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?
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.