“I Can Tell You Anything” 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 don’t talk about it. I don’t know what to say  about it. I still don’t know exactly what happened.

The Long-Awaited Honest-to-God Secret to Being Happy

As for why, I’m trying to look at it in that big-picture

sort of way  that  says  we need to explore  some  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  abusive.  I never said that, never would, and I never thought that. I’m not sure what was going on in her life to make her think in those terms. I had indeed earlier used the word “oppression”  related to a situation I’d  hadn’t  discussed  much with her, one that didn’t in- volve her but was related to the people closest to me at work  and  a  situation  I’ve  since  begun  to  resolve.  But nothing I could say would set her mind at ease  that it wasn’t about her and that I hadn’t felt ill toward her for a long, long time as she had thought.

But in hindsight, something  did happen that I think brought this  on,  and it’s something I’ve seen happen in the tightest circles of  friendship. In fact, the tighter the friendship,  the  more  likely  this  is  to  happen  because there’s a sense of oneness that makes you forget that the other person isn’t you.

Among the last conversations  with my friend, she’d said  something  well-meaning  to  me  that,  for  me,  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 couldn’t under- stand how it would  be upsetting  to me. As a result,  I chose not to discuss it with her anymore—not to cut her out of my life, but because I couldn’t take the emotional rollercoaster and not sharing  certain subjects seemed to be the best way to keep the friendship.

I’d been in similar situations over the years with vari- ous friends  and  I ended up cutting them out of my life because eventually there’d be  some subject that they in- sisted on talking about even when I’d said it was the one place I didn’t want to go or couldn’t go with them any- more. It didn’t think that had happened with this friend and I didn’t want it to, either.

A man once said to me, “I love that we’re such close friends. You’re the one person I can tell anything to.” I’d said, yes, but do not tell me about the women in your sex life because I have feelings for you and it’s  emotionally painful for me to hear about your romps. But he didn’t stop, didn’t take notice of the pain he caused, because, as he so often repeated, “I can tell you anything.”

When I was a trainee in my career field, I fell in with a group of 6 to 8 other trainees.  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 we’d learned that day in our jobs, the focus shifted to what our competitors were doing in  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 wasn’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  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  at- tack. The friends had become so close that they thought they could say  anything to each other’s faces, that they had a right to say anything  to each other, no matter the consequences,  and  the  other  person  was  supposed  to suck it up because they were friends and friends can say anything to each other.

So that’s the dichotomy that troubles me. My closest friends and  family can say anything to me, yes, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a consequence. I’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 it’s best not to go there.

But the friend I lost said something  interesting:  she said  that  she  didn’t  know  if  we  could  be  close  if  she couldn’t be herself and say whatever was on her mind.

So there’s the problem. Where, in a relationship, does one person end and the other begin? At what point does one  person’s  freedom  of  expression—which   I’m  very much  in  favor  of—become  more  than  the  other  can bear?

I still love my friend and always will, but I’m finally

accepting that the friendship is over and that my concept of long-term relationships is probably over, too, because I don’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 emotionally  in rela- tionships that  will last, and my optimism in all relation- ships, including same-sex  platonic friendships,  just isn’t there anymore.