How do I get past the trust issues brought about from an abrupt, unexplained end to a close friendship of three and a half years?
posted by WCityMike to human relations (34 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I really couldn't post about this earlier; it's a bit intimidating to post about emotionally sensitive issues to AskMefi. It makes me get a much more healthy respect for the courage of people who asked about issues in their lives much more sensitive than what I ask about below, and what I ask about below is more than a bit tough for me. My hat's off to them. Anyway, *deep breath*, here we go.
In March 2007, my best friend of four years abruptly stopped speaking to me, with no explanation at all. I initially made a few calls, and then sent four or five e-mail messages over the months between then and now, encouraging him to argue out whatever he needed to with me ... or at the very least, to tell me what was going on. At this point, I can't do anything more to encourage a response without feeling like a stalker, and, indeed, I'm aware that there's a line both of my dignity and of his privacy that I don't want to cross. So as November 2007 rolls in, I'm coming to terms with the fact there's nothing more I can do to find out what the hell happened. So the friendship is utterly gone, now, and moreover, I will never know why.
There are two issues I'm having difficulty with in coping with this.
First, I'm finding that dealing with this is made significantly more difficult by the fact that I have no explanation, no reason why this friendship that meant a great deal to me was ended. Even were the explanation to have been a ridiculous one, it would have helped to have known, say, that wearing a striped argyle sock was the causative factor. But in the last two e-mails, I asked him to at the very least share his reasoning for the friendship's termination, promising that it'd not serve as the prelude to an argument; that even if I didn't accept it, I'd nevertheless nod and move on — I asked him to at least tell me this, so that I could find some peace over this and move onward. The silence merely continued. I canvassed my memories of the time intensely, as well as those e-mail messages I have from that time. I can't find anything that remotely could be causative — neither something loud and garish nor something subtle. It is not due to anything solely technical in nature, and, given that he and I take the same subway route and a month ago my departing train passed by him standing on the platform, I can safely assume he did not die, get struck with amnesia, or fall into a coma. So ... I'm not going to even get a reason. It's hard enough that the friendship ended; it's made much harder by the fact that the reason why it ended will never be revealed to me.
Second, this has placed me in a situation where I need to start creating some new social circles from scratch. For years, I had needed to do this anyway, but now, I find myself in my early thirties with literally no in-person friendships whatsoever, and no social activities. A pathetic state of affairs, but for many years, I worked at a bad job that sapped my energy by day's end, and during all of that time and more, I had uncorrected sleep apnea that was de-evolving me to the point where I could have starred in a George Romero film quite easily ("braiiiiiiiiiiiiiins") i was a zombie, get it? yuk yuk. I've already asked for and gotten advice here about (as well as having read others' Q&As here about) the logistics of discovering new places to be social with like-minded people in person; where to go is not a problem (I think, at least for the moment). The problem, it turns out, seems to lie with the emotions that are necessary for forming new friendships.
In the last 10 years, there have been only four people in whom I invested anything more than a very light acquaintance-level of interaction, and, unfortunately, all four of those people in some way betrayed those friendships. As each person hurt me (these four were sequential in nature, not concurrent), it became progressively harder to open myself up the next time around. Now, it feels impossible; I can't seem to lower my own shields.
(BTW, while I understand that an outside observer's first thought, looking at a pattern of four ended friendships with Person A, is to attribute the cause to some unknown deed or behavior of Person A, that being the only constant. But after a lot of careful self-analysis and thorough analysis by a level-headed out-of-town friend, that is not the case here; the "betrayals" were different in nature and were all very much acts of the respective other person.)
As a result of those four ... well, my mind knows that in order to find both friendship and romance, I need to (a) interact with people, and (b) should I be able to do that, be the relaxed-likeable me with them, not the guarded-prick me. However, my emotions are now firmly convinced that if the penny came up heads four times in a row, it will come up heads the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, etc. ad nauseum time in a row, and they do not want to expose vulnerability or invest trust anymore; they want to go home, close the shades, and turn on the boob tube — forevermore. My mind, however, knows precisely where that ends up, in a future I don't want for myself. So my mind and emotions are working at cross-purposes, instead of together.
So I find my questions are these: first, how do I deal with the fact that I'll never know what ended this friendship? Second, by what techniques can I convince the emotional part of me, which apparently is not listening to my rational mind, that it's not a one-to-one ratio for being vulnerable and getting hurt, and that I can trust the next person to come along, and the person after that, and the person after that?
Thanks in advance.