The Bad Weather Friend

We all know about fair weather friends. We’ve had them, been them. We all have the the friend who is only a friend when times are good, fun, easy, carefree. Then life happens, the going gets tough and the fair weather friends throw up their deuces and are nowhere to be seen.

That’s not what I am.

I’m a bad weather friend. The friend you call when life gives you lemons. The friend you message when you’re broken-hearted, hurting, in need of some kind. I’m not the only friend like this, I don’t begin to be so prideful as to assume that, and I’m not always as available as I’d like to be during the storm. But us, the bad weather friends, we’re the ones in the background, the ones deep in the message inbox because your life has been going well and you haven’t needed us.

I used to resent it, being a safe place. “Don’t tell Betty Sue,” you’d plead to me, “She has no idea I’m going through this.” A week later I’d see you on social media out to dinner with Betty Sue, at the movies with Betty Sue, with nary an invite for me, the person you trusted in your state of vulnerability. “Please help me,” your message would start, “I don’t know what to do.” The next week I’d see the read receipt on my lengthy and well-thought-out response, the words I prayed over and poured into, and see that you’d read them days before without thanks. “I desperately need your prayers,” you cry, “my life is in shambles and I’m terrified of what is to come.” I hold you, cry with you, pray with you, and plead on your behalf at the feet of God, to hear through the grapevine later that everything worked out fine. This hurt me. I felt used, discarded, like a friend of convenience. I was who you turned to in times of need but not times of leisure, someone you knew would be a friend to you but not someone you were interested in being a friend with. I got bitter. I got discouraged. I got jealous.

Then I had to wonder – why would God honor my jealousy? Isn’t there totally something in the Bible about not being jealous? Whatever my experiences and emotions, jealousy is never holy or righteous on my part. Whatever Betty Sue has with you that I don’t, it’s not okay to be jealous of. Because you know what? Betty Sue obviously doesn’t have something that I do. Betty Sue may be fun and may get all the girls nights out, but she doesn’t get you at your worst, she isn’t who you turn to when you need someone you know will be there. Also, Betty Sue is a lot more available to go to the movies than I am – I don’t have childcare or spare cash lying around, so I’m glad you have Betty Sue. I couldn’t maintain the friendship that you and Betty Sue have even if I wanted to, so I’m happy to be your person, happy to keep your secrets and know sides of you that few others do. As for the unreturned messages, well, I’m glad you got them. Those words were for you and I hope they helped. I didn’t offer my help in exchange for thanks, and I’m sure that in the moment you read them you were experiencing the chaos you first messaged me about. Your life was obviously upside down in one way or another, so I couldn’t have expected you to behave as normal. You messaged me in desperation and probably read my replies in the same manner… or you just really hated what I had to say, haha! And when I prayed for you I didn’t do so to gain an invitation into your life. Yes, I would really like to hear the good news, or any news, to follow up and know how you are, because I’m genuinely concerned. But I also understand that I’ve just seen you at your worst – I know your deep, dark shames, I’ve seen you heave and snot and wail. I know about your husband’s infidelities and your boss’ activities, your addictions, your failings, your criminal record. I know things that you wish others didn’t, so it has to be hard to feel comfortable around me sometimes, when things are good and you don’t want to look in the eye of someone who knew you when they weren’t.

On any given morning, I wake to about 10 messages in my inbox, not including invitations to check out whatever direct sales company my friend has joined. It varies from car seat and cloth diaper advice to marital problems, mental health issues, secret cancer scares, legal problems, and more. I receive texts from many others. On any given day, I will most likely not be able to meet these friends for lunch, go out to eat, see a movie, or come hold them in their living rooms. But what I can do, what I can offer them, is being their bad weather friend. I don’t always know what to say and I don’t always have an answer, but they do always have a friend. They always have someone they know they can reach out to, and how humbled I am that they know it’s me. I could feel petty and jealous that they didn’t invite me to dinner, or I can feel honored that they did invite me into their struggles. I can marvel that sometimes after years have gone by without a word, someone will think of me when they need something, when they need encouragement or advice, and know that I’m the person they want. Because my friendship isn’t for sale – you don’t have to buy it with nights out or mani/pedi days or even “likes” on a Facebook post. I’ll keep doing my life and you’ll keep doing yours, and I’ll be happy to help each time you need me to. Besides, it’s just not possible to be best friends with every single person we know.

So we thank you, friends, we bad weather ones who are waiting in the wings. We thank you for trusting us, for turning to us. We thank you for your confidence you share with us and the confidence you place in us. Most likely you come to us because you know we will be there, because something in us wants to be there. We want to help, you’re not a bother. We’d like an update when you can manage and we’d like to share in some of your good times as well, but if we don’t get it we’re still happy for you. Sometimes, just sometimes, we may ask of you what you’ve needed of us – please don’t run. Sometimes we need a safe place, too. Sometimes we need a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes protecting everyone’s secrets gets heavy and we just need someone to sit with. Sometimes we really, really want to go out to dinner, too. So I ask, friends, on behalf of all the bad weather friends, don’t forget about us until you need us. Let us be all-weather friends. We may not be Betty Sue, but we’re here for you, we care about you, and we’re cheering you on from wherever you’ll let us.

Author: Jen

I am the wife of an insanely hot husband and the momma of three precious and exhausting kiddos. I have been given way more than I could ever deserve and I really love naps.

3 thoughts on “The Bad Weather Friend”

  1. Hi! I found your article on this site, and was intrigued by your story of being a ‘bad-weather friend.’ I can only imagine the disappointment you feel when those so-called “friends” don’t call you when things are going well in their life. I am sure it makes you feel like you’re on the backburner. May I share a strange situation I am in? I don’t even know if there is a term for it. It’s not quite “fair-weathered friend” and neither it is “bad-weathered friend.” I have a long time friend, let’s name her H. For years, H and I have chatted and texted and email very regularly. In the recent months, I noticed that H is getting less and less responsive to my correspondence, and it has always been me who initiates the correspondence. Lately, it feels like a very one-sided friendship. So I decided to take a step back and see if there is a pattern. There IS a pattern: H seems to be very very attentive and caring ONLY when things are not going well in my life. But when my life is going well, H disappears. Now, I’d like to be clear about one thing – I haven’t changed my frequency of correspondence with her, and this has no correlation to whether my life is going well or not. My habits remain the same. It seems like H actually *prefers* to see me unhappy/miserable so she can join me for company. But when I am in a healthy place in my life, it’s almost as if she feels she can’t relate to me anymore and quietly disappears. Which makes me wonder… does she not want to be around when I am happy? Am I imagining things, or are there such people like that?

    1. There are absolutely people like that, I’m so sorry.

  2. Hi Jen! I really enjoyed reading this blog and was so able to relate to every word. I’ve got my own experiences with this, and I hope I don’t come off as too harsh or disillusioned, as I’ve become a cynic in my middle age 😉 I myself was the Baddest-A** True-Blue “Bad Weather Friend” one could ask for, and I never gave it a second thought for a minute. You mentioned here that you felt some resentment or “jealousy” earlier in life for not being brought more into the “Betty Sue” fold, and that you later came to appreciate your role as you matured. For me, ironically, it was exactly vice-versa. Earlier in my life, I appreciated and embraced my role as “Go-To Girl,” or “Crisis Chick,” and I felt honored for friends who seemed to value my willingness to listen; be empathetic; offer helpful perspectives; and even at times provide “pick-me ups.” ( I come from an upbringing in which these things were in short supply, so as I grew I felt the call to offer those very things to others who were in need) Years could go by without a word from these friends, and no matter, I’d still be happy to hear from them! And then some years ago my health took a crummy turn and life started “getting real,” which created unavoidable dynamic shifts. Particularly in the past five years I came to see the true colors of many – if not all – of the individuals to whom I’d always unquestioningly “been available” without want of return. And a disheartening pattern started becoming evident: one of these “friends,” for example, failed to reach out to me when I was taken to the hospital following a car crash, and I also discovered at that time that they were attempting to establish a secret relationship with my spouse (MY SPOUSE quickly brought it to my attention!). Another told me what a “good friend” I was for having been so supportive following the death of their partner. Until one day I felt ill and tired and had no energy to talk and politely told them so when they texted – hours later they posted a FB status about me (omitting my name of course), ridiculing me and inviting others to do the same. This clarified my “importance” to this person (Funny enough they came crawling back months later when no one else was available to baby them through their latest emergency-du-jour; and for the record, I coolly brushed them off). Another “friend” came to me regularly to lament the “travesties” of their life, to cry, and to ask me for advice. This same “friend” also refused to let us spend the night after a blizzard started during dinner, because they didn’t want us “messing up the living room.” Their spouse insisted that we stay, following a screaming match between the two of them, or we would have been tossed into blinding white-out at sub-zero temperatures many miles from home. (It had also come to my attention that this same individual would laugh with and complain to others about the advice I’d *at their request* given them). And still another, who claimed to “treasure” our longtime “friendship” and always called or texted me to moan about “the nightmare that was their life” …. refused to attend a loved one’s funeral – they too knew the deceased – and then months later invited everyone in my immediate family for the holidays except for my spouse and me. There are numerous other examples I can add, but I won’t pound my point! 😐 Over a period of years it became painfully clear that most of the people whom I’d believed to greatly “value” me as a person for my “gifts,” really didn’t value me as a person at all. They were simply mining me as a resource, and had no care whatsoever for my needs, my feelings, my well-being, or even for my *safety* If anything, it appears that some of them had tacit contempt, which I only discovered during extenuating circumstances, or when quote-on-quote, “life got real.” Like you mention in your blog, I neither had any specific expectations of return for being the “Bad Weather Friend.” It was just what I did. Not having special expectations is one thing. I can, have, and do put aside expectations of people. It’s really a necessary part of life. Another thing entirely, though is the fact that such “friends” would gladly …. shame me when I “can’t deliver”; ridicule me on social media; attempt to destroy my relationships with others; leave me stranded outside at night in the middle of a blizzard; or exclude me from a family party months after a loved one’s death, while making sure I knew about the party. Those things I won’t ignore, and as you can imagine, I’ve methodically pruned these folks from my life. I don’t get nearly as many texts, emails, or phone calls as I once did, but the space I live in is much more peaceful, the interactions I have are much more meaningful, and my handful of close relationships consist more of give-and-take. I have to apologize if I sound like a downer on this topic. It seems to me as though your experiences have been more favorable, and for that you’re fortunate. But well into my forties I’m finding that in all my relationships, it’s important to me that the people I’m giving my precious energy to are as concerned for my well-being as I am for theirs. I just refuse anymore to stand for anything else. Thank you Jen for your thoughtful and compassionate blog. I am wishing you continued luck with your life and family. -Hollie

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