A Decade of Exhaustion
May 19, 2014 2:48 PM Subscribe
One of my oldest friends is also the most difficult. He consistently wants more of my time and energy than I can give, even when I explain that I'm stretched too thin. I'm fond of him, but I need time apart. Challenge: his support system consists of me and no-one else.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Background, in broad strokes:
John Doe and I are in our mid-20s. We met as teenagers thanks to mutual friends. In high school, we used to spend every weekend together, but always in a group of 3 or 4 people -- never one on one. We went to college in different cities, and during those years we kept in touch through email. I'm now finished with school, climbing the corporate ladder and planning my wedding. He's still in school, in a new city where he's had trouble making friends.
Firstly, our lives have diverged in a way that he doesn't seem to recognize. As a student taking a light load, he's glutted with free time, most of which he spends composing intimidatingly long emails to me. I have the standard responsibility unit of job/house/relationship, which leaves me limited time to respond to him in kind. He gets upset when his messages go unanswered for a couple days. This inevitably leads to me feeling resentful and even less inclined to spend an hour every night replying to him.
Secondly, he needs a lot of support. I'm happy to tell him honestly that I think he's a talented person with a good heart and mind. But as soon as one hole is patched, another opens. He's asked me for reassurance about everything from his personality to his sexual performance. (We've never slept together.) This leaves me feeling like a validation machine, and even though I like him, the stream of compliments has started to taste false. He does ask about me, and I know he'd be happy to talk about my life, but I feel like I'd have to do the comforting either way.
Lastly, WHOA inappropriate declarations of attachment! I love my friends, and I value their presence in my life. I also don't want to make them uncomfortable by loudly proclaiming my love at every opportunity, or by catastrophizing about what might happen if they weren't in my life any more.
I have a chronic illness, and his well-meaning paranoia about my health puts me on edge. I'm glad he cares, but I'd rather not be treated like glass. If I tell him that I don't need to be monitored, he responds by commenting on my "strength" and admonishing me to "let down my guard".
How do I disentangle myself from John's life with a minimum of cruelty?