Friendships – Dysfunctional relationships #2 – Red Flags

When I look back at the last friendship I ended, I am a little taken aback how I could have stayed friends with her for so long.

Don’t get me wrong, she was a very interesting person — in a way. But — to be brutally honest — not really a good friend. Friendship requires interest in the person and empathy/perspective taking. She might have been interested, but more in what I could do for her (mostly in terms of emotional support) than in me as a person. And when it comes to empathy and perspective taking — that was not really her strong suit.

In short, despite being highly intelligent (trust me on this), she was also superficial and self-centered.

And I accepted it and made excuses for it.

For example, I accepted …

  • that I invested much more in the friendship (for years) than I got back.
  • that someone I trusted for a long time was not good for me, was more of a detriment to my happiness and success, than an aid.
  • that she was applying a double-standard where I had to compensate for her idiosyncrasies and bad mood but she would be offended by mine.
  • that no matter how interesting she might have appeared she did not show it in her interactions with me.

In many ways that friendship was like a sunk-cost fallacy. At some point I had invested a lot in it — and I was still hoping to get something out of it. Not “benefits,” by the way, but support, feedback, someone I could rely on.

But when it comes down to it — if I were in a situation where I really, really needed someone who does something for me, something that was really, really important and that thing has to be done exactly right — I would not have trusted her to do it.

Needing someone is like needing a parachute. If he isn’t there the first time you need him, chances are you won’t be needing him again.

In fact, she failed the parachute test of friendship a couple of times. In consequence, I avoided such situations, and when I had to trust her, I hedged my bets. Sure, she had her excuses and explanations, but that does not help you if you would have crashed real badly were it not for the reserve canopy you took along.

That alone should have been a huge red flag — I was expecting to get something out of the friendship yet deep down it was clear to me that I could never really depend on her.

But that was very difficult to realize.


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