Should I continue being friends with this person? Warning:I ramble...
April 27, 2013 8:32 AM   Subscribe

I am wondering if I should continue a friendship with a woman I met on our old job almost 20 years ago. Some background: we're both in our 40's, married, and have children. We live in different cities, my family moved from our hometown 14 years ago. I work outside the home, she is a sahm since she had her first child. We have corresponded mostly by e-mail, facebook, text message over the years. When we both worked we would literally "talk" via e-mail the entire day. We have been there for each other through some really serious stuff, i.e. marital problems, deaths, pregnancies, illnesses.

I used to be an open book with her, I'd talk to her about annoying things my husband did, concerns I had about life, dreams I had for myself and my family. She never really shared stuff on the same level, with me. She talks mostly about her kids, or gossips about stuff going on in her other friends' life, mind you I haven't met any of these people. Over the years I stopped sharing so intimately with her because I figure if she's going to share the dirt of the lives of her other friends with me, then surely my dirt was being shared with them.

There have been times over the years where she has done things that really hurt my feelings. Her birthday is exactly one week before mine (she's a year older). A few years ago she was turning 40. I asked her several times over the weeks leading up to her birthday what she was doing to celebrate. I found out, via facebook, that she had thrown a huge birthday party for herself the day after it happened. I know I live in another city, but she could have invited me, I would have come down. I go to our hometown several times a year, especially since my family is there. I never said anything to her about it.

As I mentioned, I go home a few times a year. I used to always tell her when we were coming in hopes that we could get together. A couple of years ago, my family was there during the week of Thanksgiving. I had told her the week prior we were coming. I heard nothing from her. I sent her a text when we were in town, again I get crickets. She responded to my text the Monday after Thanksgiving (when she knew I'd left) saying sorry, she'd left her cellphone in her dad's car. I used to get frustrated by this type of behavior and just cut her off. I actually tried talking directly to her about how I felt she took our friendship for granted. She acknowledged it and tried to do better.

Within the last week she nonchalantly posts on her facebook how she is packing her first box and has such a long to do list. That peaked my curiosity, as she had not mentioned anything about it in the several texts we'd exchanged recently. I asked her why she was packing? She said her family was buying a new house and renting their current one. She sent me the link to the MLS for the property. It's a huge step up from their current house, half million+, gated community, etc. She said she and her husband have been looking for a year and they have told no one. I honestly don't believe that, but whatever.

I don't know why her behavior irks me. For a long time I have felt she is all about "getting ahead" financially. She came from a middle class family. Her husband's family was more well off. Her husband works hard, owns his own business and is clearly doing pretty well financially. I started feeling she had issues around material things over a decade ago. She was planning her wedding to her husband while having an affair with his wealthy, married boss. She was 100% certain this guy was leaving his wife to be with her. I always told her this guy was not leaving his wife and that she was being used. Not even this guy and his wife getting pregnant after going through many rounds of infertility treatments made her believe he was a selfish ass. She told me she loved the boss. I asked why she was marrying the man who is now her husband. She said he had potential, she was running out of options, and that she loved him, but not passionately. Their friendship with the boss and his wife imploded after the company was sued by several of their clients for the boss's shady handling of their money. My friend and her husband are no longer in contact with the boss or his (now) ex wife.

So what is this? Is this a friendship? She can be supportive at times, she's not all bad. She was "there" for me (virtually) over the last couple of years when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I had to go through surgery/treatment. I just don't like the way I feel sometimes in my relationship with her. I have 3 other women I call "friend" who are married, have kids, are successful. None of these friendships make me feel "some kind of way" about myself. I try not to compare my life to other people's lives. Why is it so hard for me not to do that, on some level, with this one person?
posted by getyourlife to Human Relations (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Let it go. Frankly after some of what you have told us here, I would have backed up a long time ago.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:44 AM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

She means much more to you than you do to her. You don't need to do any significant friend-breakup stuff. Just withdraw slowly, stop telling her things, look around for new friendships.
posted by zadcat at 8:44 AM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

You're allowed to drop a friendship with somebody.

You don't even need a particular reason, although you give one here in this question: "None of these friendships make me feel "some kind of way" about myself." That's entirely valid. Surround yourself with people with whom you can engage in mutual happiness. There's nothing wrong with stepping down from your friendship with this woman; just act civil towards her and disengage. It seems like she'll get the message. Yes, you've helped each other in the past, and perhaps you feel that you owe her something, but it seems clear through her lack of actions that she doesn't particularly want what you have to give anymore. That does not devalue your friendship in the past! But she's not treating you how you'd like to be treated in the present, and that's what matters right now.

It's great that you have other friends. That means that there's nothing wrong with you in this respect, that you're perfectly capable of having healthy friendly relationships.

I'll just reiterate again: You're allowed to drop a friendship with somebody. It doesn't make you a bad person. I think that friendship, especially one that spans many years and tumultuous life events, is often portrayed as a more unbreakable bond than marriage, sometimes. And often, in my experience, it is. But it can also be wonderfully close and fulfilling for a while, and then taper off to nothing. The fact is, that's okay. People change and their lives change so as to become incompatible on some level. Friendship doesn't have to be permanent to have value, and you don't need to have guilt about it ebbing away, especially if the other person has stopped meeting you halfway.
posted by Mizu at 8:47 AM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'd have started leaving my cellphone in my Dad's car a long time ago if I were you.
posted by Rykey at 8:59 AM on April 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I read somewhere - it was likely another AskMe post/comment, although I can't locate what I'm thinking of now - that friendships can be specific to a time period, or a situation, or a school/employer/hobby, but lifelong friendship is comparatively rare. I've certainly found this in my own life, and I've had to forgive myself for letting go of friendships which I thought were lifelong but turned from something enriching and loving into something which made me feel bad about myself. It's a cliche, but it is true - sometimes people grow apart, and that doesn't take away from the happy times or supportive conversations you had with this friend in the past. She isn't being loving or supportive toward you, and hasn't made serious attempts to make you feel included in her life.

This reminds me of a friend I have who I once considered close but no longer *rely* on - for friendship, for support, etc. When she reaches out, we can have a pleasant exchange, but because I don't rely on her to be a good friend to me (something I've found her to be unreliable with over the past few years, despite intermittent moments of connection), I feel much more positively toward her and toward myself. She no longer makes me feel bad about myself because I no longer give her that power over me.

I hope this is helpful. Your friendship may be changing shape, becoming less close, and that isn't a failing on either of your parts, necessarily. Although, having read your side of it, I'm inclined to think that you've done your best to be a good friend to someone who hasn't returned that kindness.
posted by pammeke at 9:02 AM on April 27, 2013 [12 favorites]

I think you are more invested in this friendship than she is. That doesn't mean it's a bad friendship, necessarily. Do you have to have it all-or-nothing? DTMF or BFF?

What I mean is, let's say there is a friendship scale. On that scale of 1-10, you want maybe an 8 -- close friends, share everything, not married or anything though. She wants about a 4 -- more than just exchanging annual Christmas cards, but nowhere near what you want. Can you dial what you want back down to a 4? Can you be flexible, knowing that where you fall on the scale (in the type of friendship you want to extend to the other) changes periodically for both of you, and it's nothing really personal just the way things are?

If you can't, then maybe you end the friendship because it makes you feel bad. But that's a bit of a shame, because you say that there have been times when she's really been there for you, too.
posted by Houstonian at 9:07 AM on April 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

1. It sounds like she wants an online friend instead of a physical friend. If this is not what you want, feel free to fade out.

2. As for you being more detailed and intimate with divulging things going on it your life and she not reciprocating, take into consideration that she is a sahm (as am I) and I kid you not, I have nothing really exciting to talk about. I probably do the same thing she does from time to time - talk about my kids, talk about some big event in another friend's life - all because I'm not that exciting and my days are pretty mundane (but fulfilling!). But I'm not sure friends really want to hear about me cleaning my house, or driving the kids to activities, what we had for dinner, the pile of laundry I tackled, etc. - especially those that work outside the home and have more exciting days than I do.

3. Regarding the move - perhaps she didn't tell about it because she didn't want you to think she is materialistic. Although that affair - UGH!!

4. The birthday party - see #1 above. Also, as a sahm who often feels pretty boring, I am sometimes scared to get together with people that I'm mostly friends with online/email/chat because I am not nearly as clever, quick, funny, or interesting as I am when I can type out responses to emails/chats. She may be worried that she's not going to come off as interesting and your online friendship would suffer (you may realize what a bore she really is IRL!).

5. Thanksgiving weekend - she didn't have the courage to tell you outright she wouldn't be getting together with you. It's not too hard to say/text, "no can do this weekend!" But for whatever reason (perhaps not wanting to have a physical/IRL friendship with you) she took the easy way out.

Either discontinue the friendship or realize that she can't handle/doesn't want a physical/IRL friendship and only do the email/chat thing from here on out. No pressure to meet up IRL, just casually exchange emails from time to time. She wants a different friendship than what you want - she just hasn't had the insight or courage to express that.
posted by Sassyfras at 9:11 AM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I forgot to mention, that I have tried the "backing off" the friendship in the past. Then, out of the blue, I get an e-mail or text asking me what's going on or she reveals some deep stuff to me. It's like she knows I am giving up and she tries to reel me back. I have told her, point blank, that I felt like we weren't close and that I felt she took my friendship for granted. She has apologized and has gotten better. I have felt like she has tried to be more "open" with me. I still feel...I don't know...about it. She has told me what a wonderful, incredible friend I am over the years. I know I am a good friend. I know she could be a good friend too. I feel like she has some issues that would require therapy. I have gone to therapy in the past and it has helped me tremendously. I can't tell her how to live her she has to go to therapy. I try to meet my friends where "they are". I love them, flaws and all. There is just a dynamic in my relationship with her that is maddening. In her own, warped way I feel she "needs" my friendship.
posted by getyourlife at 9:14 AM on April 27, 2013

Nthing the comments that friendships needn't be lifelong. You can have friends that enrich a particular phase in your life which then grow apart. And that's OK. You are not obliged to stick with a friend just for the sake of having "an old friend." True old friends are precious, but they are also rare, IME.

Upon your update: The fact that she tries to reel you back in after you distance yourself but then it's her turn to distance herself after you come back isn't really healthy. It sounds like she might be trying to manipulate you into staying friends with her. Again, you are NOT obliged to take her bait. (And coupled with the account of her affair and having her now-husband as the back-up option makes me question how she really treats people close to her.)

Feel free to dial her back to "acquaintance" level, and, if she comes running back to you to beg you to be her bestie again, to not respond. That sounds quite manipulative on her part, IMO. You are not obliged to this person. You don't have to be friends with people you don't want to be around - that is one of the great things about being an adult.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:18 AM on April 27, 2013

It sounds to me like you two view your friendship somewhat differently. It sounds like she is content to just maintain an online friendship where you just kind of write each other and pass time chatting while you would like to be "real" friends and see each other. I could be wrong on my read of the situation because, I have to admit, I have been a person who was content with being virtual friends with someone, but didn't really want to hang out and visit them. So maybe that's why I see that as what's happening here.

In any case, the bottom line is that you are not getting what you want out of the friendship and she actually makes you feel bad. You care more than she does, and it's too bad, but it happens to everyone. There doesn't need to be a "talk" or anything dramatic, just stop initiating conversation with her. I'll leave it up to you if, when she does reach out, if you want to ignore completely or just start responding slower, shorter and let it fizzle out. The fact that you wrote this post shows the friendship isn't working and it sounds like there's nothing you can say or do that will change the dynamics of why it doesn't work. Just leave it behind.

edit: Just saw your followup post. To me it only seems to reaffirm that you should just call it quits. Even if she does seem to try to connect with you more, you read it as being manipulative. I don't think you are crazy or making stuff up -- if you feel like something is off, it probably is.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:21 AM on April 27, 2013

Yep. Your follow up confirms that she uses your friendship for what she can get out of it. She doesn't really want to be your friend, but she wants you to be there for her when she needs you. And it is indeed manipulative.
If you dial it back you will need a firm hand to keep it dialed back. It might be easier to let it go.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:41 AM on April 27, 2013

This... this is already not a friendship. Drop it, delete her from social media, filter her emails, ignore her. If you happen to see her around, be polite but that's it. Having contact with this woman is unneccessarily upsetting for you. Dump her.

P.S., she's not trying to reel you back into friendship, she's just using you as a venting board- you're her diary, not her friend.
posted by windykites at 10:44 AM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Could the fact that you were aware of her affair with husband's boss make her feel that you are a threat to her current situation? I am assuming your friend's husband was unaware of the affair and your friend's feelings about the man she was in love with (boss) and the man she ended up marrying (husband).

She might be unable to involve you more intimately in her life because you know stuff about her that if ever exposed, could cause major damage. Also, she might feel some shame and embarassment about the circumstances. I'd feel like a fraud sharing news about my new nice house with someone who knew I married for money. Maybe she is protecting herself by keeping you at a distance?
posted by loquat at 10:56 AM on April 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

I think your weird feeling stems from some awareness on your part that, although your friend is behaving in ways that friends would normally behave, her actions aren't motivated by friendship but rather some emotional need that she is using you to fulfill. It's confusing because you are being used and taken advantage of, but in a way that feels like it should be positive because this relationship has the surface characteristics of friendship. You are reciprocating genuinely, but she is not, and you instinctively sense her inauthenticity.

I have maintained "friendships" like this over the years, and I do think they are workable if your eyes are open and you are not under any illusions about this person and their genuineness and the one-sided nature of your relationship. But I think it's still a bad idea, because even if you know what this friendship really is, it can still be corrosive to your self-worth.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 11:14 AM on April 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh boy, I feel you....

I don't know why her behavior irks me.

Her behavior irks you because she is simply being annoying! It annoyed me too reading it. She is probably lying to you about why she can't meet up or text back, about her life, and not keeping the same level of friendship that you have.

It seems that she only wants you there when she needs you, and doesn't really want to hang out if it's any inconvenience. Or maybe she just doesn't like you that much. I had someone do similar things in college, they kept saying "Oh no! I have homework, I don't want to go out this weekend." Cut to the weekend and her and another friend would be heading out the door to the same place I asked her to go. I feel there is something similar going on here. e-mail or text asking me what's going on or she reveals some deep stuff to me. It's like she knows I am giving up and she tries to reel me back.

You already hit the nail on the head. She is trying to reel you back in for HER OWN purposes. She only professes something deep to you that she probably needs help with. It would be one thing if she said "Hey we haven't talked in a while how's it going?" instead of "Hey we haven't talked in a while, How's it going? Good? Okay now listen to all this crap going on in my life and help me."

So what is this? Is this a friendship?

It seems to be a one-sided, selfish "friendship." I think it's time to let it go. If she contacts you and needs help it's up to you if you want to help. Personally at that point -if I responded- I would just say something like "Oh, sorry you're going though that" or "That'a a big deal, hope it works out." and be done with it.

I don't think you need the drama in your life. Right now for you she has just pretty much been a sounding board, and you can find that in a lot of places. (I'm so sorry about your cancer-and glad you are hopefully doing better-, but there are great support groups for cancer survivors that would be much more helpful than this "friend".)

And really, I do feel you, I have recently dumped quite a few friends. To me, if someone is not being positive, you don't need them anymore. You can talk to her causally if you want, but I don't think you need to keep putting effort into it. She clearly isn't.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:35 AM on April 27, 2013

I know she could be a good friend too.

Really? She's repeatedly kept your friendship at the same level even when you've explicitly told her you wished you were closer. I think it's pretty obvious by now that she actually can't be the friend you want her to be. And really, you don't actually sound like you even like her that much. So either keep her as your occasional online friend, comment on each other's Facebook, etc., or just fade and don't get sucked back in when she tries to restart the friendship.
posted by MsMolly at 12:13 PM on April 27, 2013

She sounds like someone who wants you for a fan, not a friend. Or like someone who gets something out of having friends in a one-down position. That type.

The person who says that she might be distancing herself because you have damaging information about her? Is probably right. That probably has a lot to do with it. It fits neatly with the fact that she gossips about others and talks only about her kids, lets you spill your beans, but doesn't normally open a can of her own. Though I'm wondering how you found out about the affair if that's the case... you couldn't be underestimating how much she confides in you? Or was there some reason why she would want you to know that - maybe she thought it would make her look good?

But anyway, all this is kind of beside the point. Can you really speak of still liking someone who has no shame or embarrassment at all about having an affair with her married boss while simultaneously planning a wedding for utilitarian reasons to a guy who could provide her with the appropriate lifestyle? I am not trying to do some kind of judgmental "ew, cooties, why are you friends with BAD people," but isn't it clear from this that your friend does not have the same values as you? You say you "don't know why her behaviour irks me" - really? I mean, would it have been acceptable in your eyes if she'd had an affair with a starving artist while planning her wedding to a janitor? Serious question.

I think it's evident from your description that you have grounds for viewing your friend as pretty narcissistic in her dealings with people and the world, and that you're fed up with her acting narcissistic all the time. Okay, I get that she hasn't acted narcissistic *all* the time and that she has been there for you in valuable ways. Additionally, you met when you were younger, when your values weren't fully formed, so the disparity in values became apparent over time and meanwhile you were already attached to her.

Continually reaching for the just-out-of-reach friendship of someone whose friendship is based on staying just out of reach is not gonna be rewarding for you. I wouldn't go so far as to say She's Just Not That Into You as it's dismissive of the injured party and doesn't tell us much. She may very well be as into you as she's capable of being, in the way she's capable of being. That is probably not going to satisfy you and I don't blame you.

So yeah, I'd fade if I were you. You can't talk someone into being your friend. You can answer when she calls, but don't confide in her, don't call her, and don't return her calls. At least that is what I would do.
posted by tel3path at 2:07 PM on April 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't feel comfortable trying to be her close friend just because she has already demonstrated she's kind of a dishonest, selfish person with the situation with her husband, and with the gossiping. You were right to wonder why you would be any different in her mind; I mean, if that's how she treats her own husband, and her priorities seem to be material, and you're getting the vibe that you're not that important to her... well?

Reading your question I really didn't get why you'd get anything out of being her friend. From the way you've described her, I would guess the reason she was "there" for you when you got your diagnosis was because she finds dramatic situations exciting, so it was attention-worthy for a while. The "reeling me back in" thing, along with her other behavior, is also typical of narcissists. She didn't invite you to her party because it was too much effort when she was already going to get plenty of attention; she'd have to give *you* special attention if you came from out of town.

You might find some closure if you let go of the friendship and read a book or two about narcissism. You might feel better just making more sense of her behavior.

You say she's not all bad and I believe you, because few people are all bad. Of course she has redeeming qualities, but redeeming qualities don't make a friend. I mean, I feel like if you're at the point where one of the best cases you can make for a person is they're only pretty shitty, but not 100% shitty, then it's fine to acknowledge you could do better than that. She treats you poorly because that's how she treats people, it seems.
posted by Nattie at 2:37 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was also going to add that the reason she confided about the affair, if I had to guess, was because she's too self-absorbed to realize how poorly it reflects on her. She probably had a huge ego boost from two guys being into her and really did believe he was going to leave his wife for her -- she's so awesome, why wouldn't he? -- and she was going to be sooo rich. To people like that, it's really bragging, not confiding.
posted by Nattie at 2:41 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to say that I had a friend like that. I don't regret dropping her from my friend list at all. Your intuition is trying to tell you something, listen to it.
posted by wcmf at 7:10 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older In terms of human percecption,what are the traits...   |   Photosensitivity on Concerta Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.