Not Until I’m Forced…. Breaking Up with a Friend

My mom taught me a lot and one of the things she taught me was that I can yammer all day and it won’t change anything. In fact, later down the road, my own words could be used against me.

My theory — that if I express myself clearly and the other person really listens, they will understand and come around to my way of thinking — is bogus. No they won’t. They’re listening with their own words echoing in THEIR ears (as mine echoed in my own?). A true give-and-take conversation is rare.

Many “deep” conversations with wouldbe boyfriends taught me that, too. You know, “We need to talk,” the talks NOT leading to breaking up (those came, too).

I’ve also experienced that when people do things to me I don’t like, my objecting probably won’t matter; if they didn’t want to do what they’re doing, they wouldn’t BE doing it.

Recently I was forced to end a friendship. I would have avoided it. My (now former) friend insisted on talking it over. Her big thing is “communication.” Communication (for her) does NOT involve listening to me. It’s been months, and I still do not think she understands, “I don’t want any more contact with you. I don’t like you any more” — words I would far rather have kept to myself, by the way. It doesn’t always matter what you say to someone. More important is what they hear.

This all began when I attempted to tell her honestly what I felt I had to say — “You’re physically in very bad shape. You need help at home. Your boyfriend is not a trained carer and it’s not fair to him or you for you to use him in that way.”

I would have left it there and kept silent over the fact that her boyfriend is mean and abusive (boyfriend – 80 years old), but she pushed me. Since I’ve been closely connected with her for thirty years and with them as a couple for 20, I KNOW their situation. Finally, after hearing yet another recitation of the boyfriend’s verbally abusive behavior, I said, “Do you love him?”
“Of course I love him.”
“OK, then, well, I have to get dinner,” I said, and got off the phone.

Rationality has NO place in that conversation. It was the end. She loves him. He mistreats her. I have no place or interest in the conversation.

I suddenly saw why, over the years, I’d heard so many conversations complaining about why this or that friend or family member no longer responded to her phone calls, emails, etc. They were just not as dim or tolerant as I. I also knew that she would not let go (she hasn’t) because she can’t lose. I knew I was in for some residual unpleasantness.

Since then she’s gotten real care; she’s written me to tell me. In her letters she’s also told me what I need to do if I want her friendship back. She’s called my other friends purportedly to learn if I’m all right because if I were all right, I’d want to listen to hours of wailing on the phone, right? All of this is bait to get me to contact her if only to tell her to stop it. I don’t like being manipulated. She has turned my feelings from pity to active dislike.

And so yeah. If things reach a point between me and another person where THIS conversation is necessary it is also the moment when I am prepared to give up the friendship. I hope not to, but…

13 thoughts on “Not Until I’m Forced…. Breaking Up with a Friend

  1. And then, there’s the difference between no speaking while someone else speaks, and actually listening. Not many people are good listeners. In fact, the willingness to really listen to someone else is a rare quality and not many people have it. When you find one, they are the ones who know what you mean even if you have very few words to say.

  2. It’s never easy making – and sticking- to these decisions about our friendships. Never mind the importance of listening; what makes a friendship work is that it is a two way thing. If one side always feels put upon, or that their life isn’t important to the Friend, it’s going to break down. It’s even harder to ditch the toxic friendships if you don’t feel you have many! I try to be tolerant and understanding; mostly I am. I’ve also made some choices in life which I know aren’t necessarily the best for me – and I choose not to talk to my friends about the consequences.

    • I’ve made bad choices, too, and listening to my friends helped me see them a few times. I realized with this person, only if I stopped listening would she take my words seriously. You hit the nail on the head, though, I didn’t feel my life was important to her. Not at all. I was a utility.

  3. I know. I recently gave up on a relationship when I had the blinding insight that the compassion in the relationship was a one way street. After years of caring for and supporting this friend through crisis after crisis, when I had a crisis, she was short, unsympathetic and just turned the subject back to herself. Blinding insight! This woman’s friendship was based on my providing care for her–definitely not the other way around.

    • Same here. When I said something to her about the difficulty of moving to a new place and starting a completely new life she just glossed over that. Meh. She doesn’t merit further thought.

  4. It seems to be a basic human instinct to listen to your own voice first of all (I know I do it myself). The next step would be to listen to what the other person says. My problem is that it takes a time until I have really understood what they are talking about – bad hearing and simultaneous translation of swiss german.

    • I’m the same. I listen and then I think about what people have said. Sometimes it takes a while for me to really get it. I understand what people write much more easily.

  5. I say, “good riddance of bad rubbish. I’ve done ditched some a few friends but I never put up with them as long as you did. It was more like a few years. Actually that kind of friend just uses you as they whine on and on. At other times they brag about their children and all the wonderful things they have accomplished in life. It is sickening and draining.

    • This friendship was mutually supportive and great for many years, but then the boyfriend became more and more the center of her vision (naturally, because he’s an A-hole) and she became obsessed with him, their relationship, how to make it work, and on and on — I’ve long believed she’s “sick” as a way to get his attention and to bully him into being kind to her. It is just a sick situation but it wasn’t always — that’s really what made it so hard. And you are so right; it’s sickening and draining.

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