– Good to see you.
– It’s nice to be seen.
– So, we’re here to talk about recent developments with a friend of yours.
– We are.
– Still friends with this person?
– That depends entirely on this person.
– Their name?
– We’ll use a fictitious one. Jane.
– Okay, Jane. (checking notes) The two of you used to be in a relationship up until about a year ago and then became friends. It’s been about a year since you’ve seen each other but throughout the year you’ve talked on the phone quite a bit. You went out with a couple of women you did tell Jane. What was that like?
– I was worried. You always wonder if a friendship that used to be a romantic relationship will hold-up when one or both begin to explore other romantic possibilities . But it was alright when I told her.
– Why worried?
– I think two things are tied for first and foremost. I didn’t want to hurt her and I didn’t want to lose the friendship. But it never occurred to me to be anything but honest with her. While honesty is not always easy and dealing with the ramifications of being honest are not always easy, it’s always easier than dishonesty and dealing with the ramifications of that. You start misleading someone about who you are or what you are doing in life, especially those who love you, one misrepresentation gets built on another and the story never ends happily.
– So, what’s happened lately that’s caused you to lock the door on her?
– Not lock the door. Protect myself. Door’s not locked. I blocked phone and social media for now. Hopefully not for always. Email is open.
– Okay, you’re protecting yourself. What was the turning point?
– When you know someone well you learn their patterns in life. Their habits. When patterns of behavior change it means something. It doesn’t necessarily mean something bad or negative, but changes in someone’s regular pattern of behaviors mean something. So I noticed changes. Historically Jane is a very active user of Facebook, throughout the week, though with her current job, less so, and on the weekend. So I began to notice that were blocks of time on Facebook for example, on the weekends, where there was no activity. On top of that there were times she would say she’d call and simply didn’t. Another change in pattern. I began to think she was dating or getting involved with someone so when I asked about this, she reacted with anger.
– Would it have made you angry if she’d been dating?
– Not at all.
– And this last weekend there’s been a visit planned?
– She had said she was going to visit this last weekend but in the week prior it became clear she was looking for a way out. She wasn’t saying this directly, but she was looking for a way out. She also sent an email she later acknowledged was abusive. When someone, anyone, starts writing me things in anger like “because not everyone’s an asshole like those other mo fo’s” or “fuck you” I disengage. I’ve got two choices in that moment, fire back or pull back. I’d rather pull back. She was furious that I’d sent an email saying I was concerned she wasn’t being entirely honest about what was happening in her life which, as it turns out, happened to be exactly the case. She finally said she’d been on Match, which is fine. Said she’d met a nice man but sent him on his way because she realized she wasn’t ready to get into a relationship. Also fine. Then, a day or two later she wrote to tell me she’s decided to enter into a relationship with a former boyfriend.
– She sounds over the place when it comes to relationships.
– Not necessarily so at all. It may very well be she was all over the place when it came to being up front with me. I’m hoping that’s the case. I’d much rather her relationship with this man turns out wonderfully for both of them and that the problem was being up front with a friend. Having said all that, I’m not going to accept dishonesty or verbal abuse from anyone as a matter of course. But I’d rather reject the behavior first and give the person some slack than cut them off completely.
– Now, I’ve known you a long time.
– Longer than anyone.
– And I know Jane crossed a line when it came to the subject of suicide. You’d told her knowing that option was there was comforting for you, and she accused you of trying to make her feel guilty which I know was not the case.
– The subject of ending one’s life, suicide, with me, is kind of like the subject of war with Michael.
– Your closest friend.
– Michael was a Marine. Lost his legs in Vietnam. Saw shit people who haven’t been there can’t even imaging. Unless you’ve been to war, you’ve got no business bring up the subject with someone whose been there with anything but respect. I’ve lost a brother, mother and birth-mother to suicide, a childhood friend, and a guy I used to work with. I won’t tolerate anyone walking into that subject with me with anything but respect. She knows better, or she should. The very fact I talked about it with her was testimony the level of closeness and safety I felt with her.
– Why are you open to continuing this friendship?
– Rarely does anyone deserve to be defined by a few weeks of behavior in their life, a series of unhealthy choices. Certainly not Jane. I’ve known her for awhile and know a lot about her life, her history. She is a remarkable person in many ways. But right now the ball’s in her court. She steps up to the plate and makes amends like we all should do when we misstep or lose our cool, we’re fine. All is well. I look forward to meeting her new boyfriend. She doesn’t or can’t, there’s nothing I can do about that. She’ll either figure out it was safe to be honest and open with me or she won’t. My responsibility is to be honest, try to make the healthiest choices on the table, knowing that by doing so they’ll be easier to live with down the road.
– What if she does nothing now but down the road reaches out to you?
– Door’s open. Honesty, amends, taking responsibility is the way to go for all of us. Now, having said that, there is this possibility. If life badly wounds her or someone she loves and I can help, I will. But friendship won’t resume at that point absent the honesty and amends. But there is no way I wouldn’t help her or one of her daughters or anyone she loves if I could.
– It sounds like in your core you’re still her friend.
– You’re right. I am. But whether it can ever be an active friendship again is not up to me.
– Sitting down for this dialogue was an act of friendship, wasn’t it?
– You do what you can for those you love.