A friend is need is a friend in need.
March 22, 2013 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Should I try to repair this friendship or let it fizzle and move on? I met my friend T about 9 years ago in college and we were close friends for about the last 6 years. Ahe was always more outgoing compared to me (I am a bit of a loner). Long details inside, thanks for taking the time to read...

T is one of those people who invest a lot in their social life and expect a lot in return. She updates facebook about 5 times a day, is always initiating hang out time equally in one on one and group scenarios, and doesn't seem to like to spend much time alone. She is often domineering in group situations, needing to trump other's knowledge, stories, etc. She sometimes sort of takes over by force of loud. I'm pretty low key and enjoy spending time alone and prefer small hangouts to larger groups because I don't feel as connected to everyone in larger groups. However I enjoyed my friendship with T because there was never a shortage of things to do and while domineering, she was also supportive and would tell you how great you are and how much x sucks and is wrong to do or feel n towards you when I was down in the dumps. She often came and spent overnights with me when I lived in beachtowns and when I moved further away I made trips up to see her. We shared similar tastes in pop culture.

Over the past 2 years or so, both of our life situations have become stressful. She graduated college and got a job in newspaper reporting (she was a journalism major), but she didn't like the rediculously low pay and didn't see much chance to move up so she enrolled in a 2 year nursing school. Her parents support her, she lives at home, and they aid in school costs. Also over the past 2 years she had her first serious, albeit short, relationship and the guy dumped her. She developed a new hobby, running, ran a marathon and was training for additional marathons, superman runs and whatnot. She has been skiing since childhood and started volunteering as a ski patroller (this required heavy commuting) and eventually worked up to a part time paid patroller position.

I ended a six year relationship because I realized that my boyfriend at the time was never going to marry me and did not want kids. I started another relationship which is good, but it's very strained by external factors (immigration / citizenship issues). Basically logistics could ruin this relationship for me and I feel like my life is on hold while we try to work out these external things. I have also had extremem job dissatisfaction and no luck finding an alternative and I have a lot of anxiety because I have no financial support and if I loose my job and can't find a replacement I will lose my home. They are laying off people at my job and our company is merging with another by the end of the year, which will result in more layoffs.

So basically here's the problem. As the stresses piled on for both of us, we were able to vent to eachother and in turn would be told "you got this." However, at some point things shifted and I felt that when I was talking about some trouble, she would basically start saying how her trouble was worse and more serious. Because when I vent I really want more of a pick me up than a vent spiral, I withdrew a bit and stopped telling T of my troubles. Telling her my troubles started to turn into some sort of competition as to who has it harder and I was not interested at all in competing. T continued to vent to me and she seemed to exaggerate the gravity of her troubles more and more. things came to a head when she called because she was demoted back down to volunteer ski patrol after her and another patroller did something thath was a big no-no (i forget the technical details becaues I didn't understand too much of it) and broke some equipment. I tried to tell her that she would be ok and could work herself back up, its near the end of the season, learn and start fresh next season, more tiem to focus on school, etc. She responded by saying that she won't be happy unless she can be a full time ER nurse and a paid Ski PAtroller because she wants to be someone who is an expert, who really knows something thath others turn to. I said that she should be careful to not set herself up for disappointment as being both of those things at the same time is very time consuming and may not be doable, but she can still excel at nursing and skiing. She was also upset because she lost her only source of earned income and was planning to go on an expensive ski trip to Canada, to which i said that sucks, but if you need to save money maybe you could do a vacation next year or choose a closer place, daytrip, whatever. She exploded and basically said thath she wants it all and is devestated thath she can't get it. There is no option other than being all these things and going on this vacation she can't afford. Told me I was a shitty person and all that. I told her that I really didnt have the mental space to indulge in these dramatics and that being her friend as her expression of troubles escalated more and more felt unbalanced and taxing. huge fight.

Well the following week she broke her foot slipping on her floor, meaning she's out of patrolling fo rthe season, can't run, and can't complete her clinicals for school since she wasnt able to walk for a few weeks. Because it was so soon after our fight I texted her and said I heard she broke her foot, sorry to hear it, and hope it heals up fast and that her life will get back to normal because i know she's determined. She responded curtly "thanks friend." Later I realized she defriended me on Facebook (I'm not a big user but to her that's a big statement to make) then she texted to say that hshe doesn't like the state of our friendship and that she can't take time to bother with someone who won't even call and that I'm not "there" for her and too withdrawn. I just responded and said "Ok" because I don't want to deal with a dramatic "breakup".

She has been a friend for many years, but I feel we may have grown apart and I may be more at peace with myself while she is still trying to figure out where she fits in the world. But due to teh history I keep thinking maybe I should give it a shot and try to repair the friendship. Thoughts?
posted by WeekendJen to Human Relations (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
She sounds like a friend you can let go of -- history is not a good reason to be friends with someone who does not respect you. And for the record, you sound like a great friend -- in no way a "shitty" one.
posted by Lescha at 10:51 AM on March 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

You guys sound like you weren't great friends for awhile now. Just let it drop for a bit. If she wants to reconnect, she will.
posted by xingcat at 10:57 AM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding that you seem like a great friend; she simply isn't friend material for you at all. Maybe she was at one time, but she isn't now, and you aren't obligated to hold on to that "good at one time" idea at all.

Sounds to me like you handled this extremely well.
posted by TinWhistle at 11:00 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

A friend once put it to me this way "Old friends are not the same as good friends." Especially when they come off like self-absorbed drama queens.

Walk away from this one knowing you are not the problem. People like this demand too much of your time and energy (in a one-sided way) to be worth your time.
posted by futureisunwritten at 11:02 AM on March 22, 2013 [8 favorites]

I would walk away from this with no guilt. I had a friend like this and I friendship divorced her. Best decision of my life. Being rid of the guilt of "not being a good friend", of having to hear how "awful" everything was, having her go radio silent for weeks at a time just to be dramatic and wait for me to chase after her and be concerned... yeah, I don't miss it. As it turns out, the tipping point for my toxic friendship was when she YET AGAIN went radio silent for weeks and I decided to just let her be and not send her concerned messages this time. She got angry with me because I clearly didn't care about her and as her "best friend" should have been worried.

Yeah... I was done.

The shreds of friendship I lost were nothing compared to all negativity and drama I also lost.

Like other have said, it sounds like in this situation you weren't the one at fault. She probably sees it differently, but that is the nature of these things. I think you can walk away from this one and feel okay about it. I think the fight itself doesn't really matter in this decision. What matters is that you and she haven't been good friends for a long time. She hasn't been a good friend to YOU at the very least. You have felt this way for some time. Friendships should be positive things in your life, not negative things that compound the other difficult things you have going on. I think your reply of "Ok" to her dramatic declaration of how you've failed in the relationship was bang on. Drama queens (which she sounds to be) feed off of drama. Replying with deadpan unemotional responses is exactly what they don't want and is exactly what they don't know how to respond to.

as futureisunwritten said, "Old friends are not the same as good friends". She is an old friend, not a good friend.

Walk away and good luck with everything going on in your life!
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:15 AM on March 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

The way I think of these types of situations is that I'm not actually helping the other person by listening to her vent and agreeing that her life is terrible. Feeding into a high-drama person's drama might be what she wants, but ultimately it's not going to help her develop better coping skills. I'm not suggesting it's your responsibility (or place) to teach her coping skills, I just don't think you need to feel guilty at all about letting this friendship go, at least for now.

I mean, sure, there are plenty of times when you should be there for a friend who just needs to vent about something--but there's huge a difference between having a friendship in which each person can come to the other to vent when she needs to, and having a friendship in which most or all conversations involve the high-drama person venting and the other person making sympathetic noises.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:15 AM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

I tend to disagree with the above responses although I can understand where they're coming from and, at least for now, yeah maybe you do need her out of your life for a while.

However, I have friends like her, with unpleasant traits (dominance, self-absorption) but they're balanced out with other stuff that makes me want them in my life. It sounds like for the most part, "T" was worth having around until recently.

The thing is, it does sound like she's behaved badly and taken a lot of her shit out on you, but it is possible that she thinks you're doing the same. If you both use each other to vent, and you've both had a lot to vent about lately, maybe you've been leaning way too hard on each other when you're both tender and not up to a compassion-fest because of your own stuff.

Anyway, I think that 6 years of closeness is a whole lot to throw away, and furthermore I think that were it not for your recent tough times, you wouldn't feel so inclined to do so. I think that it's worth putting this relationship on the back burner (waaaaaay back, if you want) until you're stronger and happier, and then if she hasn't got in contact to apologise by then, to send her a message in some way saying you'd like to hang out if she's not still angry with you and you hope that things have improved for her.

Anyway, you need some time to get your own stuff dealt with first. Take it, and if you feel ready, then make contact. But if you never feel ready... that's ok too.
posted by greenish at 11:19 AM on March 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

I keep thinking maybe I should give it a shot and try to repair the friendship

It sounds more like you think you should than you want to. It also sounds like she has already made her decision. After all the history she defriended you after a fight rather than trying to talk rationally with you about what was bothering her. I maybe kind of get she was annoyed you text instead of rang when she was injured, but at the same time it feels like that was because you couldn't handle any more negativity.

You sound like you have too much stress in your life to have another person add to that, so I'd vote for letting it fizzle out for now. You never know, you might reconnect in the future if she matures a little or your circumstances change. But as it is its time to move on from her. Good luck with all your job and relationship issues.
posted by billiebee at 11:30 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I keep thinking maybe I should give it a shot and try to repair the friendship.

What friendship?
posted by headnsouth at 11:43 AM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

The kindest thing you could do for your friend right now is to give her some space and time to pull her head out of her a$$. It sounds like both of you have been through a lot lately and she is handling her pain, disappointment, and frustration very poorly. Even giving her the benefit of the doubt that this behaviour is temporary--which is a big benefit in light of the way you have described things--feeling bad is still not a license to treat other people like crap.

She might realize that one day, and seek you out. If and when that happens, you can decide how to respond. But in the meantime, you have every right to get on with your own life and spend your time and energy on people who can and do appreciate you.
posted by rpfields at 12:10 PM on March 22, 2013

The way I see it, it really depends on whether you think the positive aspects of the friendship outweigh the negative ones you've described.

I have had two friends who had that "story-topping" quality - where their story is always worse than yours and their hardships are always more difficult and so on.

One of them has always been this way - it's just a part of her personality, and I really think she doesn't always realize that she's being rude by not listening to people and making her problems out to be worse than everyone else's. This friend and I had a disagreement about something and made a mutual decision to not really continue the friendship, which turned out to be a good call on both our parts because our personalities didn't really click anyway. I'm much more content and at peace not being around her because the positive qualities of that friendship didn't outweigh the negative.

The second friend that has this quality has been one of my best friends for a long time. She's never taken it to the level you've told us about here, but I have definitely noticed, especially over the past year (which has been awful for her), that I've started to withdraw from telling her what's up with me much for the same reasons that you describe - it kind of becomes a competition rather than a support. I think this has a lot to do with her circumstances and how bad things have been for her lately. This does frustrate me, but in the name of patience and waiting it out, I've never talked to her about it, because I'm assuming it's temporary and the positive aspects of that friendship far outweigh the negative. But I do think that if she accused me of being withdrawn she would have some cause, especially since I've never brought up that it bothers me.

So I guess when it comes down to it, the questions you might want to ask yourself as you decide what to do are: could this be temporary craziness/selfishness on her part? Do you think that talking to her about why you withdrew and asking her to try to change this behavior would have any effect? Does being her friend entail far more good than it does bad? Will she listen to your (very legitimate) concerns about her and your friendship, or just start casting blame right away? And, most importantly at this point, do you think it's best for you to continue the friendship, or do you feel like she would just continue to take advantage of you?

Obviously your only true obligation is this situation is to yourself, but if something's not sitting right, maybe it would help to think some of those things over. Good luck!
posted by luciernaga at 1:01 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

My experience has been that when I am actually resolving a problem, the friends who remain mired in theirs cannot remain friends. They eventually stop speaking to me. If, for example, we both have crappy marriages and I finally divorce but they continue to bitch and moan but stay, at some point it becomes intolerable that I am getting things done. Given that she moved back home, hasn't had much in the way of a relationship, etc, I suspect her insistance that her problems are worse is, in some sense, probably true. And you cannot force her to make other choices. So this will probably end, one way or another, no matter what you do.
posted by Michele in California at 1:25 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your acquaintance didn't want you to cheer lead for her when she was down, she wanted "poor little you" treatment (Oh, poor T. What a horrible thing. So unfair. You don't deserve it. You're much too wonderful/pretty/accomplished blah blah).

T is a spoiled rotten brat.

In a few years, maybe she'll have matured enough to understand that the world does not revolve around her and she'll be worthy of your friendship. Until then, remain friendly and polite and get on with your life.
posted by jaimystery at 1:48 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone for your answers. I've decided to let things fizzle. We used to hike, go to the beach, and check our music / restaurants and enjoy ourselves being in the moment while also being able to bring up our troubles and talk, but not dwell on them. That dynamic has been gone for a while now and was replaced by pretty much what Meg_Murry said -"a friendship in which most or all conversations involve the high-drama person venting and the other person making sympathetic noises" - in addition to that in itself being straining, it also made it difficult for me to enjoy whatever activity we were doing. I'll just wait and see if we reconnect after a period of relaxation.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:08 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

99.9% of the time I err on the side of saving a friendship, especially a long-term one. I am sorry you have allowed it to fizzle but I think you will find soon enough that in a world full of distant strangers, close friendship is worth fighting for. That's not to say a break is not needed. Clearly you need one, but to just cut her off? For being the same person she was when you became friends? Does not sound entirely fair. I also think your simple "ok" response when she expressed her hurt was somewhat cold. She clearly valued your friendship and thought you were close enough that hearing about her getting hurt would warrant a phone call and not simply a generic text. Is she self-absorbed? Probably. Are there things about her you might never like? Probably. But I still say if you felt compelled enough to even write this question, this is an important person in your life. Again, the relationship may change as you grow and your lives shift, but years from now you will enjoy having that familiarity of the past with someone. I really believe you will.
posted by GeniPalm at 8:36 AM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wow, tons of great advice in this thread.

Meg_Murry, aside from having an awesome username hits it right on the head. Feeding into a high-drama person's drama might be what she wants, but ultimately it's not going to help her develop better coping skills. This. Recognizing high drama people and deciding on how to deal with that can be really difficult, moreso if they're a blood relation and not just a friend.

Sometimes you have to know when to walk away. My best friend and I have gotten sick of each others drama several times over the past 25 or so years and have taken long breaks from each other, and I think at the end of the day it worked out for the best. I'll just wait and see if we reconnect after a period of relaxation. I think you've come to the same conclusion I did. I hope it works for you.

A friend once put it to me this way "Old friends are not the same as good friends." Just to tell you ahead of time, I'm gonna steal this one. What a great sentence.
posted by Sphinx at 9:43 AM on March 23, 2013

You've made a decision, but I wanted to share a different perspective.

I had three such friends from university days -- a lot of the excitement they could generate was about how great things were and how bright the future was. But the future is not always bright for everyone. Some people don't see themselves accurately and their grasp will exceed their reach. Things go toxic...well, much as you've described.

What I did with these people was to simply cut out all of the HYPE from the relationship. The friendship and its tone was not conditional on them being a success or not. If they went into a rant of where they'd be in two years, I cut them off with something like "Well, someone is going to be in that spot in two years. Do you think that person spends their time talking about it?" or "It's possible but a fairly big reach. What do you need to do to make that happen?"

Anyway, out of the three, one went by the wayside. But the other two are still in touch all these years later. Of those two, one did become fairly successful and the other didn't, but we all found things we could talk about instead of doing hype/commiseration cycles.

I realize my friendships are not your friendship, but don't forget about the option to simply ban certain discussions with a specific person. We don't have to be full access and open to all topics with everyone.
posted by 99percentfake at 11:33 AM on March 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

You tested her and expressed concern. She has closed a number of avenues of communication, and has been rigid about her needs. I think you've done what you can, and that the friendship is essentially over. If you missed her, you might be able to revive it, but in this case, I wouldn't, and I don't think you have anything to feel bad about. Your behavior has been reasonable.
posted by theora55 at 11:48 AM on March 23, 2013

I think that you both have a lot going on, so it may be good to let things cool down and take a break from one another. Later on if she does extend an olive branch, you can decide what you want to do then. But for now focus on other friendships that are more nurturing and supportive.
posted by lawgirl at 10:14 AM on March 24, 2013

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