Undermined or Oversensitive?
May 9, 2012 6:47 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking my best friend isn't the best of friends. How do I deal with that?

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?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think you're being oversensitive. You've told her how you feel about certain behaviours, and yet she continues to engage in them. That's obviously frustrating.

But I also don't think that means you have to nix the entire relationship. Is it possible you could dial it back a bit? Stay friends but don't see her quite as often, and don't involve her in all your emotional issues?
posted by barnoley at 7:02 PM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

She was your friend, she isn't your friend now. Relationships are fluid, you don't have to be BFFs forever. How your relationship is now doesn't negate the friendship you had. Maybe she's feeling the change too, and all the snippy little comments are her way to try and get you acting how she thinks you aught to act. Now might be a good time to decide if you want to keep the friendship but in a new less close format, or to walk away and keep the good memories you have.
posted by wwax at 7:16 PM on May 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

She's not going to change, as you've proven. You can interact with her as she is now, or not see her. Sorry, it sucks to put limits on / let go of a formerly-close friendship.
posted by momus_window at 7:18 PM on May 9, 2012

One thing I have come to realize is that a good friend is hard to find, and but a perfect friend is impossible to find. The better we know someone, the more clearly we see their flaws and that is really hard sometimes. But everyone has pretty deep flaws.

It seems to me that she really cares about you but has done some things that you don't like. If she has been a great friend, I would hesitate before throwing that away because she is a flawed person. I think it's better to figure out how to deal with the flaws in a way that makes you comfortable. example: I have a friend who arrives late to meet up with me. So I stopped putting myself in a situation where I'd be waiting around by arranging to meet her in other ways, because I realized she is a really nice person who means well.
posted by bearette at 7:22 PM on May 9, 2012 [17 favorites]

I'm reluctant to nix the relationship not only because of our history...

History alone is not a sufficient reason to maintain a friendship. People change, friendships begin and end.

You can transition her to being an 'old friend' rather than a 'good friend'.

Personally, my general is rule is 'don't be friends with people that make you unhappy'.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:30 PM on May 9, 2012 [10 favorites]

If it's not working for you, you don't have to continue it.

History is irrelevant if it's not working for you now. Which doesn't mean it can't ever work again, but right now it doesn't seem healthy for you.
posted by mleigh at 7:32 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't help but read extreme contempt for your friend in this post. Yes, she sounds as imperfect as the next gal, but I am not reading anything she did that warrants such contempt. I could take a stab at why you might feel this way, but I would guess that it has more to do with you than her.
posted by murrey at 7:32 PM on May 9, 2012 [31 favorites]

You don't have to ask our permission to lessen contact with someone.

The biggest thing I get out of this post is that you feel upset around her. That's enough of a reason. The actual things you've said she did? Well... They kind of seem a bit beside the point.
I know many people who accept or welcome most of the behaviours you've mentioned from their friends (except the interrogating you until you cry! Although, does she think she's doing it, or that it's the things you're talking about that are hard to deal with? There's a big, big difference. Also, she's done it to you, so you know how it workds, so are you also displacing any anger you're feeling about other people on her when she criticises them?).
They don't really matter, how you feel about them matters, and whether you feel you two are compatible enough that you can value the friendship or each other.

Although, if you do decide to lessen contact - avoid big drama about it. Just cut down the amount of times you visit her (since she isn't visiting you), stop using the word 'best friend'. Just let it drift.
If she values the friendship enough to try and get you back, or change, then great, otherwise, things change, people move on.
Best of luck.
posted by Elysum at 7:40 PM on May 9, 2012

I wonder if what has changed most of all is your perception of her. You said at the very start that there have always been drawbacks and caveats to your relationship, and the problems you describe seem to fit those same drawbacks and caveats. (talking right through you is very similar to giving you advice you don't want) When people we know well start to bug us, the annoyances snowball - more and more behaviors or "flaws" of theirs that were easy to previously dismiss become more difficult to deal with.

I read your discussion of her finances as somewhat....hostile. Really good friends will be able to celebrate each other successes. I don't think people have to have the same financial situation to be "even." If she feels that you do not celebrate her success to the point where she can't reference it in a casual, relavent-to-context way, this is probably putting tension on her. Some of it may seem irrational to her - for instance, inviting you to hang out at her house instead of sitting in your car seems nice to me, not belittling. Unless, of course, she implied that you should have a house of your own in every town you visit to avoid car-waiting. But my point is that interpreting small things in a negative light based on perception is, well, not a great way to maintain a friendship.

If this is not a good friendship to have in your life right now, you obviously have to make the best choice for your well-being.

But, I guess, maybe think about the word "pride," and what place that has in your friendship. I personally don't like having to maintain other people's pride, especially if it seems like it is my situation, not my deliberate actions or words, that is the affront.
posted by newg at 7:50 PM on May 9, 2012 [11 favorites]

My best friend has always been a class higher than I am and always will be. It has occasionally been awkward, particularly when I was at my poorest and most indebtednest. But at the core of it, our friendship lasted because of our deep, deep affection and mutual respect and sense of humor. Your description does make it sound like you and your friend might not necessarily have that kind of staying power. I'm sorry, if so.
posted by Occula at 7:50 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm seeing two different aspects to what you've written. One is that there may be a more charitable way to interpret some of your friend's behavior, even as you've described it, and not take things quite as personally. I'm not trying to invalidate your feelings here, I'm just saying that there may be a way of looking at things that separates your friend's behavior from the problems you're having in your own life that leaves you with less frustration about both, and that if you can wrap your head around it, you may wind up being happier.

If there was a way of knowing for certain that the gift-giving was done from the best of places, without any implications on the issue of the income imbalance, would it be possible for you to accept them with gratitude? Do these gifts necessarily have to be disruptive to the equilibrium of your friendship? Could you imagine someone being in the exact circumstances you are, but respond differently? Are you sure that she is associating you with the pedicurist, or is it possible that this is a connection you alone are drawing?

That's one way of looking at it. The other way of looking at it is that there are undeniably people in this world who do the things your friend is doing either to undermine you, because they get some psychological payoff from feeling superior to others, or because they've changed in ways that make them forget how to relate to people they knew before the change took place. The incident with the Christmas gifts seems quite insensitive.

I will say that the approach you take to confronting your friend about the behaviors you find problematic is probably the biggest factor in determining what happens, moreso even than the attitudes she consciously or unconsciously holds. Crucial Conversations and the other book by those authors made me look at resolving conflicts and setting boundaries in a different way, and I used it to dramatically improve a relationship with someone at work whom my boss once described to me as "one of the most abrasive people in the building." It may be worth a read.
posted by alphanerd at 7:51 PM on May 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

Ugh. Friendships are hard. And sometimes when people are going through diametrically opposed circumstances, it is hard to maintain a super close friendship. You seem to be having financial troubles, when her finances have improved. That's neither of your faults, but you may be subconsciously resenting her for doing so well (as far as you can see -- you never know what people are really going through, and considering that she just went back on antidepressants, it seems like all is not totally rosy for her either), while she may feel uncomfortable about doing well when you are not, because that can be awkward. Obviously, feeling awkward about having some cash isn't the worst situation in the world, but it could be making her act sort of weird because she can't figure out what to do that would be appropriate given your situation (for instance, her giving you gifts was possibly because she knows you're going through a hard time and she wanted to make you feel better. Gifts from friends are not always about reciprocation. It's not always a power play. Sometimes it's, "this will make you happy and I can do this tangible thing to help you during this rough time.")

You also seem to be doing some projecting with her. Like, 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. You seem to be interpreting this things as offenses, but I hear that she realized she hurt you, and tried to make it better. She ran into you and offered to let you hang out at her house. None of that sounds like dealbreaker stuff to me.

Obviously, I don't know either of you and she may in fact be a crazy megabitch. But you guys are both in a time of big changes -- even good changes, like a husband making partner, can bring stress -- and that can bring out the potholes in any relationship. To me, it sounds like for whatever reason, you guys really are pushing each others buttons right now, and THAT HAPPENS. It doesn't have to be the end. Maybe you just need to back off a little and, as Elysum said, let it drift and stop the button-pushing. And see if you are both connecting better once you're out of the pressure cooker a little bit.

It does seem like it would be really good to see what your therapist says about this situation specifically. I will say that, from personal experience, it is possible for a friendship to dissolve and then, after time has passed and outside circumstances have changed, for it to re-form, and that can be a wonderful thing. So whatever happens, it doesn't sound like this should be a total BURN ALL THE BRIDGES situation.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 8:04 PM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

It doesn't seem like your friend's doing most of these hurtful things on purpose (not including your fight, of course) but that doesn't negate the fact that she makes you feel uncomfortable. If I were you, I'd probably spend less time with her and try not to talk about sensitive topics. Do you have less fraught things you can talk about, or some sort of mutual interest you can do while you hang out? You mention you're both into the arts--maybe go to a museum, or find a show to see? And it may be hard to do, but if you do want to keep the friendship, try to remember that it sounds like your friend's life isn't perfect, either (since she has depression, for instance).

I don't think you are oversensitive--if I actually made a gift for one of my best friends and they were disparaging about it, I would find that unforgivable.
posted by mlle valentine at 8:27 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Soon after high school I had a really rough patch where I had to withdraw from the community college I was attending for a couple of years and get a full-time job as a pizza delivery girl. I was down, to be sure, but I didn't feel beaten; I had faith I was going to get it done, wrap things up at a university, and be okay.

I spent my 21st birthday drinking in a dive bar with my best friend from high school who was living elsewhere and doing a lot better than I was. I hadn't seen her in a while but she knew what was going on, and from a long distance she seemed sympathetic. At the bar that night, though...she kept there-there patting my hand. She took a pic and told me I was looking so pretty, but her tone of voice hinted otherwise (living off reject pizzas will do that to a girl). Whenever I asked her to stop buying me drinks, she'd say, "But I want to," and my margaritas' umbrellas would wilt just a tad more. I walked in vaguely excited to get carded and see an old friend; walked out feeling like I'd just been taken on a field trip by a volunteer deeply moved to work with the socially unfortunate.

I didn't want to think that way about myself or my friend so I decided to mark it down to drink and random weirdness. Then there was more weirdness sans drink, and it suddenly didn't seem too random anymore. The final death knell was when mutual friends told me she'd been running around talking to anyone who'd listen about what a loser I'd turned out to be. Well!

I never said anything, but we drifted. Years later she sent me some "let's reconnect" email, to which I replied, and at some point she wrote how relieved she was that I was doing so well, and wasn't it wonderful we were both such successes who'd escape our little rural shitburg. She also kept pushing for me to go to the reunion so we could -- no shit -- reenact some Romy and Michelle-style schadenfreude. All I could think was, Long ago, I loved this girl. It would be a shame to fry those happy memories with all the sick burns I am aching to inflict upon her sheltered psyche.

So yeah, there's not much reconnecting happening. There's an epigraph, though: life hit the skids again a few years back and a result I'm not proud of is that I cut a lot of people off. If you tried to tell me about your new romance, kid, job, house, book, limited-edition vinyl pressing, adventures in wine country...I'm afraid my enthusiasm was almost certainly lackluster at best. Some of that's typical human frailty, but some of it is the kind of thing that if left unchecked would lead me to become the kind of friend that my best friend became to me. I can't let that happen. So I'm checking myself, closely, in addition to doing some personal repair work on my swagger. I recommend you do the same.
posted by melissa may at 9:28 PM on May 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm not sure that your unease with her generosity isn't mostly your problem, not hers. The rest sounds reasonable from your perspective.

(Disclosure: I'm very generous with my time and money, and other stuff, too. I don't keep score! I believe there are plenty of people like me who do not keep score!

Tho only person who has ever seemed to have bristled about this generosity from time-to-time is my closest oldest friend. Nobody else seems to care, fwiw. Plenty of people I don't expect it from are super unexpectedly generous towards me, too. No one thinks strings are attached. But my good old friend? Yeah. He has (he freely admits, especially now that his gf lives with him and makes jokes about it!) certain hang-ups about some stuff. Sometimes my unfailing generosity pushes his buttons. Sure I've dialed it back, but I'm not going to stop, y'know, being me.

Maybe years of intimacy are at play here between you and your old friend, and me and my old friend? Is your friend generous across the board? If so, please don't take her generosity as anything less than her practical and free expression of her affection and esteem for you.

Plenty of people are absolutely selfish in life. I feel it freeing when I find it safe to be myself with someone. Most of the time I have to be really really careful who I open the door for. It sucks.

The rest of your stuff sounds like the ebb and flow of relationships. Normal. Valid.

Just a different idea on this one point. I don't think it changes your overall story.)
posted by jbenben at 10:17 PM on May 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Should you stay "best friends" with someone who makes you cry every time you see her?

You know the answer to that already, don't you?
posted by Perodicticus potto at 10:39 PM on May 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

It sounds to be like your friend is clueless and obtuse but not malicious. In some of these examples I do think it's possible you're being oversensitive. For example, I don't think she did anything wrong inviting you into her home so you wouldn't have to wait in your car - it seems like anything insulting there is coming from you rather than her words. Calling your gift "chocos" isn't mean and it sounds like she tried her best to make up for a perceived slight about the gift.

The stuff about making fun of your family does cross the line but again I don't see from what you're saying that she's doing in maliciously. The "pedicure" stuff does show she has a hierarchical streak but that doesn't seem to be addressed towards you and yes, nobody's perfect.

I can see things from both sides. On her side, maybe she feels she's put a lot of time and effort into "helping" you and you criticize her for it. On your side, her "helping" is actually hurting you. I also think you're so aware of your situation that you're looking for slights and seeing them where they aren't intended.

It sounds like she's trying to help you but her attempts are quite clumsy and having the opposite effect. It also sounds like she's a wonderful friend in so many ways that it would be such a shame if these miscommunications caused you to lose each others' friendship. I think it's worth keeping on trying to talk about these issues but making a conscious effort to try to see where the other one is coming from.
posted by hazyjane at 10:52 PM on May 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, a couple of years ago, I found myself being careless with the feelings of a good friend-- making fun of her family, saying undermining things. I didn't even realize I was doing it. We'd been friends since high school, and I sort of felt that we were so deeply intertwined that I could say mean things about her with the same casualness that I said mean things about myself-- i.e., mock her mother in the same way I'd mock my own mother. After letting it go on a bit, she told me in no uncertain terms that what I was doing was not appropriate. I was immediately chastened, apologized sincerely, and changed the routine. She gave me positive reinforcement for my reformed attitude and made clear how much she loved me. Different people, different circumstances wrt to money and everything else, but maybe you can try telling her-- outside the context of a fight-- that you love her but she's *doing it* again?
posted by lalalana at 12:14 AM on May 10, 2012

Not suggesting your friend hasn't done anything wrong, but you have described her in terms that almost anybody could describe any of their friends, if they had contempt for them.

You sound very jealous and I'm not sure it matters that she could have done things differently - I think you're offended by who she is rather than what she's doing, and I agree that she should respect the boundaries you've set out, but if it wasn't that it would be something else.

I suggest that you simply stop returning her calls. Keep her on your Christmas and birthday card list but otherwise, don't initiate contact and don't respond when she contacts you. Especially if she's undergoing treatment for depression, she won't benefit from having friends who hate her, and seemingly you do hate her, however you arrived at this point and regardless of whether that can be justified on paper.
posted by tel3path at 3:37 AM on May 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

i would just like to chime in to say that homemade truffles beat a vintage ring any day, and that this is especially so at higher income levels where it being obviously a time-consuming thoughtful gift to make results in it being more valuable, in my humble opinion.

i vote for lots of distance for now, and a natural growing back together if that's meant to be.
posted by saraindc at 7:46 AM on May 10, 2012

This is tricky, because -- and I don't mean this quite the way I fear it's going to sound -- your descriptions seem so implausibly one-sided. It just doesn't seem like it's the whole story that she interrogates you until you cry if you're responding to questions with a nice, firm, "Eh, I don't really want to talk about it," which is always your right. If she asks you how you are and you start pouring your heart out, then that's partly your decision, no?

And when you say she makes fun of your family but means to support you, that really, REALLY sounds to me like you express something to her that makes her think you share her frustration and she thinks she's just repeating your own sentiments. It almost sounds like you express frustration about your family to her, but when she reflects it back to you (ex: "My mother makes me CRAZY," and then she says later, "Well, after all, your mother is such a pain"), you feel guilty and get angry. (I say this partly because I've experienced it myself -- not with family, but with friends, where I tell Friend A that Friend B hurt my feelings, and then Friend A says, "Friend B sounds like a jackass," and then I get VERY DEFENSIVE about Friend B, know what I mean?)

Because there are things here that seem like flat-out misinterpretations of what her intent almost surely is (she invited you over so you wouldn't have to twiddle your thumbs between appointments?) and other things where the lack of specificity concerns me (I don't know what it means to "dismiss" your gift), it concerns me that no part of this story includes anything that you're doing that contributes to the conflict between the two of you. It's like you're describing a relationship filled with conflict in which you aren't even there. I'm sure you don't mean it that way, but it seems like you've taken away your own agency, in a sense -- you're making yourself only the person this conflict happens to, and not someone who participates in the relationship.

You surely have the right to decide the friendship has run its course, but if you do, I hope you'll do it with some idea of things you might want to do differently in future friendships, and not just the notion that she was unaccountably horrible to you. If she's been a good friend much of the time, she's probably not malicious enough to be doing 100 percent of the heavy lifting on filling the friendship with conflict.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 9:06 AM on May 10, 2012 [10 favorites]

Your pride and anything that threatens it can really skew your perceptions. I was in a similar situation to you once, and I resented it horribly when people tried to help. Part of it was I really hated acknowledging to anybody how bad things were, another part was needing the help and then feeling so guilty and ashamed for accepting it. For the friends that were there for me it must have really seemed like a lose-lose proposition. I felt like people were trying to patronize me, that I was a charity case that needed to be fixed. They all approached me with the very best intentions but couldn't understand that it made me feel worse about myself. Looking back, I'm extraordinarily thankful for the friends that stuck by me and didn't give up on me even through the worst of my lashing out.

If I could have written on the inside of my eyelids back then the quote "Never attribute to malice that which can easily be explained by stupidity or ignorance". I'm not sure who said it and I've probably gotten it a little wrong, but I like the gist of it and I think it's something that applies here. I don't think your friend sounds malevolent and she certainly doesn't sound like she's actively trying to undermine you. Her actions, to me, sound like someone who is trying to be helpful and supportive and maybe a little frustrated that her efforts aren't really having the effect she thinks they should, and often producing the opposite result. The gifts for example are probably her attempts to share her newfound comfort, not an attempt to upset the balance in your relationship. She might not know the best way to support you, but that doesn't mean she's purposely undermining you.
posted by Beacon Inbound at 9:51 AM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you have two problems here.

1. Your friend is tone-deaf to your emotions.

2. Your emotions are incredibly raw and you are feeling fragile now.

Therefore, every little thing she says rubs you the wrong way.

You're feeling crappy about your situation, and it's permiating your world-view. She's feeling awesome about her situation and you don't want to hear it.

She's rubbing your face in her decorating? Hey, she's in the middle of a project, she wants to talk about it, but you don't want to hear it because you can't afford to decorate.

Think about all the topics you don't want to hear about:

Your situation
Her situation
Your family
Her family
Your finances
Her finances

So, what do you propose to talk about?

It seems like she's trying to continue to reach out to you, and with each effort you resent her even more. How exactly does she win?

Step back, get some perspective, continue therapy. Once you're feeling better, I think you'll find that your friend hasn't changed all that much, but your reaction to her has.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:33 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

i know the snideness of any comment is extraordinarily context-dependent. that said, i don't actually find anything wrong with any of your friend's comments as described in your post. i also find the last comment totally indecipherable:

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. You treat this comment as if it is obviously and overwhelmingly mean or aggressive or something. (Today my anger was not delayed.) i do not mean this unkindly, but i do not think i would trust your glosses on this woman's remarks. there is a lot of other personal stuff going on.
posted by anthropomorphic at 1:48 PM on May 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like she's worried about you, and the worry is coming out crooked. Being anxious about the well-being of someone we genuinely care about is, like other kinds of anxiety, often very unpleasant to experience: It can be very easy to slide from "I'm really concerned about Anon's situation, and it's really preying on my mind," to "Anon is driving me freaking nuts because of her situation, and I'm mad at her." And because most of us are loathe to do things that smack of kicking people when they're down, this kind of anger can tend to percolate out in messed up, passive-aggressive ways.

This isn't to say that her behavior isn't cruddy, just that it may ultimately be coming from a kinder place than you think. She should be able to respect your boundaries, and she should treat you as an adult and an equal, no matter how many designer dresses her closet is stuffed with. If she can't do that, despite repeated discussions, then you're more than within your rights to walk away.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:05 PM on May 10, 2012

Bare bones - if you met someone like her now, would you be friends with her?

Probably not.

So why would you be friends with her now?

People change, and unfortunately not always for the better.

Ultimately you've been honest with her about aspects of her behaviour towards that you find troubling or offensive. A real friend would take these on board, take note and try to ensure they are respectful towards your wishes.

Certainly not every "wish" should be agreed to between friends - there are times where good friends will be frank, honest and up-front to the point of bluntness because they care about each other.

But this behaviour seems to be the exact opposite. You've made requests of her and she has ignored them. Then she has done or said things that have furthered offended you - despite repeated requests from you not to do so.

This person isn't listening, and isn't doing things because she cares. She sounds selfish, self-absorbed and ignorant.

Sometimes friendships go by the wayside. I maintained a friendship with a guy I knew from high school for nigh on 15 or more years - he was a best man at my wedding, a close friend, a good person. Our families (wives included) got on really well.

And while he is still a good person, a good family man and husband, he wasn't particularly interested in maintaining the friendship for one reason or another. I got sick of chasing him up to catch up, so one day I said to my wife - "I'm not doing this anymore because I'm sick of doing the chasing - if he really cared enough, he'd take some initiative".

That was a number of years ago, and while it is a little upsetting, that's the way things go sometimes. His priorities changed and in turn, he changed. And that meant that our friendship no longer functioned. I certainly don't hold it against him - and if I saw him in the street I'd shake his hand, say hey and have a coffee because he is a good man.

But by the same token, friendship is a two-way street.

And your circumstance seems to be a one-way street where your friend neither listens to you, nor seemingly cares enough to take what you say seriously or under advisement.

I wouldn't bother any more. Whether you say something to her to that end is your choice - but perhaps she wouldn't listen to that either.
posted by chris88 at 4:28 PM on May 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

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