Am I overreacting or is my friend a narcissist?
August 17, 2013 5:36 AM   Subscribe

Am I overreacting or is my friend a narcissist?

I recently lost a longtime pet. Also, we're both male.

To try to distract myself, I asked my friend to add me as co-moderator of a site our friends use to keep in touch. Its a very easy process to do so. It only involves going to a webpage and hitting a radio button. I used to be a co-moderator until recently and my friend agreed to do it. This guy has a job where he is in front of a computer all day. For the past couple of days, I've been texting him twice throughout each day to ask that he please do this for me. Crickets. I called last night and left a message. Crickets.

When my friend is in a relationship, he drops everything except work and his girl. Nothing else seems to matter or get through to him. Coincidentally, he's been dating someone new for a month now. The only time I've heard from him over the past month is when I texted him to ask if he was dating someone since his current behavior patterns indicate he is. We talked about it briefly, and then he kept texting me throughout the day. I responded within a reasonable time to all his texts.

In the past, I have helped this guy through many crises he has had. Whenever he has a breakup, it's followed by weeks of calls and texts where he wants to rehash everything over and over. He has serious anxiety issues which he refuses to address. I try to be there for him and be a voice of reason. In our conversations, he quickly turns the focus to himself and gives only cursory attention to what I'm saying. I went through a really bad breakup a few years back and only heard from the guy when he had an issue. When we did speak, the turned the conversation to himself. When I was in the process of getting married earlier this year, all my friend did was lament about how he's now the last single guy among all his friends. The list goes on, but these are some indicative examples.

I'm grieving right now, so I know I may be over sensitive. But the fact that my friend is unwilling to do this one little thing for me and that he isn't communicating at all is really making me angry. I'm beginning to question whether this is a friendship I need to just downgrade. I'm hurt by my friend's inability to be there for me like I've there for him in he past.

So I ask you: Is my grief is clouding my perception or if my friend is acting as badly as I think he is?
posted by stedman15 to Human Relations (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, this is seems very one-sided. I'd probably do the slow fade and find some better friends who will be there for you when you need them.
posted by dawkins_7 at 5:42 AM on August 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

He's acting badly. Maybe he'll come around after his relationship ends. Until then, you should downgrade your expectations.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:46 AM on August 17, 2013

I suspect the unwillingness to add you as co-moderator (or even to communicate) is unrelated to the loss of your pet: my guess is that in the time since you were previously a co-moderator, your friend has discovered he likes being the sole moderator, and is unwilling to resume sharing the power he gets within the group from the position.
posted by easily confused at 5:47 AM on August 17, 2013 [12 favorites]

Also, it's not your job to address his anxiety.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:47 AM on August 17, 2013

The co-moderator thing doesn't really seem connected to anything else in your question, and I think it's premature to assign any sort of motive to his non-response. Maybe he really hasn't gotten around to it (sitting in front of a computer all day does not necessarily mean idle time). Maybe he's bewildered by your request or its urgency. Maybe he has a valid reason for not making you a co-mod.

Leaving that aside for now: if how you describe your friend here is how you feel about him even half the time, why would you turn to him for anything in the first place? If he's all take and no give, and has a long-standing pattern of not reciprocating, it's time to downgrade. Don't be formal or dramatic about it, just quietly move your friendship efforts to more reliable people.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:04 AM on August 17, 2013 [10 favorites]

Sorry for not going further into the moderator piece of my story.

I originally handed things off to my friend because I was getting frustrated being the site moderator, but he has completely dropped the ball on everything. He's non responsive to everyone on the site. We're soon having an annual get together, and he has failed to do several things he needs to to ensure people have the proper information as to what and when things are happening.

People are now asking me to pick up things to ensure everyone has a good time and things are organized. I figured being co-moderator will allow me to get things regarding our annual event moving forward once again.
posted by stedman15 at 6:16 AM on August 17, 2013

He's not a narcissist. He's an egoist.
posted by MinusCelsius at 6:30 AM on August 17, 2013

Based on what you've said here, things seem rather one-sided. Have you tried talking to your friend directly about how you perceive his behavior?

I'm not sure what you mean when you ask if you should "downgrade" this relationship. If he doesn't respond to you presenting your position, then it makes sense to drastically lower your expectations for him. If you enjoy spending time with him when he is free, then do it. His lack of sensitivity to your problems may not be something that ever changes. Don't torture yourself by failing to assess where you stand.

Why not hang with some of the people in your group instead of him? Is he just a friend or is he your best friend or something? You seem really invested in him and I'm not saying that's bad or that your shouldn't be, but I don't understand why. It doesn't seem like your relationship has too many good points.

Sorry about your pet.
posted by jumelle at 6:34 AM on August 17, 2013

Narcissist, egoist, nah. It's just that anxiety is really self-centered by nature.
posted by clavicle at 6:47 AM on August 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Am I overreacting or is my friend a narcissist?

I'd eliminate the strong language. Better to replace "narcissist" with "self-absorbed" (or even "egotist"), which sounds descriptive of how your interactions look from your end, without trying to go all diagnostic on him. Being too forceful will undermine your assessment of what's going on in your own eyes, I feel. You KNOW you're not qualified to diagnose anyone, and that your judgement of him as narcissistic is reflective as much of your feelings of rejection, sadness etc in the face of his unresponsiveness and the one-sidedness of your relationship as it is of any "objective" traits he might display in relation to you or generally in life.

If you leave the very emotional framing aside and just look at the facts of the situation as you know it, you are left with someone who is regularly using you as a sort of pseudo-therapist, so: as need strikes, but excludes you to a large extent at other times, and does not reciprocate when you are in need of support. Regardless of the reasons for this status quo (his presumed narcissism or other issues), I think your reaction is entirely reasonable: when you notice that someone is far less invested than you are in the relationship you have, you take a step back (or two, or ten).

And if this is by any chance "Barry" from your other questions, I suggest you make it quite a few steps - it sounds like he really needs more support himself than a friend can give, and also like you were on the brink of developing a relatively unhealthy caretaker attitude towards him yourself. Let him take care of his issues with the help of professionals (or not), whilst you might like to work on how to not lose sight of yourself and your own emotional well-being when you try to help others. Being in relationships which are as lop-sided as this one sounds can really do a number on your resources & self-esteem.

Good luck.
posted by miorita at 7:03 AM on August 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Start a new site with your friends. Leave this guy out of it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:32 AM on August 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

He's non responsive to everyone on the site.
And to you as well. COINCIDENCE?
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:03 AM on August 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

miorita, this is indeed "Barry".
posted by stedman15 at 8:14 AM on August 17, 2013

Why do you need to ascribe some personality disorder to this person? I will give you a more accurate title that you can apply, based on the actual information, and you can happily use it to disengage: "bad friend". You should cease trying to get him to respond, and instead look into getting control of the site by other means.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:14 AM on August 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

You're not overreacting.

I cut off a friend who behaved in a similar fashion a couple of months ago. Best decision I've made in the past year. I suggest you cut ties as quickly as possible, because this isn't going to get better. The longer you stay enmeshed with this, the more closure you'll want at the end of it all and you'll just end up with a bunch of wasted time and unanswered questions. This person is showing you who and what they are, and it doesn't sound like it's compatible with you.

If there's another method by which you can get control of the site, take it. If not, maybe create something else that folks can use to get the information and aggressively market it to people. If the friend complains, say you needed X, Y and Z capabilities to get the necessary info to people, and he didn't give those capabilities to you. You were running out of time and people were hassling you as to what was going on. Retain all necessary control and let the friend do as they wish. Whatever you do, though, put yourself first with regards to this guy. If you didn't have mutual activity in common, I'd suggest cutting him off entirely.
posted by Solomon at 8:49 AM on August 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Stedman, if this is Barry I'd say it's even more important to disengage. You've poured a lot into this friendship, maybe beyond the point where this is entirely healthy for you. After urging you above to forgo diagnosing your friend, I feel like a hypocrite doing this, but you may be interested in reading up on co-dependency. From the intro in Wikipedia, co-dependency

refers to the dependence on the needs of, or control of, another.[1] It also often involves placing a lower priority on one's own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others.[2] Codependency can occur in any type of relationship, including family, work, friendship, and also romantic, peer or community relationships.

For myself, I don't care about the term too much, but reading about it has helped me recognize some behaviours and thought patterns in myself which I wouldn't have otherwise, as well as the ways in which they might keep me in situations or relationships that end up really hurtful for me. For what it's worth, I think that having had a bit of a "rescuer" role in my family whilst growing up has groomed me for this kind of interaction. Again, this is my experience: the rescuer role is one which quite easily morphs into the "victim" role (as when you attempt to "rescue" someone by being reliably there for them, this then fosters the notion that you are closer than you may be, and then you feel victimised when your own needs are ignored). I've gone through several cycles of this with several different people; even now, when I feel I have some insight into this dynamic (and, as you can see, am quite ready with the advice), I find it really difficult to withstand its allure. This is part of the reason why I said diagnosing your (ex)friend is not fruitful - it's all part of the pattern.

If any of the above rings true, this might be an interesting read. Here some (quite harsh, I feel) intro.

Anyway, I'd still remain agnostic as to what causes him to be a bad friend, detach from him as a friend, deal with the website as others have suggested above, and call on others for support with regard to your pet. Very sorry to hear you're going through that, it is devastating.
posted by miorita at 9:27 AM on August 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

In our conversations, he quickly turns the focus to himself and gives only cursory attention to what I'm saying. I went through a really bad breakup a few years back and only heard from the guy when he had an issue. When we did speak, the turned the conversation to himself.

I've had friends like this; I'm sure a lot of us have. People like this guy are emotional vampires. They'll bleed you dry.

In my experience, the best thing is to let this friendship fade into the mist. No need for a big, dramatic friend-dumping speech. Just don't engage with him. The more time and distance you get from him, the better you'll feel, but it does take time.

This guy has shown you repeatedly who he is, and he's not going to change any time soon, no matter what you say or do. Your energy is better focused on developing new friendships that are more balanced.
posted by nacho fries at 10:29 AM on August 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

The guy probably just doesn't want to make you a moderator, and doesn't want to have an awkward conversation that may hurt your feelings.
posted by Kololo at 4:22 PM on August 17, 2013

Seconding clavicle and miorita.
If you want to continue a relationship with this person, make it contingent on their getting help, because what you are doing is not good for either of you. You are not trained to deal with this and I'm very sorry such painful circumstances have brought this situation into hopefully stark relief.

Take charge of your other friends' situation. Cut him off until he receives at least enough treatment to realize why he should apologize. Do not allow him to repeat past behaviors with you you do not enjoy. People are not obligated to be good friends to people who are not good friends because you use to be friends. But I think real friends tell each other the truth, like, "You need help, I'm not doing this anymore, and this one sided relationship is over."

It doesn't sound like this new relationship will be any better even if he does get married unless she helps him get help or feeds into his anxieties.

I've cut off a few people and they got help. I also cut off some people and when I got perspective on our relationships, I realized I didn't want to be friends anymore, but frankly, it still pisses me off occasionally how much I wasted on experiences that had no reason to be endured.

Strangers know this is a difficult time, and yet you are asking if you are at fault.

Ask yourself why you want to be this person's friend.

Do something you enjoy with people you enjoy, if you can. I know I will.
posted by provoliminal at 4:58 PM on August 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am truly sorry for your loss. I hope you feel better soon, and I hope you get some respite from the drama.

I don't know if your friend is a narcissist (and there is no reason to care either way) but you are certainly not overreacting: you've had a marriage and a death of a pet within a year, both major events that cause stress. Sure you are oversensitive but you are not overreacting.

The beneficial but unpleasant side effect of such times is that reality becomes a lot clearer. Things that you could probably push under the rug stare right at your face. You have a history with this chap who doesn't reciprocate and is clearly a poor emotional support for you. The mod question doesn't seem to be related but its more like one more thing that blows your fuse right now, and that is okay. I think Solomon is right on about dealing with it. As for the imbalance regarding the emotional support from the friendship, I am going something very similar right now (with more than one person) and like someone said above, not being proactive in dropping one of the friendships is really beginning to weigh on me and bleeding me dry. I have tried to be the "good" friend and be more forgiving but when a friendship wears you down instead of making you feel lighter then something is seriously wrong. I mean, this goes way beyond just hurt. The friendship that I did drop immediately post drama brought a profound sense of relief. In fact just writing this down is making me want to drop the other one. Again, like someone said above, these friends/friendships don't get better. For your own peace of mind, I suggest you drop the friend- fading slowly might be your best option if you may have to interact again.

Finally, congratulations on getting married. Hope you can identify and focus on what really matters.
posted by xm at 9:27 PM on August 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Call him at work, tell him you need the moderator issue resolved, ask him to add you while you're on the phone. be really friendly. If he won't resolve it, I'd go public about it on the site.

So sorry about your dog, what a hole in your life.
posted by theora55 at 11:15 AM on August 18, 2013

« Older Where to stay in Sydney, Australia?   |   A few questions about my first curry. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.