Friend? Frienemy?

Friend? Frienemy?

How do you respond when you realize that your friend may be more of a frienemy or even that what you once viewed as a symbiotic relationship with a pal feels more parasitic? And not in the beneficial fish that eat algae off of the gills of other, larger fish kind of parasitic. Breaking up is hard to do. And my experiences have shown me that breaking up with a girlfriend is much harder for me than breaking up with any boyfriend. Try breaking up with a best friend – THAT was felt in residual aftershocks for a long time after the massive implosion and meltdown.

I received contact this week from a broken up girlfriend. We haven’t spoken in probably four years. She certainly put herself out there in contacting me and suggested that we reconnect, even implying a future of intimate friendship again. She is a good woman, and a thoughtful person, and I am incredibly touched by the gesture and sincerity in her communication.

Epimetheus I am not (and I don’t fancy myself to be such a known fool as him, but I’m sure others would debate this) so my hindsight isn’t always 20/20 but as much as I felt I needed to leave our friendship for reasons not even relevant here, I am certain that I was just as complicit in my part of our faltered friendship. But our friendship ended for a reason, right? I have not been the person who fights to keep people in my life, even when I invested emotional, personal, and physical portions of myself in the person and relationship. Generally, when I’m done, I’m done. And I know I have been judged harshly by others critiquing me for my chosen way of responding to such matters. So I am generally unsure how I feel about bringing people back in my life once they have faded or were cut away… a hard lesson learned at an extremely high cost has made me ever since wary of second chances. Fool me once, fool me twice, blah, blah, blah, blah.

With the people we keep close, there are a myriad of unspoken agreements and expectations. We may imply a certain comfortability or dynamic in the relationship, or bond over a common enemy or even on a philosophy. Situational friends are, in my experience, the more difficult friendships to navigate. With these unspoken expectations and assumed agreements, boundaries can easily cross and feelings hurt. Sometimes a person in the friendship also takes on a role “victim,” “strong one,” “wise one,” that I (or she) never asked the other to take on.

So, are we better off without them then?

(…to be continued)

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2 Comments

  1. April 16, 2010 / 10:50 am

    Good question. Better off with or without? I say 'it depends'. Sigh, of course, Kate, but ON WHAT?

    I have had some similar experiences with former friends. Sometimes I was better off with and sometimes I was better off without. The only commonality in those 'better off with' re-freindships is that we spent time talking openly about the old relationship–what worked, what didn't. What our expectations are now. Without that, in my cases, there was just too much baggage and sometimes a large elephant in the middle of the room.

    Good luck, whatever you decide. You'll know if it's the right decision or not when you are quiet enough to hear that small voice inside that always tells us the truth.

  2. Jennifer
    April 16, 2010 / 2:23 pm

    Thanks Kate! I've had mixed results as well, but generally my re-friendships end up like my gnocchi attempts – a noble attempt but mostly an exercise in frustration. And, yes, that little voice — that I so often have ignored in the past and only recently quieted myself enough to sometimes hear it.

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