent an hour yesterday talking to me about my continuing work problem, and he had really interesting observations that enlightened me. Secure wives should not be afraid of their husbands’ female friends. Just my opinion. Luckily for me, his wife is very cool and we like each other.
I used to have friends for the wrong reasons. I didn’t know myself well enough and thought being made to feel inferior all the time was normal friendship. My wonderful therapist opened my eyes and when I finally shed those people, it was like having an infected boil lanced! What a relief. But it was, and continues to be difficult (one of them in particular is in my life still) because now I wonder how I was so stupid to be fooled into thinking such a person was any sort of friend. Never any shortage of self-flagellation opportunities for me!
I always found the whole ‘men and women can’t be friends thing’ to be so strange. I mean, I’m a lesbian but I have lots of friendships with women and no one questions it (I hope, ha!).
Sorry about the loss of your friendship. People are complicated…unless they aren’t and then they’re just boring 😉
This is hard for me, too, Randi, so I don’t really have any words of wisdom. Sometimes you lose girlfriends because they reserve all their non-work time for their husbands. Sometimes you lose a friend because you can’t stand their spouse. I’ve had a hard time maintaining friendships with married men (especially before I got married myself); although there was nothing going on, it’s just “not done,” which is sad. But Vivian is right, you end up being happier after they are gone, though you may always wonder what happened. Sometimes people just can’t be honest about things and it is easier to just let you go with no explanation. That sucks.
Duh — the below response was supposed to be a reply to you, Jen.
I’m really sorry to hear about your friend. We have a friend like that – we’ve known him since my freshman year in college. He was the best man at our wedding and in our early married days (while he was still single), he was a fixture in our house; always hanging out. His new wife very clearly doesn’t like my husband and we cannot figure out why (other than maybe my husband’s sophomoric humor). She did make the effort initially as his new GF. But after she got that ring on her finger, she stopped making the effort and this in turn made our friend stop making the effort. Eventually, we gave up, too because we were tired of trying.
Hubby was HIS best man at the wedding and when he gave the BM speech, our friend’s new wife said, “I’m really surprised that you wrote a pretty good speech. I didn’t expect much.”
This is the long way of saying, life is too short to beat yourself up over this kind of stuff because some of it is outside your control. The best that you can do is make the effort that you think is honorable. If that means that you don’t take a client, then so be it. And if the other party does not reciprocate, then it’s time to move on. 🙂
VIvian, you are so right — life is too short (especially from my elderly perspective) to be miserable, either by beating ourselves up or hanging around with unworthy people. But I am hurting for your husband and his treatment by that wife. And also for your former friend, who has to live with her!
I’m sorry about your college friend, I know that would also bother me to no end, not knowing “what happened?”. You are probably right, about the wife or whatever – but its a shame he couldn’t just tell you that. You made me laugh so hard about your husband’s paint drying comment. Sounds like mine when I “force” him to be with old (boring) friends. As far as friendships ending, that is really tough. Someone once said to me “Any friendships that end, generally end badly”. Well, I can attest to that. I do think that, as you said, you can grow apart, interests change and people change as we mature and grow. When you finally “get out” of that friendship – you may find yourself where I did: much happier and (surprisingly) you realize you don’t miss it at all… Stick with those who are good to you, support you and lift you up in life. Stick with those who are TRUE friends. And, continue trusting yourself and your antennae. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for your comment and your hopeful message. Excellent advice. I hope I am able to tell the difference between the supporters/true friends and the others. Antennae, don’t fail me now!