Closest friend lets me down at moment of greatest need - help?
September 30, 2017 11:32 AM   Subscribe

The last 3 years have been a shit show, and all the way through my best friend has been pretty good at being there, despite living on the other side of a large city. Now it's reached the pinnacle, and my dad has died - and she's totally just stepped back and is acting weirdly. Any ideas?

It's been an unbelievably shitty three years. First my boyfriend of seven months got diagnosed with quite advanced cancer, then my dad got diagnosed with terminal cancer just as said boyfriend was finishing a year and a half of treatment (with me as his primary carer). My dad died a month ago, and his illness meant I was being a pretty-much-primary carer again under incredibly stressful circumstances. I moved closer to his home to be with him, went freelance so I could have more time, spent so much time in my family home being abused by my pretty mental mother while trying to help him. I have developed a lot of resilience but it has also ground me down and it will be a while before I can feel real joy and hope again. I am still with said boyfriend, by the way, and his health is....okay, although he is struggling quite a lot emotionally.

All through this, I have kept a good, supportive relationship with my friend of ten years, who I would call my closest friend (she has in the past too). Because of the circumstances of caring, I haven't seen her as much as I would have liked to, and I will admit to being patchy at times, partially because caring whilst holding down a full-time job leaves you very little time for anything else, and also partly because I didn't want to lean on her too much and share how difficult things were all the time. I was always concerned about her too and ready to talk about her issues when she had them, or even stuff completely unrelated to what is going on - funny stuff, etc. I have tried to not be tooo miserable as I know how hard it can be on others hearing it too (although I have shared a lot of details over the years).

Anyway, my dad dies, and suddenly I a) have way more time to see friends b) she seems to have stepped back and is acting distant.

I can't work out why - just passive aggressive stuff like saying she wants to meet up, asking me when I'm free, then responding to everything in my message back apart from the dates - several times. She came to my dad's funeral, and then just kind of went cold.

I have a sense that she feels she's been doing the heavy lifting for too long.

Then the other part of me just wonders whether it's that I'm feeling particularly insecure at the moment and have much more time on my hands, whereas she is used to being at arm's length to an extent, which I haven't even noticed as it's been so, so tiring and busy for so long and frankly friendships have not been a priority.

She is not the confrontational type at all, and will leave difficult feelings to fester (she's done this in other friendships). I messaged her yesterday while we were having another weird convo about meeting up and she was being vague and said I hoped I hadn't done anything to annoy me, but that if I had I'd really like to know. I said I knew I'd been patchy with everything going on and could make more effort now to go to her part of town, and that I was sad that the one person who I'd really like to be there for me at this time wasn't really around.

She said 'please don't apologise - you've done nothing wrong. I've just been feeling overwhelmed at the moment and don't want to burden you. I'm sure I'll be fine, and will see you when I'm feeling better, sounds silly but I feel like I don't have time for my own life at the moment' etc. I told her I was more than happy to listen to her problems, or be there for her.

She is buying a house at the moment with her boyfriend, and I know she has been having a hard time comparing herself with all of her rich friends who are married and have children. She has a hen do or baby shower to go to every other week and I think she finds that hard. I have tried to say that she should compare her life to mine to make herself feel better, which may have been insensitive and made her feel like she couldn't share her problems with me.

However, I can't helping feeling angry and betrayed. Other friends have been in touch much more, calling, offering to come round etc. but she's been kind of quiet. She keeps telling me as well that I need time to myself to process etc, which I am finding quite patronising - it's not really her job to tell me what I need right now, and I'm making sure I get enough alone time - that's why I'm keen to meet up.

How do I not take this personally? I can't help but have a sinking sense of betrayal and righteous anger. I have felt this with two female friendships that ended before - one suddenly, and another through the same passive-aggressive distancing. I'm worried that'll happen again, and don't know how to stop it.

I am feeling generally quite insecure with everything at the moment, and perhaps lonelier than before with my dad gone, as I was very close to him. My boyfriend is great and gives me a lot of support, and I have other nice friends, but to me this friend was special.

It's sad to say, but this behaviour is just as distressing to me as my dad dying. Someone I thought would be there 100% just isn't. It makes me question whether I have any real friends at all. Or at least not like the ones people seem to talk about all the time - the ones who are there 'at the drop of a hat' etc.

Was I just putting her up on a pedestal? What could explain such behaviour? If this were your friend, what would your reaction be? I'm torn between reaching out more to show her I'm here for her and leaving her to her own devices. Would this be a friendshio-ender to you? I kind of feel like when someone's dad dies after such a difficult period, you should be there for them full-stop if you're their best friend. Thoughts?
posted by starstarstar to Human Relations (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
'I've just been feeling overwhelmed at the moment and don't want to burden you. I'm sure I'll be fine, and will see you when I'm feeling better, sounds silly but I feel like I don't have time for my own life at the moment'

Maybe this really isn't about you. Maybe she has nothing to offer you. It sounds to me like she is not doing very well herself at the moment. Is it possible she is genuinely having trouble coping, and is putting on her own oxygen mask first, as they say?
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:39 AM on September 30, 2017 [95 favorites]

It sounds to me that she's your friend, she loves you, and she's been willing to offer you a lot of support. But now she's got some tough stuff going on, and she needs more than she can give - and, more than she can really reasonably expect you to give right now given everything that's happened in your life lately.

I'm sorry about your past few years. I've had some times like that and have definitely made friends for life who have stepped up for me me in those times.

But they can't do that 24/7 - so sometimes they need to take the pot off the burner for a little while.
posted by entropone at 11:50 AM on September 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

Please listen to her explanation and take it at face value.
I have also been recently relying on my friends emotionally for the first time in my life.
One of my besties simply cannot deal with the death/mourning/funeral part of my current journey.
Luckily I have known this about her and I am able to look towards others I know for that piece of emotional support.
She is still there for me in many other ways and I have no doubt that she is mourning with me and for my particular loss.
I know it is hard to accept your friend 's current limitations but please try. It will lift a burden from her shoulders and she will get the emotional space that she is telling you that she needs.
posted by calgirl at 11:52 AM on September 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

She is buying a house at the moment with her boyfriend

I cannot stress enough how awful this process is, especially if you haven't had a perfect financial life. The banks make you feel terrible, analyze every decision you've ever made, etc. I know it seems like it would be a happy time for people, but it turns out to be one of the most stressful. When she says she's overwhelmed, it may be about that, not you.
posted by corb at 11:53 AM on September 30, 2017 [12 favorites]

Firstly, I'm so sorry for your loss and the incredible stress you've been put through. That can make processing situations like these so much harder, and I understand your frustration and disappointment. There's a couple of things in your post I want to address:

1) I would take seriously her statement that she's overwhelmed right now, particularly the part where she says she doesn't want to burden you. That last part is really key to me--it sounds like she does not feel like emotionally or mentally she is in a place to be a good support to you. She may have a lot more going on in her life than just the stressors you mentioned, and it's very possible she's avoiding meeting up because she doesn't want to inadvertently ask YOU to start supporting HER in a time where she knows you can't do that. I have become distant with friends sometimes when we are both dealing with a lot of stress at the same time, because I don't want to put my stress on them. If I don't have the energy to push past my own stress and fake it, I might decline to meet up because I just don't think I can be a good friend in that moment.

2) Telling her that she should compare her life to yours was definitely a bad move. It's an understandable one, but that sort of phrasing almost always comes off as saying "I have it worse than you, so you shouldn't feel bad." There are situations where the sentiment can be useful, but they're very rare and far between, and I don't think this was one of them.

3) No one can be there 100% all of the time. It sounds like she has put a lot of time and energy into supporting you for a long time, and she may be burnt out. That's not your fault! And I understand that you feel betrayed because you feel like this is the time when you need her most. But unfortunately people can't always burn out on our schedules. One other thing to consider is some people are very good at supporting people through stress, but not through loss. While she was perfectly capable of supporting you through all the stress and pain you experienced prior to your father's death, she may not be equipped to support you through loss. Loss is a very different beast that she may just not know how to handle, and if she's used to supporting you very well, she may be afraid of being a poor support for you in a situation she is not as good at handling. To you, it seems like she's being bad support by not meeting up with you, but to her, meeting up and then either being super awkward and floundering, or potentially saying the wrong things and stressing you out MORE, might be even worse.

4) In regards to the passive-aggressive messaging... I wouldn't necessarily interpret it as passive-aggressive. It sounds like someone who wants to meet up, but then over the course of making the plans, either has other issues/stress come up, or starts feeling scared of meeting up for the reasons outlined above. I think she probably feels bad directly telling you "actually I don't feel up to it" especially because you have previously acted in a way that suggests your issues are more important than hers. It's easier and less confrontational for her to just dodge the issue. Which is absolutely frustrating, but I would not necessarily read it as her intentionally trying to be passive-aggressive.

It sucks that the person you expected to support you can't right now, but I would definitely try and frame it as can't rather than won't. I really don't think this is about you, personally, but about her own capabilities. Whether it's just a lack of emotional/mental energy, inexperience in dealing with loss, or extra stress in her own life, I don't think it's you that is the problem. I would focus on cleansing yourself of the idea that it's personally about you, and focus on reaching out to other friends who might be more capable of supporting you. Later, when you've both had time to process and come to a point where emotions and stress aren't running quite so high, maybe you can meet up and talk about what happened, and how you both felt, to come to an understanding so you can move on with your friendship. But right now I don't think either of you have the mental/emotional energy to try and do anything other than accept the situation for what it is.
posted by brook horse at 11:55 AM on September 30, 2017 [29 favorites]

When my parent died, I found that my closest friends were supportive beyond belief the entire time of her illness, through her death, up through the funeral planning, and once the funeral was over it sort of shut off like a switch. which I did not complain about because all of it was unearned and undeserved in the sense that sympathy is always a free gift, and also that I felt lucky that it lasted past the actual day of death, since my work did not end that day, never mind my feelings.

however, I don't really see how it could be different. to me and perhaps to you, for a long while every day following the funeral is as bad or worse. because if it was bad when they were dying, how much worse is it now, when every moment takes you further and further from the time when they were alive. but people do always believe that the death is the worst part, and after that you gradually feel better and better. as if a sick parent is unbearable but a dead one is just fine. it's a horrific way to think but most people do think it.

but if they knew better, they would not be able to help with that part of it. nobody can.

and look, she does have problems of her own, and the way to support her is by not pressing her, if that's what she says she wants. you give your friends what they want -- if you wanted to be checked on and sympathized with and given an ear, that's what you should have had, and if she wants to withdraw and not have to repeat whatever her story is, that's what she deserves.

I'm sure I'll be fine, and will see you when I'm feeling better, sounds silly but I feel like I don't have time for my own life at the moment' etc. I told her I was more than happy to listen to her problems, or be there for her.

being there for her is not support in this case. as she says, she doesn't want you to listen and be there for her, she wants you to pull back and wait until she's doing better. that's difficult, but that's why she's asking for your understanding. pouring out her troubles to you will not help her, and she needs the help -- time -- she's described.
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:57 AM on September 30, 2017 [12 favorites]

A few years ago while I was going through a divorce, one of my oldest, closest friends told me I can't expect her to be there for her in my darkest hour - she just didn't have it in her and it was unfair of me to ask that of her.

At first I was hurt and stunned as I had always been there for her - but I love her and would prefer to keep her in my life, and so internally I downgraded my expectations of her pretty significantly - without freezing her out or punishing her. Truth is, I did lose some respect for her - but the "lightening of the load" made our friendship more stable, and at least she had been honest with me about what she could handle.

Luckily I invested in a couple friends who were far more emotionally robust - for those very rare times that I need support. Original pal is jealous of my relationship with them and feels like she isn't as close with me - which is true - but it's not punitive, just a side affect of knowing that I can't count on her in times of need.

Which is to say... Sometimes relationships need to end, or change to something with less depth. I chose the latter. The former is also a valid option.
posted by egeanin at 11:57 AM on September 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

I had cancer 2 years ago and found it fascinating how going through that trauma changed some of my relationships. I found that those friendships in my life which required more work to maintain faded away, because I no longer had the energy to devote to keeping someone else happy according to their expectations. That's tough to hear, maybe, but it's true. The real friends, the ones who are still here today, accepted what I could give during that time. They let me hibernate if I needed to hibernate. They let me not reach out for a few months at a time if I didn't have the energy to reach out. And they did it without resentment or holding a grudge.

I have other people in my life who aren't really around anymore, because they weren't willing to listen to what I actually needed during that time and instead created their own expectations of how they thought I should be dealing with what I was going through. When your stress level is such that you're literally putting one foot in front of the other in order to make it through the days, it becomes very obvious what a waste of time it is trying to keep people like this happy. Adult friendship should be a net positive in your life; it shouldn't be work and stress and drama.

I know you think your friend is being a bad friend right now, but she has told you this is the best she can do. Either that's enough for you, or it's not. You can't make her change. So if you want to keep this friendship, you have to let go of anger and resentment, take her words at face value, and accept what she can give you right now. Life is long. If this relationship is going to be a part of your life forever, it will ebb and flow.
posted by something something at 11:59 AM on September 30, 2017 [12 favorites]

I am sorry things have been so shitty, that sucks. It sounds like you've been pulling back a little from the friendship (for good reasons) and maybe, over time, that has shifted how your friend feels about being the primary person responsible when the shit hits the fan.

My mom died over the summer. it sucked, was not totally unexpected, but that stuff is never easy. Friends have been all over the map from amazing to a little distant. My feeling is that the only person who "owes" me attention and sympathy is my partner and maybe secondly my sister (though she, unlike my partner, is also grieving and also, unlike my partner that expectation is reciprocal to me, I feel I owe her the same to the best of my ability)

I feel like for you this latest thing was the monumental "bad thing to end all bad things" in your life, but to your friend it may seem like one more bad thing in a stream of neverending bad things. And since they are dealing with their own bad things (maybe at the One Bad Thing level and maybe not) and you've been hot and cold with them, maybe they feel a little more okay being hot and cold and honest about that?

Alternately, there's that Cave and Wave talk (often linked to gender identity but doesn't have to be). It seems like for you, feeling like you are in a deep dark pit, makes you long for connection. Your friend seems to maybe want to try to get some alone time or me time. When they told you that, you seemed to maybe not validate that and want to be with them and listen?

I had a few friends who were like "Let's schedule a phone call to talk" after my mom died. And I don't want that. That is not being a friend TO ME, that is them being a friend the way they want to be a friend. Which isn't a completely outrageous thing for them to be doing, but it also wasn't helpful. So your friend maybe needs support in her-way and doesn't feel that you can offer that to her, and maybe you can't. But it might also explain the disconnect you're feeling. I think it's real but I also don't think it's a friendship-ender but it does sound like you're in a place where a lot of this sounds pretty catastrophic. And hey, you feel how you feel but I would give this some time. You seem sort of fixated on this in a way, which is an normal way of managing grief, I've been amazed at some of the things I felt have been Very Important that faded when I was having better days (and came back when I wasn't).

Grief can make people a little self-centered. This is normal and completely okay. It's definitely where I am right now, and maybe you are too. But that might not work for your friendship right now especially after a few years of on and again off again stuff. If it were me, I'd give it some time.
posted by jessamyn at 12:29 PM on September 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

Remember when you apologized for not doing as much, for being busy with things, for having to pull back a bit and be "patchy?"
...and frankly friendships have not been a priority.
She is telling you that she's "just been feeling overwhelmed at the moment and [doesn't] want to burden you." It's quite possible that while you've been dealing with all these horrible and life-altering situations, she's had to find other outlets for her own problems in order to avoid being another drop in your overflowing glass. Just trust that she's telling you the truth. Now that you're finally free doesn't mean that everyone else in your life will be in a similar position. To be blunt, she's gotten used to coping without you. It may take some time for her to let you back in.
posted by xyzzy at 12:41 PM on September 30, 2017 [15 favorites]

I have tried to say that she should compare her life to mine to make herself feel better,

You... told her her problems don't count compared to yours. I know you didn't mean to (and it's not like that's inaccurate in any case -- partner cancer and dad death ARE objectively bigger and worse problems to have than house-buying stress and I'm sorry you had to deal with them) but you did. So you can't really expect to confide in you now, with that gauntlet having been thrown down.

With luck, time will mend this, as she gets through her difficult period and you start healing from yours.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:11 PM on September 30, 2017 [26 favorites]

I've been on both sides of this: the friend who retreated when a friend had more going on than I could handle or figure out how to talk about (and I had my own issues going on that I didn't feel like I could talk about with her, since they seemed to pale next to her experience), as well as the friend who has at times needed perhaps more or other things from her friends sometimes than they could give, and lost or endangered my friendships as a result.

I was much younger in the first case, and I did do the dramatic thing and fly out to see a friend who had some fairly big life circumstances happening. She had been there for me previously when I was going through a difficult time. But ultimately we drifted apart after that, because she had a lot going on and didn't have the energy to keep up with me, and I couldn't stay in that headspace with her as she went through what she was facing. I started to have new things going on whose negativity I didn't want to burden her with, and ultimately neither of us put out enough energy to keep it together long-distance. She and her family may blame me for forsaking her and not standing by her during a hard time, but ultimately I would suggest both of us contributed (or didn't contribute, to be precise) to our drifting apart.

I responded to this thread back in June that was asking sort of the opposite question—how to deal with a friend who needed more than one was willing to give. I replied from the perspective of a friend who has at times asked too much of her friends. That situation seemed to differ from yours, but the perspective offered might still be useful, as it was to me. There is an ebb and flow, a give and take, in relationships, and it's true that the strongest relationships are sometimes forged when people support each other through difficult situations. Some of mine certainly were. But anyone is within their rights to withdraw when it's too much, and that's one reason why people like therapists exist. It took being given an ultimatum to go to one for me to give it a shot and recognize that, but now I'm glad I have a therapist I can talk to about this stuff. One of the reasons a couple of my best friendships have endured, I'm convinced, is that we know when to quit with each other and give it a rest. Getting that perspective is important.

I have felt this with two female friendships that ended before - one suddenly, and another through the same passive-aggressive distancing. I'm worried that'll happen again, and don't know how to stop it.

I am feeling generally quite insecure with everything at the moment, and perhaps lonelier than before with my dad gone, as I was very close to him. My boyfriend is great and gives me a lot of support, and I have other nice friends, but to me this friend was special.

It's sad to say, but this behaviour is just as distressing to me as my dad dying. Someone I thought would be there 100% just isn't. It makes me question whether I have any real friends at all. Or at least not like the ones people seem to talk about all the time - the ones who are there 'at the drop of a hat' etc.

Not to diminish this at all—I understand why you'd be disappointed when people close to you aren't there for you in the way you'd hope they would be and feel like you would be for them in better circumstances—but this notion of "real friends" as those who will "drop everything" for you at any time and give and give and give might be a little dangerous, and it could possibly be the dynamic that led to those previous friendships dropping off. Not knowing the circumstances of those drop-offs, I couldn't say, but the notion of friends being there "at the drop of a hat" is a little simplistic and doesn't take into account people's real lives and needs. Part of the work of being a good friend is differentiating what you want from what you can reasonably ask of others (as well as what you can give from what one might ask of you), ideally recognizing that before you or your friends all tap out from the burden of unrelenting need.

I'm not saying you should pull into yourself and not ask of others up to their capacity to give. But my gentle recommendation would also be that you need someone you can talk through this with and get outside perspective from, so you don't end up harboring these feelings without a way to express them. Another danger is that you do express them, but you don't put them in their proper perspective, and thus lose friends—or that you express them only to, say, your boyfriend, and develop an us-against-the-world perspective that, while satisfying sometimes in the moment, isn't great for the long-term health of a relationship.

So all of that said: Read some of those previous thoughts (while taking them in their context, of course), and strongly consider seeing a therapist, even for a little while. Inasmuch as friends sometimes tend to drop off in their support after whatever big event it might be (death, divorce, etc.), as perhaps now, they feel like, the immediate need has lessened and everyone can breathe a little, you may also be expecting that your needs have lessened, when perhaps they've just changed. I think you need space to work through these feelings, both to avoid some of the outcomes above and to give yourself a little time and support to process how things have changed.
posted by limeonaire at 1:16 PM on September 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

Nthing everybody who says she simply doesn't have the bandwidth to support you and deal with whatever she has going on - which may well be a lot more than you're aware of because you can assume that she would have sought support for her truly deep/draining problems elsewhere whilst you were so engulfed in your struggles.

I also think that this may be different from the example where a friend drew a line around divorce support. That friend just said I won't- she's saying I have my very own struggles right now that prevent me from spending more time with you and I don't want to share them at this time.

May I suggest you send your friend a nice supportive check in message every so often and let her be. She'll reconnect or not. But you can't force which of these it is.

As you have so much more time (perhaps more than you know what to do with?) may I gently suggest you unashamedly practice self care with this time. As you rightly say caring is emotionally and physically draining. You have probably neglected your own health, your relationship, other friends, hobbies, your business. Refocusing your efforts in these areas will allow you to regain more of an equilibrium. That will allow you to be more of a friend should your friend elect to reach out in time. And by strengthening your other connections you will have built closer relationships with other people if this is a more permanent distancing.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:19 PM on September 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hi guys. Thank you for your comments, there are some great insights in there. Just to clear up something which I realise I mis-expressed: when I said this...

I have tried to say that she should compare her life to mine to make herself feel better

... it was an over-simplification. I've never said that. What I have said, in the context of us both talking about feeling behind our friends who were buying houses, was that I'd read some research that said your happiness levels were dictated to some extent by who you compared yourself to. I suggested she compare herself to me, jokingly, as I was behind her financially, and that I compare myself to the people I went to school with, not the affluent people I went to university with. It was a throwaway comment about buying a house, not our lives in general, and we laughed at it. I guess I looked into this and made the simplification above because I was nervous it had come across like this.

Also, I do have a therapist, and definitely lean on him so that I do not have to share all of the gory details of what's going on with others. I did, however, let her know in general terms what was going on 'this happened and I've been really stressed but feeling better today' as opposed to 'I'm breaking down, I need you' kind of thing.
posted by starstarstar at 1:24 PM on September 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

A friendship is a living exchange where both individuals possess constantly changing levels of energy and commitment to one another, depending on a hundred different internal and external factors.

To make things even messier, many of us bring assumptions and expectations into friendships that we don't express (or don't even know we have) until something catastrophic like this happens and both of you are left feeling mistreated by the other.

Last year I had a somewhat similar situation where I was leaning on a close friend to support me on a family member's death anniversary. This was a friend who I felt I'd been very devoted and supportive to -- and when she didn't come through as I'd assumed she would, I shared with her that my feelings were hurt. She responded by giving me the silent treatment for a month without explaining why. Her sudden disappearance from my life, especially as I was grieving this family member, really did feel like a death.

But what I eventually realized about my pain was that I wasn't grieving our friendship, I was grieving my *incorrect perception* of our friendship. Her skill had never been spontaneous warmth and support -- she had always been very kind, but in a very calendared, regimented way with parameters planned well in advance. I assumed that if I really needed her to, she would drop everything and respond in the moment. That just doesn't make sense! She was also someone who couldn't express her negative emotions easily to others - her knee-jerk response was to stew with resentment, and to take months to articulate her angry feelings. So when she cut me off, she was acting consistently -- it was me who had magically assumed that because I was a close friend, I would be some exception to how she normally dealt with people!

Neither of us were bad people, and she hadn't changed. I was the one whose needs had changed and we were no longer compatible as close friends.

Right now you may be grieving your perception of what your friendship was with this person. That is SO sad and hard because you are also grieving your dad. Something that happened to me in the aftermath of my broken friendship was that I became more self-reliant. I'm also more reality-based and less romantic when it comes to my relationships with others. I'm sorry about your heartache and I hope that as you move through your disappointment and feelings of betrayal that you can be gentle with yourself and relish your own company.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 1:52 PM on September 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

She said 'please don't apologise - you've done nothing wrong. I've just been feeling overwhelmed at the moment and don't want to burden you. I'm sure I'll be fine, and will see you when I'm feeling better, sounds silly but I feel like I don't have time for my own life at the moment' etc.

Take your friend at her word. It sounds like she has a lot of responsibility and she's overwhelmed. I've been in situations where I try to be 110% supportive to a friend having a hard time thinking to myself surely I can maintain this level of support for a couple of weeks ... a few months .. then several months ... then a year ... and at some point the well runs dry. And after establishing yourself in the "always happy to listen role" it can be hard to figure out how to suggest "What if we both get to talk about our problems for 10 minutes each and then we do something fun the rest of the time, because I'm not a therapist and I don't know to listen to so much of your sadness without absorbing it." (That's a guess based on how I might feel in your friend's situation - I have no idea if that's actually how she feels).

It sounds like she needs to take care of herself right now and focus on her family, so the thing to do is to take a step back and allow her to do that. I wouldn't assume that the home purchase is necessarily the only thing she has on her plate, but I also wouldn't press for answers as it sounds like she doesn't want to talk about it.

I kind of feel like when someone's dad dies after such a difficult period, you should be there for them full-stop if you're their best friend.

I don't think I'd agree with this. I think you should give her the benefit of the doubt and seek support from other areas for now while remembering what a generous source of support she's been for the past three years. It's great that you're seeing a therapist after the difficult time you've had, and the suggestion above re self-care is great.
posted by bunderful at 2:03 PM on September 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

I kind of feel like when someone's dad dies after such a difficult period, you should be there for them full-stop if you're their best friend.

In an ideal world, we'd all have enough energy for this. But we don't all have that much energy, and everybody's first priority has to be their own stability. It is very unfortunate that she isn't at a point where she has enough energy left over after managing her own most important affairs to attend to you--but it has nothing to do with you, or whether she's a good friend, or any of that.

Nobody can or should be there for you 100%. That just isn't a reasonable expectation of other human beings, and it isn't a healthy way for relationships to be structured. You have to look at your friendships with allowances made for the fact that they have to be there for themselves first, and THEN there for you. If that level of there for you isn't sufficient, what you need is not more from this friend who doesn't have the resources--what you need is more friends. Now is, obviously, a terrible time to realize that, but it's better to realize that now than never.

You might benefit from finding a book or something on Dialectical Behavior Therapy--it's highly associated with borderline people but I'm not saying you are, I want to be clear here, I just think that going through periods of intense and traumatic stuff can put one temporarily into a position where similar techniques become useful, because it's basically about how to manage intense feelings without making other people responsible for managing those feelings for you.

(Several of my best friends were for various reasons not really around during the period where I lost my grandfather and my father in a very short span. It was awful at the time to feel so alone, but I managed and things are now, several years later, generally fine.)
posted by Sequence at 3:14 PM on September 30, 2017 [7 favorites]

You know how people often give advice based on what works for them? I think that when she suggested you take more time to yourself to process your dad's death, she was telling you both how she would feel in that situation and quite possibly also how she would feel in any stressful situation. Combined with her clear statement that she is going through some stuff of her own, I think you have the answer that this isn't about you. It absolutely sucks that this is happening for her at the same time that you need more interaction with her, but I really think she is telling you what she needs from you as a good friend, so if you can be that good friend and give her what she needs - generously, without resentment - I'd bet she'd be very grateful and your friendship will survive.

In the meantime, you are still in a not great place so as others have suggested, use your extra time for self-care, cultivating other friendships that are based more on interaction, your partner. I'm sorry you've had such a rough go of it and wish you the best in forging a way through.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:08 PM on September 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

My father died of a sudden heart attack last year. I won't presume to say I know how you feel, but I do understand what a profound loss it is, and I'm so sorry you're having to go through it.

Having said that, I think it is unreasonable to expect one friend to act as a full-time sounding board for your grief. You say other friends have offered you support -- have you taken them up on it? I had several wonderful people reach out to me, including some I wouldn't necessarily have expected it from, and I found it was much better to take support where it was offered rather than go searching for it.

There were a couple of people I'd considered friends who surprised me by not acknowledging my dad's death at all, even to the extent of clicking the crying-face emoji on Facebook. I stopped considering these people my friends and eventually removed my links to them on social media and so forth. But I didn't feel angry or betrayed; it was more of a matter-of-fact acknowledgement that we weren't that close. I think being as upset about a friend's standoffishness as you were about your father's death is an overreaction, and one that you should possibly talk to your therapist about.

I find it easy to see this situation from your friend's perspective. For some reason (probably because I'm quiet) I have a reputation for being a good listener and a source of support for other people. This means that when I have a problem myself -- and I have struggled with depression and anxiety many times -- I can feel very alone. There are times when the last thing I need is to be burdened with other people's problems, but other people cannot necessarily sense this, and it's not something I can say without hurting them. Your friend did the right thing in attending your dad's funeral and offering condolences. You say she also supported you through his last illness (which is not something to be taken for granted). It sounds like she just doesn't have it in her to cope with the aftermath.

Your description of your friendship is concerning. I don't see much to indicate that you actually like this woman. In fact, you make quite a few unnecessary digs at her: "passive aggressive" for behaviour that could have another explanation, "will leave difficult feelings to fester," "having a hard time comparing herself with all of her rich friends" (now that comment is passive-agressive!), etc. At times it almost sounds like you're gathering evidence against her: "who I would call my closest friend (she has in the past too)," "(she's done this in other friendships)," etc.

If I knew a friend was talking about me in this way, then frankly I wouldn't want to be their friend any more. And if someone (anyone) messaged me saying, " I hope I haven't done anything to annoy you, but if I have I'd really like to know ... I'm sad that the one person I'd really like to be there for me at this time isn't really around," I would consider that manipulative as hell. In fact, that exchange would very likely end with me blocking their number.

Anyway, to answer your questions:

1. You didn't place her on a pedestal, but you placed some idealised version of her on a pedestal.
2. Emotional exhaustion could explain her behaviour. Or she could have been telling the truth when she said she had other things going on in her life. It's possible that your friendship wasn't really as close as you imagined (just how long ago did she describe you as a close friend?), but that she didn't feel she could disentangle herself without being cruel.
3. If I were in your situation, I would leave her alone and wait for her to contact me.
4. If she doesn't contact you, then you know this was a friendship-ender.
5. A healthy friendship has a natural flow. If you're arguing over what a friend is and isn't obliged to do, that's not a sign of a healthy friendship.
posted by Perodicticus potto at 5:45 AM on October 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

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