November 2017
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LJI topic 2, that one friend: when is it over? my 5 criteria for continued friendship investment


icon: "challenging (photo of me lifting one eyebrow and slightly squinting my eyes, wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

I've always been the thrifty type: can't throw it out if there might still be some good in it! I'm like this with people to an often-detrimental extreme. I have a very hard time giving up and mostly can't manage to do it unless the other person already has. I was thinking about this tendency recently and asked myself "if I had no memory of this person before this year, would I put effort into connecting with them?" and realized that for one friend in particular the answer is "hell no." Then I tried to remember the last time there was a long stretch of them being a nourishing friend for me and realized that it had been years. I'm pretty sure they started thinking of me as "someone they used to be friends with" a long time ago -- while I was still trying to be their friend.

I might have more good people in my life if I hadn't spent so much time and energy trying to resurrect this friendship. I need a better cut-off point where I don't let literal years go by of me waiting for them to start being my friend in earnest. But what should the limit be? I know people go through hard times and I don't want to end a friendship because someone went through a period of low energy. I also don't want to continue one where the other person doesn't actually bother. I need criteria for me continuing to invest, and I need to actually and honestly evaluate where I am spending my energy. So tonight I am creating criteria:
1) nourishment: interacting with them is net-positive at least half of the time. (net-positive means I leave an interaction more nourished than drained).
2) shared effort: they put forth at least 1/3rd of the total effort for us to connect (I'm willing to adjust to meet them).
3) fair expectations: they don't expect me to do more than half of the emotional labor or more than half of the logistics labor.
4) building together: we have shared goals, and I can see actual evidence of this in their behavior and in where they devote their resources.
5) evidence of care: they take action to show that they care about my feelings and (without prompting) express a desire to help meet my needs.
If none of these criteria are true for more than three months, I should discuss this with the person and if nothing can be done to improve the situation, I should take a break from the person.

If I had used these criteria to evaluate my relationship with this one friend, I would have recognized that the relationship showed
1) lack of nourishment: it almost always was way more draining than nourishing.
2) lack of effort: they did less than 1/3rd of the total effort to connect us, probably less than 1/4th.
3) unfair expectations: they expected me to do way more than half and expected me to accommodate all their needs while they didn't do anything for mine.
4) minuscule building together: I saw very little evidence that they cared about what mattered to me.
5) no evidence of care: they never checked in about how their actions affected me, reacted defensively every time I tried to discuss it, and showed absolute disinterest in helping to meet my needs.

In contrast, my three closest people at the moment share these qualities:
1) nourishment: time together is net-positive way more than half of the time.
2) shared effort: they do way more than a third of connecting us (one of them actually does more than me on a fairly regular basis!).
3) fair expectations: they don't expect me to do more than half, and they offer to take half of the burden (or even more sometimes!) if they can.
4) building together: they show they care about community, justice, self-education, etc by hosting gathers with me, participating in protests, learning new things, etc.
5) evidence of care: they check in about how their actions affect me, and they offer to help me in whatever ways they can. They try to accommodate my communication needs and express appreciation when I move outside of my comfort zone for them.

I have to learn to accept when someone is not interested in investing in me, and I have to learn to stop pouring effort into them. I only have so much and I can't build good connections if I spend all my energy on people who do not want to create a positive feedback loop with me (wanting it to magically exist without them working for it doesn't count as 'wanting to create').

This one friend I'm talking about is someone who is in my top-five most-loved human beings of my entire 33+ years. I really wanted to be able to be connected with them. But I cannot. I will accept this and allow them to recede into my past, as I have receded into theirs.

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Comments
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sammason ══╣birds flying╠══
I'm glad you're thinking about this. It sounds painful but necessary.

As it happens, I empathise. Much time and effort went into friendships that weren't going to succeed. Dead wood.
belenen ══╣gentle╠══
thank you -- I appreciate the empathy and am sorry that you've had similar experiences. I feel you on the lost resources.
baxaphobia ══╣╠══
Taking a break, or if necessary, ending a friendship is difficult. It doesn't matter if it's needed. It still hurts. You've set up good criteria for relationships in general. Hopefully those guidelines will help in the future.
belenen ══╣artless╠══
It really is difficult. I hope I can keep these in mind in the future.

Thanks for the comment!
ghostwriter ══╣pic#126791888╠══
The last two passages you wrote are so true for me and my life and any friend I've had. I always seem to want to do all for anyone. So often I am taken advantage of. People will just use me up till I have no more to give then move on. Or I will keep trying to help those I care about until I'm exhausted yet they never lift a hand to help me. As a result I try to feel more at peace in my own body these days. If there is a friend in my life, I make this decision of friendship carefully. If certain qualities are not there, I try to move on. Before they end up draining the life out of me.
belenen ══╣artless╠══
I have indeed seen that your generosity is so rarely returned. I know that wouldn't have the energy to return it myself which is part of the reason that I haven't tried to connect outside of LJ with you. I know I just couldn't keep up, with all the other things I have to give attention to. But I know you deserve to get back as much as you give. I am sorry that those two friendships you were investing so much in turned out the way they did.
penpusher ══╣╠══
It's clear you have made adjustments to yourself to protect against energy suckers! That's great. It's a learning process to come to understand how people can be supportive or detrimental, but the real learning is in understanding you should not feel connected with those that don't care about you. It's an endless journey, really. Good luck with yours.
belenen ══╣writing╠══
Thanks for the luck!
lordrexfear ══╣╠══
Having barriers and rules for a friendship are very important.

I'm glad to know that you have people in your life that followed your personal rules without you even having them as well.
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
I don't think of them so much as rules but more as indicators. A lack of these things indicates an unhealthy relationship, but it's okay if relationships go through unhealthy periods as long as they don't just stay there forever.
xo_kizzy_xo ══╣╠══
I get this so much :nodding: The older I've become, the more my "bullshit" detector is on in regards to friendship. It may mean that I have less people overall in my life, but those who are there have become more precious to me.

And yes, as penpusher said, it's an endless learning process.
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
*nods* yep, it is indeed endless! and very difficult for someone like me with a bad memory and difficulty thinking in the abstract. I find it much easier when I can make it measurable somehow.
alycewilson ══╣╠══
It's wise to have a good idea of what you will accept from friends. Mine is less formal but much the same.
belenen ══╣writing╠══
*nods*
ragnarok_08 ══╣AoE ★ lovely absurdity╠══
It's necessary to take a break from a friendship, even when it hurts so much.

Thanks for these guidelines, dear - they're very appreciated.
belenen ══╣artless╠══
you're most welcome -- if they can help more than me that's fantastic!
xxmadsenxx ══╣pic#103254973╠══
I'm pretty sure they started thinking of me as "someone they used to be friends with" a long time ago -- while I was still trying to be their friend.

I've been in this position before too, and ultimately I found sticking with that to be more painful than cutting them out of my life was, so I cut them and haven't looked back. If someone isn't willing to put in the effort to be a friend, they're really not worth keeping around, as they're not a true friend.
belenen ══╣gentle╠══
So true. Sorry you've been through this too *empathetic frown*
adoptedwriter ══╣╠══
Well-thought out! Yeah...It's hard to "dump" a "friend" the longer the relationship lasts. I hate letting ppl go.
belenen ══╣writing╠══
thanks for the compliment! I hate letting people go too *deep frown*
my_name_is_jenn ══╣╠══
I'm pretty sure they started thinking of me as "someone they used to be friends with" a long time ago -- while I was still trying to be their friend.

This is always the hardest for me. It's tough to sit down and realize you're putting forth the effort to keep a relationship going, and that effort isn't being reciprocated.
belenen ══╣writing╠══
*nods* so true.
bleodswean ══╣╠══
Absolutely!! This is so well-written and thought out. I really related and resonated to your bullet points.
belenen ══╣writing╠══
thank you so much! glad it resonated for you.
wanderipity ══╣╠══
Thank you for this.
belenen ══╣artless╠══
you're most welcome *hearts*
marlawentmad ══╣╠══

This resonates with me fiercely. I never was very good at setting boundaries, but maybe with your list I can improve. Thank you so much for writing this!

belenen ══╣writing╠══
thank you so much *hearts* I am glad it resonated with you and I hope it is useful for you!
fairytaleguise ══╣╠══
This is a topic we very much relate to and what you've said here definitely resonates. Even when it's hard, re-evaluating and sometimes disconnecting is necessary. I hope you can find a way forward that ultimately feels like the best path.
belenen ══╣artless╠══
*nods* thanks you so much *hearts*
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on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.