It’s been a long time since I updated this blog. But I recently saw an excellent post on another blog that inspired me to get blogging again (https://lessonsinkindness.tumblr.com/post/163865541215/sweating-the-small-stuff).
The premise of the post I’ve linked to is that your upbringing can sometimes lead to a set of expectations you carry around with you that not everyone else shares, or aspirations in respect of which not everyone does more than pay lip service, and eventually you can reach a point where you just accept that certain people are beyond hope and you can give yourself a break accordingly.
This will be the first of two posts in which I give my thoughts on a topic that has caused me an incredible amount of frustration over the years for this exact reason – I wonder if the standards I expect from people, based on how I was taught to behave, are unrealistically high. My mind is still not entirely made up on the issue, so each part will offer a different perspective. If I haven’t bored you already, then read on…
I get very upset when people I care about flake on me or simply stop making an effort the way they used to. Perhaps unreasonably so. It does, perhaps, preoccupy my mind a disproportionate amount. But it makes me so angry. I mean, really angry. It’s something that I’ve mostly experienced in my love life, but in recent years I’ve noticed it creeping into friendships too.
The effect of this issue has been amplified recently because I’m all on my own at the moment. I moved far away to take a job, so I don’t get to see my old friends as much as I’d like to and I’ve yet to put down roots down here. If someone bails on me with a lame excuse then it means another weekend staring at the walls, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Monday.
To be clear, I’m not some kind of socialising Nazi. I understand that people have other commitments in life and I can’t expect them to come running whenever I click my fingers. I also understand that people can be disorganised and innocently double-book themselves. Finally, I also understand that people may go through periods of being withdrawn due to some traumatic event going on in their lives.
However, there are people who do their best and there are people who clearly don’t. I have an old friend who is the director of an engineering company, lives far away from me, has a wife who also has a high-powered job and has a three-year old daughter. We can’t see each other as much as we used to and I understand the reasons why. But we still do what we can and I trust him completely. We recently took a Friday off work to go and visit a third member of our group in Manchester. We do it because it matters. Hell, I even have friends in other countries who I have managed to meet up with.
In contrast, if you work a normal 9-5, Monday-Friday job, live just round the corner from me and don’t have any responsibilities outside of work, I find it hard to buy that you are just “too busy” to meet up with me. I really don’t believe you couldn’t find one hour on the weekend, over the course of several months, to have a coffee and a catch-up. The former friend who I’m clearly alluding to here went from a bromance wherein he asked me to be his best man to downgrading me to an usher and just disappearing completely once he got married – at no point did we have an argument, and at no point was any of the reasoning behind this discussed with me.
The reason I take it so personally when people fade out is that it gives you an insight into how much of a priority you really are for them. In my mind, actions speak louder than words, and if people want to see you they will find the time to do it. If someone simply can’t be bothered to sustain the friendship the minute the slightest bit of inconvenience raises its head then it makes me feel like I just don’t matter to them as much as I thought we did. The same goes for if they give me an excuse but then appear to have time to hang out with other friends. I feel stupid, I feel used and I feel betrayed. Because I would never do that to someone I care about. I can’t even imagine wanting to.
It’s upsetting for me when this happens with friends. But at least I have other friends. When it happens in my love life – and it happens a lot – I see red. It makes me feel like there really is no hope because I just can’t expect people to be as reliable or direct as I would like them to be. Someone I thought I had a connection with just lost interest without having a specific reason.
I remember lying in bed one night with a girl I was seeing at the time. I remember the conversation like it was five minutes ago.
“Rambling Aspy… can I ask you something?”
“Why are you single?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well you are good looking, you are nice, good at cooking… I just don’t understand.”
This girl basically went from thinking I was the best thing since sliced bread to declaring that she didn’t have any feelings for me whatsoever and she was freaking out about it.
If it were just one or two people doing this, then I’d just brush it off as a couple of crazies, but it happens over and over and over again. How can I ever feel secure in a relationship? How can I ever be confident and happy that I’ve got over the line and everything is going to be OK? When will I finally know that I’ve got to the promised land?
But the strangest thing of all is the way these people react when I call them out for their behaviour. They beg and plead for me to believe their bullshit. They act incredibly hurt that I don’t believe their excuses – particularly if I (shock horror!) delete them from Facebook. Some say it’s a cold and harsh thing to do; that I should at least talk to them if they’re being a bad friend; and that maybe they’re just not as good at balancing commitments as I am. But to me, it’s not about being a bad friend. It’s about priorities. If you really like someone, then meeting up with them shouldn’t be seen as this big chore that you have to make excuses to get out of. In my experience, the best case scenario when you try to reason with people about why they’re drifting away from you is that they start making a bit more of an effort out of guilt – perhaps they just don’t want to be perceived as the villains of the piece – but they are clearly uncomfortable in your presence. At the end of the day, if your heart’s not in it anymore then there’s nothing either of us can do and it’s time for me to cut my losses. If you can’t help feeling the way you do then you can’t help it. I can’t force you to meet my expectations of a friend, however sad it makes me.
Just don’t expect me to call you a friend. Because you’re not.