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Need advice on a friend...


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#1 of 58 OFFLINE   Tony Whalen

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Posted December 21 2004 - 02:25 AM

Hey all!

First time I've done one o' these "personal" type threads. God knows I've participated in enough of 'em. Posted Image

Okay..a little background.

I'm having a problem with a buddy of mine. We've been friends for nearly 20 years now, and we've been through thick-n-thin together. We've had fun, we've fought, and so forth. He was one of my "best-people" at my wedding, and I at his. I think it's safe to say we know each other pretty well. He knows I'm stubborn as hell, and I know he's a tad egotistical. We're both immature as hell in each other's presence...we have a lot of fun together. Posted Image

Basically, he's a brother to me, in all ways except blood.

To the problem:

The four of us (us and our wives) used to get together on a semi-regular basis. They live just down the block from us, so it's not as if getting together is a problem. (We often got together at their house, as they have a young son.)

Lately, we haven't seen much of them. In fact, we hadn't heard anything from them for a while. Granted, we didn't call them much either.

He dropped by one day to return a couple of things he'd borrowed. He seemed cold and distant, and left rather quickly. (He usually stays for a few minutes to yap with us.) He left, and we thought..."okay... what just happened here?" It was odd.

Then, a few days later...he and I were playing with some mutual friends on XBox LIVE. The others dropped off one-by-one, until only he and I remained.

We started to talk while fragging each other. I expressed that I thought he/they were mad at us for some reason. He explained that we'd said we'd call them for a get-together, and that they'd waited for us to call. When we didn't call, they thought we were "too busy" (which can happen) or were displeased with them for some reason. We laughed, and I thought this was all done. We didn't call each other, and we both thought the other was annoyed for some reason. Such silliness.

Or so I thought.

This past Friday we threw a big party. It's our annual Christmas/Birthday party. (My wife and I both have late-December birthdays...) We asked my buddy if we could borrow his punch bowl, and he brought it over before the party started.

My wife gave him a big hug, and said "why don't we see you these days?"

He responded with "Well, I was waiting to see if you called. You did, so we're coming tonight."

Posted Image

We were both floored. What is this, high school? "I wasn't gonna call you until you called me first?"

He left, and we were both furious. What kind of childish BS was this? I felt like either A) saying "thank you for honoring us with your presence, oh sirrah" or B) telling him not to bother. (Thankfully I did neither.)

Anyway, our party came and went...and a good time was had by all. My pal seemed to enjoy himself as well.

Yesterday was my ACTUAL birthday.

I haven't heard a peep from my pal. Not a call, not an e-card, not an email...nothing. I actually find that I'm a little hurt.

We haven't been good at calling them. We often aren't good at calling our friends, and we know that. However, all our other friends REMAIN our friends, whether we don't talk to them for a week or a month or even a year.

However, my friend of nearly two decades suddenly decides to give our friendship a little "test" and see if WE would call HIM, and seemingly we weren't going to see him until WE initiated contact? (Remember, he lives down the block here...)

My initial reaction was "I'm 36 years old... I don't have time for this high-school BS" and I've been pissed with him since.

So, am I over-reacting here? Are we the bad ones for not maintaining contact? Or is he being childish? Any thoughts, oh wise HTFers?

#2 of 58 OFFLINE   Brad_Harper

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Posted December 21 2004 - 02:58 AM

If you still want to be his friend then you're going to have to suck up your pride and call him to talk. Say exactly what you mean and don't pull any punches.

Trying to guess what someone else is thinking or feeling is like trying to pick the right lotto numbers. So stop guessing and find out what he's thinking. If he still wants be to childish afterwards so be it, but at least you tried to be an adult about the situation. Honesty is the best policy in these types of situations.

Good Luck

#3 of 58 OFFLINE   Haggai

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Posted December 21 2004 - 03:13 AM

I agree with Brad, but I'm also inclined to agree with your instinct, Tony. If you've known someone for that long, and you live down the block from them, what's up with "you never call us anymore"? The only thing I can think of is if it was an unusual thing for you--that is, if saying "we'll call you sometime" and not following through was something that hadn't happened in the many years you've known each other, so maybe that led him to think something unusual was going on. Then again, if you've known each other that long and it happens for the first time ever, what about the benefit of the doubt for an old friend?

#4 of 58 OFFLINE   Vince Maskeeper

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Posted December 21 2004 - 03:30 AM

This past Friday we threw a big party. It's our annual Christmas/Birthday party. (My wife and I both have late-December birthdays...) We asked my buddy if we could borrow his punch bowl, and he brought it over before the party started. My wife gave him a big hug, and said "why don't we see you these days?" He responded with "Well, I was waiting to see if you called. You did, so we're coming tonight."


Wait- did you even call him to invite him to the party BEFORE calling for a punch bowl? This retelling makes it sound like he was referring to "waiting for the call" in terms of actually getting a personal invite.

Sounds like you and your wide are not "close" with your friends, and this guy sounds like he sees that as insulting. Different strokes i guess.
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#5 of 58 OFFLINE   Tony Whalen

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Posted December 21 2004 - 03:33 AM

Quote:
The only thing I can think of is if it was an unusual thing for you--that is, if saying "we'll call you sometime" and not following through was something that hadn't happened in the many years you've known each other, so maybe that led him to think something unusual was going on.

Nope... nothing unusual going on. If memory serves, my wife gave them a casual "we should get together soon" to play a couple of board games or something, and that was then end of it. I guess they've been waiting for us to call since then? I don't get it.

As far as I know, nothing has changed on our end.

(I should point out that my wife and I both DESPISE the old "it's your turn to call us" stuff. I had another friend that simply would NOT initiate contact if it wasn't his "turn". Please. He'd always respond with "well, YOUR fingers aren't broken, you know.")

Quote:
Say exactly what you mean and don't pull any punches.

Solid advice there Brad. The only minor problem is that my pal is TERRIBLE at confrontations. So I'll need to try to be diplomatic...while still not pulling any punches.

Should I outline my feelings in an email, knowing he's not good at face-to-face stuff? Or is that too impersonal?

#6 of 58 OFFLINE   Paul Bond

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Posted December 21 2004 - 03:37 AM

Your friend may be going through some issues that you don't know about. Or maybe he is just playing mind games. You may never know. I'd say the key is to decide if you want to stay friends with him. You probably do after twenty years (although without the BS). If he wants/needs you to reach out to him for whatever reason, then go ahead. You ARE buddies. Call him up one day to go get burgers. Call another time to go look a DVDs and plan a night for a mutual showing.

BUT!!!!!! If after a while he still isn't calling you, then he has fallen into the high-maintenance category, and you will have to do some soul-searching to decide if he is really worth the extra effort it will take to keep him as a friend. I've always felt that one of the most trite phrases is "People change". It is also quite true. You two may have grown apart for some reason and it is time to become distant friends for a while.

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#7 of 58 OFFLINE   Tony Whalen

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Posted December 21 2004 - 03:51 AM

Quote:
Wait- did you even call him to invite him to the party BEFORE calling for a punch bowl? This retelling makes it sound like he was referring to "waiting for the call" in terms of actually getting a personal invite.

Yup, we sure did. He knew about the party long before the punch-bowl request. He got the same email invitation the rest of our guests did, plus we'd asked him on one or two occasions if he and his wife would be coming. The punch bowl was very much an after-thought, and it was made pretty clear that we were looking forward to seeing them at the party.

Plus that still doesn't explain why, after said party, I haven't heard the slightest "Happy Birthday" peep from my old friend. It's just...weird.

I think my ire is further-fueled by something that I viewed as immature, but I didn't include it in my first post, for fear of the re-telling getting muddled.

When he brought the punch-bowl over, I asked if he'd be "coming back" later in the evening. When I asked this, we BOTH knew that I was asking if he'd return after he went home with his wife and son around 7PM. (This is a regular occurance.) He indicated that he'd "have to see how things go" due to the possible presence of someone he doesn't enjoy the company of.

That annoyed me. No one asked him to interact with the person he doesn't like. (These are two people with a simple history of not getting along...not ex-lovers or anything.)

(She was perfectly civil and friendly to him, in fact.)

I was annoyed that he considered not spending time with some of his closest friends because he MIGHT have to be in the same room with someone he doesn't like. (Keep in mind there were 20-30 people in the house...so it's not like there was a lack of people to interact with.)

We have several different circles of friends. I shouldn't have to worry about "oh...so-and-so might not come because S/HE is invited". Again, I felt like it was junior high-school or something.

Over-reacting? Possibly. At that point, the whole "I was waiting for YOU to call us" thing had set me off. Still annoyed me though.

#8 of 58 OFFLINE   Elinor

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Posted December 21 2004 - 03:58 AM

For someone who isn't good at confrontations, the other person merely being at the party can be an issue for him. (I know it has been for me in the past, and I too dislike "confrontation.")

Maybe he feels like you're not valuing him by including that person too?

I'm guessing. Deciphering what goes on in men's minds is harder than deciphering what goes on in women's minds Posted Image

#9 of 58 OFFLINE   Tony Whalen

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Posted December 21 2004 - 04:22 AM

Quote:
Maybe he feels like you're not valuing him by including that person too?

He simply doesn't understand why we're friends with this person...he has a very skewed view of her that he simply can't get past. But she's a good friend, and we're not going to exclude her (or him)because he isn't comfortable in the same room. (It's interesting that SHE has no trouble with HIS presence.)

God, we're all adults here, not kids. Posted Image He's nearly 36 for cryin' out loud.

Besides, no one is holding a gun to his head and saying "go talk to that person".

Quote:
For someone who isn't good at confrontations, the other person merely being at the party can be an issue for him.

True, but my pal is an actor by trade. I'd think he could handle a couple of hours in a room with someone being perfectly decent to him in order to spend time with his friends. (And when I say "friends", I don't refer to simply my wife and I, but several mutual friends we all share.)

To my knowledge, the woman in question has never caused a scene with him, nor been confrontational with him at a social event. They are simply oil & water.

#10 of 58 OFFLINE   Jeff Gatie

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Posted December 21 2004 - 04:24 AM

Quote:
We were both floored. What is this, high school? "I wasn't gonna call you until you called me first?"


Quote:
Yesterday was my ACTUAL birthday.

I haven't heard a peep from my pal. Not a call, not an e-card, not an email...nothing. I actually find that I'm a little hurt.

Quote:
We haven't been good at calling them. We often aren't good at calling our friends, and we know that.


Anyone else see a little bit of irony here?Posted Image

#11 of 58 OFFLINE   Tony Whalen

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Posted December 21 2004 - 04:32 AM

Jeff, the BIG difference is that we don't conciously decide not to call someone until they call us first.

It's as if my pal decided to give our friendship a little test or something... does a friendship need testing after nearly two decades?

My wife and I lead busy lives. It's not an excuse, merely a fact. Between work, volunteer stuff we do, my part-time acting, two clubs I'm affiliated with, AND several circles of friends, we keep pretty busy. My friend and his wife both work at home, and set their own schedules most of the time.

We know we're not the best at maintaining regular contact, but we do TRY. We've also asked him SEVERAL times now what is going on or why we haven't heard from him, and yet this BS still continues. Hence my confusion...especially with a friend who is AWARE of what our lives our like, and has been aware for many years.

(It's also important to note that it's not as if we haven't had ANY contact, and we're only talking about how things have been for the last month or two...it's not like I haven't spoken with the guy for a year or something...)

#12 of 58 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted December 21 2004 - 04:45 AM

I think a letter or email would be just fine, but be sure to read over it several times and give it "time to breathe." People advise putting things in writing to better express feelings, but if feelings are strong it's pretty easy to write something you'll regret too. And once it's in writing it can be worse than having said it aloud (as we all know from this environment).

I know it's frustrating when a person is of a certain age and doesn't act accordingly. But I think this will always be an issue in life - we all have moments of regression, perhaps some more than others. The real issue is how we respond when we're called on it. In our teens we don't necessarily know better; in our 30s, we do and should make the adjustment to "act our age" when we become (or are made) aware we're not.

As you've pointed out there have been peaks and valleys in your twenty years of friendship and this is probably just another valley. If it's something greater (i.e. a simple matter of growing apart for a time) then it will be tough to accept, but not something anyone is at fault for. It sounds like you're doing your best already to be blameless (e.g. reaching out, trying to get past the petty impulses) and that's all anyone can ask. Best of luck!
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#13 of 58 OFFLINE   Jeff Gatie

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Posted December 21 2004 - 04:55 AM

Tony, I'm just playing devil's advocate here, but aren't you also making a concious decision not to call when you say that on your birthday you were "hurt" because he did not contact you? What is keeping you from calling him? I have a friend that I've had for well over 20 years, I see him every week and I'll be damned if I know when his birthday is and vice versa. If I wanted a "happy birthday" from him, I'd call him up and say "it's my birthday, let's go get a beer". I just find it ironic that you are forgiving of yourself for not being one to keep in touch (i.e you are very busy) and yet you are hurt by his forgetfullness, which may have a legitimate reason also.

I tend not to let my feelings be dependent on the actions of others. My motto is - Always expect a person to be just who they are and you will never be disappointed. It works!

#14 of 58 OFFLINE   Tony Whalen

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Posted December 21 2004 - 05:02 AM

True enough Jeff.

To be honest, I should merely be chalking that up to forgetfullness. However, considering he was at a combination party for both my wife AND I mere days before, I kinda have trouble with that idea ... but you know what, the whole no-birthday-call thing is really minor.

I'm more concerned about this "I'm not calling you unless you call me first" business. It just kinda came out of left-field.

#15 of 58 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted December 21 2004 - 05:22 AM

I’m no psychologist Tony, but several things strike me about your relationship with your friend.

First people hear things very differently (there are any number of parlor games to that demonstrate that) and just because you and your wife think that you (initially, if I have the time-line sorted out correctly) you just made a casual invitation, your friend may have heard something very different—especially if he and his wife had been waiting for an invitation. They may well have interrupted your casual invitation as, “It has been too long since we got together and we need to defiantly hook up soon. Why don’t I talk this over with my wife and we’ll set something up—I’ll call you in the next couple of days.”

Now the fact that you said something else altogether is completely irrelevant. Your friend may well believe that you decided to ignore him.

Another thing—it also strikes me that your friend of 20 years may very well expect a different treatment than your other, newer friends and casual acquaintances. So getting the same e-mail that everyone else got might seem to him as something a bit cold. And an invitation to a group function when he had been expecting an invitation for a much more personal evening might also seem disappointing to him.

In any case I would urge you to go back and read some of your comments from a disinterested perspective. For example in post #11, you wrote, “Jeff, the BIG difference is that we don't consciously decide not to call someone until they call us first.”—you may not be acting consciously but the end result is the same—and would seem so from your friend’s perspective.

Personally, I think that you are making too big a deal over a problem that a 20-year friendship ought to be able to easily withstand.

If you value the friendship, just talk things over in a non-confrontational manner. I’ll bet that his view is different than yours (and by this time, there is not a lot of point in winning a ‘who did what first’ battle).

OTOH, it may be that you have drifted apart. This happens.
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#16 of 58 OFFLINE   Tony Whalen

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Posted December 21 2004 - 06:40 AM

Quote:
Personally, I think that you are making too big a deal over a problem that a 20-year friendship ought to be able to easily withstand.


Thanks for that Lew. Seriously.

You'd think that, wouldn't you? Posted Image The only issue is that my buddy tends to be pretty...emotional and/or hormonal, for lack of a better term. So as a result, I tend to walk on eggshells when things get heavy with him.

I probably AM making a big deal out of something small ... it just seems that his odd distant behavior has been getting more and more apparent, and we're really scratching our heads.

But as you say...I'm probably making it into too big of a deal. Posted Image

Quote:
it also strikes me that your friend of 20 years may very well expect a different treatment than your other, newer friends and casual acquaintances. So getting the same e-mail that everyone else got might seem to him as something a bit cold. And an invitation to a group function when he had been expecting an invitation for a much more personal evening might also seem disappointing to him.

He wasn't given any (recent) indication of a "more personal" evening.

As for the invitation idea... I've never understood that myself. If someone is having a large group function, why should "older" friends expect engraved invitations (or other "special" treatment), and "newer" friends only rate an email? To me, that's kind of silly. But maybe that's me. I wouldn't expect any kind of special treatment in such a situation...

Regardless, he got the same email everyone else did, yes. Is that a faux pas? He DID get a couple of personal follow-ups with us asking him if they'd be there.

Quote:
They may well have interrupted your casual invitation as, “It has been too long since we got together and we need to defiantly hook up soon. Why don’t I talk this over with my wife and we’ll set something up—I’ll call you in the next couple of days.”

Entirely possible. God knows different people hear things differently.

#17 of 58 OFFLINE   Ted Lee

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Posted December 21 2004 - 07:13 AM

hmm...just some random thoughts.

firstly, just have it out with him. say, "dude, what the f is going on here? i feel like this, and this is the vibe i'm getting from you." then take it from there.

a 20 year relationship (if it's still "meant to be") will easily handle such a confrontation. yes, i know your friend is touchy, but...really...who cares? just because he's touchy doesn't mean you're not "allowed" to express how you feel.

lew (as usual) is spot-on when he talks about perception. while you may be thinking/saying one thing, your friend may be hearing/seeing something totally different. that's why you need to talk with him face-to-face. NO EMAILS MAN!!! heck, if the guy is already touchy about contact, etc -- how do you think he'll feel if you email him with this issue.

how badly do you want to keep this relationship? what is it worth in terms of your personal investment? how much money/time/effort/whatever do you still want to put into this? and...how much do you expect from your friend?

long-term relationships are a hard call. you have such a history together (heck, you consider him your brother), so you feel an "obligation" to make it work. but sometimes...things just run their course. it's a fact of life and there's nothing wrong with that.

anyway, sorry for the rambling. good luck with this. it's obviously important to you so i hope it works out for ya! Posted Image
 

#18 of 58 OFFLINE   DaveGTP

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Posted December 21 2004 - 05:46 PM

Agree 100% with Ted Lee's post. With some long term friends (one of my friends I have been friends with since grade K, like 20 years although I don't remember much of the first 7-10 Posted Image), remember that sometimes you end up growing apart.

Thus, if you are really still good friends, you should be able to say "This is F****ed up man, what's going on with us?"
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#19 of 58 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted December 21 2004 - 05:53 PM

I bet his wife is part of the problem.
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#20 of 58 OFFLINE   Keith Mickunas

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Posted December 22 2004 - 12:58 AM

You say you're bad about calling friends, but how was your friend about calling you? Was there a period of them suggesting you get together, or giving you a call, but you were always too busy?

I know that for me, if I'm not called by someone and I've called them several times or dropped by for a visit and they were busy, etc., I begin to assume that they would rather not spend time with me, and I'll stop calling. I've been through this a few times with one set of neighbors, and in fact I haven't spoken to them in a few months because of this. Usually after a while of me not talking to them they'll make a comment to me about wondering if I'm mad, and I tell them the exact same thing, that they are always too busy or not home so I don't see the point in bothering to call or visit and don't make an effort to contact me. So they know what's going on in my head.


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