Thursday, December 2, 2010

Acceptance Is Not Always Appropriate

Having written about my journey to accept my friends, it may be time to mention that acceptance is not always the best thing, its sad to say that in our lifetime we will probably all have at least one toxic relationship. In my case, you could say I decided not to accept my friend's behaviour any longer, or maybe what I had to accept was that I needed to be brave and part ways.

Its been perhaps four or more years since I parted with my friend, and although I was at the end of my rope when I severed the friendship, I still to this day feel concern for my friend, I wonder how she is, and where she is, but at bottom of my heart I know I don't want to get sucked back in. I can't "just" ring her, or write to her, I don't even want to meet her on the street. I feel guilty about this, but I also know that it is essential for me to avoid her. It still gnaws away at me though.

If you are wondering whether you have the strength to live with this kind of guilt, let me point out, the occasional gnawing guilt has been less stressful for me than the friendship was. It gets more stressful during the time that you are trying to end the friendship, but as time passes you heal and feel relief.

My friend in question was my next door neighbour. We met in January 2000, I had come home from hospital after what you might refer to as a 'breakdown' which I attribute to burn out from my job and the fact that I have bipolar disorder. I was nagged into meeting this woman, let's call her Carrie, by her husband and her mother because she was at home in a rocky emotional state and they thought we could be companions. Not a good match, not a good idea, but I found it difficult to say 'no' when the invitations and suggestions were so frequent. It turned out that although we grew to care for each other very much, it was unhealthy, I suspect she was competing with me to be the most 'unwell'. She also wanted someone who would not judge her, with my psychology degree and counselling experience I seemed like the perfect non-judgemental friend, but I realize I was just wearing my judgement on the inside. At first I believed I was just being respectful, but over a few years I discovered I was just too timid to tell her what I really thought.

Carrie was in denial about the effect her suicide would have on her two very young boys. She found it easy to say they would be better off. Carrie thought that because I have had suicidal times in my life that I understood and accepted her ideas about this.

I also found Carrie to be racist, which is completely unacceptable to me, but most of the time when she would make a remark or share a "joke" I was so shocked I went silent.

I didn't approve of her wastefulness of water either, we are in a crisis here, and she'd hose her driveway down and send gallons of water down the drain without a care in the world, and I would just follow her around like a little dog wagging its tail.

Carrie was also extremely dishonest, rude, disrespectful, and bullying, and again, I'd take it.

Perhaps worst of all, she would try to pimp me to her sex addict husband, and allowed him to sexually harass me in front of her and her kids.

She never made any effort to look after me as a friend, or listen, and frequently used me as a buffer to shelter her from her mother. The mother who originally hoped I'd be a friend for Carrie ended up saying the most horrible things including accusations that I was having sex with her son in law... all of which Carrie was more than happy to pass along to me so that she'd have an ally against her mother. For school events, and family parties, Carrie would beg me to attend claiming the boys wanted me to, but when I would turn up, the boys didn't give a hoot, largely ignored me, what I was really there for was to prevent a scene between mother and daughter.

I spent years fuming, crying, and stressed to my eyeballs before I finally snapped. I was fortunate that Carrie and her husband had divorced and she had moved out of the house (though I'm not too thrilled to still live next door to my harasser) so that I could stop visiting, calling, and responding to texts.

When I knew beyond a doubt that I wanted to end contact with Carrie, I was stressed... how do you end a friendship? I know how to dump a guy, but how do you dump a girl? I never did have that conversation with her, I didn't want to tell her my reasons and be argued with and 'never complain, never explain' did come to mind. So she is out there somewhere, still not aware of her behaviour or how it effects others.... but its my sanity I have to worry about, not hers.

I have healed tremendously in these past years, I don't think I could have while still maintaining that 'friendship', and I know in future I will not allow a toxic relationship to go so far, to take so much of a hold in my life. Nip it in the bud... either by speaking up and giving the person the chance to change, or end it sooner, that is my advice to anyone.


Chez said...

Starry you have never looked back from there my friend. Interesting! I wonder what our friendship may have meant to us had we met in those days? Love what it is and what it has the potential to become. Love and gratitude always xo

Starry said...

Ah Chez, maybe if you had moved in next door instead? Still, we made friends when we each were ready according to the powers that be. Haha, maybe I can give the neighbour the heave ho and you can install yourself, don't think you'd like the house though, it has always had great suffering in it with all the different families that have lived there, and its not very light or pretty.You deserve a harmonious home with a garden and lots of light.
xoxox starry