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I have a very needy and jealous friend and I'm losing my patience rapidly.

(32 Posts)
TidyDancer Sat 17-Sep-11 21:06:25

I couldn't think where else to put this thread. I need some advice about how to handle this before I reach the point of no return with this friendship.

I have known my friend for about ten years. We went through a period of no contact for a number of years, not for any particular reason, we just didn't really stay in touch. There were no personal insults, no drama of any kind, we just weren't in contact. Over the past two years, since the birth of my friend's DS, we have been in close contact. I am the only one of her friends who also has children and this has been a defining factor in us being close again.

The problem is, my friend has become massively clingy and needy with me. I pride myself on being patient and loyal with my friends, but I am coming to the very end of my tether with this friend. She really does ask too much of me, in a lot of ways. She will often want to see me a few times a week, and I simply don't have the time to see her that often. I have other friends, I have two DCs and I have DP. Sometimes, having my friend is like having another full time relationship, she expects that much from me. When we do spend time together, much of it is spent with me diffusing some crisis or another with her (never big things, btw), so I don't really feel that either of us gets to enjoy each others company. She has very little patience with her DS, so I get left with much of the care of him when we are together. She will swear at him or at something he's done, and she generally gets angry and upset very easily.

I am aware that depression of some kind does pay a significant part in how she is.

The latest problem I have had with her is that she is extremely jealous that I spend time with a mutual friend when she doesn't. She is jealous of me and this friend, that we see each other without her being present. I don't like having to lie about when I see our friend, but I can't handle the guilt trips or the dramatic scenes that occur when she is not invited along to lunches etc, so we both have to lie about it. Whenever she does come along, the whole thing is about her, how terrible her life is, how crap everything is for her, how no one ever helps her (absolute bullshit, btw), etc. She drains every bit of energy from you.

Is there any way I can salvage this friendship? I feel like I'm going through the motions with her because I feel bad for her DS that he doesn't have contact with children other than mine, and she does rely on me to be there for her to talk to about her problems. But I don't feel like it's a real friendship, more like a relationship in its death throes. Despite this, my friend has a really big heart and I don't think she has any real concept of how utterly exhausting it is to be around her.

I know I must sound completely heartless, and that this is a really epic post, but I just need some advice. I would like to keep this friendship going, but I need to know if there is a decent way of 'managing' my friend when she becomes so draining.

TIA.

peterpan99 Sat 17-Sep-11 21:12:02

i had a friend like that, emphasis on the had i couldnt take the drama and constant need for attention. It took to much energy, so i no longer see her. I miss her sometimes, but am mostly relieved as i dont like all the drama!

HattiFattner Sat 17-Sep-11 21:14:43

option a: End friendship
option b: carry on as you are, hiding things
option c: Tell her how her constant clinging, negative, energy sapping, dull and needy behaviours make you not want to spend time with her, and how you also have a had time in your life, but you have friends as respite, not as an additional burden. You've been friends for 10 years, so Id suggest that she seeks help (ADs maybe?) - maybe you can even get to the bottom of what her ishoos are, by being blunt. Whats the worst thing that could happen - she sounds like she needs you more than you need her! Maybe if she understands how you feel (and Id ensure you focus on specific behaviours rather than her personality) she might snap out of her self absorbed cocoon of misery.

LemonDifficult Sat 17-Sep-11 21:15:41

Friendship definitely salvage-able, it just needs some air.

The main thing is to make yourself a lot less available in a way that won't make her feel shunned. You need to be somewhere else at other times - is this possible? Basically, you need to get to a stage where she doesn't know your movements and therefore you don't need to reveal/conceal the times you've seen the other friend.

TidyDancer Sat 17-Sep-11 21:31:40

Thank you for replies. smile

I feel selfish for wanting to end the friendship when she is so in need of support, which is why I really want to know if it's possible to save it. I'm glad the outlook seems as though it's not a lost cause.

The trouble with 'confronting' her is that her personality type (sorry, can't think of the right words there) means she would flip. She would get angry and more than likely end the conversation prematurely without me ever being able to say what needed to be said. This has happened on one previous occasion, where she took issue with something I said and she turned on me because of it. Her reaction was so severe and the words she said (but later claimed she didn't mean (I believed her)) so awful, I told her on the spot to not speak to me again. She begged me to reconsider and apologised for what she said. I accepted her apology and thought things might be better from then onwards. She hasn't flipped on me again, but nothing else has changed.

I should point out, other than the above occasion, she doesn't verbally abuse me or anything like that, she's just very very demanding and draining.

LemonDifficult Sat 17-Sep-11 21:43:33

I wouldn't confront her or ask her to change, I'd just get some space.

Most people have needy/nutty/mental friends and accept that as part of life. The problem here is she's gone too far into your life and now you need her at a distance. I think once you've not seen her around in a while or aren't seeing her much you won't feel nearly so resentful. She'll just be another friend. If you do decide to say something, it will inevitably end up as a drama and you might regret that as you seen fond of her DS.

Just find a concrete reason to be busy, and then don't give her too many details of your day-to-day.

Flyonthewindscreen Sat 17-Sep-11 21:47:55

Would it be possible to withdraw to a more comfortable level of contact without this friend kicking off? I mean gradually reducing the amount of meetings/phone calls (with plausible excuse of something else happening in your life, new job/family problems etc.). I think that if you try to get to the bottom of what her issues are you will end up with her becoming even more needy and demanding of you.

Yesterdays Sat 17-Sep-11 22:02:42

Does she need support Op , or does she just need someone to witness the dramas ? Theres quite a differance . In my experience thse types of people are like energy vampires and they dont respond well to being called to account , or being avoided . Your either a freind or your not , and if you are you must be available all the time is often the way they see it .

Ive had a freind like this , for years i was patient and supportive , some times during a crisis she would ring me several times a day to rage and vent .I initially met her during one of these crisises , since then she has staggered from crisis to crisis , often activeley seeking one out when the need arises . Shes extremeley negative and draining , and ive often noticed that towards the end of our time together she tends to perk up a bit , while i feel annoyed and drained .

I often felt reduced to nothing more than a spectater , an audience for each drama or crisis . I am much firmer now , i will only answer one call from her a week , and i will not spend time with her if she is just wanting a witness .

TidyDancer Sat 17-Sep-11 22:14:15

That's really quite interesting Yesterdays, and it's ringing more true than I'd like it to. As you can see from my example above, she doesn't like being confronted. It's as if she's okay with drama, because it's what gets her the attention, but the thing that really bothers her is not the problem she believes she has, but when the aftermath (which I suppose includes the attention she gets from people because of what's going on) doesn't go her way. And getting called on her behaviour would certainly derail her. She snaps out of it quicker if I go "Oh, poor you", which just perpetuates the cycle.

The mutual friend has even less patience than I do and is on the verge of ending the friendship without trying to salvage anything, and all I can think is "I don't blame you".

I will try to withdraw a bit. I can take a long time to answer texts, that much should be reasonably straightforward. I'm sure I can come up with ways to be busy if she tries to arrange something with me as well. I don't feel good about lying to her, but for the time being, I can see why that would be best. Often, the things we do just involve taking the children to the park and she will come to do things with us that I would be doing with mine anyway. It won't change much of our routine, though I suppose it would probably be a good idea to change the places we go to just in case she goes anyway.

I am quite worried about her, if I'm honest. She doesn't strike me as emotionally stable really. I especially do worry for her DS.

Yesterdays Sat 17-Sep-11 22:25:34

I sympathise , i have often wondered if my freind is unwell . I certainly feel she has unwittingly learnt to relate to people in a toxic negative way .

A tactic i have employed in response to this negativity / crisis ect is to say " Wow , thats awful . what are you going to do about that ? " Shes obviously not going to do anything about it but it stops her from going over it repeatedly . I also have to have my wits about me as she tends to only want to hear the negative , so i can end up moaning too without realising , then the whole thing becomes negative .

Part of me feels tight relaying fun positive things when shes so down , she will sometimes become agitated if i do this . Her polite " How are things with you " actually means what negative stuff has happened . I used to feel terribly guilty but dont anymore , she started to impact my life in a really negative way and it was really only guilt keeping me tied in .

PelvicFloorsOfSteel Sat 17-Sep-11 22:28:11

Is there any possibility of meeting up with her at places where there's a possibility of her meeting other people? I'm thinking maybe a playgroup or something, you could go a few times and then (hopefully) if you were 'busy' she'd be able to go anyway.

It sounds like she does need more mummy friends, I'm guessing if she was diluted a bit you and your other friend wouldn't feel as drained by her.

I still have a friend who was very much like this, lurched from one drama to another and constantly needed a lot of emotional support. When you say your friend has a good heart I think there's something worth salvaging because that's what I would have said about my friend, she had her dramas but she was always the first to offer a shoulder to cry on/sofa to sleep on for others with crises. My friend has managed to get herself together a lot for the sake of her DC though, it certainly didn't happen overnight but now DC is school age she is doing her best to provide a stable environment and is very nearly, most of the time successful. Although we have gone from being best mates in our early twenties to seeing each other about once a month and keep in touch via fb friends now, I think she would have done my head in completely if we'd met up several times a week.

bibbitybobbityhat Sat 17-Sep-11 22:29:19

Heartfelt sympathies.

But sorry, I can't think of anything helpful to post!

TidyDancer Sat 17-Sep-11 22:51:54

Thank you all. smile

Re introducing her to potential other mummy friends. There are a couple of problems there, the first being that she says she has a form of social phobia. I don't know what it is exactly, but she says it's a fear of new situations, and being out alone, etc. I'm sorry to say it, but I think it's too convenient a diagnosis (it is self diagnosis, not by a doctor) for her. She repeatedly does these things anyway (enters into new situations and goes out alone) but as soon as doing so involves something she doesn't want to do, she gets out of doing it under the banner of the phobia. I know I'm painting her in a terrible light here (and doing an unintentional drip feed), but I'm trying to be as descriptive as possible.

The second problem with finding some new friends for her is that she has some personal hygiene issues, which tend to put people off spending time with her before they've even had a chance to get to know her.

As I said, she is loyal and she is very caring, but she has pushed so many people away because of how she can be sometimes.

Sorelip Sat 17-Sep-11 23:25:07

I had a friend like this once, a very negative person with issues that she would do nothing about but complain. I put up with it until April this year, when she tried to invite herself to my home the day after I thought I'd had a miscarriage (luckily all was fine) and failed to even ask how I was feeling. I realised that everything had to be about her, and that was it - I cut her off. Cruel maybe, but I figured that, on my deathbed, I'd regret not having done something about it and continuing go endure her company more than my cruelty.

Op, what do you get out of your relationship with her? If you never had to speak to her again, would you feel regret, or relief?

Yesterdays Sat 17-Sep-11 23:43:19

Do be carefull re introducing her to other freinds Tidy , because if they too find her exhausting they might end up avoiding you as well . Its difficult isnt it as they often have loveley qualitys but then spoil it by being so demanding and difficult . I must say im not sure which " charecter " is my real freind at times .

I have previously suspected a mental health problem ( bipolar ? ) as she can be very very talkative and happy , bordering on silly really , but then become depressed and angry quickly . Its during these depressed times she tends to run towards a crisis then rants about it . She is often angry and often blames others when its not their fault , i have noticed that she often has a bee in her bonnet about someone . Its not nice actually .

You might have to practise cutting calls / visits short if she is very negative . I often say ill call in for a cofee , i do not commit to days out or long periods of time together as this can be problematic if she is negative . If she is in a reasonable frame of mind i will stay and perhaps go out somewhere , if not i will make polite excuses and leave .

This works quite well ( think toddler and rewarding good behaviour ) . Theres quite a lot of articles on line about energy vampires and there are ways to avoid being pshycologicly being drawn in . I never mastered it , but you might find some of the exercises helpfull .

TidyDancer Sun 18-Sep-11 00:45:12

Good question, Sorelip (so pleased to hear the MC fear was unfounded, but how bloody heartless of your friend sad). What do I get out of the relationship? I really don't know. Actually, when I was between cars once, she helped me out with lifts to a few places while DP was away/at work. I was really grateful to her. She will also do favours for people if she can, although I never really need her to do them for me because I wouldn't leave the DCs with her and I am back at work after ML only part time, so I usually have time to do the necessaries. As caring as she is, she's not the friend I would choose to confide in because she never seems that interested in anyone else's problems. Her form of 'being there' seems to be her physical presence, IYGWIM.

If I never spoke to her again, I would feel a sense of loss I think, but I'm not sure if that's loss of a friendship in the classic way, or rather just that it would be an adjustment because of the amount of time I spend with her and talking to her. I would certainly miss her and I would miss and worry about her DS. In all honesty, he has, at times, been the one thing that has prevented me from detaching in the past. I think in the long term, I would be relieved to be unconnected from the drama, but I would certainly be concerned about her LO still, regardless of whether I saw him. Sorry to drip feed yet again, but there has been some SS involvement there in the past (around the time of his birth).

Yesterdays, you have some excellent ideas that I will try, especially the asking what she is going to do about her issue point!

springydaffs Sun 18-Sep-11 00:55:48

It can't be you who gives her what she needs ie it can't be any one person and it also can't be someone who isn't trained. I do know how draining someone like this can be. I would say that if you sneak off, gradually drop her, it would be very painful for her (I am basing my advice on your OP).

Perhaps you could say you can't cope (ie 'I' message), not she is too much. You could suggest she sees a therapist ie the perfect vehicle to thoroughly discuss all her troubles with someone who is trained to help her work through her difficulties to arrive at a more positive place; who, crucially, won't feel personally obligated, as her friends naturally will. If she were physically unwell that would be easier to deal with but emotional sickness is very difficult to bear, for the sufferer and for those around them. You could make it a condition that she sees her GP (re medication) and books with a therapist eg 'friend, imo you are not well and this needs to be professionally addressed re therapeutic help to address the pain you are experiencing. YOur friends can't do it - I am just a normal, average person and, although I care, I just don't have the expertise to be of any real help. Plus, I am out of my depth, it is too much for me. I am so sorry you have had so much pain and difficulty in your life - your GP and a therapist will effectively help and support you to come to a place that is more manageable for you. But ultimately, that can't be me' etc. If she freaks out try not to take it personally! if you feel embarrassed about saying any of the above, then do it for her poor child sad

imo she needs to be in proper therapy for the long haul (years) - the 6-week thing that GP surgeries offer simply won't cut it at all. If money is an issue she can get cheap therapy through womens orgs but she will, sadly, have to research that herself.

YOu may not want to do any of the above - you are not obligated (easy to say!) - but it will help her if you are honest and kind, ultimately safe. If you continue a friendship with her it does mean you have to be aware of your own limits iyswim and to enforce them - though not unkindly, just clear. It's a big ask and you may have to work out if you have the energy to do it. Make sure, once she is seeing a therapist/going to support groups etc, that any subsequent friendship with her plays to her strengths. don't be her therapist, as to try is not doing either of you any favours.

Good luck, you sound like a great person who has done her best.

Yesterdays Sun 18-Sep-11 01:54:19

I once suggested a counseller . She wasnt very polite about it !

blackcurrants Sun 18-Sep-11 02:07:55

I had a friend like this - thankfully pre -DCs, and we see each other now and then now, but I have phased her out, more or less, and certainly would notever ask her for something. The major lesson I learned from my twenties was Avoid Emotional Vampires. My friend js better after intensive therapy but still entirely selfish and selfinvolved and lacking in all perspective. too tiring, life too short, I am a nice person but not responsible for her emotional wellbeing!

good luck OP. I say get rid, as calmly and nicely as possible.

HattiFattner Sun 18-Sep-11 10:28:04

Springydaffs suggetion/script is excellent - if she freaks out or rejects the idea of a therapist, then that is her responsibility. You could always say "Listen X, this over the top reaction is exactly why you should be seeing someone. I'm afraid I cannot cope with you right now, I have enough on my plate. Get some help!" and then leave.

Next time she calls to beg forgiveness/ask you out, ask her if she has organised to see someone yet. DOnt meet up with her until she has started taking positive steps - just keep repeating "You need professional help. I'm afraid I cannot cope with you right now."

IMustFakeMyOwnDeath Sun 18-Sep-11 15:08:40

Sounds very like a friend I had to disconnect from. Unfortunately with this type of person they don't often seem to have the insight or will to change. My friend was always unhappy. She had a terrible childhood and was a disaster with men. She was really clingy, suffocating and demanding. Very needy and draining. It was such a pity because she was a lovely person on so many levels.

But I just couldn't handle the constant me-me-me-ness of her. She moaned constantly about how men used her. And it was true they did. But she totally volunteered for it throwing herself at emotionally unavailable men who then abused and used her.

She would endlessly complain but wouldn't actually do anything about her own pain. She would never go to counselling saying she couldn't afford it. But that was just a cop out. She had plenty of money for wine and ciggies and was able to save a substantial amount of money every week.

She really used her friends as a free counselling service, which i grew to resent. The constant repetative moaning and going over and over the same old ground again and again was unbelievably draining. I felt all she wanted was a pity party all day long but didn't actually want to heal herself. She refused to do the hard work of counselling.

Her saying she couldn't afford it used to make me cringe because to be honest she couldn't afford NOT to have it. She was the type of person who would totally overstay her welcome as well. She'd call around in the evening for a glass of wine and still be there two days later. I'd have to actually drive her home. It was excruciating.

I feel bad that I couldn't be more upfront with her instead of cutting contact but she was in deep denial and didn't really want to hear any hard truths. I really was left with no choice. It is so sad as I know myself what it's like to be lonely and in emotional pain but I just couldn't deal with the tsunami of problems. I had huge problems of my own that she hardly even referred to.

She would only ask 'how are you' in order that she could then change the subject to herself. All she really ever talked about.

Anyway sorry for the thread hijack but I don't think you will be able to change your friend or even explain to her what is wrong. It seems these people are just looking for a vessel to pour all their troubles into. i don't think that they can recognise that they are manipulating the other person. They expect you to just listen and give sympathy. They just use you as a pressure valve. They are not grateful for any of this and will resort to self pity and guilt manipulation if you try to restore any kind of balance in the relationship.

I hope you have better luck than me. I suppose sometimes these things are just a no-win situation.

IMustFakeMyOwnDeath Sun 18-Sep-11 15:16:08

Sorry, forgot to mention, I tried to scale down the friendship before I ended up cutting contact but it didn't work. The more I tried to get my own space the more she clung on, always dropping hints, constantly pushing to be invited over.

When she would come over she would expect full attention at all times and would look at my husband and children as if they were invaders in their own home! If I had to go out somewhere she would want to come too (a hospital appointment once so she could moan about her latest tragedy) or she would wait in the house until I got home.

So I doubt scaling it down will work either.

lolaflores Sun 18-Sep-11 15:39:43

Friend of mine for many many years. In that time, enough drama to keep Corrie script writers working shifts. Anyway, 3 years ago, made the terrible decisionn to go on hols. Me,DH,DD2 plus her, DH and 2xDD. Always a self absorbed madam , it became a nightmare. Controlling, swearing at the kids, pandering to useless tool of a husband. Following a few late night sessions of exploring the marriage issue with her, they went out for dins to discuss stuff. Which nothing did.

Two nights later, I find her in the kitchen with my DH, sobbing and going on about her rotten life. SHe has never been so close to a proper kicking from me. From which point on all sympathy i had for her drained away like a bath you ahve shaved your legs in i.e. just a few hairy dregs of sentimental value and nothing else.

My old friend lives elsewhere, but I have pared back the moany phone calls to almost nil. I think she got the message in the end. Some folk are vampires and have quite ruthless methods as to getting their needs met. Not as fragile as you think either.

2rebecca Sun 18-Sep-11 17:15:24

Your friends should be the people who make your life better not worse. OK most friendships go through phases when 1 of you is doing more giving and listening than the other but this person doesn't sound as though she does anything but drain you. I would have cut back contact before now. There are too many dysfunctional people in the world to expect to sort them all out and you seem to have more of a counsellor/client relationship than an equal friends one.
I would go for Hatti's option c. If she flounces off part way through the discussion fair enough, her choice, find a real friend whose company you enjoy.
If you dread seeing a friend they aren't a friend.

sidorek Sun 18-Sep-11 17:52:58

The truth is... no matter what you do, you will not change her.
No amount of your sympathy will be ever enough.
You will earn "the worst friend ever" batch, when you had tried your best. You will feel as if you walk on eggshells all the time...
I had a friend like that. I could not cope. At the end I was literally sick when I was about to meet her.
The worst part is that I work in mental health area, so I recognised that she desperately needed help. But knowing that, did not prevent me from leaving.
The behavior of your and mine friend is typical for bordeline personality disorder, or definitely has got very strong traits of it. Google and read what drives them, if you wish. Also google how it is to live with someone who has got BPD and I am sure that you will recognise a lot of your feelings.
The best thing you can do is to safe yourself.

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