Friendship filter. Am I being unreasonable, and if not, how do I go about talking to my friend about her hurtful behavior? (warning: long.)
posted by egeanin to human relations (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've been close friends with "Beth" for the last three years. We were briefly college roommates, who lost touch after graduation but then reconnected a few years later. She's definitely my best friend on this coast, and we've often referred to each other as such. But Beth is a highly anxious, highly defensive person, prone to breakdowns and massive panic attacks. She also has a very biting side to her that come out when she imagines that she's being attacked, even if she isn't.
In contrast, I tend to be really straightforward when I feel something is wrong, wanting to sit down and talk it out as soon as possible, until some sort of resolution can be had that makes both parties feel better. I know this approach doesn't work for everyone, but it is the best way I know how to resolve problems. The few times Beth and I have had conflict the last few years, my desire to "talk things out" has been met with a highly emotional response from her, as she feels attacked by the slightest criticism and thus goes into "attack mode." She will hang up on me or say I'm manipulating her or that my genuinely sincere desire to resolve things is just me trying to "crucify her."
I also have been pretty lucky in work and life these past three years, which has led to some resentment from her end, much as I try to downplay these good things when I'm with her.
I've been a very good friend to Beth, being the person she speed-dials whenever she has a family or boyfriend dilemma, which is almost weekly. I can't remember the last time she hasn't started a chat by bringing up her "really rough day/week/month." A lot of this is exacerbated by her disliking her part-time job that just barely pays the bills, and by her own low self esteem. If she had a therapist, I have no doubts she would be better off, but she can't afford one.
I am a very low-maintenance friend, everyone agrees. I don't ask for much from any of my friends, and am always a reliable "go-to" person for trips to the airport, being a shoulder to cry on, always attend their social functions, etc. But there is one thing I'm high maintenance about, and it's that my three closest friends spend a couple hours with me on my birthday.
I know that seems childish, but I always ask a month in advance if they can make it, and am happy to rearrange timing or locations in order to be easier for them to make it. For my birthday last year Beth said she couldn't come to a birthday brunch I was hosting for just my closest girlfriends, due to having to babysit. I was really upset and we fought about it, and she said some really hurtful things to me. It kind of ruined the day.
A few months ago boyfriend told me he wouldn't be around for my birthday this year due to a college reunion he couldn't miss, and I was initially upset, but eventually chilled out about it. Beth knew how upset I was about him not being there and even said herself that it "was not cool, he knows how important it is to you." So I assumed she would try to make an effort to be there this year.
Wrong. This year I asked Beth a month in advance if she could join me for lunch on my birthday (a Sunday.) Again, she told me (without any apology) that she "made plans to babysit that day." I hoped she'd say "I'm really sorry to miss it, but let's get a drink that evening together" or something to make up for it, but she said nothing. Trying to be a bigger person and avoid the conflict we had last year, I said "well, I guess it's not that big a deal." And she said, "No, it really ISN'T. I'm sure there will be plenty of people around that day to celebrate you." I was stunned, and then she said she was getting another call and basically hung up on me.
So I haven't said anything to her in the week or so since that's happened, and she recently left me a voicemail (complaining about her crappy day again) and then asked if we could get together so I could help her feel better about her life. I agreed and we are supposed to have dinner tomorrow.
My question is, should I bring up my hurt feelings? Or should I just pretend nothing's wrong, and emotionally downgrade her from being my "best friend" without letting her know why I'm withdrawing? It seems like being honest with her in the past has just led to drama, without it making anything better (I was really surprised she repeated the same hurtful behavior this year without an apology.) But at the same time, if my best friend didn't like me that much anymore, I'd want her to tell me why. I don't like being passive aggressive, but is it perhaps the best policy in this situation?
Thanks for any advice.