How can I cope with losing a friendship that maybe was not good?
June 9, 2015 7:59 PM   Subscribe

How and when to let go of a friend? And should I let go of a friend?

So, I posted about this 'friend' on my prior posts. This friend is one who was/is frequently late at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours at most get togethers. We are both middle aged single women trying to date and it's hard to do that without others to go with to events.

Well, I posted how she responded to me when I confronted how late she usually is in a prior post. I dropped that topic with her, and stopped meeting with just her, and since have moved away from her (from San Francisco).

Another issue came up: in the past, she often would go days without responding to texts, emails, or phone calls from me. Or she would respond in the middle of the night (about 3am) and this wakes me up and I can not talk then as I am too tired, so I don't answer.

Because I feel very lonely in this new move, and I am still a single woman in my middle ages who feels like I need someone to talk to who also understands, we have kept up with occasional emails, texts, phone calls, and she and a friend came to visit me in San Diego, and stayed with me a few days at my house.

I recently re-confronted her about this issue of not responding in a timely and consistent manner (I have confronted her before, and she responds with excuses). It is the same issue over and over, that I will confront her, nicely, making my request for a different type of treatment (be on time, respond within a day to contact and do it before 10pm) yet I continually get it blamed back on me, telling me that there is something wrong with me, that she is doing all she can do, and she talks to other mutual friends about how terrible I am because I expect these things and I complain about it. Yet at the same time, she frequently complains to me about others who don't respond to her or don't take into account her needs....

I am in the middle of loneliness, job stress (I have to search for a new job with the loss of my current job pending in a week). I have a history of depression, but I am not suicidal.

Anyway, my questions are:
1. How can I let go of this friendship with less emotional pain? (I DO KNOW that I need to let go of her)
2. Why would I hang on to a friendship like this that causes me such pain and frustration?
3. I think I know the answer to #2, being that I am very lonely and scared in life (but you wouldn't know that as I present well), and I grew up in an abusive home where I felt I deserved the worst and feel/felt I am simply a bad person)
4. What is the appropriate response from a truly good friend when you confront them about your frustration with them consistently being late or not responding to your contact?
5. How do you all deal with issues like?

Thank you. Please be sensitive with your responses. I want your truth, but I also feel fragile and appreciate your kindness with your truth. Thank you!
posted by bananaskin to Human Relations (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Good for you that you already know you need to move on from this "friendship" - because she's not a friend. Move on with your life by looking for ways to help others. Can you volunteer at the hospital? Become a Big Sister? Attend a class in a topic in which you're interested? Helping others who are less fortunate than you is an excellent way to make new friends and at the same time place less emphasis on your own troubles.
posted by summerstorm at 8:17 PM on June 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Having the wrong people in your life can make you more lonely than having no one, and they take up space that someone better can be taking up.

I think that applies to someone who is always telling you there's something wrong with you and talking trash to other people about you.

I think trying to let go of the idea that you'll be lonely without her friendship could help you.
posted by sweetkid at 8:17 PM on June 9, 2015 [13 favorites]

3am texts are annoying. I set my phone to 'quiet mode' starting in early evening so any calls or texts I get when I don't want to answer calls or texts don't bother me.

I admit I do not understand a number of your complaints. While the chronic lateness would get tiring, you seem to have sorted that. If a friend told me "respond within a day to contact and do it before 10pm" I would find that extremely odd, and not very kind or polite, and I am not sure I would stay friends with a person who thought that was something reasonable to demand for a casual friendship that was not very old. It makes me wonder if your friend felt similarly, and perhaps has treated you poorly because of it.

I think you have unusual requirements for friendship.

I think you can wring some positives out of this: you enjoyed many parts of your relationship with her at a time in your life. People can be good for our lives for parts of them and not for all of them, and that is a fine and good thing. And maybe this can be a learning experience. You might want to take some time to re-evaluate what healthy friendships should look like for you. Feeling that you need something from a friend, and being told that the friend cannot supply it and is frustrated by the request -- this doesn't always make the friend a bad person for not fulfilling your needs. In this case I think you were asking far too much for this particular friendship.

"Being lonely and scared in life" sounds like a very unhappy state of existence and I felt terrible for you just reading that. Sometimes (speaking from personal experience here) one is just not in a good place and not able to be a great friend. It's a terrible place to be -- at a time when you truly need friends, the not-good place makes it a most difficult time to start and maintain friendships. Are you absolutely positive you need to friend-dump this person? What would happen if you made peace with her replying to you on her schedule and went from there?
posted by kmennie at 8:19 PM on June 9, 2015 [13 favorites]

I can only talk about me and no one else -- but maybe this will help. As a people-pleaser (or at least a people-non-disappointer :-)) for similar reasons, I'm still working on this -- but you let go for the same reason you don't let waiters spit in your food, or people insult you. Self respect.

Self respect is not something you "earn", it is learned behavior. It is something you train yourself to have. You don't have self respect and then do/feel the right things -- at least at the outset. You gain self respect and comfort when asserting actually asserting yourself!

I feel stupid even saying this, but for a long time I thought it was the other way around. That I was missing some special ingredient that others had by virtue of my upbringing. No, it's not that I wasn't given something or something was taken away, it was that I never got to practice and develop what was already there.

Strangely, what you'll find once you start asserting yourself and believing in your own resilience, is that you don't need to take an all or nothing approach. You will be more self reliant, and therefore when people play games, it might be irritating, but not world destroying. In other words, you would cut them out regardless, but not because they are bringing you down, but because they are kind of a waste of time.
posted by smidgen at 8:20 PM on June 9, 2015 [13 favorites]

Best answer: 1. How can I let go of this friendship with less emotional pain? (I DO KNOW that I need to let go of her)

I think you have to be kind to yourself and recognize that when you depend on someone, and you feel let down by them, but they are still there from time to time - just not in the capacity that you desire, that it can take several tries to really sever the cord. There is a glimmer of hope and that makes it hard for you to walk away completely. I don't know that the right question is "how can I do it with less emotional pain?" because you don't have total control over how you are going to feel. I think a better question to ask is "how can I let go of this friendship and what is my plan to handle the emotional pain it will cause me?"

The only way I know how to do this is to keep trying. If you cave and contact her or hang out or whatever it is that's bringing you frustration instead of happiness, just forgive yourself, note the feelings you had when you were upset or in pain, and make a game plan for how you will handle them in the future.

Ending a toxic relationship requires willpower. Unfortunately, as the platitude goes, willpower is for sprints and not marathons, and this is indeed a marathon. So I would recommend shoring yourself up with coping mechanisms for the places in which you fail to extricate yourself from this relationship.

Consider approaching it like a scientist. Keep a journal. When you fall back into a negative pattern, write out what happened and what brought you there. Did she call you or contact you, or vice versa? See if there are clear circumstances that repeat themselves. Make a plan for what you can do instead in the future if she reaches out to you and you're concerned you'll be weak and let her back in.

2. Why would I hang on to a friendship like this that causes me such pain and frustration?
3. I think I know the answer to #2, being that I am very lonely and scared in life (but you wouldn't know that as I present well), and I grew up in an abusive home where I felt I deserved the worst and feel/felt I am simply a bad person)

There is probably a lot at play here. I would recommend you don't go too far down the rabbit hole of what personality deficiencies you believe that you have when you seek to improve your life by cutting contact with this person. You are entitled to simply viewing this as a relationship in your life that needs to come to an end and to set about making that happen.

You should by all means examine your feelings about your fear and loneliness and your upbringing with a therapist, you deserve that! But it also is actually not relevant here - in fact it is not serving you at all.

I think you are actually pretty angry at her crappy treatment of you - you point out her hypocrisy very clearly in your question:

I continually get it blamed back on me, telling me that there is something wrong with me, that she is doing all she can do, and she talks to other mutual friends about how terrible I am because I expect these things and I complain about it. Yet at the same time, she frequently complains to me about others who don't respond to her or don't take into account her needs....

I know when I'm truly mad at someone whom I feel is wronging me, I can default to a place where I keep trying to make them see the jerkiness of their actions. Somewhere, subconsciously, I can't let it go, and I keep returning to the scene of the crime (as it were) in order to try to get the person to make right or stop their injurious behavior or to apologize. I think that you're as likely hanging on to the friendship hoping for THIS as you are hanging on to it because you are lonely and fearful.

I also think you should consider that the reason you're hanging on to this relationship is not entirely important to figure out and you're better off focusing on how you are going to really stop continuing it for good!

It is important to examine why you seek out the relationships you have so that you're not doomed to make the same mistakes - but you are not precluded from taking the steps to back away from this person by figuring this "key" out. :)

4. What is the appropriate response from a truly good friend when you confront them about your frustration with them consistently being late or not responding to your contact?

I think you know the answer to this question! If you're asking us all here at mefi if your friend is a truly good friend, I think you can rest assured that the answer is "no." At least I don't think so. If a close friend of mine tells me that they feel frustrated by my behavior, I try to right that wrong. If I can't right that wrong, I try to explain where my own boundaries are and why I can't provide that. If we are at an impasse and can't agree, I back away with kindness, because that's all you can do!

5. How do you all deal with issues like?

I had so many problems like this for years. I felt like the toxic relationships in my life were my fault. I felt like I wasn't trying hard enough, being kind enough, that I was selfish, or silly, or unfair or asking for too much.

It took me years of trying, and trying again, to improve my relationships. It took me being very kind to myself. If I felt like a friend was being cruel and insensitive to me, I tried to give myself the kindness and friendship that they lacked. I stopped blaming myself.

But I also stopped being mad at myself for being ambivalent. I often failed to stay on the right side of the line I drew in the sand - and I practiced not getting pissed at myself for that. If I caved and hung out with, or reached out to someone who had wronged me, I let myself off the hook for it. I practiced, for years, how to separate someone's bad behavior from me as a person. I pushed myself to recognize that I am not responsible for anybody else's behavior.

Al-Anon is a great help for this - if your abusive parents were also substance abusers you might find some serious help there. I do not think it is abnormal for people who grew up in abusive, neglectful or alcoholic households to find themselves in this pattern of toxic relationships and frustration with themselves.

Good luck to you! However you move ahead, please remember that you are the person who knows best what you need. Let yourself off of the hook for not having perfect friendships. You will get there. :)
posted by pazazygeek at 8:31 PM on June 9, 2015 [8 favorites]

This friendship sounds odd. I think complaing to someone like this is bad form.

Accept them as they are, or move on. I can't imagine reprimanding another adult about stuff like this.
posted by jbenben at 8:37 PM on June 9, 2015 [8 favorites]

1. How can I let go of this friendship with less emotional pain? (I DO KNOW that I need to let go of her)

I don't think there is a way to end a friendship without emotional pain, other than processing the emotion, time, and having new people and things in your life.

I don't want to retype things, but I posted this (skip down to exercises) before. I have only done that a few times in my life, but it was to help me process how I felt and what I wanted. It might help you, too, mainly to process and let go of the anger, and define what you want in the next friendships. You can also decide to keep the friendship, but you can do that exercise over a day or a few days and it can be the first step of letting go of your friend. OR it can be the first few days of making a plan addressing what you need/want.

I also highly suggest making plans to meet people/explore your new area. Since you just moved, it sounds like this is a great time to make new friends as it is. Make a list of interests. What do you want to do more of or what do you wish you could do (activities, reading, exploring, who knows). Find meetups. Go to activity groups. It will slowly unfold, but you will have fun adventures, meet new people, make new friends.

So one thing I do to let go of the emotional pain of a loss of another is invest and throw myself in another direction. Make an action plan as to how to meet new people/explore/learn new things, etc.

2. Why would I hang on to a friendship like this that causes me such pain and frustration?

I think everyone does this at some point. You didn't just drop your friend, you tried to negotiate and express your desires and limits.

I think that as you have gotten to know your friend, more and more things unfolded; things that were not great (more on that later) and things that were probably not present when you first met. I have to be honest, I think most people would have a hard time with your friend.

4. What is the appropriate response from a truly good friend when you confront them about your frustration with them consistently being late or not responding to your contact?

We can't answer for how everyone would respond. If a friend tells me about something that bothers them, I am embarrassed/apologize/and try to adjust the behavior if I can. Depends on what is being requested, though.

5. How do you all deal with issues like?

I already wrote the exercise that I used when I had to let go of a friend. I have used that a few times. Then I actively throw myself into action plan/meet more people.

There are also middle roads, though, and I wonder if you are open to it because in your title, you ask whether you should get rid of your friend or not.

Sometimes I decide not to let go of a friend. I usually ask myself a series of questions (not retyping it, it is here). There are middle grounds between dropping a friend and keeping the friendship as is. You could keep that friend, but don't insist she talks to you within the time limit (as someone suggests above, let her determine the schedule). Or only call once a month. But evaluate: Is there something in between that you would be okay with?

These are just a few final thoughts beyond your question:

It sounds like the time thing will no longer be an issue: You don't live in the same area, right? You can let go of that now.

The request to get back and reply immediately. I think that request would be challenging for most people. I'm a single person close to your age, and have had several very close friends in my life. Some people have been a part of my daily life for years. But it would be above and beyond for me (or them) to expect someone to reply in certain time period. Most friends in our age group have kids/partners/a sick parent/demanding job that requires instant responses - it is hard enough to navigate daily life, let alone respond in a certain time period to a person. You might find other people who want the same thing in a friendship, but I suspect it would be hard.

Your comment about your friend telling you what other people said about you/etc. Everyone has their limits in terms of what they will/will not accept in a friendship, but that would be the end for me. It is one thing for people to process their emotions by talking to others (some people are like that), but to tell you about everyone and talk about you in a derogatory manner, and it sounds like throw it in your face when they get angry; there are people out there who don't really operate that way. Some people don't talk about others. Some do, but they won't throw it in your face when angry. Determine what is important to you, find those people, if it is a limit.

Good luck.
posted by Wolfster at 9:13 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just to clarify everyone, I request that she respond to my texts within a day as in to just say "I got your text" or "ok" or anything. Most people, it seems, DO respond within a day to a text, and not a week or never. In fact, most people I text respond within a hour or so. I think it is commonly accepted now a days to respond within a day to a text. Email or phone call, not as fast.
posted by bananaskin at 10:51 PM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Her communication style sounds utterly average for long-distance friendships. Sometimes I respond to my friends texts and emails immediately and sometimes they do the same. More often, I expect that even my closest long-distance friends may not get back to my texts for days or weeks or even months, depending on how we communicate. It's not personal. That's just how it goes. We have our lives and distractions. At the same time, I have definitely let go of friends whose communication styles conflicted with mine, either because they were too needy for me or because they never replied to me. I never call one of my best friends because he rarely answers the phone or calls back and I find it deeply upsetting to call someone more than once and not get a reply. I don't have the same anxiety about replies to texts, emails or letters, so that's how I communicate with him and almost everyone else.

Similarly, most people I know turn their phones on silent when they don't want to be interrupted, like when they are sleeping. Years ago a friend confronted me about texting her or calling her at night. She told me she leaves her phone on because she is always expecting an emergency. I don't think we would find that the majority of people do the same. I've texted bosses, landlords, friends, everyone in the middle of the night at some point, and I usually wake up to a few texts, too. It sounds like you and your friend just have uncomplimentary communication styles.
posted by wrabbit at 10:57 PM on June 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

Mod note: A few comments deleted. bananaskin, Ask Metafilter isn't for back and forth responses or scolding people who offer advice; it's basically "ask your question, get answers, pick what works for you and bypass the rest." Not every answer will be just what you want, and it's fine to ignore advice that doesn't seem helpful. It's also okay to just close the page and walk away if it's feeling frustrating.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:21 PM on June 9, 2015

It sounds like you're treating this person like a partner, when she is not a partner. She's just a friend, and maybe not even a very close one, or only close because of circumstances.

I would not confront a friend about not emailing/texting/calling me back in a "timely manner" or texting me at 3am. Different people have different rhythms. For example, I "drop" texts all the time. But if someone calls me, I'm unlikely to pick up. So the only consistent way to communicate me is email, or repeated calls (with voicemail). I put in extra effort to communicate well with my husband, because we share a life together, so things may be more relevant/urgent, but I would be weirded out if a friend confronted me. (I have had friends say, "Hey, did you receive that text?" And I'd text back, "Oh, yeah, totally forgot. The answer is...")

Similarly, unless you're oncall, put your phone on silent when you don't want to be disturbed. Then you won't be. I've even sometimes turned my phone off at night, because apps/amber alert/etc would randomly make noises at night.

So in light of that.

1. Let go because you know that this friendship isn't providing you with what you want, and it's making you more unhappy rather than more happy.

2. You hang on because it sounds like you don't really have anyone else. And you can still continue being friends with this person. Just adjust your expectations.

3. I don't see a question here.

4. I don't see why a friend would need to "confront" me about this. If they said it annoyed them, I might try to be better about it, but also tell them that if they really needed to get information to me, to use other methods.

5. I deal with issues with this by having multiple friends, and by not expecting my friends to act like my partner. If I know a friend will do something that annoys me, then I plan accordingly, just like how you stopped hanging out with your friend one on one.
posted by ethidda at 5:14 AM on June 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm repeating advice from above to some extent, but to me the core issue is that you have moved away geographically and that the friendship is ultimately not the type or level to survive that. Some friends are lifelong friends and some are friends to do with a certain time or activity. There's a mythology of friendship that stops people seeing that, I think. This one is just reaching its expiration date, at least in its current state.

That doesn't mean you have done anything wrong, or that she has. This is what I really wanted to say to you. I think you would not be going over this so much in your head if you would just think, "I have done nothing wrong; this is just something that happened." And think the same thing for her.
posted by BibiRose at 7:20 AM on June 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

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