Being Ditched by a Friend

Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW

It’s been over two weeks and prior to that it was a month since we video chatted. A far cry from the handful of weekly check-ins we were doing. Albeit awhile back when I questioned if a lapse in being in touch indicated I might have done something to create distance, she responded with a weird, dismissive ‘think positive thoughts’ diatribe. This certainly gave me pause. When I addressed being hurt and blindsided by her feedback, further disorienting responses reeking of the professional development cult she escaped a year ago, ensued. Her effusive emoticons of hearts and smiley faces interspersed with how joyful and filled with spiritual blessings she was, compared to me of course who is stained by the flaws and insecurities of the human condition, left me feeling sucker-punched. This was the sort of mentally I encountered years back in seminary that would cause me to recoil in horror. That jarring interaction prompted us to step away from one another.

When she resurfaced about two months later she apologetically admitted with remorse that she spewed out hurtful cult speak. We re-established our friendship after a candid discussion of what occurred, but I was always waiting for the shoe to drop from that point on. Here it is.

When a relationship of any kind ends with absolutely no discussion or sense of causation, my abandonment wound festers. This makes me angry, especially when the one doing the dumping is privy to this deep seated insecurity and knows very well it emanates from years of early abuse and being shipped around in kinship foster care.

It’s disillusioning that people can’t say goodbye, even if it’s just through pixels. Ironically I suspect it’s not the ‘ending’ for her, but rather a unilateral decision to put the ‘friendship’ on the periphery where it may come in handy or be deemed useful one day. Indeed, she did manage to text about a tentative project we were working on. Beyond that, nothing. Should it be the (likely) case that I’m now relegated to a utilitarian function she will discover that I have no interest in that sort of arrangement.

Yet this mushy middle, non-committal, no discussion about real issues place seems to satisfy most people. It’s favored over engaging in a messy dialogue that could potentially result in an ending.

Why be mired in an arduous and uncomfortable exchange when it’s easier to avoid the discomfort of relational conflict while pretending a friendship still exists? It just changed.

Certainly friendships do change. I had a close bond with a woman that went awry and efforts to address the issue did not go well. As awkward as it was to continue seeing one another in our bi-monthly peer group meetings, we relate to each other now as colleagues. It was not a pleasant segue, but at least there was some sort of conscious process. A recognition of a shift occurring.

It is the absence of conscious acknowledgement that impedes a smooth transition from friendship to acquaintance, or to going separate ways completely. The ostensible rational is that an organic transmuting from friendship to non-friendship is occurring, like some sort of amorphous chemical conversion. There is no need to address the change. This lowering of the relational bar disheartens me, but at the same time I’ve come to accept it, if not anticipate it.

Of course I could simply do what I’ve done throughout much of my early life, and chase love down, beseech an answer, and nudge for a dialogue that would crystallize the issues generating the rift. I could, but I won’t for these basic reasons. Life with all its trials and tribulations has taught me that reciprocity and equanimity are essential to my feeling cared for. To maintain my self respect I refuse to keep playing the role of the peacemaking diplomat. As is true of all of us, I’m entitled to mutual effort.

It may be rare to find others who can show up for painful scary discussions, but I happen to be one of those rare people. It’s taken me much of my adult life to realize I need to receive that gesture too. It can’t always emanate from me. I’m finally strong enough to own that I’d rather be alone than cater to the sort of dynamic that leaves me feeling like an unsupported mentor.

Nevertheless, it’s a blessing and a curse to know what I want. Other people’s agendas are not as likely to sway me from my solid ground. I’m governed by an internal locus that informs me of what is tolerable and what is not. Hence, pulling away from those who don’t share fundamental common ground is an indisputable necessity. The drawback of committing to this way of being is loneliness.

Loneliness can convince us that our standards are too high. That we have to concede and accommodate others who don’t necessarily mesh with who you are, or who don’t inspire you. That kind of thinking is typically chalked up to being realistic. Yet If I held onto that belief system and didn’t allow for a five year hiatus from sex and dating, I never would have met my husband.

That five year rite of passage was life affirming, but incredibly challenging. In the end it taught me that committing to quality standards is inseparable from experiencing mental health. It showed me that the kind of love I yearned for required me to live by principles and a code of conduct that I sought in another. By holding myself accountable I chose another who does the same. Hence, I’m applying that lesson to friendship. Acquiring friendships that match my relational standards may mean prolonged solitude and the discomfort of alienation, but I trust it will eventually reap a harvest worth waiting for.

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As a survivor (and thriver) of complex trauma and a seasoned therapist specializing in treating complex trauma, narcissistic abuse syndrome and addictions, I am intent on creating content that affords informative insight, hope and healing from psychological disorders. I aim for my creative content to assist readers with tapping into the resiliency of the human condition while recognizing the countless challenges of being human.

New York City, NY

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