Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for November 11th, 2011

Friendship

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on November 11, 2011

Mary and Kate have been friends ever since their kids were born, thirty years ago. They have lived through divorces together, troubled children, remarriage, aging parents, and difficult interpersonal times. “I am not sure I would like Kate now,” Mary says, “but since I have been friends with her for so long, I guess I am not going to end our friendship now.” Mary explains that she has trouble with Kate’s personality, but the longevity of their relationship means something to her. “It sounds like you need Kate to remind you of where you have been.” I say, thinking about why that continuity is important to Mary. “Yes, that is part of it, ” she responds, “but I also treasure the fact that we have grown up together, in a way.” “You mean you feel like siblings,” I say, inquiring about Mary’s thinking about her relationships. “Yes, that is exactly right. I did not pick my siblings, and so at this point I am not picking Kate either. Having said that, I am glad she is in my life so we can share old times.” I begin to think about how long-term relationships can develop family feelings of feeling trapped, yet still appreciative, of the opportunity to have that much history with someone. “You choose your friends, but as time goes on, it sounds like you have lost sight of the optional aspect of this relationship, such that now it feels like you are enduring and not choosing.” I say, highlighting her point that she values the friendship, but she does not feel like she would choose it now. “Yes,” Mary says, with the enthusiasm of recognition. “Kate is not always very nice to me. Nor is she generous with me. She seems to be self-centered and not as deeply interested in my life as I would like her to be,” Mary explains her disappointment with the relationship. “I can see how that makes you feel alone in the relationship,” I say, finally feeling clarity about Mary’s issues with Kate. “Yea, I do feel lonely. I feel the relationship is tilted towards me being interested in her, so there is not as much reciprocity as I would like.” Mary says tearfully, as if to say, her relationship with Kate is like so many of her relationships, where she feels the pain of the unevenness in the interaction. “I am sorry it is so hard,” I say, reaching out to her sorrow. “Thanks,” she says, with a tone of deep sadness.

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