Two polar opposite friends clashing, who would've guessed?
September 18, 2014 8:08 PM   Subscribe

When I was having a particularly rough time at home I told a good friend that I was thinking about living in my car for a while. Some time later he mentioned having told another friend about it, laughing about how ridiculous of an idea it was. I feel betrayed. I've told him how that made me feel and he doesn't seem to care so I don't know what to do.

I’m a guy, early twenties, living at home with my grandparents, mom, brother, his fiance and their 1-year-old son. Home life has been pretty crazy lately, to say the least. My brother busted his knee permanently in the military and became addicted to painkillers as a result. That was several years ago and he’s been in and out of rehab ever since. Our mom is likely a functioning alcoholic who enjoys her pills. His fiance likes pills, too. They often use my brother’s connections to get some, further enabling him. My grandfather is obviously upset about all of this, but has anger problems, so he escalates any arguments, whether rational or irrational, into screaming matches. The whole situation makes living here pretty miserable. Everyone in the house is depressed.

I was talking to a friend, Dave, and I told him I was thinking about living in my car for a while because I couldn’t take it at home anymore (and I can’t afford to move out since I’m deeply in debt). He said that was absolutely ridiculous. I told him it may sound that way, but it seems pretty reasonable given the situation at home. I briefly went into it before I realized he wasn’t going to offer support or even listen, so I dropped it and he said nothing further, so we moved on. Dave and I are polar opposites in some regards, and one of them is that he is generally insensitive and unaffected, whereas I am very sensitive and anxious (he’s acknowledged that I understand him better than most and am usually good at not taking his insensitivity personally, and I’ve said that he’s good at handling my sometimes being oversensitive).

A few weeks have passed and earlier today Dave and I were playing a game online and talking. We were having a good time, like we usually do when we hang out or play games. He said his best friend, Greg, was going to be on in a little while. I’m very anxious about new people and I’d heard a lot about Greg, given that they were best friends, so I said, “I’ve never even talked to him before.” He joked, “Just stop being you for a second,” (meaning, it’s not a big deal, you’ll be fine). I half-joked, “Well I don’t know, I feel like he only knows me from what you tell him, and it’s probably not all good things.” He responded, “Only a few things. Like that time you told me you wanted to live in your car. That was just so ridiculous I had to tell someone” laughing as he said it. I was immediately taken aback by that and got quiet for a while and just continued to play the game.

After a little bit I said, “Hey, I really don’t think that’s okay. That was something I told you in confidence and I was obviously at a very low point.” He laughed and said, “Well it’s too late now, I already told him.” I didn’t say much after that, we finished the level and said goodbye so he could go eat dinner.

I ended up messaging him a little bit later telling him I thought it was a pretty big betrayal of trust, and that he never bothered to listen to why I would resort to living in my car. I also said that I felt, from the way he said it, it seemed obvious that he told Greg so they could laugh about it. He never responded but later I noticed them online and said (stupid, I know) that I guess I was uninvited from the game. Dave said I was free to join. I told him I feel like a joke between him and Greg so I would pass. He responded, “Jesus Christ” and then “I made sure to capitalize that.” I responded that regardless of how ridiculous it sounded to him, I don’t tell him things so he can turn around and tell Greg and laugh about it.

Well, he never responded and now I just feel like an ass. Am I overreacting? I know that he’s generally an insensitive guy, and try to keep that in mind.. but I feel like this was entirely different. I feel betrayed and hurt and all I can picture is them laughing at me, saying how ridiculous I am. Given that he obviously feels like he doesn’t need to explain himself or apologize, I don’t know what to do. We have plans to hang out tomorrow night and I want to cancel. I can’t keep harping on him about this because it seems like he doesn’t care that it bothers me. But if I go and hang out, I know I will not be myself.

Basically I want to know if I’m overreacting, if I handled it okay, and what I should do if he continues to not acknowledge my feelings. Thank you.
posted by blackzinfandel to Human Relations (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I suspect that the reason Dave doesn't understand why your judgment that being homeless would be better than dealing with dysfunctional/addict/abusive family dynamics is the same reason he doesn't think of telling Greg as a big deal. Basically, he probably doesn't understand that you're in a bad situation, or how bad the situation is, so he assumed that your plan to escape that situation was a joke, and he wouldn't think of sharing a joke as "betraying" you.

You're just kind of operating at different levels of reality here. It seems like you disclosed that you were living in an abusive/addict household, and he thought you were joking; your reaction is consistent with your reality and his reaction is consistent with his.

Personally, I would not want to interact with someone who didn't accept my abusive/addict family situation as serious. If you do want to continue interacting with him, though, you may need to accept that he just has a more blinkered view of reality and is refusing to believe you when you describe yours.

More importantly: I'm sorry you're dealing with such a crappy family situation.
posted by jaguar at 8:20 PM on September 18, 2014 [21 favorites]

Best answer: I don't think you're overreacting. Dave sounds really insensitive and I couldn't be friends with someone that mocked my struggles. It's perfectly okay to drop him as a friend and find someone more empathetic. If you do want to stay casual friends with him, make peace with the fact that a) he's not someone you can rely on for emotional support in tough times and b) he's not going to apologize for or acknowledge his part in hurting you this time around.
posted by horizons at 8:20 PM on September 18, 2014 [19 favorites]

Dave doesn't sound like your friend, he sounds like a jerk. I wouldn't want to hang with someone who did that to me.

Do you have other friends who are nicer? Because I would ditch Dave for a while and hang out with them instead.

I think you find out who your true friends are when you are going through some serious stuff and how they react. Dave seems to want to make light of it and distance himself from you. A real friend wouldn't be all, "buck up, Bucky, it was just a joke, Jesus Christ," type of stuff. That's just cold. I say you give the cold shoulder back to him and find some people who are real people, who like you and are supportive when you're down.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:22 PM on September 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

He doesn't sound like a friend. He's not there for you when you need a sympathetic ear and uses your pain and misfortune to make jokes to others. He sounds like an ass. Now that he's shown who he really is, I'd kick him to the curb. Life is hard enough. No need to surround yourself with jerks.

I'm sorry that you're having such a tough time at home. It sounds pretty rough.
posted by quince at 8:25 PM on September 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Ughhhhhh. Ugh ugh ughhhh. How awful! I would cancel. You can do better. He's not worth your time.
posted by unknowncommand at 8:26 PM on September 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Well, he never responded and now I just feel like an ass. Am I overreacting?

These are reactions you had. No point in labelling them overreactions or not. If you're asking how you should react, well, it sounds like you pretty much didn't want the support you sought about getting out of your house told to other people. I think that's something that people can expect not to be shared.

Not sure this is the friend for you.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:02 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You can't choose your family, but you can choose how much time you spend with them. Another choice you have? Your friends. Sounds like you can do better than this one, even if your experience being part of a dysfunctional family leads you to think otherwise.
posted by Good Brain at 9:08 PM on September 18, 2014

Best answer: Your feelings are valid. You did not overreact. He is not a good friend. When I was younger, I would put up with behavior like this from so-called "friends." Over time I realized that I was compromising my own needs and feelings because I assumed that anyone who rejected or ignored my needs/feelings must have had a legitimate reason to do so, no matter what. Incorrect. People may and will disagree with you at times, but how they express that disagreement - and whether or not they express it with compassion and a genuine sense of concern for your happiness and well being - is what makes the difference between a real friend and a non-friend. A real friend would talk to you about why you want to try living in your car for a while. Jokes are okay but ridicule is not. These days, as soon as I identify someone with the kind of insensitive traits this guy has, I walk away. No explanation necessary; people like him are toxic and don't need any more enabling by way of acknowledging their existence. Sometimes it's better to have no one to talk to than someone who stomps all over your soul. Hopefully, you have some other friends you can reach out to, who will be more open and less judgmental. Forget about this other guy.
posted by nightrecordings at 9:18 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: He thinks you're being a drama king. He might have no idea how hard a situation like yours can be. He might be really sheltered. Or he might even have the tough type of attitude like "anyone who has a home to go to is lucky at all" and therefore shouldn't choose to live in their car. Or he might think that is just an extremely bad solution to real problems (IE it would not help you at all and then you really might have no home to go back to if you burn bridges.) Or he might be very afraid that you will ask to move in with him or ask him for money.

Any of those explanations is plausible to me.

Where he was in the wrong: He should not have laughed at you. If he couldn't handle your problems he should have said so, like "man this is too much for me." Or given you good advice. Or politely changed the subject. He should definitely not have told the friend about that conversation- that was a dick move. He was laughing at you and that's not cool, even if he really just doesn't get it.

Where you were in the wrong: I cringed when I read some of your kind of passive-aggressive comments. "I'm really hurt," and trying to guilt trip him will not work. Saying things like "guess I'm uninvited." is never a good idea.

What you should have done: do not trust him with deep secrets. Say "knock it off, not cool," and move on. If he acts like a dick, stop hanging out with him. Get angry or impatient instead of kind of whiny and sad, and just move on and take care of yourself.
posted by quincunx at 9:29 PM on September 18, 2014 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Am I overreacting?

No. Dave is being callous and disrespectful toward you.

I know that he’s generally an insensitive guy, and try to keep that in mind.. but I feel like this was entirely different.

I don't understand why Dave should get extra slack just because he's *generally* an ass? Being insensitive is not some kind of incurable condition that everyone has to accept he suffers from and accommodate. He can choose not to be an ass at any time, yet he doesn't.

You don't have to be accepting or understanding about his hurtful and obnoxious choice to be "generally an insensitive guy."

I feel betrayed and hurt and all I can picture is them laughing at me, saying how ridiculous I am. Given that he obviously feels like he doesn’t need to explain himself or apologize, I don’t know what to do.

He hurt you and he didn't even care. Of course you're feeling affected by that. But you can't force him to feel empathy. All you can do is stay away from him, frankly.

We have plans to hang out tomorrow night and I want to cancel.

For sure cancel. Why would you even put yourself through him screwing with you yet some more? I think it's likely he'll actually be even *more* callous and obnoxious to you if you go tomorrow, because he'll want to "put you in your place" and "show you who's boss."

You don't have to let him push you around, let alone find a way to be OK with it. Your feelings actually do matter, even if Dave makes a habit of belittling them.
posted by rue72 at 9:54 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I read your above the fold description and was prepared to say that it sounds like a misunderstanding. But no, this guy is a jerk.

That being said, I think you can choose to be a bigger person about this. I don't mean to say that you should forgive and forget, but it can be ok to hang out with him. Maybe just have Dave be a guy you have fun with and just don't ever tell him anything personal about yourself anymore. Sometimes people have room for acquaintances like that in their life, sometimes people only have room for people they completely respect.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 10:14 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Why are you continuing to chase this guy down so he can hurt you more?

This person does not care about you, and he's not going to start caring about you if you badger him enough. Stop interacting with him. You have enough involuntary toxicity in your life as it is.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:31 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You are (and this isn't a bad thing) taking things very seriously. That's understandable, as it's your life, and your life is hard right now. He is taking things lightly. He doesn't understand how hard and serious things feel now to you, so he isn't being sensitive to that.

You two are reacting to each other now. You made a statement so heavy that he doesn't truly get it. He didn't know what to do but laugh it off. (I think his "laughing" is partly his way of saying "wow, this is so intense that I don't known whether to laugh or cry for the guy," but since he had no experience expressing intense concern and sympathy, laughter is his only option.) Rather than taking that lightly and feeling like "whatever, that guy doesn't get me and that's okay," you felt like "he is mocking me." Rather than taking your reaction seriously and saying "hey, man, I didn't mean to mock you, I was just shocked by the intensity of it and didn't know how to handle it. I'm sorry it came off that way, and I'll be more careful about your privacy too," he took it all lightly like "whoa man, okay I'll catch ya later." Then, rather than taking that lightly and thinking "well, I guess he needed space, no biggie, we all do sometimes," you took it heavily, like "apparently I am uninvited."

Basically, you two seem incompatible. If you did want to save this relationship, you'll probably need to lower your expectations of him and not expect him to understand your more intense feelings, including your feelings of hurt about the last time he didn't understand your feelings.

Maybe one day, something will happen to him, like a family member will die, after which he will be better able to relate to the hard and deep struggles like the one you are in now. (I'm not wishing this upon him, but as everyone dies, it is likely that one of his family members will one day die.) Or, he might float through that as well without even that touching him deeply and softening him up to others' suffering. If you do keep the door open to a friendship with him, maybe you can be the friend that gets him when the rest of his friends are being assholes and insensitive to his pain. Or maybe you don't want to deal with a relationship with someone who has such a limited ability to understand you right now.

I don't think he's "bad," just that he has a very limited ability to understand what you're going through and to go "with you" (even via empathy) to the hard places in which you're having to dwell. Find people who can, don't expect him to, and then once your deeper needs are met, see if you still have room in your life for him as a not-super-close friend.

I'm so sorry for what you're going through. I hope you find lots of wise people who can understand and support you.
posted by salvia at 10:54 PM on September 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

dump dave's ass pronto. i've had motel phases, truck-dwelling phases, road phases where i hitchhiked and hopped freight trains. nobody i care about thinks the worse of me for these.
posted by bruce at 11:08 PM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You confided to this person that you were in crisis and what did they do?

Offer help? No. Express sympathy? Nah. He joked about it to a third party and then acted like you were being unreasonable when you called him on it.

Every second you waste hanging with this guy is time you could be spending with real friends -- the kind who will have your back when you're in a tough spot.

Don't make a scene or try to explain anything; you've done that, he didn't get it, and you'll only invite ridicule from someone who's not prepared to understand your point of view. Just slip out the back, Jack -- there must be 50 ways to leave your loser.
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:21 PM on September 18, 2014 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I feel betrayed and hurt and all I can picture is them laughing at me, saying how ridiculous I am.

You're assuming they are focused on this, and that this is the defining element of Greg's impression of you. In fact, nobody is as focused on this; the most important things in other people's lives are generally trivia to others. Trivia that quickly fades and is easily forgotten.

That said, Greg is a dick and unless there's a lot more to your relationship than you're outlining here, it doesn't sound like he's capable of apologising or providing support so I'd cancel the friendship. No huge drama required to do that, by the way!

PS: I also wanted to add that you are also OK to withdraw from the friendship without declaring it to be OVER. If you are socially isolated, I get why that may be a preferable middle ground for you. If you want to just game with him, you can be gaming friends without being friend-friends, for example. He's perfectly comfortable ignoring you when you tell him how you feel, so you can do the same -- if he discusses anything not gaming related, you can ignore him.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:23 PM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Nthing the idea that this so-called friend is no such thing -- but really, you might want to focus on the important stuff. Dude is not the important stuff, your dysfunctional family is.

You mused that living in a car might be a good [temporary, I'm assuming] option for you in your situation. Really, though, is it? I'm not saying this to mock you -- rather, people live in their cars when they have no other option. The problem becomes one of how long, because the alternative is living rough, and it's never far away at that point. And really, being homeless just **sucks**.

Do you have any other options you can explore? Any other friends you might be able to talk to? You mentioned debt as chaining you in place at the moment. Do you have a job you can save up with? If not, could you get one? It wouldn't matter if it was minimum-wage -- it would give you at least pin money, occupy your time away from the house (which sounds desperately toxic -- my sympathies), and most significantly, give you eventual opportunities to leave home, even if you might not do it with this particular job.

Focus on how you are going to escape your home situation, not guys like this insensitive loser -- in the grander scheme of things, your home situation has a greater bearing on your physical and mental well-being than any tone-deaf jerk, and cleaning that up will benefit you no matter what happens with doofus there. From the sounds of it, that jerk is going to be leaving your sphere of influence pretty damn quick.

Best of luck to you. You can do it!
posted by northtwilight at 12:18 AM on September 19, 2014 [5 favorites]

Also, I think it's worth noting that if you're in your early 20s and deeply in debt, you may want to look into bankruptcy. This might free up enough income to rent a room in a shared house so you can improve your situation.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:23 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I find that a lot of people don't get at all what it's like to come from a dysfucntional family (or can't face looking at their own.. ) this can make things feel pretty prickly and uncomfortable if you are a reflector. Have you seen the laundry list and/or tried al-anon or coda? I think you may find them interesting and useful in some ways.

I think you did really well to try and defend your boundaries and went back again when he trivialsed them. It is really hard to do that and ain't always the smoothest delivery for those who lack practice - but what of that? It's a process- a skill to keep trying. What he does with that info is up to him (that bit can feel kind of shit!! Cos he can still choose not to take it in or whatever) but this is about letting go of the outcome. Hard, very hard. But there are more sensitive people out there.

Sorry to hear about home. Do what you need to do to survive it.
posted by tanktop at 5:36 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing that Dave's a jerk. And sorry to hear about your tough family situation.
posted by radioamy at 7:19 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't think you are over-reacting to your disappointment.

I'm with Jaguar and tanktop and suggesting that your friend can't, and maybe doesn't want to, support you in the way you need.

And maybe he was trying, in a clumsy bro-ish way to let you know that he let Greg know you're in a weird place.He remembered, after three weeks, that you talked about living in your car.

My mother, for instance, has a real talent for finding the worst possible way to announce bad news when either the news makes her uncomfortable or when it's not actually bad but she thinks it makes her look bad.

You should not roll over for this, however, so good on you for confronting Dave.

No idea what Dave is thinking. I think that unless your grandfather is actually dangerous, living in your car would be worse for your anxiety. You have complete strangers yelling at you about parking and loitering, and various Starbucks and fast food employees giving you the stinkeye for using their restrooms, and trying to look presentable for work would be a daily challenge.

Al-Anon is free. Please find help. Your family's disfunction is not your fault or your problem to solve.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:27 AM on September 19, 2014

Best answer: Treating this whole thing as a joke is just mean. And once he knew you were upset about what he did, he should have apologized instead of breezily saying "Too late, I already told him." If I were to give the most charitable interpretation, I might say that he was just trying to laugh it off because he felt bad about what he did. But when adults hurt their friends, they acknowledge it and apologize; they don't make more jokes to compound the injury.
posted by holborne at 7:52 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your friend Dave wouldn’t recognize himself in this description because he probably does not feel insensitive. Some people are just not very attune to emotions. I am totally like that. You may want to sit down with your friend Dave and tell him why you were hurt and why you feel he owes you an apology. If that doesn’t come, then you can start moving on to friendships that are better suited to your personality, but at least you will have warned Dave in advance that his insensitivity would have consequences.

Also, I have done a lot of reading recently about MBTI personality types (here) and think it would help you greatly not only to understand yourself better, but also to understand your closed ones and the dynamics of your interaction with them.

This being said, think careully before moving into your car. Good luck with your family situation.
posted by Kwadeng at 9:42 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This situation sucks. Your home life sucks and your friend sucks. Suck suck suckity suck. Suck.

But in this suckhole is a huge amount of really important information. You're poised to learn many invaluable lessons here, and I want to be of support in that area. To wit:

- Are you hooked on pills? Alcohol? Meth? Crack? Speed? No? Awesome. Fantastic. You're doing a hell of a lot better than everybody else in your family. You have the option to treat your house like a place that you retreat to late at night to sleep and flee first thing in the morning. Use your car to look for work that can get you that much closer to getting out of Castle Suck and into a roommate situation ASAP.

- Car camp as much as you can. Pretty much every place I've ever been to has some patch of forest or beach or desert or scrub somewhere that is loosely referred to as a camp ground. Find those areas near where you are and get out of the house a lot.

- Friends. Okay. Friends should, in an ideal world, be people who get you, who accept and like you despite your faults, who treat you with respect, and who are wordly, rational and kind enough to see what you're telling them even when you're not able to say it in so many words. Friends should know when to say "That totally blows, you were right, FUCK THOSE GUYS!" or "Jesus, you must be really going through something to consider living in your car! What can I do to help?" Unfortunately, not all friends are like this. In fact, some friends aren't going to be able to handle that your reality is so vastly different from theirs, and that fact alone is going to make them minimize and diminish your experiences and feelings. And, further, and still more unfortunately, it's up to you to recognize which among your friends are which, and to depend on one group of friends for support, wisdom and helpful feedback, and stick to the other group for other, less consequential things, like gaming, eating tacos and watching Talking Dead.

- It's well within your power to move out of your current living situation.

- It's well within your power to tell your friend that he really let you down and that you don't want to be friends anymore.

- It's well within your power to chalk his insensitivity up to Jackass gonna Jackass and let it inform how vulnerable you are with this particular friend in the future.

- When you are old, you will not give a rat's ass if people laugh at you. Or at least you'll care a whole lot less than you do now.

Don't expect your friend to suddenly wake up and cop to being a colossal jerk. He's not mature enough to have that sort of insight if he's not mature enough to not laugh at you when you're asking for help and reassurance.

Good luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 9:56 AM on September 19, 2014 [9 favorites]

i've lived in a truck before, so you're in good company.

i told the proprietor of a local state liquor store how much i didn't like a new weekly tabloid that had recently appeared on newsracks, and a week later my name was in the tabloid as an enemy of america or something. you get to do that just once, and considering the volume of my liquor custom, it was an expensive betrayal.
posted by bruce at 10:09 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your friend Dave sounds like an asshole.
posted by obliterati at 10:59 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ugh! Sometimes friends let you down so bad that you can never look at them in the same way ever again...It happens to the best of us all throughout our lives, so do not personalize this and internalize this as something negative about you. HE is the weakest link here, not you. Please keep that in the forefront of your mind.

I'd do the , "No, I'm good!" thing and cancel your get together tomorrow unless you feel like being confrontational (which still gives him power over you)...Being insensitive and betraying a confidence is nothing to be proud of. Maybe Dave needs to lose a friend to understand that.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 11:28 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Well, Dave sounds like kind of a jerk. Now you know he can't be trusted with sensitive information. You can be friends with Dave on his level - limited trust, limited sharing. Some people just can't do more than that, or can't do more at this point in time. People do evolve, at least sometimes.

Dave is well-known to be insensitive, but you stood up for yourself respectfully and assertively. That's great! You didn't overreact, you aren't stupid. You can't control Dave. He is unlikely to acknowledge your feelings. It's up to you if you want to hang out with him or not.

Spend lots of time at the library or some other place with wifi, comfy chairs, etc. Maybe get a 2nd job to pay off debt. When I was coming to terms with my Mom's alcoholism, I went to meetings of Adult Children of Alcoholics. It helped, and I met nice people. Establish a routine that will keep you out of the house, be pleasant, not unhealthy, maybe earn some cash, have fun or learn. You sound like a person who deserves to be treated better. So at least treat yourself better.
posted by theora55 at 2:05 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

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