Asking for a friend that needs a lover who won't drive her crazy.
October 21, 2015 7:48 PM   Subscribe

Have a long-term long-distance friendship. She has a lot of challenges, including self-confidence issues. I would love to believe I could do something to get her more local friends. Ideally help her find a guy as accomplished as she is.

We chat online almost every day. We've lead a WoW guild together. I've "been there" for her through her ex's deployment, a miscarriage, her divorce, depression and a near-suicide, numerous health issues, picking out a new cat. But one thing I can't do, is really be there. She's a "southern redneck", I'm a damyankee, and we're tied to our regions by careers and family.

She... it makes me tear up to sit down and list her challenges. Single mom with an out-of-state deadbeat ex. Army Reserves vet. Thyroid cancer survivor. Needs meds for depression, thyroid, rheumatoid arthritis, fibro. Looking at a possible MS diagnosis now. Extended family relies on her, while her brothers are abusive. She manages to teach full-time at a university while her son has scouts, music lessons, sports. She knits, crochets, keeps house and a garden. She even still plays WoW, which I gave up on because it took too much of my time. I swear I'm going to knit her a superhero cape.

Every so often our chats end with her teasing me to move, and me... wishing she had someone close... to cut veggies for her when her hands hurt, lay a blanket on her when she's cold, yanno? dammit tearing up again. She deserves someone to be there for her. All I can do is listen, long distance. I might start playing WoW again just to be there for her too.

I know it's up to her to find someone. But her family, and her ex, have been abusive, so she struggles with low self-esteem and attraction to guys who play abusive games. The divorce helped her, and she has had some therapy. But--family dynamics can suck--she has to hang in against the abusive guys in her family to support other family members, so she's still exposed to verbal abuse from her brothers. She has dated, and one of the guys has turned into a semi-dependable friend. So some things progress. She keeps dating guys who don't have a real future though. Dead-end jobs, no education, little income.

She needs someone local who is capable of understanding and supporting her. A friend, a lover. Someone as successful as she is at life who sees her and values her and supports her. I tell her as often as she'll let me that she just needs to keep looking, and to keep looking up.

Can I do anything else? Because every once in a while, she'll be feeling down, and feeling like it's all out of her control, and she'll ask me for suggestions. It hurts so much that I don't have a good answer for her.

This feels like an "I'd also like a pony" question, but I have my fingers crossed.
posted by Wilbefort to Human Relations (15 answers total)
You don't tell us how she is looking at the moment. Meet ups? Online dating? Finding boyfriends through other friends or volunteering? What methods is she currently using?
posted by Jubey at 8:08 PM on October 21, 2015

Response by poster: Online dating is the only method she has mentioned. I should also correct any misapprehension. I haven't talked with her about this AskMe, so I'm not asking for a friend in that sense.
posted by Wilbefort at 8:11 PM on October 21, 2015

Do you think she wants suggestions to actually try or just someone to listen? Are you guys online only or do you ever meet up in person?

Honestly, I think perhaps chatting less might be a way to help her go out and meet more local friends and dates. It sounds like you two have a wonderful friendship that brings much joy to you both. That's cool if it's the be-all, end-all for everyone involved. However, right now it sounds like that long-distance connection might actually be keeping her from truly looking for more local friendships. I say this as someone who has a lot of friends online and in-person but who's definitely leaned a bit too much on online/long-distance friends (and vice versa.) Sometimes you gotta do it if the present is challenging, and special people and friendships are rare, wonderful gifts. However, her focusing more on the in-person stuff (and your encouraging her to do that) will surely help her find more fulfillment in general. It won't hurt your relationship but talking a bit less frequently, say, every other day and encouraging her to out out and mingle (knitting group, parent meet-up, online date, etc.) might be the key.
posted by smorgasbord at 8:18 PM on October 21, 2015 [8 favorites]

One more thing: is she currently seeing a therapist? I feel like that'd be a great step as well since they could help her crap she's had to deal with over the years, cope with her medical diagnosis, and avoid past relationship patterns. Friendship is so awesome, but we really can only lean on friends so-much in the long-term, and there's always the risk that things could become co-dependent or otherwise unhealthy. (I say this as someone who has done this in the past and has to remember to keep this in check.)
posted by smorgasbord at 8:26 PM on October 21, 2015

If it's an everpresent factor, maybe suggesting that she move to extract herself from leeches and abusive familymembers. Put your own oxygen mask on first, etc.
posted by rhizome at 8:32 PM on October 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: When she asks for suggestions, she means it. I really wish I had an answer for her. Don't know that chatting less would make a difference. We mostly chat during the day while at work. I don't hear from her on her own time. We haven't met yet. Still planning to!

And I don't know how often she sees her therapist, but she prescribes the antidepressants, so I know she has one.

Parent meet-up? She does take her son to a lot of group activities, but those parents aren't there to meet/mingle. I haven't heard her mention anything like that. Tell me more?
posted by Wilbefort at 8:44 PM on October 21, 2015

Best answer: Thanks for your reply. To be quite frank, I think you're really going to be limited to being a sympathetic listener until you two have met up in person. So much depends on the person and the situation, which is impossible to truly assess from afar; she may be a reliable narrator about her own life but she also may be setting up roadblocks, intentionally or unintentionally. I think online friendships are equally valid but they are a bit more limited, at least until there's the initial in-person meeting. Could you go visit her for a few days? You could stay at a hotel to make things easier on her. I think a visit could provide you with some insight as well as give you both a pleasant experience (and her a good distraction from the day-to-day.)

A lot of people see their GP or a psychiatrist for medication but see a different person for therapy since psychiatrists tend to be expensive and have more limited time. I'd ask about that and encourage her to see someone regularly if she's not already.

There are many parent groups, both more and less formal, with various themes out there: she'll likely find them if she starts asking around or searches online.
posted by smorgasbord at 9:05 PM on October 21, 2015

I just noticed that you're male, which changes my answer a bit. (Since my understanding is that she is attracted to men.) Do you think she may secretly be in love with you? Are you in love with her, consciously or subconsciously?
posted by smorgasbord at 9:08 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm a guy, yes. I'm not attracted to her that way. She has asked if I am. She's definitely not waiting for me to change my mind though.

I'll ask her about the therapist. I want to be careful not to imply that she can't talk to me though.

I like the idea of meet ups for single parents. I'll explore that further. Gonna mark it as an answer. I might also suggest she quit WoW. She only plays a couple nights a week now, but it can use up your free time like nobody's business.

I wish she could separate from her brothers. Says she still loves them though, and other relatives depend on her. Bleh.
posted by Wilbefort at 9:22 PM on October 21, 2015

Crocheting, gardening, WoW, keeping house are all very solitary pursuits. What about encouraging her in hobbies that would get her out a little bit more. Hobbies that would allow her to connect with other enthusiasts in her area?

You can encourage her from afar. For example, you could both sign up for accounts and go geocaching in your respective areas. Download Snapchat, as well, and you can send snaps of the places you're exploring. Geocaching has a very strong fanbase; once she got her confidence up she could join a geocaching group in her area. Plus, it's a blast for kids. My kids have been geocaching since they were 3.

You could both use one of the Map My Walk/Hike/Run apps. They're kind of cool because you can share a GPS track of where you walked, along with a soundtrack. When you're dealing with a lot of "stuff" it's easy to just wallow .... getting out and taking a walk really helps. She needs some endorphins.
posted by Ostara at 9:24 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can be an ear and cheerleader. You can make suggestions, present ideas, that might spark connections for her. If verbal abuse is an ongoing part of her life, there are books that might help her better recognize it for what it is, and detach, and maybe move on from those situations when it's possible; you could suggest some of those books. (Patricia Evans is good at describing verbally abusive behaviour and has reasonable advice on how to respond to attacks.) But this:

she struggles with low self-esteem and attraction to guys who play abusive games

is something your friend has to work through for herself, on her own time. (Probably will be a few years before it all makes sense to her.)

As much as you think you can envision how things could or should be better for someone you care about, there's more going on than you know (and that she knows, probably), and the truth is, there's only so much anyone can do for another. You can hope for the best, and encourage her towards action when there's an opportune moment, but relax your expectations. Accept that she is where she is now, and that change will just take time.

(You could visit her, though, maybe?)
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:29 PM on October 21, 2015

You may be the only nice man who sees her for who she really is and cares for her because of who she is.

Once we hit a certain age, most of the good men are married. The rest of them or either just looking to score, looking for someone to mommy them, or they are too shy to leave their homes. Very few men will take the time to know her as well as you have.

You need to meet in person. She probably has feelings for you. Once the two of you meet, she can move you from fantasy to reality and see you for who you are, and you can see her for who she is. Right now you are just dragging her along with a what if.

Suggest to her that she come out and meet you.
posted by myselfasme at 6:57 AM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think you're at a crossroads with this where you have to decide if you're going to meet, because where can you go from here? If there was something you could suggest or do to fix her life you would have thought of it already.

I'm going to read possibly too much into this, in case it's helpful for you. My read is that she has feelings for you and has become dependent upon you in a way that won't allow her to move on. Why date others when she can chat all day with a great guy? If she does have feelings for you, you may be inadvertently stringing her along. She may be inadvertently playing upon your sympathies, because how could an empathetic guy like you push someone away when she needs you that much?

When I say "inadvertently" I mean it. I don't doubt that your friendship is true and benefits you both; actually, you seem to be a blessing in her life and obviously you get a lot out of the friendship too, or you wouldn't chat every day. And I certainly don't doubt that her troubles are real. But if she does have feelings for you, that cannot be ignored; it's the key to the whole thing. If you can't offer her the possibility of making this an IRL relationship by meeting ASAP then I think it's going to be best to detach somewhat.

If I were your friend I would feel it was my duty to mention the possibility of a Catfish situation. Not the kind where she's conning you, but the kind where it's just...gotten out of hand before you even know what your IRL dynamic is. Again, not attributing any malice, but I'd be cautious about someone I'd never met who took up this much of my energy; vibes are always different in person and at a certain point you either need to see what you have IRL or move on. I think you might be nearing that point. (No judgement-- I speak from experience and meeting turned out to be a very good thing.)
posted by kapers at 10:24 AM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Minor contribution but: a lot of areas have knitting groups or gardening clubs, where she could hang out with other (presumably at least mostly) women and perhaps make some friends while still doing something that brings her pleasure instead of going out just for the point of meeting someone. For knitting groups she could check out Ravelry, and there may be a similar clearinghouse-type webpage for gardening.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 1:08 PM on October 22, 2015

I don't think you should meet in person. You're both 100% bound to your locations and cannot move, correct? I think it might be kinda "leading her on" (if she does have a crush on you, I am not sure of that) to go down there in person being wonderful if you can't be there for her on that level.

That said, there really isn't anything you can do to find her a local love--and as myselfasme pointed out, the pickings are SLIM the older you get. She should technically be trying to do that herself, you know? I guess you could try to hang out on local websites of some kind to try to get to know people in her area and then suggest they meet up, but beyond that, beats me.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:23 PM on October 22, 2015

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