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over involvement in other people's problems

(22 Posts)
eachpeachbarebum Wed 07-Jan-15 23:40:54

I don't want this to sound like a moan so please be gentle with me!
I've always been the sort of person people talk to about the problems and I will help where I can. Generally it's ok but lately it is too much especially as I have a lot on my own plate right now.
I realise I need to look at why I get into these situations in the first place but there is a situation I need to deal with now. Someone is relying heavily on me; texts, calls, visits. I have done what I can and they are getting proper help but still wanting to recount every detail to me and ask my opinion. I don't have the capacity, time or emotional but don't want to offend or let down an already vulnerable person.
The problems are likely to run and I want to at least reduce my involvement, ideally disappear! They are not even someone I know that well (via playgroup/playdates).
Does anyone else get into similar situations and how do you deal with it? I find it very difficult to say no which is probably how I end up like this! It isn't a moan and I know it's not a big problem but, although I choose not to share with everyone, I am going through a bit of a difficult time and need to minimise stuff so I can hold it together for myself.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 08-Jan-15 06:56:07

The phrase you want is 'what are you going to do about it?' It's OK to be a listening ear and offer sympathy but there is a point where you have to put the responsibility back on the other person's shoulders to do something constructive. You're still being supportive by doing this but you're calling time on them simply repeating the problem.

If other people's problems are making you very unhappy and if 'what are you going to do about it?' doesn't cut down the dependence, then you have to be assertive. It's not at all selfish or unkind to say that you'd rather not discuss the problem

InnocenceAndExperience Thu 08-Jan-15 07:48:25

I have been 'that person' at various critical times in my life. I blush to think of it now but I just didn't realise at the time what a burden it can be for others.

Have you tried explaining how you feel? If anyone had told me I'd have backed off.

The the other thing would be to pace it out - tell them you'll catch up with them on Friday and stick to it - any texts reply with 'we'll talk on Friday'

Also make sure they give you time to talk about your stuff (even if its choosing whats for dinner).

You could also try asking them to do small favours for you - bake a cake for school school bake sale or mind your children while you go for a swim/get a haircut. Feeling needed and doing things for others is very validating and healthy.

Meerka Thu 08-Jan-15 07:59:19

Good advice above, specially about saying "we'll talk when we arranged to meet".

Not quite so sure about asking them for favours as it sounds like you really would prefer a bit of withdrawal from a too-close level of contact. Favours tend to bind you, not loosen the ties.

The thing about "what are you going to do about it" is that, delivered sympathetically, it puts the onus gently on them. Also it's practically orientated so that it grounds them in the here-and-now planning, which is much easier to listen to than an outpouring of misery without check.

InnocenceAndExperience Thu 08-Jan-15 08:02:49

Yes I agree its about the relationship -if its someone you like but just find a bit much it can balance things up a bit, but what I was driving at was encouraging some 'give and take'.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 08-Jan-15 08:06:28

The trouble with encouraging give and take is that it keeps the onus on people like the OP to find solutions. The rsponsibility has to be passed back to the person with the problem and they have to take more initiative.

FunkyBoldRibena Thu 08-Jan-15 08:13:00

texts, calls, visits.

Texts - don't get back to them right away, respond with 'Am up to my eyes in stuff right now, glad you are ok, will call at the weekend' and don't respond to any more until the weekend.

Calls, leave to go to answerphone. If you need to text 'got your message, will call at the weekend'

Visits - do not allow them to visit without booking it. If they turn up, just say 'Hi, I am right in the middle of something. I'll call you at the weekend'. And then go inside and shut the door.

Don't allow them to take you hostage.

Deflect, deflect deflect.

InnocenceAndExperience Thu 08-Jan-15 08:14:02

I get what you are saying Cog.

I'm going by my own experience which was that I had certain friends who would have me launch into 'chapter 72' of my problems at the first opportunity, overwhelming for them and I'd feel awful afterwards.

What actually helped me was being included in activities which made me feel useful and valued.

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 08-Jan-15 09:25:29

I think the difference is that the person is described as 'not even someone I know that well' .... so not really friend, just a casual acquaintance that is dumping on someone they hardly know and monopolising their time. The person is obviously lonely but it's the playgroup equivalent of finding you're sitting next to 'the nutter on the bus'.

eachpeachbarebum Thu 08-Jan-15 10:20:23

Thank you for all the replies.cog it seems straightforward when you say it's not selfish or unkind to say I don't want to hear about it. I need to keep this in mind I just find it so difficult. I find myself being overly nice and then afterwards I am annoyed with myself more than anything.
Innocence it's great to have your perspective. I get what you are saying about give and take but cog and meerka are right.i want to distance myself.
The truth is that there is no friendship or contact other than for this issue. There is no question/conversation about how I am and in these circumstances I tend to claim up and not want to share anyway. I wouldn't choose to discuss what's going on with me and I don't want to have to just as a way to explain why I can't be a sounding board if that makes sense.
Anyway I have just seen the person and tried to employ your advice. I find it difficult as it is not how I am naturally but I am going to try hard to change. I usually find myself offering more but today I just kept saying I was really glad they are getting the proper help they need now and that they were doing really well. I began with a cut off time and stuck to it. I didn't let any discussion happen as to when I could be contacted next. I just can't help feeling cold hearted but to most normal people I am sure this is standard behaviour!
The more I think about it the more I realise it's my problem. I am overly nice through some guilt I have that others have problems and hardships I am fortunate not to. I have decided it must change as I go from one situation to the next and as stupid as it sounds I don't think it is healthy for me and I do have stuff to deal with but because I choose not to share people assume all is hunky dory.
I am going to keep reading your replies and stick to your suggestions. Funky, yours are great. I am going to keep repeating them! It's stupid guilt about something that makes me find it difficult to actually do this but I aspire to be like you!
Can I ask innocence, would you really not have minded if someone had said I can't listen to this anymore? The drastic thing here is that I'd rather not be in touch at all at the moment sad it's interesting you say that it was certain friends you'd do this with. What was it about them that made you offload. Or perhaps more helpful, what was it about other friends that stopped you from offloading to them?!

eachpeachbarebum Thu 08-Jan-15 10:22:32

grin at equivalent of nutter on the bus! Feel like I am turning into exactly what I'm complaining about buy it is helping to share this and to see a bit of humour in it!

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 08-Jan-15 10:25:35

"The more I think about it the more I realise it's my problem"

If you identify the problem as guilt i.e. you feel bad about having a nice life when others don't and therefore obliged to help, then maybe be a little more critical about how you achieved this nice life. Doubt it was handed to you on a plate or entirely down to being fortunate. You will have made various choices along the way and dealt with various challenges.

I have an outwardly nice life and a lot to be grateful for. But my hackles go up when people suggest I've just been 'lucky'. There has been effort, choices, sacrifices, sadness.... No-one gets a free ride.

eachpeachbarebum Thu 08-Jan-15 10:37:11

That's so true cog and a completely new way of viewing it for me.
This is really helpful because it may help me break this pattern.
Yes, I've worked bloody hard and made sacrifices as you say. Also what people perceive as a "nice" life can sometimes be too superficial. There is other crap to live with that isn't apparent.
I do voluntary work so I do my bit. I have no need to be a sounding board for random acquaintances! I am feeling much clearer about this. Thank you!

Buddy80 Thu 08-Jan-15 11:03:58

I have this, even from strangers. I must have a sympathetic face smile. But, until recently I never realised how draining it all was. I used to have it in work, with bosses rambling on about their personal problems to me.

I would have it from all areas of my life, from requests to help a "friend of a friend" to constant texts from friends. It all doesn't make for a balanced friendship. Like another poster experienced, the more I am a sounding board for others the less I reveal about myself.

In short, I am trying to be a lot more selfish. It is hard and it is a very hard habit to break. The funny thing, there are no brownie points for being so available to people. Sad but true. The ones who get all the good stuff back are the ones who occassionally listen and help. Those "one-off's" are more remembered.

I guess I make it harder on myself as I am viewed as the "strong one" who if I had any problems, it would be seen that I can just sort myself out. Which is true, as I have always been reliant on myself.

I do sound very cynical, and I am sure there are some friendships where it is balanced...great! But, when I think about it, if I had invested 1/10th of the time in myself as I have in being a sounding board for others it would have been time very well spent.

OP you sound as if you are already making great changes. I am too - would rather be there for those who really need/deserve it.

eachpeachbarebum Thu 08-Jan-15 13:50:38

Buddy that all sounds so familiar! Yes to strangers, bosses and other random people!
I have recently been spending time thinking why this is when other, perfectly nice people, aren't targeted. This is as I realise, like you, how draining it is and how much time, emotional as well as actual, it has taken.
Are you in the middle of any situations at the moment? My aim is to get out of this one and not get into any others (apart from good friends of course as that's a bit different).
I will find it hard . It's changing habits and patterns of a lifetime.even at school I was known as the agony aunt. Glad you are trying too. I am sure we can do this.think of all the free time and energy we'll have!

Wrapdress Thu 08-Jan-15 14:10:52

Some people are just self-centered and talkers. They hash and re-hash the minutia of their lives, their problems, their ups and downs, their relationships, their family issues, their job problems, blah, blah, blah. They will emotionally and verbally dump on anyone who will listen - it doesn't really matter who that listener is. Your "friend" has picked you because you let her pick you. She's dumping on you because you let her. You're simply available and present to her and that's all she needs - an audience.

When you back away, she will find someone else. She may or may not "get" that she drove you away with her self-centeredness. She may at some point realize what she is doing. Or she may not.

Just stop being responsive to her and don't be responsive to the next one who shows up in your life. You need to establish boundaries for yourself.

Buddy80 Thu 08-Jan-15 17:03:32

each luckily, no. And also luckily I have some great friends who are not like this at all.

But, I imagine it will be a goal of mine for a while.

eachpeachbarebum Thu 08-Jan-15 18:01:19

Wrap dress I know the sort of person you mean and I don't really get bogged down with that type. I wouldn't feel bad if it was just someone droning on.
This is more difficult because, as I said in my op, this is already a vulnerable person just out of an abusive relationship. I've helped along the way of getting her a safe place and set up with professional advice and support. She has every reason to need to talk. My concern is that she is over dependent on me and I have done all I can and don't have the ability to do much more right now. That's a very different scenario and not as easy to manage.
You probably will say I'm being horrible for not supporting more in this situation but she is not alone.jyst need to distance and follow advice of other pps.

HolyTerror Thu 08-Jan-15 19:47:59

I don't think you're being in the least horrible, just realistic about your own limits, and having an important moment of self-realisation about how you created the dependent situation, which sounds as if it happens on a regular basis. You've had good advice on here, so do try and stick to it, especially about boundaries. Hope your own problems calm down soon.

eachpeachbarebum Thu 08-Jan-15 20:30:47

Holy, thank you. I will stick to it. Buddy food luck with your goal too.

InnocenceAndExperience Thu 08-Jan-15 20:32:50

each its fine to distance yourself and its fine to be honest about why (but do try to be kind - I'm sure you would). Better than being cut dead with no explanation. Remind them of the proper help they have and tell them how much they have achieved for themselves, getting out of an abusive relationship.

eachpeachbarebum Thu 08-Jan-15 21:00:19

Thanks innocence I will and I will still be there.i can't just walk away when someone is going through what she is.just want less involvement.will definitely focus on the positives achieved and the strength she's shown.
thanks for your perspective. It's valuable.

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