Self-absorbed friend, fed up. What are some good strategies?
January 28, 2019 7:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm in an imbalanced friendship, and would like some strategies on letting go.

I have a self-absorbed friend, Amber (yes, I've asked about her before here... a few years ago). I'm trying to work through my feelings and process them, but the truth is -- I'm fed up. I'm getting much less out of the friendship than she is, and I don't see a ROI anymore.

Please don't think I'm trying to look at this friendship purely from a transactional viewpoint (as was suggested in the past). I completely understand that sometimes there's more and sometimes there's less give and take, and that's OK -- it all balances out eventually. Not in this friendship.

A few examples:

-Three years ago, a dog I was close to passed away. Heartbroken, I reached out to her, for support. She gave me quick texts to show some support, but did not respond to requests to get together and/or FaceTime for a few days, during a critical time of need. This really hurt, especially as the dog was cross-country (grandma's) and I felt abandoned.

-Last year, I agreed to help Amber and Diana (her girlfriend) move. We were in a big group text with the plan. Another friend had to bow out due to other plans he had. I wasn't feeling good from stress (physically) and realized I wouldn't be up for the move. I let them know I also couldn't make it. This was a week before the move, giving them plenty of time to find someone else. Amber's response to my friend was "thank you for letting us know!" With me, she individually texted me and went off on me. Got angry at me for bowing out, guilt tripped me, etc. We had a pretty nasty fight on text, actually, and I told her I felt targeted by her because she did not do the same with the other friend who backed out -- I felt singled out. This was after I gave her my old mini-fridge and dresser for free, as I didn't need them. I then told her I needed space for a while. We stopped talking for a few months. A few months later, we reconnected, we apologized, but her "apology" was more of "well, I'm sorry I got mad at you, I was on my period and this was the last straw, moving out was stressful, and I felt triggered by you saying we needed space, it reminded me of my ex..." In other words, kind of still "gaslighting" me and making it sound like I was the one who was in the wrong.

-During a small Christmas cookie gathering in December (four of us), Amber uploaded a photo of only herself and the two others. Nothing of me, not even a secondary mention that I was there, too. When confronted, she said she felt the selfies of us made her look "fat." Not the end of the world, but it did hurt feeling left out.

-Her dog recently passed away at 16 from kidney failure, and another dog she had is experiencing health issues. I was all over it, supporting her and asking her what I could do for her. She was heartbroken. However, my family dog ALSO passed away on Friday night, at almost 17. When asking her for support or FaceTime, telling her I felt very down... crickets. Of course, she did not hesitate to express to me about how hard it was for her, how overwhelming it was, etc. I even stopped by her office to "surprise" her and support her. However, when I needed the support, I didn't get it, or even a check in to make sure I was doing okay.

She wants to host a potluck "memorial service" for her dog, and honestly, I'm not into it. I have lost all motivation in this friendship. It's not healthy for me, it's honestly toxic in some ways (the examples I have listed were just a few), and I'm just... done. However, for some reason, I keep going back to this friendship and holding onto it for some unknown reason. I have branched out, made new friends, and it helped, but for some reason, I'm enamored with Amber and I can't seem to accept the fact that the friendship might not be workable as a "legacy" friendship that began in 2004. It may be that she sees me as someone she contacts when she needs something -- or simply not as important.

I do feel bad for her, because she goes through a lot of issues. She went through a batch of bad roommates and it always seems to be a "drama" with her friends/ex-friends, who she does not hesitate to badmouth. She also runs hot and cold -- when she's warm, she's wonderful, but when she's cold, it's like... what did I do? I also observe her behavior as self-absorbed with others, but I do think people kind of "pity" her because she's feminine, has those big deer-like eyes that makes people fall over themselves to help her, etc., and when she's at a party, she's often in the center of it all. It's hard to explain, but she carries this kind of energy with her that makes the whole room shift. It's also conflicting, because she can be so wonderful and warm and loving and caring, but I do wonder if it's just manipulation. She's hard to read at the core.

Full disclosure: I'm not painting myself as the victim or the perfect one. I've made my share of mistakes. I also am not trying to sound judgmental by calling her self-absorbed. It's just my observation, based on her behavior and accounts of other slighted people.

I don't know if what I said really makes any sense, but there you go.

So, wrapping up... any strategies on how to let go of this friendship, how to ease off, and how to have it stop affecting me so much, and how to "let go of the mythology that is Amber" would be much appreciated. I'm so tired of being hurt all the time, way beyond the "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on myself" phase, and yet keeping getting my hopes up...the very definition of insanity. I want this to be over, yet I don't, if that makes sense. Bottom line, I don't think it's healthy anymore for me, and I want to stop going back; yet, it's hard.
posted by dubious_dude to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Adult friendships (not propped up by structures like seeing someone every day in school) default to fading. If you don't do the work of actively preserving them, they fade of their own accord, and pretty quickly.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:22 PM on January 28, 2019 [23 favorites]

She (still) sounds very narcissistic, and this (still) seems like something you just need to walk away from. You want this to be a healthy relationship, or failing that, a healthy end to a relationship. Neither of those things are possible. Sometimes, you really do just have to let go and walk away, even if you have to force yourself. This is one of those situations when a healer/fix-it personality is seriously detrimental to your own health.
posted by stormyteal at 9:11 PM on January 28, 2019 [5 favorites]

She doesn't support you in ways that work for you, and you think she acts caring to manipulate people. This friendship is past over. You don't want to go to her dog's memorial: don't. Respond to texts blandly and not too quickly, you're busy right now and can't make plans.

Writing all this out is one of the best things you can do to let go of the friendship. You may want to write a more detailed account to help you process it, and also to try to figure out what you're getting out of this (crush? belief that you can't do better? she reminds you of someone else or of a different time in your life?). If you have other friends who don't know Amber or her social circle, talking it out with them could be helpful, too.
posted by momus_window at 9:46 PM on January 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

Fading is fine, indeed recommended if you respect someone so little as you respect Amber, but not going to the dog's memorial sounds like the nuclear option. I'd do the fade after.
posted by praemunire at 12:27 AM on January 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

Skip the memorial and silently fade away. Amber's gf should be able to give her support in her time of need. Only go if you want to leave the door open for a possible reconciliation down the line. Depending on who in your social circle overlaps with hers, be prepared to be badmouthed. Ignore that. Do not try to argue with that. A simple, "I am sorry she feels that way" is all that need be said.
posted by AugustWest at 12:37 AM on January 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

but I do think people kind of "pity" her because she's feminine, has those big deer-like eyes that makes people fall over themselves to help her, etc., and when she's at a party, she's often in the center of it all. It's hard to explain, but she carries this kind of energy with her that makes the whole room shift. It's also conflicting, because she can be so wonderful and warm and loving and caring, but I do wonder if it's just manipulation. She's hard to read at the core

I have an ex-friend who is exactly like this! It was enough that I even clicked on your profile to see whether it could have been the same person.... (it's not, but that description is so, so accurate, right down to the big deer-like eyes and magnetic personality).

Here's what I did: I decided I was fine hanging out with her in a casual acquaintance context, so no taking any emotional labour or baggage off her, and no more supporting her. If she asked to hang out, I would text back saying that I was busy, but was she going to Big Group Event and we could hang out then?

Once she saw that I wasn't going to be her unconditional support anymore, or put up with her, she stopped texting me! And started ignoring me! Win-win.

The armchair psychologist in me guessed that maybe she had bipolar syndrome, or perhaps poor emotional regulation. Only two years later when I finally put my finger on what I think best describes her -- narcissism.
posted by moiraine at 1:43 AM on January 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

Agree that she does seem a bit self-absorbed, but you seem far too obsessed about "keeping score". Sounds like generally she is just not as supportive enough as you want her to be but some people just aren't. If that's something you need from this friendship (not every friendship needs to provide your every need) and you can't accept how she is otherwise, then you need to move on, because judging by your original post, this friendship is beyond repair.
posted by ryanbryan at 2:28 AM on January 29, 2019 [18 favorites]

You have this Internet stranger's permission to bow out of this friendship, but honestly the examples you gave just... aren't that bad. Her apology to you after the move blowout doesn't sound like gaslighting, maybe she was busy or distracted when your family member's dog died, and maybe she had a major phantom double chin situation going on in the cookie party photos that included you and decided not to upload them.

You seem to have expectations of the friendship that Amber can't live up to. It's okay to let the friendship go.
posted by nerdfish at 3:01 AM on January 29, 2019 [28 favorites]

but I do think people kind of "pity" her because she's feminine, has those big deer-like eyes that makes people fall over themselves to help her, etc., and when she's at a party, she's often in the center of it all. It's hard to explain, but she carries this kind of energy with her that makes the whole room shift. It's also conflicting, because she can be so wonderful and warm and loving and caring, but I do wonder if it's just manipulation. She's hard to read at the core

The other people I've encountered who fit this description are all narcissists. They love having attention above pretty much anything else, but aren't up for doing any emotional labor that doesn't benefit them directly. I find it especially appalling that as a dog person, she didn't show you more care when the dog you were close to died.

Just fade on her. Stop responding to texts. When she tries to make plans, you have plans already. Avoid her in public. You are busy, you don't have time right now, you'll get back to her sometime in the future...

Also please consider reaching out to your other friends and other people she's alienated and badmouthed for support, or just to go hang out. While you're not wasting time on Amber, go do some fun stuff for yourself.

I wish you the best.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:51 AM on January 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's ok to not like people and stop seeing them. Just fade away. The few times I've done this with an old friend I was always surprised at how easy it was and how little they cared. Chances are if your not happy in the friendship they're not happy either.
posted by wwax at 6:07 AM on January 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

I agree with others saying just fade away. It is hard to know how bad of a friend she is (backing out on helping someone move due to "stress" is not friend of the year behavior), but if you don't find her someone who makes you feel good, she's just not a friend.

I'd skip the dog funeral, although since you understand the grief of this kind of loss, you might want to send something--I don't know, a card or flowers for the pot luck?

I had a friend who had, as I thought of it back then, " a strong ego"... In that relationship I was always the gardener, and never the flower. It took a major blowup to end things, and although it was painful, it was much healthier for me not to be involved this person. I was way too comfortable accepting second class treatment (thanks, family!). It ending up making me a stronger person in all aspects of life.

Good luck.
posted by rhonzo at 8:33 AM on January 29, 2019

Re: how to "let go of the mythology that is Amber" - intermittent reinforcement is why you are so enamored of her.

You keep acting as you feel a good friend should and keep hoping that she'll reciprocate and be a good friend to you.

There's a part of you that wants and needs the attention she gives you. There's something inside all that drama that keeps you coming back. Sometimes you get a response from her that fulfills and validates that part of you, and the uncertainty of that outcome keeps you coming back around and hoping that it'll happen again.

I recommend you "grey rock" her until the friendship fades. From this article, "Only talk about boring things: your laundry or the weather. Do not talk about anything that will make them jealous or in any way or allows them an opening to cause chaos or to find out any more than necessary about you. Do not talk about how great things are going for you, or any accomplishments you or your children are having, or how great your life is now that they aren’t in it. Do not talk about upcoming vacations, current boyfriends, sports tournaments the kids are in, weddings or anything that is remotely interesting. When they try and push your buttons (and they will), don’t react. Don’t try and get them to see how hurtful their behavior was (and is). Take all the blame for the relationship, and make them think it’s not them it’s you. Doing this takes away their ability to argue and create drama and chaos. "

I also recommend you seek out therapy to help heal yourself. A good therapist will help you find what you need and develop better coping mechanisms than continuing to interact with a toxic "friend."
posted by bookdragoness at 10:24 AM on January 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

I would have absolutely no problem fading on this friendship. In fact, I probably would have cut her off a long time ago. This is way too much drama for an adult friendship.

And I'm sorry, but a potluck memorial!? This person is all about attention. I have two dogs that I love dearly, they are my babies. When they die I will grieve but...I won't be having a potluck memorial! I think that is really crass.
posted by thereader at 10:30 AM on January 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the input. I tried posting a follow-on comment this morning, but it had mysteriously disappeared--I'm thinking some kind of glitch or connection problem.

At any rate, I think I'll try the slow fade and "grey rock" - I really liked your link to intermittent reinforcement, bookdragoness. That describes the "condition" perfectly.

And just to give a bit of context, the memorial is for her friends who were all close with the dog, including me (I've known the dog since 2005, although didn't really grow close to him).

But yeah, thanks.
posted by dubious_dude at 9:18 PM on January 29, 2019

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