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What to do with this friend....

(12 Posts)
Mrsalwayslistening Mon 24-Mar-14 12:06:33

Anyone any ideas?

A long time friend ( 30+ years) has had marriage issues for about 20 years. She's started divorce proceedings twice, withdrawn it each time, and the marriage has tottered on propped up by counselling for years at a time ( together as a couple, her separately, him separately..any combination you can think of.)

I've been a good friend and listened for years and years ( and to give her her due, she has been supportive of me during rocky patches) but now I've reached my limits.

All of her friends and 1 counsellor ( who was off-limits with her approach) have told her to give up on the marriage- they are incompatible. She won't for whatever reason and they stagger from 1 crisis to the next.

I've given up now with 'advice' even when she asks me outright because I think she is never ever going to leave and it's now a case of put up and shut up. But when she starts to talk about him, I just glaze over. She has no job, no kids, and her entire focus has been on the marriage- to the extent they have had 3 counselling sessions in a week between them for at least 2 years now. Money is no object and it seems completely self-indulgent on one level.

I don't want to let the friendship go altogether but I'm just so tired of hearing about same-old, same-old and don't know how to respond without being so frank it will seem rude.

NotSuchASmugMarriedNow Mon 24-Mar-14 12:09:36

She sounds like a self obsessed bore. Do you have other friends? Could you up the time you spend with other friends and cut back on time spent with her?

NotNewButNameChanged Mon 24-Mar-14 12:13:50

I had a similar issue with an ex who continually moaned about a certain friend. I one day said that I was not prepared to listen any more. She knew this friend was like this and had two choices:
a) accept her as she is and not moan about her to me
b) tell the friend and see if something changes

Similarly, another friend continually moaned to me about work for months. Again, in the end, I asked what they had done to try and change it? Answer: nothing. I said I was not prepared to listen to more moaning unless they tried to do something and nothing changed.

There is nothing worse than a record stuck in a groove (that dates me). Or people who go round and round avoiding the bleeding obvious, moaning and ignoring all advice, but expecting people to still be there and listen to the same old for months or years on end.

Mrsalwayslistening Mon 24-Mar-14 12:21:52

We rarely see each other because I work and she doesn't- and we live an hour away anyway. We meet up anywhere from 4-6 times a year, but do talk on the phone once every 2 weeks. I've stopped calling her really because I am so tired of it all- it's all first world problems with her- problems with her cleaner(s), problems with their 2nd home, etc, problems with investment properties, and she has everything money could buy but she is still miserable over the DH.

I have other friends yes, and do spend time with other people who are 'easier' but she clearly doesn't want to let the friendship go.

struggling100 Mon 24-Mar-14 12:28:39

She sounds like an emotional vampire.

Clearly you have been friends for a long time, but is there anything to this friendship besides her moaning about her situation, and you listening?

If there is a residual friendship there, then next time she brings this up, you need to draw some boundaries. You don't have to be harsh about it - you can simply say 'I'm really sorry to do this, but I don't think I can listen to this any more. You seem so unhappy, and yet you won't leave this man. I feel bad for you, but I'm not a trained counsellor and the constant unhappiness that is emanating from you is really dragging me down. I just don't know what to suggest any more. I really value your friendship, but I find this so difficult - in future, I think it might be better if we just avoided this topic. You know I'll always support you, so you can take that as read, and if there's every anything I can do practically, you let me know. But I can't just listen hopelessly any more'

If there is no friendship left outside of you being a 'listening post' then I seriously recommend that you take a long hard look at whether you really do get anything out of this friendship, and why you're allowing yourself to be reduced to the status of unpaid counsellor! Relationships aren't always 50/50 - there will be times when someone needs extra support - but if they are permanently 100/0, then it's time to ask some searching questions. Some people are just insatiably selfish, and the best way of dealing with that can be to minimise their influence over your life.

Zucker Mon 24-Mar-14 12:33:24

Next time she asks you outright, throw the questions right back at her, repeatedly.
"That sounds terrible for you , what are you going to do about it?" - that sort of thing.
To be honest though it sounds like its a hobby or a habit for her at this stage.

Out of interest do you ever offload your worries or problems on her? Or would she not be all that interested? Emotional vampire is a great description for someone like this.

Mrsalwayslistening Mon 24-Mar-14 12:47:15

Thanks- those suggestions are very good struggling and everyone else too.

Some time back - about 2 years- we had a falling out . This was because I was starting to point out that the marriage issues were not solely down to her DH but she had a role too. There have been many times when her behaviour has been questionable- violent and abusive - but the reasons she gives are that he 'provokes' her.

Anyway- she didn't like her behaviour being questioned and she accused me of being unsupportive- after which she went silent on me for about a month or more, accusing me of being uncaring and not understanding.

At that point she told ME that she was no longer going to discuss the marriage with me because she found my responses hurtful sometimes.
Since then we have made up and she has started to talk about it more again.

I rarely offload to her now but did have a bad patch some years back when I did.

AngelaDaviesHair Mon 24-Mar-14 12:52:29

Do you think she keeps the friendship going because she wants another person to offload to about the marriage? That's really your (only) role in her life it seems, and you aren't happy with it.

If you told her, however gently, that you just didn't feel you had any meaningful advice to give and didn't want to talk about her marriage any more, would she still ring you?

If you think the answer to that is 'No', then you know where you are. It is a pretty stark choice between continuing to have this issue imposed on you whenever she rings, and dropping the friendship. I wouldn't feel too bad at being called unsupportive, no one has a bottomless well of empathy. You've tried.

LessMissAbs Mon 24-Mar-14 12:58:55

She sounds bored and as if she is staying for the money. In that sentence, you have the reason for her behaviour and her motive for staying in the marriage. Unless both of those change, she is going to stay exactly where she is now. She could have had an entire different life by now, but my guess is that she has too much in material terms to leave.

Mrsalwayslistening Mon 24-Mar-14 13:04:00

Lessmiss- I tend to think that too and have asked her the very same- she denies it. TBH I'd actually have more sympathy for her if she said that was the reason for staying, and she'd decided to put up with him for the material payback. It wouldn't be ideal but it's a route many middle aged women decide on because they don't want the upheaval of divorce, so they settle and make the best of what they have. If she did that fine- but all we've had are years and years of counselling to try to make him into the person she wants him to be.

struggling100 Mon 24-Mar-14 13:04:18

Oooh, that refusal to be questioned even when her behaviour was really bad speaks volumes about her! When someone is willing to jettison your friendship because of advice that they have asked but have not liked, you have to wonder how equal the relationship really is.

I should say, I have recently been hurt by someone who behaved a lot like your friend - my DH's ex (also a friend of mine). Her own bad behaviour is always the 'fault' of others who caused her to react in certain ways - she is always the central victim of every narrative (e.g. 'My DH made me so angry, I lay on the floor and banged my head against it and screamed until he paid attention'). Unsurprisingly, every relationship she has is dysfunctional. I have come to think that she is actually in love with drama, and that she likes the constant chaos around her more than she likes being happy. The worst thing is that she has no capacity whatsoever for empathy - so despite drawing extensively on her friends for support, she vanishes the moment that any return is needed. At the moment, she is having a war with her partner over the fact that he maintains contact with his ex. When he (rightly) pointed out that this was a bit hypocritical, given that she is in contact with hers (my DH) and with me, she decided she'd rather lose us as friends and win her cause... despite the fact that I have supported and cared for her when she's been in trouble for days on end with no return. That's how disposable I am to her! It made it worse that this coincided with a period of extremely black depression for me, where I've needed friends.

Some people are just not worth having in your life. I would evaluate the situation in a pretty hard-headed way in your shoes!

Mrsalwayslistening Mon 24-Mar-14 13:16:01

Sorry that you have been hurt Struggling.

My friend can empathise and she can be caring. BUT- I don't think their marriage will change- unless he leaves. She clearly can't for whatever reason - status, money, fear of being alone- who knows. I just feel impatient that she appears to be wasting her life when she could easily change it all.

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