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AIBU - Need space from over-reliant, jealous friend in a toxic relationship

(13 Posts)
zerosky Sat 04-Jun-16 19:21:09

TL;DR AIBU in how I'm handling getting some space from an over reliant friend in a toxic relationship who's jealous of my friendship with our mutual friend.

Apologies, as this is a long AIBU.

I've been friends with X for years. She's married to Y, with a daughter called Z (school age). Before Z, X was very sociable, loads of friends etc. One of the reasons we became friends is because she wasn't clingy – just like me. She's always been a very private person who doesn’t reveal her feelings. Y is from a culture where women run the household and look after the kids (X is not). X is expected to always be with Z, apart from when she's at work. Y sees his friends. Since Z was born, X has never been apart from her. She works so hard, her social circle has completely shrunk and she's put on a lot of weight. Z is an exhausting child and – from seeing them interact – I don't think X is happy with Y (X doesn't say anything).

X has been a very good friend to me. I've been a really good friend to her too. I've gone far and beyond what her other friends have. I had some personal issues, but am now ok again. I'm putting my life back together. I'm losing weight, seeing more of my other friends and making new ones, going out more and trying new things. I feel like X's world has shrunk and mine is getting bigger.

Now that I'm ok again, I've realized that our relationship is very one-sided. A few things have happened where I've felt taken for granted and realised that X relies on me too much. One example: when we're together, it's usually in her house while she does her housework and I play with her daughter for hours. X and I don't really talk when I'm there. I don't have kids, but I know that having a kid, working and doing all the housework must be exhausting. But I feel like a helper and not a friend. I always have to fit around her plans. I know that it's hard planning things when you're a parent, but I feel like my time isn't valued. It's got to the point where I dread going around because I know it will be hours of boredom. I've also realised that X is a bit of a martyr. Several people have offered to help, but she turns them down (e.g. I've offered to take Z overnight to give X a break).

I told her recently that I'm planning my 30th next February (so she'd need a babysitter or Y could babysit and she could come alone). She told me that her and Y never go out, that Y wouldn't like her being out late (this would be a local dinner at 7 or 8!) and that they won't be coming. She was very blunt and it was pretty hurtful, given that I never ask for anything and I never put pressure on her to come out without Z or to go anywhere. Her reaction made me rethink our friendship because it brought all my other feelings about being taken for granted to the fore.

Before, X would always send short messages. Since the recent conversation about the dinner, X has been sending me long messages about meeting up (me going to hers, yet again). I've been friendly and polite but have said that I've got other plans and will let her know when I'm around. I feel a bit under siege tbh.

In the last while, I've become friends with J. J is X's friend and has kids. J and I get on really well and have been meeting up. I actually feel like I know J better than I've ever known X. J is like me; a very open and upfront type of person. Sometimes X tells me things and when I refer to them in passing another time, it feels like I've got the wrong end of the stick or she tells me that I got it wrong. J has almost the exact same issues with X and feels that their relationship is also one-sided and confusing.

X is bitching about me to J and asking why I can meet J and not her? But X hasn't said this to me. One of the reasons why is that J makes an effort and we talk. We also do things that X wouldn't do, like go out for drinks at night. J and I feel like we're in a weird triangle, which neither of us is comfortable with. We both feel that X is acting childishly and that X should leave J out of this. It's hard to know how J and I extract ourselves from this. We both care about X, want to stay friends with her, but hate the current situation and don't want it to interfere with our new friendship.

I sense that X is unhappy at the moment with her life and that I'm not as available as before (as a helper?). She may know deep down that she hasn't acted very well towards me. She may also be jealous now that I'm friends with J and am moving on in my life with losing weight etc. I feel sorry that X's living such a restricted and exhausting life and is in a toxic relationship, but that's her choice. I'm trying to be a good friend and be sympathetic to her responsibilities as a parent, but I can't do anything about her life. I've tried to help as best I can to the point where I'm unhappy. I've had to work to sort my own issues out, so I know that you have to take responsibility for yourself and your own life if you want things to change.

I've decided that I need to be happy. I don't want to lose X as a friend. But I want to get back to enjoying my time with her and not dreading it. Looking back, I probably should have put in boundaries with her earlier, but I wasn't strong enough before because of my personal situation. I need to do this now. I've decided to limit time spent with her to what suits me and only see her for a set time versus being in hers for hours. I also want to continue my friendship with J.

AIBU in how I'm handling this, especially as X seems to need support? I'm not sure what else to do. X is not the kind of person that you could calmly discuss this with. She just wouldn't get it.

Gide Sat 04-Jun-16 19:30:13

Do you think Y is ea? Maybe X does need support and if the housework isn't done, Y might get angry. I think rather than being in the weird triangle, you should speak to X openly and tell her how you feel when you come round and she dumps you to do housework. It will all end badly if she keeps bitching to J, so you should mention this too. She needs to be honest with you and communicate properly rather than doing the whole behind your back thing.

TestingTestingWonTooFree Sat 04-Jun-16 19:47:51

Yanbu. It sounds like it might very well end badly.

UpsiLondoes Sat 04-Jun-16 19:54:50

J needs to tell X to stop badmouthing a mutual friend to her. You need to tell X you're not her babysitter and won't be coming over unless the child is watching a movie and you two have chance to catch up.

Mouikey Sat 04-Jun-16 20:12:22

You have a couple of options:

* do nothing/continue as is and build up further resentment about your friendship.
* whilst you say you can't speak to her calmly, give it a go... you have nothing to lose (although I'd steer very clear of weight issues!) and she may even be receptive - keep it about your relationship, not about J or her husband. Talk about how it would be lovely if she could come to you sometimes, and that you actually are really upset that she can't make your birthday do. If she doesn't get it then there isn't much more that you can do, but know that you have tried!

I'd also suggest leave off the gossiping with J about X for a while - whilst I get you need support in the situation, this makes the relationships much harder as you will wind each other up!

zerosky Sat 04-Jun-16 20:39:32

Gide -

I'm not sure how emotionally abusive Y may be, but I know that the relationship between X and Y isn't right or fair. They're affectionate to one another and I don't think he would ever be physically violent - it's not his nature. I also don't know how he would react with the housework being done or not. He does chip in occasionally, but it's pretty much left to X. That's her role in the house.

I know that it may be valuable to X having me there while she does housework (and many, many other things I do for her). But I can't be there for her like I've been. I've my own things to deal with. I can't be a part of her relationship, which is how I feel as a helper. I feel so uncomfortable with the situation. Y should be doing the things I'm doing.

That sounds selfish, and I'm sympathetic to X and I care about her, but a lot has happened in my personal life and it's only now that I'm getting back on track and actually finally having the courage to say no to people. I have to focus on building my own life again. Also, I can't guarantee that I will even be living in the same place in the future and my family situation may change. Who know what will happen? It's not good for her to be so reliant on me.

I think X settled for Y because she wanted a child. She knew that culturally, he would be very traditional: women look after kids and housework, men work. It wasn't like this was a big surprise. It's like she willingly imprisoned herself. I think it's awful that this is what she chose and I don't think it excuses Y's behaviour.

I don't think X has ever communicated to Y that she wants her own time. I think it's more that he has his cultural values and doesn't even think of there being any other way or is aware that it could even be an issue for X because she knew it would be like this. I think X doesn't say anything because she knew this is how it would be. She doesn't even mention to any of her close friends that she wants more time to herself. For me, it's all very weird.

You're right. I would love to have an honest conversation with X. That would be my preferred option. J would also like to talk to her openly. We're both the kind of people who prefer to talk about issues. But X is not the kind of person you could do this with. It's hard to explain unless you knew her.

She's not the kind of person who you can have an in-depth emotional discussion with. She's very closed off. She wouldn't listen (possibly wouldn't even get what I'm trying to say), wouldn't discuss it without getting personal and it'd probably be the end of our friendship.

I've asked L (mutual friend of X and I) about this. L agreed that there's no way I could even discuss this with X and that my only option, if i want to remain friends with X, is to limit my time with her like L does.

EarthboundMisfit Sat 04-Jun-16 20:47:03

I think X probably feels that she's been 'Wendied', as it seems to be called on MN, and it sounds like she's having a rotten time at home too.

Zaurak Sat 04-Jun-16 20:53:05

It sounds to me like X has a pretty miserable life. She's confined to the house and a domestic slave basically. She's crying out for your company and possibly your help
I'd be trying to see her out of the house if you can and ask her if everything is ok.

Zaurak Sat 04-Jun-16 20:54:09

Sorry posted too soon ... She could be one of the many women on here who are being subjected to emotional and financial control by partners. She needs your help.

zerosky Sat 04-Jun-16 20:58:45

Thanks, guys.

UpsiLondoes -

J tries to change the topic every time I'm mentioned by X. It may well reach the point where J has to tell X that she doesn't want to hear stuff about me.

Really not sure I could talk to X about this whole thing. Would love to though. See my reply to Gide above and Moukey below.

Moukey -

Really not sure I could talk to X about this whole thing. I think even mentioning our relationship and my 30th would be like a red rag to a bull. She already bitched to J that I was being insensitive by inviting her to my 30th! My other friends with kids have all said that they'll be there and were fine about me asking them in advance. Would love to honestly talk to X though. See my reply to Gide above.

I definitely would never mention her weight. I'd never upset anyone like that.

I've actually invited her over to mine many times (with or without Z). I've suggested going to other places. I've told her in the past that it would be great to spend some time with her on her own. She won't come. She also never goes out without Z. Believe me, I have asked! So have other friends. A lot of them have drifted away now or see her very infrequently (in some cases, only once a year).

J and I have already agreed not to talk about X any more and focus on our friendship when we're together. I believe that's the healthiest thing to do.

StarkintheSouth Sat 04-Jun-16 21:02:15

I have a similar problem in that I have a one-sided friendship with an old friend, and it never used to be that way. Like yourself, I feel like I've been a good friend, helping out and being considerate as she and her DH had money issues, benefit problems, health problems, self esteem issues etc all whilst raising 2 young kids- but now they're on an even keel I feel like my issues don't even warrant a second thought from her as she's used to being the one getting all the help.
So, I totally get it, it's kind of painful and like you, I have no idea how to tell her how it hurts because knowing her, I don't think she can hear it. But I have tried, am hoping bit by bit I'll get there. Talking is all you can do, before it ends in a bitch-fest which no one enjoys sad

zerosky Sat 04-Jun-16 21:18:49

Zaurak -

I've tried to help. Really tried. I can't do any more. I can't rescue X from a situation that she doesn't want to be rescued from or won't acknowledge. Other friends and I have offered help, which she won't accept. She won't talk about her relationship properly to me or our other friends. She never talks about deep things, even before she was with Y.

She made it very clear, in a very forceful manner, when we talked about my 30th that I couldn't even discuss the matter further with her. And that was just about coming to my 30th in February. We were alone, with Z in another room. Y wasn't even in the house at that time.

I don't want to go into details, but I've been through a lot myself. I need to get my own life sorted now and be happy after the things that I've been through. I can't live X's life for her. I hope we can stay friends. But my focus will be on myself and being as happy as I can be.

zerosky Sat 04-Jun-16 21:33:42

StarkintheSouth -

I totally empathise with you. I hope your situation gets resolved. You look like you're really doing your best. I'm trying to avoid the whole bitchfest thing. Not in my nature, which is why I'm trying to resolve it in other ways.

I'm hoping that by not being as available and mentioning how busy I am (which is true - I'm a lot busier than I was before) that she will get the message and we can gradually reach a stage where I can drop over for a designated hour or two and maybe she might talk to me.

I've noticed that she'll stop the housework, sit down and take the time to talk with friends who don't visit often. Those friends only come for an afternoon and visit maybe once / twice / three times a year. I'd like to see her more often than that. I'd obviously prefer if we could meet ourselves for a coffee. But I'm realistic to know that things probably won't change.

Fingers crossed though smile

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