• Handling Breakups

How can I break up with a disturbed friend?

Published: May 8, 2015 | By | 48 Replies Continue Reading
A woman worries about ending a relationship with a disturbed friend.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I am struggling with the question of whether to break off the relationship with my childhood best friend, who has become increasingly disturbed over the past 10 years.

We were bosom buddies throughout elementary and high school, and it was never a big deal that she was a needy friend. But a cocktail of personality and mood disorders arose around the time we turned 20, and I honestly haven’t enjoyed our relationship for years.

I have stayed out of guilt and an unexplainable fear of what will happen if I abruptly announce that I won’t see her anymore. I have always been that happy, bubbly person who can make friends with a rock, and she has come to rely on my advice for every little thing over the years– from whether or not she should date someone, to what she should wear to work every week. I have been ‘too nice’ in always giving my opinion.

The other side of the coin: She has repeatedly admitted to being very jealous of me, my career, my relationship with my husband, my children, my happiness, etc. She constantly compares herself to others, but especially me. I stopped telling her about what’s going on in my life years ago. None of my relentless pep talks and advice marathons have helped in the slightest. None of her multiple therapists/doctors/meds have made a dent in her unhappiness.

I live out-of-state, and I make time to see her every time we visit. I don’t do this with any other friends… It has become a ‘given’. If I don’t make plans with her soon enough, she will show up unannounced at my parent’s house, where we always stay. She’ll say she was hoping we could just chat for 5 minutes.

On our last visit, when we brought our newborn son down to see family for the first time, she was angry that I ‘waited’ 4 days to make plans with her. She said she felt like I didn’t care because she “wasn’t a priority” compared to our immediate family members (who hadn’t yet met their grandson/nephew/and so on). I told her that family comes first and she responded, “I just feel like I should be there.”

I was a bit creeped out by that conversation, to be honest. I’m not sure why she seems obsessed with being close to me. She was offended when I once declined to have a sleepover (just her, me, and my husband) at my house. She still questions my refusal to this day.

She is angry that I won’t let her babysit my kids, and always wants to coddle them/feed them/put them down for a nap/in the car seat…. even trying to grab them when I’m in the process of doing it myself. When I say I’m busy on a given day, she interrogates me on the details of my schedule and tries to wedge herself into it, even if it could only be for half an hour.

She calls my husband by the pet name I have for him. She has had affairs with married men before, so I really don’t like the way she (literally and figuratively) throws herself on him. The friendship has been toxic for years, but I am sort of scared of what she would do if I ended it. She has a lot of mental issues and might hurt herself, or someone, if her last close ‘friend’ skedaddles.

In your experience, does my apprehension in that regard appear to be misplaced? I wish I had found a way to distance myself long ago. In addition to the negative aspects of the friendship, it’s gotten to the point where I am no longer the carefree social butterfly who didn’t mind being on a friend’s beck and call. I am suddenly an overworked lawyer/homemaker/wife/mom-of-two, stressed out and overwhelmed by life in general, and I just can’t be her crutch anymore. I need a crutch myself these days.

What should I do, and how?

Signed, Lynne

ANSWER

Hi Lynne,

What an uncomfortable dilemma and, unfortunately, there is no easy solution. Although you’ve shown incredible kindness and compassion, it sounds like you’ve reached your limit. When a friend has so many problems, you can’t be her therapist or savior.

One saving grace in this very difficult situation is that there’s geographical distance between you.

From your note, this isn’t a friendship and doesn’t sound like it’s been one for many years; rather it’s a one-sided, unhealthy relationship that’s gotten worse over the years. While I can understand your apprehension about cutting it off, I don’t think you really have a choice given the impact it’s having on you and your family.

Does your friend have any other supports you can call upon to help you extricate yourself from this situation? Parents? Siblings? Other friends? Can you explain your dilemma to them in confidence?

Perhaps, you and your husband could contact your friend by phone and explain that you are feeling “overworked…stressed out and overwhelmed by life…” and need some time off from the friendship. Don’t blame her because that will only make her defensive. Explain that it has to do with you and your family.

My hope is that after a break of six months or so, your friend may find others to lean on or will draw upon her own inner resources. Don’t act angry or upset, just matter-of-fact.

This is something you need to do for yourself. If you find that impossible, you might want to seek some professional support to help you figure out why.

I hope this is somewhat helpful. Good luck!

My best, Irene

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Category: HANDLING BREAKUPS

Comments (48)

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  1. sky says:

    I highly recommend reading this book. It explains the dynamics of the rescuer/victim/Prosecutor roles which are clearly at play in this situation.
    (AND mostly will repeat in the future if you do not recognize the pattern and tendencies with someone else in the future.)

    Breaking Free from the Victim Trap: Reclaiming Your Personal Power
    by Diane Zimberoff (Author)

    https://www.amazon.com/Breaking-Free-Victim-Trap-Reclaiming/dp/0962272809

  2. foggy172 says:

    Wow, can anyone imagine how this poor “friend” feels about herself that she needs to do this? In my experience, people are manipulative/demanding/negative usually because they feel REALLY BAD about themselves and they grasp at any and every straw to hold on to some sense of social acceptance. Maybe this girl can’t stand herself and your friendship is the only thing standing between her and daily mountains of depression and self-loathing. I agree you’re not meant to be her therapist but try some genuine compassion when interacting with her. and DONT slow fade! Its the worst. Makes people think something is horribly wrong with them and then they will be that much more critical/suspicious/needy of the next person. If you’re hellbent on cutting her out of your life, have the minimum respect to tell as such.You don’t owe anyone your friendship. However, what goes around comes around and if you treat this person, annoying and crazy as she is, with some compassion as you tell her she’s not welcome in your life, your guilt will be assuaged and she might be able to move on.

    • Someone says:

      True, but Lynne is full of empathy and compassion and tried this route and it Sid not work for her. I think that in the end, you reap what you sow. This disturbed friend pushed, demanded, and violated the boundaries of Lynne. A normal, healthy response to that is to want to disengage. Lynne is not responsible for assauging her former friend’s fears or for handling her feelings with kid gloves, especially when this former friend violated so many of her her boundaries.

      This former friend will have to learn a lesson from this or be doomed to repeat it ad infinitum. This is her lot in life, just as it is all of ours. No one is really the exception to this rule.

      Empathy and reassurance only goes so far with certain people. Sometimes enough is enough.

    • Tessa says:

      The slow fade is sometimes the only way to deal with someone like this. I’m in a very similar situation in a very one-sided friendship with a long-time friend who has become emotionally unstable and extremely needy. It seems that she regards me as a caregiver more than a friend now. In spite of the enormous amount of help and compassion that I have given her, she refuses to help herself. It’s affecting my family’s quality of life at this point. I’ve tried on several occasions to discuss how her actions affect me. When I do, she threatens suicide. Now, I feel that the slow-fade is my only recourse. It may be “the worst,” but being direct causes hysterical behavior. Now, I’m not making myself as available to her. I’ve gone from seeing her every week to every other week. My next step is once a month and eventually occasionally a year. I’m not answering her “urgent” texts right away, and giving her time to figure out her “problem” on her own. For my own health, I need to distance myself from her. I am far from a cruel person. If I were to list all that I have done for her, it would take up pages. Friendship is supposed to be give and take and her taking has gone on for many years.
      Yes, she may think that something is horribly wrong with her, but in truth, there is. She has diagnosed borderline personality disorder and is a toxic presence in my life. While I’ve shown nothing but caring and concern for her, she’s manipulated and used me on many levels. If what goes around comes around then there should be someone as nice and caring out there who won’t take advantage of my caring nature.

    • June says:

      I agree with (someone), Lynne and this friend are too different and I feel she has given all she can give at this point. The reason why people go through the different stages of life is because people change. …good changes, bad changes, life changing moments and experiences. Sometimes when you get to know people better, you realize that maybe it wasn’t such a good fit after all.

  3. Lynne says:

    Original poster here. First of all, thank you from the bottom of my heart to Irene and everyone else who took the time to extend advice and support. This situation has been so sad and frustrating for me. I don’t think I mentioned it in my original post, but what my friend has is borderline personality disorder, in addition to depression, ADD, and probably other issues.

    Since my post, I got a job in our hometown and have been very busy. I don’t leave the office until the evening, and usually only see my babies at bedtime. It’s been very hard, and I truly have no time to spend with friends. I’ve talked to my friend a few times, and I thought they were nice, casual conversations. I vented to her about my soul-sucking job, and explained that my free time is precious and I can only give it to my family right now, but I hope we can catch up soon. She acted fine about it, and I thought maybe she had chilled out a little.

    Last week, (just days after our last “good” conversation”) she sent me a long-winded email, again accusing me of abandoning her and not caring enough about her. She also told me that I am partially to blame for her current mental state… And that I “apparently prefer” not to see her, etc. I was dumbfounded, although I don’t know why it even surprises me still. In my reply, I explained that we have different expectations of what friendship means, and that I am hurt by the repeated accusations. I was extremely cautious in my choice of words… She responded by denying that she had ever said anything like that, and again specifically demanded that she be considered as important as an immediate family member.

    My next reply was probably a mistake. I was extremely agitated when I wrote it. I bluntly told her that I was not interested in continuing the relationship if that’s the way she thinks, and that she needs to work on the dependency issue. I said that it’s not my fault she has these issues, and I am too overwhelmed to deal with it. I said that I’m disturbed and exhausted by the way our friendship has been in the last few years, and that I’m done pretending it’s okay. I wasn’t outright mean or insulting, but I think it was harsh. I always try to be very nice to people, and I don’t think this email I sent was nice.

    I have never confronted anyone in this way before, and it’s frustrating that this emotional saga has finally brought out the worst in me. My patience simply ran out, and I was provoked at the worst possible time (Monday morning, feeling sad about not seeing the baby all day as I walk into work, and in comes the email…). As a Christian, I worried that I had not reflected God’s love in that message… I ended up sending another email a couple days later apologizing for my tone and wishing her well, but reiterating that I am very uncomfortable with the pressure she puts on me, and that we can only be friends if we have boundaries. She has not responded, and now I keep second-guessing how I’ve handled everything. I revisited this page to try and get some reassurance, because I remember how informative and clear-headed the replies were.

    I hope this update helps someone else plan for how to deal with a similar situation. Thanks again for the kind support.

    • Someone says:

      Lynne, I was in your shoes about six months ago, I remember replying to this thread a few months back. I can hear the guilt and the worry in your words, and the thing that jumped out to me in your update was “my next reply was probably a mistake…”

      Having been in a similar situation and blessed with 6 months of hindsight, I can say that everything that follows that sentence was NOT a mistake. You stood up for yourself, stood to your boundaries. It may be hard for you to see it this way because you were pushed to your limits and felt anger. This is 100% natural and normal response to being accused, pressured, pushed, and encroached upon. Anger is not pleasant, but it is a God-given emotion that exists for a reason.

      I really believe you were practicing love in that you were protecting yourself and standing up for yourself. I can hear the guilt and regret in your words, and I wish I could just reassure you that your response was not a mistake. You are entitled to your own feels of anger, God has given us good emotions and bad emotions for a reason. I am not Christian but I do understand your feelings of worry in this respect… from my perspective, this unpleasant anger may have been an impetus to express yourself honestly and clearly.

      Please don’t be so hard on yourself and forgive yourself for feeling angry. Examine your feelings and really reflect on their source and I think you’ll find some comfort. I am proud of you. I think you’ll feel better abut this too, in time.

    • Tessa says:

      Don’t second guess yourself, Lynne. I can assure you that she’s not second-guessing herself. Most people like this feel like they’re always right and that the problem lies with everyone else. You did what you needed to do to find some peace in your situation. You’re actually doing her a favor by letting her know that you need boundaries in your friendship. Everything that she does is her own choice. Any decision that she makes is ultimately up to her and really isn’t influenced by you. We all have our own lives to live. There is help out there for people with BPD, and she obviously isn’t seeking it out. Her saying that you’re affecting her mental illness is part of her manipulation technique. Clinging to someone is part of her illness and your not wanting to be the person she clings to is normal. Mentally healthy people are responsible for their own lives and don’t expect others to meet their needs. You’re mentally healthy and shouldn’t feel guilty for not wanting to be a pawn in her illness.

  4. Lisa says:

    I have a neighbor that I was once close to and have been going through the same thing for about a year and a half now. Fortunately a big street and a subdivision separate us but she can still see into my yard and I hers. Anyway, between letting me know that her husband “has to sometimes” look at naked pictures for his “work” and that’s why the kids are not encouraged to go upstairs in her home to having a blow-out with her husband over a cyber-affair she was having (both while my son and I were there…the sharing of the reason for not going upstairs was the last straw)…it’s all been too much. She also has very lax parenting and her kids do not know respect and boundaries and have trashed my house on several occasions. I decided to do the slow fade–but she still calls and nabs me on Facebook! I’m like “what part of I’m avoiding you do you NOT understand?!” I’ve wanted to say something but I, too am afraid that she’ll blow up (she even did at her own mother when her mom told her that she needed to give her kids some rules)-so I know how THAT will go over. And she slammed another neighbor on Facebook after the neighbor told her that she needed to keep an eye on her kids (the little ones have a habit of escaping.). My only prayer is that they rent…so someday…they’ll move. Hopefully.

  5. Liz says:

    You know that saying, something like to the world you are only one person, but to one person you may be the world? It is never good to put this much responsibility onto one person, but it seems that to her you are extremely important. I’d ease out of the friendship and not feel guilty.

  6. Sarah says:

    “unexplainable fear of what will happen if I abruptly announce that I won’t see her anymore.”

    “None of my relentless pep talks and advice marathons have helped in the slightest. None of her multiple therapists/doctors/meds have made a dent in her unhappiness.”

    “If I don’t make plans with her soon enough, she will show up unannounced at my parent’s house, where we always stay. She’ll say she was hoping we could just chat for 5 minutes.”

    “even trying to grab them when I’m in the process of doing it myself. When I say I’m busy on a given day, she interrogates me on the details of my schedule and tries to wedge herself into it, even if it could only be for half an hour.”

    “The friendship has been toxic for years, but I am sort of scared of what she would do if I ended it.”

    Your “friend” is an emotional vampire plain and simple. Unfortunately, you have some ownership here. Fortunately, you can do something about it. I get the fact that you have known her for a long time and continue this relationship out of guilt. This is not healthy for you or your family.

    It is not your job to be her therapist. You have stated that attempts at this remain futile. If she does indeed have a mood/personality disorder, she needs professional help. She probably won’t seek real help until she finds her life unmanageable. She needs to understand that her behavior has consequences and perhaps ceasing your relationship with her is one of them.

    Detach with love. If she gets help great, if not it is on her. She has been holding you hostage for too long…

  7. BBfriend says:

    This ‘friend’ is very needy. I would not do a fade out or a sit down. I would do both. Tell her what you need. tell her you need space and time with your family. That you wish you had the time for her that she needs from you, but you just can not manage it right now. Tell her you need her to understand this and give you a break. I would not mention ending the friendship. It is too finite. I would keep away from mentioning specific tendencies that she has or behaviours as they can be perceived as criticism. I would just say you need the space because you are exhausted and overwhelmed. If she continues to contact you do not answer the phone or the messages.
    I have been on both sides of this coin before. I have been dumped by a slow fade and I have dumped the same way. I have had confrontations and I have been confronted. There is no easy way to do this. None of it will feel right. You will feel bad for a long time. But you must look after yourself.

  8. Ruth says:

    I don’t think there is any good way to end a friendship. There will always be hurt feelings. I was friend dumped by a group of girls in my twenties, because I had a chronic illness and went on disability, they talked trash behind my back about how needy I was and how I was on disability because I was lazy. They all did the “Pretend she doesn’t exist” thing, which I found really hurtful and confusing. I finally pieced together what had happened behind the scene. I would have preffered a direct approach, but I am not so unstable that I would have become verbally or physically abusive.
    On the other side of the coin, I had to end two toxic friendships. After my experience of being friend dumped, I promised myself I would always speak up if I was having issues with someone to see if we could work things out. One friendship ending was pretty hostile, I don’t think anything could have made it better. The second was more civil. It was also mutual, which helped. This is a very complex issue. Go with your gut instinct, and try to be kind.

  9. Jared says:

    Wow, sounds like a bad situation. I’m actually surprised that some of you have had “the talk” about ending friendship.

    In my experience, most men do the slow fade. We might have a fight and then disconnect, but I’ve never known anyone say, “I don’t think we should be friends anymore.” They simply reflect that feeling in their actions and often their non-actions when they don’t reply to invitations/phone calls/messages.

    I can understand a friend being hurt that you took “four days” (not long) to show her the baby, after the family met the baby, but that alone–at least in my eyes–is an indication of how you view the friendship. If someone has AWESOME news, and I’m the 20th person they call after than one of the top ten, it tells me that I’m not as close to them as I thought.

    For those who are saying that you should have a talk about ending a friendship, I’m curious about the exact wording you would use. I would only expect an argument.

    To be honest, I have a guy “friend” who rejected my last several invitations to hang out. I took it as a sign to leave him alone, so I didn’t call or visit him for a month, and frankly, never intended to invite him anywhere again. He showed up at my house last week for a surprise visit and said he “missed me.” I was in shock because I seriously thought he wanted me to go-away. I’m still not sure what to think about it.

  10. Carol says:

    I guess all those words I wrote were to simply say “Don’t do what you don’t want to do.” Be sure you are willing to commit to this person and give her your honest feelings of how she is affecting you personally. It isn’t up to her, but up to you to either want to keep her as a friend of not.

    Carol

  11. Carol says:

    Over my 76.5 years on the planet I have had many, many friends. They were all different kinds of friends, school friends and it seemed in was in high school when I began wanting to have different kinds of friends. Because I was mostly on my own in my family and having 6 brothers, was one of those independent girls, not drawn to dolls, etc. However, because I was more interested in sports, I learned the rules of fair play, being on a team and left my high school friends behind. I didn’t know much about saying goodbye and usually just moved on. I think this is what I have as I have gone on to choose the kind of life I wanted, the places I wanted to live (or at least experience and therefore have made new friends through my jobs. Sometimes I don’t know how or when I wanted to be less involved in groups of friends and have beoome more of a loner. I do, for the first time I think, have a “best friend.” She is also the person who will take care of things when I die. I have no living family members now. Today I know when I need to tell someone that a friendship isn’t working for me and usually do it face to face and without alot of drama. Like most things in life, there comes a time when you have to know how to end something. This includes people you have become attached to for a time. I a person has to really know themselves and be true to that self. The biggest change I have made is to understand my co-dependent behaviors and realize the only person I can save is me. My best friend and I are both pretty independent and see each other usually once a week. She has been married for over 52 years and I am single and on my own. I don’t see she and her husband in order to hang out with both of them. She has grown kids and is a grandmother as well. In these ways we are very different, but there is some kind of bond that unexplainable. We don’t try to direct each others lives, we are just thankful for each other in our lives. I do have other friends I see now and then to catch up on each other’s lives. However, my best friend is the one I feel safe to share anything with.

    Learning how to do what is good for ourselves…takes time.

    Best to you in taking care of yourself.

    Carol

  12. GraceW says:

    I think slow fade vs. direct talk (aka, “confrontation”) is a debate that will go on among women long after this blog ends. It comes up again and again here and people are often pretty polarized by it. Many people have had very bad experiences with the direct approach, to the point of fear for physical safety. Unfortunately with a mentally disturbed friend like this, ANY kind of rejection will be noticed. This person is probably not going to take “while I care about you deeply, I cannot provide for you in the way you need” very well either. She does not have the emotional maturity to say “Oh, I understand, I’m glad you were direct with me” and ride off into the sunset a better person for it. Each way has its pros and cons, and both ways will meet with a lot of resistance. If Lynne has reason to believe the direct method might put her family in jeopardy, she’d be unwise to do it just for the sake of “growing up.”

    I predict the friend’s behavior will get worse no matter WHAT Lynne does. Even if Lynne gave her everything she asked for, the friend would just want more. That’s how personality disorders (and a slew of other mental illnesses) seem to work.

    • Lauren says:

      Hi Lynn,
      I agree with Grace about doing the slow fade. I tried the *in-person, direct talk/approach* with one troubled, troublesome *friend* who I was always trying to help, and who seemed to view me as her therapist, ATM, etc etc, and she was rude, unreliable and snarky.

      Why did we remain friends?…Well I had known her for so long, and it just sort of kept going (in a troublesome, worrying and hurtful way)
      Just about all of her other friends had long since faded out, gone, moved on.

      Well, I had read a magazine article that said having *the talk* was the correct way to end a friendship. So, I bravely met her in a cafe to tell her gently, kindly but firmly that the friendship was over and why it was over (thus trying to give her the elusive “closure”).

      Well, my kind, gentle talk went over like a lead balloon. (The magazine article didn’t mention THIS possibility). We had met in a cafe and she started yelling at me, insulting me, and when it looked like she picked up her hot coffee to throw it at me, I beat a hasty retreat to my car parked nearby. I never heard form her again, but I will NEVER attempt that with a bad friend to end the friendship. Never again.

      Yes, in an ideal world or in a magazine article, everything like that works out so smoothly and everyone parts ways with a kind word and a gentle shake of the hands or a hug. But in the real world, not so much.

      In future, I’d always do the slow fade from a troubled, troublesome *friendship*. There are ppl who need therapy, but do not get it, and we have to remember that we are not their therapists.

      I had always called her out on her mean comments and disturbing behavior RIGHT at the time that it occurred, but things did not change, and in fact they only got worse. She KNEW what she was doing, and if she truly didn’t, they she was WAY too disturbed for me. Life is messy, and we are not other ppl’s therapists. It’s tough, but that’s life.

      • Maddie says:

        Wow!

      • Sabrinna says:

        I had a very similar experience. I did it by fb private message though, because the last time I’d seen her she’d slammed doors amd screamed at me in my new apartment because I’d asked her if she could help me lift the couch. Apparently this was inhospitable and I should have offered her coffee. Never mind the boxed up kitchen stuff and thus lack of anything to make coffee with. It was quite embarrassing and gave the neighbors a really bad first impression.

        So, anyway, I wrote a nice email; non-blaming, “it seems we’ve grown apart and no longer enhance one anothers lives” kind of thing. Her response was to write a public post amounting to hate speech and to go on a slander mission with everyone she could.

        I agree. Do the slow fade. It’s safer.

        • Lauren says:

          Thanks for sharing this, Sabrinna. Yes, the slow fade is better, and safer.

        • Kiki says:

          Your nice email came back in the form of written poison. Lol. This is the reason I just quietly ended my friendship of ten years without a word. A couple months of no contact, then very quietly unfriending her worked, but I have to say I think she knew it was coming. Talking with her in person about adjusting or ending a friendship would have been disastrous. Instead of allowing her to destroy the memory of our friendship with some drama, I wisely chose to put the slow fade in fast mode.

  13. anon says:

    Just wanted to say…this ‘slow fade’ thing is not a good idea at all. Be the adult in the situation. You are allowed to assert your own needs. You can tell her straight up that you need space. You sound compassionate and you obviously know her well, so assume you realise her behaviour is characteristic of someone who has been abused or severely neglected in childhood. It’s not her fault and I think you realise that. You’ve been incredibly nice but you do need to look after yourself too. Do the right thing by her and let her know directly that while you care very deeply about her welfare you are unable to provide for her in the way she needs. Suggest she find professional help again and say your goodbyes.

    But the slow fade thing? Come on guys, grow up. Apart from anything that is exactly the kind of behaviour that will make her much, much worse. Give her clarity, that’s what she needs.

    • Maddie says:

      Disagree. Unstable people are too volatile for the direct break up talk.

      • Sandra says:

        I think it depends on the individual friend involved — especially her state of mental health, etc. I had to end a friendship with a neighbor who had borderline personality disorder and was manic depressive. I spoke with my pastor — who had been working with my friend and her therapist — in order to find out how to best end this friendship. She was threatening my family — and her phone calls were frightening my child at the time. I was told to tell this friend that it was best if we discontinued the friendship for a while, and she continued to stalk my family. I honestly don’t know if a slow fade would have been better — but being “upfront and honest” and trying to give “clarity” didn’t help this friend and endangered me and my family.

        • Maddie says:

          I agree. I think it was very rude for the above poster to tell a person they were not “grown up.”

          In this case direct may not be best. In your case it was.

          I sent a borderline a letter from an attorney to leave our family alone. She was a neighbor, never my friend, but she was a nut and simply harassed people into her version of friendship.

          • Lauren says:

            That was good that you sent the “cease and desist” letter to your troublesome neighbour. A bad neighbour can be a nightmare. Hope that all is fine now. Lauren

      • Lauren says:

        So true, Maddie. Also, I would be Very careful about what Anon said about suggesting the friend get “professional help”. I personally would not do that. That could be quite inflammatory, and could trigger considerable hurt and anger in the other person.

      • Anon1 says:

        Completely agree with Maggie.

  14. Lynne says:

    Hello, everyone. I’m the one who sent this letter. I feel relieved that no one thinks I am cruel for feeling like the friendship has run its course. Guilt is definitely why I have let it continue… I also thought for a long time that she would get better if she had support. But she’s only gotten worse. Everyone is correct in the presumption that we have many mutual friends, which makes the whole thing more complicated. I have moved back home, and I didn’t say anything to her. But she did find out. She called me and asked when she could come by. My new job is insane; I literally get out around 8:00 pm every night. So I just told her that I want to spend every minute of my free time with my family. As usual, she keeps trying to make me feel guilty by saying that she misses me and that I don’t seem to miss her as much…. It always feels like she thinks of me as her significant other, honestly. Anyway, I’m trying the slow fade. I know I am partly to blame for the extent of this, and I don’t think it would go down well if I’m abrupt. Like I said in the letter, she has shown up knocking on my door uninvited on multiple occasions. I wish her well and will miss what our friendship once was, but I am ready to say “no more”. Thank you, Irene, for giving me peace about this.

    • Maddie says:

      Lynne, throw away the guilt. I still hear it in your voice. This friendship has turned toxic. You owe nothing more to her now than being civil. She is a manipulator and is guilting you and knows what she’s doing.

      Don’t buy into it. Perhaps go longer before answering any communication from her…at least 2 to 3 days. When she guilt you can try telling her that for the next few weeks you just need time for yourself. Don’t give details. End the conversation, do not say I’ll see you later, and if she’s upset, so be it. Best of luck. Boundaries are good things, not rude behavior. Don’t worry so much on being perceived as mean.

      • Laura says:

        I agree completely. It’s beyond toxic.

      • Lauren says:

        I agree with Maddie. You have nothing to feel guilty about. You deserve to have enriching and peaceful relationships. She is disturbed, but she also knows full well what she is doing to you. Be done with her.

      • Anon1 says:

        Agree with Maddie. Been there, done that. Eventually she will find another person to drain.

    • GraceW says:

      When a person has a personality disorder, what you do (or don’t do) is almost irrelevant. A person with a personality disorder is primed to be hurt and angry with you no matter what. She will be hurt and angry with you if you end the friendship. She will also be hurt and angry with you if you don’t end the friendship, because even if you stay in the friendship, every single choice you make in your life she will view as an insult to her personally. She will be hurt and angry if you don’t make her your number one priority in life. She’d also be hurt and angry if you ever did make her your number one priority, because it would put too much pressure on her.

      Realize that even if you gave up your husband, child, job, etc. to focus solely on her, it ultimately would not make her happy. It would not fulfill her needs. You will never be able to meet her needs because her needs are a moving goal post.

      I think slow fade vs. closure talk is important to consider when distancing from a friend who has the emotional capacity for introspection and generally good mental health. When the friend has a personality disorder, you will never, ever meet her needs. Not during the friendship. Not while ending the friendship. Slow fade, talk, psssht… just get out.

  15. s.b. says:

    i went through something very similar,all though we were not childhood friends,we did have a friendship for about 4 years,it was a one sided friendship,i was the friend,we moved out of state for awhile then we moved back after a year,i still talked to her over the phone but i did not tell her we had moved back,to make a very long story short,i let her go,it was for the best for me and my family,i truly hope everything works out for you,sincerely s.b.

  16. Brenda Lee says:

    I’ve had a friend like that and it feels super stressing. It also gets very worse than how it is now. Your friend isn’t a friend anymore, she’s being obsessive. She’ll want to take everything from you and could do things to make you miserable if it gets worse. Your family needs to separate from her. Agree to never see her again, cut off the contact with her. Be happy and live your life. No need to be stressing over someone who only wants to use you for their own personal needs, instead of being your friend. If you’re scared she’ll do something to herself, just distance yourself slowly. She’ll find someone else to cling on. Set yourself free, don’t have meet ups anymore, say you’re busy because you are. You have a lot to do. Your family is more important. Love is important. Get it off your shoulders, you’re a good person, don’t feel guilty for letting her go and she might cry or rage on purpose to make you feel bad. You haven’t done anything wrong. Just don’t talk to her, if you see her on the street and she talks, you smile and keep going on with what you’re doing, making the distance between the both of you go away slowly. Hold hands with your husband in public, show you both are strongly in love with each other. Because she will try to make a move if she gets the chance, and that’s dangerous. Be strong and calm. She’s jealous of you because you are happy. Stay happy. 🙂 Have a nice day!

  17. Someone says:

    Wow, you are absolutely justified in wanting to cut off this friendship, and justified in feeling apprehensive in doing so. It sounds like you walk on eggshells around this friend. It also sounds like she had some serious issues with boundaries. I’m sorry to hear she had mental health issues, but no matter how close you’ve been in the past, you are not responsible for her well being or happiness.

    Another thing that stuck out to me is that your friendship is at a toxic stage where she views you as someone who provides her with things that she wants. She does not see you as a person with feelings, needs, and boundaries of your own. Hence the anger when she doesn’t get what she wants from you. She cannot see you clearly because she is projecting all her expectations, loneliness, unfulfilled needs and issues on you. You are not Lynne anymore, but rather an object whose only job is to give this friend what she wants. How is that fair to you?

    Please, for your own peace of mind, distance yourself before this gets worse. I have been in your shoes and it sucks, you have history and you care for her, but never forget the distorted way she views you if you start to feel guilty. This is not a friend, she cannot be because she doesn’t know how to be right now. Best of luck to you!

  18. tanja says:

    I have had these experiences as well. This is hard. When I was single and my friend was married and had a small child (early 20’s, we had known each other since kindergarten). Anyway, I was a university student and she did not take higher education other than high school. Well, she called me all the time, so between studying, working, I was with her and her husband. I babysat, went out with her for drinks etc. Well, in that course of time, she divorced and now her son is 15 and lives with his father. She is living with a boyfriend, but it is a rather abusive relationship and I am married and have two small kids. I do not have so much time for her anymore. But, she only calls when she has a problem but never asks how my kids are. I would love her to take the time to come my way and see me but she does not, she wants me to go her way. So, I broke off the friendship. I did not say a word to her. I just stopped calling her and if she calls, I do not answer and I may email or text and say I am busy right now, talk later. But, I was often afraid of her explosive personality. I also had a friend that I met after my children were born and every year, I have a high school reunion with two of my friends and their families, we all live far apart now, but we do a week end getaway and meet somewhere in the middle every summer. Well one summer, they all agreed to come to my house and drive my way. Well I posted pictures on facebook and that friend of only 2 yrs said that she felt she should have been invited and she really was upset. So, these situations are tricky.

    At the same time, I read your post and wish I had a friend like her, who would be like family for me, watch my kids when I needed (I don’t have family close by, so I do stay home, have tried to work, but couldn’t get babysitting and paid more money working than staying home, so i looked after other people’s kids for a while). So, I would love a break from my kids as well, so I am a bit envious that I don’t have a friend like that now when I need one.

    My advice to you is to get busy but don’t cut it off. Set boundaries and let her know you love her, but you will make time once a month or so to be with her. But, if you are afraid of her out bursts, I say just phase her out and slowly step into the background…

  19. Laura says:

    Being that this person is volatile, I wouldn’t make any formal proclamations. It will be much easier since she’s out of town. I would stop informing her of visits and create distance. If you have social media ties, like Facebook, for example, you can set her view to “restricted” so she doesn’t see your updates and pictures visiting. This way you don’t have to unfriend her. If she stalks you (like looks for your car at your parents) or asks local friends and relatives about your visits, then it’s her problem. If she shows up and rings the door bell, which would be completely over the top, have someone answer and tell her you’re unavailable.

    On the fip side, in fairness to her, you enabled her behavior for a long time, so you should do a slow fade. Or perhaps, if it works for you, just occasional contact via email,like every 6 months. Good luck!

    • Maddie says:

      Agree completely. I think telling her you need a long break will cause her to flip out. Be less and less available. Be much shorter in conversation and less helpful with advise. You are not her keeper so don’t obsess about her well being. If she shows up on a doorstep, step outside for a few minutes and do not let her in.

      Establish boundaries. “This is not a good time. This is a family visit. I’m sorry I cannot deal with you right now.”

      The slow fade until it’s the complete fade. Wait three days before responding to any call, email, text. Then larger. Be short and formal.

      Friendships are optional.

      Good luck.

      • Maddie says:

        Expect she may act out, ignore it, don’t sympathize with it, and delete messages unread if necessary.

        Don’t let her in on any of your plans, even if you have to disable facebook for a time.

        • Lauren says:

          I agree with Maddie. It is very important NOT to give her advance notice of your plans, any of your plans. Don’t keep those lines of communication wide open. This is what she wants and needs to continue her manipulation and control of you.You must start taking giant steps away from her, now.

  20. Amy F says:

    I like the “time off” approach. Next time you’re coming into town, email, ahead of time that you won’t have time to visit, not even for five minutes. You have a not going on in your life and need to take a break from the relationship. Then add, ‘please respect my boundaries’, so that she knows you mean it. Since she’s needy and clingy, she might ask you for reassurance that she’s important. Tell her that this is about you, not her. If she pushes, “If we’re going to remain friends, you need to back off.” Since she’s from your hometown, knows your parents and you’ve got mutual friends, you probably want to relegate her to “friends” you see at class reunions at gatherings with mutual friends, rather that former friend. She sounds like the type who would make things uncomfortable if you become former friends.

  21. Amy Jones says:

    Lynn – that all sounds so uncomfortable for you. I would feel very conflicted. And I feel for the other woman as well. But from my viewpoint she has issues that are internal and appear to be getting worse with time. Therefore if it were me I’d assume that no good will come of this for either one of you. But of course it’s easy for me to say that from the outside. Best, Amy

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