Friendship is supposed to be reciprocal…isn’t it?

I have this friend.  Really, I think everybody has this friend, and probably multiple versions of this friend.  I have three of them, who are more or less “this friend” to various degrees.

This friend, though, I’ve known for many years, off and on, and she’s one of those friends that I can go years without seeing her, drop in for a visit, and it’ll be like no time has passed.

Of course, part of the reason that happens is because her life is largely unchanging.  She’s been living in the same place for years, married to the same guy, in a situation that would drive me to drink (or at least to work hard to change it).

I always have fun when I go to visit her, but I don’t really miss her during the times when we’re not in contact, and it always boils down to the same sorts of problems that lead me to wander off again.

The problem is, she’s not a reciprocal friend.  I went over there, and we hung out, and we talked, and she told me about the trip she took for her daughter’s wedding, which included a detour to Disneyland, and she showed me the things she bought there.  It was a fine conversation… except that it was all about her.  Really, every conversation that we’ve ever had is all about her, and even when I talk about myself, she’s one of those people who has to tell competing stories, because nobody can ever have gone through anything that’s harder than what she has to put up with.

I hadn’t seen her in five or six years, because of Hurricane Isabel, and when she messaged me the other day (because her dog, who I knew, had died) I told her that we’d split up.  I mentioned that Isabel had been controlling and abusive.

At no point did she ever ask me what I meant, either online or in person.

With anybody else, I would assume that it was because she was uncomfortable with the idea of abuse, but she had been a childhood victim of abuse herself.  We’d talked about it at length over the years.

I said, offhandedly, that I’d have to have her over to see my apartment.  I wasn’t really expecting much from the offer; she rarely visited me even when we were in regular contact, even though I had more space.  It was up to me to drive 40 minutes across town or make the two+ hour trek by bus if I didn’t have a car available.

She said it would take time, because she’d have to convince her husband that I was “safe.”  He was nervous about her talking to me, and another friend of hers (someone I hadn’t spoken to since I moved out to be with Isabel) was also nervous.  As far as I can tell, they were nervous because my behavior had been somewhat erratic when a) I was having a nervous breakdown and b) when I was in an abusive relationship.

Now, her husband has never liked me, and my allegedly erratic behavior was just a new manifestation of the same old story, but why would you say that to someone?  She could’ve made a noncommittal response and that would’ve been the end of it.

She made me uncomfortable, repeatedly and at length, and she never seemed to notice when I wasn’t engaged in the conversation.

And now I don’t know how to call her on it.

I mentioned earlier that I have more than one friend who wants me to give to them without feeling like they need to give back.  The other two aren’t as blatantly self-centered about it, but I think my willingness to just stand back and let them do it is a result of years of emotional abuse, not only from Isabel but from my father.  My feelings aren’t as important as other peoples’ feelings, and my experiences are only valuable when I can leverage them to give advice to other people.

This blog wouldn’t even exist if it hadn’t been for my wanting to share my experiences to help someone else identify abusive behavior.

But I’m feeling awkward and irritable and I don’t know what to do with it.  I had fun at the time, but the more I think about it, the more uncomfortable I become with the whole situation.

I hope your Monday is going better than mine.

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~ by Amber on June 27, 2011.

4 Responses to “Friendship is supposed to be reciprocal…isn’t it?”

  1. Yeah, I do have that friend too. Honestly, you’ve worked so hard and come so far in building yourself that I don’t think shedding that person would make you, in turn a bad person. If that makes any sense.

  2. Gotta agree with Drakon. She’s toxic. Not Isabel (nuclear) toxic, more like windex toxic. Not going to kill you right away, but not something you should ingest. I’m not sure it even counts as a relationship if it isn’t reciprocal. Either way, life is too short to be someone else’s Turing bot.

  3. I have “friends” like this, and for all practical purposes I may as well be listening to a radio broadcast which doesn’t have any, I mean ANY commericial interruptions. It’s sad in a way, because with each “friend” that I have they individually each have some redeeming quality, but they just aren’t capable of a real friendship or relationship….maybe too neurotic???

  4. Interesting that her stories that she shares while you are telling your story become “competing stories” instead of “sympathetic” or “I can relate to you” stories that reveal her comprehension of your circumstance, or are stories that she shares to demonstrate the negative thing you experienced is common and not directed at you from the Universe. Perhaps you could ask her the next time you meet, “When I tell you a story about something bad that happened to me, why do you then tell me a story of something bad that happened to you also?”

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