Not a good friend

So it turns out I might not be a good friend.

I’m not really sure at this point. I’m looking into it. But I have a sneaking suspicion that I might not be a good friend.

I’ve suspected it for a while now.

Actually, what I suspect is that I might not be an easy person to be friends with. I might have high expectations. They might be so high as to fall beyond a normal mortal’s reach. I might expect people to understand things they could never understand, to know what to say in situations where words just can’t help, to support me when I’m not even sure what that support should look like.

I used to consider myself a good friend. I felt I was “there” for people and I really appreciated when people were “there” for me. I was appreciative of my friends and I always, always apologized when I fucked shit up. I thought I was a good friend and I believed I had good friends.

And then, one by one, my friends fell by the wayside. Actually, I pushed them by wayside, because… well because of a lot of things, most of which I have a hard time articulating. I suppose it came down to expecting something, feeling hurt and disappointed when that something wasn’t offered, and finally, refusing to make myself vulnerable by expecting anything from them ever again. When you don’t expect anything from people, it’s hard to define their relationship with you.

Of course there were things that came between me and my friends, things that made it harder for me to give what needed to be given. Things that made me need more than most people were willing, or able, to give. First it was depression, which pushed a wedge between some friends and tore gaping holes between myself and others. When my best friend from high school was unable to understand my depression, and ended up saying the absolute wrong thing, I showed her the door (literally) and never opened it for her again. We never really talked again after that.

Once my depression was under control it was infertility and loss that started to come between me and my friends. After my ectopic, my friends never seemed to know what to say and I didn’t feel they were there for me in the ways I had hoped for. I told them about this blog, in hopes that they could better understand what I was going through. I ended up regretting that invitation very much, as first my friends took offense to things I wrote and later I took offense to their responses to my posts. At this point I’ve asked them to promise me that they won’t read my blog anymore and I believe they have kept that promise. At the very least I know that they can’t bring anything up to me without admitting they read it when they assured me they wouldn’t.

Yes, when my friends weren’t there for me in the ways I wanted–and needed–them to be, I pulled away. It just hurt too much to want a certain kind of support from a friend and find it completely lacking, so I decided that I would stop wanting anything from them at all. Except when you don’t have any expectations of someone, it’s hard to invest in them. The friendship becomes futile.

Lately though, I’ve been put into positions with some of these same friends, where they’ve needed support and I’ve found myself unsure of how to give it to them. Recently a friend had a really bad blow at work; she has worked for a politician for over ten years and said politician had run for a big office and not only did this politician lose but lost by a landslide and I knew my friend would just be devastated (as she would be losing her job) and I wanted to reach out to her and I didn’t really know what to say. So I called and I tried to reach out and there were so many points in the conversation where it was clear that I was saying the completely wrong thing and I felt so bad because I knew I was bungling it all up, and I started to kind of shut down because I didn’t want to mess up even more. Since then I’ve wanted to ask her how she feels about all of it, kind of check in on her, but I’ve been too scared to say anything because I don’t know if she wants me to, so I just wait and hope she’ll say something first and assume that if she doesn’t that means she doesn’t want to talk about it.

And then I was thinking that maybe that is exactly how my friends felt after my ectopic, or during my struggles with secondary infertility. Maybe they didn’t bring it up because they didn’t want to bungle things, or didn’t know if I wanted to talk about it, so they just didn’t say anything at all, expecting that I’d bring it up if I needed to. Except I never did bring it up, either because I was also worried they’d say the wrong thing (and make me feel worse) or I thought they didn’t want to hear me talk about it any more. It was a really eye opening for me and it made me wonder if I’d been pushing my friends away for the wrong reasons, if I’d been holding them to standards that I myself couldn’t live up to when the tables were turned.

In the past years I’ve met some new friends I’m desperate for these relationships not to implode like the other ones have. I’m hoping that I’ve learned from past friendship failures so that I can make different decisions this time around. If there are every misunderstandings or hurt feelings I’m trying to invest MORE into a friendship instead of stepping away from it. It’s hard to make myself even more vulnerable if some part of me feels threatened, but I’m starting to see that stepping away to protect myself is what leads to the eventual destruction of my friendships.

At the same time, I sometimes wonder, how am I supposed to know when to hold my friends to my expectations and when am I supposed to let things slide? I guess I have to take things one issue at a time, feeling out each situation and deciding how to handle it. When I’m not sure what to do I’m trying to sit with my uncertainty, to not respond rashly in a way I might regret. I figure that I should put some time between myself and a situation that I’m unsure of, I can better determine how to proceed.

I have to admit, it’s been difficult to realize that maybe my faltering friendships are my fault. While I know that stepping away from some friends was the best thing for me at the time, I wonder if I was too quick to leave other relationships by the wayside. At this point I know there is no point in regretting the choices I’ve made, I just want to make sure I learn from my mistakes so that my current and future friendships don’t share the same fate.

I want to be a good friend and it’s alarming to realize I might not know how to do that. I hope at 33, I’m not too old to figure this shit out.

How do you determine what to expect of your friends? Have you ever felt that maybe you’ve expected more from a friend than they were able to give?

5 responses

  1. I used to pride myself on being the best friend anyone could ever have. I know with IF and my struggles, some of my friendships faltered. Some of them grew stronger and I even gained some new friends. I lost a friend of 15 or 16 years specifically because of IF. We haven’t spoken in 3 years, though we did text last January. She recently friended me on FB, but I’m not sure we’ll ever truly get back to being BFF’s.

    I’ve also noted as I’ve gotten older and my friends have started their families or moved away, sometimes it’s just hard to maintain those friendships. I know it’s possible, but sometimes it’s just a lot. You’re probably a better friend than you’re giving yourself credit for being. I don’t believe for a second you’re too old to figure this out 🙂 You’re never to old for friendship or learning how to be a good friend! HUGS lady!

  2. I have expected more from a friend than they were willing to give. In my 20’s I did a lot of that and I was selfish.

    Since then and since what has happened to me with my daughter, I’ve realized that friends are hard to come by. I know this is not uncommon as people in the special needs community often are isolated. It takes someone special to ride it out with what I go through with many hospitalizations and my life which is very, very different that women who have typical children. I’ve found two very good friends who have chosen to go on that ride with me, and only one has a daughter with special needs. I have acquaintances and people who are kind, but most people aren’t into being friends with someone who lives their lives according to how healthy their child is that day. It’s exhausting for them. I can’t be relied on to call them often or go on play dates often. I can’t be in charge of any thing in my moms group because who knows when we will be staying at the hospital. I do what I can and when I can, and they accept and love me even though I have limitations right now. Most people don’t.

    I’ve learned who cares enough to be a support or just let me know they’re there, as opposed to people who really can’t be troubled with it or have their own life on their minds. Family is included in this. Most of mine don’t take the time to care and I’m beginning to accept that.

    I’ve learned that quality and not quantity is important. I’ve got a few who have truly ridden this journey with me, and really only a couple of family members, and although it’s not what I’d like, I’ve come to understand that most people just can’t ride this out with me and I’m accepting it more every day. It brings me peace to lower my expectations.

  3. I think my idea of friendship and what that means has changed. Or, I guess I’ve had to change it because my life has evolved in weird ways that have made it hard to stay close to friends. We still get together sometimes but because I don’t text, it’s a challenge as almost all my friends just text, and text often. It’s something I think about a lot. Many of my friends I’d say are more like family now in that I know if I need them, they’ve got my back absolutely, but we don’t just chat over coffee very often or even more than once a year.

  4. Friendships are difficult, both when you need a friend, and when you have a friend in need. And sometimes we do things we think will help (assuming that they’ll let you know if they need to talk, for example), not wanting to bother them (that’s classic thinking for me, and I constantly have to remind myself to stop it), when if you’re on the other end, it feels as if your friend doesn’t care. We all learn how to be better friends as we get older, I think, and as we experience more. Don’t beat yourself up about this.

    (And I think you’re prompting a post from me. I’ll let you know if/when I post it).

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