My Worst Friendship Experience

 

When it comes to building and maintaining friendships, I’ve had a hit-and-miss record. Early on, I used to be pretty forgiving of people’s idiosyncrasies: maybe they talked a lot; maybe they seemed distracted when they were with me; maybe they expected me to carry the burden of scheduling our time together. Regardless, I wanted to be seen as a “nice person.”

But this particular friendship from around 25 years ago caused me frustration that was awkward to deal with, and I couldn’t figure out how to end the friendship without hurting his feelings. (In case you’re wondering, it was a platonic friendship.) After all, he was bright, friendly, passionate about his work, where he was training to be a minister in the Church of Religious Science (also known as Science of Mind). In time, however, I discovered there was only one person he genuinely cared about.

Himself.

It’s only fair for me to justify my perception about his self-obsession. We usually got together over lunch. When we talked—or I should say, when he talked, he seemed to have little interest in what I had to contribute. Periodically I would insert a comment about something going on in my life; when I finished, rather than take my sharing as a cue to check in with me and ask for more information, or to ask me a question, he would start talking about his favorite subject.

Himself.

Finally, I realized that this friendship was never going to be reciprocal; I became aware that there was no room for me in the relationship. He wasn’t interested in getting to know me better. He just wanted to talk about his own life and activities. I decided my time was too precious to indulge him, and that it was time to end the relationship.

But how could I do that without seeming nasty and self-centered myself?

I decided that I should just tell him I was busy when he called. He only called about once per month, so I figured I could successfully use that tactic. But the first time I turned him down, he called again in about a week. So I made up some excuse. The third time, he was catching on to the fact that I was avoiding him. Rather than taking the hint, though, he asked me if something was wrong. At that point, I didn’t think it was fair to lie again. Here’s how the conversation went:

Randy: I get the feeling that you’re avoiding me. [you think?]

Me: Well, I guess I am. [Duh]

Randy: Was it something I said or did?

Me: Randy, I don’t know how to say this without hurting your feelings. But it seems that when we get together, the only person who talks is you. You don’t ask me about myself, my work, my life. You don’t seem curious about who I am. So our conversations are pretty one-sided. [I tried to keep my tone moderate and kind.]

[Silence]

[More silence]

Randy: Wow, that’s pretty hard to hear.

Me: I’m sorry. That’s why I’ve been avoiding you. I just don’t think we are a good match as friends.

Randy: I guess not. I’m sorry to hear this.

Me: I’m sorry to share it. And I wish you well.

And that’s the last time I ever spoke to him.

There is actually a happy, or at least productive, end to this story. I was visiting a woman who was a friend of both Randy (not his name) and me, and she mentioned that he told her about what had happened. (I’d never discussed the matter with her.) That my talking to him had changed his life, particularly since he was going to be ministering to people. That as painful as it was to hear what I had to say, he’d learned something important. That you must be, and behave as if, you are sincerely interested in the other person.

You just never know when you can impact another person’s life for the good.

*     *     *     *

Since the Group Writing assignment was to writing about “Best and Worst,” it’s only fair to add that although I won’t single out one person, I have a few people who demonstrate the best qualities of being a great friend. A couple of them are on Ricochet. They are people who are kind, considerate, funny, deep, intelligent and we share a reciprocity in wanting to share with each other. There is a warm connection that transcends our individual quirks and preferences. My friends are concerned with my wellbeing and with my journey in life, and I feel the same way about them.

I don’t have lots of friends, but those I have do indeed bless my life, and I will forever be grateful for them.

Published in Group Writing
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  1. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    “But I’ve talked enough about me.  So, what do you think about me?”  LOL.  Been there.

    A brave response from you, and a marvelous ending to the story–one that could only have been bettered by his telling you himself of the very substantial and good impact you’d made on his life.  But I think you’re braver than he is.

    • #1
  2. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Saw a great phrase:

    Stop calling first and see how many dead plants you’ve been watering.

     

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    She (View Comment):
    But I think you’re braver than he is.

    It’s amazing what we can do when we’re desperate to get out of situation!

    • #3
  4. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    That was pretty interesting. Thanks for sharing. I think I’ve only had one similar experience where I intentionally ended a friendship. Actually all I said was I needed space from him, not meaning forever, but he took it as ending forever, didn’t like the conversation, and it has been forever. Actually we did speak one other time. I had heard he had a heart attack and I called to see how he was. It was pleasant but we have never spoken since. 

    • #4
  5. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Typical Susan Quinn wisdom, which is never typical at all.

    Thank you for this latest reflection on how life works. Both your words and the photo are worth reflection.

     

     

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill (View Comment):

    Typical Susan Quinn wisdom, which is never typical at all.

    Thank you for this latest reflection on how life works. Both your words and the photo are worth reflection.

     

     

    You’re very sweet, @caroljoy. It’s not the kind of thing you can practice for; there’s no way to know how the other person will react. Thank you.

    • #6
  7. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, so let me tell you more about me…

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Mark Alexander (View Comment):

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, so let me tell you more about me…

    Which reminds me–I didn’t invite others to tell their “friend” stories; or will people worry about shifting the spotlight??

    • #8
  9. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Mark Alexander (View Comment):

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, so let me tell you more about me…

    Which reminds me–I didn’t invite others to tell their “friend” stories; or will people worry about shifting the spotlight??

    Hey this was clearly your day to share your experience. We knew that when we clicked on it.

    I have been too busy thinking about your experience to wonder why I wasn’t asked to share mine.

    And  although I have been in similar situations, I have no reports on my handling such situations with such aplomb.

     

    • #9
  10. Rōnin Coolidge
    Rōnin
    @Ronin

    No dought @susanquinn you are a good person and one of the cool kids around here.

    • #10
  11. Chris Oler Coolidge
    Chris Oler
    @ChrisO

    Wow. Susan, you handled this excellent, and what a great outcome. I can imagine the difficulty of saying that, though you presented it in a positive way. Thanks for sharing this.

    I was on the receiving end of something like this, and it too changed my life. Pretty sure the person who said it has no idea, though I’ve thought of sending a note of thanks.

    • #11
  12. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    I have to ask how you even started to have this recurrent relationship with someone you didn’t like.  What caused you to think he was worth associating with?  Was there some sort of trait that attracted you?  Did he do great things?  

    • #12
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Skyler (View Comment):

    I have to ask how you even started to have this recurrent relationship with someone you didn’t like. What caused you to think he was worth associating with? Was there some sort of trait that attracted you? Did he do great things?

    I explained in the post, @skyler

    • #13
  14. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    I have to ask how you even started to have this recurrent relationship with someone you didn’t like. What caused you to think he was worth associating with? Was there some sort of trait that attracted you? Did he do great things?

    I explained in the post, @ skyler.

    Yes, but it doesn’t seem to be enough for the amount of time you invested.  I was wondering if there was something else. 

    • #14
  15. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Skyler (View Comment):
    Yes, but it doesn’t seem to be enough for the amount of time you invested.  I was wondering if there was something else. 

    I guess it just means you’re very polite. 

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    I have to ask how you even started to have this recurrent relationship with someone you didn’t like. What caused you to think he was worth associating with? Was there some sort of trait that attracted you? Did he do great things?

    I explained in the post, @ skyler.

    Yes, but it doesn’t seem to be enough for the amount of time you invested. I was wondering if there was something else.

    Given that we only got together 6-8 times over 3-6 months, I don’t consider that a lot of time. Since he was actually an interesting person in terms of his ideas and his ambitions, I thought I’d try for a while to see if he showed more interest in getting to know me. He was studying to be a minister and I thought that was admirable. A shift in our relationship didn’t happen. Also, that was 25 years ago; at 71, I’m not interested in investing that amount of time.

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):
    Yes, but it doesn’t seem to be enough for the amount of time you invested. I was wondering if there was something else.

    I guess it just means you’re very polite.

    Actually, I guess I am. In private I’ll rant and rave and be very opinionated. But when I risk hurting another person who does not intend to be hurtful to me, I do try to be polite. Even here on Ricochet, I tend to be mostly balanced, especially if my comments are directed at another person. If that person is Joe Biden, however, all bets are off. If my comments are directed toward movements (like the Left) I will raise my level of passion and anger. Most people, I think, expect that. I like to behave that way because it preserves relationships (as opposed specifically to friendships), and ultimately those are very valuable to me.

    • #17
  18. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Skyler (View Comment):
    I guess it just means you’re very polite. 

    Or it could be that you were very introverted and afraid to confront him earlier in your interactions.  It’s a very interesting story and it’s causing me to think a lot about why people interact.  Do people interact so familiarly out of politeness?  What is the etiquette for informing a regular contact that you don’t want that contact anymore?  Was there a way to inform him before you lost all patience with him?  Was it worth the investment to tell him off as you politely did but then ask if he could change?   Do you have any obligation to do so after investing so much time in your relationship?  

    I’m not at all being critical.  You can probably guess that I would be far more blunt and uncompromising. 

    • #18
  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):
    I guess it just means you’re very polite.

    Or it could be that you were very introverted and afraid to confront him earlier in your interactions. It’s a very interesting story and it’s causing me to think a lot about why people interact. Do people interact so familiarly out of politeness? What is the etiquette for informing a regular contact that you don’t want that contact anymore? Was there a way to inform him before you lost all patience with him? Was it worth the investment to tell him off as you politely did but then ask if he could change? Do you have any obligation to do so after investing so much time in your relationship?

    I’m not at all being critical. You can probably guess that I would be far more blunt and uncompromising.

    Great comments and questions, @skyler. Actually, I am quite introverted, but not to an extreme. I much prefer interacting with one or two people at a time, rather than larger groups. Regarding asking a person to change, I asked two other friends to change because they were behaving similarly. One tried, but it was awkward; my time with the other was awkward, too, and then after a couple of times we got together, she pointedly mentioned that she hoped I noticed that she was showing more interest in me. Like she was doing me a big favor. Neither of those two relationships lasted long. I don’t need friends who think they’re doing me a big favor.

    I’m signing off for the Sabbath. You’re welcome to ask more questions, but I won’t be back online until tomorrow night.

    • #19
  20. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    This post is part of our September group writing theme: “Best and Worst.” Stop by and sign up today.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #20
  21. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    I suspect you are the best friend he ever almost had. 

    • #21
  22. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Not an issue for me.  I don’t have any friends.

    • #22
  23. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Not an issue for me. I don’t have any friends.

    C’mon, buddy. You and me. We can make this work!

    • #23
  24. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Mark Alexander (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Not an issue for me. I don’t have any friends.

    C’mon, buddy. You and me. We can make this work!

    I’m friendly enough, just not very gregarious.  I’m perfectly happy alone with my wife.  Whether she reciprocates or not is open to question.

    • #24
  25. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    BDB (View Comment):

    Saw a great phrase:

    Stop calling first and see how many dead plants you’ve been watering.

    People often say marriage takes a lot of work.  I think friendships take more effort to maintain.  You see your spouse every day.  If you don’t make an effort to stay in contact with your friends, those relationships will often evaporate.  You might ask someone if they’ve seen someone who has been a close friend of theirs lately, and they will say they haven’t so much as talked with them in five years.  Not because there’s been a breakup, it’s just that neither party put in an effort to stay in touch. 

    Am I watering dead plants when I reach out to friends who would not make the effort to reach out to me?  Perhaps.  It is frustrating when people won’t even write back with an answer.  But the alternative is to have almost no friendships.

    • #25
  26. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):
    But the alternative is to have almost no friendships.

    No offense, but as described, those are not friendships. Those are dependencies.  

    • #26
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    To me, friendship has to have some kind of reciprocity; it doesn’t have to be in every aspect of the relationship, but if it’s not there, it isn’t a balanced friendship. That works for some people–being the person who props things up. There are those who want to relate to others superfcially, too; it’s less risky and less demanding.

    • #27
  28. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):

    BDB (View Comment):

    Saw a great phrase:

    Stop calling first and see how many dead plants you’ve been watering.

    People often say marriage takes a lot of work. I think friendships take more effort to maintain.

    They do take more effort, because there isn’t so much at stake.  It’s an effort I’ve always been willing to attempt on behalf of those I think of as real friends.

    Am I watering dead plants when I reach out to friends who would not make the effort to reach out to me? Perhaps. It is frustrating when people won’t even write back with an answer. But the alternative is to have almost no friendships.

    There’s no friendship when there’s no response.  And even less, when the passive-aggressive response is derogatory and destructive.  So, after a point, the only alternative is to abandon the attempt, even if you’re me.  Friendship is a two way street.  And I’m done with beating myself up, when it comes to attempts to maintain friendships with immoral and unfriendly people who don’t get that.

    BDB (View Comment):

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):
    But the alternative is to have almost no friendships.

    No offense, but as described, those are not friendships. Those are dependencies.

    Yep.  Frankly, I don’t need “friendships” when the “comms” are all one way, in terms of begging, apology, sycophancy, and submission.

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    To me, friendship has to have some kind of reciprocity; it doesn’t have to be in every aspect of the relationship, but if it’s not there, it isn’t a balanced friendship. That works for some people–being the person who props things up. There are those who want to relate to others superfcially, too; it’s less risky and less demanding.

    Exactly. It’s taken me seven decades to figure it out, but–frankly–if you can’t prop yourself up, if you’re scared because I might know the ugly truth about you, if your response to an offer of friendship is to decamp to the other side of the world, hide out, and look for ignoramuses who’ll subsume their own identities to yours, then–I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.  LOL.

    • #28
  29. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    To me, friendship has to have some kind of reciprocity; it doesn’t have to be in every aspect of the relationship, but if it’s not there, it isn’t a balanced friendship. That works for some people–being the person who props things up. There are those who want to relate to others superfcially, too; it’s less risky and less demanding.

    Friendship without reciprocity is service. 

    There’s nothing wrong with service, but it ain’t friendship. 

    • #29
  30. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    TBA (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    To me, friendship has to have some kind of reciprocity; it doesn’t have to be in every aspect of the relationship, but if it’s not there, it isn’t a balanced friendship. That works for some people–being the person who props things up. There are those who want to relate to others superfcially, too; it’s less risky and less demanding.

    Friendship without reciprocity is service.

    There’s nothing wrong with service, but it ain’t friendship.

    Doormats are valuable objects, but they are not friends.

    • #30