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casheroo's avatar

Does your past have any bearing on your present or future friendships?

Asked by casheroo (18021 points ) July 20th, 2009

I say friendship because I do believe it would come up during a relationship if it’s serious

I was discussing something with my husband, about my past with depression and when we were talking I told him how awkward it is when I bring it up with new friends.
This seemed to confuse him. In his own words he said “It has no bearing on if they are your friend. They like you for who you are not who you were. Being a friend doesn’t hinge on knowing everything about your past.”
Just some minor back story, I suffered from depression starting at age 14. I did a lot of terrible things, and was never myself. I finally was diagnosed with PTSD (after suffering agoraphobic episodes and what appeared to be bipolar episodes of mania and depression) because I was raped at 14 and never told anyone. At 14 I had tried to kill myself, and it was an even larger downward spiral from there.
By the time I met my husband, I had broken a lot of friendships and relationships because of my inability to cope with anything life dealt me, without having a complete breakdown. I could appear functioning for quite some time though.
Anyway, this occured from 14–20. I met my husband when I was 19, and he was the only man that tried to pull me out of the spiral and was there for me and looked past the flaws of my illness. He didn’t take my nastiness personally and fought against it for me.
I eventually just broke free of it, got the appropriate therapy and haven’t taken any medication for almost 3 years now!
For me, it was a major part of my life consisting of pretty much my entire adolescence, so it’s hard for me not to bring it up with new friends. But, my husband says I just need “justification or acceptance” of my past.
I don’t know how to feel about this. I feel when being friends with someone, that they should know it about me…my closest friends who were actually there for me during those times and even aquaintances that I have that know about it (friends since elementary school, don’t hang out with consistently) It was such a major event in my life, that I feel it has shaped who I am…and my husband does agree with that. He knows it has changed my view on a lot of aspects in life. It has also changed his since he was there for me through many doctor visits and therapy with me.

Is this something that doesn’t need to be brought up ever? Is the past just the past and insignificant? Am I being a “bleeding heart”, as my husband calls me, about the situation?

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30 Answers

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

of course they do.

our past is what determines our future. Someone who’s had shitty friends their entire lives will be less likely to trust a new one. and the same rings true for the opposite. To say what’s already happened to us doesn’t effect who we are today is almost naive

wildpotato's avatar

I think that one’s past certainly has a bearing on present and future relationships/friendships. I have Tourette Syndrome (which affects most people, including me, in their under-18 years), and I tell friends and even casual acquaintances this when I feel it’s pertinent information such as today, when a co-worker said that it is a funny thing to have because it makes you swear out loud. If I don’t tell people that I’m coming from an informed perspective when they say things like this, they won’t listen when I tell them that they are (for the most part) wrong.

But then again, I tend to over-share things about myself, a consequence of having Tourette Syn, actually, and part of why I love fluther so maybe this is in fact inappropriate behavior. I would say that if you trust your new friend, you ought to tell him or her that you were once depressive if you feel it is or was a part of who you are. After all, you should be able to share all of yourself with your friends.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Your former life situation is not something I’d go into details about in the early stages of a friendship. Gradually, as you and a new friend become more open and share with each other, you can mention you had a hard time with depression and PSTD, but you were able to do something about it. Then, as your new friend becomes an old, good friend, they can know more details. What you went through is important, it did shape your life, but your husband is also right that it doesn’t have to be THE thing that defines you. The past is prologue, as the saying goes. Who you are now is what attracts (and keeps) friends.

No worries, though. When a friend does come to learn of your challenges and how you’ve overcome them, they won’t be able to help but admire you more.

Bri_L's avatar

Who we were is part of what made us who we are. There are certainly times where it is appropriate to talk about it.

Then there are times to celebrate your new position in life, 3 years free (congrats! I have yet to pull that off) and doing fine.

I don’t believe it is an all or nothing situation.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Some information is on a need to know basis, and this should come out in bits and pieces, as needed, not all at once. It’s easy to lead with difficult information about ourselves, which can have the same effect as saying, “You don’t want to be my friend, do you?” Then when they back off, the old feelings are confirmed. Which is unfair to the person that attracted them.

I find friends who have overcome personal difficulties to be attractive to me, and inspirational, but I would want to have the information shared in the context of a relevant discussion, and not be one of the things that a person tells me right off the bat that defines who they are.

I agree with @aprilsimnel, the past is the prologue.

casheroo's avatar

@PandoraBoxx True. I don’t just blurt it out, I usually hang out quite a few times then talking about high school is when it usually comes up, if the topic even comes up at all.

figbash's avatar

I also agree with April. I think you can let that stuff out little by little and in response to what you think the person can handle and whether or not they’re in your closest circle of friends.

Usually in general company, a simple “I’ve had a pretty significant history with depression” should suffice. If you mention PTSD, it’s immediately going to make the person wonder why you have it and prompt other questions that can make things get really intense, really quickly.

I’ve also found that some people just don’t know what to say, how to respond or become overwhelmed with that information. Because of my crazy history, I often have to judge how much to let out, to whom and when.

While your history defines why you relate to people in the way you do, ultimately, those details aren’t totally significant. People are just experiencing how you relate to them, which often will stand on its own.

prude's avatar

yes, I would think so.
I tend to keep my friends at a distance

rooeytoo's avatar

Sometimes when I told people about my past, they would come out with the “that was then, this is now” line or some other phrase that would in my mind, diminish the trauma. No one can understand how my past affected me because they haven’t endured it and because different people have different tolerance or coping levels.

So I am careful what I say.

It is also true for me, that the further removed I am from my past, it is having a lessening effect on my present. I learned that once I have acknowledged the situation I can become a spectator to it instead of a victim of it. So the need to share is becoming less.

In times of stress, it is more likely to rear up and try to bite me again, but I am better now at dealing, just say to myself, oh shit, here we go again, but know that it won’t kill me or make me crazy and that this too shall pass.

If I really need to share, I go to a meeting of like people and open up there.

I am not saying, this is the only way to go, I just want to share what works for me.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

no, I don’t agree with your husband. certain things, certain major things must be revealed to me or it will and has created problems in my relationships.

Facade's avatar

My babe is pretty much my only actual friend. Like the OP, I’m dealing with depression. I don’t really think that has any influence on my friendships. But it does cause me to not want to go find people to befriend. Especially since I have yet to meet anyone who I can stand to be around. The people I know have all the qualities and mindsets that I dislike. So, there ya go.

dannyc's avatar

No, you feel a certain way, and can express it. That honesty will buoy your real friends to love you more. The phonies will be weeded out who are just there for their social calendar and the niceties they have carved out in their plastic lives. Real friends are real, not plastic and will appreciate your struggles, even thrive and learn from it.

DrBill's avatar

The person you are today is a sum total of everything that has ever happened to you, including every decision you have made, good or bad.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Putting your stuff out there when you first meet someone is akin, in my opinion, to dumping on them. @casheroo‘s concern seems to be how much to reveal to new friends and when to do so. Although if I’m wrong, then, yes, of course, a good friend doesn’t flee or become a fair-weather friend when you reveal such things about your past.

Consideration for others is why I keep my stuff to myself until I know a new-ish friend better. I recognize that there may be times when such discussions are called for with people one has just met, but those times are few and far in between.

ShanEnri's avatar

Maybe bring it up if you become really close friends. Otherwise I wouldn’t worry about telling anyone else.

vegelizabeth's avatar

yes, i strongly do.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Well, I don’t load up my new friends with my troubles. I make friends in the oddest of circumstances, though. I’ve always sought out unusual people for friendship, simply because I have an ‘out there’ sort of personality. If they gain my trust, I’ll tell them about my past. It just depends upon how much they want to know.

But you know, after having some new people claim to be my friends a couple of years ago, and then having them dump me like cold ashes out of a charcoal grill, I don’t really seek out friends anymore. They will find me if they want to. The depression I suffer from is a part of that recent betrayal.

My newest friend is a giant bear of a man, an ex Marine, and he is fucking huge, and little ol’ me earned his respect simply by sharing my appreciation and thanking him for his service in the military. I feel pretty damn proud to be the only person (according to him) to step up and thank him for his service in Viet Nam. I only did it because I do it for all the veterans I meet, and I gained a friend out of it. I can only imagine how it must have been to come home from VN and be called all the names that those war protesters threw around back in the day.

If you don’t appreciate our military men and women, then get out of the country, you don’t deserve to be here. You don’t have to support the war, but you better appreciate the sacrifice these folks make for us everyday.

augustlan's avatar

I’m like you cash… an open book. I will tell just about anyone just about anything if it’s relevant to the discussion at hand. I don’t go out of my way to tell new people about my past, but if it comes up I am very honest about it. If it scares people off, then fuck ‘em. :P

loser's avatar

Every relationship I’ve had is like a building block that helps make up who I am.
Plus, my past is great for knowing what NOT to do!!!

cyndyh's avatar

I think if he’s trying to tell you that you don’t have to reveal everything really soon—that’s one thing. I think if he’s trying to tell you that “never” is a good time to tell friends about these things—that’s something completely different.

Some friends are going to be closer than others. Maybe you should trust yourself when you feel uncomfortable talking about it. Maybe that time has not yet come with that person.

There are times when certain things come up and it would be sort of unfair to not disclose something if it’s clear it would make a difference to the discussion. But I think you can get a feel for what’s enough information without spilling everything when a general category would do at the time.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

The Jerry Garcia Rule states: “Keep it as high as you can, for as long as you can.” For most people, the explanation of “I suffered a traumatic experience in my early teens, that made my high school years an extremely painful and difficult period. Fortunately, life has improved dramatically since then.” should suffice.

I agree with @cyndyh, there will be times when bits and pieces of information will naturally need to be disclosed, as your experiences are relevant to the discussion.

OpryLeigh's avatar

Because of my past I have serious trust issues. I constantly believe that even my most dear loved ones are going to hurt me. Most of these people have proved me wrong time and time again (and the ones that proved me right are no longer in my life) but I still can’t bring myself to trust anyone. I am scared of people and what they are capable of.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@Leanne1986 I understand where you are coming from, but you will learn to trust others, eventually, and therapy usually helps. Good luck and hugs from someone who has been there, and still is that way, up to a point.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra thank you for those kind words :)

MerMaidBlu's avatar

First of all, congratulations on dealing with everything so well. There are so many things in life where “the past is the past” comes to mind, however, the depression was a major part of your life and it has effected everything in your life as it is now and I’m sure it will effect things in your future life. Although I wouldn’t dwell on the subject or tell someone you have just met the whole story right off the bat I don’t think it’s something to never mention again.

The things in my past that I have to deal with everyday cause me trust issues with friends and family. I also feel like I’m being rude if I walk in front of someone thanks to a controlling ex husband-that one branches to something similar to a novel of past experiences I have to deal with everyday.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Mine does. My closest longtime friends have been through a lot with me and they have sometimes been my subtle but fair references when a new person comes into my life. It’s uncomfortable when a new intimate person is curious about hardships in my life and I tend to disclose to them more gingerly than with my platonic friends. Too much information, not enough information, getting testy about need-to-know-basis information- wow, it’s really rough at times.

Shamone_Styles's avatar

I think it does to a certain extent. I had a whole lot of friends who were bad influences in my life when I was younger. However we can always change our future for the better. If you run with wolves you will learn to howl, but if you associate yourself with eagles you will learn to soar to great heights. If the company you keep around you is bad then why not change it up a little and find friends who will benefit your life instead of hurt it? Some friends in life will not want you to succeed and try to keep you down where they are – here is where you must ask yourself are these your real friends? So you must do what you have to do and sometimes that may mean leaving those behind who would rather see you fall. Fast, present, future – People come and go out of our lives and they are put there for a reason whether it be to test you or to better you. When it all comes down to it, it is you who controls your path in life from the decisions you make on which way to go.

avvooooooo's avatar

Absolutely the past experiences you have affect the present and future. They help you learn who you can trust with what and how much to share. They also help you to know that some people that might try and reconnect, unless they’ve had a personality transplant, aren’t worth it. I think we can be guided by our past experiences without being ruled by them. When you let the past control the future would seem to me to be the only time when its really a problem. Bringing up your past, sharing with others, is a part of getting to know people. I think that its not something that needs to be discussed early on or in a superficial type friendship, but that if you feel its relevant to the friendship and people understanding where you’re coming from, its your choice to bring it up.

russian123's avatar

I think that as far as our maturity & understanding levels, our pasts do totally affect the present. However, our choices are not a result of our past. There always is an influence and mind set that comes from what you went through, but who you are today is who you choose to be.
I had quite a shitty past too & this is how i view it all.. :)

AnonymousWoman's avatar

(I’ve only read the question and description)

You remind me of myself and how I used to be. I used to feel like every friend I had should know everything about who I was before. I felt like it was only fair.

I’ve now decided that I was wrong, that that attitude encouraged me to live in the past, and that that attitude prevented me from healing completely.

We all have a past, but that doesn’t mean we have to keep picking at old wounds over and over and over again. (My best guy friend helped me realize this).

Think about it. When you get a physical wound, do you talk about it over and over again with every person you meet or do you accept that… hey, it’s healed now, so why make a point of reliving it over and over again by going back there and “picking at the old wound” to make sure your body still accepts you?

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