I'm thinking my best friend isn't the best of friends. How do I deal with that?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've been good friends with EF, for the last seven or eight years. There were always some caveats to our relationship, but I was mostly okay with them: One was that our entire relationship played out at her house (because of kids). Another was she would sometimes get into phases where she'd talk right through me. I was less okay with that, but eventually she rallied without any nudging from me, and mostly listens well now. Despite those drawbacks, we have much in common: similar family backgrounds, a passionate interest in the arts, some friends, and not dissimilar experiences of the world. Over the years, we've spent hours and hours chatting happily into the wee hours, discussing our interests, being supportive of one another, and sharing the odd secret.
But over the last few years our lives have taken different routes. Her husband made partner at his law firm, and their cash flow which was always significantly better than mine got even better. I, meanwhile, ended up in a nasty brutish break-up. Then I got laid off. The break-up involved a dispute over property. I moved once, then twice more as a result of the break-up, employment issues, family issues, ad nauseum. Now I'm staying with family, not in the same town as my friend, but not terribly far away. I've been here much longer than I ever intended and I'm not happy about it. I seem to be perpetually trying to dig myself out. It's not clear that I'm getting anywhere.
Anyway, throughout much of this "exodus," EF has been an excellent friend to me, providing me with a listening ear, strong support, regular contact, a place to stay if ever I needed it. This has all meant the world to me, and I appreciate it more than I could ever express. And I've made a massive effort to respond in kind, trying to be supportive during a health scare, and through some of her professional disappointments, as well as various troubles she's had with a startingly troubled friend. So for a long time our relationship felt relatively even.
But some time in the past couple of years EF started doing a few things I didn't like. The first was she became very gift-givey. Once in a blue moon is fine but she went far beyond that to the point where I firmly and assertively told her that too many gifts were going to upset the equilibrium of the relationship, as there was no way I could ever reciprocate, so she needed to cut it out. She didn't listen.
Another issue evolved whereby she'd make the odd unpleasant observation about my family members, in theoretical support of me, I suppose. But I very much subscribe to never saying anything bad about anybody's family but your own. So I told her to stop, but she has mostly not listened to that either.
Then she got into this phase where she'd interrogate me about my life and give me advice. Inevitably, this would make me cry, and it became such a commonplace during my visits, I quickly starting begging her to quit asking me certain kinds of personal questions. Even if her intentions were good, she was not making me feel any better.
A few months ago, we had an actual fight, and she basically got very nasty as a way of taking her frustrations about me out on me. To prevent myself from getting nasty, too, I mostly said very little, and then walked out. Several letters were exchanged, the most important points to each of us were reiterated: My essential point was that I thought she'd been disrespectful to me, with the comments on my family members, repeated lectures to prevent my future bitterness, and so on. She thought I'd been ungrateful. And apparently it really rankled when I pointed out I wasn't the only one whose view toward money had changed. As her family's earnings have risen, I've definitely noted that in some ways she sees herself as less privileged than before. Nowadays, she's comparing herself to the really, really rich, who she comes in contact with through her children's school. And granted she's not really, really rich. So her point of view in the face of that reality is not wrong. It's just that it's bound to make people who truly don't have a lot of money seem that much more remote to her, and that I've noticed. Anyway, apologies were exchanged, but they didn't fix everything.
Since then, she's twice more "laughed" at my mother. She utterly dismissed the Christmas gift I gave her (homemade truffles) in lieu of her own gift. Granted, when she realized what she'd done, she rather elaborately tried to make up for it. Still, off-hand comments about my "chocos" vs. her vintage ring did not thrill. When I bumped into her in town recently, she offered to let me hang around at her house between appointments so I didn't have to sit in "my car," which made me feel rather ... pathetic.
And that's the crux of it. I feel like she's repeatedly trying to undermine me, if only very subtly, maybe not even consciously? I feel as though I am her poor little friend. A couple of times, I've called her my "best friend." In both cases, the response was silence. So that certainly says something, though I am not unimportant to her.
Too, I realize I am bound to be oversensitive now, so undoubtedly that plays a role. But I can't help but notice, even if she is a bit of a blurter, that the few boundaries I have set, she has repeatedly broken. It's like she has no sense or care in the world for my pride in a bad situation. All that matters is how she feels when she feels whatever it is she feels.
Yet she has also historically been a really valuable friend for me. There remain many things I like about her.
Still, I'm starting to contemplate walking away. I feel in some quiet way, she is rubbing my nose in her home redecoration, all of her friends' new houses, all of the clothing she collects and discards. Some of this, it is true, was always the case with her. Some of it is I've been more exposed to recently, having spent a lot of physical time in her house, as a guest no less. And yet ... this is a person who has said in the past that sometimes she gets a pedicure to remind herself that she is not the person who has to administer them. There is nothing wrong with this thought per se. It's honest. But it speaks to a hierarchy. And somehow, I think I've managed to fall down there with the person at her feet. I feel like she's not treating me respectfully, and she's not listening to me when I tell her I have a problem with it.
Am I being oversensitive? Petty? Do I have a point? I always struggle with being fair.
I'm reluctant to nix the relationship not only because of our history, but because as anyone whose ever been privvy to a bad divorce knows, a good friend is hard to find.
If it matters, she's newly on antidepressants again, and I'm in therapy. My therapist and I have recently determined that my feelings of anger (about slights and such) tend toward the delayed. I got a note from EF today jokingly telling me to be sure to tell my mother before I accept her invite there this weekend. Today my anger was not delayed.
What should I do?