Lessons in Friendship

Nolens Volens wrote a post for the In the Real World Venus vs Mar about his best friend and his wife who is jealous.  In reading it and commenting back, I realized how one famous situation in my relationship with Garbanzo comes immediately to mind when I think about situations like that one. We shall call his friend Maggie.

Maggie was an English major like my husband, only a year older. They went to England together for a class. They were friends. She was sweet and bubbly, and I could understand why she felt comfortable with Garbanzo as a friend and confident. He’s easy going, easy to talk to, quick with a kind word and a hug, and just a nice guy.  Seriously, my husband is a nice guy.

They were friends. I got that. I didn’t have any problems with it. I mean, Garbanzo is friends with many people – male and female – so I didn’t think anything of it. Plus, I tend to have a lot of friends who are men. Between what I do for a living and having grown up in a house full of boys, I relate well to men. I can talk the talk, so to speak. (A blessing and a curse as I was growing up, but that’s a different post.)

Maggie had a string of bad luck her senior year. And, each time, she would look to her friends for advice, reassurance, a shoulder to cry on, etc.  I’m a pretty compassionate person. If she were my friend, I’d be right there for her too.  I got that.

But, I started to see a trend that year. I started to notice that her “bad luck” started coinciding with plans that Garbanzo and I were making. I tried to gently point this out.  We were having, what I liked to call, boundary issues.  She was overstepping from the friendship side to the boyfriend side. And, using his “nice guy tendencies” against him. Not how I put it with Garbanzo, but truly my take on the situation.

We got into a few discussions over this one. I was hitting the end of my rope with her. My tolerance level was gone. Couple that with her reaction to our engagement, and I knew what she was trying to do.  She wanted Garbanzo as a boyfriend, so in the meantime, she would rely on him as she would a boyfriend.

But, my nice guy husband (boyfriend at the time) was worried about her. He wanted to help her. He wanted to not make waves, let her graduate, so we could just move on.  His logic was that it would happen anyway – so why not wait it out.

It was March when the final straw occurred. I had done my best to keep my mouth shut. I was not going to be the one who stirred up the drama. I wanted it to happen on its own. Garbanzo was set to go spend a month in Mexico for Spanish language school. He left the next day, so we had errands to run and good-bye sex to be had. As I predicted, she had a crisis. She needed him to help her. Garbanzo swore that it would only take an hour max, then we could do the errands, he’d take me out for dinner, and back home to bed. 

One hour turned to almost four hours. I was pissed. She didn’t care. She knew she had fucked up our night.  That’s really what she was aiming for.  How did I know? Her tactics for keeping us around were pretty flimsy, and cropped up each time we had to go.  I am, sadly, pretty good at reading people – even back then.  I say sadly because I truly wish people weren’t game players – I try to never look at it that way first, but if the thought pops into my head with a person, the thought is there for good reason.

As I sat there in the corner contemplating going back to my dorm so I could explode in private, Maggie made a comment. “You know, when you mentioned to me on the England trip that if she wasn’t careful, you’d marry her – I never thought you were serious.”

Let me explain, that was almost 2 years earlier. I would later find out after we discussed this comment that it was his response that made him decide to hold off on the whole marriage idea. She had planted the seed of doubt in his mind – he was going too fast, was he really sure, etc. Yeah, clearly she had her hand on the pulse of things – I mean, us getting married clearly didn’t work out. (insert eye roll here) Anyway, that comment and his response to it made for some pretty tough talks between us as our college careers came closer to a close. And almost caused us to go our separate ways.  To find out she had a hand in it under the guise of “being a friend”, well, I almost erupted right there.

I don’t recall how we finally got out of there. It really doesn’t matter. Our last night together before being apart for a month without any means of communication was pretty much ruined. As you can imagine,  good-bye sex was not what it should have been. I was pretty pissed at the situation – so things were not resolved by the time he left at 5am the following day.

When he got back, he realized how fucked up things had become. He realized she was doing it on purpose – a month apart had given him some time to connect the dots. And, this realization helped him see her immediate attempts to get priority in his life.  Did he ever confront her on this? No. It’s not his thing – plus he didn’t want it to get worse. We were two months from Maggie graduating, so why fret and deal with the drama if he did do it. I understood, but it was two months of struggle as he did the dance to avoid her dramas.

Five years later, she found us in Oregon. She started emailing Garbanzo a lot. He chose to use technology to ignore her. She demanded to know what she had done wrong, etc, etc – and he just let it be without a response.  It scared the hell out of him to be honest – she even admitted in one of the emails that she had been trying to find him. And he had heard through his friends that she had been pestering them for years.  It was when Garbanzo truly apologized to me for what he let her do to him and subsequently me.

Since this incident, there have been other similar ones. I can list several women who have mistaken Garbanzo’s friendship with them as an opportunity to have more.  And each time, the story goes in a similar manner. I try hard to let him see it so he can deal with it, but I usually find my patience isn’t there for it. 

I have had a couple guys do the same thing to me. The difference is that I usually catch it earlier and deal with it head on. While Garbanzo takes a “fizzle out” approach, I tend to go for the big bang approach.  I will try until I’m just done with the drama – and done with the attempted manipulation that usually follows. Then I blow it up and deal with the aftermath. I am good at dealing with the post-blow-up rubble.  Garbanzo – he’s too nice of a guy. He will keep working at it and working at it trying to keep the peace and damage to a minimum.

But, the one things we’ve both learned about having friends of the opposite sex.  We are completely intolerant now of those who try to get between us and our family, but also our friendships with those people we consider important to us.  If everyone can’t play nice, the one causing the problems must go.  I don’t care how good of friends they were – nor do I care if they were the same sex or the opposite.

Oh and one last thing – I do believe men and women can be friends. I have many successful friendships that have never taken this turn – as has my husband. Just wanted to make that point clear as I do not want this to come across a different way.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Secretia says:

    It’s dangerous for me to build friendships with men because of my flirtatious tendencies.

  2. Just me... says:

    I have a few very good male friends.. But you always have to be aware of the downside.. Always include the wife/SO in invitations, dinners, etc.. Or else you run the risk of someone getting the idea that there is something more than friendship going on..

  3. garbonzo says:

    Glad to hear I am a “nice guy”. Explains why I always finish last 😉

  4. Interesting post, and I dare say, protect the family at all costs. Yes, why do people have to play games? when it would just be so much easier to put it all out on the table and be “ok” with whatever happens.

    Had to laugh at garbanzo’s comment too. funny.

  5. This has been a topic between me and Temper as well. There have been issues like the ones you have discussed here in your post. Like yourself, I prefer to stop things head on while T doesn’t like conflict.

    It seems there’s always someone trying to move in on your s/o. These men/women who do as such can’t seem to find their own boyfriends yet think it’s funny to interrupt other peoples relationships. Not cool. If there is something that gets me real irate, that is it.

  6. Maggie says:

    I’ve always had male friends, but as we’ve gotten older I have been very careful about boundaries, not just for my own sake and relationships but for theirs too. I don’t want to lose a friend to an SO who takes our friendship the wrong way.

    That stuff she did though, totally psycho. Wow.

  7. Vixen says:

    I actually kind of agree with Secretia. That said though, I DO have many male friends. But it takes some fine line walking at times.

    I actually have what I ‘playfully’ refer to as a “Frenemy”. She and I began as friends but slowly her and my husband have become quite close, through some serious flirting, making us well…not as close anymore. Hmm…..

  8. Babe Lincoln says:

    This is a great post and one that hit a nerve in our household. Hubby and I both have close friends of the opposite sex and we’re both friendly and flirtacious, but now we’re dealing with what happens when someone reads this behavior the wrong way. Sigh.

  9. Joker_SATX says:

    As you can see, I am catching up to posts now. Sorry for my absence.

    This was a great post. This has happened to me often with my two ex wives…that is why we are now divorced. At least that is one of the main reasons.

    I like the way you handled things and Kudos to Garbonzo for coming to his senses.

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