Can This Friendship Be Saved?

I had been ‘best friends’ with a guy I had feelings for since high school (about 14 years).   Finally we meet up, hung out like old times and I wanted to let him know that I had feelings for him. I wrote him an email letting him know that I had liked him but also told him that our friendship may change because I had “crossed the line”. Three weeks passed and I had not heard from him.  He finally told me that he was Bipolar (diagnosed at 10 years old) and that I probably would not want to talk to him anyways.    As time passed he started to become mean to me, had a nasty behavior, telling me one thing doing something opposite, picking fights, distant.. he would apologize when I would bring up to him but kept doing it. I later found that he started to have a substance abuse problem.  I would try to encourage him to go to talk therapy again that maybe he should get back on his meds. I was emotionally drained,not happy, not sleeping well, feeling like I had an obligation to be there for him.  It was exhausting and I later found myself questioning our now toxic friendship.  I may have said somethings that hurt him and he said things that hurt me but he didn’t even seem to really care or apologize.

I do care dearly about him and his well being because I miss the good times we’ve had but, I don’t want to put myself through that emotional strain again. I feel like he doesn’t even care. Or even care for himself for that matter. I miss him and our friendship together but, feel a slight guilt leaving him alone. I guess my question is:  Should I just leave our friendship alone and count it as a loss?  I feel like if he’s not taking care of himself I should just stay clear for my own emotional state.


This question seems to be a reoccurring theme in many of the questions we receive, and my answer will always be basically the same. Considering what you’ve told me: yes, you should just leave your friendship alone and count it as a loss. You should always put your own emotional health first. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to maintain a relationship with someone who is outwardly cruel and distant, toxic and otherwise unpleasant. While certainly some, if not most, of his negative behavior may be due to his bipolar diagnosis, you cannot change this person’s behavior by imposing guilt, returning the hostility, or by manipulation, or even by showering the individual with unanswered affection. If these tactics work, the result will only be temporary. He must decide he needs to change and take the steps necessary to control his bipolar mood swings as much as possible. Sometimes, as in the case of a parent dealing with a child who is suffering from bipolar disorder, it is not possible to withdraw totally. But even in a parent/child situation, the parent must do whatever they can to take care of their own emotional needs. If they too become “basket cases,” they won’t be available to help their child when help is most needed.

You’ve basically already answered your own question. You’ve showed that you had the ability to walk away and save your emotional health. Although you miss him and your friendship, it seems that there was much more pain than pleasure. You were correct to discontinue contacting him. Taking care of yourself and focusing on other friends are the best things you can be doing. Let the guilt go. You deserve one long and great emotional vacation!

3 thoughts on “Can This Friendship Be Saved?

  1. This post really hits home for me…I went through a similar situation where I was really good friends with a guy (whom I developed feelings for) but turned out he was bipolar. His illness never affected me but the problem was that he was a really poor communicator: while we were dating and even before that. Also, when we were dating, he never really defined our relationship. He said he wanted a long term relationship and wanted us to be exclusive & did lots of things to prove that, but then he wouldn’t treat me right: he would barely communicate with me, wouldn’t go out on dates, wouldn’t remember anniversaries, etc. etc. It came to a point where I was just holding on to the relationship simply because he was a great guy and because I really liked him. I finally got to a point where I could not take his behaviour anymore. I was not sure whether this rudeness was affiliated with his health or not, and I really did my absolute best to support him in whatever way I could, but at the end of the day, I was under more pain than pleasure. I found him talking to his friends on Twitter–even though he was ignoring me, and I finally broke up with him. I felt really guilty because it was a rash decision (even though the feelings & the thoughts have been building up for a while) and I gave him a second chance. I tried talking to him so many times and I feel like a loser for doing so now, but he in turn blocked me and I unfriended him…its sad that we seem to even have lost our friendship at this point, but sadly, sometimes that’s just the way life is. I did my absolute best to save this relationship: I texted him, emailed him, tried to meet with him, and even while we were together, I stuck around for a really long time even when he continued to treat me unfairly. Its hard at times, but reading the above response, I too have come to finally decide that I have a responsibility to my own well being as well. There will be tons of great friendships and relationships in the future, it sucks you won’t get to be even friends with this guy, but its no longer in your hands. Mental health can be really devastating, but sometimes, we just have to let go….even though we don’t want to. This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my life: I’m not a quitter no matter what I do…and especially since I really liked this guy. But at the end of the day, this is the choice I had to make and I wish both him, and your friend, the best in their journeys ahead. Good luck sweetheart! And I hope your heart heels soon!

  2. Interesting. I dated someone who was Bipolar 11 and kind of sensed it because I am also Bipolar 1. The thing is, that being with another supercharged human being can make you feel that you are the only (2) people in the world. We dated for 4 years, and I can honestly tell you, the first 2 years were like bliss intertwined with constant euphoria and excitement. We went on many vacations, bought expensive things and drank exotic wines and champaignes.
    I always say that you should watch how people treat other people in their lives (ie. family/ friends). It had yet to catch up to me yet.
    I started to notice a change in his cruelness to family members, as well as stealing from his own company, DUI, coming home with $100K and asking me to help him count it — NO GO!
    It was like his behavior changed on a switch — all those mean vicious comments he had saved for other people started being aimed towards me.
    Basically, I had enough and said, |I’m off this rollercoaster. Give me back my twoonie — see ya’ later (NOT).
    It took a couple of months to totally disengage. I moved to a new town and changed all my phone numbers. I am pretty good a disappearing, when I have to.
    I think, I hit a point where I realized that as soon as things had gone toxic, there was no way they were going to change back.
    I think the best judge of character, is to watch how people treat other people in their life.
    We were engaged, but oh well, as it turns out I was engaged a total of 5 times – never married though — always able to do the great Houdini.

  3. Once again I’ll start my comment with “interesting”….haha…but in my case, the guy was the sweetest person alive. He treated everyone around him with great respect (i.e. he accidentally said something mean to a friend of mine as a joke, and it wasn’t even that mean…something super casual and something which a normal person wouldn’t have apologized for, but he went to her the next day and apologized for his comment). Also, he loves his family–often times, he wouldn’t walk me back to the bus station because he had to help his sister put groceries away when she came back (not sure if this was just an excuse though), and he absolutely loved his nieces/nephews (i.e. always babysat them, he wore the braclet his niece made him out in public even though most guys his age would never do that etc.) He was a very respectful man, but I guess I just wasn’t being treated the way I needed to be…I needed at least some piece to hold onto in that relationship: sexually, emotionally, any way whatsover, but I was getting absolutely nothing…I really wanted to stay, I still wanna try and talk things out, but if he does not make any move…there’s nothing I can do anymore. No matter what, a relationship is a two way street, I can’t be doing all the work no matter an illness or not–I was prepared for the ups and downs, but still, I need him to show me he cares about me at least once in a while…and that just didn’t happen…sadly…what’s worse though, was that I lost a really good friend as well…but sometimes thats just how life is right? :-/

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