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To dump a long standing friend?

(14 Posts)
ChampagneTastes Mon 03-Mar-14 17:13:29

I genuinely don't know what is the right thing to do here. This is the background. I have a male friend who I have known since I was a teenager; we were great drinking buddies and he was good to me when I had a hard time at university. We lost touch after that but ten years on, the power of facebook reintroduced us. we met up a couple of times and it was clear that he hadn't really matured much since university (still drinking like a teenager; relationships with much younger women; tonnes of debt).

A few months after getting back in touch, he did something incredibly stupid and ended up in jail. He knows that it was stupid and completely deserved the sentence he received. The sentence ended a relationship and lost him a lot of friends. I in no way excuse what he did but I did stay in touch while he was inside as I felt that this is what you do for friends. E-mails between us started to suggest that he felt increasingly hard done by and was coming to the conclusion that his situation was not entirely his fault (it really really was). I didn't moralise to him but I didn't engage with that sort of conversation.

He has now been released and is settling back into life on the outside. I have caught up with him a few times just via email and chat and, honestly, I just don't like him very much any more. He's needy (which I guess is entirely understandable), boring and in some ways becoming a little unpleasant. My DH can't stand him but understands that he is a long standing friend.

On the one hand, it sounds like a no-brainer, but he's bound to have been affected by prison isn't he? And if people don't give him a second chance, he's just going to do something else stupid isn't he?

I'm not his only friend but I'm getting the impression that I'm one of the few who is a reasonably mature, level-headed influence. I realise I'm not his mum but I do feel I owe him a bit for university.

Seriously, I have no idea. Should I gently disengage? Be honest and tell him he's becoming unpleasant? Be a good friend regardless? Other people have walked away which has clearly hurt him terribly.

KittensoftPuppydog Mon 03-Mar-14 17:19:25

That's a difficult one. He's just been through a shit time albeit of his own making, he might just need a little help.
You could try the dog training method, ignore unpleasant behaviour, reward better behaviour with more attention.
He's not your responsibility, but you seem like a decent human being.

shoofly Mon 03-Mar-14 17:20:08

I think a really good friend is honest. If he can take your honesty on board it might be helpful to him - If he can't then he may disengage from you anyway.

humha Mon 03-Mar-14 17:20:28

You lost touch for many years which I think indicates the friendship wasn't and isn't that strong. It's generous of you to remember the things he did for you at uni but you can't pay for that for the rest of your natural.

I think you've already made your mind up (and who can blame you FFS). If you can do it in a diplomatic way, I'd at least give him something - explain that you can't condone his thinking regarding not accepting responsibility for what he did.

You can't change him and he sounds a pita. He has to come to the realisations that will make him change himself.

There is often a good reason why you don't manage to keep in touch with some people. Your lives have taken different paths and I wonder if you have much in common beyond a shared history. Perhaps you could just take a step back rather than dump him completely.

ChampagneTastes Mon 03-Mar-14 19:27:53

I do like the dog-training suggestion! That made me chuckle but there's some sense to it. I do also feel monumentally patronising (in the truest sense of the term) as if I'm doing him a massive favour by bestowing my wisdom and company on him.

You are all right of course, there are often good reasons for losing touch but then I lose touch with lots of people from university because I was a complete mess.

As for changing him - again, you are right, I can't change him. I suppose I'm hoping that these new personality traits are borne of the environment he's been in for the past few years.

It just makes me sad; he was a good friend to me and I do want to do the same for him but the only way I can see that happening is by being quite brutally honest with him. He wants to go for lunch at some point soon (he's pushing for me to bring DH but that's not going to happen). Should I accept? I'm leaning towards going but being prepared to say some things which might not go down too well.

By the way - thank you! I was fully expecting to be called a total bitch.

ASmidgeofMidge Mon 03-Mar-14 19:30:20

I think I would share your view - go, but be prepared to give some 'home truths'

SeaSickSal Mon 03-Mar-14 19:52:58

You will get plenty of people who have never actually known someone who has gone to jail telling you YABU.

I on the other hand have some personal experience of this and would say you are doing the right thing.

When people go to prison it's either not for something minor or it's not the first time they have done something wrong by a long chalk.

Often like your friend there are underlying issues like alcoholism, poor lifestyle, drugs, debt etc. (I'm deliberately not adding mental illness to this list, doesn't sound like this is an issue for him from what you've described). Also taking responsibility for what you've done is very important. Unless you feel that your friend is actively tackling the things that have led to this situation, and taking responsibility for what happened, you are right to cut off contact. If they're still in the spiral that led to them being jailed then there is a lot of truth in the belief that they can drag you down with them.

If someone is making a genuine effort to change and turn their life round then they will need the support of their friends and I would advise them to stay in touch. But it doesn't sound like this guy is in that situation at all. I would get rid.

ChampagneTastes Mon 03-Mar-14 20:08:26

Seasicksal I think you're right, and no, there are no mental health issues that I'm aware of. Most of his problems come down to alcohol and this is where I start to feel a bit guilty and like I "owe" him. When we were at university together he was the go-to guy to get drunk with; we had many an epic night that turned into the stuff of legend. He was always the one who drank that little bit more, who couldn't ever go to the pub and have a coke. But that was just who he was and no-one ever questioned it.

Towards the end of university (or at least towards the point at which he dropped out) he would tell me stories which I now realise were clearly demonstrating a real problem. He was blacking out but wouldn't admit it was anything to do with alcohol and had started lying about how much he drank.

The trouble is that I, like lots of his friends, enjoyed him when he was drunk - he was great fun! And that was supremely selfish. While I don't think I encouraged him as such, I certainly never discouraged him or showed any concern about his intake.

Ultimately he is his own person and his behaviour is his own responsibility but I do wish I had been a better friend earlier on.

likeneverbefore Mon 03-Mar-14 20:11:51

It would depend for me, on what he did and why.

But I can't really see myself wanting to be friends with someone who did something the justifiably resulted in a prison sentence who could not admit the wrongness of their actions.

likeneverbefore Mon 03-Mar-14 20:14:12

And I'm the most woolly bleeding-hear liberal out there.

For me it's not really about what he did (scratch the fact that I said it was) it's the fact that he sees himself as hard done by over it.

We all make mistakes - sometimes we just have to hold our hands up to them, not whine about it and make excuses.

innisglas Mon 03-Mar-14 21:46:40

Well alcoholics, though not alone in this, certainly have a problem in taking responsability for their actions and I think it would be kindness to your friend to tell what you think of his actions and refusal to take responsability.

missymayhemsmum Mon 03-Mar-14 21:47:09

Go out to lunch and be honest with him about how you feel. He's done his time and needs to get out there, grow up, stop feeling sorry for himself and start making a better fist of life, and as one of his oldest friends you'll be cheering him on. Either it'll sink in and have results or you'll have a massive row and he'll never speak to you again, in which case job done?

ChampagneTastes Tue 04-Mar-14 20:59:30

Right, I'm going to arrange lunch. See what happens. I'll let you know what happens!

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