Pulling The Plug On A Friendship
Updated: Oct 2, 2019
If you're like me, you've pulled the plug on a number of friends over the years. You decided that those connections were just not worth the stress of hanging on.
As I think about friends that I've "kicked to the curb" (or that have pulled the plug on me), I fess up to making all kinds of attempts to save many of those friendships--out of guilt, a sense of loyalty, or just plain fear.
Case in point: One of my good friends lived across the street. She was an ex-dancer who'd left home at seventeen to join the Boston Ballet. As a lifelong student of dance from the time I donned a leotard and took classes with Miss (no Ms. back then) Fannie Aronson, I prayed for a thinner body, longer legs, and a hell of a lot more flexibility in my next lifetime. I dreamed of flying across a stage with reckless abandon.
My friend had a boatload of issues (She'd actually run away from an abusive home, not left), but she camouflaged them well--at least, to others, except me. And every one of my male friends--and I mean every, including a man who'd never had a girlfriend, ever--fell for her hard.
Was I jealous? Maybe. Sorta'. But not really. I was happily married and not out there lookin'.
Our friendship--often lopsided with me playing therapist--lasted for several (maybe many) years. But her neediness and struggle with her demons (abuse, an overbearing, unloving mother from whom she was estranged, a tendency to drink too much) took their toll.
Then one day, just before my husband and I were leaving for a long weekend jaunt, the pet sitter we'd hired couldn't make it. So, I asked my friend if she could fill in. She lived maybe fifty steps away, and her two kids had sleepovers planned. When she asked if she could smoke in the house and I said "No," she turned me down. I was furious. I spent weeks wrestling with my disappointment and my sense of loyalty. My friend needed me. How could I let her down?
Truth is: she needed professional help. Despite the leftover hurt from me having been kicked to the curb in times past, I pulled the plug--not without some trepidation and fear that she would never forgive me. But I wasn't looking for forgiveness; I wanted to end the stress and anger over a friendship that had run its course.
One day, not that long ago, I decided to try to find her and give her a call. I knew she'd moved to the east coast and remembered something about a small town in Massachusetts where she'd relocated to take care of her mother's second husband, after her mother died. It took some time but, with her name that I assumed she hadn't changed and a possible town, I tracked her down.
I couldn't tell whether she wanted to hear from me or not. She said she did and, in my gut, I believed she was telling the truth. When I asked how she was doing, she launched into a list of all that was wrong. Her knees hurt, she couldn't walk long distances or uphill, she attended Bible classes at least once a week, and did a lot of knitting. She'd never remarried. To me, it sounded like a life of routine and broken dreams. I felt sorry for her, was happy that I'd made contact, but had not a whit of interest in picking up the pieces of our friendship. We have not spoken since. I doubt that we ever will.
An article in Psychology Today from 2011 titled "5 Warning Signs of a Friendship in Trouble" outlined reasons why friendships have hit a permanent snag.
You do not like who you are when you're around him or her.
Your friend is bringing out bad behaviors in you. (Too much booze? Cigarettes? Drugs?)
The friendship feels significantly unbalanced. (Yep, I know that one.)
The words you'd use to describe your friend are not flattering. (Hmm . . . Rings a bell)
Your friend doesn't seem to get who you are. (I might add: Your friend tries to change you.)
Not all friendships last forever. And even though Facebook now keeps many of them on life support, all you ever owe a friend is kindness and respect—not a vow 'til death do you part. Andrea Bonior Ph.D.