How to salvage a friendship and is it worth it?
January 11, 2013 2:04 PM   Subscribe

How do you salvage a friendship when you feel need to talk to someone but feel like there's no point as when you've asked to talk to that person about the pain they've caused you they've said they need space. Then when you try to express yourself via email (yes I know it should never be done) they respond with a vitrolic email. Or is it worth trying to salvage the firendship?

I apologise for posting this so soon after this question, however my question is about a specific incident and friendship. It's helped reading this question, however I'm slightly different in that I need to talk rather than have space. It is related to the person in my first question, and yes I'm aware my last question was a bit daft, I wasn't in a very good place.

So my best friend and I had a relationship but split up. I was happy being friends with him but equally still loved him. A few times we got carried away but each time I dealt with it and we reaffirmed our friendship. I didn't blame him or get angry at him for those times as I thought we were both to blame as neither of us said anything. I repeatedly told him that as I still loved him I couldn't be casual with him. I was fine being friends and holding hands and hugging, but I couldn't kiss him or do anything else as it upset me.

Fast forward to before Christmas. We'd been flirting for a couple of weeks and we got carried away again. On Christmas Eve we agreed we were just friends and that it wouldn't happen again. I re-stated that I couldn't be with him casually. So I thought that was sorted. We had a lovely day together as friends on the 27th and agreed to see each other next at work.

On New Year's Eve he sent me a text asking what I was doing on New Year's Day. We agreed to meet up and do something. The next day he arrived and the way he was behaving towards me was much more intimate than normal. He told me that the night before and that morning he'd decided he wanted more. We spent a few hours on the sofa kissing and him saying very romantic things. This time I did actually say something and asked him if this meant he wanted to date me. He said that he did, as I loved him and trusted him I believed what he said. Obviously things continued and we had a lovely time together.

The next day at work we were talking, I asked him when he'd next want to go on a date, and mentioned other things to him. When we finished work we ended up sat in my car in the works car park. At this point he told me that he'd made a mistake, that he didn't want to date me as he still wanted children. That he didn't want to mess me about. Obviously as I was sat in my car at work, where all my co workers were walking past on the way to their cars, I didn't feel able to cry or get upset. I was cold, tired, feeling very self concious and uncomfortable. I asked if we could go back to my place to talk but he wouldn't go. I was in a situation where I couldn't process everything effectively. I was deeply hurt, but couldn't really express myself at the time due to the situation and knowing people could see me.

I asked him if we could meet up on the Friday as I was deeply hurt but didn't want to lose the friendship we had. I knew I'd need to spend time with him to try and get over the pain. I thought it was agreed upon as I mentioned a time. I joked about him buying chips for tea and he said he would (I'd had no intention of letting him as it was just a joke), so because he said that I thought it was going to happen. Fast forward to Friday and I was feeling even more upset and knew I needed to talk to him in order to get over the pain and feelings of hurt. I mentioned about him coming over again and he said he couldn't as he needed to make some phone calls and that he needed some space.

This made me feel even more hurt, I understand some people need space to process when they've been hurt. However he hurt me then refused to meet me or talk to me. To me this feels more like a punishment to me for being hurt. He's also the type of person who gets upset and angry at himself for hurting others, so I'm left feeling like I need to comfort him when I'm in pain. Because I couldn't talk to him when I needed to I ended up emailing him (yes I know it's a terrible idea) as I needed to express how much he'd hurt me and how him refusing to talk to me upset me. I spent an entire evening writing an email to him, however I deleted it as it mentioned things that had happened in the past. As my issue was only with the New Years Day situation and the withdrawing. Unfortunately a friend who read my email said it made me sound like a victim, this wasn't my aim, however by this point I'd been up until 4am the night before and was so tired and upset I was struggling to think straight. However I'd had a friend check read the email to make sure it didn't sound too bad (a different friend to the one who said it made me sound like a victim).

My friends reaction was to reply with a very angry email filled with vitrol, there was an initial apology quickly followed by him saying that it was both our fault, that I knew he wasn't certain (again I trused him so believed what he said wholeheartedly as the way he was behaving towards me showed no doubt) that what I'd written had really upset him and that I'd obviously never forgiven him for the past things and needed to let go of my past. Now yes my past relationship wasn't great but when I started dating my friend I chose to let go of all my old issues, also if I'd not forgiven him for the things he'd done in the past that upset me then I wouldn't have still trusted him.

Still I tried to reply to the email but every time I tried to respond to points I felt myself getting more and more upset and angry that once again he'd made it about himself. In the past he's hurt me then when I've tried to explain how I feel he'll interrupt me and say "It's hard to say how I feel". Yet when he's telling me how he feels if I start saying anything he tells me not to interrupt him. In the end I just decided that I couldn't respond to the email as I couldn't do so without a lot of pain and was at risk of saying something nasty. So I decided to end the friednship, I sent him a text apologising for any pain I may have caused him by my email. I then said that due to how vitrolic his email was that I didn't think I could be friends anymore. As having him react to my expression of pain with such anger (and excessive exclamation marks lol) upset me and made me feel like he wasn't willing to allow me to feel upset.

His email made it seem like he expected me to have gotten over it all on the Wednesday in the car, just because he apologised and I said "I'll be fine" because he was getting upset because he'd hurt me. I'm also left feeling like I'm not allowed to talk about things ever again, as if I talk about them then I'm obviously still angry at him about it. However it can take time to fully realise the effect something has and to work through it. Also he was bullied at school and it took him over quarter of a century to get over it and stop hating the person who hurt him.

He then emailed me the next day. He did apologise in a way that was slightly less angry than the day before. Part of what he wrote was "Maybe I did seem very harsh in my e-mail yesterday, and obviously you were justified in getting angry about last week, but all I was trying to say was that I know how much it must have hurt you, as it also had an affect on me too - (merely to point out that you are not the only one who felt badly about what happened).

It was something that wasn't planned - Tuesday should never have gone as far as it did, respecting the fact that were only supposed to be 'friends'. I tried to tell you in my e-mail yesterday, that I was angry at myself for letting things get out of hand, (and I knew on Wednesday how much it had hurt you), and I could not sort it out in my head, so I needed some time out to sort out my feelings. It is not all about me! It is about you also, which is why I didn't want to go to your house, as it would have brought back the painful memories of what had happened. I know you wanted to talk, but I felt so badly, that I felt it was not the right time to talk about it - and that some time out was needed, to clear both our heads."

The thing that gets me is he keeps implying that I was angry at him, I'd never been angry at him just hurt and upset. He's the one who gets angry. And he says he knew I wanted to talk but he didn't want to.

I ended up calling him on Monday evening and talked on the phone a bit. It cleared a bit of air but not much. We spoke at work a bit trying to regain our friendship. However unfortunately I made the mistake of re reading his email yesterday, as I wanted to read it when I was feeling happier to ensure I hadn't misread it and gotten upset for no reason. Unfortunately it just made me feel down again and makes me feel like I can't talk to him.

At work today I was quiet and reserved around him and keeping my distance from him as I just wasn't sure what to do. All day I kept thinking "what's the point?" He actually asked me if I was ok and said that if I wanted to talk to him I could. This just made me feel even worse. As I feel like, yes, I can talk to him if it's not about him, but if it's about him and I say anything he'll get angry and not fully listen to what I'm saying and berate me for not being over it by now. So what's the point in talking to him. Yet I still want to be friends with him. The only way I can do that is by talking to him about how the last couple of weeks has hurt me and knowing that he understands and listens to me without interrupting. Yet I feel like that's not going to happen, so although I want to reach out and ask to talk to him I'm not as I'm scared to be hurt again.

Now part of this reluctance is due to my past relationship. My ex would make me promises then break them. Because I'd been looking forward to something then been told that he didn't feel like it I'd be disappointed and would be a bit quiet. He'd ask me what was wrong so I'd tell him I was just a bit disappointed, at that he'd get angry at me for being upset. So obviously this situation has made me feel like I did in the past, I don't want to end up in a similar situation as I did then. So I'm just not sure whether to bother to try to salvage the friendship or just tell him once again that I feel the friendship is now untenable.

Obviously this is just the bad stuff that's happened in the last two weeks. We've had some amazing times together and we get on like a house on fire. However I'm struggling to remember the great times as I can't get past the bad time without talking about it and re affirming our friendship.

God I hate all this drama lol.
posted by Ranting Prophet of DOOM! to Human Relations (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It sounds to me that you do get on "like a house on fire" in the sense that your relationship is a regular emergency. If you don't want drama in your life, you need to clear your life of people who make drama. And this person creates drama by the truckload. I would back away and not engage anymore. It's not like this behavior is going to stop.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:10 PM on January 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

Is this about the same person as your last question? You need to cut ties and move on. This is craziness. It's not going to magically fix itself - there is way too much drama here for you to build a rational, solid friendship on. It sounds like your main goal is to force him to acknowledge how much he's hurt you, and that is not ever going to happen in a way that is going to be both sincere on his part and satisfying to you. Frankly, he sounds like way too much work. Adult relationships should not be constantly fraught with drama.
posted by something something at 2:10 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

It's also probably a good idea to look at why you feel compelled to keep returning to a relationship with a regular history of harming you. It is very easy to develop a kind of addiction to both the highs and lows of relationship drama. What are you getting out of this? Why are you short-circuiting your better judgement? What can you do to better protect yourself in the future? You can explore these questions by yourself or with a therapist, but they are worth asking.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:15 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

There is nothing wrong with breaking up a friendship that is more drama than it's worth. By a certain age most of us have had experiences with someone we really really have fun with or love or get horny over or have a well-matched sensayuma, but who is completely incompatible with our lives in at least one other deal-breaker of a way. It is not required of you, as a human being, that you have perfectly fixed-up for all time relationships with all persons.
posted by dhartung at 2:17 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't think this even qualifies as a friendship at this point. This is a very dysfunctional romantic relationship that is being labeled as a friendship to avoid dealing with the issues between you head on and possibly severing ties and moving on.

I don't know the whole dating background, but it sounds like you have a fundamental incompatibility buried in here: he wants kids and you don't. Am I reading that right? If so, this is unlikely to ever change. Continuing to be friends (or rather "friends") will likely just make you both miserable and lead to interactions like this from time, at least for a while to come.

I'd recommend treating this like a romantic break up, not a friend breakup, and taking as much space as you can get for a while until you can both truly just be friends (if that's even possible).
posted by amycup at 2:24 PM on January 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

I think you like the drama, that's why you keep becoming entangled in these situations.

I think one key to sussing out these things is how many words do you describe your problem in. It's almost like you KNOW you've been wronged, but you want us to somehow make it not so wrong, so you rain words and situations etc.

Friends don't dick you around the way this guy is dicking you around. Full Stop. They just don't. A friend would be worried that you'd get the wrong idea, or that you might get hurt, so they wouldn't do the hot-cold-hot-cold game.


Find people who will treat you kindly and well.

Since you have to work with this idiot, I suggest that you remove him from all of your private media, your phone, etc. Be cordial at work, but not overly friendly.

If he presses the issue simply say, "I think it's best if we deal with each other solely on a professional basis."

He screwed up big time, and when you screw up big time, you don't get to stay friends.

That's how it works.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:25 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

You're incompatible, you're not friends, and you are disrupting each other's ability to work.

"God I hate all this drama lol"

I don't believe you, and I also can't help but suspect that he is a vulnerable person that you're jerking around. Perhaps it's more equal than that, but it doesn't matter. This has nowhere to go except more histrionics until one of you suffers genuine harm.
posted by tel3path at 2:28 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I sadly suspect that you are not going to be able to be truly heard and validated by him.

But if you want to try, I'd open by focusing on this: "I still want to be friends with him. The only way I can do that is by talking to him about how the last couple of weeks has hurt me and knowing that he understands and listens to me without interrupting. Yet I feel like that's not going to happen, so although I want to reach out and ask to talk to him I'm not as I'm scared to be hurt again." Maybe say "will you be willing to listen and not interrupt, and just hear what I'm trying to say? I just want to feel understood."

That said, I don't think he will be able to do this for you. Maybe he will once, but not in a consistent, trustworthy way.

Also, it's a breakup truism that the person who broke up with you can't be the person who comforts you about the breakup.
posted by salvia at 2:32 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

All of this "he said, then I said" stuff is both very childish and (more importantly) irrelevant: this interpersonal interaction is already over. There is nothing left to salvage. You are beating a dead horse. The sooner you realize this, the better it will be for everyone.

Get some therapy to explore why you're drawn to drama. A therapist can help you determine what part of pursuing and achieving a healthy relationship is so terrifying to you, and how to cope with that fear. Until then, NO MORE DATING. You are not ready.
posted by jesourie at 2:38 PM on January 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

people break up in public places just so they don't have to endure your emotions. it's selfish and immature. this guy is all about him, him and more him. he wants you when he wants you, then he doesn't, then it's about his pain over hurting you (which sounds like b.s. because if he really realized how hurtful he was being he wouldn't continue doing it!). because you 2 have such a strong attraction if you stay friends with him this pattern will most likely continue. i'm sorry you are going through all this, but please cut if off completely before the spiral happens again.
posted by wildflower at 2:40 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thank you for all your advice. Part of my problem is that I want to see the best in people and be understanding and forgiving. This can lead me to put up with more than I should do. I certainly do not like the drama as I've managed to avoid this kind of thing pretty much most of my life and have never found myself in this kind of situation before, hence why I'm finding it so hard to deal with. I've always sought to control my emotions with my intellect and just feel completely out of control at the moment.

As for me jerking him around, I've always been honest with him. I told him that I couldn't be with him casually. He's the one who started rubbing his nose against mine and pulling me as close to him as possible. He's the one who told me he wanted to date me because he felt lonely on New Year's Eve. I was more than happy to be just friends with him and knew that given time my romantic feelings for him would become merely platonic. I understood it would be hard but as we'd only dated a month I thought it'd be fine in the long run.

Salvia thank you for your advice. I never wanted him to comfort me about the break up. However I still wanted to maintain our friendship. When we first split up I was actually encouraging him to join a dating website so he could start trying to find someone to have kids with. He's never lived on his own and has spent his entire life living with his parents so I tried to get him to start thinking about bills and the responsibilities that come with running a house, maintaining a relationship and raising a child. As I wanted him to be happy and knew that he needed to start thinking about those things in order to be able to get his dream.

Jesourie, I am not terrified of having a healthy relationship. I approach relationships with a desire to be open, honest and work through problems with my partner in order to develop a strong relationship. I understand that no one is perfect and that when tough things arise you need to discuss them calmly and rationally. That is all I've tried to do in this relationship, I've trusted him and believed what he said to me and got hurt. Yes I am stubborn and keep trying to make it work and yes I'm aware this is a problem. However it's knowing when to fight and when not to fight. I didn't realise that he had the sort of character traits that he has. As when we were first dating I felt able to talk to him about anything and we were both open about our past etc.

I am definitely erring towards ending the friendship as I was when I posted this. However I wanted peoples opinions as to whether it was worth trying to save or if I should just give up on it. I'm glad that most people think it'd be best to just walk away as I can do so without feeling like I should have tried harder. As I've never been in this type of situation before so was uncertain about how to deal with it.

Thanks again to you all for your advice.
posted by Ranting Prophet of DOOM! at 2:51 PM on January 11, 2013

I asked him if we could meet up on the Friday as I was deeply hurt but didn't want to lose the friendship we had. I knew I'd need to spend time with him to try and get over the pain.

I don't mean to tell you how to feel -- you know you better than I do -- but generally spending more time with a person like this, especially in a break-up situation, which this is, is the worst idea. You need to process all of this stuff without him up in your headspace. It is impossible to go straight from Romantic to Friends, ESPECIALLY with all this drama happening. You need to disengage here to get your head straight. I assume this is the same dude from your last question? Because it seems to me that this situation is a mess and you need some time away from it AND him. You guys seem fundamentally incompatible anyway, given the kid situation, and this relationship is causing you nothing but agitia. You are totally, totally allowed to take a break from him, and make it a permanent one if you want to.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 3:12 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

I know that impulse to try to "salvage the friendship" very well. It never works to downshift from romance directly to friendship, though. It can happen after a good long break, sometimes.

The rule of thumb: imagine entering a room and seeing the person entwined happily on a bed with someone new. Until your reaction to this mental image is "aw, I'm so glad he's happy!" without a drop of distaste or pain, then you are not ready to be friends.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:02 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Responding to the follow up - I feel you on wanting to be understanding and forgiving. It says a great deal of good things about you. Sadly, less kind people will take advantage of it. It's not always in your best interest to be forgiving. Even if it doesn't feel good to cut someone out, sometimes it's a necessary evil.

The fact that he is pursuing you and then backing away is crappy behavior. If he was concerned with your feelings and having a healthy friendship with you, he would respect appropriate boundaries with you. He is impulsive and not thinking about how his actions will impact you at all. Doesn't sounds like something a friend would do if you ask me. Not any friend I'd want anyway.
posted by amycup at 4:02 PM on January 11, 2013

I remember your last question, and I agree with everyone here that you just have to move on from this guy. You guys have not been "dating" for very long at all, and healthy relationships do not emerge from tumultuous beginnings like this. I suppose at this point you realize this, and that is why you're trying to decide whether to try to salvage a friendship or not.

In the best of times I would recommend a period of no contact immediately after a breakup, but in this case especially. Pull way back, be professional, and nothing more. This guy has made it clear that if you let him in a little bit, then he will run roughshod over any boundaries you try to define in the hopes of getting you into bed. He doesn't seem to care about your feelings much at all, making everything about him and refusing to acknowledge how he's hurt you. Not to mention he's not interested in having a relationship with you outside of an occasional hookup.

By the way, I think the whole kids thing is just an excuse. This guy's 40 and hasn't moved out of his parents' house? Please, dude's practically a child himself; you admit his parents still treat him as such in your previous question. How feasible is it really that he's going to grow up enough to support himself anytime soon, let alone a family? My guess is he has little idea of how to have an adult relationship due to his arrested development, but still wants to hook up if you let him.

Not to be harsh, I know it's hard to pull away when you have chemistry, but he's never going to give you what you want. And if you try to maintain a friendship, he's just going to keep violating your boundaries and trying to get you into bed, leaving you to deal with the hurt the next morning.
posted by malapropist at 4:25 PM on January 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Part of my problem is that I want to see the best in people and be understanding and forgiving. This can lead me to put up with more than I should do

Good insight. A middle ground might be to seek a compassionate, but realistic, understanding. Forgive but don't forget. Being forgiving shouldn't prevent you from understanding the situation (including the negative impacts to yourself) and acting to protect yourself.

As someone in the recent PTSD thread said, someone can be hallucinating and swinging a baseball bat to protect themselves. They aren't a bad person for swinging the bat. But you should still get out of the way. It's not a failure of compassion to take a step back.
posted by salvia at 5:16 PM on January 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

He can't seem to decide if he wants to date you or not. This will happen again if you try to stay "friends" with him.

Focus on work when you are at work. Don't even talk to him, tell him you have a lot to do and don't have time to chat. If you don't want your coworkers wondering why you are upset around him you certainly don't want them discussing whether you are too distracted to do your job.

Quit spending time with this guy and spend time making some new friends, or flirting with people you might want to date who you don't work with.
posted by yohko at 6:02 PM on January 11, 2013

He's not your friend.

Process this and all will be well.
posted by jbenben at 7:03 PM on January 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

People who say they are your friend or who have previously acted like your friend but who now act this way are not your friend. There are lots of possible reasons for the reason they stopped being your friend. But if that friend is not going to tell you the reasons and not going to let you work with them, they aren't a friend any more.

Don't shame yourself or sabotage your position by begging or pushing. They're not interested. Get to the point where you aren't.

If it turns out in the end that the problem is that this person needs you to beg or push or pursue in order to restore the friendship, do you really need that kind of friend? I'll make this non-rhetorical and answer the question for you. The answer is no.

I'm sorry, but this person's not your friend.
posted by kalessin at 10:13 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thank you for all your help and advice. I've decided to end the friendship to protect myself. As the last couple of months have turned me into someone I don't want to be. I've never been in such a drama filled place as I have been these last months. I have no idea how to deal with it as I've never been this emotional. I've tried talking to him but he just wants space and to not talk about it. I've always believed in talking about things in order to solve problems and move forwards. I've also always believed in working on friendships and not just walking away because things get tough. So finding myself in a situation were I can't deal effectively with a problem and need to walk away is challenging me.

I truely had no idea how childish he was and how stunted his emotional development is. I didn't know anything about his home life before we became friends and started dating. Even when I did find out I still didn't see it as a major problem as he seemed grown up and sensible for the most part. I understood that he'd have a learning curve to deal with but, as he'd discussed his previous depression with me, I thought he was able to talk openly and honestly to me. Having been through similar to him and having changed my life around completely I understood that it's possible to change. I didn't see any darkness in him only light. But then we were in the good first stage and hadn't had anything negative happen.

I knew he had a thing about not wanting to hurt people. Yet I had no idea it was as bad as it is. Nor did I think that he'd react to things by burying his head in the sand. We'd both previously opened up to each other about some of the worst times in our lives. He'd held me in his arms as I talked about past pain and how it'd affected me. So I thought he was able to cope with people expressing emotions. Obviously now I understand he isn't able to have an adult friendship or deal with the fact that other people have emotions.

At least none of this has ever affected our work, I had my performance review at the begining of this month and our team leader was very happy with my work. So that's not an issue at all and I can always go and help other team members in other rooms when I need to get away for a bit.

Thanks again for all your help and advice. It's made me realise it's ok to let go of a friendship when it's upsetting me to this extent.
posted by Ranting Prophet of DOOM! at 2:27 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

This sucks. When I was in a similar situation, someone linked me to this site, and I am very very very grateful to whoever it was, because I literally shudder to think what might have happened otherwise. Congratulations, you've just identified your common- or garden- variety assclown! Now read this blog until you feel even worse and then read it some more and then some more and then, when the Reset Button and Future Faking and Red Flags have become part of your everyday vocabulary, you'll have the tools to recognise this dude's horrible crap for what it is.
posted by f3l1x at 6:29 AM on January 14, 2013

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