The death of a friendship

It’s day 1 of the therapy break and I’m already feeling J’s absence. It was a tough weekend, and even tougher because I knew I wasn’t going to have therapy today. I know I’ll survive, but I can’t help feeling daunted by the prospect of two weeks without seeing J.

The weekend brought some big challenges for me. A while back, I had to back off from one of my closest friendships to keep myself safe. My friend M, who I love dearly, was being hugely self-destructive. I was almost permanently afraid for him. And I was the only person physically and emotionally close enough to help. His family relied on me to check on him. They called me when they were worried, and each time their names flashed up on my phone the anxiety in me was incredible. I’d shake and feel sick as soon as I saw the caller ID.

It wasn’t right for me to have this responsibility. Although I love M and want him to be OK, I realised that caring about and for him was making me ill. It was damaging my recovery. And I am not his wife or girlfriend. It shouldn’t be my job. It dawned on me that I needed to focus on my wife and my relationships with friends who have a positive impact on my life.

Making the decision to distance myself from M was hard. I was scared it would destabilise him. But I also realised I was scared of him too. He has various substance addictions, and when he’s using he can be frightening. His temper flares and he’s not a small guy. This happened when my wife and I were with him once, and we were both scared of him.

A year ago, M was sharing our house. We asked him to move out after his angry, drunk outburst. He was reluctant and he wasn’t in a good place. I tried to help and expedite things by packing up all his belongings. I didn’t just throw things in boxes. I did this lovingly. Eventually, he came and removed the boxes, but he left a load of gym equipment in our basement.

We told him not to rush to move this stuff. But a year later it was still there. So my wife tried to arrange with him to get it moved. He kept making plans and then cancelling them. After this went on a while, I started to lose patience. I felt like he was taking the piss really, after we had stored the stuff for so long without badgering him. So when he agreed to collect it on Saturday morning, I moved it all upstairs to make it easier for him.

On Friday afternoon I told him I’d done this, and that his things were occupying the whole room. I said I needed it to be taken away by midday because I had friends coming over for lunch and we wouldn’t be able to sit down at the dinner table otherwise.  He chose not to cancel until 6.30 am on Saturday.

That made me really angry. Having made the plan, told him I’d helped, and explained that his things were all in my way, I was furious that he didn’t seem to care about any of that. It felt like he couldn’t care less about us and had no gratitude at all for us storing his stuff and trying to help him move it. I wrote a slightly angry response, basically saying it wasn’t good enough to cancel again. I deliberated about issuing an ultimatum, but I couldn’t think of another way to resolve the situation. So I told him that I’d be getting rid of his things if he didn’t collect them that morning.

This didn’t feel unreasonable to me. I didn’t want to be so assertive, but I was forced into it. And he responded with nastiness. That’s the only way I can describe it. He was angry and hateful and it really hurt. I wanted to reason with him. I wanted to change his mind about me; to explain myself so he could see that I am really not a horrible person. It’s so hard for me to tolerate knowing that someone has such animosity towards me. Especially someone I love.

It’s stupid of me, but I so easily take it on board when someone criticises me. I soak up the insults and I believe them. I spent the whole weekend questioning myself, trying to convince myself that what he thinks and says about me isn’t true. My self confidence is so low, that I am left full of doubt about what kind of person I am. It hurts because I can’t stand thinking that someone I love hates me that much.

And he seems to really hate me. His messages got so abusive that I ended up barring his number and blocking him on Facebook. I can’t cope with that nastiness. But he lives a few hundred yards from my house. I’m bound to run into him. And I can’t help but worry that he will get drunk and turn up on my doorstep to vent his anger.

It all sounds irrational and over the top I know. Such a small thing has turned into a big drama. I don’t need drama. I don’t want it. The saddest part is realising that this friendship that was once so precious to me is never going to be salvaged. I had hoped it would.

Not long ago, I would’ve told M anything. He wanted to be my big brother, to replace the monster who abused me instead of protecting me. I loved him for that. I loved that he cared so deeply about me and that he was fiercely protective. I loved him being the caring brother I always wanted.

But friendships are transient. They don’t stay the same as we change. And it seems we both have changed a great deal. Reflecting on this today, I noticed that I wasn’t losing anything by losing him now. There is nothing good in our relationship anymore. I don’t enjoy seeing him, and when I think of him all I do is worry.

But none of that changes the sense of loss I feel, and the unpleasant mixture of anger and regret. And it’s hard right now to manage all of this without being able to talk it through with J.


Photo: DeeAshley, Creative Commons.


8 Comments Add yours

  1. A tough one. But valuable I hope. Being able to say “no” and setting boundaries is a toughie… I get it about soaking up others criticisms. I can’t imagine being able just to say “that’s their stuff”. There’s some great imagery here around de-cluttering.
    Nice work, albeit painful and a lot to process Laura x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Laura says:

      Thanks Serena. You’re right about the de-cluttering. It does feel good to have the symbolism of all his stuff being gone from my house. It feels easier to start letting go of the relationship when I think about that. x


  2. I’ve found quite a lot that the crunch point for a friendship is when you ask for something or try to set a boundary, especially if you haven’t done it much with that person before. Sometimes the friendship has been quite unequal for a while but you’ve maintained the illusion that it is fine by not putting it to the test and telling yourself that you’re simply *choosing* not to ask, when deep down you know what will happen if you do.

    I’ve noticed as I’ve begun to set more boundaries, that with a lot of my older unboundaried relationships I can’t negotiate back to a balanced position and my only option is to break off with that person, because they want things to stay exactly as they are and refuse to co-operate, and I’ve sort of been conditioned to be the submissive one and it feels wrong to push back against them, whereas with relationships that I’ve negotiated right from the start it seems to work better because there are different and healthier expectations.

    None of that makes it any less painful to lose something that was good once, or to feel as if you could have done more or that you *are* the bad person they are claiming you to be. Take hope and strength from the friendships where you are valued for your good qualities and continue to see those good things in yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura says:

      Thank you for your input. It’s clear to me that the truest friendships survive honesty and necessary boundaries. I had just hoped that M and I would get to that point eventually. But after how unpleasant he’s been, I don’t want to even try anymore. It’s hard, and I feel quite heartbroken about it, but I know it’s the right thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. bethanyk says:

    You set up boundaries which is sooo important for our own safety and happiness. You did the right thing

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Laura says:

      It’s reassuring to hear that – thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Faith says:

    It’s been nearly two years now that I ended a friendship so close it felt as if we were soul friends. I treasured her and honestly I treasure the good memories but I had to end it because I couldn’t stand to watch her self destruct. After watching it for 17 years only to escalate on the 18th, I knew I had to break it off. I felt horrible, ungrateful for her friendship but it wasn’t that at all.

    I thought of this situation as I read your entry. I shook my head yes several times because I know how hard one tries to glue tiny pieces back together but, sometimes we have to take a stand out of love for them and love for self. Our leaving will either bring them to the realization that we left out of love for self and them or it will feed in to an illness that we did not create.

    It is difficult to lose someone we needed so badly and its difficult to get them to understand why but we act out of love and sometimes safety and that is the right and reasonable thing to do.

    With understanding,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience Faith. It sounds like there are some similarities in what you went through, although for me I’d only known him a few years. I know I have done what’s right for me, it’s just hard to know he doesn’t understand that. I really wish he could see that I do care about him and want him to be OK. It’s tough that I can’t change that. Laura

      Liked by 1 person

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