Is this friendship worth saving? Midlife edition.
August 23, 2016 6:31 PM   Subscribe

I have a good friend who I met at work (same company, different division), and we have known each other a few years. In our last interaction, she behaved in a way which has put me right off and I'm trying to decide if I am being reasonable or not.

This is someone I would have described as a very good friend. We have shared a lot with each other.

She is also someone who describes herself variously as being on the spectrum or as having Asperger's . I believe this is her own assessment (not a clinical diagnosis). I don't want to assume this is relevant. But maybe I am not being understanding enough of this?

I should note about myself that I don't fight with my friends. I prefer not to, and I haven't done so since-- well-- college. We're both in our 40s.

In the past, the only issue I have had with her have been that she's *very* sensitive to perceived slights. It's usually easy to clear up the misunderstanding, but this feels worth noting.

In this situation, we were having dinner and I knew that I had upset her before I arrived. This was straight up my own fault. I had handled a situation badly with a proposed outing with some other friends. It wasn't on purpose, and I had already apologised, but still-- I made a mistake, and I was prepared for her to be annoyed about it. (I had invited her to an outing, and then realised only later that there was an aspect of the outing in which she could not participate, but the agenda was not open to change so she was quite disappointed.)

I was unprepared for her reaction, however. She let go with a string of complaints about me which ranged from fair points about things I could do better to accusations about my intentions (mostly that I was defensive about something or felt disrespect for her point of view) to extremely rude criticism about my personal habits to minor evidence that I was contradicting myself constantly (along the lines of "you told me you bought a rose dress but then later you said it was pink").

For me, the really difficult thing was that a response was both clearly expected and yet impossible. I tried to answer each point thoughtfully. (Her: "You were both inconsistent and defensive about this belief" Me: "I don't remember being defensive to you at all, but I may have been weighing my own priorities in the discussion." Her-- "see! there you go! defensive!"

When I tried to talk about the issue which had triggered the whole discussion, she insisted that this was not the problem at all.

At the end, she expressed surprise that I was so upset. When I told her she had really hurt my feelings with some of what she had said, she said "you can dish it out but you can't take it!"

She has been travelling since then, and I have been considering how I feel about the whole friendship.

On the one hand, I really love her and I like being around her. She's bright, funny and beautiful from the inside. I don't make good friends easily, and I know why I care about her.

On the other hand, I am now recalling with a sinking feeling that she has often talked in the past about big fights or falling out with friends, and in all cases they were abusive to her and she stopped trusting them and now I have realised I am one of them. Or on my way to being one of them.

And I feel as though there's no real point in discussing this, because one thing became clear-- she genuinely believes what she is saying. She finds many of my personal habits gross or boring, but she puts up with them because we're friends. But if I act in a way which is inconsistent or defensive or insulting, then maybe we're not friends so then she is entitled to be as critical as she likes. She also finds it appropriate to review my behaviour for evidence of disrespect or betrayal.

It's surprisingly hurtful to have a friend tell you that you're boring when you reflect on your past or that you are a gross person because you don't keep your makeup in a separate bag in your purse. But still, I could put that aside. It's the idea of someone constantly over-reading what I say or do to find evidence that I can't be trusted which feels just awful. It's a lot worse for me than hearing hurtful things.

I literally haven't ended a friendship since college. Never been an issue. My friends are my family.

I'm also having my own life/relationship issues right now. So when I think about those, I wonder if I am not overreacting because of other things in my life. Maybe I just am different enough that I'm not seeing things from her point of view.

She knows I was upset, so I guess if I want to keep this friendship, I will need to reach out to her. She's back this week, so I need to decide what to do. I know I would miss her tremendously if she isn't in my life, but I feel a nearly physical aversion to reaching out.

Am I overreacting? Or should I just let the whole thing (friendship, turmoil) go? We don't see each other at work regularly, and so I assume if we ghosted, we would both be professional.
posted by frumiousb to Human Relations (30 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Just my opinion but good friends are allowed to have a couple of meltdowns in that some point in a friendship. Sounds like you handled it right. Give her some space and see how she comes at you. If she stays away, oh well. If she apologizes or even pops back with a friendly invitation as if nothing happened--Well, people have bad days and this sounds like one of hers. If she does it again in the next 5 years dump her immediately tho.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:43 PM on August 23, 2016 [9 favorites]

Unleashing a torrent of personal attacks is not something I would expect from a friend. And if she is constantly scanning you for signs of betrayal and disrespect, I can't imagine you'll feel comfortable spending time with her. But I agree you should give her another chance; maybe this was a storm that passed and now she'll be more chill with you. But if she starts treating you like something on the bottom of her shoe again, take all the distance you need to not be dragged down again. One last thing—It seems to me that since she upset you and then left for a trip, it behooves her to reach out to you, not the other way. The way she handles this could be a good sign of whether she's willing to be nicer to you.
posted by ejs at 6:50 PM on August 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

I think the criticisms that it's fair to make towards friends are those that directly affect the person speaking, eg:

- you often interrupt me
- you are often late
- you smoke in my house/car without asking me if it's ok first
- I feel that there's a lack of reciprocity in our friendship, we often talk about your problems but never about mine
- I don't like it when you borrow [xyz thing of mine] without asking me first

"you are a gross person because you don't keep your makeup in a separate bag in your purse"


"you told me you bought a rose dress but then later you said it was pink"

fail this test: because they don't affect the person saying them directly, there was no need to bring them up.

I'm wondering if

a) she was having a bad reaction to changing medication, and/or

b) had been suppressing her anger about her legitimate complaints for so long that she had reached the point that everything you do annoyed her. (The advice column Captain Awkward talks about this, where anger about legitimate issues has reached a point that even innocuous behavior generates anger.)
posted by Sockpuppets 'R' Us at 6:52 PM on August 23, 2016 [22 favorites]

On the other hand, I am now recalling with a sinking feeling that she has often talked in the past about big fights or falling out with friends, and in all cases they were abusive to her and she stopped trusting them and now I have realised I am one of them

I had one of these once (with mine, her close friends somehow became obsessed with her and demanded more and more of her attention and she had to just cut them off cold, over and over, for her own safety because she would! not! be treated! that way! the strangest pattern) and I was so sympathetic right up until guess what.

the only reason it matters what you do now is if it matters to you to have a sense of control, to be able to tell yourself ending the friendship was your own decision. because if you are correct about her pattern then she is talking herself into ditching you right now and there will be nothing you can do about it. although if I were you I would give her every chance to maintain the friendship because she won't, but if you don't you'll be plagued by doubt about what might have happened if you'd played it differently.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:54 PM on August 23, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer: In my life, one of the advantages of friendships (vs romantic relationships) is that they can bend a lot without breaking; you can go for periods without actively being friends and then pick it up again; you can distance yourself emotionally when you need to and then if at some point in the future you feel better towards the friend you can warm it up again. You can basically switch levels of intensity without explicit discussion or an actual break up in a way that's not possible in romantic relationships.
That's what I would do here. I would back away, make a boundary, not trust her so much, invest more in other friendships. Then one of three things will happen:
1. She'll insist on an explicit reckoning in which case you do break it off.
2. You stay more distant (not punitively or performatively distant, just using more of a boundary) for a while then drift back to a closer connection, when things have gotten less intense and you're less vulnerable to her (and vice versa) or
3. You just stay permanently with a more distant friendship
Any of these would be OK, I think. It's possible that the friendship can't bend and will break. But if you break it off now, you aren't allowing for any of these other possibilities. And since you seem ambivalent, I'd allow the other possibilities to remain.
posted by flourpot at 7:04 PM on August 23, 2016 [43 favorites]

I fail to understand why you have to be the one to reach out?

This sounds like her pattern. I hope she breaks her pattern and apologizes to you for being so mean. Also, is she going through a medication issue, or possibly menopause? Because that's literally the only good excuses for such horrible personal attacks. I still don't see what you did wrong.
posted by jbenben at 7:12 PM on August 23, 2016 [10 favorites]

If you want to explore rebuilding this friendship, you could reach out to her and say

"Hey, please identify the 1, 2 or 3 issues that bother you the most and which affect you directly" and then talk about/solve those.

That might take a lot of her anger about the other less-important issues away.
posted by Sockpuppets 'R' Us at 7:26 PM on August 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Nah this is not acceptable behavior from a friend and you can spend with time with people who think you're awesome instead of a boring gross liar.
posted by bleep at 7:27 PM on August 23, 2016 [26 favorites]

I don't see why you have to reach out; and in fact I think NOT reaching out gives her the opportunity to reach out if she has cooled down and/or reflected on how mean she was. If she hasn't, what would you even say to her?

I wouldn't reach out. If she does, see what she says.

(Did she really say you were gross, re the makeup? Or that she would find it gross to have her stuff loose? That's just... so judgy and rude! And who the hell cares about how a dress is described!)
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:37 PM on August 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Getting upset at apparently unimportant inconsistencies -- "you told me you bought a rose dress but then later you said it was pink" -- is actually pretty typical of people with Asperger's (so much so that I would have guessed your friend was on the spectrum just from this even you hadn't said so). The way I understand it is that it takes some fairly developed theory of mind to realize that the same person could perceive the same dress as both rose and pink, and if that realization doesn't come easily then you might assume you were being deceived for some obscure reason or possibly being made fun of (something you are already unusually sensitive to because of your difficulty with reading social cues). Ditto for being grossed out by non-compartmentalization of physical substances (the makeup thing), and for being quick to express such feelings -- and criticisms in general -- without much in the way of a filter. I guess all of which is to say, if you do decide to stay friends with this person you might be well served by reading up on Asperger's so that you can understand her behavior patterns better and hopefully take them less personally.
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark at 7:46 PM on August 23, 2016 [28 favorites]

Dude, I could barely get through your question, because it is obvious that your friend is not real people.

By that, I mean someone who gets you. Someone who will help you hide the body, so to speak.

I mean, I get it. I've wasted a lot of brain space on flakes in the past. It's what you do, until you get to be my age and think, I only have so much time here on planet Earth. Who do I want to spend my time with and are they my people?

If not, cut them off, pronto. I am all about ignoring bad behavior and rewarding good.

You have to decide if this friend is worth it to you. Your brain space. Your very limited time on Earth. Do you want to waste more of it on this person? Or do you want to focus on yourself, and your dreams and ambitions?
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:53 PM on August 23, 2016 [8 favorites]

She behaved badly and hopefully will realize this while on her trip. She might well be on the spectrum and have trouble containing her thoughts but by age forty she has had enough time to understand that this is not an excuse for mistreating people and that sometimes she needs to apologize. I'd keep my distance and let her make the first move. If she doesn't, that tells you a lot about the value she does or doesn't place on the friendship.

And in the meantime, take Bleep's excellent advice and spend time with people who celebrate you. If you do that, you might just find that you don't miss this person as much as you thought you would. Her loss, not yours.
posted by rpfields at 7:53 PM on August 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Did she actually say you were boring and gross? That would be a deal-breaker for me.
posted by hungrytiger at 9:38 PM on August 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Did she actually say you were boring and gross?

Yes, she really did, at least as directed towards my behavior. "I don't understand why you talk about your past a lot. It's over, and it is boring for other people." (By the way, I did ask if she felt that I didn't let her talk, but that was not the issue. It was that my topic was boring and pointless.) Regarding the gross remark, it related to the likelihood of things mixing and the possibility that others might need to touch something from my purse. (My pen might get lipstick on it, for example, and then I might still hand it to someone else.)

But I'm reflecting quite a bit on the answer from hoist with his own pet aardvark, because that makes a lot of sense. The strangest things was not the insults, but more that these small inconsistencies were seen as evidence of *something* and if I denied they were evidence of anything, then that was even more suspect.

Thanks for the answers so far. Right now I'm leaning towards just giving it space, and maybe doing some reading about friendships with people on the spectrum. Does anyone have any good links on this topic?
posted by frumiousb at 11:07 PM on August 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

she's very sensitive to perceived slights.

I think you both are. There is nothing to gain. End the friendship.
posted by Kwadeng at 11:33 PM on August 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

Like your friend, I am a self-diagnosed Aspie in my 40s. But I've learned to second-guess my every reaction before I blurt things out because I know I have a tendency to overreact. I haven't gone off on anyone in years. So I think there must be something going on in your friend's life that triggered her outburst. It's possible that she sabotages friendships due to intimacy issues. This isn't a hallmark of Aspergers, but the difficulty in negotiating the social world usually leads to bullying or abuse, and trust issues ensue. It sounds like she brought up a bunch of trivial things that get on her nerves to distance herself. Understandable, but not the best way of handling herself. Just because she's on the spectrum doesn't mean she should be excused from bad behavior. We can learn better social skills than that.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 12:21 AM on August 24, 2016 [11 favorites]

Best answer: If she actually said it this way, as you quote her: "I don't understand why you talk about your past a lot. It's over, and it is boring for other people." Then she started out by saying she doesn't understand, and called it a boring behavior; she didn't call you, yourself, boring. It is still an ouchy thing to hear, yes, and a lot of it depends on what you know about her. Was she being genuine when she said "I don't understand"? Is it possible in your own fatigue (you mention other things going on in life, which is why I mention it) you overlooked a request from her to actually explain why you talk about your past a lot?

I have a dear childhood friend like this. She's incredibly smart, a complete sweetheart, but just does not get people. The thing is, she does, intellectually, but it's not the same thing as what society demands from women, which is emotions. We're the same age, GenX, so autism and Asperger's weren't in the vocabulary when we were growing up. She's likely on the spectrum though. Anyway. All that to say, she is totally the sort to blurt out things like "I don't understand why you talk about X so much, it's boring!" and it is not personal, at all. It's an expression of trust coming from her; she trusts me enough to express her frustration and does this intellectual bid for empathy. Not many people get that, especially coming from women. Society expects women to sugarcoat every damn thing, plus there's the societal assumption that "women are dumb amirite so it's not like a woman could attempt an intellectual bid for social comprehension hurf durf just who does she think she is and who does she think I am."

That last part is not for you personally; it's to put in relief what she says about "big fights or falling out with friends, and in all cases they were abusive to her and she stopped trusting them." It could be... because there's truth to it. Being a smart woman who comprehends the world through the mind before the heart is like being a witch, metaphorically speaking. An affront to society's structural issues. Living proof that sexism is baseless. It can take time for people to realize that, yeah, this woman actually really is like that, and she's not going to change to "fit in." People can be very cruel, without necessarily realizing it. They're "just" trying to "help women show their best side" and so on and so forth. It can be utterly heartbreaking when you're a woman who cannot "fit in". Fitting in would be cutting out your soul. Other people don't see it like that, because their deeper being just happens to fit more-or-less with what society demands. They've never had to question it, or not much, or, and this is the kicker, they have questioned it, and are afraid of the answers. Because they see what happens to people who differ. They can then freak out on behalf of others, which can come across as abusive to someone who instinctively grasps the world intellectually vs. emotionally.

Now, I am giving a very compassionate, forgiving read here, because of your context that you've known each other for so long and value this friendship. You know better than I about her trustworthiness, sincerity about things, and so forth. Plus I know you from your posts on MeFi over the years as someone who's kind and knowledgeable about systemic issues, so I just want to add that to the mix.
posted by fraula at 2:50 AM on August 24, 2016 [17 favorites]

Jesus. Too much drama and too much attacking for a friendship. Step back
posted by gt2 at 3:29 AM on August 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

what society demands from women, which is emotions

yeah but society also demands from women that they tolerate a whole lot of interpersonal insult and abuse and not take it personally because only a person gets to do that.

Being a smart woman who comprehends the world through the mind before the heart is like being a witch, metaphorically speaking

I want to agree and I think I do agree, but I don't think it applies here - it's my mean and frustrated heart that makes me want to tell other people exactly what I think of their boring ways and bad habits, and my analytical mind that stops me from doing that because logic and reason allow me to figure out how such expression will be received and perceived by others.
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:21 AM on August 24, 2016 [9 favorites]

I don't think you are overreacting at all. It's a horrible shock when someone lashes out at you like that.

I have a feeling you won't hear from her for a while and by that time, you might have more of an idea how you want to react. It is totally your choice here. In your shoes, I would definitely cut down on the amount of my exposure to this person because she is capable of hurting you like that. But if and when she gets in touch, you may be able to say sincerely that you are glad to hear from her and you may both be happier with a somewhat downgraded friendship vs. what you've had up to this point. There may also be a time when it seems appropriate for you to reach out. But you don't owe anybody anything in this kind of situation.
posted by BibiRose at 6:35 AM on August 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am a (biological) woman that has been diagnosed with High Functioning Autism and I read a lot of myself in this woman's behavior toward you in this scenario. She was deeply hurt by this event, and she is attempting to distance herself and her feelings from you, find minute evidence/reasons to justify her distrust in you and that validate her pain, and/or hurt you in a way that she feels will allow you to experience the extent of her pain. This is actually very sad to read on both ends, because I have been there several times in my life, and it amounts to just a huge rift between two people in their ability to understand what is going on in each others' minds regarding the situation at hand. Her coping mechanisms for processing the deep pain she feels regarding minor social gaffs such as this, most likely because she has been consistently bullied, abused, betrayed, excluded, etc. relentlessly her entire life for reasons she does not understand, are not entirely healthy. However if she has not been officially diagnosed she most likely does not have access to the sort of social training needed to quiet her mind in this way. Really, the only way I was able to stop doing this myself was to be diagnosed, obtain specialized training/therapy, and disclose my diagnosis to those I loved most. It's fucking difficult, because nothing has changed about the way I am wired, but I have cognitive behavioral therapy to basically decipher between "THIS PERSON IS HORRID AND HATES ME AND WANTS TO HURT ME AND IS PROBABLY MAKING FUN OF ME" and "Eh, this stuff happens."

If anything, if she is indeed autistic, her cruel, contradictory behavior shows that she cares very deeply for you as well, and you are correct to assume that she probably has already lumped you into a group of people she no longer trusts, sad as it is. I wish I could tell you what to do to prevent her from reacting this way to what amounts to a typical and harmless human error that lacks malicious motives but, honestly, that is something that SHE needs to understand about herself and work on. She can't go through life blaming everyone else for her lack of mindfulness and perspective-taking and shutting down/dismissing relationships when she is hurt.
posted by Young Kullervo at 8:16 AM on August 24, 2016 [9 favorites]

Just as a follow-up, she also can't go through life hurting people she cares about simply because she herself doesn't understand how to control her own mind and emotional reactions to these things.
posted by Young Kullervo at 8:25 AM on August 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Sorry for the multi-post, but I guess to answer your question: Is this friendship worth saving? I'd say definitely "yes", but it's going to take a lot of work on her end to salvage it, not just yours. You can study autism spectrum disorders until you've earned a PhD in the subject, but that understanding is not going to prevent her from reacting to what she perceives to be a deep betrayal on the part of those around her for minor social distruptions. You may be able to communicate with her more effectively and intently, but even that is not a guarantee, given how literally she will always process very complex social situations. An extra layer of complication: Adding some sort of primer such as "I want you to know I do love and care about you, but I made a mistake and have to exclude you from this thing" or something of the sort, may start to make her feel condescended to or disrespected. And, honestly, that sounds fucking exhausting.

Autism is so sadly complicated in this way that people wired this way often end up as loners for this very reason.
posted by Young Kullervo at 8:34 AM on August 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: She knows I was upset, so I guess if I want to keep this friendship, I will need to reach out to her.


in all cases they were abusive to her and she stopped trusting them and now I have realised I am one of them. Or on my way to being one of them.

And nope.

I mean, I completely get where you are coming from in thinking that you will need to reach out to maintain the friendship, and you could, but you must be prepared that if you do that, you will be validating her abusive behavior towards you. And if you do so, she will continue to treat you that way as she sees fit.

You might try to sit down with her one more time and let her know in no uncertain terms that her behavior towards you was inexcusable, regardless of how angry she may have been with you. Friends do have to allow for irritation and anger with one another from time to time, but there is never an appropriate excuse to (verbally) attack another person.

You cite that she may not trust you again, but if you are honest with yourself, you will never trust her with your feelings again after this attack, will you? There will always be a distance between the two of you now. So continue the friendship if you must, but be aware of this new dynamic between you.
posted by vignettist at 12:01 PM on August 24, 2016 [6 favorites]

Maybe she is on the spectrum, maybe she doesn't understand herself but in the end does it matter? What I mean by that is that people may have reasons for why they do mean and /or hurtful things but I doesn't erase the fact they did hurtful things. Coupled with the fact the that this appears to be a pattern it doesn't sound like an enjoyable friendship.

That saod, I don't think you should drop her but maybe take a step back and let here reach out to you. I don't doubt that it's difficult navigating the world when your on the spectrum but as an adult she has to learn to deal with her upset and frustrations just like everyone else. She can't keep hurting people she cares about because she's unwilling to ask for help. And if she chooses too she'll have to accept the fact that here friendships won't last.
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 12:48 PM on August 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Being a smart woman who comprehends the world through the mind before the heart is like being a witch, metaphorically speaking. An affront to society's structural issues. Living proof that sexism is baseless.

if she is indeed autistic, her cruel, contradictory behavior shows that she cares very deeply for you as well

I'm really floored by this thread. I don't think I've ever seen such an outpouring of apologism for abusive behavior on the Green before. This is not about a lone, brave soul proving the baselessness of institutional sexism. This is about a woman verbally and emotionally attacking her friend. OP, listen to yourself when you're talking about dreading this dinner because you already knew your friend was furious with you and would use the meeting as an excuse to punish you. This sounds like every woman I know who's trapped in an abusive relationship with a controlling man who she knows is going to be angry with her over some percieved slight and is afraid of what's going to happen when she sees him after doing something he doesn't approve of.

This recent punishment fest was over some group activity where not every single detail was to your friend's liking? Okay. Not everyone is going to be able to or want to participate in every single event in a group outing. Throwing an extended tantrum about something so petty, and then demanding that your friends do such a tremendous amount of emotional labor for you to the point that they know dinner dates are going to be exclusively dedicated to soothing your feelings VIA PUNISHING THEM? That is emotional abuse, full stop. Scheduling social dates where the point of the date is for one party to vent their grievances and verbally attack the other, while they sit and do penance? That is an abusive, unhealthy relationship. Being non-neurotypical does not entitle anyone to subject their loved ones to that kind of treatment.

I really did not ever expect to see people on this website earnestly telling an Asker that someone in their life is only cruel to them because they care about them so much.

Frumiousb, I don't know if you should keep this friendship or not, but I just want to tell you that you are not in the wrong here, and that you don't need to feel guilty or like you're not being understanding enough for being unhappy in a relationship where you're subject to this kind of treatment. You don't deserve to be attacked and controlled like this. It's not your job to let your friends hurt you.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 1:47 PM on August 24, 2016 [21 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the really thoughtful answers!

I'm amazed by the variety and the passion and really appreciate the time. What's interesting for me is that it shows how attitudes to friendships vary, and at least I feel less strange for being conflicted.

A couple of answers/thoughts:

Some of you have said "friendships have occasional meltdowns". Mine don't. Or they never have. This whole thing has made me realise I have remarkably drama-free friendships. Naturally, there are times where friends get irritated with each other or avoid each other for a while or even snap at each other, but this kind of drama isn't natural to me. I don't find it easy to deal with and I generally don't like it. I'm going to reflect for a while if this isn't a lack of resilience in some way on my part. (I don't think it's thin skinned to not like getting a catalogue of my sins when I'm expecting dinner, but ymmv, I guess. If that wouldn't bother you, then you're stronger than me.)

I really appreciated learning about meltdowns here. Stoneweaver is right, she would not have been someone I would have ever identified as non neural typical besides her own identification. So this kind of outburst was completely unexpected. There were many resonances with what happened and what you all described, so thanks for that. Part of why this bothered me so much was that it was so out of character for her/me/us and it helped me put a finger on what happened. Especially, I understand a whole lot more why she was so focused on small inconsistencies. It was one of the strangest aspects for me, and it bothered me more because I completely didn't understand her point. Fraula, I also appreciated that you put the 'boring' remark into context. You could well be right.

All this said, I need to think about how much trust I can have for her. If this is going to be a repeated pattern, I don't think I could handle that. And this problem may solve itself since I think there's a pretty reasonable chance that she's going to distance the friendship herself and that Young Kullervo is right in that the fact that this meltdown happened means I've already been dropped into the bin of people she doesn't trust anymore.

If that hasn't happened, and she does reach out then likely I will invest less time than I have in the past and make sure not to set up situations which involve other people (and possibly other triggers). I would like to keep the friendship, but not at any cost. And not if this behaviour continues. We'll see.

(Moonlight on Vermont, I really appreciated your reply. I should say that I wasn't dreading the dinner, I just knew she would be annoyed. I would never expect an adult to react like that to a minor social annoyance, so what I expected is to discuss it briefly and move on. I might well accept too much from my friends but I wouldn't go out to dinner with someone I dread.)
posted by frumiousb at 4:43 PM on August 24, 2016

Best answer: Here is some additional information on autistic meltdowns. (This is not to say that you must remain friends or be okay with what she said to you, but it might help you understand what happened.)
Meltdowns (NAS)
Meltdowns in Adults
posted by thetortoise at 4:52 PM on August 24, 2016 [4 favorites]

Well, ok. I didn't say the behavior wasn't abusive and I definitely wasn't condoning or apologizing for it (thus the "she needs to sort her own shit out rather than put it on other people"). I was just trying to explain it so that the OP wouldn't feel as if she has done anything wrong and/or should modify her behavior for someone who refuses to address her own problematic behaviors.
posted by Young Kullervo at 9:01 AM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Late to the show here, but want to throw in a few words any-old-ways.

Personally, not being A Woman, I am *not* aware of all possible "make-up in purse rules" that might be floating around "out there" in Woman World. But her jumping up and down over your not doing make-up in your purse as she would like is, from my seat in the house, ridiculous. Actually, it's comical. She was really, really reaching. Or so it seems to me.

It's come across here in the thread but I want to re-iterate -- your presence on the site is sane and sound and normal. A lot can come through words minted on a bright screen, and you come through as A Good Citizen. What I've read of you, I think that your comments are grounded and civil and thoughtful, and so does everyone else here.

Not to mention that you are a person who has solid friendships, who has had solid friendships, which you value deeply, and you've never had any friendships blow up prior to this.

I think that your friend is way out of line. Is she on this spectrum or that one? No telling. But she's been able to be civil up til now. As others upthread have said, it seems as she's punishing you, and who knows (or cares) for what.

I know you don't want to lose the friend that you thought you had. But I don't know that you ever had the friend you thought you had.

I think take two -- maybe three -- steps back, and let it breathe. Let yourself breathe. Let her breathe. Give it some room. I've always loved that Gibran quote: "The mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain." With a bit of distance, and a bit of time, the trail might show itself with more clarity.

Meanwhile, put up a few boundaries, which you can duck behind quick if she comes at you slashing again. Get your distance, put up some boundaries, and watch closely.

I am sorry that this happened to you. Plz take good care of yourself. We're all with you.
posted by dancestoblue at 1:18 AM on August 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

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