I have a friend with whom I have a love/hate relationship with. I love her, and I love to hate and complain about her. She’s fabulously thick skinned and tough though – one of her greatest personality traits is that she is unapologetic about herself. So, I can complain to her about what she’s done to annoy me. But she won’t apologise for it; She won’t get hurt by it. She takes it on the chin, explains herself, but ultimately we just agree to disagree. Rarely does she acquiesce to my point of view. It’s quite a unique friendship and one that I have definitely come to appreciate for it’s long-standing quality despite the aggravation I sometimes subject myself to as a result of her actions, lol.
Now this cherished friend has many many friends. Hundreds. Not just on her Facebook, but literally hundreds in real life too. She knows them all to talk to on the phone or text. Most have met her immediate and closest family members. She’s gregarious and sociable. She’s friendly to a fault sometimes, if you ask me. I’ve told her this. She just concedes that it’s part of her nature – she sees good in each and every one of her several hundred friends. It’s quite an amazing ability actually.
I met a couple of her good friends recently at a celebration she arranged for herself, and a couple of her friends shocked me. Primarily for their astounding disregard for keeping the hostess-with-the-mostest happy and relaxed. There was foot-stomping, exclamations of boredom and someone even stormed out. It gave the evening a bit of a negative edge actually. By the next day when I got in touch with her to thank her for yet another great night out, I commended her for strength and integrity in friendships as I could not understand how she could tolerate or maintain friendships that were so high maintenance, with such low return. It was a harsh observation for me to make – but not the most harsh thing I have ever said to her. I can be blunt to a fault, but my friend can take it. That’s how awesome she is.
Anyway. Her subsequent response jolted me slightly as she made an observation about one of my own friends, outside of her social circle, who she’s always felt is “high maintenance, low return” (HMLR). I wasn’t sure how to react as I hadn’t felt that way in a while about the friend she was referring to. My gut reaction was actually to jump to the victim’s defense as actually, they’d been absolutely delightful of late. But having had time to think it through, turn it over and look at it objectively (along with present day actual contact and experience), she is absolutely right. I really do have a friendship of the high maintenance low return order. And I’m not sure why I do it.
If I’d comprehended this situation this time last year, I think I would take the majority of the responsibility for this rather unbalanced friendship on my own shoulders, believing that I’m only getting back what I’m putting in. Ergo, I’m not putting enough in, and actually I’m performing below par for this HMLR friendship.
However, since the death of the toxic friendship (which was the HMLR to set all records in its heyday) I’ve come to realise that I could really put myself out, I could bend over backwards and I could offer myself at the sacrificial altar, but sometimes, it just won’t be enough. Not that I don’t get anything from the friendship as there are obviously good times and brilliant memories, but certainly not enough in terms of quality or quantity to make it a logical relationship to keep. And yet I do.
I guess I’m starting to understand that sometimes it’s just not in a person’s nature to act in the same way as myself in a friendship. Sometimes it’s just the way they are and no matter how much you have loved them and connected with them, there’s really no need to take it personally when they make you feel as though you are not doing enough, giving enough and that you simply are not enough. In such cases they often behave like this indiscriminately, to all their friends, and not just to one person. It’s quite tiring to take (you don’t say).
So. How does one resolve a situation like this?
My head sees it as a very straightforward choice. Why should anybody have to bother with such a draining relationship with anyone?
My heart sees things differently. That the friendship has the redeeming quality of reminding of who I am based on who I was during an era that ended the day I became a parent. It serves as a great landmark for my life at a certain point. Also, I don’t think I have the strength or courage to end the relationship. So I let it run and I appreciate whatever little moments of return I am able to enjoy.
Perhaps the lesson I should be learning here is not how to accept my HMLR friendship, but how to accept someone I love and appreciate as a friend keeping a number of these HMLR friendships herself.
Or even more importantly that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.