“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.
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.