Friendship woes
February 4, 2014 9:57 AM   Subscribe

How to tell if this a friendship is over - snowflakey wall of text inside

This friend is one I've had since school - when we were 14 and upwards. Through our post-school lives, she's moved to various places and our contact sort of dropped off as it's likely to do when you live on the opposite ends of the country to each other.

A few years ago, she moved to Japan for 2 years to be on the JET program. Before she went, she stayed with me and my partner at the time and it didn't go as she expected it to (long story short: I was working full-time and she sprung the visit on me a few days before when I'd already made plans for a BBQ that weekend. I was tired because of work and no longer into staying up super late, so things were very strained).

Prior to that she'd stayed at a student house I lived in with two other people - messy and gross and mouldy as student houses are wont to be - and again she'd not had a good time (didn't mesh with her over-cleanliness and germ phobias and over a month of constant contact got strained).

Fast forward to her time in Japan. We reconnected somewhere near to the end of 2012 and communicated somewhat regularly through 2013, when she was due to come back home from her trip. Things were going well; we'd both explained the issues we'd had, she was aware that I was going through a really bad patch with depression and an awful job and a big breakup and things looked okay again.

I now have a fiancee who I live with, and am due to marry in April. So this friend came up to stay last September. Worth mentioning that my fiancee suffers a great deal with anxiety, and the friend (due to issues with her gran being in hospital and going through her last days) couldn't give us concrete details about when she would be leaving. Things got strained again. She likes to go for walks, I do not. I also had my fiancee's feelings to take into account (I wasn't willing to put her through the extreme stress and anxiety for any longer than she had to).

I think the friend had wildly different expectations of what it would be like to stay with us re: staying up late, going out to places while unemployed and having no money, spending time staying up talking to just her while my fiancee is anxious and alone upstairs. She had an outburst of shouting at one point, telling me that I didn't care about her, but it seemed to be okay afterwards.

Another issue was that we had recently got a kitten who was somewhat ill with worms, and the treatments we'd given him weren't working. We couldn't afford to take him to the vet until we had money, and after she left she sent me a long, condescending email about cat care that really rubbed me the wrong way. I spoke to her on the phone once after that, and then finally got round to emailing her at the end of November to catch up, and ask after her gran and give her an update on kitten. She's not replied since.

Do I take this as a message that the friendship is done with? She's in a very different place in her life - think travelling and living with parents still, wanting to go on long walks and loving the outdoors and whatnot, whereas I'm a homebody about to get married who hates leaving the house when it's cold. I very much get the feeling she wishes it was like it was when we were teenagers and going to gigs and festivals all the time, but it just cannot be like that any more. I don't see how extended visits would be able to work, with me and my fiancee on a very strict budget and it not really being convenient to host her for any length of time.

It's been about two/three months since my email and neither of us has got in contact again. One of my dogs was put to sleep last night, and I feel like I should get in touch to let her know. Do I give her a ring and risk her ire down the phone? Send her another email that will probably get ignored? Or do I just write this whole thing off?
posted by Trexsock to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
...spending time staying up talking to just her while my fiancee is anxious and alone upstairs.

You are a heterosexual man engaged to a woman and this friend is female, correct?

Just let it die, you're not getting anything from this relationship except raised suspicions from your fiancee.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:01 AM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oops, to clarify: I am a woman living with my female fiancee!
posted by Trexsock at 10:02 AM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

From where I'm sitting, her extended visits with no set end date are MADNESS. SHEER MADNESS. WHO DOES THAT. It would drive me absolutely freaking bonkers. She is putting unreasonable demands on your time and generosity. Of course you're at your wits' end.

Now, you two have been friends for a long time and she lives far away. I'd be tempted to say, hey, great opportunity to be friends who skype regularly or something! But I get the feeling that you're at the point where you're kind of over this. (When you interact with your friend, how do you feel afterwards? Do you feel more relaxed? Happy? Refreshed? Or do you feel stressed, or exhausted, or confused? If it's the latter, then yes, by all means, take this as an opportunity to let the friendship fade out and die.)

I think this is an unfortunate combination of people growing apart AND her having unreasonable expectations and demands. It's ok to not be friends anymore if it's stressing you out.
posted by phunniemee at 10:06 AM on February 4, 2014 [10 favorites]

I just don't think this kind of drama should exist in adult friendships. If it were me I'd let it go.
posted by something something at 10:08 AM on February 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

She sounds like a bit of a nightmare. I'd set her free.
posted by xingcat at 10:09 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't say it's over, but you do go through ups and downs with people throughout your life. Yes, your friend is in a completely different place than you are right now. She seems a bit immature to me. Her expectations that you're going to go out and hang out and keep late hours, and then being profoundly disappointed when that's not the case, just indicates that you're in different places now.

It's okay, let her be silent for now, and perhaps in a year or so, you can send her an email to catch up.

Your childhood relationships change, and you can go for years without talking, and then out of the blue, you're having a nice lunch together.

If you don't feel like dealing with her for now, that's perfectly okay! But don't close the door forever, she may mature and at some point in the future, it will be nice to have an old friend in your life.

No one did anything horrible to each other here, so no reason to salt the earth on this one.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:10 AM on February 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

Take a step back and give it some space.

If you two re-establish contact in the future and she wants to visit, politely direct her to a hotel. It seems that having her stay in your home is creating a lot of anxiety for you and your partner. And express what you are able to do with her. "Glad you are visiting our town! Partner and I will be available for dinner Tuesday or Wednesday. Early dinner (6 or 7) is better since we both have to get up pretty early these days. Looking forward to it!"

Don't leave yourself in the position of needing information from her before you can make decisions.
posted by bunderful at 10:18 AM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

It's been about two/three months since my email and neither of us has got in contact again.

I think it's over. She knows how to get hold of you, and hasn't bothered. I'm assuming in saying this that it's unusual for you to go this long without contact. If it is, then I think she's sending you the message that she doesn't want to contact you. I think it's pretty safe to take away from that that she doesn't want to be friends. She's certainly not acting like someone who wants to be in contact.

I would let this go, and spend your time focusing on your upcoming marriage. People change. It's OK to not want to be around the person they've become. You don't have to like someone just because you used to like them.
posted by Solomon at 10:34 AM on February 4, 2014

It sounds like you haven't communicated with her about how she is causing your partner distress and how you feel, well, taken advantage of. I've been your friend (in different circumstances) -- in my case, the couple who had offered to host me for ten days now had very different values/daily habits than me but acted like having me around was GREAT and that having half the couple be able to enjoy his youth again was WONDERFUL FOR HIM. They showed me generosity, were both weirdly energized by my presence and we all had a lot of fun together the first week I was there, much more than I'd expected. There was some tension I couldn't really put my finger on but it was a good vacation to me.

They asked me to leave on the seventh day, apparently after a fight about how I was acting like they were single people, which was rooted in deeper problems. How on earth could I have known? That's how I expect she would feel about much of this. Sounds like an in house issue of you not holding space for your partner.

Your friend can't respect boundaries she doesn't know about. Your past discomfort partially from your inability to communicate what you and your partner needed, not your friend being a boundary crosser. Most of these sound like things you should have brought up or changed at the time -- and it's now your duty to let them go and to work around them in the future in dialogue with your partner (as with going to a hotel -- it's a good suggestion). Appraise her of the boundaries now, when the need arises, not of her past transgressions.

The most recent pet/class stuff is definitely worth bringing up when you talk to her about your dog. I'm so sorry for your loss, by the way. I think talking would be better, personally, for the human connection: it's so easy to misread the tone of email or the silence of email. If you feel too vulnerable to talk right now, you have my permission not to. I don't see the need to torch a bridge, though. If you'd like to talk to her, you've got permission there too.
posted by sweltering at 10:41 AM on February 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

There's no clear right- or wrong-doer in this situation, it sounds like you are just not getting along right now. Normally I would fault someone for having an outburst of shouting, but as you say her grandmother was dying in the hospital and it sounds like she's not been through something like this before. Yes, she was out of line and selfish, but there may also have been miscommunicated expectations in play.

Since it has been two or three months I wouldn't actively discourage you from phoning her to tell her about the loss of your dog, but for the fact that she may have just lost her grandmother and may be volatile enough to take it as you trivialising her situation. Not that that would be reasonable, but I could see it happening. Basically, you asked after her grandmother, you don't know the status of that, I wouldn't get into any situation where you could push each other for the time being.

If I were you, I would leave it alone for a while. Over the lifespan, I've come to believe the least said soonest mended in these matters. Over a timespan of months or years, you may drift back towards each other. I think you should send her a card and small gift on her birthday, send her a Christmas card, but otherwise don't be the one to initiate contact. Confrontation might nuke bridges that could have been mended.
posted by tel3path at 11:02 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Why the hell would you want to maintain a friendship with this woman? She sounds AWFUL. Be glad she didn't get in touch and just let. this. go.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:21 AM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like you've actually done a really good job of putting yourself in her shoes, understanding where she is in her life and where she is coming from. She has not given you the same courtesy. Maybe this is an immaturity thing and she'll snap out of it in a few years and you two can get together and be friends again. Or not. Right now, focus on your marriage and your life now. You don't have to friend dump her, just let the two of you go your own ways.
posted by theweasel at 12:00 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe demote her to a Facebook-only friend. I don't think she should stay at your place again.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:06 PM on February 4, 2014

I would call her because you miss her.

I'd also learn to say no more often because you've obviously got legit boundaries that weren't present when you guys were in high school. Friendships evolve, and you can't expect her to know where your boundaries are.

And actually, you need to stop making up her mental narrative about her wants, feelings, and assumptions. I can't remember what it's called, but you're doing that fallacy where you're assuming you know more about someone else's reality than they do about yours AND their own. It's hella condescending and not productive. Use your words, talk to her about your dog, and practice setting boundaries.
posted by spunweb at 12:40 PM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

spunweb: "I would call her because you miss her."

OP, do you miss her? I don't see that in your post (sorry if I missed it!). I see you saying you feel that you need to tell her your dog died- because you need her support, or because you feel she has a right to know somehow? I know it's sad and hard when long-term friendships end, but I don't see anything here that indicates you want to remain friends. If so, just let it go. Enjoy the memories you created before you went in different directions. It may be that if you continue trying to force a friendship, it will blow up and forever taint the good times in your mind.
posted by coupdefoudre at 1:42 PM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Nthing Ruthless Bunny and others suggesting laying low and letting it ride.

At the moment, you've each got your own urgent things going on, and are at odds in terms of priorities and life stages. She does sound immature and self-involved, but it doesn't sound like she's been malicious. Presumably she's got redeeming qualities that have bound you this long. And agree -- you haven't been fully honest about your limits and haven't been that great with boundaries. If you only offer what you can, it's easier to give it with joy.

More than likely, things will settle down over the next 5-10 years. Later in life -- once everyone's mellowed out, which happens to most of us -- those early relationships are like gold. When you're middle aged, it's wonderful to reminisce with friends who knew what you were like at 14, who remember your parents, your first relationship, the time you went to Albuquerque or Rome or whatever... those things will be important, not the current drama. Your private memories, and the story of your life, feel more real and cohesive in the presence of a witness.

I wouldn't throw that away without a strong reason; to me, this sounds like temporary noise, avoidable (next time!) with clear communication and a hotel recommendation.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:26 PM on February 4, 2014

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