Hello and welcome to Geeks Vs Loneliness, our spot on the site where we try and talk about things that may be affected you, or the people around you. We don’t claim miracles, but we do hope that across the series of articles, you find something that may be of use to you.
This week, we’re handing over to the brilliant Simon, who wants to chat about letting go of friendships that aren’t right…
Autumn 2017 and I had just finished an episode of The Walking Dead. After some time spent rolling my eyes, checking my phone in boredom and muttering to myself about various plot points I thought to myself ‘enough, this show just isn’t doing it for me anymore’.
It was a show I enjoyed once upon a time and had watched from the beginning. I had enjoyed it through the highs and lows, but there was a point about a year ago after that infamous ‘baseball bat’ scene where something had changed. I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore; every episode seemed a hard slog after that and it felt like I was forcing myself to watch every episode just in case things had changed. Maybe the show had always been like this and I just hadn’t seen it, thinking the show was something it wasn’t and I had been in a different frame of mind. Going back to autumn 2017 I realised that I hadn’t seen an episode for a few weeks, I caught up with it but I didn’t realise I’d let it go for a while and must have moved onto another show or way to fill up that slot of time more wisely than I used to spend watching The Walking Dead.
Around this time I made the difficult decision to finally move on from a friendship that wasn’t good for me anymore. We had been good friends for about 17 years, since college and remained so through all the ups and downs – getting first jobs, first places, relationship make ups and break ups, family bereavements, personal triumphs and lows.
However, as we both changed a lot through the years (as we all do) it wasn’t until a couple of years ago I became a much stronger and more confident person than I had been that I started to evaluate a lot of things in my life, including this friendship. In 2016 I quit the job I was in at the time and decided to take some time to amend some things that I had let slip in my life such as my health, relationships with family and friends and general physical and mental wellbeing, to become a better person and move on from some of the things that I had allowed to get me down for so long.
I started to think deeply about this particular friendship in order to learn and move forward from some aspects of it that had weighed heavy on my mind and brought me down. Things I had let go in the last few years, such as when he contacted an ex of mine after the fact with flirty messages (I happened to see the messages on his phone whilst he was scrolling through at a bar one night across the table from me leading me to wonder what I had missed in the past), arranging to meet up for drinks or celebrations but just not turning up only to text a few days later vaguely apologising, as well as not hearing from him for months only for him to leave unpleasant remarks on social media pictures of me comparing me to Jabba The Hutt, as well as various ‘jokey’ texts calling me a loser out of the blue.
I had let these things go for years and years when I shouldn’t have done. Up until a couple of years ago my confidence had always been fairly hit and miss and I have never been socially outgoing, so I guess I dismissed these transgressions in the name of letting things go and wanting to cling to the few friends I had at the time. And frankly I wanted to be liked.
The ‘this show just isn’t doing it for me anymore’ moment with my friend came back in last summer. We met up after not seeing each other for a long time. The conversation was difficult, awkward, and the manner we’d once had between each other had gradually been eroded away into this. I realised that this friendship wasn’t for me anymore – our core values in life were totally different and there was just too much baggage that I couldn’t feel comfortable in this person’s presence and fully trust.
I have learned now that if you don’t address these things when they occur it only leads to a lack of respect from one party (my friend) and bitterness from the other (me). Looking back at all this I realised that this friendship just wasn’t good for me – both our faults – I had changed and was no longer willing to let anyone cross my boundaries. It was one of the hardest things to do and looking back is probably why I took so long in doing it.
But – much like making the decision to stop watching what once was my favourite TV show – I moved on to fill my time with other things and became open to other people around me that would bring some much needed positivity into my life. I wrote my friend a well thought out and polite handwritten letter outlining some of the instances that I was not happy with but also apologising that I had not dealt with these issues effectively at the time. I thanked him for his valued friendship and for all the good times and wished him and his family well in the future. I left the door slightly ajar with an offer that if he is ever really down in life and doesn’t know where to turn he can always call me and I will try and help as best as I can, but I stated firmly that as far as any unpleasantness going forward he would be met with silence.
A little while after I sent my letter (having sat on it to think about it for a few weeks before posting) I received a highly abusive message from him on social media calling me all sorts of names in an attempt to get a response from me. Sadly I felt somewhat vindicated and all I had to do was keep to my word in the letter. I felt at peace that I had made the right decision, although it was very hard.
I know all relationships go through all kinds of ups and downs and sometimes you can work them out, and comparing a friendship that has lasted years to a TV show may seem a little superficial and cold. The point is that sometimes there comes a time to move on; when you have tried your hardest time and time again to persevere holding out for the good times, you have to be true to yourself and find the courage to go forward. It doesn’t mean that you have to slam the door fully shut but make it clear what the boundaries are and your future intentions clear. That’s when you know you must open up yourself to other people and influences.
Sadly, sometimes it also means letting go of the past. Of things that might once have been important but which have passed their sell by date – and this friendship was one instance of that. It’s messy, unpleasant and it hurts – but it clears the way to grow and let new relationships – be they human or visual – take root.