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Help me deal with a Drama Queen

February 23, 2011 | By | 6 Replies Continue Reading
A reader asks for advice on how to handle a drama queen in her group of friends.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I am in an awkward situation with a friend whom I’ll call Carla and don’t know how to handle it. She’s noticed that I’ve been pulling away and wants to get together to talk. We have mutual friends in common and I don’t want to make it uncomfortable for them either.

Four of us have spent the last few years together as moms getting our kids together to play. Our husbands became friends and I’m truly am grateful to have them in my life. I feel very close to two of them as we’ve shared a lot with each other. They’ve helped me with personal issues and logistical stuff like watching the kids when I needed it, and I’ve helped them.

They’ve shown an interest in my life, and tell me they appreciate me as a friend. I feel like I have become a better friend since I find myself doing the same for them.

However the third friend is difficult. This is the type of friendship you might have had in third grade but I’m in my 30s! I need to figure out a way to maintain the friendship but keep it at a distance. Because we have friends in common, I don’t want to make them uncomfortable. They’ve each privately told me they’re upset when she does the same things to them, but one bends over backwards to apologize when she shouldn’t and the other goes along to get along and will stroke her ego to smooth things over.

I’m just tired of the drama involved in keeping the friendship going. Carla can be a nice person but she’s tough to get to know. I’ve opened up to her many times but she doesn’t share much of herself so I don’t really feel like I know her at all compared to other friends. She demands more from our friendship than she seems willing to give in return. She needs constant reassurance, which gets tiring. I understand that insecurity is probably the root of the problem, but I just don’t want to have to worry about every little interaction. She’s very possessive, too. I hate having to feel that I can’t even mention something I’ve done with a friend without her getting jealous. It’s exhausting and I’m not willing to do it anymore.

How can I handle this gracefully and so she isn’t hurt by what I say?

Signed,
Jill

ANSWER

Hi Jill,

When four people are friends, there are six different twosomes in the group. It stands to reason that you might feel more or less comfortable with one friend than another.

While your group has a lot in common, your personalities are different. Carla may have some personality issues that grate on you even though your friends are more tolerant. If she wasn’t a member of the foursome, I doubt you would be friends with her at all.

You want the group to remain intact. You can’t change Carla’s personality, you don’t want to disparage her to the others, nor can you ignore your feelings. My suggestion would be to remain friends with her as part of the group but continue on the path of having less of a one-on-one relationship. You don’t need to make it explicit to her or to anyone else.

How should you handle this “talk”? Listen more and speak less. Hear what Carla has to say. Try not to say too much in response. If she complains about you, acknowledge what you’ve heard and tell her you’re sorry she feels this way.

At some point in the conversation, she’ll probably be seeking your reassurance. If she says she feels you backing off, tell her that you sometimes feel exhausted by the drama that crops up in the group and that’s probably what she’s noticing. It might be a good idea to set a time limit for the talk and tell her you have an appointment afterwards.

This is a difficult situation but I think you’ll be able to work it out with grace.

Best,
Irene

Prior posts on The Friendship Blog about dealing with groups of friends:

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Category: Dealing with difficult friends, RESOLVING PROBLEMS

Comments (6)

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  1. Georgiagal says:

    I definitely agree with other commentators that responding with, “I’m sorry you feel this way” doesn’t accomplish anything and I’d avoid that phrasing. For one, it isn’t a real apology, so it will feel like a slight if this woman is genuinely seeking validation for feelings that although inappropriate, are nonetheless authentic. I’ve had that line pulled on me and it just rubbed in the hurt feelings more because it was clearly not an apology and it was also kind of a snub.

    Secondly, as others have noted, you have nothing to actually apologize for. If this woman does see that as an authentic apology, then you’re enabling her drama because it will validate that she is in the right.

    I do think that listening, as Irene noted, is key. And as part of that, acknowledging that you understand her feelings will go a long way. But I also think you need to be open about YOUR feelings too. And as one commentor suggested, if you call her out and she makes a fool of herself on Facebook, then so be it. You don’t have to protect her ego if she is infringing on your personal space (i.e. writing things publicly on Facebook about you or even on your wall). Respond honestly. Even a quick “check your email again; I think you got it the plans mixed up” might be enough to shut her up without engaging a confrontation.

    And if you do decide to confront her, make it about YOU and not her. This is a blatant example, but we can all respect someone that says, “I need space. I am overwhelmed by drama and I need to work it out.” The message is clear and it isn’t personal. Saying, “You’re bothering me, please go away,” or even something more subtle like “You need to give me some space” is offensive to the audience because you’re making it about their behavior rather than your own. Even though all the statements may be accurate, it is so important you figure out how to frame your needs around yourself and not about her, even if you feel she is the root cause of your negative feelings.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I disagree. I wouldn’t tell your friend it is your fault. That is exactly how everyone else handled the situation and that is why your friend’s behavior has continued. Everyone is walking on eggshells with your friend. I have been through exactly what you have been through. I tried to find ways to compromise, but is there really a way to compromise when someone is completely unrealistic? I, personally, could not find any way to back off from the friendship. My friend continued to tell me I was in the wrong. So all I could do was say we don’t have the same perception of the situation. You don’t have to tell you friend she is wrong. But, you don’t have to say you are wrong either!

  3. Anonymous says:

    When friendships fail it will feel uncomfortable. Try to focus on your higher values regarding how you perceive relationships. If you value emotional safety and healthy relationships over maintaining this friendship, then let go and allow things to unfold. You will feel uncomfortable, but with every transition or breakup in life, it will pass and time will change things where this relationship will be less salient as you get away from it. It is a transition, it is better to deal with it now then wait years only to be more frustrated. It might involve tough decisions and an expectation that the ex-friend will act messy. You can’t control her, but have blind faith that your true friends will stick with you and you will be opening yourself to better relationships in the future through this experience. You have to move out of this situation so you can have those relationships you seek. It will be a great learning experience for you to eventually look back and know you were able to detach from this negative person in order to open your life up to more positive experiences. Look up some Buddhist quotes on friendship or just in general. They can help.

  4. Irene says:

    It sounds like Carla is very self-centered and possessive. You need to avoid one-on-one encounters with her and only get involved with her as part of the group.

     

    Let her call you out. So what? Before long, or maybe even already, others will know her for what she is. It is not wrong to decide whom you want to get involved with and you have no obligation to include her. Don’t let her alter your behavior among your true friends.

     

    You also need to limit your Facebook profile so Carla isn’t privy to seeing what’s going on in your life—and you don’t want to read her status updates, either.

     

    Yes, extricate yourself from her—but not from the group. Do it quietly and privately.

     

    Hope this helps!

    Irene

  5. Anonymous says:

    I appreciate you printing my letter and the poster above’s comment as well. But I don’t feel like it really addressed my concern. The real issue for me is getting blamed by Carla when I have done nothing wrong. Is it wrong to socialize with other friends, whether she knows them or not? She seems to hold each of us responsible for including her on each and everything we do, even if it isn’t something she’d normally be interested in. She herself though, only extends an invite to someone if she chooses to. This kind of seems mean-spirited to me. I’ve never met such a possessive, self-centered person and am at odds as to how to really cut this back without an all out fight. I pride myself on being a good friend, I would never hurt someone intentionally. But she is constantly calling people out (on Facebook for example) if she thinks any one of us has done something and didn’t include her. The reality is that I find myself spending far less time with any of my other 3 friends one on one, since I worry it’s going to later find it’s way back to her. I resent that, I should be able to spend my time with anyone I choose. Why does she hold me to such a high expectation when we have such a loose relationship to begin with?? The latest blow-up was me attending a night out with other friends from a local club I belong to. She assumed it was something that I had initially invited her to several weeks prior. However, I changed my plans when she told me she’d get back to me and never did. I just figured I’d make alternate arrangements. She informed me on my FB wall that she was disappointed and that she really wanted to go with me, and thought I was supposed to get back to her with the details, even though her email to me says exactly what I said here. Blaming me on FB is a huge turn off and I don’t think I should have to take the blame when I didn’t do anything wrong or exclude her. If I don’t address it I think it sets a very false perception for her that that it’s ok for her to do this to me, especially if I cave and apologize. Just in case you don’t think my examples are very good, she recently sent a scathing email to the friend she calls her BFF. That person’s sister posted a house for sale and said she should look at it. My friend said, “that’s great, would love to move there”. Carla’s email apparently said she couldn’t believe our friend would consider moving away, “how could you do this to me when you know how close we are? I may as well stop spending time with you because you are only going to leave anyway” Do you see why I need to extricate myself from someone like this?

  6. Anonymous says:

    There is no harm in being truthful, and sincere.
    I wouldn’t be so quick to discount this person, or their feelings.

    “If she complains about you, acknowledge what you’ve heard and tell her you’re sorry she feels this way”.

    This is a very back handed way of handling someones valid feelings, and frankly rude. You in no way will be apologizing, and this person will feel that.

    Instead, I would offer your personal feelings without it being a personal attack.

    I would just blame it on yourself. Tell her your taxed, and that you have more fun when your together as a group. Talk her up, tell her what you like about her, but explain that for you, you just dont have the energy to keep up. Then it becomes about you, leaving her esteem in tact and you walk away knowing instead of a back handed apology which may cause problems, you expressed your need and not her failures.

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