How do I deal with an oversensitive, constantly negative friend?
August 20, 2012 9:25 AM Subscribe
How do I deal with an oversensitive, constantly negative friend? I am the only "real friend" X has, so I don't feel comfortable totally breaking off the friendship, but interacting with X frequently leaves me wanting to scream.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Note: I feel the need to be deliberately vague about details here, to avoid the person in question from recognizing themself in the question. I apologize if that makes answering difficult.
I have been friends with X for several years now. X has a combination of psychological, social, and physical issues that make it difficult to both make and retain friends, as most of the people that do connect with X either back away after being exposed to said issues, or are pushed away by X due to a perceived slight. As a result, I am the only close friendship X has been able to maintain.
X is certainly not all bad -- we have helped each other through rough patches in both of our lives, and X has been incredibly supportive during some very difficult things that I've been through. When X's issues do not take over, X is a fun, enjoyable individual. That said, X is frequently a very difficult person to deal with. Any constructive criticism, however gentle, is viewed as a personal attack. Any suggestions that don't fall in line with what X has decided needs to be done (or not done) are met with hostility.
X is very unhappy much of the time, and regularly complains about certain things. While X's circumstances are indeed difficult, and the unhappiness understandable, X is very resistant to suggestions on how to change anything for the better. X's general attitude seems to be "my life is horrible, and it is never going to get any better, and nothing I have ever tried has helped, so it's not worth trying anymore". I am not comfortable merely sitting and listening to the same litany of woes over and over, but I feel like I am beating a dead horse at this point by making suggestions that invariably get shot down for one reason or another, and result in yet another argument about why it's unreasonable to expect X to keep trying to improve their life instead of wallowing in misery.
I would prefer to avoid breaking off the friendship, both due to the fact that I AM X's support system, and the fact that I consider X a very dear friend in spite of how difficlt they are to deal with. I'm hesitant to approach X about how stressful the relationship is, because it will be percieved as me preparing to "abandon" X, and will likely be met with X preemptively pushing me away (a very similar thing happened with a former friend of X's a few years ago). Is there anything I can do to help X learn that someone giving advice or correcting socially inappropriate behavior does not constitute a personal attack? Is this friendship salvageable, or do I really have no choice but to back away to escape the negativity?
I apologize again for the vagueness here, but any and all advice would be greatly appreciated.