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Am I being a psycho birthday bitch?
January 25, 2010 1:56 PM   Subscribe

Friendship filter. Am I being unreasonable, and if not, how do I go about talking to my friend about her hurtful behavior? (warning: long.)

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.
posted by egeanin to Human Relations (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Gak. Drop 'em like a hot potato. What she wants from this friendship doesn't connect with what most people would define a friendship as.
posted by Paragon at 2:00 PM on January 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


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?

You should both tell her that she hurt your feelings, and then downgrade her. Don't act like there's nothing wrong when there so clearly is.

Here's something that took me far too long to understand: She's not your best friend if you're not getting anything out of the relationship. While it's true that the two of you have a shared history and the resulting fondness for one another that comes as a result of that, but relationships can and do change. It's ok to distance yourself or to end the friendship entirely if it's not good for you. I see no evidence in your question that she's helpful or supportive or loving.
posted by runningwithscissors at 2:02 PM on January 25, 2010


I should clarify: our friendship isn't all one sided by any means. Lately it has been, but the first couple years she was wonderfully supportive. I've been afraid to bring up any of my emotional stuff in front of her lately after she told me "you have it so good that it's insulting when you complain about your life." But that's been a recent development-- she is my best friend because she's very honest with her opinions, very fun to be around most of the time, and she knows me very well. There is a lot worth saving about the friendship, which is why I'm reluctant to just dump her completely.
posted by egeanin at 2:07 PM on January 25, 2010


Maybe you're just not that into being friends.

Move on with your life. This person is toxic and all you will get our of associating with them is grief. And then you're going to write her out of your life.

You're going to get to the point where her crap is too much to put up with and say, "That's it. The negatives of being friends with you outweigh the positives. Have a nice life".

Do it now, and save on all the drama.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:07 PM on January 25, 2010


Forget best friend, is she even you friend? Friends are there for each other. Though we're really only seeing things through your eyes, you haven't given us a shred of evidence as to why she is a friend.

So do more stuff without her. Move on. If she asks why, tell her that she hasn't been there when you needed her and that you were hurt.

If you do decide to remain friends, make sure all your criticisms are proximate to the times when the hurt was incurred.

For example:

"I can't come to your lunch in a month, I'm babysitting."

"You know, Beth, it hurts me when you're not there for me on my special days. This isn't the first time."

That way it'll be harder for her to say you're persecuting her.
posted by inturnaround at 2:14 PM on January 25, 2010


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.


The way I see this, you ruined your own day by imposing standards on people that they were unwilling or unable to meet. Your standards, your reaction, your responsibility when all of the above are received poorly.

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.

Clearly last year's pressure and fight are things she wants to avoid like the plague. You should avoid them too.
posted by hermitosis at 2:18 PM on January 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


you are friends with a selfish person who doesn't understand reciprocation.

looks like she's getting what she needs from you friendshipwise and not giving back in even the most basic sense (i don't know, for close friends, usually WE'LL throw birthday things, and if we plan birthday things for ourselves, people will try to come and not come up with excuses like "need to babysit" far in advance... if i miss someone's birthday event because of prior scheduling i'll take them out to dinner or brunch or something on my own on a more convenient date). when you are having a bad or down day, are you able to have as easy access to her as she does to you?

i've been in many of these one-way friendships. people like this are users. they're getting what they need from you (emotional support) without having to exert the effort to give back. as i get older i no longer have patience for these types and no longer let them use me as a therapist or emotional support. there are so many people out there who understand that relationships are a two-way street and wouldn't give you stress about something as simple as celebrating your birthday with you. egeanin, you are obviously a kind person who cares about the wellbeing of her friends. life is short, why not spend your time and kindness on people who properly appreciate it?

you have two options. the first is- be open and honest with her. maybe there are reasons she's acting the way she is- like money being SO tight that she packs her schedule with things like babysitting well in advance. but if she's just being selfish and unmindful of your feelings or what friends should do for each other, it'll become apparent. cut your ties or mend them. your second option is to slowly phase this person out- she may attack you, etc, i've certainly had this problem before- but hold your ground. someone who isn't worth your time isn't worth your time.
posted by raw sugar at 2:22 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tell her that she hurt your feelings, with the expectation that she will respond defensively and there will be drama. Then downgrade her.

If you silently downgrade, she'll keep calling and you'll be annoyed every time the phone rings from her. Eventually she'll accuse you of ignoring her. You'll bring up the birthday issue, but by then it will be in the past and seem petty.
posted by cheesecake at 2:25 PM on January 25, 2010


I think you should tell her how her actions are making you feel. Don't be accusatory about it, but tell her. Then sit back and watch how she reacts, both in the short term and in the long term.

It sounds like she'll freak out and run off/hang/up/end the conversation. Or perhaps she'll stage a counter-attack against you. Then you won't hear from her for a while. When you do hear from her, the issues you brought up won't be addressed. She'll just complain about her own life.

If this is what happens, then you have a choice. You have issues with her which she refuses to address. At the same time, she comes to you to be her listening post. This one-sided friendship will continue as long as you allow it to. Personally, I'd edge her out of my life, or at least downgrade her in friendship status. She sounds like a soul-sucking person that you can't depend on.
posted by cleverevans at 2:25 PM on January 25, 2010


I should clarify: our friendship isn't all one sided by any means. Lately it has been, but the first couple years she was wonderfully supportive.

Can you define "lately"? You say you've been friends for three years, and that she was supportive for the first couple of those. Do you mean to say that she has not been supportive for the last year? You say you don't want to stop being friends with her for a number of reasons, but if you're really not getting anything back from her, then y'all either need to change something, or end it.

FWIW, I think there's a series of friendship "adjustments" that happen in early adulthood, because there are so many changes in that time period. You start thinking about who you are and what you want in a friendship after high school, and then again after college. Twenty-five was the age when I started re-evaluating my post-college friendships.
posted by runningwithscissors at 2:41 PM on January 25, 2010


It seems like being honest with her in the past has just led to drama, without it making anything better

You're pretty clearly having issues. Whether or not they're solveable, no matter who's to blame, you need to be able to talk them over and work them out to salvage the friendship. And if you can't communicate about those issues without it ending in tears and shouting, then I really don't see this working out.

I had a "best friend" for several years with whom I had a pretty ideal relationship - we had a blast together, were each other's shoulders to lean/cry on, never fought - but when we did get into our first real argument in turns out we had completely incompatible fighting styles. Like you, I'm a real "let's just sit down and hash this out, with complete honesty, and work to fix things" type of person and all she did was just avoid, avoid, avoid. So we're not friends anymore. It sucks, but I don't think you can really be close to someone without being able to trust that when you inevitably fight, you'll be able to work through it together.

This doesn't mean you can't be friends with this girl, but yeah, I think a downgrade is in order. But I think you should tell her that you're upset with her, that you have trouble with the way she responds to criticism, and that you're thinking of pulling away from her. That will give you two one last chance to fight in a "productive" way, and who knows. You might just end up working things out.
posted by shaun uh at 2:45 PM on January 25, 2010


Hi Runningwithscissors: yes, in answer to your question, the majority of her negative behavior towards me has started this past 12 months. It began with the birthday incident last year, and since then there have been a couple other crappy friendship things that she has done that I couldn't imagine her having done in the first two years of our friendship. She has always been a bit of a wreck and sensitive to other people, but only in the last 12 months has that behavior been directed towards me.

And I'm 29, if that helps. I have culled people from my friendships in the past if I felt it was toxic, but it's always a painful thing for me, even if I know it's for the best. Her friendship isn't entirely toxic by any means, but the incidents of the past year have made it hard for me to trust her or open up with her. She and I had often spoken of being friends as little old ladies, and it hurts for me to see that dream falling apart.
posted by egeanin at 2:46 PM on January 25, 2010


You might be being somewhat unreasonable (as hermitosis mentioned kind of harshly), but I'm usually a birthday person so I get it. The point is that even though she was a good friend in the past, she's not really being one now. In general:

Friends are happy for you when things are going well for you rather than resent you for it.
Friends compromise and accommodate you when something is really important to you.

It's time to downgrade your definition of friendship with her, she obviously has. It's uncomfortable when friendships change, but it gets worse if you hold on to something that's not there anymore. If you do want to talk to her about it that's fine, but I honestly doubt it would go well so do it for you if you feel you must, not her.

And most importantly, don't let this ruin your birthday. Have a blast despite all this drama.
posted by Kimberly at 2:53 PM on January 25, 2010


She and I had often spoken of being friends as little old ladies, and it hurts for me to see that dream falling apart.

I would take a good hard look at why that hurts. Is it more because you value her friendship, or more because you value being needed? There's no right answer, but knowing that might dictate what is best to do next -- regarding Beth, as well as yourself.
posted by gnomeloaf at 2:58 PM on January 25, 2010


Hmm. I see a couple of things here:

1) You mention she is barely making ends meet. Did you make it clear to her that you were willing to pay? If not, "I have to babysit" might be code for "I can't afford to go to Brunch but am too embarrassed to tell you that."

2) You mention that she is barely making ends meet. Does she get paid to babysit? Is it a regular thing? Would you feel the same way if she said "I'm sorry, I can't - I have to work that day."
posted by anastasiav at 2:58 PM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Just to offer an alternative perspective - maybe there's some other reason why she doesn't want to see you on your birthday? It sounds like she's not avoiding you in general and you say the relationship isn't totally one-sided so maybe its something specific about your birthday party that she wants to avoid. Maybe she doesn't get along with one of the other guests or perhaps, if money is a problem she feels uncomfortable about showing up without a gift (I haven't had a birthday party since I was a teenager but I assume gifts are still customary?) or with an inferior/less valuable gift than your other friends.

When you go out to dinner, I would enquire (non-threateningly) if there's a reason she's avoiding spending your birthday with you, I would avoid talk of hurt feelings etc but approach it from an angle of concern - ie. you're concerned that there's something wrong that she isn't telling you about. If she doesn't want to talk about it then don't push the issue, depending on how good you are at reading people you might be able to tell if there actually is something but she's too embarrassed to mention it or whether she's just a selfish bitch that doesn't care about celebrating your birthday.
posted by missmagenta at 2:59 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


"you have it so good that it's insulting when you complain about your life."

I think this is an unbelievably rude thing to say. I wouldn't say this to anyone much less somebody I actually care about. She is basically saying that since you are in a 'better' place in your life that your problems don't mean as much as hers do. She is trivializing your life and dramatizing her own.

I understand that she gets defensive when she is approached with things and that makes it really hard to have a discussion about anything she might be doing wrong. I think you need to sit her down and tell her right away that she has done things to hurt you. Tell her that if she wants the friendship to continue she will let you air your grievances and will listen to you. Tell her that you care about her but you need to have this discussion to save the friendship. If you don't think she'll sit through a discussion without bringing up every bad thing you've ever done you could try writing it all down in a polite letter and then giving it to her and watching her read it. Make sure that you let her know that you love her and that you value the friendship and that is why you are having the discussion/wrote the letter.
posted by TooFewShoes at 3:04 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Since I believe that the only thing you can control in relationships is your own behavior and internal stories, I suggest you take a long hard look at your own patterns.

Specifically, take a look at how you handle the balance between your needs and those of people you care about. You come across as someone who consistently places her friend's emotional needs above her own. Instead of asking for and receiving the support you need throughout the year, you make your birthday into a symbolic referendum on how much your closest friends care about you. It smells like a setup -- on the surface it seems like you're making a very modest, reasonable request, but actually you've created a scenario where it's easy for them to disappoint you and justify your assuming the role of martyr.

Focus more energy on getting the support you need on an ongoing basis. Read up on codependency and see if those patterns sound familiar. Consider doing some therapy on your patterns around self-care, assertiveness, boundaries, and caregiving.

Don't waste a lot of breath trying to get your friend to feel bad about your birthday. Instead, tell her you want to change the "rules" of your friendship so you get more airtime. You'll learn a lot from her response about what kind of friend she is.
posted by ottereroticist at 3:35 PM on January 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


That's not a friend, that's a job. You're enabling her behavior, being her therapist, and by accepting her poor behavior towards you on your birthday, you're helping her feel better about herself at your own expense. Why, exactly, would you keep this person as a friend?

Especially on the "you have it so good that it's insulting when you complain about your life" part. Here's a true story I just heard from my mother a few days ago:

Her husband (my father) died last year, and her sister-in-law (my aunt) has been calling her and lamenting about how horrible it is that she's lost her only brother. If my mother says anything about how she feels about losing her husband, her sister-in-law repeats her lament that "oh, it's not as bad as losing a brother." Nevertheless, my mother kept talking to her because she wanted to be supportive and so on.

Then, recently, my mother felt like confiding in her about her own siblings that have died -- she's from a larger family, and has lost two brothers and a sister so far. Her sister-in-law's response? "Oh, but you have so many!"

That was the last time they spoke, and my mother's keeping it that way. People who are that self-absorbed constantly make their own trouble if they don't have any real trouble, all so that they can keep feeling important and getting attention. Find better friends.
posted by davejay at 3:45 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


These are all really helpful and thought-provoking responses, so thank you.

Anastasiav-- you might be right about the money issue, even though gifts aren't something we do, and I would have been happy to pay the 15 bucks for brunch. However she does go out to eat a couple times a week so it's not like it would be a huge expense for her. But it might have hurt her pride to have had me pay for her, so she might not have asked, and therein could lie some resentment.

And it's true that she often babysits for money and it's her primary means of work. I'd have understood if she'd said "I'm really sorry but I'm strapped for cash, and need to work that day. Can you come to my house and have birthday cocoa that night instead?" It was her nasty attitude about it that really bothers me. I work odd hours too, but if I had to miss a close friend's birthday I would absolutely apologize, and absolutely offer to make it up to them somehow. She just seems really angry at me for expecting her to celebrate it in any way. And that's the thing I'm having the most trouble with.

And Ottereroticist-- you have a very good point about me focusing all my friendship needs on one day. But none of my other friends have a problem doing this for me. And I honestly think that it's not a whole heckuva lot to ask for, when everyone lives nearby, gets plenty of notice, and it's not an expensive event. I'm not trying to be a martyr but I do need to feel I can rely on friends on the rare occasions that I need them. It's true that this event does end up taking on larger implications about the quality of the friendships on hand. If I can't rely on her for this small thing, it makes me less likely to want to rely on her for the day-to-day emotional things in place of it. But I see what you're saying.
posted by egeanin at 4:10 PM on January 25, 2010


It isn't passive aggressive to downgrade a friend.

Passive aggressive would be behaving like the friend you're downgrading and doing hurtful things to friends without being directly confrontational.

If I were you, I'd ditch the friend... and this is coming from a distinctly non-birthday person. ;-)

The issue isn't the birthday, asking your friends to spend time with you on your birthday isn't an unreasonable request (it's actually one of the most common friendship requests in American culture.) Your friend is just selfish. Babysitting on your birthday two years in a row after the first time it was obvious you were hurt? Fuck her. She's a shit friend.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 4:31 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think you shouldn't take your birthday so seriously -- trust me, I've been in your shoes -- and I'm a tiny bit sympathetic to your friend snapping at you for that reason; it might come across to your friends as a big stressful deal where that one day a year makes or breaks them in your eyes.

I also think if your friend is barely making ends meet then it can be really uncool of you to make her feel guilty -- whether intentionally or not -- about babysitting. People have to make ends meet and have their life in order, and that's why placing huge importance on any one day for their attention is setting yourself up for disappointment and being unfair to them; her bills don't care when your birthday is, as harsh as that sounds, and neither do the people she's babysitting for -- she can't just reschedule a babysitting job. If she didn't need the money she could just tell them to find another babysitter, but it sounds very much like she needs the money. When someone is having financial trouble they're stressed to begin with, and then when their friends can't understand why they can't do such-and-such activity because it costs too much, or they can't meet up on some date because they're working extra, it makes one defensive. If I were in her position and I was expecting you to resent me for not being able to go, I would have to keep myself from snapping at you. I know you feel like you're only asking for one day, but to other people it can appear self-absorbed when you get mad at them for earning money they need instead of spending time with you on your birthday.

That being said, she sounds kind of like a bad friend anyway. I'm sure a lot of her behavior is influenced by all the stress she's under, but that doesn't give her a free pass to snap at you so harshly, and you're right that she should have just said she's busy but suggested another day to make it up to you. Then it's really uncool of her to do both those things then ask you to go to dinner with her because she had a bad day. It occurs to me, though, that maybe it was her way of extending an olive branch -- a pretty terrible way of communicating but makes a difference in whether she's entirely selfish about your relationship -- and that she'll apologize in person. If she doesn't apologize without your prompting at dinner, that's pretty messed up. I think you should talk about it, apologize if you stressed her out about your birthday, and see what she says, but without at least some remorse on her side she seems to be content to use you and snap at you but not give anything back.
posted by Nattie at 5:39 PM on January 25, 2010


follow-up from a member who would prefer to remain anonymous.
Your AskMe question was so crazily familiar to my own life that it kind of gave me flashbacks. I'm asking the admins to post this for me because there are people who know my ID here who also know my "Beth", and I don't want to stir anything up.

I'm not sure what to tell you about fixing or getting out of the friendship - I tried talking it out, and was met with denial in person and stony silence over email, so I'm not confident I did anything right. Jennifer was defensive and easily wounded, and when I didn't chase her down and beg forgiveness that last time, I never heard from her again.

I would like to tell you, though, what it's like a little more than a year later. I feel calmer, and more sane than I did when we were friends. I have moments, though, when I miss her with a sudden ache, and have to fight back the urge to call her. It's hard, because we were great friends for about two years, and then terrible friends, but still all caught up in each others lives, for another year, and that history, that intimacy, isn't easy to replace.

I wouldn't go halfway, though. A "downgrade" to non-best-friend-but-around-now-and-then is only going to cause pain and confusion for both of you. In retrospect, that's kind of what I did to Jennifer for awhile before the last fight, and it was awful. Do your best to be honest with her as you need to be, but just let it be over and done if a real repair isn't possible.
posted by jessamyn at 5:44 PM on January 25, 2010


For someone who is sensitive to criticism, she seems to have no problem with spewing it herself, though she may not even be aware of what she's doing when she tells you that your problems are not as bad as her problems and informs you that (she feels) you're attacking her and judging her. For that matter, have you been straightforward (a wonderful trait that I wish more people had) with her lately, or walking on eggshells so as not to set her off when she approaches you about her life. Does she seem like the sort of person who just wants "yes people" in her life?

If I were in your shoes, I would sit down with her and gently ask her to please not ascribe motives and intentions to what you're trying to share with her, and let her know that when she does so, she criticizes, and see where it goes from there.

Give it a try and see if things can be worked out, but decide how far you want to go in that effort if she continues to not communicate reasonably.

And, yeah, she could be a world less pissy about the birthday thing, given that it's a tradition that you plan for well ahead of time.
posted by SillyShepherd at 5:56 PM on January 25, 2010


One thing that's striking to me is that you're arranging these birthday events very far in advance (presumably to make sure that your closest friends can make it), but you're not trying to reschedule the event to account for the friend's schedule. (E.g. "Can you come on Feb 28?" "No, I have to work that day." "Oh, too bad! I really want you to be there! If I moved it to the Saturday, could you come then?") I tend to ask my best friends when they are free and then plan the event around that, if I really want them to be there. If she's quite sensitive, could she be miffed that you keep choosing dates that she tends to have to work on?
posted by xo at 6:37 PM on January 25, 2010


I'm with davejay and TooFewShoes. This woman is not a friend. She is a user. You are there for her to cry and complain to, but can you do the same with her if you have a bad day? NO, you cannot. She's also jealous as hell of you for something, I can tell that much with all the snarking about how perfect your life is.

I think you need to have it out with her, but expect to be friend-dumped or do the friend-dumping when things don't go her way. I repeat, she is not your friend. She won't do a darned thing for you and it's all about her? Not friendship any more. Sorry.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:54 PM on January 25, 2010


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."


You say you're straightforward but I feel like you missed a few opportunities to be straightforward here. Instead of asking her, "So can you come to my birthday this year?" you just assumed that she would try to make the effort. I think having those unmet expectations is contributing to your hurt and disappointment. Again, you "hoped" she'd make other arrangements with you to get together when she said you couldn't come. She didn't. Why didn't you? So then you said (passive-aggressively?) "It's not that big a deal." Why did you say that when it did matter to you? Again, you were kind of setting yourself up. My sense is that for whatever reason, she feels like you're expecting a lot from her. I don't know why that might be, but that's what I'm getting from her behaviour. Her saying "I'm sure there will be plenty of people to celebrate you" is her way of saying, "Why does my presence matter to you? What difference does it make if I'm not there?" I think she may be trying to manipulate you into being a groveling fool and saying, "Beth! You are my best friend! It would just not be the same without you! Please, please come!" It can be hard being friends with people with low self-esteem, because nothing is ever enough for them - it really has to come from within themselves.

Anyway, maybe she doesn't like it when you say, "Please be here at this time for my birthday" and she has to adjust her schedule to accommodate you. Instead of expecting her to suggest alternative arrangements, why don't you? Are you that high-maintenance? Why? Can you compromise on that?

Re: talking about your hurt feelings. If you decide to do this, be clear about what you want from this friendship. It just sounds like you are "letting" her call you whenever she wants to complain about her life. Don't try to make suggestions to improve her life (esp. if she doesn't ask for them) or say that she complains a lot, because those are things that she will take as criticism and attacks. If you want her to be supportive of the success in your life, ask her for that. If she can't, ask her why. If she says something like "your live is so wonderful, why do you need me to be happy for you?" tell her that her support matters to you, and that's what you look for in friends and friendships. If you can't both agree on what friends and friendships mean to you, then that's a pretty good indication you need to go your separate ways (or just be friends who keep in touch rather than BFF). The fact that she said "it's insulting when you complain about your life" sends a pretty strong message to me - she's jealous of you. She wants to be where you are. Maybe she feels stuck where she is and feel she can't reach the same level of success as you. Maybe she's too ashamed to say what's really going on with her and she doesn't know how to ask for help. I don't know. But you can't know these things either if she doesn't tell you - and friends should be able to do that. It seems to me that you guys don't really have a closeness or intimacy where you can really be open with each other and trust each other - she may be fun to be around and you have great memories - but going forward? Personally, I would downgrade her in my mind, and the next time she calls complaining about her life, I'd say, "You know, Beth, I don't think I can take these calls anymore. You want me to listen to your life, but you're not ok with hearing about mine. If you want help, I will help you, if you ask for it, but it's really draining hearing the same story over and over again." She'll probably hang up on you. And maybe that will be a wake up call to her to shape up - or maybe it won't.
posted by foxjacket at 8:17 PM on January 25, 2010


You two sound incompatible, but I think you're also being a little unreasonable. If she is struggling financially maybe she can't afford to go out for drinks with you - and maybe she can't afford to reschedule what sounds like a regular job. Maybe she resents your assumption for her time, even if you usually don't ask anything of her.

You're really portraying yourself in a very positive light that I'm skeptical of here - not that you're not a thoughtful-sounding person, but it doesn't sound very hard like you're trying to understand her point of view. You're aware that she is emotional and doesn't respond well to direct criticism, so the logical follow-up would be to take that into account and not call her different style of coping "attack mode."

"well, I guess it's not that big a deal." could easily come across as passive-aggressive to me.

I'm not saying she sounds like a wonderful person - maybe you are being as awesome a friend as you describe here and she really is totally thouthless. My experience however is that people don't have good prespectives on these type of fights, and I think you should talk to a mutual friend about it to see if you have a blindspot.

Either way, you and this friend don't sound very compatible. Regardless of who's fault that is maybe some space is warranted.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:27 PM on January 25, 2010


Sorry for the typos! I'm not trying to criticize you, I'm just pointing out that a fault of ask-me is that we're only getting one side of the story so we can't really be impartial judges. Of course most people will side with you, we're hearing your perspective. And maybe it's the correct one, but we can't know that.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:29 PM on January 25, 2010


Instead of judging her, describe your feelings, and ask for what you want. "You can't celebrate my birthday? Oh, I'm so disappointed; birthdays mean a lot to me. Can we we get together later that day?" Don't expect her to know what you want. You describe a friendship where she brings a lot of good qualities. That's worth preserving.
posted by theora55 at 8:30 PM on January 25, 2010


Ok, first of all, if this girl goes out to eat a few times a week, then no, it's not that she can't afford breakfast brunch. And by you acknowledging that's a possibility, you're continuing in the theme of your friendship which is "she acts shitty towards you, you justify her behavior."

This girl is not a good friend. Friendships can get very tough when there are a lot of aspects of good among the bad. But if often ends up sounding like the victim of an abusive relationship - which, frankly, I think is what you are in this situation.

But even if I didn't see any of that...

"you have it so good that it's insulting when you complain about your life."

No. Absolutely not. You do not say this to a friend. She's jealous things are going well for you and she's trying to make you feel like shit for it. This is not acceptable behavior, especially not from a "best friend."

I'm sorry, I know it's tough, because you care about her... but you care about her more than she does you. If this were a romantic relationship, there would have been about 30 DTMFA responses already. I think that applies just the same.
posted by dithmer at 9:55 PM on January 26, 2010


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