I don't often talk about my personal life on my blog, but I was chatting with someone the other day about friendships. We were standing the garden drinking tea and I mentioned that I had recently consciously ditched a friend. “You are brave,” she said, “I have a someone I’d love to dump!”
My now ex friend who moved to the area a couple of years ago and I was happy to be helpful. I was always being called to help with local knowledge and information and I felt she needed a good friend especially as she was new to the area and her family lived a long was away. She was fun and stylish and pretty but during a significant amount of the time we have been friends she spent a great deal of time stressed up to her eyeballs and close to tears ... mainly of anger and frustration due to that fact that her work life balance was totally out.
She was running her own business and I’d feel as though I was walking on eggshells, especially in the school playground where some days she’d look out of her mind with stress. I don’t really do high stress, and I think of myself as being unflappable so to me tears and slight hysteria mean that something is really serious. Other mums would roll their eyes and smile weakly at her, but for me if friend has had a crisis I do the best I can to help. I cleaned her house last year from top to bottom - yes even the loos when because when she moved house as she was absolutely beside herself that the property she was moving into wasn’t completely clean . I am sure you get the picture, but it wasn’t all one-way, as a friendship she has a good ear when I had problems of my own and looked after my kids when I was away and when she wasn’t crazy stressed she was really very lovely.
However we had quite a misunderstanding some months ago. The short version is that I interpreted her usual hysterical manner to be another crisis. I suppose looking back I should have realised that her way of expressing herself is almost always incredibly intense and very emotional. She’s very highly strung. I misinterpreted her words and her manner to mean she needed help with a situation. I called a favour in from someone for practical help. To my surprise my kindness was thrown back in my face with such unpleasantness and rudeness that I have been in state of shock ever since.
It’s been a couple of months now since we have spoken and yes I am quite possibly to blame for misinterpreting her usual general slightly hysterical manner to mean she was in distress. I should have been used to her ways. However after stepping back to think about our friendship I decided not to make amends. What, after all have I done other than offer the same kindness and practical help she'd accepted on other occasions?
I suppose that I could have made and effort to make amends for offering help that was just not required *but without going into the details of the conversation we had I made it clear that I was not going to be friends again on her approach to me the next day. It was't an easy decision because she’s fun some of the time, lives close by, has children the same age and I admired many things about her, however I have decided not to mend the relationship.
It’s not that I don’t like her. I do. However when I asked myself what I was getting out of our friendship and it wasn’t much. I seem to be like Thomas the tank engine who prided himself in being very useful. I am a very useful friend and yes I do feel hurt by her total lack of value for my friendship. However whist I was sipping tea in the garden the lady I was chatting with asked me if I was going to try and salvage the relationship. My response was that I was not. I have made a conscious decision that on balance this person is actually total pain the arse and on balance I have better things to do.
I suppose I do feel that I should have realised a while ago that she didn't want me to practically help her and not wasted so much time. I feel a bit stupid for being used when she did want help though, but if I have learnt a lesson from this, it is perhaps that when someone is having a crisis that it doesn’t actually mean that they want my help. I shall certinly be much more reserved if anyone else calls me in distress!
Oh and the other thing I now know is that highly stressed friends are just exhausting. Ditch them.
* added sentence post publication
* added sentence post publication