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Is my friend being selfish or am I expecting too much?

(23 Posts)
sadaboutbestfriend Wed 10-Oct-12 12:43:17

Hi, I have nc'd for this but have been on MN for over 6 years, and have posted about this before on another board but thought I might get some more perspectives on this in relationships as it is still really upsetting me. Sorry it is long.

Last year I was diagnosed with cancer. I am finally coming towards the end of my treatment but have ongoing health issues (mainly side effects from the treatment, most of which should get better over time), and the prognosis is good.

I told my best friend of over 20 years of my diagnosis last year, and my problem is that I have hardly seen or heard from her since!

For example, each time my chemo days came around I would get calls/texts from family friends ("good luck", "hope it goes OK" etc.), but nothing from her. She hasn't once rung me, or even texted just to ask how I am or how treatment is progressing - all I have had is every 3 to 4 months a text saying "do you fancy meeting up". She has hardly acknowledged my illness when we have met, she has never asked me how I am when we have met, the conversation has just been about our DCs etc. As I said she had been my best friend, so this really hurt each time I have seen her.

We met up for about the fourth time in the last year, last week. I was really hoping she might be a bit warmer with me, ask me how I'm doing etc., especially as I am now coming to the end of my treatment, I have some hair now so look less scary etc. But she spent the whole time telling me how tired/stressed etc. she is. She eventually asked me how I was, I started telling her, then the conversation went back onto her. I left feeling emotionally drained.

So now I am thinking I will simply not contact her any more, will ignore her next text (probably just in time for Xmas), and will just stop seeing her. But this really hurts, I feel so sad about it. I am far too soft to say anything to her face about how I feel. Plus part of me feels I just want an easy life now and I need to do whatever is easiest and least painful for me.

Does anyone understand what I am trying to say, or have any insight into what is going on with my previously best friend?


sadaboutbestfriend Wed 10-Oct-12 12:45:32

sorry that should read

"calls and text from family and friends" at start of paragraph 4

DeepPurple Wed 10-Oct-12 12:50:07

Was she always quite self absorbed? Some people find illness really hard to deal with so maybe she struggles to hear you talk about it?

I don't really have any other advice just didn't want to leave your post unanswered.

CailinDana Wed 10-Oct-12 12:51:10

I can totally see why you feel let down. How she has behaved really isn't on - she should have offered a lot more support. As for insight into her behaviour, it's hard to say without knowing her. Looking back, do you think she has always been quite self centred? Often it takes a crisis like this to see people for what they really are. It's shit, and disappointing but I'm hoping you had some nice surprises too, in the people who stepped up unexpectedly?

So glad you're on the mend, well done for getting through it, it can't have been easy.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 10-Oct-12 12:51:25

Some people find serious illness incredibly scary, reminds them of their own mortality, don't know what to say/do for the best and end up trying to ignore it and the sufferer in the vain hope that it'll all go away. You can have some sympathy with this type because they're immature rather than malicious.

Other people are simply selfish. They make friends with others for what they can get out of the relationship, not what they can put in. They don't like friends in need because that means the attention is no longer on them and (horrors) they might have to do something.

I don't know which your friend is but if she's only interested in telling you her problems, I'd suspect the latter. Sorry.

foolonthehill Wed 10-Oct-12 12:55:43

So sorry Op. Very very painful at the time when you need and deserve love, care and support.

I don't know what's up with your friend. Maybe she is terrified, protecting herself at your expense. Maybe she has always been needy and requiring the centre of attention for herself.

Either way I think your relationship looks broken now. I would expect more from a friend...perhaps now she's just a passing acquaintance and has moved aside for you to find more life -enhancing people

sadaboutbestfriend Wed 10-Oct-12 13:02:38

Thanks for your quick replies.

DeepPurple she has always been quite self-absorbed, but not to the degree where it has upset me so much. When I split up with my ex for example, she was fantastic support (10 or so years ago).

CailinDana you see I don't know if I have just expected too much (everyone to worship me because I have cancer iyswim)? But yes I have also found some people who were more acquaintances a year ago have been fantastic. And my other best friend of many years has been amazing (although she does not live so close). I'm just really struggling with the idea of dropping my "best" friend sad

Cogito I had thought she fell into the first camp you mention, as she knew someone who died from cancer. After our meeting last week I am wondering if she falls into the second. I just found it odd that she went on and on and on about her problems, and did not find it ironic she was going on and on about them to someone who is only just coming out of hideous treatment for cancer!

sadaboutbestfriend Wed 10-Oct-12 13:04:05

Thank you foolonthehill I do think you are right and I know in my heart our relationship is broken, but OMG this is so hard (sobbing typing this now), seriously it's as bad as when I split up with my long-term ex...

foolonthehill Wed 10-Oct-12 13:07:01

Yes, I know. sad

MouMouCow Wed 10-Oct-12 13:15:16

20 years is a long time. People change. Just like a husband and wife can fall out of love, or diverge in wants and needs, so can friends.
You are perhaps feeding off a nostalgic perception of your firendship with her which simply does not exist anymore...

sadaboutbestfriend Wed 10-Oct-12 13:26:16

She has been very loving at times, and for my 40th last year (before diagnosis) she made me a lovely gift, so I don't feel we have been drifting apart or anything, until this bloody cancer.

And it was my birthday a couple of months ago and she didn't even send me a card (we normally exchange cards and presents), didn't even mention it when we met last week.

You see it's little petty things like this that are eating away at me, and then making me wonder if I am just expecting too much (she is clearly run down/tired etc. with work and young DC) and I should be listening to her more instead of thinking about me and my cancer...

MsArseBiscuit Wed 10-Oct-12 14:34:23

Sad, I'm really sorry that you've had this to deal with at the same time as your illness. This kind of behaviour seems to be really quite common around cancer, I used to work in a very big cancer hospital and I lost count of the number of patients who told me about friends who would avoid them, friends crossing the road rather than having a conversation with them, friends who dropped them completely, obviously the people who had cancer felt very hurt that at a time when they needed support they were being given the cold shoulder by people they thought would want to support them.

I think there are several reasons, some are TERRIFIED of saying 'the wrong thing' whatever that might be, they think that talking to someone with a serious illness is somehow different to talking to anyone else. Some people are almost phobic about illnesses and hospitals, cancer specifically can evoke a very odd, almost primal terror, almost like you can catch it. Some people think you must be overwhelmed with fuss and assume you might want a bit of space to deal with things yourself, and don't think to ask you what you might want. And some people just aren't very good friends and are happy to be there for you in the good times but not the bad.
I'm not sure that any of the above is any real help to you but I wanted you to know that other people have had the same issues.

MairyHinge Wed 10-Oct-12 15:03:48

Something similar happened to me. A lot of years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. My best friend ( had been chief bridesmaid at ny wedding!) was supposed to come round one day, never turned up & never seen hide nor hair of her since!
At the time I had no voice, and hubby had gone out, leaving me at home with our ( then) 18 month old daughter, knowing she was coming round so I'd be ok. She never showed.
This was before texting, etc so I was stuck, until hubby came home.
At the same time she was telling mutual friends not to visit me, ( I'd spent 6 weeks in hospital too), as I only wanted family round me.
So I was busy thinking people didn't care, and they were thinking I didn't want visitors.

She never acknowledged my illness. She never helped, and since then I've decided that she wasn't getting the attention so she tried in other ways to make it all about her.

Anyway, the point I'm making is, there's some very strange people out there, with an inability to empathise.
When faced with adversity, they run.

But this is the time in your life when you will discover who really cares about you, and who really matters.

CailinDana Wed 10-Oct-12 15:06:07

I don't think you were expecting too much, not at all. The whole point of being a friend is to be there for someone, in good times and bad, and it doesn't really get much worse than serious illness. She might have her reasons for treating you badly but that doesn't mean your anger isn't valid - the birthday thing alone is quite mean and strange. It seems like she's just blocked you out completely, just stopped thinking about your life, because she can't deal with what's happened to you. That doesn't make a very good friend.

Would you consider confronting her about it? In your shoes I would be willing to repair the friendship if she realised what she had done and apologised. But if she denied any wrongdoing, or didn't want to talk about it, then I'd have to take that as a signal that she wasn't interested and just let her go.

Dobbylugs Wed 10-Oct-12 16:23:59

I think you need to give her a break. She could just be completely overwhelmed by your illness and not know how to deal with it. Perhaps when you meet up she doesn't know what to say or whether to mention it.

You are upset that she hasn't called or sent a text. She is texting you every few months to see if you want to meet up - have you not called or text her in the meantime? Call her. She is your best friend, she is tired and stressed and her best friend has cancer.

It sounds like you both need some pampering. Arrange to go shopping for the day, have a spa day, see a show and have a slap up meal afterwards. You both have problems, leave your problems at home get together and have some fun.

Don't ignore her next text. Text her now, tell her you've missed her and arrange to do something together. She may not know how to deal with your cancer - perhaps she has assumed that you wanted / needed time and space. Maybe she got it wrong and you feel let down but she hasn't done it on purpose.

QuietTiger Wed 10-Oct-12 16:41:27

I experienced something similar this year. A good friend (or so I thought as she'd claimed I was one of her closest friends, blah, blah) had absolutely nothing to do with me after DH and I lost our DC1 at 32 weeks.

Whilst other friends varied from full on tears with us, ringing to check we were OK and some even just sending the odd text asking if we were OK & saying how sorry they were, we had complete radio silence from her. Nothing at all. I didn't bother really contact her as we were putting our lives back together.

Then she found out that I'd had a BBQ, invited all my friends and she hadn't been invited. Next thing I know, she's ringing me up 3 times a day and insisting we "got together", so I invited her over to catch up.

She spent 3 hours talking about herself and not once did she ask how me or DH were. It was all about her, her "conquests" in her job, the way she'd got one over on someone, how she'd ripped someone off financially and "come out on top", and it was vile. I suddenly had my eyes opened to the sort of person she really was - shallow and materialistic. I thought it was me.

Then I had a MMC 3 weeks ago and DH & I found out at the 12 week scan. The following day I had an ERPC as I couldn't face going through anything else. Whilst I was lying in hospital after the op, she sent a REALLY stroppy text to me saying that "DH had cut her off and what the fuck was he playing at", on the phone when she'd rung to ask me for something and he'd answered my phone said he couldn't deal with it there and then and to ring back in a week or so, because I was in surgery!!

I've cut her off. I'm too angry at her behaviour not to. Truthfully, I'm sad about it, because we had some really good laughs, but she proved her "true" worth as a friend by not being one when I needed them.

You're not expecting too much - friendship works both ways. It's times like this that you discover who is actually your friend.

LouMacca Wed 10-Oct-12 17:18:02

QuiteTiger wow - there are just no words! So sorry for the loss of your DC and your miscarriage x

OP, your 'friend' is completely selfish. There is no excuse for her behaviour. You have enough to deal with without adding this to the list. I understand that people struggle with deal with other people's illnesses and bereavement but their discomfort is NOTHING compared to what the ill/bereaved are going through.

I cut ties with a friend who was totally unsupportive when a mutual friend lost her DD - I just couldn't stand to be with her after the appalling way she dealt with our friend's loss. Totally self-absorbed and a Mother herself!!

MsArseBiscuit Wed 10-Oct-12 17:32:15

No, there isn't an excuse for the friends who aren't worthy of the name, and I'm certainly not an apologist for them, but those are some of the thought processes some people go through. There are also some who lack empathy or are totally self-absorbed. Unfortunately it can be hard to identify these traits in your friends until they effectively out themselves by being useless in your hour of need.

sadaboutbestfriend Wed 10-Oct-12 19:18:09

Thank you all for the further replies.

To reply to Dobbylugs, yes I have called her and texted her. To be honest I have not called her since early on in my treatment, where she said something like "I don't know what to say, I'll call you back" and didn't. I have texted her a few times to ask if she'd like to meet up and she is always busy on the weekends I suggest. So we have met up on the few occasions where she has texted me.

I don't think she's behaved badly like your ex friend QuietTiger, she has just been a rubbish friend. I am sorry to hear of the loss of your baby and of your mc. At the risk of outing myself I have also had several miscarriages and she was pretty supportive through them.

MsArseBiscuit thank you in particular for your first post, I think some of the reasons you give for people being rubbish when faced with something like a friend with cancer do apply to her.

As you can tell this is all causing me so much sadness I think for my own sake I need to just forget about her, every time I see her I just feel bad sad

MsArseBiscuit Wed 10-Oct-12 19:28:28

I'm sorry that it's causing you so much pain, Sad, although I've not had problems anywhere near the magnitude of yours, I know how upsetting it is to be let down by people - it's a bag o' shite. Just concentrate on yourself and people who love and support you, her reasons and limitations are her problem, don't give her a second thought.

( I know this is frowned upon on here, but have a hug, love )

ThingsThatGoBumpInTheNight Wed 10-Oct-12 20:53:31

Selfish. Simples.

I know because DP is like it, i have to listen to all his 'tribbles' and counsel him advise him ect, only to find that its not returned in any way.

I can't stand selfish me me me people grr

tribpot Wed 10-Oct-12 21:17:48

The only slight defence I would offer for your friend, sadabout, is that she may be going through some very tough time of her own that she hasn't told you about because of not wanting to overburden you. On top of which, she may think you want to keep things 'normal' when you see her and talk about regular things. But in my experience, the person with cancer is usually pretty good at signposting what kind of conversation they need to have, and if they want to talk about how their treatment is going then you follow their lead.

QuietTiger's ex-friend is an entirely different league, I certainly won't make any excuses for her sad sad

All I would say is you might want to let her know how hurt you've been by her apparent indifference. Obviously you've been focused on your own problems and so don't know if she's had something very difficult to cope with as well (remember people find it very hard to tell someone with cancer they've got an overwhelming problem because, let's face it, whatever it is - it's not bloody cancer. But that only helps the person dealing with it up to a point). But you feel unsupported by her and disappointed as a result.

Maybe you write this letter and then see if you want to send it? It might help you just to put it down on paper.

Wingedharpy Thu 11-Oct-12 01:04:38

As MouMou says, 20 years is a long time and people change.
She's changed, from what you've said BUT you have almost certainly changed since your illness.
IMHO it's virtually impossible to experience serious health issues without being affected by it.
Could it be that she has always been the taker in the relationship and you were the giver?
Now you need to take a bit yourself, she's not prepared to give?
If you do feel bad every time you see her then don't see her, or you may just want to simply relegate her to the "aquaintance" department of your life.

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