Ended a Friendship, Didn't Die: About Hard Choices
It took five years and several failed attempts to walk away. Why it took so long you ask? Fear. Fear that I was losing something I'd never find again.
To start this off I will tell the truth; I was madly, deeply, and desperately in love with this "friend". Early on I was assured of his "nonexistent" feelings for me. But his actions in the years following as I tried to just "be friends" were really good at keeping me hoping. I was failing miserably to see that I was just his "comfort friend". The one person who no matter what would be there when he was bored, lonely, or in need of being reminded that he was just this amazing human being...
Now you're probably wondering what pushed me to FINALLY cut him from my life. It's as simple as just getting to be very annoyed by his existence. And really bothered by how foolish I must have looked all this time. Luckily there was no real explosive mess to this friendship. No awkward sexual encounters, no significant others hurt by imagined cheating, not even a kiss... All the mess was solely with me. Crying was a normal reaction to literally anything he did, said, or didn't say. The final straw? Having an amazing night out with real friends ruined by the thought of him, and the subsequent sting of an unanswered text (a normal act on his part. sometimes it took days...)
I spent five years in a supportive, loyal, friend role to be treated like an acquaintance. Invites were nonexistent or last minute and usually only if I happened to reach out. Things happening in my life did not garner genuine interest (if any). And at the height of my depression I could not call on him for comfort. That there was a big issue for me. As someone who would move heaven and earth to be there for a friend, my very soul knew he wouldn't do the same. I went to shows, I checked in, I sent love for lost pets, I hated old girlfriends who treated him how I would have never... All to be put back in my box until he needed comfort again.
I've already written a post on toxic relationships, how they can harm you, and why they should end. So of course as I was writing it I felt a little like a fraud because I was aware of my own screwed up friendship and did not take the steps to remedy it. It was one of those instances where I was going to need outside help. I needed other people's eyes on the situation to let me know that it was indeed as screwed as I was thinking. These other people? None other than his closest friends. They had been watching, and apparently hurting with me all this time. They saw me being used, lied to, and strung along and despite him being their friend, they'd grown to think of me in the same way enough to want to protect me.
"I've seen him do some really horrible things. He's not such a nice guy. You don't deserve to have those things done to you."
"Call me when you get over it. It's pretty pathetic to watch."
With their words and the years of waiting getting excruciatingly long, annoyed became the name of the game. I made digs and jokes at his expense without even thinking about it. Things he did that I used to either not mind, or love, garnered eye rolls and hands thrown up in irritable surrender. When I did finally end it, it hurt nowhere near as much as I'd feared it would. I thought he would come around eventually. That he was just confused and unsure. And that my feelings for him would never come back for another person. But the more irritated I got with him just being around, the more obviously stupid that theory sounded.
I told a mutual friend about the lack of pain and their answer was, "You've done all the hurting already."
I did still lose someone I considered a great friend. While the sting wasn't immediate, I did cry a bit in the day or two to follow. But as my mom says, get one good cry then move on.
I'm not 100% sure why I wanted to write about this. I think it was something like showing people that this happens, and it's ok, it's a workable problem. To reach out and say that friendship shouldn't hurt. It really shouldn't be so confusing and frustrating. And that a problem can only be skirted but so much. Also that those of us who think we're smart enough to get away from these issues can be trapped by them. Hearing things like, "You're my favorite." and getting hugs that seem a little too long or close...they effectively blur judgement. They make an "I think I like you" sound like a "I do like you, I'm just figuring it out."
I would never tell you to actively guard against all your possible friends because maybe there could be a bad egg in there. But what I will say is take a stand when you sense it. Bring it to their attention and be clear about the fact that the friendship will be over if they can't respect how you feel.
The post on toxic friendships is here. Check it out, and you'll see that it even pays to nip some relationships in bud, before they really start to hurt, before they threaten to ruin your life.