Frienship-filter: L. and I have been friends for more than 15 years. The first couple of years, we spent a lot of time together. We were both in a relationship, so it was one of those couples relationship which also became very much about the two of us. After cca 2 years, I moved away to be with the other half of the couple, and stayed away for about 10 years. We have now been in the same place for 5 years (move-away relationship went bust), and I am having trouble with our friendship.
posted by laceysocks to Human Relations (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Long (possibly irrelevant- I cannot quite judge) background story first, then questions. Posted from sockpuppet account, cause L. knows the other one.
During our years apart, we would see each other fairly intensely one month per year. I’ve always seen our relationship as one of shared joy and fun, mutual support, general enchantment at the other person’s existence, despite occasional hiccups, as is the case with all of my close relationships. Historically, L. has been an incredible influence for the good in my life: the person I am today is with no doubt indebted to her.
When I moved back, L. was suffering in many ways from various big stressors: she was finishing a very demanding PhD under very difficult and challenging conditions, she had taken on a teenage girl from a highly abusive household, which had led to various problems in her marriage.
I’d returned with some big issues of my own, but one thing was clear straight away: L. was in major crisis. From where I stood, this manifested in various ways: frequent conversations lasting between 2-4 hours which continued or started late at night, frequent break-downs involving tears, shouting, vulgarity (L. is a person who normally would never have countenanced certain words and expressions, in fact, she is rather on the prudish end in this regard), threats of self-violence, absolute self-absorption (either by not hearing or disregarding other people’s problems/input, or else by not allowing it any weight when compared to her problems, regardless of comparative gravity), etc. This was, to me, completely new, and I decided it was clearly a major existential crisis for her and she needed full support regardless of how welcome her appeals were or not. I mean, she was completely different to the L. I had known, who was generous, fun, inspirational. Clearly, something was up – she was (in my own pseudo-psychologizing interpretation of people) depressed.
Long story short: the problems never disappeared. I have also continued to be the go-to person for all sorts of problems, regardless of the hour of the day and night.
About one and a half year ago, I decided that I can no longer make myself available for late-night discussions. I was developing some sort of weird secondary PTSD (if that even exists) and couldn’t sleep for days/nights all agitated about her problems (for some reason, my mind really latches on to stuff like that and keeps going on overdrive about it).
I came close to shut-down mode, and decided things need to change.
So I sent out an email to everybody (she wasn't the only late-night caller) saying that I have trouble sleeping (true) and therefore I would be muting my phone after 10pm (it does usually take me 2-3 hours to wind down after an average day – I know this is unusual). Most people just stopped calling after that time. In L.’s case, this didn’t even register. She did her usual calling routines, and now that I wasn't answering, that was up to 20 times a night. Each time, I’d follow up the next day with a phone call, asking what was up (mostly, L. would be all surprised – “Oh, nothing, I didn’t call you. – Oh, did I? It was nothing, I had just discovered this one thing which is remotely connected to something which you were interested in 6th grade) and re-iterating how I decided to mute my phone after 10 pm – so I wasn’t going to pick it up.
It is now almost two years after that decision. She isn't calling that often any more. We had a couple of big falling outs during this time which I think are due to L. feeling aggrieved by my decision (I cannot otherwise explain them). During the last few months, late-night calls seemed to peter out. After a new (and ignored) surge, a couple of weeks ago my phone went off again at 1 pm. I didn’t answer. Minutes later, my front door bell went. Stupidly, I answered. It was L., coming to rehash an unhappiness which we had already spent many hours talking about that day (same arguments, same questions over and over again for 5 hours). She’d come to go over them again. I sat in my kitchen like an idiot, both angry with her and feeling like I wanted to give her a hug (she was crying with total abandon). As per usual, she was hugely apologetic and pleasant-making the day after. Then she left for a week. Two nights ago she returned. Last night, I got 6 phone calls on my mobile at 11 pm. I could hear them, but didn’t answer. Immediately after, I started to get an avalanche of skype messages. Today, when I opened Skype, I discovered the last message, sent after midnight: “Are you angry with me”?
At this point, I have said to her upwards of 50 times that I won’t pick up my phone after 10pm. Explained upwards of 20 times why not (for whatever reason, if I discuss troublesome things after a certain hour, either my own or someone else’s, I don’t sleep. At all. Like, I go 36 hours or more without sleeping). She has agreed with me that people who call about all sorts of random shit after a certain time should not call and should be ignored. Hints and allusions don’t cut it any more. How do I say to her “Please don’t call after 10 pm unless you have a life-or-death emergency (she has a little girl, and shit happens, so I do want to be available for life-and-death issues at any point in time, but not for anything less)? Keeping in mind that she seems to be in the frame of mind where saying something like this is likely to come across as passive-aggressive (she has already cut off two people for similar things), and also that she is (in my estimate at least) not recovered from all the stuff she had to go through for a while. Plus a number of the other things going on are really atrociously unfair and tough to bear like in all our lives, it seems. So, how can I say, kindly “back off, though I still love you and you are/were one of the amazing people in my life”? Added difficulty: there are quite a few other things which I am not mentioning here but which I am semi-bitter about – how do I keep my mind off those?