Thursday, March 13, 2014

Friends Are a Funny Thing

Perhaps you have been in settings like the one in the graphic above - having tea with good friends without a care in the world. In those moments, did you ever think that one day your friends would betray you, avoid you, make you want to avoid them, or annoy you until you no longer wanted to anything to do with them? I have not been alive for decades upon decades, but I have definitely experienced all of these.

We all want friends that will support us, allow us to support them, and have a good time with us. However, the truth is that we probably have more fair-weather friends than solid friends. I am fascinated at how finicky humans are and, thereby, how finicky our relationships can be with one another in every way. In fact, I know of two couples who, when they were single, would complain about the person they ended up with and state how uninterested they are. One of those two couples is now engaged. Nevertheless, it is the relationship of friendship that is the most mysterious. We are not obligated to a friend in the same way as a family member, and we are not interested in getting to know a platonic friend better with the hopes of being romantic with them. They do not have authority over us like a boss where we are trying to get close enough to them to make things easier for ourselves and hopefully get something out of them.

Isn’t it true that we just like having friends to have someone to have a good time with and experience mutual encouragement? That is fine, but it leaves more gray areas than any other relationship I know of. For example, you know not to curse at your parents because they made it clear not to do so a long time ago; you know not to mention to your boss that you got drunk at the club last night and slept with a hot stranger because you like to keep a level of anonymity about your personal life from those that you report to in a professional capacity; you know not to call your girlfriend a whore because you know women do not like being called bad names and you do not want her to leave you.

What is it about friendships that make it difficult to have open and honest conversations with one another? Perhaps because there is no established relationship like the ones just mentioned. That always makes it easier for friends to break up. The truth is that a friend has probably one good time to come at us the wrong way or do the wrong thing before we refuse to have anything to do with him again, definitely not more than two for the average person. Life is too short to waste on frustrating friendships. I imagine that it would be best to set boundaries like we do with other relationships, but it is also more awkward to do because the relationship is between two equals, not a person who is an authoritarian over the other. It can best be likened to a relationship between siblings, but it lacks the familial advantage.

I don’t have it all figured out, but here are some of the funny friendships that I am currently dealing with, one of which prompted this post.

He Cares, but He Does not Really Care
Friends are there to help one another. When one is down, the other lifts him up. Sounds good, right? Hah! It does not always work that way. There is one very good friend of mine and my husband’s that we will call Jacob. In fact, he is the friend that we are the closest to, that we can be candid with, shoot from the hip, let our hair down, and just have fun.

Then what is the problem? As many of you know, my husband has been laid off for a while now. Jacob works in the same field as my husband and owns his own small business. He has a drug-user working with him who shows up for work dirty, smelly, and with his eyes half open. To add insult to injury, he works with clients like this. He has even left work before his shift was over because he was so high or needed to get high. My husband James has not said anything to Jacob about it and he probably never will, but he has expressed to me that Jacob needs to let that guy go and hire him instead.

I think that Jacob is one of those people that will help with some small basic things, but when you ask him for something big, like a job, the door shuts. What really hurts is that James and I are both thoroughly open-hearted with others, which sometimes gets us into trouble. So when we need something, we expect the world to open up and give us just what we need. Unfortunately, it does not work that way. We will continue to be friends with Jacob, but it is sad when friends do not look out for one another.

The Phantom
Most of us have been on a date where we think things are going well and we expect to go out on another date with the person, but they never call. The same can happen with friends.

Another friend that I will call Matt was very cool to hang out with. He is confidential and you never have to worry about what is said to him being told to another. In addition, he is also fun to hang out with. A few months ago he had us over for dinner and a movie. We had a great time and have been looking for that second ‘date,’ but he has not hung out with us since. When we see him in passing he seems fine and talks to us like normal, unlike someone who secretly hates us. James even called Matt a few times to see if he wanted to hang out, but he declines every time. It is possible that he actually could be busy every time, but James and I feel like we are being avoided. I guess I should not have burped the alphabet after eating a bowl of raw onions while dancing on his table with his cat.

Overly familiar
Remember the trouble I mentioned earlier that James and I sometimes get into because of being helpful? Well here he is, Mr. Overly Familiar. We became acquainted with him about a month ago and he is proving to be a nuisance to us as well as to others. He makes improper jokes, touches the person while he is talking (my creep meter goes off the chart when he does it), and his voice and ways are just plain annoying. He also overly flatters the person that he is with. He gave James so many compliments one time that I thought he was trying to give me competition for my own husband! James said he is uncomfortable with it, too.

I do not wish this man any ill will at all, but I just want him to find other friends to hang with and give us some space. It is like he is burping the alphabet after eating a bowl of raw onions while dancing on our table with the cat! Who does that? Oh. Um, forget that last point.

The fading friend
First, let me state that this friend is not necessarily a cause for concern. You know how you are close to someone and have great times with them, but the friendship fades as you get older? I think that is where this friendship is. This is the one that prompted me to write this post. I’ll call her Edna.

Edna and I were very close at one time. We would go over each other’s house and hang out all the time. Things started to change when James and I got engaged. That’s when she started to spend more time with her other friends. I guess she felt that I would want to spend more alone time with James instead of in groups like we usually did where we would all hang out. I think it’s great that she is spending time with other people doing things they like to do, but I was hoping to still be in her life, and so was James. We are not the exclusive married couple that only hang out with each other, but we love being around friends. To the contrary, we are the ones reaching out to her and she is the one declining our invitation. Trust me, I am not heartbroken about this at all. I have moved on from so many friendships throughout my life that it most times happens without me giving it a second thought.

Nevertheless, while I was at work I could not get some events off of my mind with Mr. Overly Familiar mentioned above and I wanted to vent about it to someone. She had just texted me about some work stuff and we went back and forth a little bit, so I thought it would be okay to vent to her. Besides, we would vent to each other all the time at one point. When I got it all off of my chest and was waiting for her to respond, she said that she was surprised that James and I were not being fair with Mr. Overly Familiar and that everyone needs a second chance. I think I was more upset with her response than with him. I gave her examples of why the problem is not us, and that he makes many others feel weird too. I don’t know if I was successful in making her see things from my point of view or not, but the conversation ended by her telling me to do what I feel is best. I immediately changed the conversation to something else which ended with me asking some question I was not really interested in about something I know she is looking forward to, but she never responded. That was over three hours ago.

There is probably nothing more irritating to me than being misunderstood. Well, that and being cut off while I’m talking. Not only that, but I felt like she was taking the side of someone she did not know over me, a woman that she knows is not quick to make conclusions about someone. Heck, my husband, the love of my life, is proof of that!

As I played over in my mind our conversation, I realized that the level of our friendship had been downgraded from good confidential friend to associate. That’s okay. It happens all the time. What is important to me is recognizing when it happens so I can act accordingly.

The Maybe Gossiper
As some could tell based on an earlier post I made about gossipers, I do not have friends that gossip. Now there are times when close friends will confidentially bounce things off of me to get another opinion on the situation, but that’s different from telling people’s business for sport. However, I do have a friend that I now feel uncomfortable discussing things with. I’ll call her Mandy.

Mandy and I met through another friend. She was cool and we hit it off instantly. However, ever since that initial conversation, I have a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I should not tell her anything else personal about myself. She says that she is confidential and I believe her on one level, but on another level I feel like she could possibly be sharing information with someone else. The reason why I feel this way is because sometimes she will text me out of nowhere asking for more details about some things I previously revealed to her, and the only people I know who bait others for additional details about a past topic out of thin air are gossipers. It is not just one question, it is question after question after question. Whether she is repeating what I tell her or not, I do not ignore my intuition, so I will not be telling her anything else. As far as she is concerned, my life is perfect, there are no problems, and sky is pink.

Like all things, there is a lesson in especially this kind of friend: Do not be too quick to give details about yourself to others. I do not think I told her anything too deep, but I do regret telling her whatever I did tell her. Right now, my new rule is not to say anything personal about myself for at least ninety days. Bad friends usually will have revealed themselves within that amount of time. We will spend a lot of time talking about the weather, but that’s fine with me. The funny thing is that James learned the same lesson with Mr. Overly Familiar, only in his world the sky is orange.

Who are your funny friends?
If you have a true friend that you really can depend on come what may, you should celebrate your friendship because many of us can only cycle through the friends we have that sometimes act funny. If you don’t have a true friend despite your efforts, join the club. Whether you want more friends, want to get rid of friends, or want to strengthen the friendships you have, you are in good company.

What funny friends are you currently dealing with? Are you one of those people with really good friends through and through? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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