Friday, 20 August 2010

Breaking the ties

So I'm back on the subject of friendships - because I find myself in a dilemma, well, in a place I'm not used to being. I am being a bad friend.

Let me explain: imagine you had a friend, a good friend who you've known for years - and they are on a destructive path. You can see it, their other friends can see it, but they can't. They are blind to it. They are consumed by their passion and their whole lives have started to focus around this one thing. This one thing that you know aint good for them. You've told them - of course you have, as you are a good friend, and you're honest, so you've told them that it all will end in tears and no matter how much you advise them - they don't want to know. To the point where you have agreed not to talk about it. Which makes talking to this friend, well damn hard. Because this friend lies to themselves as well as you. They pretend that the paths they are taking are for other reasons, not the fact that they are in love with a boy who doesn't love them back. So every time this friend calls, you have to paint on happy face and try and chat around inane subjects until your friend inevitably brings it round to her love life and - you don't want to hear it. Because you almost feel embarrassed for her - for the fool she is making of herself, and the hurt that will follow. You'd stake your life on it. Because no man ever takes a year to make up his mind about whether or not he likes a girl. He is either into you, or he aint. And if he aint - everything else is him stringing you along until something better comes along - as he has done before, and will do again. So anyway, you think it is almost better not to talk to this friend until she comes out of this destructive phase, but does that make you a bad friend?

I'm a honest person. Husband says he can tell within 30 seconds of introducing me to someone whether or not I like them. My every thought is written over my face - I am a crap liar. As you can tell from my blog - I lay it all on the line - what you see is what you get. So I find it virtually impossible to talk to this friend - because I feel our every conversation is a lie. And I watch as she obsesses over how thin she can get, how blonde, how botoxed, etc - all in a bid to win this man and I wonder where the strong feisty women who danced to her own tune has gone? And then I wonder - have we outgrown each other, is the friendship cemented in our 20s simply not there in our 30s? And if so what to do?

Thing is I've felt the cold winds of being ousted from a friendship myself - this year in fact: a friend went through an incredibly bad time - and I tried to be there, to support as best as could, even when there was nothing I could say. I understood she needed time out - she didn't want to talk on the phone or meet up etc But then it turned out she was talking to people about how she was feeling - just not me. She was meeting folk for lunch or visiting their houses, just not wanting to spend any time with me. So I took the hint - and have withdrawn myself from attempting to see this person - even though I'm still not really sure what I've done. Maybe nothing - maybe they simply outgrew me.

Sometimes it comes as a shock: I met a girl at Uni - she was sobbing over the halls of residence pay phone (in the days before mobile phones when we used to stand with pockets weighed down with 10ps or BT cards with 10 units on them) and I took pity on her, chatting through her issues. That's what I then became - her shoulder to cry on. And boy did she weep - nothing was ever right in her life no matter what she did. Flatmates used to see me after an hours chat with this girl and know immediately who I'd been talking to - they could tell in my heavy step and sullen face. This girl brought everyone down - but still I persevered - always there for her, after all, she had no one else. Plus she was kind and full of wisdom and on the rare occasions that she smiled, could be fun. Then one day (about 5 or so years into our friendship when she was living in Scotland and I had managed to get work in TV in London) she rang and told me she was off to LA for a holiday. We chatted as normal and I wished her well. I never heard from her again. I called her parents, desperately worried that something had happened to her and they assured me she was fine but were somehow avoided giving me her address or phone number. I found out later she had gone to LA following a boy who had no interest in her and she lived in her car for a bit... After that who knows? For a while I was so angry - she had just deserted our friendship - just walked out on it without telling me why, or even giving me the chance to ask what was wrong... She often compared herself to aloof celebs who trusted no one - or suddenly cut themselves off from friendships to 'protect' themselves. I realised that is exactly what she had done - cut me off, because maybe I got too close. As the months wore on I stopped caring - friends come and go from your life and to not have to spend hours propping her up while she wept felt a huge relief. A weight was lifted and I began to realise that she never wanted advice or help - she just wanted to be miserable. Thing is, I didn't. Her ditching our friendship - well things happen for a reason and all that...

Lots of amazing women read my blog and I wonder if any of you guys have ever ended a friendship, been a bad friend, outgrown a mate, let a once rock solid friendship go? In these times - were we don't live near our folks and rely more and more on friendships to be like family, when we invest so much time and energy into these bonds, perhaps they are the most complicated relationships in our lives: rife with politics, jealousies, petty feuds and competitiveness. But when they are good - is there anything better than time with your girls? Belly laughter, finishing each others' sentences and shared jokes.

The question is, when ever is the time to let the ties go?


jkelsofarrell said...

It's time to cut ties when the friendship becomes toxic, when you get nothing from the person and you are doing all the giving, and when you know deep down in your heart that this isn't a phase but that this is what the "friendship" is--you supporting her, you listening to her, and she never reciprocates. That's when you cut the ties. I've done it several times over the course of my life.

The thing is, a toxic friend always has someone to fill the void left by you. They never really miss you because they never really cared about you. They are like psychic vampires, draining energy and life from those around them.

The Girl Who said...

I fear that a few years ago I was the friend who was stuck on a guy who never liked me back. I wonder if my friends viewed me the same way you view your friend and it makes me cringe.

That's what prompts me to tell you to stick it out as best you can... when once-strong women fall into that mire it's hard to see the forest for the trees. But if she's like me, she'll eventually pull herself out and be thankful that you stuck with her through it... that girl from Uni though, she sounds like a real pain in the ass.

And the thing is, sometimes we just outgrow friends. It's no one's fault. I'm going through a bit of that myself. I have more in common with online friends than girls I grew up with... which is kind of sad but not really. I think we're just different now. Different interests, different lifestyles. It's okay to let go.