possessive

Feeling used by a friend

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QUESTION

Dear Irene,

My best friend has been in a relationship for the last two years. She has low self-esteem and this guy is no good, controlling and manipulative. I’m not the only friend who has told her that.

Since she has been with him it seems the only time she contacts me anymore is when they’re fighting. So after this last fight, a little over a week ago, she said it was the biggest fight they ever had and she was sure it was over. She told me he was a complete "A". So anyway in the end she ends up making excuses why it’s her fault and not his, blah, blah.

While all this was going on with her I had my own issues. My mother was ill and we live 3000 miles apart. Also, my mom was very worried about my sister who was in a bad relationship; my mom was begging me to try and talk sense into her.

Now I never mentioned any of this to my friend; I just didn't think she was in an emotional state to deal with my problems due to the drama she was having in her own life. Since my sister is a MySpace friend, I posted some blogs about bad relationships. My friend got all freaked out, assuming they were about her and her boyfriend, and was worried about what he might think or say.

To be fair, she knows I think her boyfriend is not giving back what she puts into the relationship. So I told her that I understood why she might think that the blog posts were about her, but they weren't, and explained what I had going on and that I wasn't going to filter something based on her fear of her boyfriend’s reaction.

Never did she say, “I am sorry, I didn't know” or “How are you doing? NOTHING. No concern about me, or what was going on in my life. Since I have not spoken to her. I don't now if I should tell her how she hurt me by being selfish and that she was not a good friend to me? Or do I let it go, say nothing and wait and see if she contacts me? I am just not sure how to handle this, I feel like I have been used over the past two years.

Signed,
Marley

ANSWER

Dear Marley,

Your friend is involved in a destructive, controlling relationship with her boyfriend and, unfortunately,  isn’t ready to leave him. Even though you and other friends have given her honest feedback and have tried to be supportive, it hasn’t helped. It’s not a good sign that she’s still making excuses for him.

You’re used to the drill: Whenever they have a conflict, she expects you to be there for her. After they patch things up, she ricochets back to him. Her boyfriend may be so possessive that he makes it uncomfortable for her to be with female friends.

Her response to your MySpace posts was over-the-top, but she may have felt guilty (after seeing herself in these posts) or fearful (that her boyfriend would see what you had written). However, if you never mentioned your family problems to your friend, you can hardly fault her for not being responsive. By the time you did, she may have been too distressed about her own situation to be responsive to yours.

The big problem for you, as I see it, is that you feel like you’ve have been at the short end of the stick for two years and, frankly, I can't see things changing as long as your friend is involved with this guy.

You have two choices now. Your friend really needs a good friend. If you value the friendship, you can approach her honestly, let her know your feelings about her and her boyfriend, lower your expectations, and hope that she’ll figure a way out of this relationship.

 

Alternatively, if you still think this friendship is more work than it is worth, you can tell her that you are disappointed in her self-centeredness and feel like you need to take a break in your friendship until she figures out a way to resolve her problems with her boyfriend.

Hope this is helpful. Let us know what happens.

Best,
Irene

 

Reader Q & A: Unable to let go

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QUESTION:

Dear Irene,

About a year and a half ago I broke up with a friend and I'm still not over it. I was hoping you could offer some insight. I’ve known this girl since 6th grade when she stopped speaking to me over some boy. We became friends again in 7th grade but she always needed a new best friend. She moved out of state in 8th grade and made me promise to go to college in her state.

Well, I did move there and got married (she got married too). The four of us would hang out some but she did the same things as she did in elementary school: she'd just stop calling or she would ask for rides or a babysitter when she needed something and we'd be there to help. But if we needed something she'd just whine and complain. We moved a couple times within the same city and she was always negative about were we lived, saying we lived in a bad neighborhood (when we didn't and we had a brand new house).

Finally my husband and I stopped speaking to them because we felt like we were being used. About 3 years later, I started feeling guilty so I called her to see how she was and she was happy to hear from me. We started hanging out again and things seemed all right. I actually helped her to get a job at the same place where I worked with my husband.

My husband and I started to have problems and were considering a divorce. It turns out that she HATED my husband. She kept encouraging me to divorce him and spread rumors about him at work. Apparently she was talking about me, too, and spreading our personal problems to everyone we worked with. It made work very uncomfortable but she denied saying anything. She told me I shouldn't have told her any of my problems if I didn't want them to be known!

I ended up getting my own place and separating from my husband. I was very depressed and could hardly get out of bed. She was always mad at me for not “snapping out of it”. I eventually went to a doctor and got on anti-depressants and starting seeing a therapist, but she kept talking about me, saying that the anti-depressants weren’t good for me. She told me that I needed to convert to her religion to find happiness and get over the depression.

I agreed to go to church with her a few times but after a couple months decided it wasn't the place for me. When I began studying with a Rabbi she began saying horrible things about Jewish people and constantly told me how “sorry” she was that I was going to hell. I ended up moving out of state for a new job and to start a new life: I had planned to remain friends with her and talk to her from out of state.

Once I moved, she started sending me bible tracts and told me that Hebrew was a “bad language” to learn. Then I received an email with childish insults and name calling from both her and her husband. I just couldn't take it anymore and didn't want to fight, or call names so I just stop talking to her altogether. I deleted all the emails I got from her without ever reading them and changed my phone number.  Now she has befriended my mother on Facebook and constantly leaves my mom messages about how great she is. I feel like she's crossed the line by trying to be friends with my mom or she's displaying some passive aggressive behavior.

I feel a lot of guilt over this and feel like it is immature for me to stop being friends with someone. My life has improved A LOT since I stopped being friends with her and my self-esteem has climbed. Should I feel guilty over this? I feel like it is something that some middle school girls would do but I never imagined adults would stop speaking like this. Should I say something to her about being Facebook friends with my mom? Or do I just let this go?

Signed,
Unable to Let Go

ANSWER:

Dear Unable to Let Go,

I hope that by posting your dilemma on this blog and reading it in black-and-white, it helps clarify your answer to the question you posed: Should I just let this go? When other women write about their friendship dilemmas, the answers are often in shades of gray. This one isn’t.

It sounds like your ex-friend has been possessive, self-centered, negative and controlling from the time she was an adolescent and she still hasn’t outgrown it. While you tolerated her for some time, you and your husband appropriately decided to end the relationship. The same attitudes and behaviors you overlooked in middle school were less acceptable when you saw them appear in an adult.

Like most women, you tried to put a positive spin on your friendship when you attempted to renew it three years later. Then your friend began to encourage you to leave your husband, spread rumors about you and your husband to your colleagues, and betrayed confidences about you to people at work. I can’t help but think that she was alienating you from him and your co-workers so she could have you for herself again. Then she tried to dictate your religious beliefs and showed little sensitivity to or understanding of your values or emotions. Besides, people generally don’t “snap out” of a clinical depression.

Don’t you remember you changed your phone number to avoid contact wit her and even deleted her emails? Why would you ever feel guilty for cutting off a friendship like this one? You deserve so much better.

Why would you want to re-friend someone who has been such a negative influence? Yes, she crossed the line by trying to befriend your mom and there is no point in initiating contact with her over this. However, you should let your mother know how nasty your friend has been to you so she doesn’t get sucked in. The rules of friendship on Facebook are often pretty murky but I would think your mother wouldn’t want to maintain a relationship with your ex-friend if she knew how much pain she had caused you.

Clearly, you are feeling happier and more self-confident since you broke off with her. Yet you are guilty and ashamed about separating from a long-time friend. You seem to be tied to they myth that “best friends are forever” but generally, this isn’t the case. Being able to let go, in this situation, wouldn’t be immature; in fact, it would be a sign of your maturity. You need to let go and move on. This woman sounds like a toxic friend.

Hope this is helpful.

My best,
Irene
 

Reader Q & A: By love possessed

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QUESTION:

Dear Irene,

I have a friend who is a few years younger than me. I love her to death but she is causing me to feel bad about not being with her 24/7. She and I used to have the best time together; we laughed and watched movies and all sorts of stuff together. She had a really tough year, with her first two boyfriends being big jerks to her.

 

I want to be there for her, but now, a year later, she is not talking to anybody but me, not even her family. On top of that she is locked in her room and not making eye contact with anyone. She cancels plans with other friends just in case I want to hang out with her and when I say I can't or I'm not up to it, she gets mad at me and usually doesn't speak to me for days.

 

I am applying to colleges and she is insisting that I go to an in-state college so in two years, when she gets out of school, we can have an apartment together. When I tell her I want to live in a dorm, she says she doesn't want me to. I am thinking of going to college four states away and I don't know how to tell her because of the argument I know will follow.

 

She tells me that she doesn't want to be my friend for not sleeping over at her house every weekend. If I want to hang out with my other friends, she tries to get me to cancel my plans. I know I have to stick up for myself more, but I care a lot about her and I am not sure how to find a happy middle to me being a rug she walks all over. Do you have any advice?

 

Signed,

Stephanie

 

ANSWER:

Dear Stephanie,

This relationship doesn't sound healthy for you or your friend. I presume that she is still a teenager, who has become overly attached, possessive, and dependent on you---maybe because you are a few years older. She is demanding exclusivity in your relationship because she doesn't seem to feel comfortable alone or with other friends.

 

If she really is as emotionally volatile and is "locked in her room," as you describe, she may need professional help. You should speak to someone in her family, in confidence, and admit that this problem is more than you can handle at this stage in your life. It seems like it is.

 

Although you may not be aware of it, you have been encouraging her dependency by acquiescing to her unreasonable demands. You need to gradually begin to create more distance between you and your friend, and to set some limits. Moreover, you need to examine your own motives for allowing this to happen. It sounds like this relationship is dominating your life when you should have other interests and involvements. You certainly shouldn't let this friendship dictate your college plans. It wouldn't be good for either of you.

 

I know this situation is tricky and I wish you luck and grace in resolving it.

My best,
Irene

 

Reader Q & A: What to do about a judgmental friend?

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QUESTION:

Dear Irene,

My friend and I have known each other since college, and we were roommates throughout. We were very, very close when we were younger, but as we got older and moved to different places our friendship became more distant, though we remained good friends. I've moved to her town for graduate school, and I was excited to be living with her again. We have many similar beliefs and interests and we can have a "rhythm" when we're together that feels like family.

However, we've also had a number of major rifts over the years. The ones that I can recall have a fairly similar theme: I wanted to do something without her, I didn't do what she wanted, or I changed my mind about something. The chorus that I've heard over the years is that I am "flaky" (that's a direct quote) and that I can't be counted on to do what I say.

One time that I changed my mind was when I decided not to go on a Southeast Asian vacation with her after a close family member committed suicide. The trip would have used all my vacation time and extra money, and I felt I needed that to be with my family - who were out of town - as we all tried to cope with our unexpected loss. My friend said that I "reneged" on the trip.

More recently, my husband and I chose not to have a legal marriage - even though we had a wedding ceremony - to stand in solidarity with gays and lesbians who cannot get married. I felt very, very strongly that this was what I wanted to do and my husband and I incorporated equal rights into our wedding ceremony as well. My friend is in a same-sex partnership, and she was touched by our gesture, as were other friends.

However, recently I have become worried about healthcare. My husband is a cancer survivor, and though he has great healthcare now, I worry about what would happen if he lost his job. His workplace - incredibly - offers family plans to married couples and to same-sex couples, but not to unmarried heterosexual partners. I worry that other jobs will have similar policies...so, we started reconsidering legal marriage...I have been agonizing over this decision, because it feels like selling out what I believe in and betraying my queer friends and family...but health and safety are important too!

I confided this struggle to my friend, and she responded that "she thought she better not say anything" - ostensibly because what she has to say would not be good. I can understand why her feelings would be hurt, but she didn't even acknowledge my very real fear about a cancer recurrence or my anguish about this decision. In addition, I find it amazing that I would be the person in her life who is criticized for getting married, when all of her friends and family are heterosexuals who are married and didn't give a second thought to gay rights! Of all her friends, I have been most sensitive to this issue.

So here I go again, "changing my mind" and not doing what my friend wants. I get in return the silent treatment, which I know from experience means that she disapproves of me. At this point, I don't even feel angry so much as hurt and just not wanting to talk to her.

I love her and would like to remain friends, but I am tired of her self-centered judgment of my decisions. What should I do?

Signed,
Anna

ANSWER:

Dear Anna:

The subject line of your note read "judgmental friend" but I think you are dealing with someone who is a "possessive and controlling friend". It also sounds like you are very attached to her and have a hard time establishing reasonable boundaries.

The examples you gave about the suicide in your family and about your need to marry to assure continued health insurance for your partner seem like no-brainers. Of course, you need to do what is best for you and your family. A true friend would understand that, not discourage you or be critical. Should your whole world revolve around her?

One other comment: It seems like your friend is quite inflexible and critical of you. Yes, she is judgmental too! I'm somewhat surprised that you remain so adoring of her that you are able to overlook all these negative traits. To others, these would seem like fatal flaws. What is keeping you from moving on?

Hope this gives you food for thought.

Best,
Irene

 
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