Reader Q & A: Trying to find the courage to end it

Published: October 2, 2008 | Last Updated: October 2, 2008 By | Reply Continue Reading


Dear Irene,

I am in the middle of a bad friendship and am so grateful to have found this site. Thanks everyone! I am trying to find the courage to "cut down" on the friendship but I am a person who generally will hold things in and then explode. I did this to a friend in high school and still regret it and I never want to shout horrible things at a person again. This is one of the reasons that I have been putting off cutting down or ending this current friendship. But I have been practicing being assertive instead of aggressive and I hope this will help me in this situation.


My friend and I would see each other about twice a year and that was good. We would have fun and then I could get on with my life and spend time with the friends that I had more in common with. But, idiot me, I needed a job and she was able to offer me one. I then felt obligated to go out with her more.


She was recently separated and didn’t have that many people to hang out with. I had nothing else really going on so I went. Since she only — and I really mean only — talks about herself (I just realized that I can’t recall her ever asking anyone "How are you?") I got tired of going out all the time pretty fast. I am a super fantastic listener and do not even need to talk about myself a whole lot to be happy. This post is the most I’ve "talked" about this situation to anyone. But when you tell someone something and they say "uh-huh, so anyway…" it makes you feel like a doormat.


I have some very nice friends that I would love to spend more time with but I am so exhausted by this friend. I will actually daydream about the "real" conversations that I have with my other friends while this friend is telling me the same story for the tenth time. You remember those "real" conversations where one person says something while the other one listens and then the other person says something while the other person listens – Ah! the good old days!


So why, after a year, am I still a slave to the phone calls and "dropping-ins"? Well, first, I just had to hang out with her when her boyfriend was out of town (She has boundless energy and is easily bored, while I need ten hours [sleep] a night!). I would say to myself, "Okay, he’ll be back and it’s just one night and she’s been going through hell with her ex-husband and needs a friend." But it wouldn’t be one night because he would be gone for work for weeks at a time and so I was apparently supposed to be his stand in. At this point it was annoying but tolerable. Looking back (hindsight!!!) I should not have gone out with someone to have a tolerable time.


Now I feel like I missed the chance to get out of this because she is in a worse state than she was before. I kept thinking that she needed me because her ex-husband was making things difficult with child custody and after she got out of this rough patch I could slowly make myself less available. Well, now her boyfriend suddenly dumps her and she is semi-suicidal. I told her that she should consider seeing a therapist and gave her the suicide prevention hotline number. She is still saying things about suicide. Now how am I supposed to tell a suicidal person that they are annoying the crap out of me? Any advice would be greatly appreciated if anyone takes the time to read my ramblings.


Good luck everyone!


Trying to find the courage



Dear "Trying to Find the Courage:"


It sounds like you have gained quite a bit of insight into yourself and your relationships over time. That’s good—but now you need to act on that self-knowledge. For some reason, it seems like you have been unable to extricate yourself from a relationship that has felt very draining. Admittedly, the timing now makes your situation more challenging.


As I understand from your note, you may also work with your friend or work for her. This makes it extraordinarily difficult to disengage or cut it off without worrying about its effect on your employment, so perhaps that is another reason holding you back from doing what you know you should do.


It’s nice to be helpful and supportive to friends but relationships can’t be consistently one-sided; they need to be reciprocal. I’m sorry that your friend is depressed and talks about suicide (as you are). Her threats need to be taken seriously. However, you aren’t the person who can help her. It was wise (and appropriate) that you suggested she seek professional help. Do you know any other family members who should be informed and might be able to step up and help her? I think you also need to tell your friend that as much as you care about her and would like to help her, her issues are too complicated for you to handle.


Try to back off gradually and spend more time with other friends. Spending large amounts of time with someone who is very depressed can be depressing. I think you need a little respite from this difficult situation, which will help provide you with more perspective.


Let us know how things go.





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