Birthday blues - am I being unreasonable?
April 3, 2012 5:03 AM   Subscribe

Birthday blues - issues with a specific friend. Am I being unreasonable?

Here goes. Today's my birthday - happy birthday to me! I wish I could be looking forward to it, but unfortunately, at this moment, my thoughts are being derailed by a specific friend of mine. Hence, the need to greet the green ;)

It's a complicated friendship, so I'm going to try and simplify things. This friend of mine (let's call her Amber) has been my friend since we first met at college. Amber's a very sweet person, easy to talk to, and incredibly fun to hang out with (when we do hang out). That's why I haven't written her off yet, but I'm just at my wit's end. Time spent trying to talk to her has not succeeded. To further complicate this situation, Amber is a survivor of domestic violence (relationship), and still is struggling with her own issues. I was one of the friends who was there for her during that rough patch of her life.

She's currently a senior in her last semester of school. From time to time, she asks me for help with her grammar (on her papers), and sometimes I type some paragraphs/sentences while she signs the words to me (we're both Deaf) and I type them for her. She's smart, but she struggles with writing from time to time. I know "doing her paper" is wrong, but I do it from time to time, and have been doing it for approximately two years. Last December, she took me to an Italian restaurant to return all the favors, which was sufficient for me.

Over the past years, a few friends told me some things that Amber told them about me (saying things like I'm annoying, she's sick of some traits, etc.), and I have confronted Amber about this, and we were able to solve the issues every time.

However, there's a big thing about our friendship that's bothering me. I feel like I'm doing all the work here. Yes, Amber texts me pretty much on a daily basis, we see each other from time to time, and I incredibly enjoy her company--and she seems to enjoy mine too. However, she can come across as somewhat cold, especially on text (not seeming to want to get together; not responding to texts when I ask if she can meet up), and just generally seems aloof. She's very busy those days, however, with her sorority, internship, job, school, and so forth, so I understand that and try not to feel hurt if she ignores me.

Last year, for my birthday, she was unable to spend my birthday day with me, due to doing homework or some sort (can't recall the details) so we agreed to have a dinner outgoing the following Friday (along with some other friends). Wednesday rolled around, we saw each other in person, Amber said Friday was definitely on. Friday struck, my friends and I ended up waiting for Amber to come to the shuttle stop for fifteen minutes. She finally texted me saying, "oh, the rain ruined my mood and I don't feel well." It was completely last minute, with no advance notice. She did not offer to make up in any way. I felt very hurt about this, but decided to put it aside and enjoy my dinner with the friends who went with me. I talked it over with Amber afterwards, and she was a bit defensive. We agreed to have pizza on Monday, and I brought the pizza (baked it), cake, and we ended up having a short celebration, but she was in a hurry. It wasn't the best birthday, and to this day, it still eats at me.

This year, for my birthday, last week, I asked Amber if we could do Starbuck's for a while on my birthday, then dinner the following Friday (as it's a Tuesday birthday, I certainly understand my friends are all busy with school). Sounded good to her, and she said she would let me know about coffee. Last night, at an event at the college, I asked her if coffee was on and if she wanted to join me and other friends (hopefully) to dinner on my birthday day (tonight). She said no, she had a lot of homework to do. When asked if Friday was still on, she hesitated for a split second (I could see it in her eyes) then said, yes, it's still on. I felt like she was acting very aloof and somewhat cold - no apology, no empathy, whatever. It was a bad day for her (not that it's an excuse), and was for me as well, so I may have taken her reaction the wrong way, but it still rubbed me the wrong way - I felt like she wasn't even showing any apology or not acknowledging that my birthday is important to me, and that I really wanted to see her. She did say I could stop by at her house for a few minutes later after my dinner with friends, though, so that may be a compromise. Who knows if she'll even stick to that; she can be flaky. It hurt because I spent so much time helping her with her papers; I even stayed up until 2am helping her with her take-home test, because she was incredibly stressed with Greek Week, and was struggling with the content of the exam, and I wanted to help her feel better. I feel like I have given all that time and dedication and care, and she can't even be there on my special day. Am I being unreasonable?

It still really is bothering me and churning at my gut. Last semester, her partner invited me to her surprise dinner, and she also invited me to her birthday day dinner. I feel it's a bit unfair that I celebrated her birthday twice, but she doesn't seem to be making any effort to celebrate my birthday. I get that Tuesday may be the wrong timing, but I am just not feeling any commitment or caring on her end. I know if I tell her how I feel, she will become defensive, try to invalidate my feelings (something along the lines of: don't feel hurt/don't take it personally/I'm just really busy/it's a rough semester for me), and she will also view me as over sensitive. I have made some mistakes myself in the friendship, and have sometimes been a bit needy. I'm trying to improve, and many say I have improved over the years.

So. This was really long-winded, I know... if you've made it to this point, kudos :) It's a bit hard for me at this point because: a) I don't have many other friends, so she's really important and valuable to me, for many reasons; b) the Deaf community is so small, and it's hard to branch out and make new friends; and c) again, I really value her friendship. I've had lingering feelings she was just using me (with papers), but she has emphasized repeatedly that she wasn't using me.

I know MetaFilter isn't necessarily somewhere I can expect advice or help with 'soap opera' friendships, but in this situation, I just can't think straight anymore. It's wearing me out, all the waffling on her end, and mixed signals, and failed attempts to work it out. I don't know if it's me, if I'm being unreasonable/holding high expectations, or if it's just her, or whatever. Cooler heads prevail better, and I've seen plenty of good advice here on the Green :) I love Amber as a friend deeply, but I'm starting to wonder where this is going.

Any insight for this birthday boy would be much appreciated. Yep, happy 26th to me.
posted by dubious_dude to Human Relations (37 answers total)
Happy Birthday! I hope you can find a way to go and have fun with the people who are actually going to be spending time with you.

Friendships wax and wane over time, that's just what happens. Your description certainly didn't sound like a "write her off" scenario," but it's definitely a "downgrade her" type of thing. The drama you're describing is a result of you trying too hard with this friendship. If you feel like you are putting more effort into the friendship than she is, then stop putting so much effort into it. You said yourself that she's wearing you out. Maybe spend some of that energy on making new friends instead. I know you said that it's more difficult for you to do that than the average person, but I'm sure it's at least possible. You could try and cultivate the other friendships that you have now with people who don't make you feel like crap. At the very least you might be able to meet other people through them.

And really, stop doing her homework for her. She is using you and you are using that as a way to maintain intimacy with her so she'll owe you. Friendships are better off when that kind of dynamic is not in play.

Now forget about this at least for today and do things that make you feel awesome.
posted by Kimberly at 5:17 AM on April 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

First, Happy Birthday to you!

To me, it seems like the responses to texts, body language and the way your friend has conveyed indicates that she has, not in the most socially deft way, prioritized over you. It is commonplace for there to be emotional imbalances in friendships, and especially since this one friend means so much to you, what happens negatively emotionally is often compounded've mentioned that it's hard to branch out and that the Deaf community is small, but I would 1) for now, put some space between you and Amber...let her contact you instead for outings, and 2) actively seek to branch out through community social events and gatherings and strengthening your other friendships.

Ruminating over her actions over and over is going to increase the bitterness.
Another thing is, depending on each person, family traditions, culture, etc, birthdays are different for people. Maybe she is one who doesn't place too much emphasis on her own birthday (although it doesn't automatically translate into being quite insensitive to your celebrations)? I don't think this is the crux of the issue though.

Cooler heads will prevail, I'm sure with time, this will eventually not cause you any more pain. Good luck!
posted by wallawallasweet at 5:22 AM on April 3, 2012

If somebody blows you off with no notice and no good reason, you do not ask them to do anything with you again until they approach you with a credible offer to make it up to you.

You don't have to have a lengthy conversation in order to give them the opportunity to invalidate your feelings. If they think your feelings are valid, they'll figure out on their own how to show you common courtesy, or else they just won't notice your absence and will never bother you again.

In this case, she's never able to find time to socialize with you, and has already told everyone but you that she doesn't like you. The reason why she's told everyone but you, is because if she tells you, you'll stop doing her homework for her.
posted by tel3path at 5:27 AM on April 3, 2012 [16 favorites]

Happy Birthday!

I've has friends like this. Actually in almost the exact situation. What I ended up doing was saying too myself "I love hanging out with them, but I"m not going to chase them down." I almost always said yes when they called or texted me to do something, or invited them to a group activity where I would enjoy hanging out but if they didn't come it wouldn't ruin my plans, but I didn't extend myself.

I couldn't give them up entirely, but this seemed a good middle ground.
posted by raccoon409 at 5:27 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Birthdays aren't a big deal for some people, and if she's flaky in general, it might be hard for her to remember or anticipate that it really hurts you on that one day. Also I think there is a difference between inviting someone over for a home-cooked dinner birthday celebration, and inviting them to hang out at Starbucks, or even go to a restaurant (unless you are paying). One is a gift and the other an obligation.

Also, in defence of the text message flakiness: I don't check my phone very often and I sometimes see "wanna hang out" messages hours or even days after they were sent. I usually don't bother replying to those because I figure it's too late to be useful. If she is so busy, maybe she's the same?

But yeah, stop doing her papers.
posted by lollusc at 5:30 AM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: tel3path - I wanted to clarify something. It's not that she told the world she doesn't like me. She did invite me to a small Christmas party last year, and she also helped me through some tough emotional times.

Also, I'm not doing her papers to cradle an intimacy with her and to ensure she'll "owe" me. I'm doing it because I care about her, and want to see her do well in school, and it's also a fun way to spend time with her and hang out, while helping her with homework. I never asked for anything in return, but suggested that at the end of the semester, that she take me to Italian to return the many favors and help I offered - along as "compensation" for a few small things (grocery items) I bought for her that she didn't pay back for yet. Kind of a lump sum, if you may.
posted by dubious_dude at 5:34 AM on April 3, 2012

I'm sorry this is making you sad on your birthday and hope you can find some distracting, cheering activities.

It sounds like Amber wants a much more casual friendship than you do, and the only thing you can do is ease up. There's a huge imbalance in the effort you're putting in and that's not the basis for a friendship, more like she's found someone who'll work for free. Maybe it's completely unintentional on Amber's part, but a lot of your interaction sounds based on you working for her, and it doesn't sound like she chooses to spend her free time hanging out with you. If that's the case, you can't fix it, no matter how kind or accommodating or attentive you are, no matter what they might owe you.

I know it's lousy when you don't have too many other friends, but this sounds like it's become a bad situation for you. Step back, give yourself some space and pursue any other social options or activities you can. Don't mention this to Amber (positively or negatively) at all, even if she starts initiating and your friendship finds some balance, and be wary of any other relationships with this same 90%-10% dynamic.
posted by carbide at 5:34 AM on April 3, 2012

Hey, happy birthday! I'd agree to find a middle ground. Personally, I get a little stressed out when someone really presses wanting to hang out, birthday or no. She maybe wants a more casual relationship. To me, a friendship doesn't need to be 'going" anywhere -- it comes as it comes. She doesn't have to be using you to have a different view of your relationship, and I have complained about things I didn;t like about specific people to other people (not the nicest, but true) and it doesn't mean I don't like them or want to be their friend.

Either way, you can't keep an account like that, of what you've done for her and what you feel she hasn't done for you. It's just going to stress you out if you keep going back to it. I think she has expressed her friendship terms, if you will, and you need to decide if you can accept them without resentment or angst.

My bottom line best advice is to do your best with branching out and making new friends and having new interests. No matter what happens with your friendship with Amber, it might be better to have other things to focus on. I know that's hard, I'd encourage you to read some of the old questions about that or come back as you need to.
posted by mrs. taters at 5:48 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Happy Birthday!

I'm so sorry you're feeling neglected on your special day by your friend, but honestly, you sound kind of needy. Shit happens and sometimes your friends won't be able to celebrate your special day with you. This is something you're just going to have to learn to deal with -- whether you're deaf or not -- other people have lives and they can't just drop everything because it's your birthday. The fact that you made it a priority to attend both of her last birthday celebrations has nothing to do with this; that was your choice.

I think you need to cut Amber some slack and make a serious effort to expand your network of friends because it sounds like (from this post of yours) that you're placing an inordinate amount of importance on this particular friendship. Do you have a crush on Amber or are you hoping this friendship morphs into something more than it is? Get honest with yourself; explore these feelings.

Kimberly is absolutely right: Friendships wax and wane over time. If you feel that you're doing all of the work to maintain this particular friendship, then maybe it's time for you to move on until Amber can appreciate you and all you do for her. If this doesn't happen... well, then you have your answer.

1. Stop doing her homework.
2. If you feel she's invalidating you or your feelings, work on strengthening the friendships of those who appreciate you more.
3. Don't look to others to make you feel special or worthy. You are awesome and wonderful and well-loved (even if you don't realize it) just for making it this far! To this day. Spend time with the people who appreciate you. And have a happy birthday!
posted by LuckySeven~ at 5:51 AM on April 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

Happy Birthday!

If it were me I would tell the friend once about your plans and let the chips fall where they may. You are reminding her too much. People flake out for all sorts of reasons. She might be self-absorbed. She might feel pressured. Some people will behave in passive-aggressive ways if they feel like they are being controlled or told what to do. You are a friend and aren't telling her what to do (you are simply asking and reminding her) though she may feel that way for some reason. The fact that she told others that you were annoying makes me think that she feels like you want her as a friend more than she wants you.

If you care about her and want to continue hanging out face the reality that there is an imbalance and she may not be able to give you what you think you need from her. Find other friends for that, and give yourself what you need. You are giving her a lot of control that she doesn't have. You had fun last year without her, though it still hurts that she blew you off. I would try to let that go and be realistic on what she is willing to bring to the friendship.

Birthdays don't have to suck just because your ideal vision of them doesn't pan out. Have realistic expectations and you won't be as hurt in the future. Personally, I would stop doing her homework and stop "forcing" her to celebrate if you know what I mean. Last year you had a nice time without her but you brought pizza and cake to her house on your birthday. It's as if you are still hoping for a magical day with her and she can't deliver. She didn't behave in a way that you had hoped (she was in a rush) and it still preys on your mind. Again, it seems you are giving this friend too much of a say in whether your birthday sucks or not.
posted by Fairchild at 6:08 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Give yourself the birthday present of allowing yourself to let this dynamic go. By which I mean, mark some way of moving forward with this particular relationship and any relationships that drain you of energy or make you feel unworthy. Tell yourself: "She's great n all, but I'm done chasing affection." It's a crap shoot for your energy - your hunger for her regard is palpable, so I think this is also activating feelings of a deeper loss.

Birthdays are hard if you've been an abandoned or neglected person somewhere along the line. The vehicle through which you are re-experiencing injury is this particular person. A young, relatively clueless person who has yet to think about others without childish, selfish concerns. She sounds clueless about social bonds having some sense of responsibility, as well as fun. Her homework, her mood, her groove. Whatever. Some people who've not got the same agitations as you have aren't going to 'get' birthdays. They probably don't 'get' other people all that well. They may not have had to struggle with meaning something to someone in their early years.

So. Wait for her to initiate contact and establish some plans. If/when she does so, decide if you want to do the thing on offer. If it seems like a functioning-for-her situation, have your eyes open about choosing to do this action freely, or don't do it. Today, remind yourself that you are a worthy and affectionate friend. But for whatever reason, she's not meeting you where you need to be met.
posted by honey-barbara at 6:09 AM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

It doesn't matter whether Amber thinks birthdays are unimportant and lacks the empathy to figure out that they might be important to other people.

It doesn't even matter whether you were inviting Amber to your birthday party or whether you were asking her to join you for a non-hosted dinner at CateringVenueBucks. (Although in the former case you have a right to be extra annoyed.) In fact, it doesn't even matter that it was your birthday (though since it was, you have a right to be extra annoyed).

It doesn't matter if you do or don't have a crush on Amber, it doesn't matter how needy you are, it doesn't matter what values what friends place on what, it doesn't matter how casual you are versus how casual Amber is, or any of the other things that are being mentioned here.

What matters is that Amber made an arrangement to see you and then blew it off with no notice.

That's. Just. Rude.

She even kept you and your other friends waiting in the rain for 15 minutes, and when she finally told you she wasn't coming, her excuse was "it's raining"?!?

You don't have to figure out what her motives and values are and why yours are wrong compared to hers - oh sorry, I forgot, not "wrong", just "different" in a way that somehow automatically means you have to submit here. What matters is that she was rude to you, and if you don't want your friends to be rude to you, you need to stop enabling them. Leaving you standing in the rain for 15 minutes totally qualifies for a stop to all further attempts to arrange things with her, and for leaving the ball in her court.
posted by tel3path at 6:10 AM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Yes, what Tel3path said. Standing in the rain for 15 minutes? Because she's not in the mood? She'd be dead. to. me.
posted by honey-barbara at 6:12 AM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Happy birthday! I sympathize because I probably make too big a deal about my birthday but if it's something that's important to you, your friends should appreciate that. That said, if your birthday is important to you, I think that to some extent, you have an obligation to figure out how you want to celebrate it and execute. You can't make other people come to your birthday dinner but you can schedule it on a mutually agreeable date and time. If your birthday was a day that, for whatever reason, all of your friends were busy and had no way to get out of it, you could make the decision to book yourself a massage, go see a movie, or whatever.

Along the same lines, you can't make this person celebrate your birthday with you. I'm sorry that you have to learn this lesson today but it sounds like you need to downgrade this relationship for your own protection. I used to have really high expectations for friends and felt hurt pretty often that they couldn't meet them. So, I lowered my expectations. Now, whenever they go above and beyond, I'm thrilled but if they flake out, it's no big deal. Learning to meet people where they are is challenging but it's an important part of having good relationships.

Hope that helps and that you have a wonderful birthday.
posted by kat518 at 6:33 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Everything that I know about the young DC deaf community signals to me that there is a ton of drama.

I imagine that this community is so insular that you can't really DUMP her as a friend, as many in this thread are instructing you to do.

If I were in your shoes, I'd edge away from friendship with her. Don't initiate and when she contacts you - especially to do things for her - don't respond.

When you see her at social events, be polite, but don't engage.

This way, you're not 'dumping' her, you're just edging away, and you can still be in the same social circles.
posted by k8t at 6:44 AM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

I also agree that the text that the rain was a mood killer was childish and rude. You say she is flaky and this is evidence of flakiness. Stop expecting and you'll be happier.

I have re-read your question and have some different thoughts.

This year, for my birthday, last week, I asked Amber if we could do Starbuck's for a while on my birthday, then dinner the following Friday (as it's a Tuesday birthday, I certainly understand my friends are all busy with school). Sounded good to her, and she said she would let me know about coffee. Last night, at an event at the college, I asked her if coffee was on and if she wanted to join me and other friends (hopefully) to dinner on my birthday day (tonight). She said no, she had a lot of homework to do. When asked if Friday was still on, she hesitated for a split second (I could see it in her eyes) then said, yes, it's still on. I felt like she was acting very aloof and somewhat cold - no apology, no empathy, whatever. It was a bad day for her (not that it's an excuse), and was for me as well, so I may have taken her reaction the wrong way, but it still rubbed me the wrong way - I felt like she wasn't even showing any apology or not acknowledging that my birthday is important to me, and that I really wanted to see her. She did say I could stop by at her house for a few minutes later after my dinner with friends, though, so that may be a compromise. Who knows if she'll even stick to that; she can be flaky.

I'm afraid you are being needy and have unrealistic expectations. You say you understand that people are busy on Tuesday but it seems you really don't understand. You asked your friend if she wanted to get together on Friday. She said yes but then you asked her again for tonight when she already said she could not. It's no surprise that she is acting aloof. She feels pressured. Why are you expecting an apology or special treatment for today when she thought the b-day celebration was for this Friday? You decided to have two b-day celebrations and Starbucks and you want to go to her house tonight. If I can offer you some advice: Do not go to her house tonight. Don't not go in anger. Don't go because she is busy with school, it's a weeknight, and she is celebrating with you on Friday night. She said, yeah you come for a few minutes. You are like a puppy dog wanting any affection you can get from her. I am afraid you are a bit demanding and you are expecting too much from your friend. If I were your friend, I would be a bit peeved, too.

It hurt because I spent so much time helping her with her papers; I even stayed up until 2am helping her with her take-home test, because she was incredibly stressed with Greek Week, and was struggling with the content of the exam, and I wanted to help her feel better. I feel like I have given all that time and dedication and care, and she can't even be there on my special day. Am I being unreasonable?

Yes. You are being unreasonable. Again, she thought the b-day celebration was for Friday. She agreed, everything is honky-dory, then you ask her for tonight and when she can't go you want to hold this homework thing over her head and feel offended and want to blame her for not showing you the attention you think you deserve on your birthday. (Don't do her homework. It's too much for you. You expect too much.) Also, don't try to predict the future about this Friday night. You don't know if she will flake out or not.

Also, you might want to redefine your birthday as your "special day". I'm not suggesting that you become cynical or not have fun, but there is so much pressure surrounding birthdays. I will be cynical: You are going to care about your "special day" more than anybody else. Other people aren't always going to make you feel special. I assume you are an adult. Do that for yourself.
posted by Fairchild at 6:47 AM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Even though you say you aren't helping her with schoolwork to get her to owe you, it really does sound like that's what you're doing. I'm sorry, but it sounds like you really want Amber to be your friend and she really doesn't want to be. You have mutual friends and are in the same social circle, but it sounds like you want it to be much more special than she wants it to be.

You may not be an annoying person in general, but because you want more from her than she wants to give, you are annoying her. And she may not be a flake in general, but because she says "yes" when put on the spot and then backs out when she has time to reflect, she is behaving like a flake with you.

She wants to be an acquaintance who shares mutual friends with you and has fun with you without obligation. There is nothing wrong with what she wants. There is also nothing wrong with what you want. It's just that this person is not the right person for that role in your life.

Personally I don't understand people who make a huge deal out of their own birthdays after about age 12. She may be like me.
posted by headnsouth at 6:47 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

The best birthday present you can give yourself this year is to stop kidding yourself about what you are wanting from people. And not allowing people to trash you -- that'd be another great gift for yourself.

Wave Amber goodbye, her txts blocked, her emails sent to trash without reading. She sounds loathsome. Cut her out of your life.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:49 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

One more thing: I would have to call myself Princess Fairchild if I wanted three birthday events in one week.

Dear friends, please meet me at Starbucks on my birthday and come to my birthday dinner on Tuesday and Friday!

I know you are young and when you are young and single birthdays can be a bigger deal. Maybe I don't value myself enough but three birthday events in one week is a bit much for anybody. Don't cry in your cereal when people can't make all of them. Enjoy your day and enjoy the people who do show up and lower your expectations.
posted by Fairchild at 7:06 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I feel it's a bit unfair that I celebrated her birthday twice, but she doesn't seem to be making any effort to celebrate my birthday.

I'm doing it because I care about her, and want to see her do well in school, and it's also a fun way to spend time with her and hang out, while helping her with homework. I never asked for anything in return, but suggested that at the end of the semester, that she take me to Italian to return the many favors and help I offered - along as "compensation" for a few small things (grocery items) I bought for her that she didn't pay back for yet. Kind of a lump sum, if you may.

Look, you have got to stop counting favors and trying to be the Most Virtuous Person. Going to someone's party isn't a chore where if you do it then they owe you. If you say that you're doing something because it's a fun way to hang out, then no one owes you for doing it. Don't play bank for your friends, it's not worth the headache. (Exceptions made for very close friends in real emergencies.) The way to have enjoyable relationships is to stop keeping score, and the way to stop keeping score is to say no when you start to feel put upon. If it's enjoyable and you want to do it, then do it and no one owes you. If you have the extra time/energy/money and want to make a friend a gift of any of those things, then do it with no strings attached. If you start wondering what you're going to get back if you do something, then don't do it.

Given that, 1) She talks about you behind your back (bad!), 2) She flakes on plans, and 3) She just doesn't really seem that into it, I would only say yes to things which are really enjoyable for you (with no work component involved), invite her only to things where it won't matter if she flakes or doesn't respond, and generally start looking for a new close friend.
posted by anaelith at 7:07 AM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Are you romantically interested in her?

I ask because it seems like you are putting a lot of pressure on her--expecting her to get back to you, then doing all these favors which you say you're doing just to make her happy, but at the same time use as "proof" that you are a better friend than she is and give the expectation that she needs to repay you by hanging out when you want, responding to texts immediately, etc.

I wonder if possibly she isn't wary that you might be suffering a bit from Nice Guy Syndrome and thus pulling back. The intensity of your attention to her is pretty palpable in your post. You acknowledge that she is really busy, but you're upset when she doesn't text back immediately, when she doesn't show up to ALL your "special day" celebrations or whims, and when she hasn't met your expectations you're still holding it against her a year later. Yeah, it was a dick move, but with that sort of thing you either have to let it go if you want to stay friends, or you pull away from her.

As someone who is also a very busy undergrad, I can say it can be difficult to stick to plans even if you make them well in advance. Homework can pop up at the last minute and disrupt whatever you were going to do. And the coffee thing--she did say that she would let you know, and hadn't committed to it.

Whatever you take away I think you have to acknowledge that what you want from her in terms of commitment of time and immediacy of attention is not what she is willing or able to give. You can either make your peace with this and accept the situation as is, or pull away yourself. There is no reason to demolish the city and burn all your bridges, just start looking for friendships with people who prefer levels of attentiveness closer to yours and try not to rely so much on her.
posted by Anonymous at 7:38 AM on April 3, 2012

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for the replies so far! A lot to think about and mull upon.

A few things:

a) For the birthday outings, it was more of her response (physical/tone) to the question about Starbucks/dinner, than it was the fact that she couldn't go. The Starbucks thing was just something I thought she would enjoy (alone time), and the dinner thing was actually tentatively planned with friends already, so I just asked if she wanted to tag along. If she truly was stuck (with homework, like she said, a test, work, or another commitment), I would completely understand and be fine with it (because as of now, Friday is still on). It's her tone and her apparent lack of reproach that bothered me. I do understand she is very busy, believe me - it's just her approach itself, not the fact that she was unable to see me today for my special day.

b) I do not expect her to text me back immediately. Sometimes when I text her, she's in class, working, distracted, not in the mood to talk, et al. That's not the issue. The issue is the general lack of willingness (perceived) on her end to initiate a conversation with me. Like some of you suggested, apparently her priorities are different, and it's very clear she puts her partner, family, pets, and best friends first. Where I fit in that, I'll have to find out.

c) I'm nowhere close to being romantically interested. I'm gay. Zero chance of that ;)

d) For those of you in the "trash her; she's dead to me" camp... why? I'm curious for your perspectives.

e) For those of you thinking she's the kind of person not to make a big deal out of birthdays... she planned many of my friends' surprise parties, and had two birthday dinners last fall for her own birthday. She's definitely an all-in birthday gal.
posted by dubious_dude at 7:55 AM on April 3, 2012

OP, I read your question and thought, why does this seem so familiar? And it's because this question is similar to your previous questions about your friend/roommate, Zee. I think you can take the advice you got in two questions about that situation and apply some of it here.

Your expectations do not match the relationship you have with this person, and you are not being honest with yourself when you say that you are asking for nothing in return for your helping her - you are asking/expecting her to act like a different friend than you are and then holding it against her. Acknowledging that, and backing off with the expectations and favors, don't mean that you can't be friends anymore. It may help you enjoy the friendship more.

Frankly, I highly doubt Amber sees the relationship the same way you do, nor does she view your birthday the way you do, and she's frankly not the kind of friend you are. All of those reasons are reasons to at least de-emphasise her importance in your social and emotional life.
posted by sm1tten at 7:58 AM on April 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

For whatever reason, you're willing to do many things for Amber--you go out of your way to help her, to celebrate her birthday, and otherwise spend time with her because you value her company. For whatever reason, she's less willing to do things for you. She's less interested in the type of close friendship you seem to want to cultivate, yet likes you well enough to want some level of friendship with you.

You're mismatched.

The thing is, she doesn't "owe" you friendship. I think it's telling that you equate her taking you out for dinner with compensation for both actual debt (for the groceries) and some kind of friendship "debt" you envision (for the homework help). That's not how friendship works--I mean, sure, I've taken a friend out to dinner to say, "Thank you!" but that wasn't me paying a debt or compensating someone for her friendship. That was me saying, "I appreciate the gifts you've given me--your time, your support, your company; here is a gift from me to you."

The thing to do when someone is not returning your gifts of friendship--time, support, concern, etc.--is to ease off the friendship. When someone doesn't reciprocate your generosity, the appropriate thing to do is to say, "OK, so that was more one-sided than I thought," and seek friendship elsewhere. What you seem to be doing--focusing on what the person "owes" you, seeking the scraps she's willing to give, and getting annoyed that she doesn't do more--is just a recipe for drama and pain. I'm not saying, "Trash her," but I am saying: recognize what she's actually willing to give, and don't base your decisions on what you think she should be giving you.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:09 AM on April 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Happy birthday! This is a good day to relax and reflect before having fun with your friends.

I'm afraid it doesn't sound like Amber is flaky, it sounds like she doesn't want to spend as much time with you as you do with her and she doesn't know how to tell you that directly, so she cancels and misses plans instead of saying no.

You can't make her want to be friends or hang out on your terms. The only thing you can do is decide whether you would rather be occasionally social and text or if that just makes the disparity in your interest more painful and you'd be better to distance yourself from her.

on preview, schroedinger said the other half of my thought.

Plus, doing her homework is not going to help her. Grades don't matter, the press of creating written thoughts is the skill college is trying to send you out into the world with.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 8:11 AM on April 3, 2012

You seem like a sweet wonderful person, and you deserve friends who really care about you.

People who are nice are like whale sharks swimming through the ocean, occasionally lampreys will attach, and since the shark is so nice, it just does not mind.

The truth is though, other people like to take advantage of nice people, and nice people like to be nice so they let them. Ultimately, this does no one good. The 'user' will learn they can treat other people like commodities, and the 'used' will end up in a vicious cycle like the one you are in.

I speak out of love, I am going through this right now. There are people from my past, some of whom I have known for decades, who I am just now realizing really do not care about me. They care about themselves, they care about their own lives, and they care about how I can help them. They do not care about me though.

After realizing this, I decided to stop contacting these people at all. Of course they moan about it, but I ignore their attempts at communication. They are not looking for my friendship, they are looking for some way to use me to make their lives 'better' in the short term. Insanity!

When they need me, I am there, I am available, and I bend over backwards. When I need them, they are gone, and I am left drained and depleted. Real friendship is nothing like this. Real friendship is a cool spring on a hot day, everyone ends up refreshed and feeling better. When I spend time with people who really care about me, they do not ask for endless favors, or only contact me when they want something. They ask me how my day is going, they bend over backwards to spend time with me just because! They are engaged and interested in my life, and they encourage me constantly to be the best I can be.

There is a litmus test. When someone calls, are they calling to talk, or are they calling to listen? If they are calling to listen, they are a true friend. If they are calling to talk, they are just a user.

This is your life! You have to live for yourself. Let the baggage go, let this empty pointless friendship go, and find people who really love you. They are out there, and if you are careful and go slow, you will find them.
posted by satori_movement at 8:41 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Happy birthday!

Oh my goodness, this sounds exactly like a former friend of mine. Don't be me and waste friendship time for 8 years on this train wreck.

You have to stop prioritizing someone who doesn't think you're a priority. Friendship, like any interpersonal relationship, iinvolves two people. Amber isn't interested in doing things for you, she doesn't care about your friendship, she just wants you to write her papers. This is evidenced by the fact that she insists on talking behind your back.

Nthing what others have said above: Drop her like a hot potato, and don't look back.
posted by Verdandi at 8:44 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Amber sounds like how I have been the last couple of years. For me, I have been so overwhelmed with obligations/stressors, that, however much my intent was to go to a social event, I would usually pass. The further in advance the plan, the more stressful for me. Birthdays included. My friends have helped me way out of balance during this time (luckily, I had banked up some good credit with them the years before), and I have felt absolutely unconnected from many friends as well, no matter how much I love them.

You have mentioned that you both have supported each other in the past. If you need a tit for tat relationship, this is not a friendship for you. If you can objectively step back and see it for the relationship it actually is, and you are o.k. with that, you can keep her in your life in the form the relationship is as it stands.

I can tell you are young, as counting birthdays and even-steven-ness is something people generally grown out of when they realize life is much more messy than that. So you can look forward to a much easier time with friendships in the future.
posted by Vaike at 8:54 AM on April 3, 2012

Happy Birthday! I don't think Amber should be dead to you, but I think you should stop bending over backwards to do her favors. By the way, not everyone grows out of wanting their birthday to be special. We endure so many bullshit holidays thrust at us from outside, why shouldn't we enjoy our own personal annual holiday?
posted by tomboko at 9:19 AM on April 3, 2012

This seems to be a recurring pattern: Amber, Zee, facebook. Something needs to change. Either your expectations are way too high and need to be dialed back, or you need to seek out a group of friends that can meet those expectations. But I suspect the latter is going to be difficult unless you change something in yourself first, as you may go through life chronically disappointed in people, which is a pretty crappy way to live. And honestly, it sounds like you're looking for a level of commitment from Amber that would match that of a romantic partner, not a friend. Her partner and family should come before you. That's entirely normal and right.
posted by 6550 at 9:39 AM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Happy Birthday!

Moving on, I don't understand the nature of your relationship. It sounds to me that she's using you to do homework, and that if she continues to hang with you from time to time, you'll continue to do her homework for her. On the other side of this, I think that you have come to like her as a friend (if not more, I can't get a read on that one), and that she is not reciprocating in some way that you deem acceptable. As for the people in the "she's dead to me" camp, I can see where they're coming from. Personally, I cannot stand flakes and I try my damnedest not to be around them if they continue flaky behavior.

Also, I don't know if you've ever told her that you think your birthday is a big deal (which it is, to the one who's having the birthday!), but to her, it honestly seems like she could care less, given the behavior you've described.

Have you told her how this makes you feel? Is she even aware that she's brushing you off and that you find it offensive and off-putting? That may be all that's needed to fix this. I wouldn't dwell on what she did in the past, I would only bring up the recent issues you've had with her regarding your birthday.

Also, if she's in college, stop doing her homework. She'll get nowhere in life if she's expecting "the good friend" to sweep in and do it for her.

Forget about this nonsense and have a good day! It's your birthday, for crying out loud! Do something fun!
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 9:41 AM on April 3, 2012

I know a lot of people are accusing you of overcomplicating your friendships, but they're kind of doing the same thing, by approaching (from a different direction) your problem with the same set of assumptions that are causing you to overcomplicate it.

I am not suggesting that Amber should be "dead to you" (yet), but I am saying that you need to stop responding to unfriendly interactions as if they were friendly.

That's the core of it. It could be hard to believe but if you followed my advice you would see what I'm getting at. You must learn by doing.

In a way, it's like the Jay Smooth classic What You Did vs Who You Are issue.

You arranged to meet Amber and she stood you up at the last minute. That's what happened.

The larger context is that you are doing Amber's homework for her on the assumption that you're friends and she will reciprocate by doing things you want. But she's not reciprocating, and in fact is doing things that suggest she's not really your friend. That's what's happening.

Here's my take on this:

Having friends who are rude to you on a regular basis makes you feel bad.

It is reasonable to want your friends to be polite to you.

Where I think you're going wrong is in thinking that you can get your friends to be polite or nice to you by talking about it and by doing more and more nice things so that they will reciprocate. You're also somewhat mixed up on what polite vs. rude behaviour actually is, but I'll get to that in a minute.

You are expressing a bunch of frustration built up by interacting with rude people over time. You tell us this, and the whole world piles on and accuses you of being needy, of being the Nice Guy who does favours in order to extort friendship, of overvaluing birthdays, and even projects that you obviously must have a crush on Amber even though in reality, you're gay and can't have a crush on Amber.

Through this melee, the message is blaring: you're not a good friend because your expectations are totally unreasonable. This is not the kind of response that seems likely to encourage a people-pleaser to assert their boundaries. It's more likely to get them to try to force themselves to expect less.

Instead, you need to expect more, and to only expect it from people who want to give it to you.

How do you start? Well, first, when someone is rude to you by standing you up, you don't ask them to stop standing you up. You say nothing, but stop arranging things with them. If they want to see you, they will learn that standing you up is not the way to make that happen, whereas showing up is. If they don't want to see you, well, they won't.

I know you probably think that talking to them is the way to go, and if you genuinely think they don't know what they did was out of line, you could do that. But only twice. Briefly.

If you go into detail about why you have a problem with standing in the rain for 15 minutes, the rudester is not going to be more sympathetic, they are just going to argue back even harder, and then the whole thing gets blown out of proportion on the faulty premise that your expectations of not being stood up need to be justified and are symptomatic of whatever variety of deeper issues MeFi wants to project upon you. You don't get respect by explaining why you want it. You get it by not cooperating with people who don't give it to you.

You also need to get a clear handle on what behaviours actually signify respect and contempt. The best place to learn this is from a Miss Manners book. For example, about adult birthdays - it's a breach of etiquette to throw a party in honour of yourself, because it's inherently somewhat self-aggrandizing. Therefore, it's a breach of etiquette for an adult to throw their own birthday party, but there are polite ways around that. The most important one is that you actually have to host the party, as in, you pay for everything. Second, you don't mention that it's your birthday, therefore nobody has to wonder if they're on the hook for a present. If you are in a group of friends that regularly says, amongst the collective, "hey let's all go to PizzaBucks for Thaddeus's birthday", and everyone including Thaddeus habitually goes along with it, that's okay. What's not okay is for Thaddeus to "invite" his friends to pay for dinner at PizzaBucks in honor of *his own* birthday. I grant you that it is very much common practice. However, I can't always afford to dig into my pocket to celebrate someone else's birthday, but the knowledge that it's their birthday puts me under pressure. However, once I *have* agreed to attend someone else's birthday dinner at my own expense, I'm obligated to show up. If I really really don't want to go, I have to think up a really really good excuse that I know I won't get caught, e.g. I have to call up and say "sorry I can't be there, I'm throwing up in a bucket right now", and having made this call I must not subsequently undermine my own excuse by posting on Facebook 15 minutes later that I'm out on the town drinking Flirtinis.

Once you have a handle on this, your friendships will find their own level and you won't end up on MeFi being told to go into therapy and examine your childhood issues every time some rude person treads on your toes.
posted by tel3path at 11:35 AM on April 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

I know how you feel about having a small community and feeling some pressure to relax your standards of friendship because of it. I have a chronic disease and have been struggling to draw the line with the few friends I have in my own small illness community -- I often feel like they only call on me when they need something, too (I'm an editor and web person), and are less considerate than me about plans (especially because my own disease is more severe; I'll get cancellations on plans for last minute acquired concert tickets when the person's visit was going to be my first non-family contact in a month). It pains me to say it, but a lot of the time I do put with b.s. for fear of being even more isolated *and* it's probably a good idea for me to be this patient with people. I have not been disabled my whole life, and when I was first sick, I applied the same standards to people's behavior as I would have when I was well. I just ended up lonely. It's difficult for temporarily able-bodied people to imagine that, well, we can't always have the same standards for friendships. We have a smaller community. It is harder for us to find community. The consequences of losing connections are higher. It legitimately sucks.

That said, your concerns are legitimate and it sounds like you have friends other than this person. I'd say, invest energy in closer friendships with those other people. There's a cheesy motivational poster somewhere that says, "Never make someone a priority if they make you an option." This girl has made it loud and clear that you're optional to her. You don't have to break up with her, but you definitely don't have to go out of your way for her any more.
posted by sweltering at 12:50 PM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

This person is not your friend. Why is this so hard to understand?

Put your attention on other things. Enjoy your life. Stop torturing yourself with people and things that are not good to you. That is all if you want happiness.
posted by jbenben at 12:50 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Something else to think about is whether Amber's behaviors (which I agree are jerky) are touching a nerve that's been rubbed raw by a lot of other interactions. I have huge empathy for everyone who sets up their friendship circles in patterns where they are (I am) the caretaker and the friends are the people who come to them (me) for help and support and comfort and fun, and not the other way around.

But in the longer term, that can be a pretty unsustainable model. Something to think about is balancing the pleasure you take in helping others with your own need for others to be thoughtful and considerate toward you. If you enjoy or feel fulfilled being a caretaker, it's easy to make connections with some people who are users, and those aren't necessarily the best or most rewarding connections.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:01 PM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

You say The issue is the general lack of willingness (perceived) on her end to initiate a conversation with me yet in your original question you say Yes, Amber texts me pretty much on a daily basis.

There is a real dissonance here: one of these things is not like the other. I, too, am seeing a lot of similarities here with some of your previous questions, and it makes me wonder if a) you feel very lonely, b) feel very insecure, or c) have difficulties with relationship boundaries in general.

I don't know, it seems to me like you get a huge amount of validation from people - friends or otherwise - in your circle, and further that you have a particular vision of yourself (the type of person you are and your role in the group) that you look for people in your circle to reinforce. You seem to get very perturbed when something happens that doesn't gel with this vision of yourself and your role.

I think maybe you are inclined to treat your broader social circle as something akin to a family unit, and are bringing a lot of the investment - emotional, fiscal, logistical - that people typically make into family units to your friendship circle. I feel like some people in your circle obviously do this too, and so - despite your compatibilities - there's a certain amount of mutual understanding at play, and just like families if someone's a bit of a dick sometimes, well that's just family for you.

Other friends - and I think Amber might be one of them - are not making this "family" connection, and are perhaps more comfortable treating you like what you are: a friend or acquaintance. From your description, nothing Amber has done is unreasonable, and indeed, I think she has internalised something you should consider, namely: I am not responsible for other people's emotions. Amber hasn't "made" you feel anything; you chose to feel and act a certain way. She has obviously put her needs above yours, but that's what anyone in a healthy relationship should do, by and large. This tit for tat friendship-accounting nonsense has got to stop. If you feel like you do too much for Amber, stop doing it; don't ask for more from her.

Just way of contrast: I don't text any of my friends every day. I don't celebrate my birthday every year, and I certainly don't have multiple events for one birthday - more importantly: if someone doesn't feel like or can't make my birthday it's really no big deal to me regardless of how close they are, and I don't really feel like it's a comment on our friendship - I have a whole friendship to assess if it comes to that, and one event is really neither here nor there. By the same token, there are not many friends I particularly desire to see multiple times in a single week - that's a lot, man!

I don't know, reading your questions here makes me feel like you have some boundary issues - I was honestly surprised to hear you're 26, in my opinion these really full-on "intense" friendship models are something more common to people in their late teens and early twenties. That's not a judgment call about maturity or anything, it's just a life-phase thing where those relationships are easiest to have at that age, and you don't necessarily have the experience to know they rarely end well because they're inherently unstable

The bad news for you is that those kind of friendships become increasingly difficult to maintain as you get older; so I think you'd best start paving the way for healthier, more balanced relationships now. Look internally for validation and security; look externally for people that stimulate you and are enjoyable to spend time with. I don't know where Amber sits on the spectrum for you.
posted by smoke at 3:50 PM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Amber doesn't sound like much of a friend to me. More like someone who is willing to throw an occasional bone to someone if they'll do her work for her.
Also, I'm not doing her papers to cradle an intimacy with her and to ensure she'll "owe" me. I'm doing it because I care about her, and want to see her do well in school...
If you truly want to see her do well in her studies, stop doing her work for her. Doing her work, you're keeping her from learning/changing/being able to grow to do this herself. It's akin to saying "Well, I go to the gym for her because she's too busy, but, you know, I want her to be healthy... "
posted by blueberry at 12:04 PM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Non-prescription ADD drugs with non-anectodal...   |   Does she love me? I love her! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.