Friendship: The Significance of Timing

Published: February 6, 2012 | Last Updated: February 6, 2012 By | 7 Replies Continue Reading

Two close male friends with a long history drift apart



Dear Irene,

My friend and I became friends when his family
moved into my neighborhood when we were both kids. My friend was an outcast and
very different from other kids at an early age. Parents questioned his
sexuality early on and not in a good way. He loved cleaning, girls’ things,
dressed differently, talked differently, and had feminine mannerisms.


A lot of parents in my neighborhood asked my
parents if it was a good idea for he and I to be spending time together. I kind
of became the only person he had. Because at that age we are so influenced by
peer pressure, I felt guilty and was sometimes embarrassed to be seen with him.
He had no other friends, ate lunch alone, never did extra-curricular activities
or went to summer camp—nothing.


As time went on, we continued being good
friends who could talk about anything, confiding in each other about the issues
of growing up, feeling different, and not "normal." I was the only
person he could talk to. When I would hear people make comments about him, it
would ruin my day. I was even brought to tears by some of the things people
said about him.


What became so noticeable about him besides
his mannerisms was his voice. It never changed and was extremely high pitched,
making him very self-conscious. People would always ask me about it when he
wasn’t around.


It got to a point where people thought I was
gay because I spent time with him. Though I was, I was still young and confused
and didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t want the friendship to out me, even
though he and I had never been romantic. The reason I liked him so much was
that he listened and dissected problems, gave good advice and was always there
when I needed him. Of course, I did the same for him. It was a very special
friendship, more like a family member or confidant.


When he started college, he continued to
struggle making friends, even though he was not judged as much as he and his
peers matured. He would drive home almost every weekend. When he graduated, he
moved to another city and we would talk on the phone every night. After being
there for a few years, he started to make friends and I saw a great change in
him. He felt more accepted and free to be himself. That is when things changed.


One night when he was drunk, he made an angry
comment about how frustrated he was that he and I never dated. He said we were
a "sexless marriage." All I said was, "I don’t feel that way about
you and it’s never going to happen, so let’s just move on." After that, we
continued to be friends but his enthusiasm for the friendship slowly weakened
as he started making other friends. He went away to graduate school out of the
country and had an amazing time. His voice finally changed at age 24 and he had
his first relationship.


We barely talked that year. Now he’s back and
we both moved to the same city at the same time. I am having trouble adjusting
as I have always had a lot of anxiety, and have battled depression since early
high school. My friend knows both these things. He lives with one of his best
friends while I live alone. He has a job and I don’t. He’s in his second
relationship, while I still have never had one. He doesn’t seem to care about
me anymore and I feel betrayed.


Now that his life has gotten better, now that
he’s had a relationship, every time I try to reach out to him for someone to
talk to, to give advice, he is very lackluster, seems bored and annoyed. He has
ditched me a few times. When I confronted him on this, he became angry and
couldn’t see it from my perspective. He told someone behind my back that I was
exhausting and that if I wasn’t his only friend, then he would probably have
nothing to do with me, and that being away has allowed him to see me as what I


It really makes me feel badly because it’s
like now he can’t get anything from me, so he’s done with me. He knows I’ll
never be his boyfriend and he views me now as competition. I went to the better
school, I was more normal growing up, I was always better looking etc. I was
the ONLY person he had for the first 20 years of his life. My parents treated
him like family. I put my own reputation on the line when I was a closeted
confused kid. I was always there for him, stood up for him when people would
make comments and laugh at him. Now it’s like he isn’t willing to help me when
I am in a new city, still on depression and anxiety medication, trying to feel
like I am not alone here in this new city.


He has lost what made him special to begin
with. It’s hard because he has been such a huge part of my life since I was
seven years old. It’s weird when someone you think will always be there is now gone.
He knows so much about me; my backstory, the major events of my life, the catalysts
to maybe some of the reasons I am the way I am today, the friends I’ve had, the
friends I’ve lost, the good times, the bad times, etc.

Should I continue to be friends with him,
though he will never be a genuine loyal friend like he used to be? Do I have a
point or am I overreacting and expecting too much? Is he wrong in this whole
thing? I’m very confused and wonder if salvaging this friendship is even worth

Thanks a lot.

Signed, Henry



Dear Henry,

This certainly sounds like a very special
friendship that shaped both you and your friend in fundamental ways: This
relationship helped you both learn how to navigate growing up in a straight
world of peers and parents that wasn’t always very kind or nurturing.


By listening, accepting, and being trustworthy
and loyal, you seem to have played a pivotal role in enabling your friend to
feel comfortable with his sexuality.


He seems to have been less accepting of you—in
terms of allowing you to find your own path at your own pace. His anger was
probably an over-reaction to the frustration he felt in being unable to connect
with you in the way he hoped to.


During the time that you were apart in
different countries, it’s likely that you both underwent major changes in your
lives—during these very formative years after college. (By the way, you
haven’t mentioned how you both wound up in the same city and whether it was
coincidental or intentional.)


It’s hard to connect with new friends or old
ones when you aren’t feeling good about yourself. Given that you are still
battling anxiety and depression, it is important for you to continue to get
professional help. I hope that you are receiving some psychotherapeutic support
in addition to medication.


I think the best way you can salvage this
friendship is to work on yourself, make other gratifying connections in your
new city, and to be less dependent on your friend for helping you at this
point. He may not see himself as competition with you; rather, he may see you
are more peripheral to his life that he is to yours.


One last thought: It might be useful to write
your friend a note covering some of the same bases you covered in your letter
to me, making it considerably shorter, however. Explain how important the
friendship has been to you and that you’re feeling vulnerable right now. Tell
him that although you know he can’t solve your problems, you hope you haven’t
inadvertently created a wedge in your friendship. Then leave the ball in his
court. This may help give you some sense of closure as you move forward.


What has happened has to be disappointing but your
friend may not have the capacity to give you now what you gave to him then.


I hope this is somewhat helpful.

Warm regards, Irene 




Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: Uncategorized

Comments (7)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    I say this with love that the relationship sounds a little codependent. The writer sounds like a gentle caring soul and I do admire the way he stood by his friend. However, a friendship isn’t a contract – and there is no onus on the friend to reciprocate in the same way.

    I think taking the time out to develop some inner resources, and work on being content, and finding your path. It is hard when you are rejected, but I am more than sure that when you reach a point of peace and security. More nurturing relationships will appear.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Agreed. When I read the post, I see a young man who bent over backwards to be there for his friend, as his friend was having a hard time for years. But now that the friend is doing well, the poster feels that his friend isn’t coming through for him or putting in effort to be supportive. That’s the chance we take when we enter a friendship but it still hurts a lot, and I’m sorry the poster had to experience this.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I also didn’t read jealousy into the poste’s quandary. This man to me seems to feel betrayed due to the sacrifices he made in the friendship and that it went downhill as his friend had better life experiences. In fact he talks about how his friend did better as he emerged into adulthood as a positive. I also didn’t see the friend as wallowing, but maybe “after I was there for him how dare he not be there for me.”! Maybe he’s not because he doesn’t know how to be mutually supportive as irene pointed out, but the hurt feelings of the poster is understandable.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Interesting how different people can have such different views. Instead of the jealousy that you see/read, I see/read the pain and hurt that the writer is going through. I think it has to do with our own experiences. Perhaps I’ve felt the jealousy that you say the writer has experienced. Perhaps you’ve been in the ex-friend’s shoes. This blog and its comments reinforces the wide range of emotions and viewpoints that we all have. There are always two sides to the story.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Yeah I kinda had the same feelings as I read the letter, some jealousy is =going on….It seems like to me like Irene was right, when she advised to fill his life with satisfyling new ventures.
    Someimes it can be hard to see a someone you have been close to enjoying their life- yet do not seem concerned that you are not enjoying your life.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I can relate to the writer, who was essentially dumped by his best friend. Friendships can and do change over time. It’s unfortunate that the ex-friend changed to the point of no longer wanting to invest in the friendship. Hold your head up high, writer, for it seems that you were/are a great friend. The fact that your ex-friend is no longer interested in your friendship may have nothing to do with you. Hopefully someone else will realize how fabulous you are and accept your selfless love. All the best.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I think the writer has become a constant draining friend who calls to complain about his life all the time. It appears the only one who is in competition is him. He states that he was more normal, better looking, etc., yet his weird friend is doing better than he is and he can’t stand it. “How DARE he shine while I wallow?” seems to be the tone of his letter considering how many times he has mentioned his friend having relationships while he still has not.

    The LW was so closeted that he clung to his friend who was more open about who he was. It seems like he is still stuck and has not come to full grips about his embarrassment over his sexuality, while his friend has matured and moved on.

Leave a Reply