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Is it ok to have boundaries?(23 Posts)
I've always struggled with friendships, I seem to attract users and acknowledge I am mistrustful as a result. Lately I've become quite close to someone I've known vaguely for a few years. She's having a shit time, just out of an abusive relationship and I've been supporting her as best I can.
I have two problems now, both of which are making me feel slightly guilty and I think I just need some objective opinions on whether I'm right to be cautious and protect myself from being taken advantage of or am actually being unnecessarily guarded.
She does seem to be lurching from one crisis to another a bit, on the surface none of it appears to be her fault or anything she can help and, if it's all genuine and as she says, I'm more than happy to do what I can to help her. But I'd be a liar if I said I automatically believe everything she says. It's not that I disbelieve her exactly, more that past experience has taught me not to just blindly believe everything someone says. But then I feel bad for not trusting her, she's my friend and hasn't given me any real reason not to, what kind of friend does that make me?
So that's one problem, the other is that there are certain things I think she would like me to help her with, she hasn't asked directly but has dropped hints. But I feel I'm doing as much as I'm able to and am comfortable with and again I'm wary of getting too involved due to past experience. So is it ok that I set boundaries I'm comfortable with and don't offer to do things I know would help her but which I don't feel comfortable with? Does that make me a bad friend?
I want to believe she is who she says she is, that I'm not going to end up feeling taken for an idiot this time and that she will turn out to be a good friend but only time will tell and in the meantime I feel like I can't afford to be vulnerable. I don't think I show any of this to her, everytime she's asked for help I've been there without question, I guess I just feel guilty for this internal monologue I have going on in order to protect myself and I'm worried that now I'm the shitty friend.
I'd be wary of any relationship that intensifies very quickly, either romantic or friendship. They usually end as abruptly as they start.
It sounds possible this person is an emotional vampire, drawing you into her drama and sucking your energy.
Of course it's OK to have boundaries. Don't do anything you're not comfortable with.
I think that's possible too troodie, I feel guilty for thinking it but there it is.
I have experienced ‘user’ friendships too, which have made me feel the way you describe. I would be very reluctant to give my all into a newish friendship.
Give/do what you are happy with, what you can say to yourself, (if the friendship goes south) I feel good in myself for doing/giving that, if you know what I mean.
I now only do/give what makes ME feel good, not what I think is expected or I should. I don’t consider myself a bad friend.
What’s the best way to get distance from these situations though? I’m struggling with it myself
You're right How, I'm doing as much as I'm happy to do. I keep thinking that if this situation was reversed I wouldn't want someone to do anything more for me than they felt happy with.
Do you think it's two-faced to be sceptical about some of her dramas though? I feel awful everytime 'could she be lying' goes through my mind but I can't seem to help it, I'm just not prepared to run headlong into someone else's drama without questioning it anymore. I don't know that it's not better for both of us that way tbh, being less involved seems to be meaning my advice is actually more objective and I'm not sure she needs a yes-man right now.
I think you're being very sensible. I've been in similar situations.
There is no need to feel guilty about what you think or feel. We don't have control over that, only over our actions. I'd also not dismiss your gut feelings or inner voice.
Having your own boundaries is not only acceptable, but healthy and necessary.
I think even if people are being honest they will often put their own spin on things, so she may not be lying as such but that still doesn't mean you should just accept what she says at face value. A negative or chaotic person will see every little setback as a massive drama, whereas a positive, calm one may just get on with dealing with it.
Hi White, do you mean how to not get sucked in? If so I've surprised myself with how resistant I have been, I guess that's what fear of being taken for a fool yet again will do for you!
I keep my responses to messages really non commital, I'm sympathetic and understanding of whatever she has going on but I ask lots of questions and make little comment about it, kind of try to help her get to her own solution instead of jumping in and trying to fix it for her. If she's hinting about something she wants me to do for her I just don't bite, if she wants to ask me directly I'll find a nice way of saying no but usually the fact that I haven't immediately offered when she hints is enough to let her know there's no point asking.
Would it help to talk through what's happening with you? Happy to help if I can.
Just to add, that doesn't mean the chaotic person is a bad friend, or that the help they need isn't genuine. If life's been dumping on her a lot she may find it hard to see the wood for the trees. Being slightly detached rather than plunging into the drama and taking co-ownership of all her problems may actually be more helpful in the long run. What's the saying: check your own lifebelt first...
I'm glad the general consensus is that I'm not being a bitch. It probably doesn't sound like it but I do really like her and so hope she's genuine but I can't let myself get walked all over again, my self respect can't take it.
What is she asking you to do? There are definitely people out there who are drama magnets. Boundaries are necessary in any relationship. Does she have other friends?
That's exactly it Annie and it's very much proving to be true. I feel like I'm offering her solid, sensible support rather than feeding the drama.
I do like her Ink, very much. Half the dilemma here and much of the reason I posted was that I feel so bad for doubting her because there's every chance each and every 'drama' is entirely real and absolutely not of her making. It's most definitely my issues and past experience that put the doubt in my mind (hence my guilt) not her, she comes across as a really lovely person.
It sounds like you are doing all the right things to protect yourself whilst also offering as much help to your friend as you feel comfortable with op.
It's important to be careful if you have a tendency to be a 'rescuer' and that it's ok to decide not to have friendships or relationships with people who get caught up in crisis situations.
Friendship is based on 2 things: shared experiences or/and things in common.
ABSOLUTELY have boundaries. We all have them. Think of a dart board with the center being you.
Everyone that you know or meet begins at the furthest out point from you and gradually, with time get to move closer.
Molesters/abusers understand this concept and often move slowly inwards; expecting a rebuttal at each stage (They want to escape from being caught). But normal healthy friendships are good to be guarded too
People who have been molested or taken advantage of do not have strong walls.
Friendship circles/ walls are like this from furthest point inwards:
1. Commonality (experience/thing)
2. Compatible in times (late/early)
3. Money minded compatible (borrowers?)
4. Didn't tell a "didn't matter confidence"
5. Etc. These just get more personal, but in the beginning, if the person isn't a healthy friendship, they will want to be a bossy buddy immediately, without even letting you push them out. This is not a good friend.
Friendships or relationships are supposed to be fun, easygoing, especially early on. If they aren't, they aren't good.
That said, i leap over boundaries sometimes bc i can't stand furniture that is flowing in a home; i had asked to help rearrange furniture early in friendships, but those became very close friendships anyway.
I tell mt dc to "follow your instincts." Often your subconscious understands before you can articulate.
I helped her get sorted when she left her abusive partner lottie, practical stuff like helping her pack and move, a couple of short term loans (paid back) while she waited for new tax credit claims, lifts a couple of times and lots of emotional support, pep talks to stop her going back when he was harassing her, late night calls when she was feeling low, lots of talking.
Recently there's been a hint about money, not for anything essential though and things are tight for me so I wouldn't have been able to help if she'd asked me outright. Also hints about childcare for nights out as she tries to rebuild a social life which I don't want to do simply because it impacts on my own family life, weekends are precious as DH works away. Her ex isolated her from her other friends, they are starting to come back to her now but she had no one when it all first happened.
What are you getting out of this friendship? I’m sorry but it does sound like she’s a user.
I've made it sound really one sided because I've only talked about what I do for her but it's really not. She needs more than me atm because of her situation but she does do stuff for me.
She takes an interest in my life, remembers when I have something important happening and offers support when needed. She's helping me get out and about more, I have PTSD and struggle with leaving the house without DH and she begs, bullies and cajoles me out of the house at least once a week which is doing wonders for my MH.
She seems to find me funny and interesting and like I have worthwhile stuff to say, she seems to genuinely like and respect me and actively seeks to spend time with me quite aside from anything I might do for her. Like I said I have no reason to think she's anything but genuine, it's my own experiences that make me doubt her.
But imo it’s not normal in the early stages of a friendship for someone to be asking for loans and the level of intensity that you describe.
Hmm, I'd be wary of becomming her default babysitter, while she goes out and builds friendships with other people. You are her friend, not her mum and you don't want to end up being the person she relies on for favours while she has all her fun with other people.
I think that if you lend money regularly and do all the helping out, it unbalances the relationship and what you want in a friendship is equal balance. I think you are doing the right thing at the moment - it was good to help her financially when she first left her relationship because that was a genuine, short term emergency, but you are right to not do it as a regular thing. I think you are also right to not do childcare (bar an emergency) - you are her friend, not her babysitter.
If she continues to be your friend, without you doing constant favours, then you'll know it's real but if her interest in you tails off, then you know she was using you for support.
I’m just wondering why she isn’t going out with OP instead of going out with other people and asking her to babysit?
I’ve recently finished with a partner over this sort of thing. He had depression and was going out every week with different friends and football matches etc. Then when it was time to spend time with me he just wanted to stay in the house and dump his issues on me. I felt very angry about it.
I’m going to be the loan voice from the other side. I could be your friend - the last 2 years of my life have been tumultuous to say the least. There has been difficulty after difficulty. If I wrote down everything that happened you’d probably claim I was making it up. The only thing that has gotten me through are REALLY good friends. If I was your friend & you thought that I was making this up I would be so incredibly hurt I would walk away from the friendship.
It is fine to have boundaries. As of yet she hasn’t specifically asked you for childcare or money has she? If you don’t want to give those things you don’t have to. The only way you can discover who can/will help with what, when you’re in her position is to ask. I’ll sometimes talk to my friends about a scenario I’m in (say needing childcare) because that’s what Friends do, they talk about what’s going on with them. If someone offered childcare after that conversation then great, but that outcome isn’t what I was angling for iykwim.
It sounds like she also does a lot for you too. How would you feel if she got frustrated & fed up with you not leaving the house & just stopped bothering with you?
Friendships ebb & flow in neediness. She needs you more now, down the line you might need her more. Friendships don’t usually break down because of healthy boundaries. They do however break down because one person is untrusting, judgemental, etc. I agree it doesn’t sound like you like her very much and if you don’t believe her then that’s going to be a big issue - but not one about boundaries.
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