Friendship woes: nothing ever changes, do I stay his friend?
August 22, 2016 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Do I try to keep this friendship, or do I jump ship?

I have a 38-year-old platonic friend, “Eric”. We initially met online about four years ago, via OKCupid, and very, very briefly dated (read: less than two weeks—I quickly noped out of that). At the time that we started talking he lived a few hours away and was contemplating moving somewhere. He ended up moving to my city, while I, in no uncertain terms, made it crystal clear to him that we were strictly platonic.

The plot line over the next couple of years is: Eric is ingratiated into my circle of friends. We have a good time together, there’s no problem on either of our end being just-strictly-friends. But Eric is unlike anyone I’ve ever met. He works an almost full-time minimum wage job in retail and barely gets by, money-wise. He rents a room in someone’s house, and after a few months of living in my city he forgets to put antifreeze in his beater car (or something of the like), and it becomes undriveable.

He ends up hoofing it to work, several miles each way. He keeps the job, but from what we can all tell only barely. Apparently he gets written up a few times for different things, mostly for performance, like not completing tasks quickly enough. When his hours at work whittle down he doesn’t seek other work, even though he talks about really needing to. He just ends up not paying his bills on time. His roommate kicks him out and he finds another room somewhere else. That living situation goes similarly downhill, with him losing the room in about 5 months’ time. He finds yet another room in a shared condo. During this whole time he has no car, he’s getting about 20 hours of work a week, sometimes 25. Yet, he makes no moves to get a 2nd job or replace his 1st job with something that pays better or provides solid hours (despite many job openings in the area). Also, I feel it’s important to point out, at no time does he ask to borrow money from us friends, but will sometimes ask us for a ride or to help him move or other things like that. I don’t mind giving him a ride here and there. And I’m pretty comfortable financially, so I do sometimes end up paying for him. I enjoy his company and we wouldn’t ever be able to go do anything if I didn’t foot the bill. But it’s not because he asks me to; I offer.

Simultaneously during all of this time he is on OKCupid and meeting many women (mostly one at a time). A pattern emerges: he meets someone he likes, he dates them for a few weeks or even a few months, putting a lot of attention and energy and time into it (at the expense of concentrating on improving his situation, imho). He brings many of the women around to meet us friends (they’re generally very nice), and then, inevitably, they break up. Not by his choosing; the woman is always the one to break it off.

My best guess for this is based on my experience when we first met: he comes off as someone who has potential, maybe just a bit down on his luck but has goals for the future and seems reasonably intelligent and surely able to pull himself up by his bootstraps, no? After all, he has good qualities that matter, right? He’s genuinely a nice, caring guy. He’s a good listener and knows how to have fun and is kind and supportive. But his logistical life situation is always on the brink of impending disaster. His actions do not support any of the goals he seems to espouse, and when the women finally realize this, they end up breaking it off. He meets at least 8 or 9 different women during a couple of years’ time, and this pattern becomes pretty much a running joke in our circle (“wait, who’s he bringing over this time? How long will this one last?”). And he complains about his situation, about how tough those 20 hours of work per week are, about not having any money, about his walk back and forth to and from work, about his roommates, etc. And, oh, he’s long ago let his prepaid cell phone lapse, so he doesn’t even have a phone in order to make calls; he communicates solely via the internet and a wifi texting app.

So after a couple of years of this he meets someone, “Sarah”. Sarah lives a couple of hours away, and they seem pretty lovey dovey and hunky dory. After a few weeks of dating he abruptly quits his retail job, moves out of his place and moves in with Sarah, ignoring my very explicit warning of DANGER AHEAD! DO NOT PROCEED! Of course, he never finds a job in her city, and this situation/relationship eventually burns to the ground in spectacular flames, as she literally packs up his shit and drives him several hours away to his original hometown (where his parents and siblings live) and drops him off with orders to never contact her again.

His parents reluctantly take him in, and the course of the following couple of years look like this: he gets a working phone again; he gets a job about 30 minutes away from his parents’ house, as a cook in a restaurant. He’s still meeting and dating women and eventually finds one that he moves in with, and, again, quits his job in order to do so. Yeah. We know how this goes. He does quickly find a new job at a different restaurant, but never gets regularly scheduled for more than about 20 hours a week. Anyway, same story, different woman. This lasts about 5 months or so until she ends up kicking him out, very angrily, and changing the locks. He winds up at his parents’ again, but only sleeps there when he can make it back to their house, given the fact he has no transportation, they live 30 minutes away from his job, and they aren’t willing to cart him back and forth. When he can’t make it to their house he sleeps outside, at the train depot. He’s now effectively homeless.

After a while of this he ends up being given a nice car from a charity organization but only has use of it for a few months before it breaks down and he doesn’t have the money to fix it. That was six months ago or so. The car now sits idle at his parents’ house. He and his dad have done a few things to fix it with their limited knowledge but none have worked.

Meanwhile his parents lob mostly empty threats of: kicking him out, making him pay rent, making him work around the house for room and board, making him buy his own groceries, etc. But they largely don’t follow through on these threats, or, if they do, it’s only for a short time. His mom works in a small downtown retail shop, and the owner of the shop, who is his mom’s friend, lets him sleep in the back of the shop when he can’t make it to his parents’ house for the night. The shop owner was also the one who pulled strings to get Eric the charity car.

So anyway, what’s my damn question, you ask? I’m so confused about this friendship. I keep asking myself, am I even his friend, or his stupid therapist? And if I’m his therapist it’s obvious I’m fucking terrible at the job, because it ends up almost every time we talk he laments his situation, playing victim to his circumstances, and I end up pointing out, yet again, the As, Bs, and Cs of how he ended up in the situation and the Ds, Es, and Fs of how he can turn it around, little by little, if he puts forth the effort. And he listens and even agrees with me, and even sometimes gets all energized by that prospect of a future not so laden with precariousness. But then nothing ever fucking changes. Ever. And I ask myself why do I even bother? This perpetual brink of barely surviving is apparently how he will live his life forevermore. He spends every cent of his money on food and beer and saves nothing. He doesn’t look for more work, but even when he DOES get full-time hours he blows the cash on more food and more beer. It. Never. Changes. Ever.

So why am I even bothering at all? Because I truly care for him. I love him, as a friend. Because he’s a genuinely sweet, well-meaning man, who I feel had a rough, sheltered upbringing and has for all his adult life been saddled with a paralyzing lack of self-esteem and a fear of any change like it’s the goddamn bogeyman coming to murder him. Because I want the best for him, and I truly believe he deserves it. Because I enjoy his company and he knows me well and we have a shared history of these last few years. Because he calls me his best friend and really appreciates me being there for him, and that makes me feel good and like he needs me and apparently I want to feel needed?

But his adult life seems to have been one long narrative of just constantly shifting his already bottom-of-the-barrel expectations to adjust and accept whatever shitty circumstance has landed him in that particular place, meanwhile doing nothing to change it because that would take effort and change and maybe even stepping outside a comfort zone.

So is it even worth keeping this friendship? This is a dynamic I have unfortunately nurtured over these years, where I now don’t even feel like we’re on equal ground but that I’ve elevated myself to some sort of big sister/counselor type of nagging ninny who just constantly spouts advice that goes in one ear and out the other.

What do you do when you see someone you care about struggling but despite all of your good intentions and well-meaning moral support and pep talks and hours and hours of talking til we’re both blue in the face, that particular loved one just continues to live a life of one clusterfuck after another? There’s a large part of me that sympathizes deeply, there’s a large part of me that’s frustrated beyond belief, and then there’s the part of me that just wants to say you know what? Call me when you have your shit together and not before, because I'm done.

Help! What do I do? I realize this is as much my doing, and I need non-biased advice on how to proceed with all of these conflicting feelings.

(And I should add—he did start seeing a free therapist a few months ago. He enjoys seeing her, and she has put him on an anti-depressant. Remains to be seen if the therapy/medication will be helpful/fruitful. I'm doubtful?)
posted by bologna on wry to Human Relations (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You can support someone as a friend without fixing them. That seems to be your issue in your head. You feel like you're a bad friend if your advice isn't heeded and he's not making the changes you'd like to see. Being able to be there for someone, so long as you feel like you enjoy this person's company and still want to be there for them (and you're not spilling into enabling them) isn't harming them at all.
posted by xingcat at 11:14 AM on August 22, 2016 [15 favorites]

It doesn't really sound like this is a friendship that does anything for you, and he seems like a vampire of just about every substance except blood. You don't like him the way he is, which is how you have to accept people, so if you can't accept him it's time to stop.

This is all really just you butting in. He just wants to talk about himself, not hear your opinions or advice. If that's not okay with you, stop. It's neither your right nor your obligation to fix him.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:30 AM on August 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

you are correct "It. Never. Changes. Ever."
So, the question becomes, "do I want to accept this person and their lifestyle as a friend?"
Without trying to fix them.
posted by calgirl at 11:36 AM on August 22, 2016 [17 favorites]

My rule of thumb: when you list out the big long story and all the pros and cons and whatnot, whatever you say last is how you really feel, and you're just looking for permission.
and then there’s the part of me that just wants to say you know what? Call me when you have your shit together and not before, because I'm done.
There you go.
posted by Etrigan at 11:40 AM on August 22, 2016 [9 favorites]

We can't really tell you what to do because everyone views and handles friendships differently and we all have different points where we cut someone off. Are you getting anything out of this friendship? You have no obligation to him. If you genuinely like hanging out with him and can deal with the other shit then sure, keep him as a friend. For me, this would be way too much drama and I'd cut myself out of the relationship...but that's me, not you. Only you know what you need and can deal with. Based on your wall of text it sounds like you want a break from the friendship, and that is ok. Go ahead and do that if you want/need to- it doesn't make you a bad person to take care of yourself and stop dealing with someone else's drama.
posted by FireFountain at 11:46 AM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

The vast majority of the details above are not your problem and none of your business. Your friend makes choices that you think (even with a significant amount of justification) are ill-advised and unsustainable-- but he's an adult person who is allowed to fuck his life up.

If you can manage to hang out with him without expecting him to change, go ahead and keep doing that as long as it's enjoyable for you. Understand that the 'costs' of being his friend include listening to him moan about his life while doing nothing to change it. Is he a great enough guy that you are willing to spend resources (time, money, emotional or mental energy) being his friend? If yes, keep him as a friend, but remember that you chose to keep him in your life.

He's not going to do anything different until he's good and ready, which might be never. If his choices and/or listening to him complain about his life costs you resources that you want to spend elsewhere, stop hanging out with him-- and remember that you chose to end the friendship.

You're complaining about him doing this and that and the other, and acting like he doesn't have any agency-- but you're painting your situation like you're just being dragged along by this dude's drama. You know what being his friend is like. Pick the option you dislike the least (being his friend as he is now, or not being his friend) and stop pretending you have a magical third option in which you get to be friends with the person you think this guy ought to be.
posted by Kpele at 11:52 AM on August 22, 2016 [11 favorites]

I have been you. Spending an excess of mental energy on trying to help someone pathetic is a good means to distract oneself from one's own problems while feeling all superior. You might want to start a journal and sort out what's your motivation for hanging in there. Also: Buy a pet. Put your needing to be needed into a pet. People should not be pets.

You want to help him? Offer to gift him a MetaFilter account. Advise him that AskMe can be really useful if he desires to change his life.

Let him know the door is not closed, but he needs to get his act together to some minimum degree. The definition of friendship (or romance) is not I wonder whom I can mooch off of this week.

Eric probably has unidentified issues. I have known people (and am a person) who is potentially like him. Even with the right support, they have to want to make their life work, because it is hard work. Eric sounds like he is looking for a free ride, not a solution. Unless you are rich enough and generous enough to give him a free ride, I suggest you take a break from the relationship and sort your own issues.
posted by Michele in California at 11:54 AM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure why his life situation affects you, and why you wrote about his personal life in such detail. If you like him for being a good person, etc. great, stay friends. If this affects you because you have chosen to roleplay mentor with him, then unchoose it and see what happens.

The way you talk about him does sound like you feel your choices in life are better than his. And that's a bit of an unhealthy way to conduct a friendship.
posted by Vaike at 11:55 AM on August 22, 2016 [15 favorites]

You need to:
A. Stop trying to fix your friend. Either you like the person he is, or you don't, but stop viewing other human beings as your fixer upper projects. Ditch the contempt you have for him, or ditch the friendship, but the combination of both that you have going is pretty toxic.
B. Maybe do some reading on the things that keep people living at the poverty level living at the poverty level. I mean, if you had zero dollars to your name and a broken car, how would YOU fix it? You seem like you're looking at it as a character flaw when things beyond his control happen to him. He walked several miles each way to get to a part time job! That seems like an impressive work ethic, but the way you describe it it sounds like you see it as a negative.
C. It also sounds like you think he should stop dating until he's not poor anymore. That's not really your call to make. And you don't necessarily know why thee women broke up with him. You know why YOU broke up with him and it sounds like you're assuming that would be the case for everyone. If he's genuinely not a good partner/person to these women, that's a totally valid reason not to be friends with him. But it doesn't sound like that's what you're saying.

Anyway, it sounds like you don't like him very much or think very highly of him, so I'm not really sure why he would want you as a friend.
posted by MsMolly at 11:56 AM on August 22, 2016 [11 favorites]

The friendship could be saved if your basic friendship activity shifted away from Fixing His Life. I think in order for this relationship to make sense you'd have to accept that you are not going to be able to advise him out of his situation, and then you guys would have to do other things and talk about other things (like you could start geocaching -- I'm kidding, but I'm not kidding).
posted by hungrytiger at 11:57 AM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

You may love him but I don't think you like him very much at the moment, so your final option,

Call me when you have your shit together and not before, because I'm done.

while harsh, might be the better option for both of you.

But also tell him

There’s a large part of me that sympathizes [with you] deeply, [but] there’s a large part of me that’s frustrated beyond belief

so he knows what the boundaries are, and that you care.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 11:58 AM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

What do you do when you see someone you care about struggling but despite all of your good intentions and well-meaning moral support and pep talks and hours and hours of talking til we’re both blue in the face, that particular loved one just continues to live a life of one clusterfuck after another?

You stop giving him pep talks and you stop being either offended or surprised when a platonic friend of yours doesn't stop dating women or change his plans to move in with them based on your say-so. and you stop finding his poverty personally offensive, if you can. It's hard to tell from the question whether he's using you for free lectures and emotional support, or whether he tolerates constant contempt, judgment and detailed lifestlye criticism from his supposed friends because he feels he deserves it. The part about how your circle giggles about the "running joke" of his romantic failures is really something.

You don't have to be his friend if you don't want to be his friend, but you do have to be his friend if you're going to be his friend. you know?
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:06 PM on August 22, 2016 [17 favorites]

You can love someone and not take ownership of their problems. He's nearly 40, perpetually un/under-employed, can't figure out house or transportation when it's given to him. He's also crafty enough to continually find new marks to provide for him.

Here is your sentence, "This friendship doesn't serve either of us. I'm taking a break while you get your life together."

Then take your break. And if he never gets his act together, then the break is permanent.
posted by 26.2 at 12:11 PM on August 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

I had a friend like this once, and I spent years listening to his endless litany of drama. It got to the point where I was deliberately not asking him any questions about anything, but he never noticed. I wasn't a friend, I was an audience. I think it's the same with your "friend". He'll never fix his "problems" because they get him what he wants: someone's attention.

Drop him. Life's too short for this kind of nonsense.
posted by Janta at 12:14 PM on August 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

When I started reading your Ask, I thought that this was a typical mooching friend scenario, and that you should probably drop him. But, if he's been facing what he's been facing and not asking for handouts, it seems like he really does value your friendship (and maybe even your advice, though he lacks the executive function to act on it). That being said, it seems like this friendship is taking more from you than you feel is sustainable to give, so something needs to change.

If you didn't talk about his problems, would you have anything left to talk about? If no, then I think you know what you need to do.

If yes, try deflecting from the Eric Misery Hour topics when they come up in conversation and talk about the fun stuff that you guys have in common. Tell him explicitly that that's what you want, if you need to. Spend less time talking with him if he can't stay away from the Woe is Me stuff.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:27 PM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

What gives me pause is that, not only is your friend the dumpee when his relationships end, his relationships end so badly - his girlfriends kicking him out and saying "don't contact me ever again," then changing the locks on the formerly shared apartment. I have to wonder what he's doing to these women and how he's treating them. Maybe he's just a mooch, but OTOH maybe he's that and also abusive.

That makes me think he needs a lot of professional help; he's not just a victim of bad luck and a lousy economy. You have my permission to dial this friendship way back.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:17 PM on August 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think it's great that Eric is seeing a free therapist and has access to medication. That gives me some hope that things could change for the better.

This could be an opportunity to dial back your therapist-like role, explaining that you will defer to professional advice rather than potentially give conflicting feedback. If he asks you for your take on a situation, ask him whether he's discussed it with his therapist, and what she thinks of it (if he wants to share). That takes you out of the advice-giving seat a bit.

Long-term, I think the most helpful thing you can do is support Eric's continued participation in therapy, and if his current therapist doesn't work out for him, help him find a new one. Keeping that rolling seems like it would be the most impactful form of support in a number of areas in his life. Also, being someone in his life who is always down to talk about varied topics, so he doesn't feel like his friendships revolve around his problems.

Best of luck to you and your friend.
posted by delight at 1:38 PM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is what a learning disability or undiagnosed ADHD can look like to someone who doesn't have it. You are very fortunate that you don't. It is a privilege to have a neurotypical brain. People who don't have neurotypical brains have difficulties making life work for them. They look like fuckups on the outside. But inside, it's something like this: "why can't I do what other people can do? I must be a worthless fuckup. I've tried so much, and I'm nearly 40 and nothing has ever worked out. I can't bear another instance of trying and failing."

I don't know if you should stay friends with him, but it would be a kind thing for you to suggest that he explore ADHD and learning disabilities with his therapist. But try to do so in a way that doesn't paint him as the complete failure you seem to think he is, because then the diagnosis will seem like "just another one of my many flaws" to him rather than the answer that can move him forward in life. It's not anyone's fault that their brains are wired differently to the point that life itself seems overwhelming, whether it's ADHD, anxiety, or something else.

If you do stay friends with him, you could set boundaries by asking him to talk to his therapist in-depth about these issues rather than you, because you are a friend and not a therapist. Of course friends can cheer people up, but it's not appropriate for a friendship to turn into an asker/advisor relationship. It's not good for either of you. It sounds like he wants things to be different, otherwise he wouldn't complain. But I would bet he has no idea why he is like this or what to do about it. It's his therapist's job to help him find out.

You may also want to limit your time with him, because people constantly in crisis can be very draining. They don't mean to be but it's the nature of the beast and you need to take care of yourself.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 1:54 PM on August 22, 2016 [10 favorites]

also catastrophic poverty is self perptatuing.
posted by PinkMoose at 2:25 PM on August 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

I enjoy his company

This is good enough reason to keep any friendship. Particularly if/when he's not placing demands on your resources that most friends wouldn't place.

I don't know if this will help, but it might be worth contextualizing all this frustration that's coming from the place where you desperately want better for him (reasonably) but can't lead him into a better life. The life he has now and the time you share will come to an end someday. No matter whether he scrapes by for the rest of his life or pulls himself together and lives a comfortable middle class existence for a while, it will all eventually change and fall apart the way human lives do. This isn't to highlight futility, it's to highlight what you have right now, and the value of it whether or not he makes of his life what you might hope.

So by all means, continue to enjoy his company if you really do. That kind of validation might even be one of the most helpful things within your reach.

And when you've got the emotional energy within, sure, support his efforts to reach for something better, or back off when you can't.
posted by wildblueyonder at 2:26 PM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

The thing is, you can be friends with someone who doesn't have their shit together. Maybe he doesn't want you take care of him. Maybe try just being a person that hangs out with a quirky friend who follows his own path. Easier said than done, but you don't need to fix him.
posted by A hidden well at 2:39 PM on August 22, 2016 [6 favorites]

I had an ex boyfriend like this. We're still friends, years later. I've managed to be friends with him by strictly limiting my time with him to the point where I can be friends without going crazy (i.e., listening to the number of rants about his newest dead end job only x times a month) and I usually make sure that we do something task oriented together (bowling, or a film). Yes, I usually pay, but we pick smallish things so neither of us feel bad. It's a good friendship, and I'm glad he's still around in my life. But in order to be friends I had to realise that not all my friends were going to be successful and I had to focus on what he brings me instead of what he doesn't.
posted by frumiousb at 3:40 PM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Everyone is taking you at your word that he's a good guy. But I won't. People like this are either "stupid" or "evil." (You think he's stupid, and feel superior.) I'm more inclined to go with Rosie M. Banks and several others- he's a user. Possibly an abuser, too. Not cute, not hapless, not innocent. He doesn't give a shit about other people or the burden he's placing on his parents. He's consciously and deliberately looking for a free ride, probably because he thinks he's entitled to it and deserves it more than other people (who deserve to work because they're less charming or something.) He's probably using you, too. The only difference is you established boundaries earlier than his ex girlfriends and parents. He knows for now he can't get past your wall, but if he saw you falter he'd be in there like a shot taking you for all you were worth.

posted by stockpuppet at 7:04 PM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

For what it’s worth, I kept thinking ”surely this is untreated adult ADHD or something similar?” while reading your question. From this perspective, Beethoven’s Sith’s answer is the only one that made sense to me.

I know someone with untreated ADHD and quite severe issues with executive functioning. It can be draining to witness what looks like a total inability to Get Their Shit Together. But knowing there’s a reason makes all the difference. It enables me to feel sympathy and compassion. (The friend in question knows they have untreated ADHD but have absolutely refused to see a doctor again or find a therapist. While this makes life hard for them, I’ve tried to accept this: the inability to get help might also be a symptom rather than the friend simply being stubborn.)

Your friend is getting therapy and medication. If you truly like him, why would you walk away now that he’s finally getting professional help? Why not wait and see what happens? ”What does your therapist say” is a very helpful phrase when used compassionately. Use it, and see what happens? Also, acceptance is something you can always work on. That’s what I try to remember when I have one of those ”bloody hell, why can’t X just get help?” moments.
posted by kaarne at 12:05 AM on August 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

stop finding his poverty personally offensive

Yeah, this question reads to me as though you are someone who comes from privilege, and who surrounds herself with privilege.

Your friend's life is what poverty looks like. It's a gift to have friends outside your comfort zone. You're squandering it by trying to insist that he live up to your expectations and beliefs about how a person ought to live, how a person ought to be.

He would be well off without your contempt, so yes, cut him out of your shiny life and be unsoiled no longer.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 12:05 AM on August 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all for your honesty. As tough as some of it was to read (and further to acknowledge!) a lot of what was said was spot on. Thanks so much for the wake-up call and for the really excellent advice.
posted by bologna on wry at 1:07 PM on August 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

You've read the famous Emotional Labor thread, yes? Because it sounds like is that you're exhausted from doing all of it in the friendship. Whether or not you can dial that back is something only you can decide. Good luck.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 1:23 PM on August 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Because it sounds like is that you're exhausted from doing all of it in the friendship.

It doesn't sound that way to me at all. It sounds like the "loser" friend is probably pretty good at emotional labor, this is why people enjoy having him around in spite of what a shit show his life is every minute of every day. If he were a woman and could cook, he could get married and be supported as a homemaker and do emotional labor for everyone. He still would get no real respect, but it would at least be a legitimate role and people wouldn't be all "When is he going to get his act together????!!!"

I have a medical condition that was not properly diagnosed until my mid thirties. I was basically unemployable for most of my adult life because of it. I hid out behind the title of homemaker and I made a good hostess and all that. These days, I work part-time and intermittently, but I finally have a diagnosis and I have found work that is a good fit for my needs.

Being good at emotional labor doesn't make one automatically a good breadwinner. In fact, the correlation probably goes the other way. The expectation that women provide all kinds of free emotional labor is one of the things that helps keep their incomes suppressed.

Reading the thread may be useful, but I strongly suspect he is only worth putting up with because he is good at emotional labor, not so good at getting his act together and making his life work.
posted by Michele in California at 1:30 PM on August 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm late to this, but I have to respond because I completely disagree with almost every response you've received. The Buddha would categorize this person as an "enemy disguised as a friend" that you should be wary of.

This isn't someone you need to be spending any time with. If you've read the works of the Buddha, then you know that he made it a huge point that you should only hang out with the types of people who have traits you admire! He felt it was impossible for a human being to spend much time with someone without being affected by them. If you feel so inclined I recommend you listen to some youtube videos relating to buddhism and friendship. They often talk about how "feeling good" with someone doesn't necessarily mean that friend is good for you. If you're not into ancient buddhist teachings then read any of those self-improvement success and abundance books that are so popular today. They all say that you are the sum of the people you spend time with.

Everyone thinks that they can have a friend with very bad traits and not have those traits rub off on them or be affected in some way, but this is IMPOSSIBLE. When someone gives off negative energy like this it affects you. Not even Buddha trusted himself to spend much time with people like this because he knew the energy would rub off on him. He was compassionate towards everyone, but if he came across people who would refuse to change their circumstances and would rather complain he would keep his distance from them and warned his disciples to do the same. Ghandi also believed the same thing. These "friends" are vampires who give off negative energy. They've set their boat to sink and you can either go down with them or jump ship and save yourself. People like this can change, but they have to be willing to take action and until they're ready to do that you need to create space between you and them.

He is a user. As soon as he finds a woman he quits his job because in reality he is looking for a mommy that will do everything for him. Every woman over a certain age has dated a guy who wants a mommy figure rather than a real partner. The difference is that this guy has taken it to the extreme. He is desperate to find a girl who will replace his own mother and alleviate him from any responsibilities. That's why he puts all this energy into dating and finding people and very little into everything else. You mention how his own mother has done everything for him, makes false threats and doesn't follow through on them so he is allowed to remain the same. That's where he got this behavior from and he is continuing the cycle whenever he finds a woman. It doesn't matter that he doesn't ask you to pay for anything- He KNOWS that you will. He constantly complains to you about his lack of funds so who the hell else is going to pay when you guys go out? Even he can figure that one out.

I'm not saying he's an evil person... I'm just saying he's bad for you and bad for most everyone while he's in the state he's in. He sucks up your time and energy with his complaints and spreads negative vibes. This isn't healthy for you. You ditching him might just be the kick in the pants that he needs to finally reflect on himself. Though I doubt it will. I have a feeling 'rock bottom' for him would have to mean even more than that. It doesn't matter if he's nice. As my therapist says "Someone being nice is not a good enough reason for them to be your friend. Just because they're nice doesn't mean they are good for you."
posted by olivetree at 10:44 PM on October 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

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