A tale of being loyal to people who are not loyal to us.

Friendship only exists where there is a reciprocal relationship

Some of us are very loyal friends. If you hurt our friends, we are quick to defend them and sometimes this means offending you. It is something we do sometimes expecting reciprocity. I will defend you because I know you will defend me whenever I need your defence.

In most cases, we go through life with the support and guidance of our friends and everything is fine. But there are some few cases when this loyalty bites us in the behind. There are times when we are loyal to people who are not loyal to us. There are times when we risk everything, our credibility, nonexistent resources etc for ‘friends’ who do not care about us. For those who only see us as disposable things. Who think we need them more than they need us. And because of this: they don’t think of us as equals. And thus, sometimes we discover the facts, the painful way.

I once considered person P a friend. Person P was a good person to me, and to others when they wanted. But there were a few concerns about P’s self centredness. Some people said that P was fond of claiming credit for things his friends did. That if you started something and went to P after starting, seeking their involvement, they would promise to be involved, do the bare minimum and then go around telling everyone they started that very thing and you were the one who joined later and now claiming to have started that very thing. P loved being famous. P loved being loved. The idea of being popular. P, they said could do anything, throw anyone under the bus for them to be loved.

I loved P. P was charismatic. P was charming. P was funny. P was the life of every party. Every time there was a rumour about P throwing someone under the bus, I defended P. I gave them the benefit of doubt. You can’t be serious, I said. I will hear from them. Maybe they are misunderstood. It can’t be true. P is lovely. P can’t do that. I went beyond defending P. I went to the extent of offending other people as a way to defend P. I was loyal to P.

I heard a lot about what P was saying about me. People always asked, P thinks you are shit, P tells people how needy you are, P says that you are worthless. P says your life is nothing without them. P says that you are clingey. That you have no spine. P is out there calling you a hate filled insecure person. Yet you defend P. Yet you love P. Yet you praise P. Did P bewitch you? What type of person are you? I didn’t listen to all the red flags. The people who meant well by showing me how P was throwing me under the bus, I ignored them. I unfriended them. How could they? Can’t they see how great a person P, is?

Then something happened. Although we had been friends, P had never occurred to me as someone I could date. As someone I could be romantically involved with. In fact, I told P too much about my romantic life. I loved P, just not romantically. But P was asking for something romantic. I loved P. But my love for them wasn’t, couldn’t be romantic. In any case, I was in a relationship that P knew about. I used to tell P everything anyway. With hindsight, I realise P didn’t tell me much.

It was a trying time. I couldn’t lie. I didn’t like P the way they wanted me to. I was concerned at how they would take the news. One evening, P kissed me without my consent. That was the line. P was crossing the line. I protested the invasion of my space, the sexual assault. I didn’t put it that way. But I made it known that I wasn’t available and would appreciate P respecting my will.

P didn’t take the rejection lightly. P started harassing my partner. P started harassing us. All the things we had done together as friends, P went about destroying. We had started a business together. It was a tiny young business. P sold their share to me at a ridiculous price. P wrote emails, made phone calls etc to our mutual friends lambasting me. Of course there was also the old audience some of which had told me before about P’s badmouthing.

I still loved P. I still thought P would come to their senses. My partner hated P. My partner couldn’t understand why I would not give up on a person who was vile to us. A person who wanted to destroy me and everyone around me. My partner couldn’t understand my defence of the humaneness of P. I told my partner things I knew about P’s childhood. The trauma that P carried around. I told my partner that P wasn’t hurting us so they could enjoy the pain we were going through. That P had no other way to engage human beings but to hurt them because their humaneness had been robbed of them. My partner didn’t want to know. Soon, they started saying that maybe I liked P in a romantic way. How could I not fight back? Not defend myself? Our relationship? Why didn’t I use all the private information, some of it damaging I knew about P to defend our relationship? P was busy creating non existent stories about me. About my partner. About our relationship. P even claimed to other people that I had cheated on my partner with them. My partner couldn’t understand.

My relationship survived the P hurricane but the scars were big. P eventually found other human beings to destroy. I stayed with the same old people, some of whom I had offended in the defence of P. People that didn’t hurt me, people I now knew had done no wrong to P. But because in my loyalty to P, I knew no Common sense, I had gone out of my way to offend whoever I felt did not like P, and me I guess. It has been a lot of work to first, seek audience with these people and second, to take them back to the past and third, to apologise without throwing blame at P.

It has been so much work but it is worth it. I have managed to build new friendships with some. I have failed to reach others. Some have no time for my apologies. But I am at peace with myself. I have moved on. And right after moving on, I am walking at some airport, towards the boarding gate for a connecting flight and there P is, smiling. You know that smile, I know you, it has been a long time, come and we hug. I move past them. I move past P. Of course I recognise this is P. Of course I remember how P’s face looks like. But for the first time in my life, I feign ignorance. I pretend that I haven’t recognised them. For a moment, I ask myself if indeed I have moved on. For another moment, I remind myself that I do not have the energy to invest, even in a smile with someone as deeply dishonest, as damaging, as selfish, as disrespectful as P. Friendship is important. But friendship only exists where there is a reciprocal relationship. It is human to have friends. Loyalty is golden. But remember, your friends must humanise you. There is no prize for suffering because your ‘friends’ are suffering from trauma you have nothing to do with. Friendship is not a salvation mission.

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