I don’t know what kind of advice you give, but I’ll give you a shot! I have a ‘friend’ that I’ve known for over 20 years. Throughout the years I’ve made it very easy for her to walk all over me. When we were young, I wanted nothing more than the life she led, so we did whatever she wanted. Now, her life is in shambles, she’s a mediocre mother at best, a volitile wife, and very self centered. I’ve helped her through the mourning of her brother and mother, just a few years apart, I’ve picked her delinquent child up from school when they ‘just couldn’t handle him any more’ and been her marriage therapist. All of her other friends stopped associating with her a couple of years ago because they refused to deal with her drama. I would never turn my back on what are genuinely times of need for her, but I don’t go out of my way to call her, or go out with her when she calls and wants to go hang out. When we do talk, it’s all about her, her life, her problems, her, her, her. I’ve
been her best friend, and she’s been my worst friend, how do I let her know this without a massive amount of drama? I’ve tried in the past to tell her that she couldn’t use me as a door mat and that she had very little if any respect for me, and she just laughed it off. Our families are extensively connected, and I could never just write her off completely. I miss sharing my life with her, but she only seems interested in imposing her life on me, how do I make her a better friend, or at least get her to shut up long enough to share some of my joys and troubles with her, without her taking a phone call, text message or just flat out running me over while I’m trying to share? I will add, that of all the friendships I have, this is the only one that is all give, and no take.
Spineless in Seattle.
Oh Spineless! What a nice long letter. Believe that the reply is going to be crazy long and involved, out of respect. We’re talking Kierkegaard long and involved (I just patted myself on the back for a good five minutes for spelling that right the first try).
Let’s tackle that first question really quick. What kind of advice do I give? I give the right advice. In fact, I’m right about everything, all the time. You know how some people measure the passing of time with days, weeks, months and years? I measure mine in “I Told You So Moments.” I live for these.
Seriously though, I like to think that any stranger can give better advice than your friends and family if only because of their distance and objectivity to the issue at hand. Since I don’t know you at all, I’ll be making plenty of generalizations and possibly even some misogynistic comments (these are mostly for humorous effect). You should then take whatever positive information you can glean from my sarcastic ramblings and apply them to your situation. Shall we begin?
You’ve got a frienemy.
A frienemy is the type of person who’s become so involved your life that you cannot extricate them from it no matter how hard you try, no matter how much damage he/she is doing to you and you can’t help but constantly be there for them. Bravo to you for having the socially ingrained politeness that leaves you paralyzed from action.
Normally I’d take this time to say a little spiel about the difference between male and female best friends. How men bond for life and have these great relationships forged in steel and iron and shit like that and how girls habitually stab each other in the back just for the hell of it. Unfortunately, it’s just not applicable here. Frienemies are both male and female.
So we know what she is. She’s a self centered, self righteous, needy, greedy, whiny drama queen who’s become your responsibility. All of your mutual friends have jumped ship and headed to the sandy shores of emotional maturity. You’re her last hope, her only connection to the sane world that she’s long since departed to live in her psycho-centric galaxy where everything revolves around the strenuous gravitational pull of her massive amount of crazy.
Short answer? Leave this walking baggage claim disaster and move on with your life and be happy. Never look back. Take the path of least resistance and just stop all contact, ignore her calls and slowly drift out of her field of view until she’s all alone more bitter than a Pirate’s fan in September.
But you can’t do that, can you?
At this point you get to make the obvious choice between continuing with the status quo of being doormat number one in front of the outhouse of her life… or taking a stand and saying “No. I will no longer dry the urine stained feet of your problems and issues.”
The choice is clear because urine smells. Especially if you like Vitamin Asparagus Protein shakes like I do.
Let’s make a stand together. First, before we make the figurative emotional stand to her, let’s do an actual stand. Slide the chair back away from the computer, so you don’t hit your knees, that could affect your ability to make stands of any kind for a while. Tense your leg muscles and pull yourself vertical. Feels good, doesn’t it?
Now that you’re standing, go get a drink.
Get me one too. Vodka, rocks. Thanks.
Have any cigarettes? I left mine at the office.
Thanks again, you’re a doll.
You can be seated for the rest of this, I don’t usually require calisthenics from my advice seekers.
Now let’s talk about this confrontation. How do you do it in such a way that she doesn’t go all Lord of Flies on you? This is the hardest question because I’m not so sure that it’s possible. Everything you’ve said in your description of her leads me to believe she’s a grade A psycho who flips off the handle like it’s a diving board and she’s an ornery Greg Louganis.
There will be drama. You cannot tell a self centered person to move the center to a spot equidistant between the two of you and expect for there not to be. What you need to do is take all the emotional distress, draining talks, long phone calls, trampled emotions and wasted days of just giving giving and giving until you have nothing left in one hand… and in the other put the possible drama that could ensue from you telling her that she’s been a selfish, horrible friend for over twenty years.
Betcha one hand seems lighter, doesn’t it?
Now, you want her to be a better friend? That’s easy. Tell her you want her to be a better friend. Tell her how much you value her presence in your life and how you used to look up to her. Tell her the truth, it’s just that simple. Tell her you want to continue being there for her whenever she needs you, just not like this. Not any more. You are not an outhouse doormat (do they even make those?).
She’ll either get loud, angry and upset and then walk off in a huff, or she’ll go completely silent, start laying on the guilt and then start texting an imaginary friend; depending on which type of crazy she is. Either way you should get out of there as soon as possible. Let her know again that you want to still be friends, but that she’s got to start pulling her weight. Then leave her alone to think about it.
That’s the key to this situation, your absence. Put the ball in her court. You make the first move and then let her decide. The most difficult thing for a self centered person to do is something that is expressly the request of someone else. If she takes the initiative to come to you, then she’s coming with intent to change, on behalf of your friendship.
If not, then you’re better off and you can safely say you did all you could.
If the friendship ends there, at least you can look at the situation and say you were honest with yourself and her, which is more than most people can say or do. Get this one right. Life’s too short and complicated to spend it figuring it out for someone who doesn’t appreciate all that brain power.