â€œI Can Tell You Anythingâ€ Has Consequences
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Curves.
Several months ago, I lost a good friend. It was very sudden, very unexpected. Like a death. I donâ€™t talk about it. I donâ€™t know what to say Â about it. I still donâ€™t know exactly what happened.
As for why, Iâ€™m trying to look at it in that big-picture
sort of way Â thatÂ saysÂ we need to explore Â some Â things separately and I try not to intrude on her so she has time to work things through in her own way.
In our last conversation, she said I thought she was oppressive and Â abusive. Â I never said that, never would, and I never thought that. Iâ€™m not sure what was going on in her life to make her think in those terms. I had indeed earlier used the word â€œoppressionâ€ Â related to a situation Iâ€™d Â hadnâ€™t Â discussed Â much with her, one that didnâ€™t in- volve her but was related to the people closest to me at work Â and Â a Â situation Â Iâ€™ve Â since Â begun Â to Â resolve. Â But nothing I could say would set her mind at ease Â that it wasnâ€™t about her and that I hadnâ€™t felt ill toward her for a long, long time as she had thought.
But in hindsight, somethingÂ did happen that I think brought this Â on, Â and itâ€™s something Iâ€™ve seen happen in the tightest circles of Â friendship. In fact, the tighter the friendship, Â the Â more Â likely Â this Â is Â to Â happen Â because thereâ€™s a sense of oneness that makes you forget that the other person isnâ€™t you.
Among the last conversations Â with my friend, sheâ€™d said Â something Â well-meaning Â to Â me Â that, Â for Â me, Â was emotionally devastating and threw me into a tailspin. I am absolutely convinced that she never meant it in a harmful way and because of her own history, she couldnâ€™t under- stand how it would Â be upsetting Â to me. As a result, Â I chose not to discuss it with her anymoreâ€”not to cut her out of my life, but because I couldnâ€™t take the emotional rollercoaster and not sharing Â certain subjects seemed to be the best way to keep the friendship.
Iâ€™d been in similar situations over the years with vari- ous friends Â and Â I ended up cutting them out of my life because eventually thereâ€™d be Â some subject that they in- sisted on talking about even when Iâ€™d said it was the one place I didnâ€™t want to go or couldnâ€™t go with them any- more. It didnâ€™t think that had happened with this friend and I didnâ€™t want it to, either.
A man once said to me, â€œI love that weâ€™re such close friends. Youâ€™re the one person I can tell anything to.â€ Iâ€™d said, yes, but do not tell me about the women in your sex life because I have feelings for you and itâ€™s Â emotionally painful for me to hear about your romps. But he didnâ€™t stop, didnâ€™t take notice of the pain he caused, because, as he so often repeated, â€œI can tell you anything.â€
When I was a trainee in my career field, I fell in with a group of 6 to 8 other trainees. Â We started the group by meeting at lunch to discuss career strategies, our training, job experiences, etc. A new woman joined our tight circle and the tone changed. Instead of what weâ€™d learned that day in our jobs, the focus shifted to what our competitors were doing in Â their jobs, what they were wearing, who they were sleeping with. Each lunch became a gossip ses- sion aimed at a particular person. I dreaded any days that I had to miss lunch because, after a while, whoever wasnâ€™t at the lunch was the one who got roasted.
That was the point where I fell out of favor with the crowd and abruptly stopped lunching with them, though the circle continued Â for another few years. Occasionally, individual members would end up in my office to cry on my shoulder because of what felt like a face-to-face Â at- tack. The friends had become so close that they thought they could say Â anything to each otherâ€™s faces, that they had a right to say anything Â to each other, no matter the consequences, Â and Â the Â other Â person Â was Â supposed Â to suck it up because they were friends and friends can say anything to each other.
So thatâ€™s the dichotomy that troubles me. My closest friends and Â family can say anything to me, yes, but that doesnâ€™t mean there isnâ€™t a consequence. Iâ€™ve warned vari- ous friends and family, including my mom, that opinions on certain subjects are hurtful to me and their insistence on telling me certain things will drive me away so itâ€™s best not to go there.
But the friend I lost said something Â interesting: Â she said Â that Â she Â didnâ€™t Â know Â ifÂ we Â could Â be Â close Â if Â she couldnâ€™t be herself and say whatever was on her mind.
So thereâ€™s the problem. Where, in a relationship, does one person end and the other begin? At what point does one Â personâ€™s Â freedom Â of Â expressionâ€”whichÂ Â Iâ€™m Â very much Â in Â favor Â ofâ€”become Â more Â than Â the Â other Â can bear?
I still love my friend and always will, but Iâ€™m finally
accepting that the friendship is over and that my concept of long-term relationships is probably over, too, because I donâ€™t think I can trust that any relationship will ever be long-term, let alone for the rest of my life.
My natural tendency is to invest emotionallyÂ in rela- tionships that Â will last, and my optimism in all relation- ships, including same-sex Â platonic friendships, Â just isnâ€™t there anymore.