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Leaving a friendship

accidentaltherapistaccidentaltherapist Registered User regular
edited July 2014 in Help / Advice Forum
Ok, first off I have to say this is an alt, names are changed, and I'm going to try and keep things somewhat vague as I don't know if this friend is on the forums/has other people on these forums, and I don't want to air out someone else's private business. That said, I will try and be clear about the situation as well. This is a winding road to get to my current issues, so thanks in advance for anyone who sticks it out--because I need some help!


Too long, didn't read: My friend is maybe not a good friend. How can I come to terms with leaving behind a person who thinks they need me, when I need the exact opposite?



Some background first. I have been friends with Mary for ages and ages--we grew up together. She's always had difficulties in life. Her parents, relationships, focusing in school, ect. She is bipolar (and depressed/ADHD depending on the doctor), and is better on medication, which she does not always take. I have always supported her, with the very rare fight, and the problem is that it is not actually good for either of us. Once we didn't live near each other anymore, we would still talk every day, sometimes a few times. Advice about ANYTHING was my specialty. It was probably about 3-4 years ago that this began to feel pretty overwhelming for me, and I began to find her more draining than usual. She has always been a stressful friend to have, I won't lie, but she was also like a sister to me. I'm not perfect either, and I kind of just felt like supporting a friend through hard times is what you did. Her hard times never end, though, sometimes very directly or of her own making (and she admits this). One issue she has is committing to things, and sometimes I felt like I was the only thing she could actually stay committed to, which is extraordinary amount of pressure. (We are both married ladies, by the way, and not to each other)

Basically, I was her therapist. This is something that was brought up to me by other concerned-for-me people, and even her very emotionally obtuse husband brought up independently. 'Don't you feel like your friendship is really one-sided?' I don't know how to convey how big a deal it is that her husband both noticed and took the initiative to bring that up, but it's a Big Deal. Basically, everyone knew it was a very one-sided, and frequently unhealthily dependent relationship.

I had tried a few times, some more serious than others, to basically say 'I can't talk about this right now', or 'I'm uncomfortable talking about that'. Without going into detail about the issues, she would speak to me about some things that should really only be talked about with a therapist. I have always believed that good friends should be able to tell each other anything, and I don't know how to say how upsetting I find it that I'm not sure I believe that anymore.

Regardless, the worst part of that all to me was the fact that it didn't ever seem to stick/matter if I didn't want to talk about something. I felt railroaded, and unimportant. And honestly, I took it for a really long time without too many complaints (I should have spoken up for myself more) because she ALWAYS had it worse than I did. We had a lot of the same conversations over and over again over a span of years, which I asked more than once to stop. I told her I felt mean shooting her down all the time, and basically that I didn't like the way I'd been feeling about things. I don't even know when it started, but I was very tense every time I heard the phone ring. I had no other social energy. Other friendships suffered. I'm not a social butterfly by any means, but I straight up entered hermit-state, and while I of course can't attribute it all to one souring friendship, I do feel it was a large factor.

I feel that way for a large part because we haven't been talking lately, and I've been doing so much better. The reason we have not been talking is probably the biggest fight we've ever had. I think so, anyway, but I don't really know if she understands how hurt I was and how deep this issue runs for me. I'd been getting more and more aggravated with her, as nothing in our friendship changed, I wasn't having any fun talking to her, and it's absolutely impossible to dodge calls from someone who is used to you being available all day every day and knows your schedule. I should have been more direct, but I do want to remind everyone that I had tried talking about these issues many times in the past, spanning years at this point. To this day, I literally don't think she ever even understood I'd been having issues, or that I meant it when I brought these things up. That I was serious. Eventually we both agreed that I needed some space. (Thank god, said my brain)


Current issues begin here, for those that want to skip:



The having some space thing was convenient, since I was going on a trip in a couple of weeks. We went on our trip, and I had I think 3 whole weeks of not talking with Mary, Mary's new hobby, Mary's new issues, Mary's new job (which she will not manage to keep) Mary anything. I loooooooved it. I felt guilty how relieved and happy I was. I felt weightless, in that way that you didn't realize how much something was weighing you down til it was gone. I'm not trying to be dramatic, but that is how I feel.

We came back home, the calls started again, and this is where things start to really deteriorate. I wish I could say I had the balls to just break things off, because in my heart of hearts that is what I wanted. Instead I dodged calls, I wanted more time, I wanted some space to see if basically any friendship could be rekindled. I said some of that to her, but I don't think I was so bleak about it, because I didn't want to hurt her feelings. Mary's feelings had almost always been more important than mine, and that behavior is still with me.

It basically amounted to 'I still need some space'. She still called me every day, I just wasn't picking up. She sent me cute stuff on hangouts, and I felt harassed, but also I thought she was just trying to... you know, send me cute things, do the 'I'm ready when you want to talk' thing. I thought she was being way too pushy considering the situation, but I also didn't want to make a big deal about it. After another couple weeks, she made a facebook post (I don't have facebook) about me cutting off all contact with no warning, and basically how hurt she was and how awful I was being. There was a nod in the beginning of the post that I had always been there for her, and that maybe she hadn't been there for me, but then the rest of it was basically how middle school I was being. It's like none of our previous conversations, either short or long, a year ago, two years ago, or a month ago, had even made it into her head. Reaffirming to me that my wants didn't really factor in.

We have so many mutual friends, and I have always tried to keep my issues with Mary largely to myself, and not share her personal details with anyone. I had to find out about it from one of our friends since I don't have facebook, and I had a few people basically be like 'I can't believe it', to me. My sister was pretty vocal about how shitty it was, which felt nice. Actually no one was horrible about it, which is a relief. Most people who didn't know me were asking if I could be depressed, and only one person talked about how I sounded like a bitch, which is... nice.

I don't really understand how Mary could think she was just the only victim in all of this, and that it was my fault. Should I have talked to her more about my feelings? Treated her more like an adult? Probably, I'm not blameless, and I'm not a saint or anything. But I was just so angry that I can support someone for something like 15 years, and then if I need anything out of our friendship, I get a MONTH. I felt belittled, and so furious, and I finally called her for the first time in ages.

I wish I had just cut things off, once again, but I didn't want to end an important relationship in my life over a facebook post (talk about middle school), so we had a talk (oh the weeping. 'IT'S BEEN THREE WEEKS!') about how if our friendship was going to survive I needed to not be her therapist, and all that good stuff. She said she had been doing well, and we agreed she needed to not rely on me so much.

She still messaged me all the time, but she also wasn't so hurt when I was not interested in responding. Eventually I think she got the hint that things needed to slow down and not be an everyday thing, because things petered off. I got happy again, which still made me feel bad.



This is when things in her life started to go really sour, which is probably the worst timing ever for losing a support system. Her marriage had some big issues/divorce was discussed, and her behavior in response... was not good. I still feel bad admitting this, but I lost whatever respect I had for her. I talked to her once or twice, and I tried to just give the advice that I would to a stranger. 'Be a person you would want to be friends with' and things. 'Be able to respect yourself.' 'Don't do anything you would be ashamed of'. My husband knows a little bit of it, and was similarly not impressed. I just want to be clear that my issues with that whole situation were about her behavior, not springing off of my OWN issues with her.

Then she did something bad at her job, and has now lost it. This is the only job she's liked/managed to keep for longer than a week or two since maybe college? (We're 28) There was a death in her (not immediate, but still) family. I sent her my condolences, but I know she wants to talk to me. It just keeps piling on her right now. I DO know she wants to talk to me, and to my shame, I mostly just am afraid if I do I'm going to open a door to being her eternal support system again. I don't want to say she was never there for me, or a bad friend all the time, because that is not true. I really don't want to misrepresent things as if she is the devil. She's just a person who is very oblivious, a little meaner than she thinks she is, and maybe a little prone to Solipsism.

My husband has asked me what my advice would be to anyone else in my shoes, and I think I would tell them to look out for themselves, and to cut out an unhealthy relationship. But I still feel so twisted up and guilty about leaving her to deal with all this new stuff on her own. But equally, maybe more so, I'm just afraid for myself if I open up communication again. I've been making new friends, and participating in my hobby more, I'm less stressed in general, all sorts of things. What this amounts to is that my life is better without her, but I'm having a lot of trouble accepting it.

accidentaltherapist on

Posts

  • knitdanknitdan Registered User regular
    After reading through all that,

    You know what you need to do and it seems like you've done it.

    You spent 15 years catering to this woman's needs, but finally realized it was an unhealthy relationship.

    It is natural to feel some guilt over this decision, because you're so used to putting her needs first.

    Don't let temporary guilt or nostalgia for the good parts force you back into a toxic friendship.

    “I was quick when I came in here, I’m twice as quick now”
    -Indiana Solo, runner of blades
    NocrenNightDragonceresaccidentaltherapistNobodyHollerBobbleCambiataEncThe Hanged ManDisruptedCapitalistRaziyaspaboollyAngelHedgieRainfallcabsy
  • accidentaltherapistaccidentaltherapist Registered User regular
    knitdan wrote: »
    After reading through all that,

    You know what you need to do and it seems like you've done it.

    You spent 15 years catering to this woman's needs, but finally realized it was an unhealthy relationship.

    It is natural to feel some guilt over this decision, because you're so used to putting her needs first.

    Don't let temporary guilt or nostalgia for the good parts force you back into a toxic friendship.

    I honestly feel super silly posting this giant novel, because I think you are right: I do know what I need to do, have done it, and I do know I need to stick to it.

    As I mentioned, I'm trying to keep this out of our mutual friendships and things (which is a lot of them), so I think I just desperately needed someone who isn't my husband to tell me that it's ok to feel this way, that it's going to be ok--and that I'm not a terrible person. I keep going through waves of huge anxiety and giant relief, and I already feel better for having vented.

    Thanks so much for making it through all that :smile:

  • NightDragonNightDragon 6th Grade Username Registered User regular
    Definitely don't feel guilty for this. She might struggle initially for a while because she's used to using you as her go-to therapist, but maybe this will be the thing that helps her realize that she should look into finding a real, full-time professional instead.

    I've had few people in my life that I had to cut out over the last 8 years or so, and it can be incredibly hard to do that, at first. Know though, that you tried to work it out with her for a very, very long time...and after a point, if it hasn't improved, you just have to say "no more", for your own mental and emotional health. That is perfectly understandable and an okay thing to do.

    accidentaltherapistceresEnc
  • accidentaltherapistaccidentaltherapist Registered User regular
    edited July 2014
    Definitely don't feel guilty for this. She might struggle initially for a while because she's used to using you as her go-to therapist, but maybe this will be the thing that helps her realize that she should look into finding a real, full-time professional instead.

    This is awful, but she HAS ONE. Hell, I would love to talk to her therapist actually.

    I do still feel like I'm talking behind her back, but... do you know anyone that just needs constant support? Feels both deserving of it, and also victimized?

    I appreciate you saying it's worth it to stick out with my decision. Also, I did try to fix things for a really long time. A lot longer than I should have probably :\

    I'm being repetitive, but thank you so much for reading :)

    accidentaltherapist on
  • ButtcleftButtcleft Registered User regular
    edited July 2014
    I'm sorry to be blunt about this, I truly do not mean to harm you as you've been through enough but..

    She is not your friend, She has no desire to be your friend. You are a tool to her, nothing more. If you were anything but a bitching post she'd have put some effort into doing anything but grooming you to listen to her and her problems all day every day for over a decade.

    You know you are happier without her in your life, because deep down you know its not a friendship, as you said on your three week trip you felt ecstatic without her constantly harassing you to listen to her. You are not responsible for her problems, Whatever may happen or whatever choices she decides to do because of the problems in her life are not your responsibility, and they are not your fault.

    You need to completely and cleanly cut this person out of your life. No more comments, no more messages, nothing. ziltch nada. Just excise her like you would a tumor, because that is what she is on your life, a tumor. a horrible drain that makes you feel worse with every passing day because this is not a friendship. this is not a toxic friendship. This is an emotionally abusive person clinging on to you because you indulge her. There will never be a right time to do this because she will always find some new horrible thing to come crawling to you with to guilt you into continuing to indulge her.

    Please, Cut this person out of your life, you are not responsible for her and people like her will always find new tragedies and traumas to guilt you into staying.

    You need to put yourself first for the first time in over a decade, and realize your happiness is more important than being the thrall of an emotionally abusive anchor.

    Buttcleft on
    that's it, I'm shutting this entire forum down, everyone thank buttcleft
    Mego ThorceresaccidentaltherapistCambiataEncThe Hanged ManPsykomaRaziyaAngelHedgiecabsy
  • JaysonFourJaysonFour Classy Monster Kitteh Registered User regular
    Buttcleft is right.

    "Mary" sounds a lot like my ex- she treats you like crap, but when you want out, she either belittles you or starts claiming that everything will be better if you simply give her what she wants (or at least save you much grief and stress), and tries to use other people to guilt you into staying around.

    You see this part of your post, here?

    I don't even know when it started, but I was very tense every time I heard the phone ring. I had no other social energy. Other friendships suffered. I'm not a social butterfly by any means, but I straight up entered hermit-state, and while I of course can't attribute it all to one souring friendship, I do feel it was a large factor.

    I was like that for four months before the people around me told me to cut the cause of it loose. I didn't do much of anything except hibernate in my room watching Netflix all day and night. That is not a healthy state of mind to be in. A real friend would understand that these things flow both ways- A is there for B, B is there for A. A does not treat B like their personal emotional prop-stick, and B's feelings are never discounted or judged to be unimportant by A.

    Don't just walk away, run away and jump through a plate-glass window to get away from this "friendship". It's time you focused on your own sanity and feelings, instead of hers.

    steam_sig.png
    accidentaltherapist
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    Buttcleft said what I basically haven't had the time to sit down and write up in a nice way. This all reads to me as extremely abusive. I remember feeling like you describe... in a relationship with someone who was gaslighting me.

    Shit sucks, life is hard, she'll figure it out. Run, do not walk, and don't look back.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
    accidentaltherapistCambiataUsagiJaysonFourcabsy
  • DurkhanusDurkhanus Commander Registered User regular

    My wife had a friend like this back in our 20's. Always using my wife as her emotional dumping grounds regarding her life's problems. Occasionally turning on my wife over some comment or other during their "discussions". It went on for a few years, and it took a toll on her, and in turn, me. It took a long time, but eventually my wife got herself into a place in life where she could bring herself to end the relationship, permanently, and her happiness was greatly improved.

    We both have had to cut various toxic relationships out of our lives over the years, but that one was especially taxing.

    So, I have to echo the other commenters: Do not re-engage. Just stay away. Keep occupied with other things and people you enjoy. Your life had warped in response to this relationship, and it was never going to get any better without ending it.

    Guilty feelings over your life improving without her in it are normal. Take it as a sign that you are a decent person. I've had them, my wife has had them. They eventually went away for us, as the emotional impact faded and the relationships became a part of the past. After some time had past, we would occasionally talk with each other about how fucked up a lot of the things were, and recall specific instances, and analyze and debate the causes, and so on. This helped us to put it behind us. Eventually, the memories stopped being in the forefront of our minds, and we can go for years before recalling them, or making a reference to those times, and when we do, we recollect more facts than feelings from those days. They've just become some old stories now.

    accidentaltherapist
  • accidentaltherapistaccidentaltherapist Registered User regular
    edited July 2014
    I don't want to write another wall of text, so I'm not replying to everyone individually, but I really appreciate everyone's thoughts, and I hope you all know that. I showed my husband that I had posted about it, and he was glad, because he feels I've been too private about it all, even with him, in an effort to not make it a big deal. Which is true :\

    My first instinct is to try and defend her, which I won't do. I also don't want to misrepresent things, though, and I will say I still feel it is a case of 'don't attribute to maliciousness which could be explained by stupidity'. I kind of wish I stressed the bipolar part more--not that it is an excuse, and she has AMPLE opportunity to get help. And I know people who have it worse manage to maintain relationships and hold down jobs and things like that. I only mention it now to stress that I still don't think she understands that she has done much of anything wrong. Socially she is just... completely off base. Which presents a different kind of problem, as while I've made up my mind on what to do, I know there will come a time in the future where she will want to know what is up and if we can still be friends. I'm not looking forward to it.

    I know her parents, we have a ton of the same friends--it's basically a divorce, or a splitting of siblings in all the other messes that will spring from it. Oh well, I'm still resolute! I spoke about things briefly with my family, and I know even with the little I said they support me. And considering how little I said of the situation and how quickly they were to agree with me says a lot. She was a good friend for a long time--which is what I think let things escalate so far, but we have grown in different directions, and at the same time her behavior has gotten worse and worse. Even in this totally anon post I didn't mention the worst things, honestly.

    I especially appreciate the responses from people who have had to deal with things like this in the past! @Durkhanus‌ , I really like the 'They've just become some old stories now'.

    The most important thing to me now is to make sure my own behavior is best. I want to look back and be able to think well of myself, and that I did what was best for my mental health. And also that I wasn't needlessly cruel just because I was angry. There is a part of me that just wants to yell, and tell everyone some of the totally unacceptable things she's done. Frankly, a big part of me wishes she had done something worse to me, so if someone asks I could just have an easy reason to give. I still feel responsible for all of this, even though I know I'm not. I know it will just take some more time.

    It has been incredibly helpful posting here, though, even though I didn't have a direct question! I had already decided what to do really, and I didn't mean to turn it into an echo chamber of agreement. I kind of don't know what I intended to do posting about it, but people have been really helpful, and I appreciate other people relating similar issues and making it through ok!

    accidentaltherapist on
  • ButtcleftButtcleft Registered User regular
    edited July 2014
    Once again, I am sorry to be blunt, but what I say comes from a place of wanting to help and not harm..

    But she is not, nor ever was, a good friend. She was a user and abuser, Friends don't emotionally abuse people into isolation and anxiety.

    You need to stop seeing her as that, and you need to stop using whatever her affliction is as a means of reducing the harm she has caused on your life because of her actions. Even as you state its not an excuse, you are using it as a means of reducing her culpability, as a means of blaming something other than her for her terrible behavior

    You seem to recognize it, but also seem to feel bad and regretful about it, and those feelings lead to you falling back under her control. Do not let yourself view her as a wounded puppy, She has been an emotionally abusive anchor in your life and you need to get away clean and never, ever look back.

    I say this, again.. not to hurt, but to help. You need to get away, and you need not sugar coat the memories because it will lead to you, sometime down the road, thinking about " Oh it really wasn't all that bad, she was a good friend, maybe I'll give her a call just to see how things are". You need to remove yourself completely from her control, because that is what she's done, is control you. Friends don't do that.

    Please, take care of yourself, never look back, and find your happiness.

    Buttcleft on
    that's it, I'm shutting this entire forum down, everyone thank buttcleft
    UsagiCambiataJaysonFourRainfallcabsy
  • accidentaltherapistaccidentaltherapist Registered User regular
    edited July 2014
    Buttcleft wrote: »
    Once again, I am sorry to be blunt, but what I say comes from a place of wanting to help and not harm..

    But she is not, nor ever was, a good friend. She was a user and abuser, Friends don't emotionally abuse people into isolation and anxiety.

    Oh I agree with that--I mean so far back, when we were like, in highschool. So actually about a decade ago. She was not such a mess at that time (normal teenage issues, controlling parents), and was basically an entirely different person. And it helps me to view them AS two different people. 16 year old Mary was fun and dedicated to school and her friends, and was supportive and happy to help anyone. Genuinely kind, well liked, volunteered a ton, had her shit in order. 28 year old Mary can't hold down a job or keep a relationship healthy, thinks volunteering is beneath her, is nice to strangers faces but mean behind their backs, and is so frustrated with her own life and feelings that she's become... well, kind of horrible in a lot of ways. While simultaneously thinking of herself as that bright and capable 16 year old with limitless potential.

    That's what my mom says whenever she comes up in conversation, even. 'What happened?!'

    If I said she was NEVER a good friend I would be a liar. If I said it made anything she's done since OK that would be a lie too though. At this point I've had more bad than good memories with her, and the good ones are so long ago I don't think of them much. I am dealing with the guilt of 'giving up on a friend' a bit, but I'm also feeling guilty that I don't feel WORSE. I woke up pretty happy this morning!

    I am more reassured than ever that leaving her behind is the right thing to do, and I'm going to tell my husband so as well, and ask him to remind me of this feeling if I ever feel the urge to get in contact again. Which at the moment is impossible for me to contemplate, because I'm mostly really relieved at the thought of never having to talk to her again :neutral_face:

    As for using her bipolar, depressive, ect ect, to excuse her behavior... you're probably right. She straight up doesn't understand a lot of social issues, but that doesn't mean it's ok to steamroll me when I ask for things/changes, either. I still want to give out excuses for her, tell people that she's not that bad.

    I KNOW I'm doing better without her, and I just can't forget it. I'm making sure to keep busy and also to make myself do some social things that I would have previously been to burnt out to do, as well!

    Also, I don't think you are being harmful/too blunt at all! I feel like you are trying to make me stick up for myself, which I know I haven't been doing.

    accidentaltherapist on
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  • KhoshekhKhoshekh Registered User regular
    Friendships like that can be very draining, particularly if you've become something of an emotional crutch to someone.

    It's very easy to feel as if you're responsible for that person and it can be hard not to feel guilty for trying to distance yourself from that kind of friendship. What you need to remember is that if you are distancing yourself from them, they have to rely on themselves more. That's definitely a good thing - if she has to sort her own issues out, she's going to develop an independence and resilience she wouldn't otherwise have. By distancing yourself from her and leaving the friendship, if anything you're doing both yourself and her a favour.

    "Baby," I said. "I'm a genius but nobody knows it but me."
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  • cabsycabsy the fattest rainbow unicorn Registered User regular
    Buttcleft wrote: »
    Once again, I am sorry to be blunt, but what I say comes from a place of wanting to help and not harm..

    But she is not, nor ever was, a good friend. She was a user and abuser, Friends don't emotionally abuse people into isolation and anxiety.

    As for using her bipolar, depressive, ect ect, to excuse her behavior... you're probably right. She straight up doesn't understand a lot of social issues, but that doesn't mean it's ok to steamroll me when I ask for things/changes, either. I still want to give out excuses for her, tell people that she's not that bad.

    But I mean the thing is, as someone who has ADD and anxiety and maybe an autism spectrum disorder, just because I don't understand some social issues doesn't mean I don't understand that a friendship is two sided. Even when I have shitty days and I'm venting to my best friend, I know to also ask how they're doing because they have shit going on in their life too. Or if I'm having a good day and they need to vent I know I can put my mild shit on the back burner and just let them get out what they need to. And it doesn't sound like your friendship has had any of that for a really, really long time. It's not even an abusive thing - I know it can be so, so hard to admit to yourself or others that someone is behaving in an abusive way toward you - I mean that's just fundamentally shitty friendship and unless she was raised by feral dogs she KNOWS better, brain problems or no.

    Nocren
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