The most devastating experience I ever had was losing pretty much every friend I had after I made the decision to raise my oldest son despite being unmarried. I had friends that I loved with all my heart who cut off all contact with me and stop sharing anything about their own lives. (I wrote a bit about how and why I made the decision I did here. It’s a good story, I think. ) I was so devastated by this whole scale abandonment and rejection that it was at the root of a life-threatening bout of depression I had to seek treatment for some time later. Oddly enough though, it was the fact that my “support system” had disappeared that shaped the rest of my life since. See, my quasi-ex husband and my mother were the only people who would have anything to do with me. And as my 4 additional children demonstrate, although I had no intention at all of getting back with him at the time, the fact that he was practically the only person who would have anything to do with me was a pretty compelling reason for me to take another look. Really, I’m not that hard to please. Just being willing to talk with me, be there when I’m upset and sharing your own ideas and life with me is all it takes to make me feel cared for.
Unfortunately, history does tend to repeat itself. Now that I’m going through the worst time of my life since that summer over 16 years ago, once again my mother and this man who no one else can understand what I see in him are the only people who will have anything to do with me. It’s not quite as devastating this time because I have my kids who think I’m the bees-knees and many of the “friends” who are awol now have always been pretty crappy friends.
Probably some of it is that I am an odd duck (ie not everyone’s cuppa tea), but this struggle with friends has been pretty constant in my life. The other problem, no doubt, is that I am pretty non-demanding. Historically, if you decide to treat me like crap, I may not be willing to continue a relationship with you, but I’m probably not going to raise a huge fuss about it. That has changed a lot over the years though. Because I know first hand the damage that carrying this sort of rejection silently causes, there have been a handful of times when I have gone to someone and just said, “I have been hurt by your treatment of me.” When I have done it, people have either simply not responded or tried to tell me that I shouldn’t be hurt. It doesn’t do much for the relationship, but at least I know that I’ve handed someone else’s problem back to them rather than allow it to continue to be an open wound for me.
At this point, I have neither the emotional energy or the desire to try to go directly to pretty much everyone who knows me to have this conversation. Frankly, I’m at the point of defriending everyone I know on facebook. I’d also like to change my phone number so I can reason that my phone never rings because no one knows the number rather than because no one likes me. I may or may not actually follow through on that, but I am going to put out there for anyone who cares to look, what not being a friend looks like from my vantage point. So here’s m 10 signs that you are not my friend:
1. If you know that I’m going through a hard time and you can’t check in once or twice a month just to ask how I’m holding up, you are not a friend.
2. If you find my life so awful that you can’t bear to hear about it except maybe in passing, you are not my friend.
3. If you think that me making choices you don’t agree with (but try not to ask you to carry any burden for) makes me difficult or unpleasant to talk to, you are not my friend.
4. If the reality is that you would never speak to me again if I didn’t call you, you are not my friend.
5. If you never think to include me or my family in anything you do with other people/families, you are not my friend.
6. If you are always too busy to accept my or my family’s invitations and never offer an alternative, you are not my friend.
7. If you leaned on me while going through your own hard time (death of a parent, marriage problems, hard pregnancy, depression, long term unemployment) but disappeared once life got easier for you or harder for me, you are not my friend.
8. If you expect me to accept your very negative assessment of me and my choices over my own, you are not my friend.
9. If you never talk to me about your own life, your own problems, your own ideas, you are not my friend. (And this goes quadruple for anyone who tries to justify it by saying that they don’t want to burden or bother me or some such ridiculous, completely asinine, bullshit laden horse hockey crap. I feel kinda strongly about this one!)
10. If I have shared something personal, (like that my husband is in the hospital) or sought advice from you about a serious issue I’m in the middle of and you have not so much as made a phone call or dropped a note to see how things are, you are not my friend. (And a pretty shitty human being to boot, imo.)
Now, for my exclusive cadre of loyal readers (I do have some !), here’s my question: what do you consider to be a pretty good sign that someone just isn’t a decent enough friend to be bothered with? I would also be fascinated to hear from anyone who realized that they were not a very good friend. What clued you in? Do you behave differently now or do you just accept it as kinda the way you are? (See #9 – I really do want to know!)