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Respecting Yourself in Friendships

by Nicholas Barnard on December 1st, 2013

Another entry that has been sitting in my drafts folder for a while. This is from December 29th, 2012. Needless to say, the Personal Knowledgebase idea didn’t get going. Perhaps I should revisit that.

I’m going to kick off a short series of blog entries. I’m calling this series Personal Knowledgebase, mostly because its got a nice geeky ring to it.

I’m at a point in my life where I’m closing one chapter and opening another. The chapter I just closed has been a pain in the ass, very enlightening, transforming, and tumultuous. So it is important for me to remember the lessons I’ve learned so I can apply them in my life and not get stuck having to learn them again.

I just read Wil Wheaton’s blog entry respect yourself and it rang quite true for two of the relationships that have ended over the past year.

The first relationship that I ended this year had been dead for a while. I had been friends wit him for eight years or so. We first met in Cincinnati and he followed me out to Seattle. Like any friendship of that length it wained and waxed over the years, but during 2011 it became quite apparent to me that I was begging for his time anytime we got together. He was horrible at responding to text messages, emails, or phone calls. When we did get together he wasn’t actually present. He’d often be stuck in fiddling on his smartphone or even taking a call from someone else for longer than just a moment or two. The last time we got together in person he was already near my neighborhood and I made an effort to meet him somewhere that was more convenient for him, and he wasn’t actually present for half of the time we were there.

Generally, in a situation like this I’d just leave the friendship be. I’d stop making attempts to communicate with him, and if he wanted to get together I’d make sure it was something that I wanted to do and he was making time for me. Since I’d been the one who initiated anytime we got together for quite some time it’d mean that we wouldn’t get together.

However, in this situation there was a tendril that kept the relationship nominally alive: he owed me money. (He was making payments as agreed, so it wasn’t that he wasn’t paying me back.) I had made the realization that the friendship was over sometime around the end of November 2011, and I decided wait to communicate this to him until the beginning of the new year. (Mostly because I didn’t want to put this in the middle of his or my holiday.) I wrote him a letter explaining that I considered the friendship to be over and that our relationship was now simply a business relationship. To make a point about my seriousness I sent an actual paper letter via Certified Mail, with a Return Receipt and Restricted Delivery. Meaning that he’d have to sign for it personally. I received an email from him 31 minutes after the letter was delivered. That email put an excessive amount of effort into deflecting any and all fault for the state of our relationship. I know I wasn’t perfect, but neither was he. Beyond that single email he didn’t make any attempts to repair our friendship.

I simply don’t miss that friendship, it had been limping along for far too long. It also felt really satisfying to collapse the ambiguity of our relationship and to clearly and cleanly communicate to him how I felt about our relationship and my understanding of it. Additionally, I appreciated that it was fair to him in that it did not leave him in the dark about the state of our relationship.

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