Why does it have to be so complicated? Can’t we have any kind of relationship free from stress or tension … or are we just too emotionally intricate for that sort of thing. Or, could it be that dangerous word “assumption” creeping into the most innocent of connections that leads us to overlook the danger signs. What happens when we assume that, because we’re “just friends”, that a friendship will be smooth sailing. None of the typical relationship rules apply, there’s no implied “he/she should understand me without having to explain”, or is there? Do we exempt friendships from the heavier more intimate unspoken rules of a spouse or mate? And if we do, what’s the worst that can happen?
Indeed, what is the worst that can happen? I found out recently when a seemingly harmless friendship re-emerged. The other half of the friendship happened to be a former co-worker, a nice fellow, some years my senior and a kindred spirit in our political and philosophical attitudes. He lives in the mid-west, I live in the north east. He has a lovely wife and two grown children. I have an ex-husband and no children. Having no brothers, I tend to find myself casting my male friends in that role. This particular friend and I were quite close but, it turned out, different kinds of close. And therein lies the problem.
I can only speak (or write) from my perspective, guessing what someone else is thinking is akin to skipping blindly through a minefield. But were there warning signs there, and I just didn’t recognize them?
As I said, we had a close friendship … I thought of him with the close familiarity of a dear brother. It could be he thought of me with just a bit more closeness … but nothing suggestive of anything more than friendship. But were there were word choices or phrases that ought to have set off warning bells? Why, when it would never have dawned on me to be on my guard? He was deeply in love with his wife, they’d been married for some 40-odd years. Why would I worry?
I worried when he started to mention misgivings by his wife. Misgivings that grew into to pointed questions, which in turn grew into accusations. Suddenly, I’m left feeling like the other woman … caught in the act of something I didn’t even know I was doing. And feeling the fool, the naive unsophisticated kid who took a situation at face value.
Feelings have been hurt, intentions misunderstood, and relationships strained. Now, of course, I’m re-evaluating every male friend I have and wondering, can men and women really be friends or will there always be a hint of something more. How do you value a friendship when you don’t know the price?