Candor, maybe, for once
June 23, 2022 12:16 AM   Subscribe

It's come to my attention that I resent a recently-made friend and the taproot is envy. Should I tell them about it in some way?

I just converted to a new religion, and in doing so I made a friend who's much younger than me. He's been an incredible support and source of wisdom for me as I navigate my new faith. He's much younger than me and there is no romantic potential there, thankfully, otherwise I'd be obsessed with that.

But I've started to feel 100% outclassed. He's been able to make use of his gifts in specific ways that I wished for myself but that I have not been able to do thanks (probably) to autism and maybe just lack of depth to the gift. I've railed against that and tried to change it since probably junior high, to not much avail.

And he's a genuinely good person. To be clear, he doesn't push his knowledge on me and has tried to involve me in activities where I wanted to use what little skill I have. Me, eh, I have a ways to go in the good person department. Having had my life so constrained by executive dysfunction / inertia / lack of focus / allistic misunderstanding of autists isn't a great place to be left in one's late fifties. Much of this is a matter of acceptance of where I've been left.

I have tried to be a good friend to him and his family as much as I can, but tbh I don't have much to offer. I have made financial support where it's been welcome, but I don't push the issue.

Last weekend I got angry at him for something I thought he had done: turns out a third party jumped the gun and said that he'd approved the third party contact me about a matter when in fact he hadn't done so. He apologized profusely even though in retrospect the fault was not his at all. But all of this put the spotlight on my resentments and the fact that I don't feel valuable as a friend at all.

And honestly, having a resentful, envious "friend" is something I've had to run away from myself. I don't want to be that person in someone else's life.

Most of our conversation is about spiritual matters to begin with. And I'm about to embark on formal 12 step work for the first time even though I've been in recovery for a long time. Finally, my new faith is of course by itself an immense source of support and wisdom.

So: should I bring up the matter of envy and resentment with him? Perhaps a simple mention of it without going on forever and ever about it?

Those who want to respond: please focus on the question asked. Please do NOT try to guide me into therapy over my ability to be a friend, or question my judgment on it. If therapy had been able to address this, I certainly would be OK by now. And we elder autists are often left bankrupt and bitter from a lifetime of constraint and struggle. I've known others like me and I'm pretty sure I'm in that category as well. 12 step work and prayer are my only recourses left in that area.
posted by Sheydem-tants to Human Relations (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I am so sorry you’re struggling with these feelings, and I bear witness to your lifetime of struggle. I would recommend putting additional weight on answers from other autistic folks, particularly autistic non-men. I’m one of those. While in a perfect world honesty is the best policy, in this world, the answer is more nuanced. In your place, I would minimise dice rolls. Sharing something difficult with your friend is rolling the dice, and for structural reasons dice are often weighted against the presumption of goodwill and good faith for autistic non-men. So I wouldn’t share it, but would initially turn to what resources I had available and worked for me to work through feelings of envy and resentment, the 12 step work may be useful there. You can always bring these feelings up later, with your friend or with a more formal spiritual adviser. For me, understanding that there are structural reasons I’ve not been able to get the most out of my gifts has helped with resentment of others, as well as a clear understanding and firm conviction of the politics of ableism. Please feel free to reach out with any further queries or if you’d like to discuss anything with someone with some shared experiences!
posted by The Last Sockpuppet at 1:01 AM on June 23, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: No good can come of bringing this up. As a fellow autistic person, I understand the urge to tell him! I would also feel like that would clear the air. But there’s nothing he can do about it, and it’s putting a burden on him to know he makes you feel bad this way. I am not going to suggest therapy, but I AM going to suggest autism specific message boards or friends to talk about this with. It’s not an uncommon way to feel and it comes up fairly frequently in those spaces and people share many thoughts about navigating it and overcoming that internal feeling. Because I do think it’s different than just generic allistic feelings of jealousy or inadequacy. But no. Don’t say anything to your friend, even by way of explaining your behavior. Just take the steps to pull out that root of jealousy.
posted by Bottlecap at 1:11 AM on June 23, 2022 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: @TheLastSockpuppet: MeMailing you
posted by Sheydem-tants at 2:18 AM on June 23, 2022

Best answer: I agree with the others here, don't tell him about this particular struggle with envy.

I have tried to be a good friend to him and his family as much as I can, but tbh I don't have much to offer. I have made financial support where it's been welcome, but I don't push the issue.

I hope this doesn't step over your stated boundary of not wanting advice about ability to judge this friendship. If so I apologise.

The above stood out to me. It sounds to me as if you have found a good friend, and it's bringing up some painful aspects of valuing yourself as a friend.

He had chosen you as a friend. That is enough. You don't have to offer anything but yourself. That's the person he likes and respects. You don't have to be a source of money, or anything else in order to be a valued friend to this person.
posted by Zumbador at 3:13 AM on June 23, 2022 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Agree that saying anything to your friend is a bad idea, regardless of any complicating autism factors (but as someone on the spectrum I totally get the desire to do so). All it will do is place a burden on your friend, which presumably is not what you want.

To emphasize what Zumbador said, no true friendship is contingent on what material things you bring to it. Friendship is about liking the other person for who they are, not what they have. Rather than the candour you are considering, perhaps focus on being present when you are with them (or any friend). That's the best gift you can give someone.

Best of luck with this, it sounds like you are trying to be a good friend and a good person, and we all struggle with how best to do that sometimes.
posted by underclocked at 3:42 AM on June 23, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: First I am going to state a disclaimer that I am neurotypical, so if I mis-understand or mis-speak out of ignorance, please forgive me.

I read you say that you got angry with him because of a misunderstanding, and he apologized, but you later learned that it was a misunderstanding - and you realized that the situation had triggered your feelings of not feeling valuable as a friend, and that may have fueled your anger.

If that is what is prompting you to speak to your friend, then perhaps there is something you could say - but only if there still seems to be some tension between you. If your friend still seems uneasy around you, you could apologize yourself, saying that you have realized that the incident had inadvertently stirred up some feelings in yourself that your friend had nothing to do with. But you don't need to say what those feelings ARE. Something like:

"Friend, I wanted to apologize for how angry I was when [incident] happened. The incident triggered some things which I realized had nothing to do with what happened, and I'm thinking about how to manage that on my own. But it was never about anything you had done, and I apologize for how that affected you."

Do you understand what I mean? You are acknowledging to your friend that you reacted in a way that might have affected them, and you are explaining that you know the reason for it - but you aren't telling them what that reason is.

Again, this might not be necessary if your friend is treating you the same way they always did. If your friend is treating you the same way they always did, then...your friend has already forgiven you, and they may already understand somehow what's going on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:18 AM on June 23, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Good news! You don’t have to worry about this right now. There is a WHOLE SECTION on this coming up in your twelve step work, and you’ll have a supportive structure for assessing both what you feel and what action you need to take, in careful conversation with someone who will know you well and will be in a good place to guide you. It sounds like you’re exactly where you need to be, in terms of sensitivity and self-awareness. More will be revealed; until then, just pause. Nothing is urgent. I’m excited for you.
posted by Merricat Blackwood at 5:52 AM on June 23, 2022 [4 favorites]

If ever there were an issue that is clearly your problem, this is it. Don’t make it his unless specifically asked.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:40 AM on June 23, 2022 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Update: Friend just got home from a stressful business trip, so this morning I sent him a very brief text worded much as EmpressCallipygos suggested above.

He left me a thoughtful and compassionate voice note in return, and I thanked him for that and sent vibes for recuperative downtime. I think we're good.

Thank you for your own wise and compassionate responses! I'm so glad I posted here.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:17 AM on June 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

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