Girl Fight
March 14, 2016 7:02 AM   Subscribe

I have an amazing best friend. However, we have blown out fights at times. Recently, this happened on my birthday. Not sure how to proceed and heal.

I’ve had a friend for about 2 years now. She’s an amazing person – very caring, very sweet, honest. She’s been one of the first ‘real’ friends I’ve ever had, one of the few people to take me under her wing, share her story and tell me over and over again that she’ll always be there for me. We worked together in a super stressful job where she was insanely successful against all odds, and she was supportive to me there, being a listening ear to my problems. I have a lot of issues, as you guys know, with anxiety, depression, stress, insecurities, feeling lonely and she’s been there to listen, to hear me out. She gives me solid advice and is there to check on me over and over. She also doesn’t judge me about some of the craziest things that have happened in my life.
Now, she’s not perfect. She has one of the most stressful family dynamics I’ve ever seen, and at 26 supports her whole family financially and emotionally. This means she can definitely be on-edge at times and easily pissed off. She is also the number one performer at the sales company she works at, and this puts an insane amount of pressure on her. She spends 60+ hours a week at work and then has to come home and deal with crazy amounts of home stress. Yes, she chooses both these roles and the stress of caring for others on herself, but it is still a lot. This, combined with me and my own issues, means we definitely have our own blow-outs.

Recently, it was my birthday. I have told her many times that my b-day causes me a ton of anxiety, for her to please attend, no gifts required but just come. No surprises needed but let’s do something nice. Long story short, she pretended to not be able to come at first, then said she was coming, she acted overly confused about certain things, all making me a very anxious cat. At the end of the day she ended up coming to my place to pick me up, but about an hour late. When I got into the uber, they were tensely speaking about something and he goes “waiting here means I am losing money” and I basically say that we should take another Uber. She turns around to me, tells me to chill, and says I’m being rude. Then, a fight ensues, she’s yelling at me, I’m telling her to relax, we end up screaming, she thinks I’m selfish, that I only think about me, I end up crying. The uber driver is trying to calm us down. She’s apologizing to him for this. We go into the bar, basically hug it out and try to move on from it. I end up smiling as my friends come and all of us have a good night. She calms down, we hug it out, say we love each other, sit next to each other at the show, etc.

But I wake up and can’t stomach this. It’s been a few days now and I’m still hurt and frustrated that she took her stress out on me on my birthday. She didn’t apologize the next day like I certainly would have. She just moved on. We’ve had blowouts like these which have probably been my fault because of alcohol and tears and insecurities and I’ve apologized and all has been good. We’ve been able to move on. But I just can’t move on from this, it hurts me…
We’re going to talk this evening. I feel like asking her why she seems to think I’m selfish or focused on myself and why she thinks this happened, also why she thinks it’s normal to scream at me. I just want to move on and have a productive conversation and continue our friendship. I think our friendship has had some weird boundaries and she’s been a great friend but I don’t know why these blow ups seem to happen, perhaps every few months or so. I’m very new to friendships as close as these, so maybe I’m overreacting but I’m doubting the friendship now which sucks.

Any thoughts on how to move on? How to handle this conversation? How to improve our friendship? We're both in our mid twenties.

posted by rhythm_queen to Human Relations (32 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: poster's request -- cortex

You know the woman is stressed – it's clear she's close to breaking point from overwork and family demands. A friend doesn't ask for special treatment from someone who's in that state. She gets demands made on her all day from work and family. Her friendships need to be a refuge from that, not an additional list of performance requirements. Cut her some slack. Apologize.
posted by zadcat at 7:07 AM on March 14, 2016 [46 favorites]

You have kind of a toxic friendship with this person if you've only been friends for only two years and you've had all these blowouts already.

She does sound stressed but it sounds like both of you ramp up the intensity really fast - you had to have an Uber driver intervene before the birthday party even started?

It bothers me that you basically guilted her into coming to your birthday. That's not really fair and in your 20s birthdays should be an excuse to meet up with friends, not something that causes huge anxiety. You knew she didn't really feel like she could come and then seem to resent her for not being more enthusiastic.

I think you should dial this friendship way down, maybe go no contact for a bit until you can think about this incident without pain, and then try to find a basis for friendship that doesn't include fighting.

I had a similar dynamic with a friend in my 20s, but we had been friends since we were children, so 20 years of a sisterly fighting dynamic that we needed to reset. I think for an only two year friendship, it's odd to fight as much as you guys do.
posted by zutalors! at 7:29 AM on March 14, 2016 [10 favorites]

Maybe you guys are just not suited as friends. Just like two good people can love each other and still be bad for each other in a romantic relationship, maybe you two are both doing your best but things are not really working out.

But if it's possible to work things out, I think you need to work on reducing the frequency and the intensity of the arguments. There are probably things she could do to help with this, but she didn't ask for advice, you did, so this advice is for you:

It sounds like you count on her to help you manage your anxiety, but that maybe she just doesn't have the mental/emotional energy to do that to the extent you want/need. If you can scale back your expectations of her, that might help. Like, if you had just taken your own Uber to the bar, you wouldn't have had this fight about her being late. And I'm guessing you didn't want to go to the bar alone because of your anxiety, but your friend is your friend, not your therapist (or a Xanax).

I wouldn't advise you to ask her to tell you why she thinks you're selfish and why it happened - this is kind of just asking her to do more emotional labor, when she already seems to have more than she can handle.

Screaming at you/each other is unacceptable, but maybe there are times when you have the opportunity to de-escalate the argument. Look for those times.
posted by mskyle at 7:30 AM on March 14, 2016 [10 favorites]

This sounds like a really unusual amount of drama and intensity for a friendship - or indeed, for any relationship. I'd break up with someone if I were dating them and we had this kind of blow-up regularly.

You say this is the one of the first close friends you've had - and I certainly hear that; I didn't have any close friends between grade school and college (for shitty right-wing town reasons, mostly) and it took me a few years to learn how to be a friend.

To me, one of the ways to be a friend (and indeed, a grown-up) is to de-escalate in the moment. We're all here to have a good time, right? And that means moving past small crappy things that sometimes just happen, rather than honing in on how the small crappy things make us feel. I think part of being an adult actually is learning to ignore or discount small, momentary unpleasantness.

It sounds to me like you were already feeling tense and upset and ready to snap, and then something upsetting/unexpected happened and boom. And again, I get that - I have a terrible temper on me, and I've certainly ruined a few evenings in my twenties through suddenly being unable to regulate my feelings. (And once I cried in front of students! It was the worst and put a huge burden on them.)

Can you learn to identify the feelings you have in the moment before you flip from "this is annoying but I'm basically dealing" to "argh must fight now"? I have learned that I get a certain recognizable feeling of overwhelmedness/self-pity/anxiety/irritation right before I lose it. Just last night, I felt like I was going to sulk because people were being annoying, and then I identified that feeling and instead of sulking or saying something PA, I focused on talking to someone who wasn't being annoying and ended up having a really fun night, the other people stopped being annoying,etc. Ten years ago, I would have said something sulky and PA, made the whole evening about my hurt feelings and it would have sucked. Now, people were being legit badly behaved, but I'm still glad I was able to process my irritation internally.

Another thing I find helpful is to think "how do I want to remember this event"? I really hate looking back at things and feeling like I contributed to a fight, or like I wasn't as understanding as I should have been, and I really hate looking back on what should have been a fun evening and noticing the moment it fell to ruin. So sometimes when I'm irritated, I think to myself "how can I act so that I look back on this evening and feel good about my behavior?" Sometimes that means acting upstanding when other people are being annoying - just because other people are being annoying doesn't mean you have to sink to their level, and someone can be annoying for five minutes at the start of what will turn out to be an otherwise lovely evening. Even delightful people (like me, I am a delightful person) can have a bad five minutes.

I find that being unafraid to change plans or cancel is also helpful. If I'm really not feeling it, I leave; if I feel like no one is having a good time, I suggest something else. If it seems like everyone is to stressed to enjoy Thing, I suggest that we do something else lower-stress.

Basically, I've found that my social relations have improved as I've started to focus on "we're all here to enjoy each other's company; what can I do that is not odious to me or against my principles in order to make that happen?"
posted by Frowner at 7:31 AM on March 14, 2016 [31 favorites]

Rather than asking her why she thinks its okay to yell at you, which puts all the blame for the fights on her (when you seem to admit that at least some incidents might be your fault) and will likely get her on the defensive, maybe you would say something like, "hey, we have these big, blowout fights every couple months and I've been wondering if we can work together to find a better way to handle it when we are frustrated with each other. I love you and I hate it when we find ourselves screaming at each other."

Long term, I think you should think about whether there are ways you can support and encourage her. You refer to her giving you advice, checking on you, taking you under her wing, etc., but it isn't clear whether you are similarly there for her. I think your relationship is more likely to last if you are equals supporting each other rather than a (stressed out and busy)mentor and protégé.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 7:31 AM on March 14, 2016 [29 favorites]

With respect, part of the work you need to do is coach yourself how to get past incidents like this and cut down on the drama you inflict on yourself and others. Part of that is focusing on other people and what you can do to help them practically, emotionally, etc. and this friend needs safe places where she can put aside her stress: as you describe her, your friend sounds like an amazing person operating heroically under incredibly difficult circumstances.

As you've learned over the past two years, now and then she's going to blow when the stress crests. Sometimes you will be in the way of that, and sometimes that will come at times that are personally difficult for you, e.g., your birthday. If the friendship isn't worth it, disengage. If it is worth it, then don't add to the drama. She's already apologized to you. Skip the deep conversation and just have fun tonight.
posted by carmicha at 7:33 AM on March 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

In my experience, when some acts like this it's either (this is surprisingly rare) fake to manipulate people, or it's anxiety, and in that moment it has boiled over. There's not a lot of choice behind it, though it does seem like for most people in any given situation they either feel safe enough for the boil-over to happen or they can hold it in for a little while longer if it's too dangerous.

Clearly, the two of you melted down simultaneously. You want an apology, but you didn't apologize yourself? She likely just wants to move on from it, and sometimes that's the higher road, and sometimes this is how adult relationships work. You don't get to keep a running ledger of complaints, you mostly just get to decide whether to stay in the friendship or fade back to just work acquaintances.

You really don't seem to have much sympathy for her situation, maybe because you've decided she's "chosen" to work intense hours and taking care of other people, I guess for fun? Most people do those things because they don't feel like they have a choice, and for you to insist she must comply with your plan no matter what her mental state...well, you got what you were asking for. She didn't choose to do it, she fell apart.

Adult friendships aren't like high school. You don't get to demand to be more important than anything else, when "anything else" includes survival and caring for a family. And you have to be willing to meet people where they are sometimes, especially if they do the same for you so often. I know it was your birthday (guess what: if you don't like you birthdays, stop celebrating them, that's a thing you get to do as an adult) but your friend is walking the edge of a breakdown all the time.

Probably this is a bad match for a friendship, the two of you are too high strung for the give-and-take (and it's a LOT of give, in adult friendships, it just is) required here. It's difficult to undo this dynamic once it exists. So if you don't like her the way she is, your option is to walk.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:44 AM on March 14, 2016 [13 favorites]

Okay, here's what's going on. She is a person who seeks out situations where she can swoop in and SAVE people. She's saving her boss by being an over-achiever. She's saving her family by supporting them. She's saving you by guiding you and helping you and being your friend.

You need people to nurture you, to accommodate you and to hold your hand through things that stress you out.

If you want to keep this relationship, this dynamic must change. You're WAY more in a position to do that than to have her do it.

Dial back your dependence on her. Don't go to her for all of your emotional support, don't lay guilt trips on her, if she says she's over committed, thank her anyway and let her do what she needs to do.

Branch out with other friends, do more with other people. If you realize that you're using her to quell your anxiety, brainstorm some other ways of dealing with it.

How about you turn the tables and be HER refuge. Make no demands on her. Continue to reach out to offer her opportunities to get together where she's not doing any heavy lifting. Just have fun!

Get a therapist to discuss all of your life issues and problems.

When you next get together you might say, "I was wrong to press you to come to my birthday when you told me you had a conflict. I realize that I depend on you for a lot and that it's really unfair. I cherish your friendship and I don't want us to burn out. What can I do to make our friendship more sustainable?"

Then listen. Offer to be her sounding board, offer to comfort her.

She may or may not apologize. You know she wouldn't hurt you on purpose, clearly she is VERY stressed and stressed people snap. Rather than hassle her about that, seek to be a comfort to her, rather than another source of stress.

This is an awesome opportunity for you to be a blessing in her life. Let your hurt and anger go. Get into a meditative place, clear your mind and quiet your brain. Say out loud, "I was hurt and I acknowledge it. It doesn't serve me in this situation, so I'm releasing it. Instead I feel the love of my friend." Say it over and over until you have no strong feelings about it.

Sometimes you eat a little shit as a favor to someone whom you love.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:47 AM on March 14, 2016 [32 favorites]

"We go into the bar, basically hug it out and try to move on from it. I end up smiling as my friends come and all of us have a good night. She calms down, we hug it out, say we love each other, sit next to each other at the show, etc."

Maybe she thinks you guys have already worked it out, because you gave her every indication it had already been worked out?
posted by joelhunt at 7:48 AM on March 14, 2016 [32 favorites]

It's interesting how you mention that you guys "hugged it out, moved on with your night and had a good time" but then you woke up and you still want her to apologize to you.

Then you follow this up by saying "I feel like asking her why she seems to think I’m selfish or focused on myself"........ maybe she feels as though you guys already dealt with the issue and there's no point bringing it up again because she thinks it's resolved?

Look - people fall out, friends have arguments. I've had some incredible disagreements with some of my best friends over the years, but no matter what, I have always apologized profusely, even if the disagreement wasn't my 'fault'.

Because it's not about being right or wrong, it's about friendship and support and understanding that a good friend is rare and there's so many more important things in life than focusing on who is in the wrong and "demanding" apologies.
posted by JenThePro at 7:52 AM on March 14, 2016

In this specific incident, I think the poor decision here was for you to have her come pick you up in an Uber, and make getting your night started dependent on her. She ended up being pretty late and stressed out, and it probably would have been better for her to just make it to the party when she's able. Who knows why she was late, but whatever it was, she's got a lot on her plate. Don't add yourself to her list of responsibilities.

This is not a slight against your friend, it's more along the lines of trying to be considerate of her needs. Even if she doesn't recognize them herself. Even if she insists on being there for you - be flattered, but your kindness must be in the form of not letting her burden herself with your needs too.

Next time, tell her "oh, it would be great to share a ride, but I think we should just meet there, then you can take your time getting ready. I'm sure you've had a long day." And enjoy the party with her when she does arrive.
posted by lizbunny at 7:58 AM on March 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

I had a friend like this in my twenties. When I look back on the situation, I feel like our problem was that we relied on each other WAY too much and had sort of a codependent situation going on. Because everything was so intense and do-or-die, it led to a lot of this sort of blow ups. One thing I've learned over time is to meet my friends where they are. Someone isn't good at being on time? Well, don't schedule things with them that require them to be on time. Someone is going through a really hard time at work? Cut them some slack. Etc. Sounds like your friend is stressed out to the extreme on multiple fronts, and you should give her a break and let her deal with those things.
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:22 AM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think there's some considerable weirdness in your description here:

Long story short, she pretended to not be able to come at first, then said she was coming, she acted overly confused about certain things, all making me a very anxious cat. At the end of the day she ended up coming to my place to pick me up, but about an hour late.

She "pretended" not to be able to come? She "acted overly confused"?

Do you mean she actually, for some reason, pretended she wasn't going to be able to come, even though she intended to show up all along? Or that she said she wasn't going to be able to come and then eventually managed to make it work?
posted by jacquilynne at 8:24 AM on March 14, 2016 [21 favorites]

I have four real best friends - the four groomsmen in my wedding.

I have never had a blow out with any of them - we will argue, and even piss each other off at times, but "hug it out" is the end of it. There's no need for a whole second apology or conversations of this nature about whether to continue the friendship.

One of the things you learn over time is where your friendship expectations should be. No person is perfect and no friendship is perfect.

Of the four of mine, two I can have really deep, emotional, sharing conversations with, and the other two trying to do that is an exercise in frustration. So I only try with those two friends who are good at it.

One of the four is chronically late and difficult to rely on - so I no longer try to book time with him, and instead we trade emails often and see each other when we're at the same place.

One of them drinks too much sometimes, so I check out of events when he does.

Two of us got married, and that too changed the dynamic with the two who are chronically single. I don't get invited out to clubs anymore because they've recognized I'm not going to go and do that like I used to.

The point is - you don't have to have this big conversations about "continuing the friendship" with the implied notion that, if you don't get another apology, you won't continue. All these court is more drama and hurt feelings.

Friendships ebb and flow, and part of making them work as an adult is re-calibrating your own expectations of other people and learning to let the little stuff go. You hugged it out - aka, made peace with it.

Learn from the experience. This friend sounds like she is too stressed to be relied on at the moment, so scale back your expectations of her. Don't make her a core part of your birthday plans in the future - instead, a "nice to have" invite to where you'll be dancing where her "will I/won't I" dance and lateness will be much less of a factor in your night.

Also - and I said this in an earlier thread today - it is a lot to expect of another person who has so much on their shoulders to also take you under their wing, listen to your problems, and to be emotionally supportive. I don't know for sure, but I bet the "selfish" comment is related to this woman's recognition that she gives a lot of this stuff in your relationship. Are you giving her as much back?
posted by scrittore at 8:50 AM on March 14, 2016 [15 favorites]

It sounds to me like you have a lot of insecurity and anxiety and that your coping skills, especially self-soothing, aren't up to par. In most friendships, once you've "hugged it out" the conflict is considered to be over. Dwelling on it for days afterward is not the healthy or expected thing. Your friend is probably feeling a lot of stress over the fact that she is your first and only real friend, and it seems like you're placing a lifetime's worth of expectations on this person, which is unfair to her and raises the stakes to a degree where "blowouts" happen.

I've been where you are. I have one friend who lives nowhere near me. He's been my only friend for 16 years. Early on in our friendship we had fights similar to the one you describe here, and finally I realized that I was causing him undue stress and severed our connection for over a year. When we reconnected, we had an honest conversation and drew boundaries. He's not my therapist or there to fix me. When we do talk about my problems, which is very rarely by design, he is always careful to frame his advice in such a way where he bears no personal responsibility for helping me. Once a week we get together and play a game online for a few hours. We have a good time, laugh and talk about tv shows, politics, that sort of thing. We are very close, but not enmeshed in the way we once were. If he doesn't hear from me for a week or two, he checks in to make sure I am still alive. He cares about me and worries about me, but our friendship became 1,000% better and more fun and relaxing when it wasn't framed entirely around my mental illnesses and emotional problems. I think you need to work on a similar arrangement with your friend and learn how to take care of yourself.
posted by xyzzy at 9:06 AM on March 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

She didn't do anything wrong. Even running late wasn't wrong - you could have adjusted and gone on to the venue and let her catch up.

You feel badly because you did a lot wrong, starting with not graciously accepting her regrets to attend your get-together. Apologize and, Yes - work on yourself.

I don't think you are sucking up anything by apologizing. She didn't do anything wrong, you were just really really pushy. Then you both yelled at each other.

Apologize. Stop being so focused on your anxiety. Seek professional help for that.
posted by jbenben at 9:14 AM on March 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

I feel like asking her why she seems to think I’m selfish or focused on myself

Well, you wrote three big paragraphs about all the ways in which you dump all of your shit on her, require her to manage your emotional ups and downs, and all the things YOU get out of this friendship without a single word about what you do for HER, a person who you've already said is stressed out by numerous other issues in her life. Friendship is mutuality. Not always split perfectly 50/50 all the time, but it should never be 90/10 either unless one person is going through something really huge like divorce or cancer, and even then it needs to get back to mutuality eventually. Someone you dump all of your problems on without doing comparably large things to make her life better is a therapist, not a friend. And people lose their patience with that pretty quick.
posted by MsMolly at 9:17 AM on March 14, 2016 [32 favorites]

As other people have said, it sounds like you're taking a lot more than you're giving. Could it be that she gets upset with you because you demand so much of her without giving anything in return? And you make up later because she is a sweet person who doesn't like conflict?

In my experience, unprovoked rage is rare. So if she's exploding like this, there's a reason. And from your perspective, there are two possible causes: you, and everything else. If you're the cause, can you blame her? And if you're not the cause, and she takes it out on you anyway, maybe she's not the sweet person you think she is.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:24 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

a.) Threatening to take another Uber when you're already sitting in one is incredibly rude, on the level of refusing to tip or being hostile to waitstaff. Don't be shitty to people in service sector jobs. Period. If your friend works in this area (sales? yeah) then she's going to be especially sensitive to this kind of rudeness; I'm not surprised threatening to back out on the driver's call was what triggered her to blow up at you.

b.) All of this stuff about her "pretending" that she couldn't make it, "acting confused" and otherwise lying to you about her availability-- what on earth? Are you saying she is actually playing mind games with you, or are you deliberately taking the least charitable possible interpretation of her having to juggle her many, many responsibilities to make this work and your pushing her to chauffeur you to your party? Yes, it was your birthday, but you are an adult. You are not her young child who she would be neglecting if she failed to drive to her birthday party. Stop demanding more of your friend than she can give-- she already has a full plate, and accusing her of "acting" and "pretending" to pressure her into spending the kind of time you want with her is not the behavior of a good friend.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 9:34 AM on March 14, 2016 [23 favorites]

It's really hard to tell what's going on here from your post. I don't know whose fault this is, but I suspect the truth is somewhere in between: you're both kind of dramalama, probably because neither of you knows how to maintain healthy relationships. Maybe you've both only received validation through negative attention seeking as kids, I don't know.

What I do know is something that my therapist told me when I was engaged in similar attention seeking, drama-filled relationships: you should be friends with people who are nice to you. That advice changed my entire friendship paradigm. That's not to say it shouldn't be work or can't be hard at times. But if someone is consistently a jerk to you, even on the semi-regular, then you do not need to be friends with them. There are other people--nice people--who will. I promise.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:37 AM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

"She’s been one of the first ‘real’ friends I’ve ever had, one of the few people to take me under her wing, share her story and tell me over and over again that she’ll always be there for me ... She gives me solid advice and is there to check on me over and over."

I'm sorry, but this doesn't sound to me like the description of a 'real' friendship. It sounds more like you've become somewhat dependent on her, and she's caretaking in a way that's a bit overboard for a normal, balanced, reciprocal friendship. From your description of the birthday evening, it sounds like you're relying on her to meet many -- probably too many -- of your emotional and logistical needs. For instance -- why didn't you call your own Uber rather than wait for an hour? Why did her ability to come to your party or not have such an intense emotional effect on you? Why does her stress cause you to get so stressed out? It's not all your fault -- she's participating too -- but this does not seem like a good dynamic. If you want to stop this cycle of drama, you need to rebalance the relationship.

Here's an image that might help: imagine that you two are hugging. Where is your center of balance? Where is hers? If she stepped away a little, would you fall over? Are you letting her carry your weight, or are you holding yourself up? Imagine adjusting your center of gravity in this hug so that both of you are standing stable on your own two feet, but you're still able to hug closely. This way, one or both of you can move a little or step away or step closer -- whatever is comfortable -- without putting the other one in danger of falling over. There's more flexibility and less fear.

Perhaps you can take a little pressure off this friendship by not putting her in a caretaker role. You can approach this from both ends: taking care of your needs, and doing more for her. On the taking care of your own needs front: think about what needs you're currently looking to her to fulfill -- stress management, feeling ok about yourself, feeling like there's nothing wrong with your past -- and see if you can do those things for yourself. On the doing more for her front: ask her about herself, think about what makes her happy and do some of that, be considerate of her needs and her time.
posted by ourobouros at 9:45 AM on March 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

Grown ups don't require other grown ups to attend their birthday parties. It wasn't fair of you to expect her to take care of you on your birthday. If having a birthday party causes you undue anxiety then don't have a birthday party. If you are having blowups with friends as a result of your drinking, then perhaps you shouldn't be drinking so much.
posted by TheCavorter at 9:45 AM on March 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

I think there's a bit of a pile on going, which isn't the best for your anxiety but I hope you do take some time to reflect on the imbalance of this relationship and how this has put some unfair expectations and strain on it.

Your description of your friendship sounds incredibly one-sided. She is very nurturing of your and your needs. But this struck me as a flag:

"Now, she’s not perfect. She has one of the most stressful family dynamics I’ve ever seen, and at 26 supports her whole family financially and emotionally. This means she can definitely be on-edge at times and easily pissed off."

It's concerning that you feel that she would be "perfect" if only she didn't have all these other responsibilities on her shoulders that makes her on-edge with her relationship with you.

This is not a friendship. You are over-relying on her as yet another responsibility on her plate. If you really value her friendship, you need to take more care of yourself and not get mad when she doesn't.

She also needs to step back as well. It seems she's gotten into the habit of trying to be superwoman and take care of everything, including you, and it's breaking her. Perhaps as her friend you can help her not worry about you as much.
posted by like_neon at 10:04 AM on March 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

This sounds a lot like the crazy drama-filled friendships I had in my teens, where we all eventually learned how to be adults with adult friendships. It is something you need to learn, and not sometimes you are born knowing -- unfortunately, you (and possibly also your friend) are a bit later than average.

But part of the adult friendship thing is moving on -- you had a fight, you worked it out, then you just let it go and continue your friendship, you don't keep bringing it up again and again.
posted by jeather at 10:13 AM on March 14, 2016

I think you probably get the message here that you may be asking too much intensity from your friend when she doesn't have it to give. Asking her for anything more at this point would be counter-productive. Since that's been well-covered already, I will just throw this out there:

There are times in life (right or wrong) where we are never, ever going to get the apology or explanations that we feel we deserve. Lots of reasons why, but...Bottom line, we're not going to get it. I've found that flipping it around and looking to see where I can give someone else that intangible thing, that apology, that explanation~ makes me feel better. I'm not going to get it this time, but I sure as hell can give it. If my personal apology debts are cleared up, I can easily find someone or something that needs some good-deed-doing. Find out your acquaintances birthdays, do something special for them so they can have a good experience and feel good. Give what you can't get, if you have it in you.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 10:25 AM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

So as I've gotten older friendships have gotten less intense. Not to overgeneralize, but I think female/female friendships (throughout all ages and stages of life) can sometimes be very intense and very supportive in a way that male/male friendships rarely are. Sometimes this is okay but a lot of times it occurs in a sort of unhealthy, unnatural vacuum (two teenage girls feeling alienated from their parents, two middle aged women feeling alienated from their husbands). In that situation I think essentially the friendship is codependent and is working as a band-aid to cover some deep gaping wound that really needs to be addressed and healed rather than ignored and covered up.

To be really blunt, I think this entire relationship is unhealthy because both of you are essentially, psychologically unhealthy. That does not mean you are bad people. I think as you become healthier you will see things like "super close" and "deeply supportive to the point of dependency" as negative rather than positive aspects of friendship, and not actually the "baseline norm." A friend group is generally healthier in terms of avoiding codependency than a one-on-one intense friendship, so I suggest starting there. Join an activity that meets once every week or two.
posted by quincunx at 11:10 AM on March 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think you should reread your question and honestly note how you take no responsibility for any of this. She's this wonderful best friend, but then you kind of slam her. You've had drunken fights with her before and you wave them off like no big deal and expect some grand apology from her after you've already cleared the air. Sorry, but this really comes off as drama-seeking.

You talk about her involvement in your birthday night incredibly negatively. She pretended to not be able to come...then she acted overly confused about certain things, all making me a very anxious cat. You're 26; can you not get your own transportation and tell your best friend you'll see her there? And when she picked you up it seems that you got fighty with the driver and started screaming and she was trying to calm you down.

And after you hug it out, you're still holding a grudge and you still want an apology?
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 11:13 AM on March 14, 2016 [13 favorites]

I keep thinking about your question. Looking back at my own struggles with anxiety and "issues", I think about how my own problems very often took up all my headspace, so I wasn't able to be emotionally responsive to people or leave space for their needs and problems.

If you're an anxious person without a lot of history of being a friend, you're probably not being a godawful selfish monster - you're just in your head all the time. I think some strategies for managing anxiety will probably help you a lot - I've found that as I've become a less anxious person, I notice people's moods and needs more. This isn't because I've become a better and more moral person, it's purely because I have the brainspace - my brain is no longer freaking out about my problems.

Do you have access to medical care? Medication might be an option, and/or therapy. Anxiety workbooks, journalling, looking around online for coping strategies, looking at your life to see where you can reduce anxiety (the suggestion of not celebrating your birthday if it freaks you out is a good one, for instance - why not just have a little get-together at home and then go out another night?).

Try to think about where your anxiety comes from. For some folks, it's mostly chemical - they would be anxious if they were independently wealthy fashion models living in paradise. For others, there's a life component. For me, I was very miserable about big things in my life, and that came out as anxiety. When I was able to be less miserable, I also became less anxious.

The thing is, you're still pretty young, especially if you're someone who has spent your teens/early twenties dealing with issues/mental health stuff. This is the time in your life when you can look at yourself and take the steps you need to be able to be a better friend. Your mid-twenties are often a real growing-up time if you're sort of late-to-adulting. You've got a long life of friendships ahead of you - it's a good time to get things sorted out.
posted by Frowner at 11:39 AM on March 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

I think you would benefit from recalibrating your idea of what a mutually healthy friendship looks like. I think you have some unrealistic ideas of how much you can expect in terms of being the primary focus of even a very good friend. Like others have pointed out, you are taking much more than you're giving and that's very likely due to you having unrealistic expectations of what a close friendship is. Your expectations and demands are also probably what led to the demise of previous friendships.

That said, this is fixable! You clearly need emotional support and dealing with your depression and anxiety should be focused primary on your therapeutic team. While friends obviously support one another through tough times, it sounds like you've become extremely reliant on this friend as a secondary therapist. You're making her responsible for your mental and emotional well-being in a way that's not at all appropriate. And, she seems to also be an overachieving savior type who has poor boundaries, which is why she's agreeing to take this role in your friendship. But, this dynamic means that the friendship will eventually permanently fail because it's not balanced or healthy. It's codependent and will have dramatic failures on the road to a final breakup. But, if you intervene now, you can make the connection healthier and long-lasting.

Here's what I'd recommend: 1) increase your therapy visit frequency, you clearly need support and your therapist is a very healthy support to choose. Making a friend your therapy support is not OK. If you can't manage to get into more therapy sessions, ask your therapist about group therapy options. Supplement with workbooks. Make sure your therapy and support isn't being off-loaded to your friendships. 2) Start working on social anxiety with your therapist/group. Your "solution" to birthday anxiety wasn't appropriate or healthy. Putting that anxiety into someone else's lap to be fixed is not the best route. Especially when that person has more than enough on their plate. 3) Try volunteering and integrating YOU being supportive of others into your life. It'll help take some of the focus off of you interacting with the world in a way that puts you at the center. Focusing on others can be freeing and positive and will help you develop skills that will help with social anxiety and recognizing and meeting the needs of others. 4) Start supporting your friend. Try some experiments like - having an entire visit not revolve around your friend listening to and supporting you. She's clearly overworked and has a tremendous amount of responsibility. Think about ways to help her relax and put herself first. If things veer toward you, redirect back to her or a subject that isn't you. The way to improve a friendship is by being a better friend. This is about building skills and directing therapeutic needs to your therapeutic team. It's not about you being a bad person or doomed to never have close friendships. You can fix this.
posted by quince at 12:01 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am going to be blunt and say I think mid-twenties is too old to regularly be having "blowout" fights with your best friend.

I can't really tell what happened here, but I wanted to say that. Screaming fights, in my experience, are not normal in friendships unless you and your friends are Real Housewives or something, and I say this as a person who was very anxious and depressed at that age-- and my friends and I drank heavily then. We were all, at times, awful, and melodramatic, and we pissed each other off and argued, of course; but regular, screaming blowouts? At 24-26-ish? That doesn't sound right to me. I don't think it has to be that way for you if you don't want it to be.

I have told her many times that my b-day causes me a ton of anxiety, for her to please attend, no gifts required but just come. No surprises needed but let’s do something nice. Long story short, she pretended to not be able to come at first, then said she was coming, she acted overly confused about certain things, all making me a very anxious cat.

As a fellow sufferer of anxiety, I can caution against setting up rules and prescribed behaviors that other people need to comply with in order to keep you happy. It's a fool's errand. 1) People will always fall short because they're human and have their own stuff going on, 2) it's not fair to them because following your rules and taking care of your mental state is not their responsibility, and 3) you will never learn to control your anxiety if you make that someone else's job.

What if she legit couldn't come to your party? Then your night would have been ruined and you would've blamed her. That's not fair to anyone, including you. You should be able to have a fun night independent of whether your BFF comports with your rules. And even if everyone in your life did and said what you wanted to 100% of the time, unfortunately, your anxiety would find a way to assert itself. Trust me.

I don't think you need to beat yourself up or trash the friendship, but I would try to disentangle your anxiety/other issues from this relationship. The advice others are giving about seeing whether you can put more "give" into the "give and take" of this friendship sounds really helpful.

And if you're going to have screaming matches, at least work on not having them in Ubers, bars, etc. That is not fair to people around you as most people do not appreciate screaming and negativity in their environment. (Talk about anxiety-inducing!) If you can control that, you are on your way to tempering strong reactions generally.

This book helped me a lot.
posted by kapers at 12:07 PM on March 14, 2016 [11 favorites]

Let up on yourself about your birthday. Birthdays in your 20s are supposed to be lightsome fun affairs? where you hang out with your friends and have the bestest time? and are supersuper secure in your happiness? Bullshit, bullshit, and bullshit. Birthdays are supposed to suck.

There's a ton of pressure put on you to have a great day on your birthday. It's worse than Christmas. It's worse than Valentine's day. it's worse than New Year's Eve. The harder you try to force it not to suck? The harder it will suck. Go in with a fatalistic attitude and do not try to have a blast. Just relax and aim for low-key melancholy or, if you're feeling ambitious, quiet enjoyment. Above all, try to be as kind to yourself and everyone else as possible. Certainly don't set yourself and your friends up for failure. "My birthdays are hard for me, please rally round or I will definitely be a failed human being. You don't have to X Y or Z but you moze-def must P and Q or I will surely die of woe" is pretty much guaranteed to ensure everyone fails to P and Q and everyone feels awful.

Do not blame yourself or your friend because you feel bad about this birthday: the bad feeling is the fault of the birthday industrial complex, not you, not your friend. Let everybody, including you, off the hook. Never refer to it to your friend again, and when in quiet moments you remember it to yourself and are tempted to cringe, do not. Say to yourself, "Yep; it was a traditional birthday. Par for the hideous course. Next year will be different because next year I will not give the ghost of a crap what happens and if I end up sitting on the livingroom floor eating cheetos and watching small claims court television until 4 a.m. I will be fine with that."

And cut your friend major slack from now on: do not continue to try to make her take care of you because everybody's right--she's showing signs of exhaustion and will likely choose you over her family if forced to cut somebody off.

Also do not feel bad that you don't already know all this and you're, whatever, 27. People don't learn this stuff as quickly as they used to. Besides, being friends with other people is the hardest-ever stuff to try to learn. You'll fail a lot before you get good at it. Cut everybody slack, especially you.
posted by Don Pepino at 1:47 PM on March 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ooookay! Shouldn't have wrote this question at the peak of my emotions as it was very dramatic. Here's a few things I should clarify:

1. What I meant by her pretending about not being able to come to my birthday is literally that. She apparently acted like she hadn't bought tickets, couldn't make it, was changing her mind etc because she wanted to extend the surprise. She said this to me and I was like, my lady but that made me so anxious!

2. It was her and my other friends that begged and forced me to do something on my birthday and not just let it pass. I did this to celebrate my new job and other achievements. OH AND SHE was the one who said she wanted to uber there with me. She was originally gonna come over here, have a few drinks but she was too late for that so she came with the uber. I'm extremely extremely independent, go to even restaurants by myself all the time so I didn't need her to do that. She said she wanted to.

3. I'm usually very nice to uber and taxi drivers which I use several times a week, but this guy was stressing me out by acting like we were delaying him to go to the party because he couldn't find the directions on the GPS. It was all really weird, and I shouldn't have said what I did, I know. But like... I'm not rude to service staff lol. This was just a weird moment.

4. Pretty much everything else you guys said is spot on. I ask a lot of her and she gives it readily and maybe I don't support her enough back. She doesn't like to open up and so when I DO get the chance to hear her out I do and try to help her as much as I can. We have established a sibling type relationship where I go over to her parents place with her when things get tough, etc. It's not as much as she does for me from an emotional labour perspective but I hope to make it up to her.

I agree like I said, it's unbalanced. I'm looking to give it a rest and try again. Overall we hang out a lot and its always good fun and she says I make her very happy. I like spending time with her when she's sad to cheer her up. But the blow ups are shocking because I never know what happened to truly set it off and then looking back I am like..cringe... Didn't think I was being that selfish.
posted by rhythm_queen at 3:08 PM on March 14, 2016

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