• Keeping Friends

A very intense friendship begins to unravel

December 14, 2016 | By | 5 Replies Continue Reading
Sometimes an intense friendship evokes a need for boundaries.

QUESTION

Hi,

Me and my best friend used to see each other literally every day. If we didn’t, then we would call and chat on the phone for at least an hour. I absolutely adore and love him and have never had a friend like him.

We have known each other for 7 months now, and life with him has been just incredible. We spent the summer together and had amazing times including a lovely holiday together.

We just came back from holiday, and I was thinking after the holiday we wouldn’t see each other a lot over the weekend as he would be with his mum. We both live at home, him being 18, me 20. However, he called me as soon as he woke up Saturday morning for us to meet, and him to clean my car as he loves it, then we went to the movies, then I went home about 10pm.

Then Sunday, we are part of the same organization. We went training together, had a laugh, went back to his house, watched a film onTV, then went to his room and fell asleep on his bed as we were both really tired! Then I had to go home for tea so I left as it was late. We said goodnight and left on amazing terms as always.

Monday, I called him after I had finished work. He answered and we had a good chat. Then he had to walk his dog so he said he would call me later. He never called back. So I was worried about him, tried to call him a few times, messaged him and nothing.

After a rather sleepless night, I called him in the morning. He said sorry I never called you. I lost my phone on my bed. That isn’t like him. He would turn over the house to find his phone to call me! I always say to him I will never let you go, so he said I have to get ready for work as I’m running late. So I said shall I let you go, and he said I thought you wouldn’t ever let me go. We laughed and he went to work.

I called him after work but he didn’t answer. Then he texted me later saying sorry he was on the phone with his auntie. Normally he would call me back, not text. So I went round to see him to get my charger and I said to him, “What’s up? You don’t seem yourself.” He said nothing although he wasn’t himself. So I left. No arguments. Afterwards, his mum came home and they were going to have tea.

Wednesday, I thought I would leave him to call me. He never did, so I called him later that night. No reply. Tried going round his house twice and still nothing. Texting him, nothing. It wasn’t like him to go out without saying anything. Later that evening I put a letter through his letterbox just saying I know something is up and when your ready call me, I’m here for you and I love you. He texted me later saying he had just gotten in with his mum, phone out of charge and he was tired.

Thursday, we went for another training evening so I called him to ask if he wanted a lift. He declined saying he would go on his motorbike. I always used to drive him. So we were at our training, and in the crew room, he didn’t speak to me apart from hello and he didn’t look at me literally once! He was talking to all of the other crew, not me, because we are always together. Someone said, Christ you two seem quiet. We laughed it off but it felt like I was invisible.

So when we left, he went out as soon as he could to warm his bike. I followed with the rest and waited for them to leave and said to him, “What’s the matter?” He said nothing was wrong, I said you didn’t look at me he said I’m fine so I just said okay in a very upset voice and went on my own way.

Later that night he texted me saying he was sorry and that my letter made him feel uncomfortable. He wanted to spend time with his mum after we had been on holiday and he didn’t know how to tell me. He doesn’t want to make things awkward between us because I was best friend. He said that all the time we spent together in the summer, he wanted to go do other stuff, go back to archery and see friends he hadn’t seen in a long time. He went on saying that going on holiday with me has made him realize that there is life outside of the organization we are in. He goes on to say the last thing he wanted to do was hurt me, and if I wanted to come over now (10pm) and get an early birthday present. So I was on the way home from the pub and didn’t know whether or not to pop in but I did.

He greeted me with a hug, took me into the kitchen and gave me my 21st birthday present, a watch he designed and got engraved for me. It’s amazing!!! We didn’t talk about anything as his mum was there. We hugged each other two times and I left after about an hour.

As you can imagine, after training and the text, I was rather upset. So when I got home I texted him saying thanks for the present, I’m sorry about the letter, I was just worried about you and that I felt horrible tonight after you didn’t even look at me. I went on to say it hurt from us speaking every day to not speaking at all. Then I said I had had a crap week (which I had) and that I just wanted to talk to him and for him to cheer me up as always but he wasn’t there for me, and how much I was hurting and upset.

He replied rapidly saying, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. Are we okay now?”

I was crying at this time. I didn’t know how to reply so I texted him back about midday the next day saying, “We’re good.”

Well he hasn’t texted, or called me for two days now. He wanted space. I gave him space by not contacting him, however, sadly, he hasn’t contacted me.

I don’t know what to do. Should I contact him or wait for him to contact me? We will see each other at training meetings and it is going to be so awkward! He was my world, although he has really upset me just for the fact that he feels like he couldn’t tell me he wanted space, although we tell each other everything.

I have opened up to him so much. I feel like I have been stabbed in the back, betrayed, and used. I just feel like I have lost him. How can I go on without him? What shall I do? I love him so much but I just don’t know where I stand. I feel like if I talk to him, he will just shrug it off. Also confusing, why he wanted to give my present early, my birthday isn’t for two weeks yet, is he trying to say this is it?

Sorry for the length of this, my head is spinning…

Signed, Frank

ANSWER

Hi Frank,

I’m sorry you’re having difficulty with your friend. From your letter, it sounds like you and he developed a very quick and intense friendship, perhaps to the exclusion of other friends and family. I’m going to assume this relationship is platonic, because you haven’t said otherwise.

Friendships with such a high level of intensity are not always healthy. They’re also difficult to maintain because they can be overwhelming and all encompassing. One person may feel the need to take a step back often without being able to verbalize the reason, which can be confusing to the other person.

Boundaries are the physical and emotional space we place between ourselves and others. They exist in all relationships and can change over time. Sometimes we need more space, other times we need more closeness. Because people can have different needs, one wanting more closeness and another more space, some friendships can go through periods of stress or even end. Respecting boundaries is important for maintaining healthy relationships. Almost always, the person who wants stronger boundaries (more space) needs to be respect and the friend who wants more time and energy has to take a step backwards.

When you said you gave your friend two days space, although to you that probably seemed like a lot of space, to him it may not have seemed like enough.  Here are some ideas that may help you  in this and future relationships:

–If you want to salvage your friendship, let him take the lead with communication and interaction.
–Try to keep the overwhelming feelings of need and sorrow away from your friendship. They will feel burdensome to him.
–Nurture other relationships so all your social and emotional needs aren’t focused on one person.
–Seek counseling if you see a pattern like this repeating over more than one relationship.

Good luck. I hope things work out for you.

Signed, Amy Feld


*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this or any other post is intended to substitute for medical, psychiatric or clinical diagnosis/treatment. Rather, all posts are written as the type of advice that one friend might give to another.

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS

Comments (5)

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  1. batphink says:

    I too was surprised this was between two men.It sounds a bit like someone wants a romantic thing here? hence all the contact with very little space no more than days between seeing each other.You only knew each other 7 months I think you said ,even in a heterosexual relationship this lack of space and giving both parties a chance to also get things done can cause major problems.Sit down and let each other know that just a little more space is needed and you’ll enjoy seeing each other more if you are still talking.People who demand to see someone usually end up making many more demands which again can destroy a friendship or relationship.
    Good Luck

  2. greenbird says:

    Oh my, sounds like you got some pushback and it felt really awful. I understand, but this friendship was very very intense and sometimes people need a breather. He may not even have understood how to explain it, you can go along and be just fine for a long while and then just need some space. Perhaps there are other friends he misses….or hobbies he has neglected that he wants to get back to. There is nothing wrong with taking a breather and slowing down the pace of a relationship. He obviously cares for you and doesn’t want to hurt you ,it can be hard to ask for space for yourself and get the intent across without pain. I hope all works out. The advice was spot on.

  3. Socialite says:

    Great advice so far. A few more points – you say you’re going to meet each-other at training and it’s going to be awkward. DON’T make it awkward! Be lighthearted, cheerful and laid back and just act like everything is cool. As Amy Feld said, keep any negativity, neediness and sorrow away from your interactions as these can feel incredibly burdensome to the other person. When you do meet, greet him with a big smile, “Heyy, what’s up, man!” and unless he starts some conversation, just go on with your own business.

    Also stop showing him how much hurt you feel by his actions. There is this psychological paradox that we end up disliking the people we have hurt. You may want to check it out.

  4. Jared says:

    Wow, I’m really surprised this comment is about two men. Most men I know would feel horribly constricted in a friendship like this, where the other person expects constant contact and approval.

    It sounds like a classic case of smothering someone. Two days worth of space is a BLIP on a line and doesn’t even qualify as giving someone space. The main recourse is to step back and allow the other person to take the lead about how often you communicate. My guess is that the constant contact bothered Frank’s friend for a while, and eventually he couldn’t handle it anymore.

    You’ll know how much he wants to talk to you by how many times HE contacts YOU. He must be feeling strangled right now.

    Frank, I don’t mean to sound harsh, but you sound obsessed with this guy. It sounds like you need too much approval, and this would be a burden. Most men enjoy friendships but also champion their independence. I suggest you make some new friends or distract yourself with a new hobby until this blows over, but it sounds like this guy has lost interest in your friendship. It would be best to move on. Good luck.

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