“I am so upset with them,” I say, confiding in a friend.
“What did they do this time?” my friend asks. Because this is far from their first rodeo as far as this long-term friend of mine is concerned. Where once upon a time, we were truly close, there have been a series of unbelievably disappointing occurrences over the past several years. Times when this friend has been petty and judgmental. Quite rude and hurtful, frankly, giving unsolicited, unwanted advice at times when I’ve been struggling. All the while practicing hypocrisy when the shoe is on the other foot.
I keep seeing them talking the talk when it’s other people’s lives. But not walking the walk when it’s their own.
This isn’t all that uncommon — a lot of people have double standards when it comes to evaluating their own behavior versus other people’s. But there are degrees to it, after all. And the magnitude of their double standards is shocking. As is their seeming lack of awareness about it.
Anyway, I tell my other friend what they did this time. This friend is sympathetic, but I suspect they’re likely silently wondering why I still have this other person in my life. Why I didn’t cut them out long ago.
I say this because I’ve been in that other position — in the role of Friend Confided in About Other Friend’s Deplorably Janky Behavior — and have silently wondered the same. Before reminding myself that it’s easier to judge when you don’t have that bond. And that everyone has their personal limit. Their own timeframe for figuring this stuff out.
Again, awareness of how common double standards are can be quite helpful when you’re supporting someone through a conflict. It helps you give advice you could actually take, if you were in the other person’s shoes.
Not advice that you’d never follow, were the roles reversed.
Anyway, this friend is pretty good at Advice Friend duty, too. And that’s why they’re not articulating the thing I know they must be wondering: Why is it taking me so long to sever this friendship that hasn’t been going well for a very long time?
The answer is something like this: I’ve been reluctant to part ways for a few reasons. Part of it, I suspect, is denial. I’ve wanted it to not to be true. I haven’t wanted to acknowledge in an official way that we’ve grown apart. Not in a way that can’t be undone or that doesn’t leave room for things to suddenly improve.
I also suspect that as much as I don’t consider myself a particularly loyal person, that I do feel some degree of responsibility to this friend. That I had an emotional commitment to them that made it possible to tolerate way more janky behavior than I would have if that bond weren’t there.
But after a while, reserves run out. And there comes a moment when you realize you’ve grown apart from someone.
And you have to accept that things won’t be like they were before.
It’s not always some dramatic Movie of the Week falling out. No one has to make scripted speeches, regurgitate lines they’ve heard from the movies.
When you’ve really grown apart, I’ve found that it’s not even something you have to start. Instead, it’s something that you stop fighting. It’s a slow drift already in motion, that you suddenly start just allowing to happen. The invisible but meaningful distance sets in.