The Let Me Be Me “Tough Cookies” summer series continues! So far we have heard about The Unaware Friend and The Demanding Friend. This week – The Disappearing Friend. She was there, and now she is not.
We have all performed our own disappearing acts in friendships, even if it is just removing your real self or your emotional self. Or you might have removed your attention, your response or your interest. We can disappear in many forms and fashions, not just physically.
There are a few situations that might set the stage for a friend to disappear.
Someone “Better” Comes Along
Wow, this one can hurt. Many of us might have experienced this as early as the elementary school playground and into adulthood. Somehow, a good friend leaves you for someone else. This might happen on the heals of an argument or disagreement, or it might be how a certain woman functions…simply hopping from friendship to friendship, into the next relationship that allows her to exist without challenge or depth.
While we often do our best to present ourselves as healthy, happy and stable to the world, our circumstances can get the best of us. When there are issues of chemical dependance, mental health issues like depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, or other health diagnoses, a friend can easily disappear.
One friend that is now both sober (alcohol) and clean (drugs) told me, “The fear of discovery was overwhelming. If I showed who I really was, even to my closest friends, I was facing utter shame. My closest friends became alcohol and my drug of choice (Adderall). Love and acceptance – those were to harsh for me – how could anyone love me…this mess? I had to disappear, because struggling alone was preferable – it justified my disappearance, allowed me to treat myself with shame and disrespect and allowed me to keep using.”
It doesn’t take alcohol or drugs to be ashamed – as women we can, at our core, believe we are not “enough”, that others are better. Shame can result from poor decisions, low self-esteem, being different from others around us.
Sort of like having the next new thing, women can “friend hop” out of boredom. Almost like the emotional high we get when first in love, discovering similarities and filling a schedule with a new best friend can be exciting…until a relationship reaches a maintenance stage.
Where’s My Protege?
Friendships based on “filling a space” rarely stand the test of time. Some women cultivate friendships so that they can care for, be needed and nurture other women, but there are also times when women want a faithful clone. In this type of relationship it takes two to tango, and when the protege seeks some type of differentiation, the glue for the relationship begins to break down.
It can feel so good to have a number of similarities with someone, constant affirmation of who you are and the choices you make. All relationships, romantic and plutonic, all eventually face their own challenges, and a Protege Relationship is one that does not withstand differences, growth or change.
A friend, let’s call her Suzanne, recently told me that after removing herself as a protege/sidekick, “I knew something was off, but I had a hard time trusting my instincts! When I wanted to do a few things on my own, or say no to something she offered, the relationships began to fall apart. On this side of it, though, I have to consider why I landed in a friendship like that in the first place.”
Stop, Look and Learn
Relationships are difficult; we hurt and get hurt. After making a mistake, or misjudging someone’s interest in us, we have the chance to learn a bit about why we entered a friendship in the first place and how we can be healthier and wiser moving forward. While it seems easier to point the finger, if we do not take the chance to put pain in our pipe and smoke it…we are likely to repeat mistakes and breed the hurt we so wish to avoid.
One Let Me Be Me reader noted about learning from a deeply hurtful transition out of a friendship,
I’ve learned that if I’m embarrassed or have to make excuses for my friend when I introduce her to new friends, something is wrong. Looking back, I watched her be unkind and verbally abusive to others, but never thought it would be directed at me. I thought I was different. I see now that if a woman is mean to other women, this behavior will eventually be directed toward me. If she’s mean to others, why would I think she won’t eventually be mean to me?
Perfectionists Need Not Apply
Remember, you don’t have be an expert! Jonalyn and I write on friendship weekly, and within the last few years, have both exited friendships that were unhealthy to one degree or another.
Can you think of other reasons behind relational disappearance or the importance of looking back to gain wisdom?