Best friend is a pathological doormat. Should I give up on him?
August 9, 2017 11:24 AM   Subscribe

My current best friend (and someone I was trying to date seriously) is a doormat or a liar or both. After learning the latest ridiculous way in which someone has taken advantage of him I lost my temper and am refusing to speak to him until I have real clarity. I need perspective. Did I overreact? Is this friendship worth all the turmoil it puts me through on a consistent basis?

Keep in mind I am aware of my ask history and that I need to investigate my own inability to find people to bring into my life that don't constantly make me feel upset and crazy. I am doing so now.

Little background on this person as a primer: He’s a pathological bleeding heart and since I have been his friend and off-and-on romantic partner he has basically been everyone’s go to for house-sitting, pet-sitting, emotional support, work support, and help in any way, which he refuses to say ‘no’ to. He’s the sort that will never take a vacation for himself because “the work won’t get done if I’m not here.” He gets used and abused a lot, to say the least, and has zero boundaries which he lets complete strangers cross CONSTANTLY. A large portion of our torrid dating relationship drove me insane because while I attempted for us to bond through adventures and artistic collaborations and, you know, spending actual time together as individuals that like each other and have shared interests, he basically treated me as if my expectations were for him to be my surrogate parent or a servant. There have been times when his “feeling sorry” for toxic people made him blind to how they were posing a literal threat to the relationship (i.e. trying to sleep with him) and I have had to basically make him aware that it was occurring and how it was affecting me before he's take any action. I have no doubt in my mind that he is kind and beyond trusting and just wants to help, particularly regarding the mentally ill, animals, and the elderly, but I also know there is more going on there mentally in terms of self-worth revolving around being “needed” and "liked" by everyone.

So this was him a few months ago. He didn’t listen to my (or your) sound advice and decided to rent the apartment anyway. Well, of course, everything that could go wrong went wrong and then some. The cousin decided not to buy the building (of course), the repairs to the unit were never completed (as expected), and then I was made aware that this slumlord had asked my friend to help him access the dark web to buy drugs for his “sick wife” (yes, the same wife that was used as an excuse for why the unit wasn’t ready when he was attempting to move in to begin with). I was confounded by why this guy would think to ask my friend, who doesn’t sell drugs (to my knowledge), but I just brushed it off as bizarre and assumed he wouldn’t go through with it (because hahaha wow the audacity of this guy right and hahaha anyone who asks his tenant to do something illegal for him must be insane and hmmm surely my friend has enough sense not to put himself in such a precarious situation that could get him arrested or evicted or worse right?). Fast forward to yesterday, I was sitting with him in his apartment, now with a molding, unfinished piece of drywall barely covering the exposed pipes and leaks, and I found out he actually hooked his landlord up with a friend who sells drugs in another state. He even suggested the possibility of GOING TO GET THEM FOR HIM while visiting said friend for a wedding. I lost basically all of my shit immediately. In so many words he told me that, yes, in fact, he did put himself in the precarious role of a middle-man for a drug exchange that benefits a complete stranger who has screwed and continues to screw him over and over and did I mention he is complicit in helping his LANLORD BUY DRUGS? When I asked him why the hell he would go through with all of this, and if he thought about the possibility that his landlord may be a NARC and trying to find a way to legally evict him or worse, he floundered around between “(friend in other state that sells drug) said it’s not illegal here to have (said drug)” and “(slumlord’s wife) sounds like she’s suffering” and “I thought my friend could make some money” and “I was worried that (landlord) would retaliate if I said ‘no’” and “I just want to feel needed.” He began to cry and call me a bully so I left, dumbfounded and confused and angry. In my mind either he’s such a gullible doormat that this is now a masochistic pathology or a mental disability that he needs professional help to untangle or he was somehow getting an incentive (rent cuts, etc.) from the landlord that he is lying to me about and using this “oh I felt sorry for him” story as an excuse. Otherwise, I cannot make logical sense out of any of this and it’s breaking my brain.

Am I overreacting? Am I just a mean bully who is stomping on his kind efforts to help a suffering woman? Is this behavior normal? It doesn’t FEEL ANYWHERE NEAR NORMAL in my gut. Keep in mind that if this was a close friend or family member he was helping I would actually find it rather kind (my personal moral view of drug use is contextual depending on what they are, how they are procured, and who the use may be affecting outside of the user) but it’s not about that, it’s the fact that, if he’s telling me the truth, he cares so deeply about a COMPLETE STRANGER as to throw himself under the bus for them and that he doesn’t even comprehend cognitively why that is bizarre and unhealthy and dangerous. He also mentioned literally the day before that he never does anything for or with anyone that he doesn’t deep down “want to” which is an added layer to all of this. I made it clear I couldn’t trust someone who has continuously proven that he is willing to actively or passively put himself in the way of legal and personal harm to help others, not just strangers, but people who actively screw him over right to his face. My brain keeps saying “if he allows this what else will he allow?” I’m thinking this is most likely the last straw for the friendship (and definitely the romantic relationship) but I need perspective, because, honestly, he’s the best friend I have right now and I really do care about him. I wouldn't get so freaking upset if I didn't but I'm so tired of these episodes. Is it even worth trying to talk to him about this behavior for literally the MILLIONTH time or is this a lost cause?

I just want to know how other people would react if their friend and potential partner did the same.
posted by Young Kullervo to Human Relations (46 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The question to ask yourself is: does this person improve my life?

Not do you care about them, not are they they only person who will hang out with you. Does their existence in your life result in a net positive?

The answer to this is no, I can tell from your post. You do not like the person that he is and you want him to be someone else. I don't blame you, that's not a value judgement, it's just a fact: this person is not your type of person.

Add in the romantic investment and your inability yet to create and maintain firm strong boundaries for yourself in your life, and this is a person you need to distance yourself from.

It is possible for some people to have a friend like this and just be like "welp, that's all on them, we only engage on {some meaningful subject} and that's what this person's role is in my life and mine in his" but that is a very advanced function and many people cannot do it (in part because those people tend to be emotional vampires) and you are not there yet. Move on. Your boundaries are so blurred here that you are even doing AskMe for him; this is not a healthy separation of personhoods.

It will be easier for you to clean up your own stuff without these kind of people in your life. It may be lonely, and you may be forced to go keep the company of semi-strangers instead (volunteer work, some sort of local civic activity, etc) and that is fine. They are clean slates for you to have boundaries from the start and get used to the feeling of that, and doing so will attract people who like boundaries to you instead of these vampires.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:36 AM on August 9, 2017 [25 favorites]

I just want to know how other people would react if their friend and potential partner did the same.

I would stop thinking of them as a friend and potential partner, wish them well, and move the hell on.
posted by headnsouth at 11:37 AM on August 9, 2017 [18 favorites]

1) Friend needs to write a letter to landlord insisting on fixes for the problems in the unit. This is a CYA measure in case he gets thrown out. You can offer to help, in the sense of finding a nice template online (I'm sure they're around; it's a basic kind of thing), but don't offer to do it for him.

2) "Hey friend. I know you just want to be helpful, but it's causing you some real problems. You need to learn to set boundardies, to sort out the difference between appropriate volunteering and being a doormat. Maybe you don't understand how that's done. So here - I'm going to give you an example. This is me, setting some boundaries. I'm going to go away now and not spend time with you until you are NO LONGER VOLUNTEERING TO DO FEDERAL FELONY DRUG TRAFFICKING JFC WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, kthx bai." (Rephrase as needed to match exact circumstances & your personal communication style.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:42 AM on August 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

You're NOT a mean bully. I have several women friends like this, who were poisoned as children on the "be nice" apple. Consequently, they remain wilting pansies into adulthood.

You want perspective? You say he's your best friend. There are so many other potential best friends out there, my head is spinning.

Do your life a favor and lose this limp dish cloth. When he wrings his hands and says "whyyyyy" tell him your sick of his spineless ways, at his age!

Remember, there a cultural forces at work that want you, a woman, to "nurture" this unweaned, pathological nurturer. Cut him loose!
posted by BostonTerrier at 11:43 AM on August 9, 2017 [7 favorites]

I just want to know how other people would react if their friend and potential partner did the same.

I try my best not to get involved in the affairs of my friends with people that aren't me unless they explicitly ask for my help or opinion.
posted by notorious medium at 11:44 AM on August 9, 2017 [17 favorites]

This is a lost cause. Some people need to be needed, and the more drama they're immersed in, the better they feel. They will seek drama if they don't have any handy. He sounds like a great guy in some ways but if you can't accept this aspect of him you will always be unhappy.

If this were my partner I'd be leaving because I'd know that I will never be able to compete with the constant drama. If you can detatch and say to yourself here he goes again and just watch from the sidelines, it may work out. But you have to accept he will always have this BIG THING to help some poor soul with. Then it will be a different BIG DEAL HUGE PROBLEM only he can solve for the next person.

Sorry but DTMFA. Doesn't mean you or he are wrong, just incompatible.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 11:48 AM on August 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

Look, who cares if any of this is normal -- for the record, it's not, but actually that's not what matters here. What matters is that YOU don't want it in your life, it's driving you crazy, and it seems like this person is a giant time/energy/drama suck with apparently no positive impact on your life. You're not obligated to keep investing in a friendship with someone just because you have a long history together or whatever the case may be. If nothing else, take some time off from this person, and reevaluate how lovely and stress free your life is a few months from now. I think that will give you all the answers you need.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:49 AM on August 9, 2017 [7 favorites]

He means it. He loves drama. It's not putting him out to be involved in an interstate drug deal - it's fun for him, a little intrigue with the landlord and a little hijinx with his friend, and he's saving a sick lady. Maybe he feels guilty for wanting to do something so stupid, but he is getting something out of it. Some people are just foolish and if you offer them a chance to get in trouble, they'll take it.
posted by benadryl at 11:50 AM on August 9, 2017 [8 favorites]

Your boundaries are all tangled up with his (and his lack of them), and that's not working for you.

As for how he can do this sort of thing: he's not thinking about the potential negative consequences. They don't feel real to him. What feels real to him is that his landlord is standing right there being scary and needy, and he's dealing with that situation without managing to extrapolate outwards from it. I've met people like this, and their attitude is that the bad thing in the future may not happen and if it does they'll deal with it then, whereas the bad thing in the present-- someone with the potential to become angry at them, and possibly threatening-- has to be dealt with right away.

I bet someone being upset with him is, to him, the worst thing in the world. No matter who it is, and no matter why they're upset. This tends to be the result of a very specific pattern of parental or familial dysfunction, and it's absolutely something therapy could, maybe, help with.

However, that's not your job or problem. Your problem is, as I said, that your boundaries are tangled up with his. You have two choices:

one, stop dealing with all the drama and cut off contact. That's totally reasonable and fair, and the choice you may well prefer.

two, maintain your own boundaries firmly. This will be hard, if you choose to do it, because you will have to let whatever negative consequences come from his behavior come to him, and also as soon as you start putting up boundaries with him you will become a person of whose anger he is terrified, and he will start trying to placate and manage you the way he does everybody else. This is not Maintaining Your Own Boundaries 101, is what I'm saying here. More like a graduate seminar. It can be done, but you do not have to choose to do it.

Of course, choice three is letting things go along the way they are now, but you are, quite rightly, very unhappy with that.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 11:51 AM on August 9, 2017 [7 favorites]

I made it clear I couldn’t trust someone who has continuously proven that he is willing to actively or passively put himself in the way of legal and personal harm to help others, not just strangers, but people who actively screw him over right to his face. My brain keeps saying “if he allows this what else will he allow?”

Keep in mind that you also won't necessarily be able to trust him to set boundaries with you. If I asked a friend to be a middleman in a drug deal, they would tell me to fuck off and rightfully so. But if you asked him to do something for you that he didn't want to do or possibly put him in jeopardy- do you think he'd do it anyway? How would that make you feel? I don't think real friendships work that way, and it makes for an especially toxic romantic relationship.
posted by Mouse Army at 11:56 AM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Uh, no. This person thrives on drama and it won't stop. If its not this, something else will come up. Also you don't need to be a party to all this and you definitely don't need to be the one to bail them out when the shit hits the fan. Run away and give yourself time to be you for a bit.
posted by PJMoore at 12:03 PM on August 9, 2017

Part of healthy boundary setting is appreciating that this guy is responsible to and for himself.

Repeat after me (I stole this on the green somewhere): "Not my circus. Not my monkeys."
posted by Dressed to Kill at 12:04 PM on August 9, 2017 [11 favorites]

what are you getting out of this? No-one puts up withthis much drama without a return of investment of some kind. Is it that you also need to feel needed? Is it providing excitement to your life?
Then maybe you can get this need met in other ways?
posted by Omnomnom at 12:18 PM on August 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Just for clarification: I stressed the "potential romantic partner" aspect because we've discussed the future together (in terms of maybe living together, which I am aware is a huge mistake to consider NOW) and that means, while I have sound boundaries with my other friends to where their problems are not my own and I only offer advice and solutions when asked for it (sometimes), I don't think it's untoward for your partner's behavior to affect your life in very meaningful ways. Which is why I had a greater stake in this until now.
posted by Young Kullervo at 12:19 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, there's people like this in the world. I'm not going to lie; I've been too much of a drama-llama in my life as well. But, in hindsight, everybody who disconnected with me when I was like that was probably in the right to do so. You will be too.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:20 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

man, just leave before he gets involved in something even more asinine.
posted by speakeasy at 12:31 PM on August 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

I don't think it's untoward for your partner's behavior to affect your life in very meaningful ways.

Which is why it's worth thinking about what made this guy your best friend / romantic interest for you in the first place. It's not like his behaviour was a tiny part of him or particularly hard to discern. He seems like 99% doormat, the way you tell it. Even if you'd manage to change him, you'd have to turn around 99% of him! Why hook up with someone whose character is mostly aggravating to you in the first place?
I agree that your potential partner's behaviour can affect you, which is why most people don't on-again-off-again with people this irritating to them.

So yeah, really think about what makes this guy and his drama so compelling to you that you wrote a huge-ass Askme. Then you can decide what to do about it.

If you don't, it'll always be your conscious brain working against various mysterious forces in you. And it's never the conscious brain that wins!
posted by Omnomnom at 12:31 PM on August 9, 2017 [10 favorites]

masochistic pathology

If you can't talk to him without "losing your shit" and yelling at him about how stupid and gullible he is, you cannot blame that on his pathology. Even if he is a masochist, he's not your masochist.

I take your word for it that he is in fact as stupid and gullible as you describe. As long as you're not dating him anymore there is no reason that any of this needs to be your problem in any way unless he is attempting to bring criminals into your life, directly. don't, obviously, tolerate that (but don't fight about it, just get away.) if you can't see a friend doing stupid things without telling him what is wrong with him, get out of the friendship. he isn't helping you and you aren't helping him either.

I just want to know how other people would react if their friend and potential partner did the same.

They would never be a potential partner. I would give frank advice to a friend if they asked for it, or if I saw them about to walk in front of a car or similar. If they asked for help with money or sudden moves, I would say No after the first time. I would not detail their flaws to them, lose my temper, demand that they fix their personality, or tell them I couldn't trust them because they allow themselves to be abused, while yelling at them.

some people make it impossible to keep your temper around them but those are people you must not spend time around. for their sakes; also for yours.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:31 PM on August 9, 2017 [23 favorites]

Your estimation of the problems with this situation sound spot on to me (and I'm arguably a bleeding heart with a few boundary issues too). Don't get involved as a middle-man in an illegal drug exchange (particularly with *strangers* rather than actual friends) is entirely sensible as hard boundaries go.

"losing all your shit", though... I mean, I get it, this is sometimes what happens when you literally can't even with someone who can't see something so obvious. But it is totally possible to push someone too hard or even bully them over entirely well-founded concerns and it rarely helps.

You're reacting in the correct direction to a situation pointing south for your friend. You're correctly concerned. Are you overreacting? From your description of how it played out, it sounds like the answer might well be yes, and you're at least considering the possibility that you crossed a boundary too or you wouldn't be asking internet strangers for their advice.

I'd guess your choices boil down to (a) come up with some better tools for handling your situation with your friend or (b) get some distance so that the boundaries between your feelings and his choices are stronger.

Nobody can make that choice for you, and (b) is kindof an unfortunate option, since he is a best friend and that's part of having caring relationships with people.

If you want to try (a) first -- here's something I've seen work recently with someone else with boundary issue.

A close friend of mine has an aging father who is devoted to his church. One might say religiously but my friend might say scrupulosity better captures the spirit of that relationship. For a while he's had a church role where he manages records of a half-dozen congregations that included details of attendance, activities, accounting and turing those into reports and it got to the point where it was becoming a full time job that he was staying up into the night and losing sleep over. You don't want your octagenarian father soldiering through on 4-6 hours of sleep a night if you want him around longer, but when my friend and her mother would get after him to take care of himself, he'd get upset and talk about his devotions and duties. No boundaries between his identity and his dedication to church.

One thing that finally helped was that they made the case to him in terms not about taking care of himself, but in terms of other duties. My friend said more or less "look, we understand and admire your dutifulness, but there are any number of other people who could help out at church... and there's nobody else who can be mom's husband, our dad, or grandpa to your grandchildren. What about your obligation to us? If you wear yourself out, there's nobody else who can take your place in our family." And fortunately his church frequently also teaches the importance of family obligations, so this got through.

So, my advice is to try and find some way to get his bleeding heart to work for you. Talk to him again. Exposition of the dangerous consequences of his choices is fine, but framed in terms that will appeal to his maybe overdeveloped sense of empathy. How will this affect the feelings of people who care about him if he ended up caught in a law enforcement operation? "It would break my heart if you ended up in court over this, much less prison, and that's a real possibility here." How could that affect his ability to help anyone else? "If you want to feel needed -- *I* need you, *we* need you, and we need you in a situation where you're happy, healthy, and free."
posted by wildblueyonder at 12:38 PM on August 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

I NEARLY MOVED IN WITH THIS MAN AND EVERY DAY I AM SO GRATEFUL THAT IT DIDN'T HAPPEN. Everything in my life would be ruined now if I had. He can't or won't set boundaries and that means constant DANGER. I think my chap was a little more savvy than he claimed to the women trying to sleep with him. He liked it. He told me he couldn't be with me properly, he couldn't be a boyfriend, he was too damaged. He was absolutely right. I look back at the shit he put me through and I'm like 'really?????'. He was so sweet and funny and intelligent and I really felt for him. It broke my heart. I wanted to save him. I am SO glad i didn't. You can't save someone who won't save themselves and you will throw money and love and your own stability and prospects right down the drain, trying to do the impossible, if you continue down this road.

Please run in the other direction your life will be amazing, I promise. I'm so sorry i know how much that's got to hurt. But you deserve it.
posted by eastboundanddown at 12:39 PM on August 9, 2017 [8 favorites]

The only thing that surprises me here is that he has some level of self-awareness about what he’s doing— he literally told you that he "just wants to feel needed". He clearly wants that to such an unhealthy extent that he is willing to risk prison to get it. Until something changes (serious consequences? therapy?), that’s going to be his guiding principle. He doesn’t yet seem to be willing to grapple with the possibility that he needs to change.

You should be very careful in how you deal with him. What if he had asked you to be a plus-one for the wedding that was secretly a drug deal? Erecting boundaries to protect yourself from his bad decision making is probably the best thing for both of you.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 12:40 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can't do anything about his terrible boundaries.

But you can do something about your boundaries. Push him out of them. He needs to not be part of your life, because he makes it worse.
posted by French Fry at 12:40 PM on August 9, 2017 [7 favorites]

honestly you are kinda being a bully in this scenario. like, he's not your kid or your employee and you're not financially entangled but you're losing your shit at him and yelling? no good. not the person you want to be.

he likes to make the people around him into people who treat him poorly / cross his boundaries. you are now becoming one of those people because he's not telling you to fuck off and mind your own business re: his apartment, his friends, and all of his other issues

in sum: whether or not you see him as helpless (he's not) this is none of your business.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:44 PM on August 9, 2017 [10 favorites]

also: I refuse to psychoanalyze this guy. It's really not your problem, and it's definitely not our problem. Why? You can just walk away if it bothers you.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 12:46 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Repeat after me: Not my circus, not my monkeys.

This guy clearly has big issues with boundaries and co-dependency. Do not date. Maintain friendship only in as much as you can detach from the drama. If you can't detach, you need to take a friend-break.

I, too, have a friend who makes terrible, terrible decisions. Once upon a time I would try to dissuade her and give her some real talk. Now? I nod and smile. She's going to do it anyway. Not my circus, not my monkeys. She's less good of a friend now, but I'm less frustrated.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:01 PM on August 9, 2017 [7 favorites]

Run Run RUN.

Drugs across state lines is a federal offense and holy fucking shit NO. Block this person's number and forget you know them, lest you get investigated when they inevitably get caught!

And by the way...

It is not at all unusual for someone who gets caught with drugs to be "turned" by the police and try to get others arrested as part of a plea deal. I know personally of people this has happened to in the past year. The landlord might be already in trouble and attempting to throw your friend under the bus. YOUR FRIEND IS A FUCKING IDIOT AND YOU SHOULD BLOCK ALL CONTACT.

I hope I am clear. Stop knowing this person. RUN. They have the worst judgement on planet earth. Stop knowing them. RUN.
posted by jbenben at 1:01 PM on August 9, 2017 [11 favorites]

And btw... Don't argue with your ex best friend. Tell him his bad judgement is too much drama then block, delete, and move on. That's it. He can't be saved. He won't hear you if you try, based on past experiences. You know this. Move on. Got it?
posted by jbenben at 1:04 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't think you're being a bully. Getting angry and yelling at a friend who's making really bad decisions is not the same as telling off a stranger or casual acquaintance. Friends are supposed to influence each other's lives, and having a friend tell you, basically, "I am going to ignore what you say and do this stupid and dangerous thing anyway" is likely to make anyone angry. (Whether you overreacted, yelled too much, etc. depends on you and him and your relationship. But the anger isn't unjustified.)

That said, if you've got a friend who's only using you as a shoulder to cry on, as someone to say "poor baby, that sucks" and refuses to try to avoid the circumstances that cause his life to suck, it's probably a good time to start setting some boundaries of your own.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:05 PM on August 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

The only reason to yell at a friend is if they're about to get run over by a bus. If you're yelling in any other scenario, you may as well not be friends with them. No relationship is worth losing control over yourself. He sounds like a train wreck but you're hanging around the tracks. Just walk away. Maybe check back in 5 or 10 years and see if he's gotten his shit together. These are deep-seated behaviors and take a long time to resolve even if the person wants to.

You've got your own stuff going on. I wonder if you're still around this guy in part because you feel superior to him, e.g. "I'm messed up, but at least I'm not like Charlie." That's not cool. It's better for both of you to walk away. You're bad influences on each other.
posted by AFABulous at 1:06 PM on August 9, 2017 [10 favorites]

You're calling him a doormat but to be honest you're being one too, by trying to bend into uncomfortable shapes to justify a lifestyle and worldview you have contempt for.
You don't respect what this person is doing.

People are what they do.

Nothing about a person matters except for what they do. Not what they say they believe, not who they think they are. Action is what matters.
You have contempt for his actions, look at the furious novel you just wrote.
Lovingly wish him well, then stop spending time with him and just let him run his life whatever weird way he wants. Not your circus.
Go find a person who does things you respect.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:09 PM on August 9, 2017 [14 favorites]

In terms of the losing my temper part, for clarification, it was mostly me being extremely reactive. I don't know what else to call that other than being shocked or flabbergasted? I didn't yell or throw things or call him names. I was just completely baffled and confused and my tone reflected that I thought this was SERIOUSLY FUCKED UP. Like "dude what the absolute hell?!"
posted by Young Kullervo at 1:16 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

If I asked a friend to be a middleman in a drug deal, they would tell me to fuck off and rightfully so.

Really? I don't think asking an acquaintance for him to hook you up or being asked by an acquaintance for the same is out of bounds. That's well within the realm of normal for recreational users and their friends, as far as I know.

I don't know why this upset you the way it did, but I don't think it was appropriate to yell at a friend and get so aggressive over something that essentially has nothing to do with you. And apparently, you got aggressive toward him to the point that he was telling you to back off and was in tears. The person I see crossing boundaries in that scenario is you; I do think you overreacted.

This kind of turmoil is not normal, and I think you need to break off this relationship. It sounds like you're getting very frustrated and controlling toward this guy, and that's escalating. That's not healthy for either of you.

I don't know what it is about this particular guy that sets you off, but it sounds like he does not bring out the best in you.
posted by rue72 at 1:36 PM on August 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think a certain amount of shocked incredulity is a normal reaction to being told someone is going to run drugs for any reason, and his good intentions certinally seem easy to be taken advantage of.

However shocked you were, him crying and calling you a bully makes me really question his maturity, and in this situation, perhaps his comprehension of adult reality as well.

Just another huge red flag on the pile
posted by Jacen at 1:37 PM on August 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

In that case it's within the acceptable range of calling someone on their shit. At the same time, this is still a very toxic dynamic that you would be well rid of.
posted by AFABulous at 1:38 PM on August 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Is this dude not this way for you? Is he at all an active partner, or is he just cool doing whatever you suggest? I mean, it sounds to me like you don't agree with the way he passively does whatever is offered or suggested and doesn't really seek out things on his own or question whether other people are taking advantage of him.

I read over the question and just wondered, is he at all different in his interactions with you than he is with others? And if he did start asserting himself and being more proactive in setting his own goals, what would that look like for your relationship?
posted by mikeh at 1:39 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hey, firstly, I like your writing style. I mean, I felt the shock in your post, and your indignant all-caps internal narrative made me laugh a little. I get you weren't yelling, but were just shocked, and reacting. I don't think you were a bully at all; what he did is not only stupid, it's freaking illegal. It's okay to get indignant about that with someone you care for.

But the problem is you're attributing reason to someone who doesn't have any. You keep trying to filter his actions through your lens of logic. But he doesn't have this-- he just doesn't think like you. Who knows why; it doesn't even really matter. You're trying to make order from infinite chaos, and its impossible. The things he does will never make sense because he doesn't think rationally about things, as you well know now. And he probably never will.

There is no salvaging this. He will just drag you into the shit with him. It is a bad time for you and your sanity. The less attached you get, and the more distance you get the better. I know you care, but you can't 'save' him. You already know he doesn't listen to you, or actively care to make good decisions. This won't change.

Anyway, I might be one of the most verbose people on Ask, and I do love to just go on and on-- but ultimately, as soon as I started reading over your ask, all I thought is: Run Run Run. So Run. Like yesterday.
posted by Dimes at 1:45 PM on August 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

Your friend has white knight disease, to the point where he's considering being the bagman in a drug deal.

Get away from him, before he starts donating random organs or building a cross. He thrives on drama... and so do you (I need to investigate my own inability to find people to bring into my life that don't constantly make me feel upset and crazy), but at least you recognize that it's not healthy, and you want to change. He doesn't.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:58 PM on August 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

You don't respect this person or his choices. He's not asking you for help, because, for whatever reasons, he enjoys what he is doing and thinks it's the right thing. He cares more about doing his stuff than he does about reassuring or pleasing you. He's showing you who he is.

You recognize the need to stop bringing people into your life who make you crazy. This situation is a huge opportunity to do just that. This guy is an adult and can take care of himself and make his own decisions, ill-advised as they may be. You need to take care of yourself.

As for exactly what I'd do in this situation, I'd try to maintain a distant friendliness as long as this person's choices didn't threaten my safety or my equilibrium, and I'd hope to be able to respond to specific requests for help if it ever came to that. Beyond that, I'd detach.
posted by rpfields at 2:08 PM on August 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't think you're a bully, but I can see why he'd think that of a friend who yells at him and criticizes his choices. [No judgement-- I'd be frustrated, too.] And I do think the part of you that stays enmeshed with someone who is a weak doormat in your eyes and constantly angers you is probably not the nicest part of you. I doubt he's going to change, and I doubt you'll stop being [understandably] frustrated by his behavior, so is remaining in this dynamic best for either of you?

If he's very special to you as a friend, could you at least take a break while you disentangle, and see him on a more detached, casual basis some point down the road? Are you able to casually be friends with people, or does it always turn to intense enmeshment? If it's the latter, I'd cut ties totally.
posted by kapers at 2:16 PM on August 9, 2017

I'm wondering if your friend might be on the autism spectrum. As an aspie, I can confirm that we tend to be more trusting and less discerning of people than others. And we're often eager to be nice and help people out, in the hope that they'll like us back. Which sets us up to be taken advantage of over and over again.

Your friend's story is mine to large degree, though I've never agreed to do anything illegal. I've often agreed to do favors for people, fully aware that I'm being taken advantage of, but -- what they're asking me to do for them is something I consider fun. As long as it's something I enjoy doing, why not? But I've learned that other people don't see it that way. They see me being taken advantage of, and they sometimes get pretty vocal about it.

Now that I'm older, I agree to do favors/freebies less often. Mainly because I eventually learned that doing a person a favor will not make them like you. To me, it seemed a simple and obvious exchange: If I'm nice to you, you'll be nice to me. Aspie thinking. It took a long time to realize that's not how the world works. People who ask favors from people they're not already friends with are not interested in becoming friends, they're just interested in getting something from you. Took me decades to learn that.

You might try having a talk with your friend about what he hopes and expects to get in return from being nice to everyone, and whether that expectation has matched what's actually resulted in the past. Perhaps that will help him realize that the kind of people worth having as friends are not the ones who'll hit him up right away for a 'favor'.
posted by Lunaloon at 2:54 PM on August 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

He makes terrible choices and creates total chaos in his life. They're not your choices, it's not your life. Tap out. Give yourself permission to not take responsibility for this anymore. It's turning you into someone who yells at a friend and I bet that's not you.
posted by wreckofthehesperus at 3:29 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is how he lives his life.
He won't change.
posted by calgirl at 3:54 PM on August 9, 2017

I made it clear I couldn’t trust someone who has continuously proven that he is willing to actively or passively put himself in the way of legal and personal harm to help others....
Is it even worth trying to talk to him about this behavior for literally the MILLIONTH time or is this a lost cause?

It sounds like you've already tried to talk to him. You don't say what his response was but I'm guessing it wasn't satisfactory or you wouldn't be posting here. It's okay to end this friendship - it's clearly causing you a lot of stress, and as you say his behavior means you can't trust him.

I read recently that setting a boundary is not telling other people what they can or cannot do, it is naming what you will do. "Don't call me when you've been drinking" is not a boundary; "If you call me when you've been drinking, I will hang up" is. The boundary is enforced by actually hanging up when you get the drunken phone call - not to change them, but to protect yourself. It sounds like you keep telling him his behavior is not okay, but you keep spending time with him and hoping he will change. If he ever does change this behavior, it will be on his own timeline and with his own motivation.

Stop spending time with him and look for other, healthier friends. And (I say this as someone who's had to do it more than once) maybe give some thought to the dynamics you have in your relationships. What draws you to people? What draws people to you?
posted by bunderful at 5:16 PM on August 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

Common sense, y'know, not that common as it turns out. I dated this man for years. He put us in financial turmoil that entire time. He was so needy for others' approval he would do things like pay for endless rounds of drinks for all of his 'friends' and when I would remind him that we needed to pay rent, he'd tell me not to be so selfish. Sure enough, come rent time there wouldn't be enough money for that. Or food. Or power.

He'd arrange to meet me out for dinner and then a friend would call him and say what about drinks with me? He'd literally get up from the restaurant table and say he had something else on and walk out and leave me there. And drugs? Yep he'd be the drug courier for his friends with nothing in it for him except jail time if he got caught.

My only excuse for staying with him is that I was very young when we started dating and this behaviour became normalised. But then I grew up and dumped him. As far as I know he's still the same. These people need help. Just not from you.
posted by Jubey at 6:12 PM on August 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

You can't do anything about this guy. He is who he is, and you can't change him, even under the guise of "helping him make better choices." He likes this. He likes the choices he's making. Being everyone's helper, even if he is engaging in questionable, risky behaviors, is crucial to him. If he's anything like a similar person I used to know, he gets a hit every time he's Mr. Martyr, and no amount of conventional, orderly, safe life can replicate that.

I would focus on yourself, instead, because, honestly, that's the only thing you can change in this situation. What drew you to him? In the past, were you the one who rescued people, protected them from the consequences of their bad choices? Were you often drawn to the colorful, outside-of-the-box, living-life-on-their-own terms iconoclasts?

If you are replicating an old pattern, that really is very normal. I used to do it, too. At some point, though, I got tired of it, and started asking myself, "What am I doing to repeat these old patterns?" It was hard to even identify, let alone change, those behaviors - but, thanks to a good therapist and good friends and LOTS of journaling, I was able to - and the unbelievable relief at avoiding being sucked in is like nothing else. Nectar for the spirit.
posted by dancing_angel at 9:39 PM on August 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh jeez. I got to he basically treated me as if my expectations were for him to be my surrogate parent or a servant. and went to comment that this guy was too codependent to have any kind of healthy relationship with. Came to the comments to see that the stuff I skipped involved this guy being a drug mule for his landlord out of an inability to say no??? OH HELL NO. This guy is deep, deep in a spiral of self destruction and you cannot save him or make him stop. He's using toxic and dangerous people as a tool to self-harm instead of drugs or cutting or gambling. I'm so sorry. You cannot date this man under any circumstances. Please keep yourself safe.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 12:45 AM on August 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

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