The Pragmatic Aspie

Living well with Asperger's Syndrome

Fake Friend Real Friend

Friendships are great when they are mutually satisfying and respectful.

Several years ago I overheard a group of some of my female friends from our small town gossiping about another woman in our community. Like a good fly on the wall, I stayed rooted in my spot just around the corner from the ladies, trying ever so hard to figure out just who was at the end of their complaints. Geez, did this lady (whoever she was) drive them nuts! Apparently she was too loud, too nosey and too peculiar to put up with. The more they talked about her, the more familiar she became to me, but still, I had no solid clue about who she was until they started talking about the woman's family. From what they said I knew her husband was a professor just like mine was. I learned she had three daughters just like I did. It seemed she even came from the same hometown as I. And coincidences being coincidences, she was a writer, too. Who was this woman? Oh my... she was I! I was the person of their dislike! Imagine my stomach dropping to my feet when it dawned on me my friends were two-faced fakes. Ouch.

No matter how old we get, false friends can put deep scars on our hearts and big dents in our confidence. I have known this truth for as long as I have tried to make a friend or two, but each time I face it, I feel a sting. While psychologists report it is only natural to feel hurt when we are wronged, I still feel stupid for getting wronged so many times! It isn't easy forging friendships when you're Aspie, so maybe that's why it hurts so badly when I think I have a friend I don't really have. It doesn't really matter if it is natural to have a sorrowful reaction or just an Aspie response to be thwarted, lousy friends are just plain lousy people. At the end of the day, these types of people don't deserve our friendship and they surely don't deserve the power to harm us.

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Aspies need friends just like every other human being does, but because we are more liable to misread people's intentions and less able to figure out the nuances of interpersonal communications, we are more vulnerable to misguided friendships. My advice for keeping your circle of friends a happy and comforting bunch:

*Give carefully when you give your friendship to others. If someone blows you off or lets you down, quickly remind yourself that person was not a real friend in the honest sense of friendship. Therefore, they are neither worth your time nor your energy.

*Have realistic expectations when it comes to what you expect from people you would call friend. Change your expectations to keep yourself from wanting too much and from giving too much. Everyone has lives they have to attend to and no one can be everything for everyone.

*Be honest with yourself. If you feel you have more bad times than good times with another person, reassess the pros and cons of keeping the friendship alive. It may be time to end the relationship or it may be time to retune it until it becomes something better.

*Work on being resilient, telling yourself you will survive and in fact thrive, no matter if someone drops your friendship or decides they don't want to be your friend in the first place. In other words, don't let someone else's decision about a mutual friendship define whom you are or what you have to offer.

*Realize that some friends are casual once-in-a-while-going-out-to-lunch friends, some are deeper and more important caring friends, and most are somewhere in between. Don't expect all your friends to be as concerned about you on the same level.

It's normal to want a friend. Friendships are great when they are mutually satisfying and respectful. Enjoy people whenever you can, but take caution to never get lost in your desire for friendship.

 

Liane Holliday Willey, Ed.D., is an autism consultant, speaker, and author of books including Pretending to be Normal: Living with Asperger's Syndrome.

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