Seven years ago, I met a person on the Internet, and we hit it off instantly. We were the same age, had all the same interests, and we quickly developed a strong rapport. A few years ago, we even started collaborating on a comic book of sorts- he drawing the pictures and I working on the dialog. It was this summer that this friend and I actually met for the first time- he was just out of high school and went on a trip to visit people around the country, my house being one of his several stops. I was excited beyond words to finally have the opportunity to meet my cyber chum, and I spent days scrubbing the house from floor to floor and coming up with fun activities for us to do together. And then he arrived…despite my sincerest efforts to play the perfect host, my friend proved to be antisocial and uncommunicative (sometimes not even responding to my questions), spending 95% of his time here either on my computer or sleeping. When he left, I was utterly heartbroken. And then, when I read the assessment of the trip that my friend posted on his website, my sadness quickly turned to hatred. He had glowing, wonderful things to say about everyone he had visited, but when it came to me, all he mentioned was how uncomfortably humid my house was and that my town was “quaint.” It was at this same time that my friend submitted our comic book to a publication company without even telling me about it (he wanted to be published more than anything in the world). I tried to talk with him on this matter, but he wouldn’t respond to my e-mails or messages. After a week, I became so enraged by his silence that I contacted the publishing company and told them that the comic had been submitted without my authorization, and I would not allow it to be published. A few days later, however, after a great deal of thinking, I came to regret my action, and I wrote a lengthy apology to my friend, mentioning what I had done with regard to contacting the publishing company. After his week of silence, he instantly became extremely vocal, bombarding my inbox with letter after letter littered with curses and profanities and such statements as “How could you!?” and “You ruined my life!” only ceasing when I told him that I had withdrawn my statement to the publishing company. That was the last I heard from him, five months ago, and even now it haunts me. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what happened. There are days when I feel guilty for what I did, and other days I feel angry for not having done more. But I just can’t go on living like this. The event has left me emotionally battered and torn. Part of me still wishes to renew that friendship that we enjoyed for over seven years, and another part of me wants nothing to do with this person who so easily cast aside those seven years for the sake of his driving ambition. I’ve attempted to just forget about him, but the memories always come back, and I’ve already tried to apologize, only to have it thrown back into my face. I just don’t know what to do…
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Here’s something to do. Read a book about assertiveness. By failing to acknowledge your joint contributions to the comic book and by acting like a passive-aggressive moron, your ‘friend’ succeeded in pissing you off. Your response to these feelings of “hatred” and abandonment was to take an aggressive action which provoked a further aggressive action on his part, which in turn frightened you into passivity. So now you’re teetering between wanting to appease this guy and being angry at him. His apparent lack of maturity is not helping the situation. Your ambivalence about how you feel about what has happened is a sort of boundary issue. By this I mean to say that you are having difficulty setting limits on bad behavior expressed towards yourself, perhaps because you are frightened of being alone or losing closeness. This is normal enough, but what you haven’t learned yet, perhaps is that you do not gain respect by allowing people to tromp on your rights. Instead, you gain contempt. You cannot appease your way into a friendship. If someone takes advantage of you and will not apologize, you are really very much better off writing the guy off than trying to make repairs. But this sounds like a pat answer, I’ll bet. You have to live this sort of thing to realize why it is true. Go to your local library and find a good book about being assertive with people. “Your Perfect Right” is the classic volume, but there are many that will do. Then think again about what has happened to you in light of what you learn in the book and see if you feel a little better.