Talk To Me

Our freshmen year in college, a friend of mine -- Jessica -- started dating a guy named Alex. Eventually they broke up because Alex said he wasn't ready for a relationship. Not too long after their break up, Jessica found out he was in a new relationship.

Fast forward 5 years. In that time, a pattern between Alex and Jessica developed. Alex would get in a relationship and stop calling Jessica, then he would break up with his girlfriend (or hit a "rough patch") and start calling Jessica. Jessica would play the girlfriend role -- she would go by his house when he called, she would sleep with him, stay up with him, exchange cutesy text messages with him -- all that and then suddenly, Alex would get really busy for a few days and call her up and tell her he was in a new relationship. Just like that; no warning, no explanation. This happened more than once. Of course as the friend I am, I tried to warn her, but eventually learn that I couldn't do that.

In fact, in recent months, I've really been trying to take a step back; let my friends live their lives like I want people to let me live mine. That means learning to accept their decisions as their decisions and finding better ways of expressing my own opinions. Prefacing advice with, "If I were you..." and attempting to vocalize that I understand how they feel.

This morning Jessica called me and in telling me the story of how her brother almost "talked the panties" off of a mutual friend, mentioned that something had gone down with her and Alex, again but that this time around she decided she didn't want me to know. She was scared of what I would say, worried about disappointing me and embarrassed that yet again she fell into his "trap." "I don't know how to feel that my own friends are scared to talk to me..." I told her. She told me she saw me as a "moral rock" and just couldn't bear the thought of disappointing me.

I'll deal with being another person's "moral rock" later but I have to admit, it bothered me that she felt like she couldn't tell me what was happening. She told me she actually intended to never tell me. Am I that harsh with my friends? On the one hand, I feel like my friends come to me for advice. They know I'm a straight shooter and I'll tell you what I think. "Givin' it to ya straight, no chaser..."

We spoke, she told me the whole story, I gave her my opinion and she told me she was relieved. She liked the advice I gave her and felt that it was more in line with who she is as a person than most of the other advice she'd been given. While I was glad that my advice went over well, it's still not sitting well with me that she was scared to tell me in the first place.

I've long understood that I'll take a lot of lumps in this life driving my own boat and making my own way. You just never expect those lumps will be from your close friends. It's not about Jessica trusting me or not trusting me with the information -- it was never about that for her. It's that she didn't trust me that I would prioritize her feelings above "being right." She told me, "I just didn't want to hear 'I told you so.' Not that you'd say that, but I know I would've heard it in your voice."

Just thinking... pondering... am I too much?


Akirah said...

I used to play this role in a lot of my friend's lives. I've had friends lie to me about their actions because they were so scared of me finding out. It made me sad to think that maybe I was too judgmental for them to want to share things with me. I've worked on that, and I don't think they lie to me much anymore. In the end, I've learned to let them live their lives.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I have experienced this same scenario a few times with very close friends. I never say or even think "I told you so" or "you should have known..." I am a compassionate person so I am often blindsided when someone tells me I never wanted to tell you b/c I was afraid of what you would think or say. As a result, I have decided to get out of the advice business. I have come to the conclusion that people are judging themselves and really want someone to encourage them in what they already know they should not be doing. They come to us in a desperate moment when they are hurting and need a true friend who will be honest and listen. Next time, however, I will only be a listening ear.

A.Smith said...

I usually can tell when my friends are withholding stuff. People tell on themselves if you give 'em enough time. I'm trying not to let it bother me so much, but it does.

You know, at one point, I had a very similar opinion. Well, actually, I still do. People do just want you to encourage them, let them wallow in self-pity and all that, and I'll do it, to a point. But when I get tired of the whining, I let them know and I say, "If you don't want my advice, that's fine, but we can't keep going 'round in circles about this..."

Not all my friends are appreciative, and I've had fall-outs because of it, but I'm not going to waste our time telling you things I don't agree with just because it's easier.

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