Increasing responsibilities in life can keep you from doing the things you'd rather be doing. And even if they don't, you might be one of those people with a lop-sided, the grass is always greener outlook. If you're like this, you always believe that what you might be doing is automatically better than what you are doing, and therefore, you can't focus on the task at hand.
I'm one of those people.
Sometime, you may find so many people begging to be on your social calendar, your "off" time becomes more stressful than your job. And you realize that a few of these people are going to need to be cut. But who? They're all your "friends." Of course. But, there are times when drastic choices must be made. I know it isn't easy, but should you find yourself in this situation, I've put together a helpful guide that may aid in selecting which of your associates should appear at the top of the list entitled, "Those who shall be invited to the curb."
This one is the most obvious place to start trimming the fat, yet also is sometimes one of the most complicated. There are all kinds of issues that can lurk in friendships arising out of prior intimacy: jealousy, lust, reminiscence, resentment, reliance, grudges, not to mention all the mistakes made, as well as those to be made should the situation present itself once again one lonely night.
Only you and your ex-lover know exactly why you persist in this relationship. And not only are you not telling that person your exact reason for keeping them around, but you're also completely wrong about the reason that you presume they're keeping you around. But that doesn't matter, because since you didn't figure out exactly how to communicate successfully with this person before your genitalia got involved the first time, you're not going to get around to discussing motives this time either. I know relationships like this are tough to let go, but honestly; is an ending that satisfies both parties even possible?
2. "But, I thought we were friends."
These are harder to single out. They hide among your other friends. They look like a good friend, act like a good friend, smell like a good friend. Even your good friends are mistaking these guys as friends. But they're not real friends. These are miserable bastards who only want things their way. You may not even realize it. I mean, they come to your parties, show up for after-work drinks, even bring you gifts during holiday time. But they only really like you because you haven't done something they didn't want you to. Yet.
I'm not saying people like these are sadistic. They don't go around waiting to get mad at you. But they will. Sometime when you least expect it, they'll make a request. Now, it's not that the request will necessarily be outlandish. You may have agreed to this request on several previous occasions. However, for whatever reason, you don't agree on this particular occasion.
Then it happens. From out of nowhere, in true Eric Cartman, "Screw you guys, I'm going home!" fashion, this immature, spoiled, self-important bastard whom you've referred to as a friend for all this time will start to whine and moan, and grumble and gripe, and complain and protest so vigorously, you'd think that you had just refused them a glass of water after setting them on fire. Assuming, for argument's sake, that you haven't actually set your friend on fire, nor done anything warranting such an extreme reaction, (I mean, you're not that sort of person, right?), then you'll probably be shocked at this alleged friend's behavior.
It never helps if they're excessively drunk. God help you if there's more than one of them working together to entice you to do something you don't want to. It's a moment where you really look at the people around you and ask yourself where it all went wrong. Either way, either you'll have to acquiesce this time, and every time, to keep this ungrateful friend happy, or else deal with that resentful, "I'm still mad at you from last time," thing again and again. It's your choice.
3. An Oldie but a...
These are easier to recognize. Still, they're tough to bring to an end. These are friends you've had for so long, you can't even recall exactly how they came into the picture. Maybe you lived near them a few years ago, or previously shared some association that has long since ended. These are friends that haven't really done anything to lose your respect or attention, but whose appeal has faded with time.
Perhaps you've held onto them because they were around during an interesting or otherwise distinctive period of your life. Perhaps you held on because you hate the idea of burning bridges without reason, but you've merely relegated this individual to a name on a mass Christmas card mailing list. These are the people that you could go visit when you know you're going to be in their neck of the woods on that upcoming business trip, but you always decide not to call because, frankly, you know that after the 7 to 10 minutes it'll take to catch up on lost time, plus 15 minutes of, "you remember that time when," this person will cease being interesting and you'll be forced to use some excuse to ditch them. And I only like to use those when absolutely necessary. Listen; you quit acting like real friends already. They won't even notice.
4. Drinking Buddy Gone Bad.
I hate to see this happen. I suppose it hurts me most of all because, as I write this section, I can recall a time when I was this guy. For any of you who considered writing me off your list for this reason, I don't blame you. It can get ugly.
Most people have someone in their life who likes to paint the town red every now and again. What about that guy who gets so drunk, he makes an ass of himself in public? Ever had to help someone clean vomit off themselves, or some object they were close to shortly after downing a shot? Ever had someone put their arm around you and offer you intimate, yet incoherent words in your ear for several hours after a long night of binging? You know that guy who seems to always get you dragged into fights when drinking in public? Or in private? They used to be your drinking buddy, but now he's your drinking pest. It's hard to know exactly how they got there.
[Author's note: If you do know how they got there, because you were a drunken mess when you met this person, then you may need to skip down to subcategory (a), below.]
It's courteous to offer the obligatory, "I've noticed you've been drinking a lot lately. Is there anything you'd like to talk about?" But don't be offended if they don't confess all their issues to you just because you asked. Not all drunks are just waiting for someone to confess to, assuming they've even admitted that they have issues to confess. Listen: unlike sit-coms where heavy drinkers are "cured" following an intervention, most people just need a little time to sort things out. Harassing them, unless totally necessary, only makes them annoyed. If that's against your nature, it may be time to step back from these guys.
4(a). I've moved on, but you're still wasted.
The reasons someone chooses to be incredibly wasted on a regular basis go far beyond "throwing away your life," as some might suppose. And getting out is very hard. When you're lucky enough to start to make a little sense of it all, you may realize that the drinking buddies who've been around all this time may not be the best company to keep. Not that anyone who slows their own drinking should immediately start ostracizing friends who drink, but there may very well be a few who will not support your decision to stop searching for solace in a bottle. In this situation, you just have to decide when you cut your losses.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive. Nor is it a suggestion that one should go about slashing friends from their existence willy-nilly. But if you feel yourself stretched a little too thin with no end in sight, sometimes downsizing the number of people you have to deal with may help you get things done.
A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.
ABOUT JEFFREY D. WALKER
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2.25.02 @ 2:50p
Maaaaan. I had situation #2 happen not once, but twice last year. It was really difficult to deal with, because there was a disagreement preceeding the the "split." Afterward, in both cases, I thought we had worked things out, but the other parties felt otherwise. Both situations really threw me for a loop, and made me feel like it was 3rd grade all over again.
But the best thing is, because of all that, I actually put some of my relationships in a blender, and whatever remained solid, those are the ones I kept.
The mind is much less cluttered now.
lee anne ramsey
2.26.02 @ 3:50p
This whole piece leaves me feeling rather depressed.
I agree that sometimes you just have to break up with pseudo "friends" who are actually people you don't even like. (ie: "I'm not going to be friends with you anymore because you try to sleep with every man I've ever dated.")
I agree that sometimes you have to put friendships "on hold" until you have something in common again. (ie: they're married with a kid talking about window treatments for their house, you're still going to work late and hungover but not so much that you don't try to pick up that cute thing with the tatoo sitting across from you on the bus. Or vice versa.)
But I guess it makes me sad to think that we only have time for a limited number of friends. What ever happened to "more the merrier"??
2.26.02 @ 4:38p
Oh woooowww. Joe added the discussion edit function. 'Way to be a stud, Joe.
Last year, I consoled myself with the "everything happens/people pass through your life for a reason" thing.
But sometimes, when it's very dark and cold, I wonder if I believe that.
2.26.02 @ 4:55p
Where is it written that friendships have to last forever? With the exception of the last person you marry, relationships certainly don't.
People change - and if the reason(s) you're friends in the first place changes, well then I don't see a reason to force the friendship to continue out of obligation.
2.26.02 @ 5:01p
I absolutely believe that people come into and go out of your life for a reason. The disappointment and sadness of them leaving is usually due to an expectation on your part that they'd be around longer.
Come to think of it, sometimes there's a disappointment because they've stayed...
2.26.02 @ 5:09p
I think it all lies in your friend-spotting techniques. When I was a teen, it was real easy to get betrayed by a friend, most of the time because they were assholes to begin with. As I've gotten older, I seem to have a lot more friends, and fewer and fewer turn on me.
No ex-girlfriend friends. Zero. It's not my bag.
2.26.02 @ 5:12p
I like to think the edit button was added so that from now on no one would know that Julianelle spelled my name wrong.
2.26.02 @ 5:41p
Adam, that would assume we even care how your last name is spelled.
Joe, funny, because for me it's the other way around. But I think that's because I put up with a lot less now. As a kid you're a little more desperate to be liked. These days, I don't forgive people as easily and write them off a whole lot faster.
lee anne ramsey
2.26.02 @ 8:37p
I think I was a lot less forgiving as a kid and more idealistic about how I thought people were supposed to be.
Now that I am a flawed adult and realize that pretty much everyone else is a flawed adult too - it takes a whole lot of a reason to make me "write someone off".
lee anne ramsey
2.26.02 @ 8:40p
tracey - in rereading what you wrote about people passing through your life for a reason... that makes me think that just because you don't see or talk to or hang out with someone as often as you used to, doesn't mean you're not friends.
I can think of two people who I see/talk to maybe once or twice a year.. and yet I still consider them among my favorite people to know. Of course we're not "close friends" but that doesn't mean I delete their number out of my cell phone.
2.27.02 @ 1:50a
See, I'm not a "write-off" type of person. I accept people in many ways, warts and all. I may establish some ground rules - we all do - but I'm pretty open about what I expect in/from a friendship. And I've been fortunate to have amazing friendships.
These "breakups", if you will, were the other parties pulling exactly what Jeff talks about: "Screw you, I'm going home" over a simple difference of opinion. Now, these folks had issues - we all have issues - but if I had a nickel for every time my opinion differed from someone else's....
And now, there is no communication from these people. None. When there once was a phone call a week, myriad email, that type of thing. For many, many moons. They made a decision and I live with it.
But it's strange as hell.
2.27.02 @ 1:55a
Matt brings up a good point, though. You can't be friends with everyone. As many times as I've moved, and as extroverted as I am (some of y'all know about that, don't you? snicker)I've learned to interact with a great many people. Some remain friends, some are just runnin' buddies, and others you know for a season or in a particular get-together. I'm okay with that kind of sub-catagorization.
These people, I thought, were good, good friends. Deep secrets, trips, heart-to-heart friends. Maybe I thought they were, anyway, but they obviously didn't put me in that catagory.
Or, as another one of my friends so delicately put it: "They obviously didn't think of you as a good friend, or the difference of opinion wouldn't have mattered."
2.27.02 @ 9:17a
My freshman year, I was close friends with a few people who I just knew were going to be friends for the rest of my life. I couldn't tell you what any of them is doing right now, or even where they live.
michelle von euw
2.27.02 @ 9:44a
Adam, get out of my head.
2.27.02 @ 9:53a
Okay. As long as that means I can stop dreaming about your husband.
michelle von euw
2.27.02 @ 11:29a
I would never ask you to do that.
2.27.02 @ 1:47p
To dream, or to stop?
2.27.02 @ 2:10p
Good question, Shakespeare.
2.27.02 @ 2:15p
I remember panicking my Freshman year because the friends I had made on my hall were huge morons and I was scared I'd be stuck with them. I am stuck with them, but they are my second-tier friends, they got bumped by friends I made out of similarity rather than proximity.