Note: Since publishing this, I’ve received a lot of criticism in Facebook groups. I think it’s because I make some assumptions about the details of Andy and Erin’s relationship, which may or may not be true. I admit that the blog is more of a hypothetical exploration than the one true interpretation. I wrote it to help me process some things in my own life. So, instead of fact checking it, maybe just think of it as a creative retelling. Hey, no one got mad at the author of “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs.” I suggest reading the blog post as an opinion piece based on my personal experience with the backdrop of the boat debacle as a loose metaphor. The point of this point is this, and only this: You may be hurt when friends with chronic illness or depression withdraw from you, but you must not take it personally. If the relationship is worth fighting for, you must take on the role of initiator as long as the other person continues to be receptive and kind. End of story. That’s not to say you shouldn’t comment with your constructive opinion about the Erin-Andy storyline, but I just want you to know where I’m coming from.
Last June, I wrote a blog post about what a good friend Erin Hannon would be in real life. To my surprise, it was extremely popular. I think it’s because it was controversial – at least half of the comments I received in Facebook groups disagreed with me.
While I am obviously pro-Erin, I would like to write about one of Erin’s major flaws: not being assertive. If she were more assertive, I actually think she could have saved her relationship with Andy Bernard while he was on his boat trip.
How Many Times did Erin “Radio” Andy?
That information is unknown. What we do learn from Erin’s talking head after Andy finally returns is that he emailed her four times.
At no point did Erin say she contacted Andy and he ignored her. If this had occurred, don’t you think she would have mentioned it? I mean if someone ignored my communication, I would be going ballistic and telling the camera crew exactly what happened.
I’m assuming that she wasn’t persistent with Andy. Otherwise, her talking head would have been different.
When Loved Ones are Lost at Sea
Think of what you’d lose out on if you demanded reciprocation for everything: a relationship with your chronically-ill bedridden daughter, a relationship with your deeply depressed friend, a relationship with your forlorn parents who are coming to terms with your sister’s chronic pain. Oddly specific, I know. Obviously, I am well-acquainted with one-sided relationships.
So is my husband. He’s frequently in a situation where he’s the one initiating things with friends and they hardly ever initiate things with him. However, unlike me, my husband doesn’t demand reciprocation nor cut ties with anyone who doesn’t meet his expectations.
I admire my husband for this. It’s not an easy thing to do. Like Erin, I take things personally and stop initiating things with friends because I feel abandoned by them. It’s not surprising that Erin has this tendency – she probably has abandonment issues because she was an orphan who was never adopted.
Being the Anchor During Difficult Times
In my opinion, a sign of strength is taking on the role of initiator when your friend or significant other is physically limited or depressed.
Andy certainly fell into the category of depressed when he sailed away, leaving Erin behind. It’s no wonder he didn’t ask Erin to join him – he wasn’t in his right mind and he’s typically not the brightest crayon in the box anyway. I’m willing to bet that if Erin had expressed her desire to join him and his brother, Andy would have said yes.
I find it really weird that Erin didn’t speak up, but then again, that’s who Erin is – a people pleaser who doesn’t want to rock the boat.
Erin knows Andy is dumb. “It’s a girlfriend’s job to know her boyfriend and Andy is seriously juvenile.” So why wasn’t she more explicit in communicating that she wanted to join him on his boat trip?
I Admit, I Would Have Jettisoned Andy
Without a doubt, I would have dumped Andy if I was in Erin’s shoes. However, that doesn’t mean it was the right thing to do at that particular time.
If Erin had been persistent with Andy while he was away, then yes, she should have broken up with him when he returned. However, if she gave up after a few attempts, then she was part of the problem. In other words, Andy’s lack of communication, alone, wouldn’t have warranted a breakup. Other things he did before that? Probably, but that’s not what we’re discussing here.
Regardless of whether or not Erin should have dated Andy to being with, I do think she should have made several attempts to contact him on his boat trip even if she had to always be the initiator. She knew Andy was a child and he was in emotional turmoil. However, she was unwilling to push herself out of her comfort zone to keep the relationship afloat, which would have been the right thing to do considering she didn’t intend to break up with him at that point.
Depending on the nature of the relationship and how long you’re having to pick up the emotional slack, you may have to eventually cut ties, but only after you’ve put in an honest effort.
What do You Think?
If you have a friend, family member or significant other who has withdrawn from you due to personal issues in their own life, and they’ve otherwise been a positive influence in your life, have you been brave enough to continue to reach out to them, or have you been resenting them?