Watch out, readers; things are about to get personal.
Last night I went out with one of my housemates, and we ended up discussing relationships — not just romantic relationships, but relationships in general. At one point I realized how desperate I sounded as I was saying, “This friendship is starting to look a little like my friendship with [name omitted for anonymity]. He doesn’t always return my calls, and sometimes he doesn’t show up when he says he will, so I’ve just learned not to depend on him too heavily. When we’re together, I cherish that time, and I love him and don’t want to lose his friendship; so I’ll take what he can give and try to reciprocate in kind.” What made sense in my head didn’t seem to make sense out loud, because my housemate looked at me and said, “But, Kyleen, that’s not much of a friendship. You deserve much more than that.” Which made me think . . . I have another guy friend who only calls me when he needs something; we spent a lot of time together in college, but now we hardly see each other. I have another female friend who seems to thrive on crises; she calls me when her world is falling apart, and to her utmost credit, always shows up when I’m in crisis. Another girlfriend of mine tended toward the “If we’re not playing by my rules, I’ll take my ball and go home” kind of attitude; when I felt like playing, I played by her rules, and when I didn’t, I just let her leave. And my housemate said something else, too, that seemed profound. She said that relationships are about mutual giving, and though they may not always be 50-50 — sometimes it’s 60-40, sometimes 40-60 — being permanently in 75-25 isn’t healthy. Now, that makes me think a bit more mathematically, but forgive me now, because I’m not so good at math. I’ve definitely had friendships that began to feel like I was always on the giving end of the 75-25 split. I don’t like ending friendships; the people in my life are all precious to me for their own special reasons, and I’ve experienced the pain of being dismissed as a friend often enough that I don’t want to cause that kind of hurt. I’d rather just scale things back so that I’m giving the same 25%. It seems to make more sense to me, even though 25 + 25 = 50; because isn’t half a friendship better than none at all?
UPDATE: Requested retraction: I recently got a call from [name omitted for anonymity], the first example friend above. He reads this blog, yes, and believe it or not, he accurately identified himself (along with a few of the other examples — and I thought I was being so careful about anonymity!). We talked, and I reassured him that I was referring to past behaviour, not current. He pointed out, accurately, that the tone and tense both imply that he is currently a flaky friend, and requested that I print a retraction. My first response was, “But no one even knows it’s you!” To which he replied, “Yeah, but I know it’s me, and it makes me feel bad.” Noted, my friend. Your retraction request has been granted. I’ll see you at dinner.
Oh, and I’ll hopefully get back to this topic in my next post, since there were a lot of GREAT comments I’d like to address. Thanks for weighing in!