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

October 19, 2008 | By | 2 Replies Continue Reading

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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Comments (2)

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  1. Me Too!!! says:

    your story sounds familiar I once was married when I was in my 20′s a decade ago. I became Divorced with two kids a single parent, Nobody gave me a ounce of attention. I was always lefted outta everything, single peolpes didn’t invite me within two feet of them. the married ones wouldn’t look my way, that Hurted me like “HELL” but Nobody cared. so I feels your pain of being left outta your friends Newfound life Now. U might Have too find women who U can more Relate too, sometimes peoples just grows apart, or other things starts to take center stage, No Hard feelings. U can’t Make nobody give u the attention that U Desires that May Not Happen, that’s like trying to make a Man love U “REALLY”. U Might Have too Move on yet always keep your door open to your use to be yesteryears friends!!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Dear Irene,

    Please help…… for 7 years, I have been friends with two people I’ll call Kelly and Tracey. We have always been very close – I would even say real life long potential.

    Recently however, my hubby and I moved interstate for a career move. It has been a very isolating and lonely time and we have really missed our family and friends. As a result I became quite emotional and probably a ‘bit of hard work.’

    At the same time, Kelly was pregnant with her second son and Tracey was planning her wedding, I was buying our first home and settling into a challenging promotion. All of our lives were very busy and there wasn’t much time for anything else. For example, our discussions on the phone were all baby and wedding related and very little conversation was about my life and the challenges job I now had. I’m still not sure if that was my own doing, or their lack of interest.

    After three months I became quite depressed. I lost a dear friend to suicide and my job was taking quite a toll on me. I reached out, but at the same time, Kelly went through some major dramas with her hubby and my problems got buried.

    I started to feel quite left out and forgotten about. As both girls are new mums (I am yet to have kids) a strong bond began to form between them, which is understandable. But what started to happen was the ‘you don’t understand as you’re not a mum’ scenario. For example, I hand made a baby album for Kelly and never heard anything for a week until I voiced my opinion on the lack of consideration (I just wanted a thank you). Tracey actually called me to tell me I was ‘out of line’ and as Kelly had just had a baby, that’s all that matters. I was also told that there is the ‘right time for opinions and this wasn’t one of them.’ I said I felt ganged up on and relayed this; the response was ‘don’t be so ridiculous.’

    Situation like this just made me feel so much more isolated and alone. I could feel my fiends slipping away and the more I tried to fix it, the worse it got:

    Kelly and I had a horrible argument. I was fed up with the selfishness and just snapped. It was over such a trivial item, but the explosion was mammoth. I told her how I felt about everything. Quite understandably, she was very, very hurt and unfortunately my entire point has been lost in anger of the moment. It has also been put down to my unstable emotions and that these outbursts were exaggerated and unreal. In short, I had no real point and anything I said has not been taken on board.

    Prior to moving away, I had always been the one to listen to problems and was always a reliable ear for friends. I was also always very happy-go-lucky and nothing was ever really a problem for me. My friends loved that about me too. However, now that I have ‘changed’ and asked for help, I have met with complete resistance.

    One night I literally broke down on the phone and couldn’t stop crying. I just felt so far away and isolated I just couldn’t take it anymore. I literally asked them to please help me and could they pay me ‘extra attention’ while I was interstate. That I needed them to almost ‘bug’ me with phone calls. Really, I needed to feel loved and wanted. The first I heard from Kelly was two weeks later and that was only to give me her new phone number. Tracey has called but it is only for a minute as ‘she has to go’ which is what I hear every single time she calls, or I call her.

    I know that I am probably emotionally draining on both girls at the moment. But this is the first time I have ever asked for help. I feel so heart broken by the two people I thought was closest to me. I almost feel dumped and forgotten by them.

    My dilemma is that I think I should move on from these friends and let go. But I can’t help thinking maybe if I hadn’t moved away, none of this would have happened. If I hadn’t exploded, none of this would have happened. And maybe this is the result of my failings and I should take the responsibility for this?

    It is such a confusing time, I honestly don’t know what to do. Any advice would be much appreciated.

    From Sad Friend.

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