Friendships: Great, Terrible, Ambivalent, and Non-Existent

An article on friendship in yesterday’s Guardian (US edition) by Elle Hunt got me thinking.

Friendships have always been problematic for me. There was nobody I could count as a friend until I was about twelve. I then made two best friends, a winter and a summer one. The winter one was a girl in my class – we bonded over our passion for horses, drawing them, talking about them, dreaming about owning one. The other was a boy, also my age, whose mother was friends with my mother. We bonded over feeling that we were the least valued child in our families. 

Both friendships lasted two years. Then the girl’s family moved away for a year, and when she returned, she had outgrown horses, and we had nothing in common. The boy’s family also moved away, and we did not stay in touch. I saw him once when we were adults and felt no connection.

High school was odd. I thought I had no friends, but later, at high school reunions, I learned that several girls really liked me and still considered me a friend. I feel that my college roommates were friends, but that’s it. And the pattern continued as an adult – I had one close friend, and that was all.

After I remembered my hidden childhood, things changed rapidly. I loved being with other survivors, and it showed. In turn, they liked being with me. Some friendships had their rough spots, of course, and some relationships couldn’t be mended. This tended to happen when we triggered each other and were not experienced enough to recognize it. For the most part, though, we enrich and cherish each other.

In the article, toxic friendships are defined as a mixture of positive and negative feelings and experiences. You never know what you are going to get, and that is stressful. If a relationship is all negative, you may be miserable, but there is no uncertainty involved. You can trust them to be awful. That is not as stressful as “ambivalent relationships.”

The article gives many examples. The negative behaviors described included being self-centered, always talking about themselves. I remember one man I met in college who was like this. I amused myself by timing him to see how quickly he turned the conversation back to himself. It was almost always less than a minute! Why did I put up with him? Well, he was well-intentioned and he could be interesting. He was never hurtful.

More harmful behaviors involve back-stabbing and other forms of betrayal. Gossiping about you, saying negative things about you to others, lying about you. Stealing your boyfriend, your money, or your possessions. Insulting you to your face and then telling you that you are too sensitive.

Why put up with these people? Maybe you are scared of them and feel helpless. Maybe they are funny and charming and flatter you. Maybe they are rich, beautiful, and glamorous and just being with them makes you feel a little less poor, ugly, and dumpy. 

So…what’s the solution? One approach is to stop seeing them. This is very hard to do because the part of you who likes/loves them will be desolate if you no

Another approach is to fade out gradually, seeing less and less of them. This is not as much of a shock internally, but the tug-of-war, although less intense, is still going on. Your friend may become demanding and clingy if you withdraw. It’s not guaranteed to be easy.

A third approach is to sit down and have an honest talk. Keep the focus on, “I feel, I think, I react by” and “not on you do this, that, and some other terrible thing.” It’s far less threatening to the other person. At some point, it will be clear if it’s better to give up or to progress to, “I wonder if we could try and figure out something that would make both of us happy.” You might be surprised to find you have underestimated your friend’s level of insight and maturity.

One final thing I would like to talk about is what happens to friendships when there is a major change in your life. (This wasn’t discussed in the article.) More often than not, you lose a great many friends.

You become sober, your drinking buddies no longer want to be around you because you are no fun, and you avoid them because they threaten your sobriety.

You come out as gay, and your straight friends are appalled or feel they have no common ground and drift away. At the same time, your attention is focused on the whole wonderful new gay world that is opening up to you.

You tell your friends you were abused as a child, and they don’t believe you, say you should forgive and forget and get on with your life, or don’t know what to say.

When I realized I was an RA survivor, I lost everybody except my children, my therapist, and my best friend. They just vanished. My therapist told me, “Nature abhors a vacuum. You will make new friends.” It took a loooong time, but he was right!

The train of thought this article set off was really helpful. It gave me an overview of how my childhood abuse interfered with making friends and of how things changed over the years. Now I like where I am among people and wish I could have gotten here sooner. I also like no longer thinking that there was something wrong with me, that it was my fault, not having any friends. I get it now. Understanding is a huge relief.


Upcoming Holidays

11/11 (?) Veterans’ Day
11/18-19 Partial Lunar Eclipse
11/19 Full Moon
11/25 Thanksgiving Day (United States)
11/28 First Sunday of Advent
11/30 St Andrew’s Day

Sundays of advent: 11/28, 12/5, 12/12, 12/19
12/4 Total Solar Eclipse
12/18 Full Moon
12/21 Winter solstice/Yule/St. Thomas’ Day
12/24 Christmas Eve
12/25 Christmas Day
12/31 New Year’s Eve

Dates Important to Nazi and Neo-Nazi groups
11/9 Kristallnacht
11/29 -12/16 Chanukah/Hanukkah (Jewish Festival of Lights)

 (NOTE: Not all groups meet on Jewish holidays. Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, Halloween, the solstices, and the equinoxes.)


You can find more information on the following holidays at:
Thanksgiving –
Yule/Winter Solstice –
Candlemas –
Valentine’s Day –
Spring Equinox
Easter: personal – (for background, see Spring Equinox) –
Walpurgisnacht/May Eve –
Beltane –
Mothers’ Day –
Fathers’ Day –
Summer Solstice (corrected text) –
Lammas –
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 1 –
Feast of the Beast/Bride of Satan: Part 2 –
Fall Equinox –
Halloween (personal) –
Halloween (background) –


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