It is a difficult dilemma, deciding how you want to handle a friendship that has times that are good and times that are frustrating. This was a difficult situation, one which I contemplated over for literally months. I hope the end result has a positive outcome. The ultimate deciding factor was based on two areas that came into play….the friend’s emotional needs and my emotional needs.
This friendship is long-term. We were very close for eight years, then completely out of contact for twenty-nine years. In 2009 we connected on Facebook, doing the occasional Instant-Messenger chat, commenting on each other’s posts from time-to-time. Nothing major. Just casual contact. That all changed in 2015.
In 2015 I was making regular trips back to my hometown to work on cleaning out my parent’s home. My friend suggested we go out to dinner, and after about three months I finally agreed. It was like deja vu.
He picked me up at my parent’s home, which had the same furniture it did when he last set foot in it back in 1980. We had a great time chatting about his marriage and kids, my husband’s battle with cancer and my kids. We talked about our siblings and parents. A connection that went way back. It was a wonderful evening and after dinner we went back to the house, I invited him in and we continued to talk for a couple more hours before he went home.
It was a connection we were glad was re-established. Throughout that summer I was making frequent trips into town hand he would on occasion stop by and visit for a couple hours. It was a nice friendship, familiar, comfortable, but different. We also maintained contact with conversations on Instant Messenger and an occasional telephone call.
We both realized that there was still an attraction there. However we were both married and did not step outside of the boundaries of respective marriages. Then the playing field changed. My husband lost his battle with cancer. We maintained the messenger and telephone contact for about three months, and then it tapered off. He stopped responding to emails or instant messages for extended periods of time.
I found this frustrating as he suffers from depression and I would wonder how he was doing. Then suddenly I would receive an email or message. There were always reasons for his disappearance…busy, kids, grandchildren, sickness, depression…but were they reasons, or excuses? In my opinion there is a fine line between the two, and I wasn’t quite sure on which side it fell. Things would improve for a bit but eventually would fall back into the old pattern.
After a while I decided I wasn’t going to continue to pursue a one-sided friendship in which I always initiated the contact. Instead I would wait and see what happened, and each time I did that I would ultimately receive a message from him usually by email. He would apologize for his lack of contact and say he had been busy, sick, depressed, whatever, always wanting to preserve the friendship. And so the cycle went. This became a roller coaster ride that was irritating. I didn’t like the feeling that I was making the effort and he was responding when it suited him. I want the friendship, but not on those terms.
March 30th of this year rolled around and I received another email. This one got down to the emotional nitty-gritty, it was honest. The best one I’ve received because it got to the core of the situation. He wants to remain friends, but the line is grey for him right now. There are a lot of factors I am aware of but am not going to elaborate on. Let’s just say that email put everything into perspective. He is trying to get his mind straight and I have to be removed from the picture for now. I’m good with that. He closed with “Hopefully your friend.”
So what did I do? I responded. I don’t know if my response helped or hurt him in his situation, but it helped me in mine. I was honest. I told him we are still friends but that I find the friendship frustrating, that a person’s interest in maintaining a friendship is related to their response or lack thereof. I pointed out that they say ex-lovers can be friends for one of two reasons: either they were never in love or they still are. That is the grey area. I have accepted my grey area and can live with it. A ghost from the past is not the reality of the present. We are both different people than we were in 1980.
Then I tossed the ball in his court. I can handle the give-and-take of being friends, but it is his decision on whether to respond and maintain the friendship. If he decides to respond great. If not I move on and don’t worry about it. This decision was based on my emotional needs, not his, but it also supports his need for distance at this time.
So now I wait. We are still connected on Facebook. He has “liked” a couple of my posts; I have “liked” a couple of his. Do I hope he contacts me at some point in the future? Absolutely. I will always be his friend, that is a given. He is intelligent, funny, challenges the brain. We have a past, a comfort level of true friends, a connection that can not be replaced.
I hope that right now we are just taking a break and that eventually the friendship is re-established on a more personal level. However I will not allow my emotions to feel trampled by the friendship. That is also a given and I have made that clear to him through my actions.
And that, my friends, is how you deal with a frustrating friendship.