The Dangers of Friendship

I had to end a friendship with a guy I grew up with, who was at one time my best friend. We lost track of each other for years, and I finally tracked him down and connected with him again. I hoped—though I had learned by then that digging up people from my past was a risky proposition—that we could rekindle our former brotherhood.

The beginning of the end started with a comment I had made. It was my misunderstanding. I thought he meant something other than what he really meant, and though I was agreeing with what I thought he meant, I was actually disagreeing with him, since he meant the opposite.

A simple misunderstanding, but also a lethal one, for he was in no mood to forgive and forget, even after I apologized and explained what had happened. Someone really hurt him, he was determined to take it out on me.

He was angry with me, posting obscenity-laced comments about my place in the world. That I had no right to talk to him, that I didn't go through what he went through, that I was ignorant, asinine, and self righteous. He pulled the Kurt Cobain book out and accused me of being fake.

I tried to be diplomatic about it. I apologized, I explained where I was coming from. He got hostile and paranoid. I finally decided that if he wanted “real”, I'd give it to him real. I didn't sugar coat my last message to him, but told him exactly how I felt about his behavior. I told him to grow up, that he was being an asshole about the situation. I told him I don't have a crystal ball, that I would forgive him, and move on, but I didn't need the negativity—the abuse, really. And I said that friendship is a two way street, that friends must give and take equally.

He kept repeating that it was his turn to stand up for himself, that no one could walk over him anymore. I listed the insulting things he had called me and told him, “if you want to stand up for yourself, do it against your enemies, not your friends.” I don't know who hurt him, but in his blind anger, he couldn't understand that I was just caught in the middle, hoping to help.

He didn't want real as much as he thought he did. He defriended me. (To be fair, I asked him to, if he could not respect me.)

His last words were “no regrets”, but he must have been talking about himself, because I'm having major regrets.

He told me to think about what I did, and I have, a lot. It was the last thought before I drifted to sleep, and it was the first thought when I woke up this morning.

My “friend” is a taker. Many of us know the type, but there's more to it than what many might think. He's had a very difficult life, dealing with an abusive stepfather, school bullies, homelessness, drug addiction. Many people who go through events like that learn to take care of themselves first. They're often more self-centered and greedy than people who didn't have to fight to survive. I don't blame him for it, but am very sad I couldn't help him.

I'm also very sad that he saw in me an enemy, someone out to get him. I remember how excited I was when I tracked him down early last year, after 12 years since the last time we spoke. I listened to his story, I tried my best to give him positive vibes. I encouraged him. The only time I wasn't available to him to talk was a few months at the end of 2011, when I had to get offline to take care of my own problems. I wasn't available to anyone.

But sine I've been in touch with him, I do not remember him ever coming to me for anything. Not to ask for advice, not to give me advice, not to tell me about his life, or to ask about mine. Not to chat, whether about life in general, the future, or the fun times we used to have as kids wrecking our neighborhood (we wrecked that neighborhood thoroughly!).

I started all of our conversations. I was the one reaching out. He had no time for me, yet on his way out of my life, his biggest complaint was that I wasn't a real friend.

Now, I don't claim to be the best friend in the world. I don't claim to even be a good friend. It's too much pressure involved in living up to those expectations. I try my best to be nice to people, but I don't always. I have an ideal, but I don't always meet it. But I do try, and I do care, even when I am too pissed off and compulsive to do anything productive.

What a friend is and should do is different for many people. We all have different expectations. I don't feel that my expectations are too high. I keep my friendships loose. I've learned that friends are not always there for me, whether they want to be or not, and I'm not always there for them, whether I want to be or not.

I've walked away from many friendships, sometimes because they were negative forces in my life (as this one quickly turned out to be), other times because I or they moved (a product of being an Army brat), and still other times for no good reason at all. People grow apart. We change. I see friendships as living things. We must nurture each other to grow, but even then we sometimes grow bored of others. There's always someone new waiting to replace the old. I think this is an immensely positive thing, because it allows us to recycle ourselves and others. Why attach ourselves to old friends, when we each can be of better use for other people?

I'm sad that this friendship ended like it did, but I'm not down and out. I'm not going to pack my bags and quit on the human experience. I'm not going to be bitter about it. I have a lot to look forward to. So I don't get along with one person? I know of many who would give me the benefit of the doubt, who would try to mend the broken bridge. That's harder for people who have had a difficult life and don't yet have their head above water.

I take people in stride. I seek to understand them, what motivates them, why they react to what they do, and the way they react to it, if only so some day I can stop being the central character in my own drama. I've had a lot of friends in my life, and I've learned something from each of them, but I've learned the most from the ones who many wouldn't consider good at all.

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38 Responses to The Dangers of Friendship

  1. Hi J.R.:
    I recently went through an experience where I attempted to re-connect with my oldest childhood friend. We grew apart shortly after high school over twenty years ago now.

    We've always maintained a distant relationship since growing apart and we both thought it would be interesting to see if we could get that same passion to our friendship back. We got together several times about three years ago:
    --He came to my house to watch some football games throughout the NFL season.
    --I spent time with him at his home.

    It was all very different. We'd grown in different ways. We could no longer connect on the same level. Fortunately we both understood the changes in our lives and we decided it was best to stay distant friends.

    We'll ALWAYS have our memories of our friendship growing up but we both have changed too much to reconnect and we're okay with that.

    I'm sorry your friendship didn't end in the same way. But sometimes people drift apart for a reason.

    1. Thanks so much, Chris. That's what I'll always have, the memories. As fun as they were, it just doesn't work to try to make more when you know you're not meant for each other anymore.

  2. I'm sorry to hear what happened between you and your former friend. I think it's definitely become more common, and more accessible, to look up past friends and acquaintances. Especially with fb! I've done so myself with little fruit being born with exception of one former friendship.

    The concept of friendship has been coming up a lot in my thoughts recently as I've been reflecting what it means to really be a true friend. I think by the world's standards I could definitely do a better job with the ones I have. I tend not to call them a lot and prefer conversations face to face which don't happen often. When it comes down to it I'm beginning to learn how really solitary, and totally fine with being solitary.

    But those friends that I know have an unconditional regard and affection towards me, that I know will be there and have always been there when I've needed someone to talk to, vent to, lament with..I've decided to make a concerted effort with because really a true friend is a treasure. So many friendships, and perhaps rightly so, rise up and then fade away. It goes along with the whole law of impermanence. Those relationships that are not as the impermanent crest and trough of the wave...the crest becoming the trough and the trough soon becoming the instead, these friendships are as reliable as the wetness of the water, whatever form life takes, they are still a constant in the landscape of things. Those kinds of friends are truly rare and best not squandered.

  3. J.R. do you know why I sometimes seem very reserved (and yes, I do know I can come off as Arrogant, or self-centered). It's because I went through almost everything that this person has gone through. Yes, I was very strong willed, which kept me from giving in to stuff like Drugs and Alcohol, but I had a close family member who abused me (I'll just say in the worst way you can think of), I dealt with many bullies (I got jumped many, many times, but with my will I always fought them off, not always winning though), Not only did I go a long time being homeless, it was caused by the women I once called Mother. (She forged my signature, walked into the bank I went to, and with the help of someone inside, wiped me out of all the money I worked hard for years to save). On top of that, every person I called my "Best Friend" growing up, has betrayed me (2 tried to break me and my wife up, 1 tried to ruin my writing career before it started, and they all stole from me), two of which ruined relationships that lasted a decade.
    With all that, I still try to make new friends.
    I still focus on my career as an Author/Poet/Ghostwriter, even with a stalker threatening me at every turn.
    and even though this post comes off fiery and resentful, as God as my witness, (oh the irony of those words J.R. lol) I hold no Hatred towards them.
    I say to you J.R., As I type each word here, I can honestly say I do not feel sorry for those that lash out instead of facing their problems.
    Yes, I'll probably get a few people mad here for those words, but honestly, I have a realization for anyone who thinks showing pity is good. No matter how horrible and tragic your life may have been, somewhere, someone has had to deal with far worse!!

    1. Powerful, Aaron. Very powerful.

    2. Well, I feel very strongly about this..You may not realize this, but I do have a bad temper...But I believe in myself, I always have, most of the time I don't even know why, but it makes me think about my words, very carefully, Even when I misinterpret something someone posts online..I always ask if they mean something else, and only after it's confirmed would I let my temper in...I know I shouldn't let it in at all, but hey, I'm only Human.

    3. I agree, it's best to find out if someone is REALLY trying to be mean to us before we lose it, but if we can avoid losing it despite that, we're better for it. Hard to do sometimes...

    4. Well, sometimes things are meant to be the way they are for a reason. It's sad to hear you had a bad experience with the old friend.

    5. thanks Craig, but I'm not sad about it at all...any of it...I believe because I faced the problem instead of running/ignoring them, I came out a better person. I would never have met my wife if I never went homeless, same could be said about my current friends...who also push me in my writing when that idiot stalker, or pressure to please start to make me doubt myself..

  4. I had a similar experience once with a high school friend. Like yours, he was a taker. This didn't matter so much when we were hanging out as teens- at the time there were things that both of us valued about the other, and we had a lot of good times together.

    However, when we became older, his being a taker took on a different, darker turn. He got addicted to opiates and began lying to everyone. He became more of a millstone around my neck than a trusted comrade and I eventually had to discontinue contact.

    Sometimes friendships are artifacts of time and space- something that can can exist only within a given time and space, and outside of that particular context are devoid of meaning. Maybe this was the case with your friend; you grew up near each other, had similar interests and thus became friends. Once these conditions changed, so did the friendship.

    Another aspect to consider; you mentioned drug addiction. Was your friend addicted to the extent that it stunted his emotional growth, while yours continued at a steady pace? I mention this because I have seen this happen countless times. I believe this had a lot to do with the case of my former friend.

    Hope you feel less angry soon.

    1. Thanks for posting this, Dave. I'll answer your question with a "yes".

      I'm not angry though...just hurt. I'm sad that my friend is going through a difficult life. See, I even still refer to him as my friend though I don't think we'll ever speak again. He was always a good person, but the burden he carries is far too heavy for him, at least where I'm concerned.

      "Sometimes friendships are artifacts of time and space- something that can can exist only within a given time and space, and outside of that particular context are devoid of meaning." Is there a truer thing that has ever been spoken?

  5. I have a friend exactly like this (I try to maintain contact, it's really one-sided) , and a plethora of people that I'd like to consider friends but I know would not lift a finger to help if I were bleeding to death within arm's reach.

    1. You sound like a giver, Siggy :)

      Many people are like how you describe the "plethora of people..." The way I see it is that many of us are really just trying to get by. In another situation, in another life, the same people could have done so much better, could have lived with a lot more love and a lot less apathy. Life, imo, is luck and chance.

  6. My hubby is my best friend. I am closer to him on a friendship level that I ever was to any of my school friends. It's just that I can be myself around him, which is a blessing!

    But. Hubby has had a couple of friends for a very long time. He grew up in this city and has a lot of history here. But since getting married... almost all of those friends have slowly disappeared. It's like once he became the first to marry, they all just didn't want to see him. I know part of that is me, I'm different than they are, I grew up in a different city, but part of that is the deep loyalty the two of us have for each other.

    And then there's hubby's best friend (outside of myself, of course.) He's been friends with this guy since 2nd grade, and when I met him he was a pleasure to be around. A little socially awkward, but fun. He knew how to enjoy himself and just hang out, and besides a few annoyances he was nice. Then something happened. This friend started becoming self absorbed and full of himself, and just a pain to be around. It's like he suddenly became a moody teenager who was actually in his 20s. Everything we do or say just makes him annoyed, and when he comes over, he expects to stay for a whole week and just move in. Back when they were kids, sure that would happen... but now that hubby's married?

    It's been a struggle, hubby wants to stay friends with him, but it becomes harder and harder. Perhaps it's just that sometimes one person grows up and the other doesn't? Maybe it's because hubby doesn't need friends like he once did because he has me, or perhaps the friend just is completely clueless and becoming the type of guy we don't want to have around...

    It's a complex situation.

    Myself? I've thrown out a lot of friendships over the years. I just don't stand by friends that are jerks or I've grown apart from. It really helps that I have the best friend I could ever want in my husband...

    1. Love is the best friendship, imo :)

      I like how you wrote this, very story-like. Easy to understand. I'm starting to see a trend, as well. Everyone seems to have a very similar take on friendship. That surprises me a bit...I was expecting more varied responses, but this is very positive because it shows, to me, that we all pretty much know instinctively what a good friend is, and that we understand friendship.

      It is very complex, very very complex.

    2. Thank you!

      And it is very complex. I remember as a kid saying to my best friends, "oh, a guy will never get in between us, we'll be friends for life! Forever and ever!"
      But when we're young, we really don't know how long forever really is. Back then I thought 30 year olds were really, really old people. Now I am 30... Who would I rather have around now? My forever friend from school or my husband?

      I feel sorry for those people that are the toxic friends, in a way. I had a friend before I met my hubby who I was very close to. It wasn't until I met hubby that I realized I wasn't her friend, I was her "pet project." She had thought I was a pretty pathetic person, socially inept, totally unfashionable, and someone she could adopt and change. It wasn't until I got away from her that I realized how toxic she was to me, she was trying to make me into someone I wasn't.

      Time heals all wounds, I suppose. We've all had that friend we really wanted to be friends with for all time, but time here is a lot longer than we think, and sometimes friends can be terrible. It's best to cut them off before they use you, or try to change you into someone you're not.

      Perhaps years from now he'll come back and apologize for what a jerk he was, after he's had a chance to grow up. Then you can forgive him and renew a friendship.

    3. That's very sad about being a pet project. I know people I like to help when they're in trouble, but I never look at them like that. They're humans!

      Psychology heals all wounds :P

      I don't hold out hope that he'll ever contact me again. I wasn't high on his priorities list before this, I really doubt I'll be after. That's okay though.

  7. I'm sorry for your lost friendship. It's a you can't go home again syndrome.

    1. That sounds like a good term for it, Mari!

  8. loosing a friend specially childhood ones is not an easy deal.. but sometimes the relation get so strained that its better to shut it off.. and move on...
    even when u don't feel like doing it, u have to.

    its better to leave him with lots of good memories rather than spoiling all with more bad ones.. !!

    1. But then it's kind of like thinking he's dead, isn't it? I've thought a lot about preserving old memories, and that's kind of how it feels to me...not saying that's bad.

    2. I think it's not bad at all..
      there is no point in remembering bad memories and grousing and squawking every now n then.

      Its a hard time.. but it shall pass..
      don't be too hard on yourself.

  9. I know that's tough, but honestly, life's too short for shitty "friendships." Hang in there, amigo.

    1. That's a lesson I learned a long time ago. It kept me out of a lot of trouble in high school and after. I've seen others get into and stay in bad relationships and friendships because they were afraid to move on.

      Thanks for stopping by, Sean :)

  10. Wow, this is wonderfully written. I like your blog and it is only my first visit! It was encouraging reading this though. It is difficult to lose a childhood friend. I've had this happen to me and I think when we try to rekindle old relationships, we have to take into account they are the same person, but changed. We have to enter the relationship open-minded because we never know if it will work out as it did before.

    And although it is never easy to let someone go, I believe at that time and in that moment, your friend was perfect for you in your life. Now that you have grown and gained wisdom, there will be others who will be perfect for you at this time. If in some way life allows your and your friend's road to cross, great. However, if that never happens again you can live with confidence that you tried all you could and while it lasted, it was great.

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Ashley.

      Funny thing is (maybe not so funny, but true) that now I've struck out on every single friend I've tried to get back in touch with. I know and keep in touch with only one person I knew when I was younger, a guy from high school who, I think, is probably more like me than anyone else I ever knew, but we've never really been "out of touch" but for a few months here and there. I think I can close the book on my past and move forward...

      I'm getting a bit tired, I hope that above paragraph makes sense :D

    2. Haha, yes. It makes sense. You're welcome. I'm glad you wrote this (I know I'm not the only one now).

      I find that rekindling old relationships usually don't work out too well. Perhaps it's time for us all to 'close the book' and move towards a brighter future.

  11. I haven't read all of the comments here, but I did read your post. What do I have to say? In my humble opinion you have made your apologies at every juncture; there is little else you can do, I am sure that your apologies were genuine. It is difficult to lose friends no matter how it occurs, being a sponge for all their dysfunctions is not friendship; it is being a doormat so to speak. I feel you can walk with your head held high knowing that you have been all you could be in this case. You are honest and true to yourself J.R. that is where you need to be.
    I hate to see you hurt JR, my thoughts are with you. <3

  12. The only thing you can do is to be the kind of friend you would like to have. If the friend can't do the same, it is sad but there is nothing you can do. You can't go back into the past. All you can do is try to catch up to the present. I'm sorry for this loss but I see nothing more you could have possibly done.

  13. I've been through this,too and sometimes friends will surprise you and it is better to cut your losses. Sorry this happened. It is really nice that you understand it more than him and that you still look at him as a friend. You have a kind heart! I think a good friendship that is lasting is sometimes hard to find, but they do exist. I have a couple of friends who live far away and even though it has been years, the internet just keeps us always in contact and when we meet in person, it is just like yesterday. JR, it might be tough now, but I know that down the road you will one day find something even better and more fulfilling. Take care!

  14. Hi mate I have had relationships the same, I have been like some giant sponge for their emotional backage, stress and woes but when the tables turn and I need help different story!

    1. It'd be good if we humans could all get on the same page ;)

  15. I guess some people absolutley 'love' to be portrayed as a victim and thus trying to wallow in self-pity. On and off in my life, such people have crossed my path and it becomes extremely toxic in their presence. Sometimes I think that one is better off without such people.

    Joy always,

  16. Sometimes it hurts very much when a dear friend becomes cross for no reason at all and inspite of much proding she doesn't tell the reason.Oh, it is such a punishment! Dear Nova,your article tells much more than its words.

  17. Sad, but when there is disrespect from a friend its better that an incident put you apart now than later. In some cases we must avoid hitting ourselves for our ords for when we see clearly that "it is the other who has a problem not our words in which they see a problem" Wish you better friends :) I too have known friends for whom we do a lot and then they are desrespectful and not care for us when we need them. It is always better to have shed off such friendships although the events leading to it may hurt for long.
    Time heals. Btw check this out. might be useful next time ;)

  18. I can relate. I've had friends like that as well and it's always a painful realization when you have to let them go. I used to be the one that always had to initiate everything if I wanted them to hang out with me. I was always the one expending the effort and then when they saw others they would rather hang out with they ditched me - until they had a blow up with their preferred friends then they come calling me. I put up with a lot of nonsense when I was young. Stuff I wouldn't dream of doing now.

    Great post.

  19. Hey J.R. Sorry to hear about how things went south. Friendship is such a complicated thing. People say that how we socialize says a lot about ourselves, but I think friendships help us to grow in a lot of ways, too. Particularly in terms of social intelligence.

    I found some interesting information on the Confucian concept of friendship as a relationship involving fidelity, or loyalty, as well as joy, or enjoyment. Which says a lot to me about abusive friendships - they are not true friendships at all. Sort of helps put a lot of our personal relationships into perspective, lol.

    Anyways, I meant to make this post ages ago, sorry it took me so long. Cheers!


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