Brother (in spirit) has shut me out

Discussion in 'Family of Origin' started by BloodiedButUnbowed, Dec 7, 2018.

  1. BloodiedButUnbowed

    BloodiedButUnbowed Active Member

    As you all know the last year in particular has been very difficult for me and my family.

    And you also know that I was recently separated from my wife. We are continuing to reconcile and things are going pretty well there.

    I have a very close friend. More than close, actually. More like an astral twin. We refer to each other as brother and sister though there's no blood relation. We have a very intense soul connection. We are both gay so it's never been romantic or sexual.

    We have been friends for almost forty years - we met in middle school. But it has not always been peaches and cream. Our personalities can clash and we struggle to resolve our differences in a healthy way. We have experienced long periods of complete estrangement where we had no contact at all. The longest period of estrangement lasted seven years, from 1989-96. Since 96 we have been in regular (weekly or more frequent) phone contact with occasional visits when time allows.

    With age and maturity on both of our parts, I was confident this friendship was now stable. Turns out, I was wrong.

    During the period of separation from my wife, I leaned very heavily on this friend for moral support. In retrospect, this was a mistake. I overwhelmed him with the drama of the situation, and with a great deal of negativity, and he got triggered heavily. He was not supportive of me reconciling with W and did his best to convince me to divorce her.

    And since I have re-committed to my marriage, he has now initiated another estrangement, stating that he cannot be in my life if I am still married to W. Not in exactly those terms, but I know that is what he means. He says he cannot promise when or even if he will contact me again. That he needs to take care of himself. That he loves me and will always consider me family, but cannot walk down the road I have chosen with my W.

    Previous to this atom bomb from him, I had expressed that I felt judged and controlled by some of his comments, that he very obviously wanted me to make a different decision involving my marriage. He took that very badly and I believe this was the real impetus for his decision. He reacts poorly to being challenged or "accused" in his mind, even though that wasn't the case.

    I know I made mistakes by over-involving him in my marital affairs, but his unwillingness to discuss his issues with me, his decision to abandon me, is very telling. It says that perhaps the person I have needed to leave behind is not my W but in fact, this friend.

    Asking for space is one thing, needing time apart is understandable, not wanting to hear about my marriage is reasonable, but completely shutting me out and running away from a four-decade friendship is quite another.

    The sad thing is, I was willing to own my choices and make amends where necessary. My friend is not willing to give me that chance.

    I think this means that regardless of what he may decide in the future, I need to walk away from this very special person who has meant the world to me over the years, but who ultimately, isn't able to do the work that every long-term relationship requires.

    Just wanted to share. I have IC this afternoon and this will probably be the focus of my session.
  2. ksm

    ksm Well-Known Member

    I am glad you have a handle on all the nuances of what transpired. I guess this gives you more time to focus on your marriage. I hope things will improve in the future. Ksm
  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    He doesnt sound very brotherly to me.

    Families dont dump you for years.

    One reason I am done with my sister is her constant cut offs. That to me is not even friend, let alone family. It is too heartwrenching to have to do on and off. I would have quit it whenever my father died...he just happened to live a long time or she would have been gone sooner. It had been the plan in my head for a long time because that sort of treatment didnt work for me. Does it work for you?
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018
  4. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    BBB, I'm so sorry. Losing a life-long friend is devastating. And it sounds like his reaction is unfair. I can understand needing a break if you have leaned on him through a lot of drama recently. I can even understand, perhaps in cases where someone is returning to an abusive partner, saying "I don't agree with your decision, and I can't listen anymore to the drama around this situation - it is too painful for me to hear." But I am not hearing that your wife is abusive, only that there has been a lot of drama in your lives from the kids, which is neither your fault nor hers. And that you have been struggling with some very painful and difficult decisions around how much you yourself can be part of that drama. Our difficult kids can put a lot of strain on our relationships. This to me is a situation that requires support, not judgment and estrangement. It does sound more like he is "punishing" you for not doing what HE thinks you should do. And that's unfair. Only you know what is best for you in your relationship with your wife right now. A good friend understands that and supports your decision. This feels childish and manipulative.

    I lost my oldest and best friend when I left my husband, because we were in a conservative church that did not allow divorce even in cases of abuse. She stuck with the church, and by extension my abusive ex, because the church elders told her to. I was devastated. (Though not surprised - I knew what the cost would be when I left my husband in the community I was part of. Coming out as gay would have had the same impact, but by the time that happened the cords were all cut anyway.) It hurts when you see that someone you thought of as a true friend is in reality only a conditional friend, with the condition being that you do what THEY think is right for you.

    It sounds like you are looking at this with clear eyes. But this is a real loss, and of course you are going to mourn. It hurts.

    I wish you and your wife a lot of luck, and I hope everything works out for you. The stress these kids put on us can really take a toll.

    (On a side note, I had to say - I did not realize you were a woman! I thought I was the only lesbian in the room...)
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Else, I see you have also had a lot of loss. I am sad for this.

    Particular churches can be judgmental although I dont believe Jesus wanted them to be. These days I love God and am extremely spiritual but wont join a church as I think the judgments were man written.

    Your friend who picked the church over you, if you think about it, was not really your friend.

    So many times we spend years investing loving time with people whom we trust....but not really. In our hearts we know. We know they will leave if we do something they judge. In the back of our hearts, we know.

    My sister thinks I left because she stayed with her very abusive boyfriend and I tried to talk her into leaving him. That was untrue as to why I left. I left solely because of her relationship and treatment of me. No other reason.

    Nobody should leave another because of a relationship choice even if it gets tiring to hear about it. Nor should anyone leave a person because they are living who they or straight, so what? I have a gay son. Big deal. He is still himself. I fail to understand why this is even a blip on anyone's radar.

    I think we need to be careful about who we trust with our hearts. And if somebody shuns us for things like these issues, were they ever friends? Even family?

    I am again very sorry. They are the ones who lost out, not you two.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018
  6. BloodiedButUnbowed

    BloodiedButUnbowed Active Member

    Thanks for the feedback.

    My marital crisis really had nothing to do with either of the difficult stepchildren, though I can't help but think YS' suicide attempt and its aftermath was at minimum, a factor.

    Friend was my primary support through the worst of it. In retrospect, this was a mistake. Better boundaries were needed, for both of our sakes.

    My friend isn't selfless enough to let me make my own decisions.

    My refusal to do what he thinks is best has led him to abandon me. That, and what I view as his inability/unwillingness to accept accountability for his behavior (he cursed me out when I told him I felt judged by some of his comments and it all went downhill from there).

    You're right SWOT, the loss is his.

    In the past, every single time we became estranged, it was me who sought out contact and renewed the friendship. I don't think I am going to do that now.

    It's time to let this go.
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  7. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    I understand your use of the word abandonment, because this is how it feels to you. But could your friend feel it to be self-preservation? That he cannot go there with you. Could he see and feel there is a boundary that he cannot cross and maintain his own integrity, and by that, I mean integrity in the greater sense, his integral self.
    Some people do this out of weakness; others from strength. The former do not feel they have the personal resources, the communication skills, the boundaries, to deal. They feel they may break apart, or lose themselves in certain interpersonal situations. Or this friend may feel that given the level of conflict you expressed and experienced in relationship to your wife, he could not go through again or chose not to. If he has been with you through several ups and downs, when wife was abusive, he may feel he cannot bear it again. That he cannot bear it for you that you go through it.
    I read recently that each of us has a certain characteristic style of dealing with overwhelm: fight, flight or freeze. I flee. Maybe your friend does too. I have a friendship of near 40 years, too. And I just ended a 9 year "break" which I initiated. I am certain that this hurt my friend, but I did not feel I had a way to work it out with her. I took me 9 years to find the words to explain. When it did it just took one sentence. This friend knows that this is what I do. I have done this all my adult life. And when things get really too much, I go live in another country.

    I am not saying this is right. I am saying that it may have less to do with you and more to do with how your friend handles problems (or runs from them.)

    To me these things are different than abandoning you. This could be as much the setting of a boundary for his self-preservation, as anything else. In this near half century friendship that you and he have both maintained and treasured over the years,I hear friendship and love and sadness, not abandonment. I guess I believe that friendship, even love, has conditions. We are always limited by our personal weaknesses, and those of others.

    You know, I am thinking about our children here, who often describe our setting a limit as our abandoning them. Of course it feels this way to them. But we set these limits because we cannot follow them to places where they hurt themselves, or where we cannot protect ourselves and our own emotions. Could this be the case, here too?
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018
  8. Elsi

    Elsi Active Member

    Copa, that’s one way to look at it, and whenever we have a break like this with friend I think it’s important to look deeply at our own part in it. It sounds like BBB is doing that with her counselor. I don’t know much of the history here. But it sounded to me like there is a history of periodic estrangement here. That perhaps estrangement is being used as a method of control. And that’s not healthy, or fair.

    SWOT I was excommunicated by my church before the ink was dry on my divorce papers. In my friends’s mind, she picked God over me, because she believed she would go to hell if she continued to associate with me. I am sure she felt very deep sorrow over it. Like I said, I knew the cost when I left. It was worth it. I have my life now.
  9. BloodiedButUnbowed

    BloodiedButUnbowed Active Member

    Copa, I know you mean well and you bring a unique perspective. I appreciate it.

    Friend and I do have lifelong issues and challenges. The difference is that now, I choose to work and grow through them. He chooses otherwise.

    He was willing to do the work until I communicated the level of my displeasure with some of his behavior. It was only then that he became defensive, shut down, and shut me out.

    I am seething at the inequity as I have stayed steadfast by his side through equal, if not greater, dysfunction than what I've gone through with W during these past few years. He will not do the same for me.

    I will never not see this as abandonment. He did not even give me the chance to hear his boundaries. Never gave me the opportunity to adjust and learn from the mistakes I admittedly made handling this very difficult time. He simply left. He selfishly left.

    I am done with him.
  10. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Else, if it helps she doesnt know what God thinks. I sure dont agree with her.

    I stay away from people who think a religion was written by God and not just men.
  11. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    BBU, often we stay in various relationships for too long. It isnt fun to feel uncomfortable and boundary driven in close relationships.

    Sometimes a relationship that was once useful wears out and its time to move on. This is why there is divorce. Again, his loss.
  12. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Dear bbu

    I have another friend I have known since I was 9 years old. There were long periods without contact but for some reason I kept going back. About 12 years ago I decided to stop. There was an inability on her part to accept a boundary. And I could not talk to her about it. I came to the realization that she had been mean to me for almost 50 years. That there was nothing to work out. She called my mother because she was lost, telling my mother she did not know what she had done.

    What I am saying is that I understand. There are moments of clarity we have where we see the fundamental compromises of self to maintain long-standing relationships. And we choose to stop.

    When I explained to my mother how there was nothing in me that wanted to speak to her, to subject myself to that, my mother used the word "toxic." This woman I began to experience as toxic. I had suppressed this for more than a half century and could no longer do so.

    This woman felt abandoned by me. But I had realized that she never ever had seen me or my needs. One day I became whole enough to admit this to myself. It is sad. But true.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2018
  13. BloodiedButUnbowed

    BloodiedButUnbowed Active Member


    Your words are difficult for me to hear with an open mind. It's hard not to be defensive, especially with this wound so fresh.

    But I think you are right.

    Friend and I have been toxic for each other. We tended to always dwell on problems and issues. Ours is a deep and loving bond but also in many ways, a negative one.

    He allowed me to complain about W and use him as a sounding board for my frustrations and anger around the marriage. Using him as a release valve I was able to stay in dysfunction with W. When in reality I needed to deal with these issues .... with W. I am doing that now. His absence is actually helping me grow closer to W and deal with my marital problems directly and realistically.

    I remain regretful he chose the route of escape rather than addressing and repairing the issues. Maybe he felt they could not be repaired. I did not agree.

    But I do now, because I don't think I can trust him not to take the same escape route again in the future. And at 50, I'm too old for this drama.

    I need to redefine my idea of friendship.
  14. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Gosh bbu. The last thing I wanted was for you to take to heart that what I wrote about me, applied to your friendship. I was find a part of my own experience that related to an overwhelming "no" regarding a lifelong and close relationship.

    What I described was a feeling that came to be manifest and when it did, I could not walk it back. I could have told her: you were always mean to me and treated me badly. I won't tolerate it anymore.. Would that have changed things? I don't know.

    What you are saying I think is you want to be a whole person, not in pieces. And maybe this man does not want to deal with you whole. And maybe that is your intuition and hesitancy. And maybe you feel no safety in the same way I did with my friend.

    Thank you bbu.

    We get to make these kinds of decisions about our life. And we get to do so with our own needs central. We can feel empathy and compassion for somebody else. But first we need to feel it for ourselves. this is what you did. I see that. Thank you for modeling that for me.

    40, 50, 60 years ago I did not have the experience or strength or support to take a stand for myself. I do now. Thank you.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2018