2013-08-16

When relationships are just too hard

<p>All people have quirks, and you adapt to them. You adapt in order to be able to interact socially. A co-worker may be temperamental and you take care not to antagonize. Another is gossipy so you choose what to say. A third is insecure and you make sure to say hello so as not to offend. In a larger context, such as your workplace, your book club, or your gym you also adapt, to the environment and to the ambience created by the people in it. It&#8217;s normal. You have to in order to participate in the context you find yourself in.</p>

<p>With friends it&#8217;s the same, you just have to adapt more because of closer association of friendship. How much you moderate your behavior depends on what you want to get out of it. Sometimes it&#8217;s hard to be a friend. It&#8217;s hard because the friend is a difficult person. She may be touchy and as a consequence there are a lot of misunderstandings which may require lengthy resolution processes. Sometimes she has extra needs; she has quirks that are not so charming and require special consideration. </p>

<p>You stay is such a relationship because that friend is worth it. You get more out of that friendship than it costs.</p>

<p>Sometimes you stay in such a relationship because there is no easy way to extract yourself; like with a difficult family member.</p>

<p>Most close friendships will be difficult as some point. There are so many reasons why; arguments, guilt-trippy emails, problems that never get resolved, mental illness, addiction, erratic behavior.</p>

<p>It can be you, it can be her, it may be both, but there is tension that makes it difficult to enjoy the friendship. You can stick with it, or you can give up. You can back out either explicitly by slamming the door behind you or implicitly by becoming unreachable.</p>

<p>There are so many reasons why it becomes too hard. Maybe it&#8217;s just one argument too many, or maybe you feel like your being there or not is responsible for the other person&#8217;s happiness. But backing out is hard too, because you&#8217;re supposed to help, because you&#8217;re a friend, a close friend, and friends are supposed to be there for each other, no matter what. That&#8217;s what <em>real</em> friends do.</p>

<p>But that&#8217;s the kicker: neither friendship nor love is ever unconditional. They can&#8217;t be, because ultimately you can&#8217;t make anyone do anything. If what they do makes your life intolerable then your loyalty will wear down. You cannot live someone else&#8217;s life for her.</p>

<p>When push come to shove, you&#8217;re there or not. Perhaps you&#8217;ll come back when things have settled in the hopes that your withdrawal hasn&#8217;t worn your friend&#8217;s loyalty down.</p>

<p>This is how it is with me and M. She is difficult. She has extra needs and she gets triggered by certain behaviors on my part. Perhaps not unduly so, but that&#8217;s how I experience it. If I don&#8217;t show up for a meeting, for example, she might get extremely
upset. That&#8217;s OK for the most part, except when I miss a meeting because of something out of my control and the explanation is not sufficient to defuse the upset. I am currently on a hiatus. I need to figure out what to do about my own upset. I feel guilty and anxious and I am putting off sorting it out.</p>

<p>It&#8217;s a similar situation with Sergey. He refuses to accept the boundaries I have set up &#8211; there are other issues too, like how to deal with his paranoia &#8211; so I don&#8217;t interact with him anymore.</p>

<p>With Mike it&#8217;s different. He is taking a break from me because he wants more than friendship and my frequent invitations and behaviours encouraged him to think that that was possible.</p>

<p>Then there&#8217;s Frank. I sent him one last message, and I can just imagine how uncomfortable it must be. Perhaps he thinks I am selfish, self absorbed, that I fail to take responsibility for my actions. I don&#8217;t know, he hasn&#8217;t said anything. I keep looping the conversations about how I am selfish in my head, over and over. You see, I am a difficult person, I need stuff from him that goes beyond a simple friendship.</p>

<p>There is a fundamental diffrence of wants here. I want a close, supportive friendship and he wants something else.</p>

<p>Perhaps our wants will never align. From my perspective he refuses to be held accountable for the impact his actions and inactions has on me. As an extreme example, he spontaneously rejected that he may have played a role in the breakdown of my marriage. With regards to my marriage, my actions are my own. I didn&#8217;t blame him then, and don&#8217;t now, but he does have an impact on my emotional state and, whether he accepts it or not, a responsibility.</p>

<p>I am not a total wanker though, I can see the parallels between the situation between me and M, and me and Frank, so I can&#8217;t exactly be all self righteous about it.</p>

<p>This is my last message to him which, as of yet, goes unanswered. </p>

<p>And that&#8217;s the other thing about friendship, it&#8217;s voluntary.</p>

<blockquote>
<p>I can see now that you thought I wanted you to audition for a spot on my FB list of friend. That wasn&#8217;t it, not really.</p>

<p>The longish summary of my life since January goes like this: </p>

<p>You decided we couldn&#8217;t be friends. It was OK. All the arguing and agonizing had been hard on me and I&#8217;d lost hope that it was fixable, so I figured it was better to let it go. </p>

<p>I went to my Home Country, it was great. My mom and I were closer than we&#8217;ve ever been. I got to know her as a person. We didn&#8217;t fight.</p>

<p>Things were great at work. My boss, J, had great plans for me: promotion, raise, team leadership. Then he left and I got a new boss, B, and then another new boss, J. My career plans got derailed, I was disappointed but I got over it. </p>

<p>The roommate situation got kind of difficult. There was a blow-up, but I adopted a cool but polite attitude toward D, and she adopted an angry, resentful attitude toward me. I felt guilty, but didn&#8217;t really care. </p>

<p>Then I got notice on my house and had to move. It was stressful, lots of worry, but I found a really fantastic place and I moved. As a bonus I got rid of D, which was a great relief. </p>

<p>My personal life has been on the up and up. Turns out people really like me; I throw excellent parties, I get invited to excellent parties. When you&#8217;re depressed it&#8217;s inconceivable that people can like someone so useless and utterly incapable of contributing. When you&#8217;re depressed you are certain you are there on sufferance. </p>

<p>I wasn&#8217;t depressed any more. I created good, stable, friendly, uncomplicated relationships with people. I enjoyed my friends and they enjoyed me. I said hi, looked people in the eyes and struck up conversations with strangers. When you&#8217;re not consumed with how much you suck it comes naturally. </p>

<p>I had some dips. That&#8217;s how bipolar works, it&#8217;s a biological thing you control with medication. I had symptoms of both hypo mania and depression but they were infrequent and mild. </p>

<p>I got downgraded on my performance review, from outstanding to strong. It pissed me off because B didn&#8217;t even know me. I&#8217;d made some strategic mistakes though, so I managed to reduce my anger to a resentful irritation that I suddenly had to prove myself again. </p>

<p>It started going downhill a while back, maybe 5 weeks ago. It&#8217;s so subtle and I had no reason to think it wouldn&#8217;t get better like it had before; but when I got erratic with my medication things really started going sideways. I took PTO because I felt I couldn&#8217;t contribute at work, and because J so recently became my boss he hasn&#8217;t seen how good I actually am. He has only met the unreliable, insecure me. I started worrying that I&#8217;d lose my job. I slept a lot, cried a lot, had panic attacks, lost a lot of weight. </p>

<p>About a week ago, I started taking my meds, sleeping and eating properly, I started repairing things at work, but I was still going down. It takes a while for the mood to stabilize after you stop taking your meds properly. </p>

<p>This is when you suddenly popped up. I would have reacted differently if things weren&#8217;t already bad. Your sudden message would have been startling and unsettling, but not destructive. </p>

<p>Modern communication is funny, it let&#8217;s you see when messages are received and read, even the time and date. </p>

<p>You read my message and then didn&#8217;t answer until six hours later, maybe you didn&#8217;t have time, but I imagined you&#8217;d held off to see if anything more enticing would show up and then lied to me. In my mind you would have known you&#8217;d be in City the whole time, so there had to be a nefarious reason for you not to tell me so. That whole not having anything to contribute was going at full tilt. When I realized you can&#8217;t actually delete messages, that you&#8217;d gotten every iteration of that same message about what had taken you so long, I decided it was best to pull out. </p>

<p>I met my doctor Monday, and you know, it was such a relief to hear him say: &#8220;It&#8217;s clear you have very strong feelings for this person&#8221;, rather than being told that part of being an adult is accepting that I can&#8217;t have everything I want and that I am fixating. It&#8217;s a relief to not have my feelings for you treated as something pathological. </p>

<p>Because that&#8217;s the thing, I still have feelings for you. </p>

<p>So, you see now why I asked you to explain why I should accept you back into my life. You wouldn&#8217;t be able to treat me as just another friend, you&#8217;d have be considerate of these things, be ready to clarify and reassure at the times when I am vulnerable. </p>

<p>That&#8217;s a lot to ask of a friend. That&#8217;s why re-establishing a friendship has to be more than a whim, it has to be a decision. </p>

<p>I have no reason to think it will get this bad again as long as I take my meds &#8211; it hasn&#8217;t been this bad for many years &#8211; but I can&#8217;t be sure. Bipolar is an incurable disease. </p>

<p>I wanted you to know all of this, because I don&#8217;t want you to think that I am an asshole. I also want you to know that I have enjoyed having you as a friend and that I won&#8217;t resent you if you don&#8217;t want the responsibility of being my friend now.</p>
</blockquote>

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