Asking too much of a friend

Published: May 16, 2012 | Last Updated: May 21, 2012 By | 6 Replies Continue Reading

QUESTION 

Hi Irene,

I’ve recently been coming to terms with some deeply buried grief, and also struggling
with self-injury problems as well. My "best friend" of 19 years has
hardly been there for me and only seems to come around when he needs me. He
makes it very clear that he does not care about my emotional troubles, and I
find it truly frustrating to try and be there for him when he is never there for me.

I try to be supportive of him and he knows
that whenever he calls, texts, or emails me, I will answer. On the other hand,
it’s rare that I can get a hold of him and even rarer that he’ll answer in a
timely fashion, despite his "open" schedule.


As I’ve been going through therapy, I’ve often asked myself if my friendship
with him is worth it. Sure, he has his moments when he can say something nice,
but those times are far and few, and the time in between those golden moments
is filled with unanswered calls and snide remarks, put-downs, and just plain old disregard for my emotions. He makes me feel guilty
for trying to ask that he be supportive of me in my recovery! It deeply hurts
me that even my struggles with self-harm don’t even phase him.

He is my only friend at the moment, and it
makes me fearful to think of leaving him, even though the cons of staying with
him outweigh the pros. What should I do?

Signed, Trish

 

ANSWER

Hi Trish,

Since you are in treatment, I hope you are
discussing this problem with your therapist who knows you far better than I.
Since my knowledge of your situation is limited, I can only speak in
generalities.

 

You haven’t mentioned whether this friendship has always felt one-sided. If it has been this way for some length
of time, it has to be frustrating and disappointing to feel so unsupported by
someone you care about and depend upon—especially when that individual is your
only friend.

 

On the other hand, it would be difficult for
any friend, even a very good one, to know how to respond to self-injury. Perhaps,
you are expecting too much of him.

 

One suggestion: Your friend may be capable of
becoming a better friend if you depend on him for companionship, and depend (at least primarily) on
your therapist to discuss emotional issues related to your recovery.

 

Also, since you feel like your friend isn’t as
supportive as you would like and is caustic at times, it would be worthwhile to
seek out other friends as well. It sounds like you may be overly dependent on one
individual who isn’t capable or willing to meet your needs.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

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Comments (6)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    well said

  2. Anonymous says:

    Trish – You deserve better. You’re taking charge of your life by addressing those deep hurts with the help of a therapist which means you are changing in fundamental ways. You’re also growing stronger so it makes sense that you are questioning whether it’s time to make a change regarding this long standing friendship. Good for you for taking both difficult steps.

    Hon, it sounds like he’s got his own issues to deal with and probably will never be a true friend to anyone. Friends don’t put you down, snipe at you and make you feel worse about yourself. I agree with the person who suggested this relationship is another form self-injury – this time the injury is to your soul. He’s had 19 years to learn how to be a friend – the occasional nice comment doesn’t count. Those may be more about him stroking his ego, “I said something nice to Trish this afternoon. What a nice person I am.”

    That said you don’t have to make an immediate decision about the relationship. You need something to compare his brand of friendship to. Join something fun, a class, the public library book club, yoga or tai chi (great for stress relief), volunteer, etc – anything where you’ll meet other people and make friends. It will take time to find someone you can truly call a friend but … maybe not, sometimes you get lucky. Don’t “match up” with someone who is having a tough time. You can’t afford to have someone else suck up your energy. And you need to find another way of being a friend …. it’s not all about helping other people with their problems.

    I’ve started reading a good book called “When Friendship Hurts” by Jan Yager. One of the chapters is entitled “Detecting Harmful People before They’re Friends”. It’s helpful.

    Take care of yourself, Trish. Make YOUR health your number one priority.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree with previous posts. It seems one-sided. Lots of energy is spent on one-sided kind of relationships. Save that energy for building and nurturing yourself! I think of it as an energy exchange. People who are in turn supportive fill you with goodness. No one needs to be put down, especially if you might be vulnerable to it. Surround yourself with positive people to help in your recovery process. Being around the opposite will just slow you down. Good luck!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think he is just one aspect of your ‘self injury’ pattern if behaviour….whatever you are punishing yourself for, please consider the debt paid.and and just STOP….starting with HIM…Once you feel better about yourself, you will realize you deserve better…

  5. Jacqueline says:

    This is a one-sided ‘friendship’, hun. You deserve better than that.

    Someone who ‘pooh poohs’ your emotional needs, puts you down, and ignores your cries for help tells you that he was never your friend. So, you have nothing to lose by dumping him. He is no good for you. He makes you feel worse.

    It is good you have your therapist to talk to.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Irene is 100% right. He’s not your therapist or even a good friend. Move on and look to new friends for more lighthearted fun.

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