How do you gauge friendships?

Has this ever happened to you?

I had a rather strange situation happen to me yesterday. A friend, lets call her Erica, sent me a rather long venting email. In it she described, more or less, an emotional bullet point account of some instances in which she claims I made her feel, "stupid and emotionally deflated'. Now, I take no responsibility whatsoever in how my words make someone feel unless I am being verbally abusive, overly cynical or just plain mean, which I was not. In instances cited, she mentioned asking my opinion on something, "Do you like this?", "No," I said as matter of factly as I could. No venom or spite in my tone, just a 'no'. I get that people are not used to hearing no anymore, but I don't see it as a curse word. And just because I say no does not make your opinion any less valid. I don't have or want that type of control over you. I would also think any other person in the world would be strong enough to know that.

I asked Erica many, many times to call so we could discuss this verbally, but she ignored my queries. In her letter she cited other instances which were pretty much the same type of thing. Erica went on to say that I had a choice. I could 1) Tell her to fuck off, or 2) I could 'tone it down' and then we could remain friends.

Although you are only getting my perspective on this, I'm sure you can understand my silly logical brain. Really? (which is another word she criticized me on using) You and only you get to form the premise on which our friendship continues? You get to set up an ultimatum? That genuinely shocked me. I've never had a friend in my entire life do that. I guess what was also shocking was this glib expectation that this was perfectly reasonable and that I would just fall right into line with it all. It was the most blatantly one sided friendship situation I've ever encountered, and I was offended by that.

So I wrote her back (in hindsight I should have insisted on a call) not using choice one or two, but saying what I wanted to say, which I felt was sharing whatever blame in this imaginary situation there was, and being amazingly encouraging. Didn't matter, I didn't use choice one or two, so whatever I wrote was void upon sending.

Apparently she needs a brake from me.

Did you get that phrasing? She needs a brake from me.

In all the reactions I could of had, that actually made me laugh. I think it's more the arrogance of it than anything else. I am not going to begin to justify myself or my ways as a person to anyone, and never in my life have I had to. Looking back on the year plus that we were in each other's company, I think one thing she didn't like was me asking her to explain things. "What's the reason you don't like it?" or, "Why do you think that's ugly, I don't." Gathering information to understand someone isn't the same as being confrontational or thinking they are 'stupid'. I suppose she cared not to differentiate.

I understand everyone has their quirks, myself included, and believe me, I've dealt with quite a few from Erica, and understanding a person's quirks, letting them know about them and saying you accept them (in whatever form) or do not, to me is different than saying 'change yourself or we cant be friends'. Does that make sense?

I'm not mad at Erica. To be mad means you care, and at this point I have no emotion invested in this at all. In any account I think I'm done with this whole thing. I wasted an entire day thinking about this and I think that's a lot of time. I'm just one friend short today. I'm fine with that. Well, I actually did hang out with someone fun yesterday and they seemed kind of cool, so maybe I'm braking even on this whole thing. Thats encouraging to think!

Has anyone been in a similar situation with a 'friend'? Please share :)

22 comments:

  1. Yep, it happened to me too ... you are not alone. I didn't get a letter but a long radio silence that left me wondering, when I pushed the issue, my "friend" also needed a break. I wasn't angry either, but I was hurt for a very long time. This was a friendship I deeply valued and sadly it left me very mistrustful for a long time. Best attitude "her loss, not yours" and move on.

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  2. Sounds like this "Erica" wants a one-sided friendship. I was in the process of building a new friendship (and I only have 2 people in my life I truly call "friends") and this happened to me:

    She was supposed to complete a project for me and dropped the ball. When I politely explained to her that I know "life gets in the way sometimes", it still wasn't fair to me "for not responding to multiple emails and a telephone call".

    She didn't like me being frank with her and immediately dropped me, and has been rude ever since.

    That's how I knew it wasn't truly going to be a friendship- because "friends" should be able to praise, and CRITIQUE your actions, if they're asked for or not.

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  3. Not me personally, but certainly friends of mine who has. Friendships that has only worked as long as one of them get to set the tone and when the other have questioned that in any way, well, then the kind of e-mail you have got seem to be quite typical.

    I'm sorry that you had to go thought it- such things are never fun.

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  4. I've definitely had toxic friendships before. I had a group of friends in middle school that was essentially "led" by a girl we'll call J, and she made everyone's lives completely miserable. She would constantly make up reasons to be mad at us and wouldn't tell us what they were - or allow anyone else to tell us, or really even speak to us while she was mad at us. So we'd just have to grovel for a week, which is what it sounds like this girl wants from you - confirmation that you need her.

    J really sucked.

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  5. Being a forthright speaker myself, I feel what you are going though, people are too thin skinned anymore and to quote and oft used quote, " You can't handle the truth!" is truer now for most than ever before. Yes, I could work on my delivery a bit, but better people know where they stand with me.....your 'friend' was a joy sucker. I've had a few. One sided friendships....I've let a few of those lapse into the abyss too. I now have a small, core group of friends who love me no matter what and who will risk telling me the truth no matter what. Man, that is priceless!

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  6. I'd walk away from this one. Sounds like she's trying to dictate the terms of the friendship to be entirely hers. I also agree that people aren't used to hearing the word NO anymore. More people need to hear it and more people need to use it.

    This has happened to me before and I simply don't waste time on it. Friends are people who've got your back, can give and take constructive criticism, are honest, loyal, reliable, loving, and kind. Anyone who doesn't measure up to that doesn't get friendship status with me.

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  7. Good on you. Doesn't sound like much of a loss there, really (oops...I guess using that word is rude? ;) My brain functions in funny ways and often I need extreme clarification on what someone means; it can strike people who don't know me, or care to, the wrong way a lot of the time...especially if they don't care to try explaining or helping me break it down. I've met enough awesome people over the years to know that there are many who are willing to do that. The ones who didn't care? Well, ciao!

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  8. It doesn't sound like much a friendship to me! My first best friend, at the ripe age of 5 years old, was like this...we had to play what she wanted, or she was going to go home, etc. I finally stopped being friends with her because it was just ridiculous and since then I don't waste time on being friends with people who aren't friendly...because isn't that the point? Being petty is just a waste of time for all involved and "Erica" sounds pretty petty.

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  9. Yeah. I am too old for that nonsense. And, not ashamed of it.

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  10. So am I, Nicki.

    Thanks for the comments all, it makes me feel less like an anti social troll and more like what I thought in that this situation was just strange and petty.

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  11. Bless your heart. I had similar sort of thing with my in-laws- my husband is close to his parents. I used to enjoy going to their family home, basking in the beautiful countryside and engaging in spirited discussions.

    Until the day my MIL told me I "ruin the weekends for everyone," and told me I should be more like them (that is, it's threatening if someone has different ideas about something and I should think like them or not come around.) my husband told me they find me aggressive and rude.

    Really? I'd never heard such a thing before, been called rude or aggressive. Given how well I thought I got along with them, it knocked the wind out of me until I talked to my mom. I told her all about it. She's not one of those moms who lies to their kids and tells them their sh*t don't stink. She actually LAUGHED when I told her all about it and she said it's a shame they're so threatened by a woman with ideas, but to find other people to be around. And I have. And it's good.

    But you're right. Some people just want constant validation, they don't want to be told no, or to hear an opinion that isn't their own. Pity. What a narrow world they must live in.

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  12. (In our case, I think the problem is one part "narrow-minded atheist liberals who toe the party line," one part cultural differences.)

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  13. Sounds like Erica was looking for an entourage not friends. I am a straight shooter if you want a real opinion ask me if you want candy coated falseness you have the wrong gal. That being said living in Minnesota were nice is the rule I don't always fit in and have had some falling outs with people who can't handle the truth or don't want to hear an honest opinion.
    Steph I am sorry that your inlaws treated you so shabbily that is really awful. My inlaws are the nicest but my family on the other hand... well lets just say that my husband did not get the better end of the bargain.

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  14. I've experienced both sides of that situation & I can tell you it's no fun either way.

    *Devil's advocate comment* It's awkward being friends with someone that is so sensitive you feel you have to self sensor yourself for fear of offending them, but on the other hand it's exhausting (and sometimes soul destroying)being around someone that continually disagrees with you - you feel like you're always on the offensive, and because your opinions are always questioned, it seems like your own opinions are somehow less valid if you can't (or won't)argue effectively.

    Some people can't tell the difference between a person disagreeing with them & a person judging them. Perhaps your friend falls into that category.

    Having said that it was wrong of her to try & dictate the terms of your relationship.

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  15. I can totally understand that Lila Leeds, and respect that with sensitivity, to a point. But an actual discussion is something adults do, not harbor resentment especially when the other person has no clue as to why. You can't change anything if you don't know there is a problem.

    And also it holds less weight I this person has a chronic habit of 'letting people go' which this gal does. I just guess her tolerance for people with different personalities isn't as high as mine.

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  16. Yep, that's what adults do & I knew I could offer you a different point of view & you wouldn't be offended.

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  17. Your friend sounds like the 'my way or the highway' type. I'm afraid my instinctive reaction would have been choice 1) particularly if she gave you no chance to discuss it sensibly. Anyway if you had chosen 2) you would have always been on pins for fear of upsetting her. It would also have put her in a dominent positition as she would know she was in control of the friendship.
    Personally I have never seen the point of asking for someones opinion if you only want them to agree with your own!

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  18. I had a similar experience with one of my dance teachers. Yes, I did consider her a friend, but had always been mindful of what I shared. Over the past few weeks I noticed the conversations with my other dance mates becoming more intimate with a lot of information being bandied around about people that weren't present. I slowly weaned myself away. I am there just for dance after all. I was asked to stay after class one evening and was duly questioned about my quick departures. I explained I was there for dance and had other things to do afterwards. My teacher explained that she was bothered that she couldn't "read" me. I responded that she wasn't in my life to read me, just teach me. I have spent the past year being "truthfully tactful". Meaning, I pause before saying no.
    Angela

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  19. I like that- "I pause before saying no."

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  20. I thought this was apt:
    "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent." -Eleanor Roosevelt

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  21. Oh honey, yes. My Erica and I are related and we were friends since we were 11. She didn't speak to me for a year because she asked me to do something which I did, but she didn't think I did. She finally sent me an email telling me why she was "so done". Try as I might to be diplomatic, I took the bait and allowed myself to play into this unnecessary drama. I've since decided that it's better to focus on me than on why "she hate me". Then I posted this: http://crazedsewer.blogspot.com/2011/04/challenges.html

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  22. Shelley,

    Your "friend" was never your friend. She may not have even been an aquaintance, if her behavior came as a total surpise. People like her don't want to be known by other people, they want to be in control of other people.

    It sounds like she's a drama queen and you are lucky to have been involved with her drama for such a short time. In my situation I have a sister who is a drama queen and I consciously decided last year to opt out of her drama. Life has been so peaceful since that decision, I wish I'd made it years ago. (And I'm sure my friends wish I had, too. Although, one may be disappointed: She once told me my family dramas reminded her of an episode of Dallas! I had to admit there was something to her appraisal. Oh, how we laughed!)

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