I'm changing, she's not. How to talk about it?
November 23, 2005 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Friendfilter: I’m going through some life changes. One of my friends is behaving a little strangely. Almost seems angry at me because of how my life is changing. How do I address this with her?

Here’s the backstory: I’m 39, pregnant and due in January. My pregnancy has been a bit complicated and I’ve been struggling with my health. I get up, go to work, come home, go to sleep. Add to this a contract job with long hours and little flexibility, an old dog with medical problems, and a house that is two years into a nine year renovation…garden variety overwhelm. But nothing requiring drama.

Within the last two years, I’ve struck up a friendship with a new gal pal. Lately, this pal has been really pushing for more time and attention. She is unmarried with no kids and a successful therapy practice. She’s also experiencing some tough times. An ex-work colleague committed suicide a few months ago and she was asked to come in and work with her old team on the issue. Her dad underwent hip replacement surgery. Her cat is slowly aging and requires a lot of care.

I wish I could be there more for her like I was before pregnancy, but I can’t be right now. I think she is having trouble adjusting to the fact that my life is changing. I can’t stay up past 8 p.m. for marathon phone conversations. I can’t take care of her cat while she is away because it is making messes all over the place and, being pregnant, I’m not allowed to handle that stuff right now. I can’t help her hang trim in her house. From various voice mails and emails, I gather that she is feeling hurt by my limited accessibility. She has told me that she feels needy and fragile right now. Her latest email seemed a little angry even.

I don’t think I’m being prima donna pregnant chick…heck, I was lugging power tools around up until 4 weeks ago and using a router to weatherstrip windows. I'm not asking for people to come over and do things for me. I’m conscious of not only talking about pregnancy, babies and kids. I have other interests. I don’t want to become “it’s all about my life and kid, so get on board or get lost.” I’m just damn tired.

I think I need to address this with her or I’m going to begin to feel put upon and start to avoid her. Which will be awkward because we share other friends and I will see her frequently. I just don’t know how to open up this subject with her in a neutral way.
posted by jeanmari to Human Relations (14 answers total)
successful therapy practice

I seem to recall that therapists are always counseled to get regular therapy themselves. Is she doing this? Is it a subject you could broach with her? It sounds like she might have a lot to work through, more than you can provide, even if you weren't in your current condition.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:10 AM on November 23, 2005

Thing to realise is that she's not "having trouble adjusting to the fact that [your] life is changing" - she's having trouble adjusting to the fact that her life is changing, albeit it the part of her life that involves you.

Sit her down over a coffee and tell her what you've told us. Tell her that your life is changing and you need to deal with it, that she's still important to you but that you hope she can understand what's going on with you at the moment needs to be dealt with. Let her understand that you're not changing her life, you're changing your life. She really needs to be able to deal with that, or perhaps you're better without her crowding you and adding further complexity to what is already a very complex time in your life...
posted by benzo8 at 10:11 AM on November 23, 2005

She's never been pregnant, has she? It's hard (from the point of view of a soon-to-be-second-time father) initially to fully comprehend the fact that pregnant women have different requirements from non-pregnant ones, even when you're married to one. Eventually it sinks in.

I think the last sentence in your second-last paragraph sums it up nicely. My wife said about the same thing to me during our first pregnancy, and it's what woke me up a bit, so perhaps it'll work on your friend (but then, I often need to be told bluntly).
posted by 5MeoCMP at 10:14 AM on November 23, 2005

1. buy 'co-dependent no more' by melody beattie.

2. read it.

3. do what it says.

4. profit !!!!!
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:18 AM on November 23, 2005

You have mutual friends, is there anyway one of them can step up and spend more time with her? Maybe someone who has the time and energy she needs? Someone to "replace" you for a while.
posted by TheLibrarian at 10:30 AM on November 23, 2005

Your post is one long negation -- I don't want, I can't do, etc.

What do you want your relationship to be?
What do you want to do for her or with her?

If you really just feel sucked dry by this person and just want her to leave you alone already -- admit that, too.

And go from there.
posted by Methylviolet at 10:36 AM on November 23, 2005

I wouldn't make a big deal out of it. I would just tell her that since you're pregnant you're probably not going to be around as much for a while, because you have to deal with it.
posted by xammerboy at 10:45 AM on November 23, 2005

I definately agree with xammerboy. Making a big deal of it will consume a lot of time and energy, things you are low on right now. Also I think that you should not do anything to jeopardize your friendship. You just need to re-define it, if she is a good friend she will understand eventually if not right away.
I don't think telling her to leave you alone is a great idea, obviously you care for her and still want her as a friend some capacity. Plus, having mutual friends you would not want to have drama/ tension whenever everyone is together.
posted by TheLibrarian at 11:01 AM on November 23, 2005

Invite her over, order in a pizza, and have a good long talk. Sometimes just making a little bit of time for someone can make all the difference.
posted by Sara Anne at 11:09 AM on November 23, 2005

As an unmarried no-kids myself at 35 I can tell you that even those of us who are happy with that situation (and she may not be) can find it a bit jarring when other people's lives move into a mode where their interaction with us is going to change notably. You don't say how old she is but if I assume she's around my age I can also assume she's familiar with this fact and accepts it. Acceptance isn't the same thing at all with not being a little sad or irked by it, so maybe in her depression over this "loss" she's a little more sharp-edged than usual.

Xammer is dead-on - you should just be matter-of-fact about it. If you're inclined to more talk-it-out you can bring it up and reassure her you still want her as part of your life and look forward to doing things with her again, in and out of your house, but at the moment you're pretty tied-down. In the mean time can you schedule some times for her to come to you and spend some Quality Time over a cup of decaf or something? If you make an effort to schedule something while acknowledging the decreased amount of time you have that goes a LONG way towards walking the walk as well as talking the talk.
posted by phearlez at 11:31 AM on November 23, 2005

Thanks all. I was unmarried until 35 (one of the last to get married in my "group") and definitely one of the last to be childless. But I wasn't all that bothered by being single and actually enjoyed living on my own. I can relate to her feeling wistful and/or sensitive to the relationship changes. I've been in her shoes loads of times. That is why I want to be gentle.

I've talked to her a few times about my recent lack of inaccessibility in very clear terms. Our schedules used to be very similar and now, until my contract assignment is over, they will be very different.

This isn't just a scheduling conflict with her. I'm having trouble staying in touch with many people because of my current schedule and status. Others just seem to understand and accept this. I did organize an early dinner at a restaurant last Saturday for a few of us which she did attend specifically to see some people I haven't been able to see.

With her, it is more...I don't know. There is something else there. She'll still call last minute and want me to care for her cat while she runs out of town for a few days...even though I've explained that this is really not possible right now. She'll call late at night even though I've told her I go to bed at 7:3o pm. She's usually very intuitive and thoughtful. It almost seems as if she is in some kind of denial about changes going on in her life and my life (benzo8, that was very helpful for you to point out whose changes these are). Confusing.
posted by jeanmari at 12:21 PM on November 23, 2005

I've found, unhappily, that as you have success in your life, you find that not all your friends can appreciate it and move to the new places you're going along with you. I've had so much success in my own l life that I've gone through this again and again and again. They talk about "finding out who your real friends are," and that's true to some extent, but it's not really the whole story.

It's not clear that that's what's happening here, but it's worth some thought. Maybe changes that you're going through are making your friend have issues with her self-worth?
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:31 PM on November 23, 2005

Don't take care of her cat. It would be a health risk to you and your newborn.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:26 PM on November 23, 2005

Lots of good advice above but I want to emphasize a point made by pinkstainlesstail. I know we're getting an incomplete picture but you seem quite reasonable and fair-minded--and from your description, it's clear that your friend's reaction has more to do with her own interior than the external situation.

On preview: Yes, yes, yes! Definitely something else. It is confusing but you can't sort it out, even if you had the time or energy. How do you think she'd respond if you pointed this out? (Supportively, non-confrontationally, etc., etc.) If she's a successful therapist, surely she'd be capable of recognizing the problem and dealing with it more appropriately.
posted by vetiver at 3:25 PM on November 23, 2005

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