another observation on friendships

16 11 2006

the other day, a used-to-be friend of mine pinged me on IM. he had to request that i notice his ping, because he’s off my contact list. now, there are a few students i taught six years ago whose names are still on my contact list–they’re in categories i don’t keep open, & i don’t expect to ever talk to them again, but they could ping me if they wanted to. the point there is that i don’t ever take anybody off the list–that takes work. you’ve gotta want it. & he did. he said we were done knowing each other, in no uncertain terms, because he was getting married to a woman who was very serious about how he should no longer have contact with the girls he used to know, even girls-who-were-friends with whom he’d who never had the slightest hint of physical or romantic entanglement. we used to talk on the phone sometimes, usually about his psychotic ex girlfriends; that was reason enough. when he told me that was how things stood, i said i thought that was sad, but he had to do what was right for him, & i wished him well, & if he changed his mind i’d be around. “i won’t,” he assured me. “but thanks.”

so when he pinged me i was 2 things: wary & worried. i expressed the first thing first, thinking it would be a little rude to lay the second out as an assumption; i needn’t have jumped the gun anyway, as it took us all of 4 polite exchanges to get the chat to “she and i are having a rough time.” i refrained from saying “of course you are, or you wouldn’t be talking to me.” “do you want to talk about it, or do you just want somebody to know you’re troubled & to be supportive?” i asked. “i’d like to talk, if you have the time,” he answered. “but i should let you know first; i’m not *supposed* to be talking to you. she’s out of town. and i need a friend. but when she comes back… we’re not going to keep talking.” i said i understood–i don’t understand the thinking that inspires that sort of paranoid control of people’s friendships, but i’m certainly not new to occupying this position relative to other people’s parameters–and so we talked for a while about their current troubles & about his hopes & about ways he might better help her, when she got home, to get things back on track with them.

i thought for a while, the next day, when he still wasn’t on my contact list & i didn’t expect to be hearing back from him, maybe until the next time he’s in a rough spot, & maybe never, about whether or not i feel a little used by this. does this even count as a friendship, when if i needed a friend, of course going to him would never be an option? and do i mind, if it’s not, being available to help out even for somebody who won’t ever be there for me, who clearly thinks of me as having value to contribute to his world, even if it’s value that will rarely, if ever, be acknowledged? i’m not sure how i feel about it yet. i think, for the most part, i really don’t mind. someone i care(d?) about was troubled, & i was able to help; that’s a good thing. and i was believed, way back when, when i told him i’d still be here if he needed me. we say that kind of thing all the time to people who will never take us up on it, & we have no way of knowing whether they don’t call because they don’t need help or because they didn’t believe the offer in the first place–this time i know. but i think i’d be a little happier about it if he’d ever once said he was sorry, or indicated in some other way even a modicum of regret.

i guess it’s not bad, being distant & kinda mythological, being able to swoop in like some secret faery godmother & save somebody’s day (or at least make a good effort at it!). it still makes me a little bit sad, though, & i’m not sure why.

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10 responses

16 11 2006
pictsy

but i think i’d be a little happier about it if he’d ever once said he was sorry
This is the tricky part. I could understand a man accepting the wishes of his girlfriend/wife about not talking to me, but I would expect some sign that he was sorry.

16 11 2006
tyra

yeah. i’m all about respecting people’s relationships, & while i take exception to the theory behind that, i’m not going to expect other people to have the same sense of what’s nuts & what’s not as i am. but it would be nice if he felt at least a little bit like an ass about it.
i guess that’s tricky too, though, b/c if you’re actually sorry, then the implication might be/seem that you think your SO is wrong & you’re sorry she makes those demands. but if you’re all giddy in love w/her & think she’s perfect, then you have to think she’s right about things? hard to tell. a little “i value this & i’ll miss it, but i can’t be here anymore” would be nice, though, even if it’s not actually apology–but appreciation, maybe?

16 11 2006
pictsy

There’s also the issue of cognitive dissonance. We have to convince ourselves that the things we do are right, and consistent, or else we go nuts.

16 11 2006
west_wind

I’m sad too, for points that you and brought up (that there wasn’t some sort of acknowledgment of the difficult circumstances) and for the fact that the offer wasn’t made to always be there for you. You’re a good friend, though, and it’s a sad situation he’s in that he’s defined his life so much by this other person’s expectations. I am happy that you were able to be there for him, and your experience gives me hope in the strength of friendship.

16 11 2006
jessica_dwg

I’ve been in this situation before, too, and it’s always sad. It diminishes the friendship, for sure, but more than that, I’m always sad that relationships exist wherein a person is so insecure that they feel like they need to cut their partner off from their established friendships, and wherein the partner is so insecure that they accept those conditions.
Still, kudos to you for being a good friend.

16 11 2006
robotapocalypse

It sounds more like you need to be the secret Van Helsing and go put a stake in the vampire’s heart, stuff its mouth full of holy wafers, and behead it before it traps him in a loveless, controlling prison of a marriage.

17 11 2006
burny_md

Yeah, but how do you really feel about controlling women? 😉
Or are you on the “I wanna see Tyra playing with that much cool hardware” side? 🙂

17 11 2006
burny_md

*hugs* I understand why it bothers you.
Its someone you wish you could be friends with, but something’s standing in the way that is neither you nor him. That’s pretty frustrating.
But you always make me glad you’re my friend when I see your maturity in situations such as this one. 🙂

17 11 2006
faerieariel

Charity work.
The way I see it, you were doing angel-work for someone less fortunate than you. Let’s face it, if he was anything like your ‘equal’ and/or a friend, he wouldn’t even BE in a stupid controlling relationship like that one, right? Angel-work=doing the “right” thing without any expectation of getting anything back – kinda like taking care of a lost puppy until you see the ‘lost puppy’ sign posted on the telephone pole near your house, and then it’s over and you walk away.

18 11 2006
pooh_gal

about the sad part
the sad part comes from knowing that your friendship with the “him” not only wasn’t threatening to his marriage, but his ordering his life as if it did. The sad comes from knowing, when you said “okay -whatever you need” that his needs were your first interest, and that even while he is calling on you for support he still can’t see the value of that friendship.
I have one of those. I wish I could not answer when he pings. but I always do, and it will never reward my loyalty. Never. that’s what makes it sad.

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