Hello Nicole – September 1991

Hello Nicole, I am a person with a disability.  This friend who I have known for the past ten years […]

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By Nicole
Published September 10, 1991

Hello Nicole,

I am a person with a disability.  This friend who I have known for the past ten years is not the kind of friend I need or want anymore.  I am somewhat cautious about relating my feelings to her because I know how much she depends upon me as a friend.  Though being in this friendship with her will not allow me to grow into the type of person I am capable of being, I honestly know that I need to lay this friendship to rest so that I may move on to a better future for myself.  On the other hand, I am afraid to tell her because being disabled it has been hard for me to make new friends easily.             

—Hopeful future

Dear Hopeful future,

Everyone changes.  Sometimes it occurs most abruptly — we wake up one morning and the people who satisfied us yesterday are no longer satisfying.  We have grown or changed in ways that they can no longer relate to and instead of feeling happy around them we feel sad and lonely.

Although it is excruciatingly painful, when you realize you have outgrown a friend the best thing to do is end the friendship.  Most of us (including myself) are not very prone to following that advice so simply because it is too difficult and frightening.  Instead, we try to dismiss the shortfalls and inadequacies of the other person so that we do not have to face being alone.  Also, it is hard to let go of a friend because in spite of our dissatisfaction we still hold them affectionately in our heart.  We think to ourselves, “If only we were different we could be good friends again.”

The longer you keep an old friend you are unhappy with, the more harm you may cause yourself and them.  When a friend is no longer capable of fulfilling your expectations you can begin to grow bitter and resentful toward them.  You may struggle within your relationship to grow, but they will want you to stay the same old person with the same old interests because they are as scared as you are of the changes that could end your friendship.  Since you are afraid of being alone you may try to conceal or contain your growth.  Eventually you will burst.  You will have to confess that you are suffering and unhappy in the relationship.  Unfortunately, by that time you may no longer hold much affection for each other and your good memories of the past will become jaded by the bad feelings of your drawn out, but inevitable, split.

However, no matter how much you believe that ending the friendship is the best decision, it takes sincere courage to actuate the ending.  Many of us disabled people are starving for affection and so we grasp tightly any kindness that is shown to us.  It may seem more pleasant to have an old friend you cannot relate to fully – or even that prevents you from growing – than to have no friend at all.

Because of the way our society regards disabled people as useless and inferior many of us suffer from a bad self image.  It is easy to feel like we are not lovable or likable and therefore should salvage any friendship we are given.  We should work to recognize this feeling as simply a feeling and not the reality.  When we realize that we truly are likable and lovable people it will be easier for us to venture out into the world and make some good friends.  But, if we refuse to face our fear of aloneness we will always have to settle for less than we want, need, and deserve.

If your friend is not allowing you to grow into the person you know you are capable of being, tell her that you no longer feel able to be a true friend to her.  You cannot be a true friend to someone you feel is harming you or holding you back.  If your past ten years has been filled with a good honest friendship then the best way to honor that relationship is to continue the respect and honesty with her, even if it hurts her, and even when it means saying good-bye.       


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