The Mileage of Friendship

“Who says? Who says friendship lasts forever? We’d all like it to, maybe. But maybe [pause] it just wears out like everything else – like tires. There’s just so much mileage in them and then you’re riding around on nothing but air.” ~Gregg Lindroff (film Tequila Sunrise, 1988)

Does friendship come with an expiration date? I’ve thought a lot about the above quote over the years as I have let go of many of my old friendships. It has been a hard journey to come to terms that for various reasons – mostly to do with emotional health – my old friends and I will not stand the test of time.

Even with this realization, I still believe that friendships can last and make it through rough times. I was reminded of this by a recent article in the Huffington Post entitled “5 Secrets of People with Lifelong Friends” written by Catherine Pearson.

I found this article to be poignant at a time when the old friends that I had come to terms with as having no future resurfaced after a long absence. The five secrets served as a reminder and a good evaluation.

The first secret, “They Keep Their Expectations in Check”.

This is true for life and when it comes to friendships I failed miserably at this. I know that I had too high of expectations of my friends as well of as my role as a friend. A friend isn’t all things. And some friends you can share vulnerabilities with and others you can’t. I learned this the hard way and when I began to adjust my exceptions of my friends and myself (equally important), my eyes were opened to the realities of our friendship. It was only through shifting responsibility and well, keeping expectations in check that I could really see if the friendship was a healthy one.

This shift in my behaviors helped me deal with #2, “They’re Adaptable.” As I made changes in my behaviors it became painfully obvious how adept our friendship was at handling them. Even small changes like not ‘chasing’ after them and taking on less responsibility of staying in contact (example, sending e-mails, traveling to see them) began to takes its toll. As I adapted, there was little to no room for embracing the new present.

And #3, again becomes an extension of #1, “They Make Time for Each Other”. It turns out that I was the one making time/plans and my friends didn’t have the time. Unanswered short e-mails of ‘how are you?’ to making the plans and literally getting stood up (not fun when it involves long distance) allowed me to see that I did a good chunk of the work. The time I made for them left me feeling drained – leaving little to no energy for friends who honored their commitments.

And lastly, #4 “They appreciate just how unusual it is to have lifelong friends…#5 But they know not to hold on to friendship just for the sake of it.”

My old friends are from school days. And maybe the reason why I held on so long. It is rare and special to have friends who have been through a lot of stuff for so long. Many of them were my lifeline when I was dealing with the abuse at home. They were who I turned to when I needed an outlet, to have fun and numb the pain.

But holding on for ‘holding on sake’ isn’t healthy, it would be repeating the patterns of my relationship with my parents. This is maybe the hardest part, letting go of friends who, at one time, were my lifeboat. I have fun memories, a not total dreary childhood, because of them. I am grateful for them.

“I think it happens to everyone as they grow up. You find out who you are and what you want, and then you realize that people you’ve known forever don’t see things the way you do. And so you keep the wonderful memories, but find yourself moving on.” ~Nicholas Sparks, True Believer

Frenemies (narcissists) and mutual friends

How to handle the situation when you have mutual friends with a frenemy or narcissist?  That is a question I contemplated for a while before ending my relationship with a female narcissist, Marian (my friend, former co-worker).  I struggled with this question because there are a lot of consequences of ending a friendship with someone when you have mutual friends/acquaintances.  Then, the next question after ending the relationship is how do you deal with questions from the mutual friends.  The last question, what about the social events where everyone is invited…frenemies and all?

The reality of frenemies and narcs is that they will try their hardest to take your mutual friends and turn them against you.  They want the mutual friends on their side for several reasons:

  • mutual friends are a source of info about you and therefore a way to control you
  • it is a competition for them – “I have all the friends on my side!  I won!”
  • they want to punish you for leaving them or not giving them narc supply (stroke their ego)

All of this is daunting, scary…it was for me.  The idea that she would talk behind my back to mutual friends did not sit well with me…especially since we worked for the same company.  Marian has a gift of spinning the smallest piece of info and turning it to her advantage (manipulation of facts).  Then I noticed she was doing this even while we were friends.  She was already talking behind my back (at work to colleagues, managers) and to our mutual friends.  Even though I was her friend she was doing this.  She had been doing this for a while…the only difference is: I found out about it.  So, the consequence of your frenemy or narc talking behind your back is not a consequence anymore because it is already happening (even if you are not aware of it).  So ending your friendship doesn’t change this except that the frenemy or narc will try and take control of the situation: he or she will have to make it clear to the mutual friends that he or she decided to end it…not the other way around.

Then I realized something about myself…why was I concerned about her talking about my back.  She was lying and spinning information about me to everyone.  If our mutual friends believed her then that tells me something – that some of our mutual friends are not true friends of mine.  If I hear someone bad mouthing a friend of mine I don’t believe them especially if I know this friend well enough and that they are a person of integrity.  The same goes for your mutual friends.  If they believe your frenemy or narcissist then this particular mutual friend may not be worth being friends with.

The 2nd question: how do you deal with the mutual friends who have questions about why you are not longer in contact with your frenemy or any discussion about your frenemy?

True friends usually won’t push for any sort of explanation as to why you two are not talking any more.  True friends may initially ask out of concern but once they sense that you don’t want to talk about it then they will drop the subject.  You had your reasons and true friends will accept that fact you made the choice for your reasons.  I had a mutual friend ask in a very casual way if I had had contact with Marian…I simply said ‘I don’t have contact with her.’  That is the only explanation.  The mutual friend has dropped the subject.  A few months went by and our mutual friend brought up Marian’s name again…she told me that Marian was not returning her emails and was not making efforts to stay in contact.  Eventually, the frenemy’s true colors will show to the mutual friends.  Here’s what I’ve done with dealing with our mutual friends:

  • I don’t talk about Marian, ever.  Don’t talk behind your frenemy’s back – that puts you in the same category.
  • If someone asks about our relationship I state: I don’t have contact with her anymore.  It is a neutral response.  If you get pushed for a reason: ‘It is healthier for me not to be in contact with her.’  Make the statement about how you feel, not about her or blaming her.
  • If mutual friends continually pester you then you may have to evaluate your relationship with them.

The dreaded social event.  This is difficult.  After two months of ending my friendship with Marian a shopping trip to the city came up with the 3 of us.  It was awful for me…Marian was a total bTCH.  She sucked the energy out from me…all her insults and attacks.  I told myself I couldn’t do this to myself anymore.  I decided…okay no more outings with everyone.  BUT…there is a BUT…one of our mutual friends mentioned to me yesterday that she wanted to have a party at her house this time for her birthday.  That is the BUT.  Events that are about supporting your friends are important because it is about your friend and NOT about you and your dealings with your frenemy.  I will try to avoid the casual shopping trips with Marian but I will go to my friends birthday party (wedding, baby shower, etc) because those events are about my friends and not about Marian and ME.  I will just have to suck it up and be prepared to deal with her in those situations.

Whatever your dilemma is with your frenemy and your mutual friends I hope you get through it and find a way to surround yourself in Good Company.

T Reddy