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As a friend I am emotionally unavailable, and I can't cope with conflict.

(30 Posts)
Shhthebabyisasleep Wed 26-Mar-14 07:54:23

I am finding one of my friends really hardgoing at the moment, but I suspect I am at fault, not her.

I am writing this in the hope of getting some advice about what to do next, or how to act differently.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine said she feels I prioritised a mutual friend (B) above everyone else. She said that B says "jump" and I ask "how high?". She says I drop everyone else to do what B wants and it leaves everyone else wondering why they bother.

Although it is not nice to be criticised, I am taking the time to wonder if this friend is right.

I ran into my friend this morning. She said "is everything okay between us? I feel like you're avoiding me, not answering my texts, cancelling plans"

What I thought: yes I am avoiding you. You are being needy and suffocating. I have got a lot on my plate at the moment and I don't have the energy to field your accusations. Most of what you are accusing me of is untrue. You believe I have a secret friendship with B and C that excludes you when the truth is I have never once got together with B and C for coffee or anything. I find B and C bossy, though nice women, and I feel like I'm tumbling between the 3 of you getting everything wrong. I want you all to leave me alone. I want to disappear into my house and cuddle my baby and not be having this conversation.

What I said: no of course I'm not avoiding you. Sorry I've made you feel that way. I have a lot on my plate at the moment and I've been a bit preoccupied. It's my fault. I'll see you at The Thing this evening.

Of course, I don't want to go to The Thing. I had been planning to cry off last minute. It's all unfinished with my friend and I ought to get in touch with her and be some sort of honest with her. I don't know what to do or say.

My friends are important to me and I am sorry I am being a bad friend and causing someone to feel bad. I am not sure how to fix it though when my gut feeling is screaming to just AVOID AVOID AVOID EVERYONE, don't get involved, don't go out, never ever have a conversation with anyone ever again (!).

All very playground I know, but if you could manage not to roll your eyes and give me some advice I'd appreciate it.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 26-Mar-14 08:09:43

It's not 'playground' to want to give a wide berth to someone who is putting you on the spot and giving you a heavy-duty critique of your qualities as a friend. hmm She's not your exclusive partner after all, she's just one of several friends. Maybe you like B more than you like the others or you find them less hard work at the moment when you have problems of your own, and there's nothing wrong with that. You don't owe anyone an explanation, you're not a bad friend and I am very suspicious of anyone so possessive that they felt they were OK having that conversation with you in the first place. They were quite out of line.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 26-Mar-14 08:10:58

BTW... you're not 'emotionally unavailable', you just don't need the hassle. smile

Shhthebabyisasleep Wed 26-Mar-14 08:16:22

Thank you for your reassuring words Cogito.

I have come downstairs from writing that to find a note through the letterbox from friend saying she is glad things are fine between us, and she hopes my [a lot on my plate] stuff (details not relavent to thread) all gets sorted soon.

For some reason I just feel irritated. I don't want it.

She really is a good friend and she means to be kind and close. I don't know why I am being so mardy.

I need to speak to her. I want to send a text I think.

Sicaq Wed 26-Mar-14 08:17:46

She seems ... intense. That would make me put up my barriers, if nothing else.

Wigsy Wed 26-Mar-14 08:21:12

Cogito gives perfect and succinct advice as always.

I feel that in an ideal world, we're allowed to enjoy our friendships with the people whose company makes us happy, without anyone else remarking on it or pulling us up on enjoying time with other people.

Don't make this your failure or your fault. It isn't. You are not causing anyone to feel bad. Someone out there is making you feel pretty rubbish, though.

If you want to retreat for a bit, do it. A good friend will text you and ask if you're okay. A good friend will never put you on the spot about your performance as a friend.

Do you enjoy your friendships with any of A, B, or C? What's in it for you? When she says they wonder 'why they bother', what is it they bother doing for you?

hookedonchoc Wed 26-Mar-14 08:22:05

You're right it does sound very playground, on your friend's part not yours. She sounds needy and paranoid and tbh I would follow my instincts and politely avoid. With situations like this I would say exactly what you said.

But then I'm also emotionally unavailable and can't cope with conflict so probably the last person who should advise you! I hate drama and friends like this I tend to deliberately drift away from. I suppose it depends if you actually want her friendship or not? FWIW there are lovely, rational people out there who make great friends when you find them.

FanjoForTheMammaries Wed 26-Mar-14 08:23:18

I think the note means she regrets being so heavy and wants to be kind to you.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 26-Mar-14 08:23:55

I think if you carry on down this 'deep and meaningful' path of examining feelings etc, you're just going to feel more and more uncomfortable. It's enough to say 'I'm fine. We're fine' ... and a true friend should respect your personal space.

Is she the sort of person that cries easily, shares TMI or urges others to 'let it all out'? (Just wild guessing on my part) I'm quite private & self-contained IRL and I've met a few people like that who seem to be totally baffled if you're not baring your soul or sobbing on their shoulders. Ignore me if I'm totally wide of the mark!

barnet Wed 26-Mar-14 08:23:58

You could tell her you need some space from everyone and everything at the moment. Maybe that you are finding some things hard going. Maybe that you feel emotionally exhausted. Tell her you appreciate her friendship ( if you want to give that message). But be clear you need some downtime right now.

MummyBeerest Wed 26-Mar-14 08:25:01

Um, no.

It's not you; it's her.

It's impossible to be emotionally available at someone's beckon call.

What more could you possibly do for her?

Shhthebabyisasleep Wed 26-Mar-14 08:33:22

It's good to know I am not alone in my total avoidance of all things 'drama'. However, I am trying to be brutally honest with myself and the facts are...

She IS a good friend, regardless of recent emotional overbearing. She is a nice person. Neither of us is perfect.
I do want to preserve my friendship with her.
She has been very good to me, taking me under her wing when I was new. I owe it to her not to back off completely.
We live in a teeny, tiny isolated community. We all need each other.

Shhthebabyisasleep Wed 26-Mar-14 08:34:48

Pressing question: can I get out if going to The Thing this evening without ruffling more feathers? I have never wanted to go to a Thing less.

HollaAtMeBaby Wed 26-Mar-14 08:36:31

It sounds like you're taking this too much to heart. I would have handled the initial criticism of your relationship with B by saying something like "do you really think so?", smiling and firmly changing the subject. Don't get sucked into this sort of psychodrama, a lot of women thrive on it and it sounds like friend A is one of them. If you don't want to see her, be busy, in terribly smily and breezy way. Do not engage with the "are you avoiding me" conversation. This is another attempt to draw you into drama. Don't text her, it will feed the weirdness. Just leave it and she will simmer down.

As for B and C, if you don't enjoy their company, see less of them. smile

Sicaq Wed 26-Mar-14 08:38:24

Holla is right in my opinion. I have developed a thicker skin over the years for stuff like this. Not every friendship has to be deep.

HollaAtMeBaby Wed 26-Mar-14 08:42:48


I think the baby will be under the weather this evening and you won't want to leave him/her to go to the Thing wink

You don't need to cut out the drama llama, just establish boundaries, including not engaging with emotional crap. People like that don't have any boundaries so you need to set them if you want to have a non-draining friendship with her.

anonforabit Wed 26-Mar-14 08:43:52

Remember No is a complete sentence. You are an adult if you don't want to do something don't! The trick is not to lie or make up an excuse just say sorry but I can't make it after all, be vague if necessary and if you are really put on the spot tell the truth say you really don't fancy it but don't want to hurt people's feelings. This will get easier with practise! Trust me! Also I agree with everyone else friend sounds a bit needy so I would be backing off too!

Shhthebabyisasleep Wed 26-Mar-14 09:18:38

Thank you everyone. This has been really useful for talking it through. I'm going to thank her for the note, but leave everything breezy. No need to go into everything. Better to be a bit distant than delve into it all.

But... But... Just thinking out loud here... Being polite but distant is what bought on this morning in the first place. She has noticed me being polite and breezy and called me on it. Isn't it a bit disloyal to say "no no everything is fine" and smile when actually I'm writing reams about it online I'm so cheesed off?

Oh I don't know.

Avoiding drama is one thing but surely one can be too uninvolved? Too uninvested?

I'm going to go and have a cup of tea and a think.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 26-Mar-14 09:31:35

Avoiding drama occasionally means being uninvolved. When you've got someone seeking attention (which I think is what's going on here) then, whether you give the negative or positive attention, you're fanning the flame. So a bland 'everything is fine' may be a thoroughly irritating response as far as they are concerned, but it's a good way to throw a blanket over the fire.

pictish Wed 26-Mar-14 10:11:04

Well, if you're emotionally unavailable, then so am I. It's like Cogito said - you just don't want the hassle...and that's how I am.
I used to be an unquestionably selfless friend, but experience has taught me well, so at 38 I have mastered a little self preservation. You sound grand to me.

As regards your demanding friend, I would keep it light and friendly, and avoid the heavy stuff, the nitty gritty.
She's clearly feeling jealous and neglected, but that does not entitle her to offer a critique of how you conduct your other friendships. She has overstepped a boundary there I think.
At the end of the day, you didn't sign a contract with her to be at her disposal.

I'm no good with needy friends...and while I know that must make me sound hard and uncaring, it is because I have learned the hard way over and over again. I consciously pick company that can take care of themselves these days. Of course, I am always there for a friend in need, but that is not the same thing at all.

ScarletFedora Wed 26-Mar-14 10:28:02

OP I agree with PP - a bland 'everything's fine' is you de-escalating the situation. It gives your friend the message she's over-stepped (as you are not engaging) but without confrontation, and allows things to move on. It takes two to have a friendship, and if you don't want to be as emotionally available to her as she seems to demand, that's fine! She has to accept the kind of friendship you offer and not make demands. It's natural you are recoiling.

I have a similar dynamic going on with a friendship group (one obsessed that the others like each other more). It's paranoia on her part and her insistence on having it out has damaged the friendship. Sometimes breezing through it is the best thing to do.

ScarletFedora Wed 26-Mar-14 10:33:53

Oh and it's fine to send apologies for 'The Thing'! Make a non complicated excuse (baby off-colour, sudden cystitis attack) and if she comes back with a 'is it me me meeee?!' type of response just say, 'no love, you're being a bit paranoid wink' and breeze through it again...

pictish Wed 26-Mar-14 10:37:24

Oh and OP, the note would have annoyed me as well. I can quite articulate why...but I do understand.

pictish Wed 26-Mar-14 10:37:35


ListenToTheLady Wed 26-Mar-14 10:50:30

I can relate to this OP. I do have a number of friends - surprisingly given how tough I find the whole thing – but I definitely avoid confrontation and I become emotionally much less available the minute I sense someone is becoming passive-aggressive or needy on me (I don't mean actual need, like they need support after being dumped - I'm good with that - but when they get manipulative).

I once had a friend visit me for a few days and then she sat me down and complained I hadn't given her enough attention and was a crap friend. At that point I had recently broken up with someone myself and was depressed – I'd done my best, but no I wasn't great value and in her shoes I would have understood that. I just cut her off. I just can't handle that kind of judgmental crap and feeling like I'm being found wanting. I just think, if that's how you feel, you don't need me then do you so F off! I could never handle any kind of playground clique dynamic either.

And actually, if you're that kind of person, while it can cause you some uncomfortable moments, it may also save you a whole lot of drama and hassle. On the plus side, my real, longstanding friends are not needy, demanding types. I might see an old friend after a break of 6 months or even more (I'm busy, and some of my friends live far away) and catch up where we left off. I would never ever berate someone for failure to keep up to some kind of friendship standard, and I have friends who don't do that to me either. I like my own company which helps, as I'm not scared to say "bugger this" when necessary.

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