Typically narcissistic blogging.

Friendship II: Breaking Up

It’s very rare for me to break up with a friend. In my post on friendship, brilliantly and creatively titled, “Friendship“, I discussed how important my friends are to me, and how I approach being friends with people. 

My friends are important to me, extremely so. Which is why somebody has to pull a seriously dick move before I walk away.

This occurred last week, when I got into an argument with a friend of mine from high school over a relatively minor issue. I expressed an issue I had with something he had said, and he responded with dismissal, condescension, and an absolute lack of anything resembling validation or evidence that he so much as momentarily considered my perspective on the matter. 

Now, this sometimes happens between friends (we are all occasionally douchebags), so I was willing to let it go and hope that the next time we disagreed he might actually take the time to address what I had to say. (Letting it go did not keep me from telling him he could take his condescension and shove it, because I’ll be damned if I let anybody just be a dick to me and not say anything. Outside of work, anyway.) We’ve known each other for a very long time, and he and his family provided me a place to live when Mom kicked me out of the house in our sophomore year of high school. For that I will always be indebted to him.

But then he sent me a private message to scold me for telling him to shove it, and he included the following: “I’d ask that you don’t respond as I have great respect for you [Whiskeypants]; don’t make me question that respect.”

The moment I read that sentence should have been the moment I realized our friendship was over, but it took a few more PM exchanges between us (in which he became increasingly dismissive and condescending) before I realized how awful a thing it is to say that to somebody.

Let’s take it apart:

1. “Don’t make me [x]” is one of the first entries in the abuser’s lexicon. I’m not calling this (ex) friend an abuser, but that kind of rhetoric is extremely questionable to me, and puts an individual in the position of having to do nothing and just suck it up, or face some kind of punishment. That’s no position at all, really, and I would never say such a thing to a friend unless it involved tickling or whupping them in Words With Friends. You don’t threaten people you care about unless it is somehow going to end in giggles.

2. “I’d ask you not to respond” is also something I would never say to a friend. I may disagree with my friends (sometimes vigorously), but I will never tell them that I do not want a response no matter how I feel about the matter. They are my friends. I want to hear what they have to say, even if I hate it. And if for some reason I don’t want to hear it, I still recognize their right to fill my time, email, Facebook, chat window or whatever with their views. Even if they do like Ron Paul.

3. The whole thing immediately invalidates, without consideration, anything I have to say with which he might disagree. Because I shouldn’t have said anything at all, and am unworthy, somehow, of his respect. Certainly my viewpoint on the issue wasn’t worthy of respect, so I don’t know why anything else I said to him would be.

To be perfectly honest, I think I would have been less hurt and offended if he had just said, “Go fuck yourself.” 

But I don’t break up with friends who offend me. I don’t break up with friends who hurt my feelings. I do break up with friends who tell me they will lose respect for me if I make any further attempt to defend my position (wherein “further” is “at all”). But then, given the incredible amount of condescension he managed to heap upon me in a relatively few amount of words, I wonder if the respect he felt for me was not real, but imagined.

15 responses

  1. I’m with you on this, Whiskeypants. This bloke sounds as if he’s got a whole control thing going. And if it’s one thing you don’t need in friendship, it’s Vatican-style blanket control. Never mind: now you have more time to spend with the real friends in your life.

    December 27, 2011 at 6:09 am

    • Precisely. I barely have time to spare for all the friends who do respect me. I don’t need to waste time with a friend who doesn’t.

      December 27, 2011 at 10:59 am

  2. Friendship breakups are tough. The most difficult part (for me) is that I can’t control what the other person thinks about my reasons for ending the friendship — I have to let go of having the last word and explaining myself and just give myself the gift of getting the hell out of Dodge. You take care of you, miss — sounds like you’re well out of this one.

    December 28, 2011 at 12:03 am

    • Yeah, knowing what he thinks of me right now is difficult, but not so much that I regret my choice.


      December 28, 2011 at 12:07 am

  3. HogsAteMySister

    You’re in an earthquake. You’ve got cancer. Your mom/dad/spouse just died. The Mayans were right.

    Now, exactly how big a deal was this fight with your friend.

    Build a bridge and get over it.

    There is nothing more valuable that friendship.

    And you are right, everyone is a douche at times.


    December 28, 2011 at 1:56 am

    • I knew I’d get at least one comment like this.
      1. You missed the point, the argument was not the issue. I argue with friends all the time and don’t break up with them.
      2. Earthquakes and cancer may be more devastating, but I don’t see why their existence means I have to put up with being treated poorly by somebody who doesn’t respect me.
      3. Maybe you value friendship over being treated well by your friends, but I don’t. I don’t keep friends who aren’t actually my friends.
      4. “Build a bridge and get over it” is, in these circumstances, bullshit advice, but thank you for playing.

      December 28, 2011 at 8:40 am

      • Hogs missed their own point there. “There is nothing more important than friendship.” Exactly. And this dude made it pretty clear that your friendship wasn’t important to him–what were you supposed to do, keep taking the abuse?

        Friendship IS “being treated well by your friends.” You *weren’t* actually choosing anything over friendship because this guy wasn’t being a friend to you.

        Pretty simple, I think. *shrug* Maybe Hogs disagrees.

        December 28, 2011 at 9:01 am

        • Friendship IS “being treated well by your friends.” You *weren’t* actually choosing anything over friendship because this guy wasn’t being a friend to you.

          Ah, there’s the comment I was too sleepy and too cranky to write. Thank you.

          Precisely. I don’t see why I would keep a friend who isn’t a friend to me and who doesn’t want to be a friend to me. No matter how important friendship is, I don’t see how my now-ex-friend is included.

          December 28, 2011 at 9:08 am

  4. I’m also with you. I’ve had to break up with a couple of friends lately and it’s hard but I’m just not going to cosign on someone’s bullshit or all that person to abuse me.

    December 28, 2011 at 9:28 am

  5. There’s a difference between “being a douche sometimes” and turning your douchiness into manipulative / abusive / controlling bullshit. “Go fuck yourself!” can be excused as simply an angry outburst. “I think this is a stupid argument and I just don’t feel like I can talk about it productively right now, leave me alone for a day or two,” is better. “YOU are stupid and wrong, and any attempt to defend yourself merely proves your stupid wrongess,” is not OK.

    I suppose hypothetically he could be having a really awful week, and in a few weeks if what he did was pointed out to him how ugly what he said/did was he might feel bad about it and reform. But there’s a level of yuck, after which you are not obliged to put up with a person ever again. You don’t owe people help in becoming better people. (Except your children, should you have any.)

    December 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm

  6. I think the key difference is between criticizing the argument, and criticizing the person. Christa and I have stupid arguments ALL THE TIME. (She emailed me to this article — http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/26/us/navigating-love-and-autism.html — b/c the description of the silly arguments reminded her of us. And it’s probably true that we’re both more Aspie than neurotypical.) But I can tell her I think she’s wrong without saying, in effect, that wrong-ness is in her essence.

    Possibly English needs Spanish’s “ser / estar” distinction. Ser = “to be” in terms of an essential nature; estar = “to be” in terms of non-essential properties. So, “fuego es calor”, fire is hot. “Estoy bien”, I’m well, as in how I am today. You cross a big, bright, flashy line when you go from telling somebody they _está_ wrong, to telling them they _es_ wrong.

    December 28, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    • I don’t mind the occasional silly argument. In fact, I kinda enjoy them–precisely because there are many ways to argue that somebody’s position is silly without ad hominem attacks.

      I believe that part of that skill involves actually addressing the position the person is taking and considering it, even if it’s ridiculous. It makes a big difference between somebody hearing, “Some roses are pink, so all roses are pink? I can see why you are saying that, but that argument doesn’t make any sense to me, and here’s why” and “All roses are not pink, idiot.”

      December 28, 2011 at 2:32 pm

  7. Within the past couple of years I received an e-mail from an ex-friend with the statement that if I didn’t have a positive reaction to what she had to say, I should not bother responding. To me that says “I know I am wrong and I can’t handle you explaining how.” Needless to say, I did not bother responding.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:43 pm

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