Letting go of a friend...
December 24, 2009 9:44 AM   Subscribe

One of my closest friends and I have been growing increasingly apart for the last couple of years. I am perfectly ok with this and understand that as people grow older relationships change. However, for the last year or so his behavior has grown increasingly intolerable and after a recent argument I am wondering if its worth just getting rid of the relationship altogether....Apologies in advance for the length of this post which includes facebook drama, jealous girlfriend and tales of extreme introversion.

My friend X and I met a number of years ago while we were both in high school. Initially we shared many things in common but as we have gotten older things (not surprisingly) have changed. I have no problems with our relationship changing, but it seems that for X things never happen to go his way and accordingly he has become a very draining and negative person. Worst of all he is always projecting this negative attitude to others especially me. Whereas I am the type of person that thinks could do everything X is always playing it safe and advising me to do the same. I do not mind getting his point of view on things but throughout the years he has always discouraged me from taking risks or doing the things that ended up being beneficial for me such as making music or leaving my job and looking for a better one.

As his outlook in life becomes increasingly limited mine expands....On top of this, X has grown up to become extremely introverted and I am (was?) his only real friend. For the last two years or so it has become extremely difficult just to get a simple conversation going over the phone, as with him is either hit or miss, either I catch him on a good day or he just has nothing to say. Furthermore when I have any problems or major decisions, he either has nothing to say about them (his usual response is "it is what it is"), or just never supports me in taking risks or following my dreams.

I have grown to understand that this is how X is. I have therefore made new more positive friends, usually look for advice with other people and for the most part have limited our relationship to talking on the phone two or three times a week (when he feels like talking that is). X got into a relationship about a year ago and that has kept him occupied so for the most part this has worked out fine aside from little issues that we have here and there....however the following happened yesterday:

I gave X a call and found him to be even more reticent than usual. A few minutes after we started talking he starts giving me an attitude and I am like ok X what is wrong? Well it turns out that about a month ago a couple of female friends came from Florida and asked us to have dinner with them. We have been friends with these girls for about 5 or 6 years now and there has never been any type of romantic bond between us as they just happened to be part of our circle of friends. These girls also happened to be in relationships/engaged at the time so it was definitely a very friendly meet in a family restaurant. During dinner I took some pictures of the group and there were a couple of funny pictures where X tried hiding his face and so did the girls. Two days ago I posted up the pictures in facebook thinking that they were going to be pretty funny and worse comes to worse someone was going to "Dude I look horrible in those pics, please take them down". This was the reaction from everybody in the group except X who was extremely mad at me because his girlfriend got extremely jealous after seeing the pics and not recognizing who the girls were. Apparently, because X is hiding his face this makes him look "guilty" of something and she was very mad at him for this. I told X, dude you can tell her these were your friends, and those friends can corroborate their identity, X does not agree with me, saying the pics look offensive and that it was insensitive of me to put them up.

I offered to take the pictures down and asked him if there was anything else he needed from me and he said nothing. We then hung up apparently in bad terms.

I am extremely disappointed with the turn of events. If X had just asked me to take the pictures down without giving me an attitude or talking to me in accusatory language I would have just apologized and obliged with the request....I feel that this latest argument gives me the best opportunity to do away with the relationship altogether. However, X and myself are part of the same social circle (which at this point mostly talks to me),my family is friends with him, as I am friends with his family.....I am not sure what is the best course of action, do I just stop talking to him (probably causing issues/friction as we are liable to come across each other in some way) or is there some way to further distance myself while keeping civil (and for this I guess I would have to apologize to him, for putting the pictures up, which I think is ludicrous but perhaps necessary)...Also I realize things cannot possibly be all that black and white..X does have some positive features (which my anger at him does not allow me to remember) and he has been there for me in tough times (especially after a painful break-up about two years ago)

Metafilter, what is the best way to go about this? Should I just let this be?
posted by The1andonly to Human Relations (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
just keep cutting back on contact and realize he has a jealous girlfriend. don't include him in stuff but remain friendly when he is in contact. like he says, "it is what it is".
posted by elle.jeezy at 10:01 AM on December 24, 2009

Let it go and continue on with how you were dealing with it. I've got a friend from way back in the day that I don't see much of these days either - in a lot of ways he's similar to your pal - introverted, and possessing poor social skills. The biggest difference is he liked to start arguments with me because he found it entertaining - for years I put with that crap simply because he's a pal from back in the day. I ignored all sorts of things that in hind sight I probably shouldn't have - I had people refuse to take his resume when he was looking for work, others told me to never refer him for work with my employer because he would at the very least make me look bad, or worse, get me fired, and the various questions about whether he was off his meds or not. Sometimes you just got to let it go - you were on the right track before - you're only doing a double take because he's an old friend - just go back to letting things unwind naturally. I'd have to say just take the picture down, tell him you're sorry you didn't think it was cause him such problems and let it go - be coordial with him and continue to socialize in groups with him, but cut down on any smaller events where it would just be you and him. If you are drifting apart, he won't even notice.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 10:09 AM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well, it sounds like X is suffering from a sort of depression. Maybe not official, clinical depression, but at least in the form where negative thoughts and perceptions breed further negative thoughts and perceptions. And as a consequence of that and other personality things, X finds it difficult to deal with and express his feelings. Or even to admit to himself he feels them. Just kind of going on an autopilot of negativity.

It sounds like he'd be the perfect candidate for CBT therapy, but I have no idea how to suggest that to him. Hand in hand with depression goes the perverse desire to not do anything about it. Or an inability to deal with the added negative feelings of admitting there is a problem and seeking help. That is probably the hardest thing for someone suffering depression to deal with.

All I can suggest is to continue to not let X get you down, but also to remain both understanding and positive toward him. Non defensively remind him that you aren't seeking to make his life more miserable and that if you accidentally do, it was simply out of misunderstanding the situation. And suggest that feeling as closed off and miserable as he does isn't the only choice he has. That it is not an admission of defeat to seek help, rather, an act of strength. If he had a broken leg and was alone, the only way to get better is to tough through the pain and crawl to a doctor who can give him the tools to heal.

Or something like that.

(In other words, being a good friend means to at least try to give your friend the support he needs to become better. There always must come a point where you have to cut your line and let him succeed or fail on his own, and as long as you do that ethically and kindly, you've done your duty. By that I mean when that time comes, being straightforward and honest about your actions- "I love you the person, but there is something haunting you and what it is doing to you is bringing me down. I'll always be your friend, but I can't be around you until you try to do something to help yourself.")
posted by gjc at 10:10 AM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just let it be. X was a little ridiculous whining about the Facebook photos -- I mean, honestly, grow the hell up, right? You will find that there are some people who -- no matter HOW OLD they get -- will never get beyond this sort of drama. (I have a friend who is 62 years old and she's STILL conflicted about her relationship with her mother, for God's sake.) The best thing you can do for your own sanity is just to realize that there are people who will never pull it together. Don't let them drag you down. Just continue on with your life in a positive way, include these people in your plans as it is convenient, and don't feel guilty about not being as close to them as you once were.

Mostly, just don't get sucked into the crazy.
posted by rhartong at 10:16 AM on December 24, 2009 [7 favorites]

Exactly what are you getting out of this friendship? Your description of it is entirely negative.
posted by orange swan at 10:22 AM on December 24, 2009

Take the pics down, and then just walk away. You have no obligations towards anyone, least of all someone who takes his anger towards his jealous girlfriend on you instead of her. the fact that he was there for you two years ago doesn't mean he will continue to be there for you now and in the future. It's fine to be civil when you guys talk, but don't make so much effort to do that.

One of my rules for life is "does [thing] benefit me?". If it doesn't, I get rid. It might be worth you taking that idea to heart. Whatever feeling of obligation you have towards this guy is not rewarded by giving him your attention. It doesn't seem to benefit you at all, apart from preventing you from feeling guilty for ditching him. And that's no way to live.
posted by Solomon at 10:31 AM on December 24, 2009

Sounds like you're already steering a pretty competent course through this minefield. I'd just keep going along, being the even keeled, positive person you've made yourself out to be.

Maybe the next time you speak to X you could apologize for what happened, then carry on as if nothing had happened (which is essentially true). If he keeps up with the attitude, bow out and go do your own thing. Depressed or not, he has as much responsibility to not be a jerk as anyone does, and like everybody else if he IS a jerk he'll get the repercussions. He's just lucky he has a friend like you that will take the high road and excuse themselves politely from his company rather than punching his face.

It's always hard to adjust to changing relationships, but I think it's unwise to adhere to a flagging friendship if nobody's getting anything positive from it, or if one party is consistently taking and the other giving. Friendships are about love and support, give and take, not dragging your buddy through the mud all the time. If you find yourself consistently under the weight of this person's emotional anvil, it may be time to find anchor in other harbors. Remain cordial, say hi when he calls, but don't feel like you are accountable for his social life. If he has no other friends that's hardly your fault.
posted by Pecinpah at 11:09 AM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your friend sounds depressed and you sound like you don't sound like you want to be their friend through that. That he also has a bad girlfriend is a bonus, but it's not beyond the pale that you respect someone's wishes when they ask that you not post pictures of them on the internet.
posted by rhizome at 12:04 PM on December 24, 2009

Look, he had the ability to "untag" the pictures and to ask you to remove the photos. Facebook ettiquette dictates not tagging pictures that could get you FIRED, not in the doghouse. Why hadn't he already told his girlfriend he was going out to eat with some friends (female or not)? If he wants to hide his actions from his girlfriend, that's his responsibility, not yours.

Re: ending the friendship... Don't take any abrupt actions toward ending your friendship-- sometimes, we all go a bit nuts and we rely on our good friends to be there for us when we're sane again. I too have friends that have some difficulties with being actively social, but I feel it's worth it to at least keep in touch, even if they're not the easiest people to befriend. However, don't drive yourself crazy with over-effort, because no one wants to be in a one-sided friendship. Just mellow out on the active phone calls, but reciprocate any further friendly actions.

(Also... David N?)
posted by samthemander at 1:25 PM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

It sounds like your question is less about what to do with your "closest" friend but more about how to feel less guilty doing it.

People change. Relationships change. But they are not "things" to get rid of, and get new ones to replace them. Did it strike you that people have different personalities? The person has clearly a different personality than yours, but that doesn't make him depressed or negative. It does however, indicate how you perceive him. And relying on one person to fulfill all your unspoken expectations is unrealistic. As for what you should do, its not about "let it be", but more of, "go with the flow". Effort goes both ways. If you don't feel like talking for a week, then don't! But you certainly don't have to get rid of a friend who supported you through tough times for it. Friends you can rely on are hard to find.

Sure, your friend may (or may not) have over-reacted over the facebook thing. If you think that was unreasonable, you don't have to apologise at all. Doing so doesn't help anyone at all.
posted by xm at 8:56 PM on December 24, 2009

I fail to see any other reason you're keeping this friendship than out of guilt. Don't keep friendships out of guilt. It won't do any good for either of you.
posted by Happydaz at 12:04 AM on December 25, 2009

« Older Where iSi-t?   |   It's like a tech question and a bad sitcom plot in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.