The idea of a “friend” is loosely tossed around these days. When someone says, “Let’s just be friends,” that means a lot more than, “Let’s not be lovers any more.” To me, it means that they want to share something with me that is sacred, safe and respectful. But something seems to have been lost in translation.

I stopped seeing a man I had dated for a month or so when he began to speak abusively to me and to disregard my feelings if they differed from his. When I pulled back and refused to see him any longer, he begged and pleaded to be “friends,” but from my point of view, that was impossible.

Isn’t a friend someone who doesn’t judge you, who has your back, who cares about how you feel and with whom you share honesty and respect? In my world, a friend shows up when I need him or her, listens to what I have to say, tries to see a situation from my point of view, and tells me what he or she honestly thinks or feels. And tells me the truth about themselves.

I recently unfriended on Facebook both the man mentioned above and a girlfriend who had been angry and offensive and had lashed out for quite a long time. In keeping with their individual personalities, he began to bombard me with texts, emails, and new friend requests, begging to be taken back (I was suddenly a conquest for him once again), and she went into denial and made snide comments on my email, denying her anger and her negative behavior. What they had in common was their perception that they were being victimized and misunderstood and I was the culprit. I guess I took so long to step away from both of them, when I finally did it, they were both stunned and felt wronged. They did no introspection to see why I had done what I did, and they both came out swinging. I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt. It did. But relief is the overriding feeling I have now. My advice for myself is to stop putting up with so much bad behavior and demand more respect and tenderness from anyone I decide to call a friend.