Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries

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JenniferSmith

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Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« on: September 03, 2017, 11:47:42 PM »
I have a friend I've gradually gotten to know over the past year or so. But as the months drag on, I'm realizing that this person has a number of habits that just do not work for me.  She has a good heart, but I'm getting worn down by her other habits. 

The bad habits include:  constantly interrupting when we talk on the phone or in person. Its slightly better in person, but its terrible on the phone. I literally have to raise my voice and speak over her in order to get a word in. I feel stressed after being on the phone because its such a fight to not get interrupted as I am attempting to talk. 

I am a good listener in general, and sometimes I will just spend most of the call listening to her talk and vent. Strangely, on several occasions, after we get off the phone, she sends an email saying "If you ever need me to listen, just tell me. I can do that!"  - so she appears to know on some level what she is doing.

Due to the constant interruption, it has caused me to avoid speaking on the phone for the past few weeks. I just can't bear it anymore.

I do truly wonder if this person has untreated ADHD.  She is also very distractible and hyper. She flits from this to that and just can't sit still. I literally could not invite her to come to my home and watch a movie or even a one-hour tv show-  she would not be able to tolerate sitting for that length of time.

Then it just feels like she is so negative. We both have some very stressful life experiences, and I want to be supportive, but for my own well-being, I try to balance sharing the negative with positive things, humor, etc. I am fighting depression myself and when I get emails filled with all her complaints about life, I just can't take it. I thought we could be supportive to each other, but as time has gone on, I feel that she is way more negative that I am, and its making me want to avoid her.

This sounds like a picky thing, but I've noticed when I send emails and share something positive that happened (even something very small), she never responds. She  waits a while and then sends me an email about all her problems.  Over the months, this has made me feel like I am just not being heard. I send an email and it just goes into a void with this person.

I've started pulling back in the past week or two and she knows it. I wish I could find a middle ground with her, but part of me feels like there is just too much on the negative side and its not possible. 

The thing is- she is a good person at heart. She just has all these terrible habits. I know she has lost many friends, and I am not surprised now that I have gotten to know her better. I feel sad for her because she is not a mean person, she is not an unkind person. She just is very distracted, impulsive, and has bad communication habits. She is also nearly 70 years old, so the prospect of change is not great.

I don't want to hurt her, but she knows I am pulling away. This is causing her to increase her efforts to contact me, which is making me want to recoil further.  She knows that I do not have a super busy life, so making excuses about how busy I am will not really work. I feel very conflicted and depressed about this.  I feel guilty that I have such a negative feeling about her now. I almost feel like I wouldn't want to bother trying to explain the issues to her at this point.  It took me months of being friends for me to realize how all her habits affected me. At first I just saw her good qualities and overlooked the negative. But as time goes on, I find myself feeling hurt and worn down by her negative habits.

I tried to tell her some of this a while ago but despite a very carefully worded email in which I focused on my needs and not criticisms of her, it wasn't received well. I sort of wish I had used that incident to let things end.... but I didn't.. and now I am stuck.

If this friend could a) give me a bit more space , b) not interrupt me when we do speak , c) respond to what I say in an email before sharing about herself , and d) talk about positive /fun things to balance negative ... I wouldn't mind having her as a casual friend.

Any thoughts appreciated!!!
« Last Edit: September 04, 2017, 12:07:51 AM by JenniferSmith »

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biggerfish

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2017, 01:05:24 AM »
Hi JS. Gosh, this sounds disappointing. And then there's that fine line between acceptance and asking her to change. You are right that people don't change easily.

I don't have advice about how to proceed. I just want to acknowledge that i really hear your understandable distress over this. Pulling back does make sense, and maybe refocus on what you want in a friendship so that you can gain some discernment as you move forward and seek out new friends.

I'm guessing that if you found a better friend in the coming year, this gal would fade away from your heart pretty easily, no?

I'm cheering you on as you get your bearings.

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Spring Butterfly

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2017, 12:25:33 PM »
Communicating without hurting another person's feelings is really difficult. It really does take a great deal of tact and caring to communicate boundaries. Even with PD persons my personal belief is that others deserve to know how their actions affect you as a person.

Would it be possible when she interrupts to remind her of the email where she said "If you ever need me to listen, just tell me. I can do that!" ?

In response to her email where she's talking all about herself would it be possible to ask her if she received your previous email or what her thoughts were on it since she didn't comment on it?

On the topic of negative versus positive conversation I shared with some in my life that I'm trying to focus on the positive and could really use their help. And helped me to differentiate between those who would be supportive in my efforts and those who are toxic.

When communicating using phrases like when x happens I feel x is one effective way to word things.

In all honesty what are you getting out of this friendship? Is this person PD and unlikely to respond? Are they full of fleas or just Bad Manners? After coming Out of the FOG but before "cleaning house" with friends I have all the opportunity to provide a mutually supportive friendship or at the very least be decent dinner company able to handle normal social graces. Some passed and some didn't. Maybe it would be good for you to be busy and build new and diverse friendships, take an art class or meet ups of common interest groups.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2017, 12:27:10 PM by Spring Butterfly »
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JenniferSmith

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2017, 06:05:03 PM »
Hi JS. Gosh, this sounds disappointing. And then there's that fine line between acceptance and asking her to change. You are right that people don't change easily.

I don't have advice about how to proceed. I just want to acknowledge that i really hear your understandable distress over this. Pulling back does make sense, and maybe refocus on what you want in a friendship so that you can gain some discernment as you move forward and seek out new friends.

I'm guessing that if you found a better friend in the coming year, this gal would fade away from your heart pretty easily, no?

I'm cheering you on as you get your bearings.

Thanks BF.  I appreciate it.   :)

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JenniferSmith

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2017, 06:20:37 PM »
Communicating without hurting another person's feelings is really difficult. It really does take a great deal of tact and caring to communicate boundaries. Even with PD persons my personal belief is that others deserve to know how their actions affect you as a person.

Would it be possible when she interrupts to remind her of the email where she said "If you ever need me to listen, just tell me. I can do that!" ?

In response to her email where she's talking all about herself would it be possible to ask her if she received your previous email or what her thoughts were on it since she didn't comment on it?

On the topic of negative versus positive conversation I shared with some in my life that I'm trying to focus on the positive and could really use their help. And helped me to differentiate between those who would be supportive in my efforts and those who are toxic.

When communicating using phrases like when x happens I feel x is one effective way to word things.

In all honesty what are you getting out of this friendship? Is this person PD and unlikely to respond? Are they full of fleas or just Bad Manners? After coming Out of the FOG but before "cleaning house" with friends I have all the opportunity to provide a mutually supportive friendship or at the very least be decent dinner company able to handle normal social graces. Some passed and some didn't. Maybe it would be good for you to be busy and build new and diverse friendships, take an art class or meet ups of common interest groups.

Thanks..

Your suggestions for reacting to her negative behaviors in the moment are great. In our last phone call, when she interrupted me, I said, "can I finish what I was saying?" and she seemed a bit surprised, but then let me finish speaking. 

My sense is that this person has fleas, and also has untreated ADHD. Given her age, I also wonder if she is having some memory issues as well.  She has a kind heart but its buried beneath all these horrible communication habits.

I think some of my guilt comes from the fact that I was the one who pursued her friendship initially. It was due to unhealthy reasons that I did that. She is not someone I would choose to befriend if I had been in a better place mentally.

I feel sorry for her. She is older and alone. She has had a crappy family (abusive mother), just like me. I have a lot of empathy for her. But her habits make her someone who I don't want to get closer to.  And now she has become a bit dependent on me as a friend.

The real problem is that I ignored bad behavior because I was lonely and I tried to focus on her good qualities.  And now she is confused about why I am pulling away.... which is understandable. I don't fault her for that at all.

I just don't know how gradually pulling away (not responding to emails very quickly, not sharing much about my life, telling her I have other things going on, etc) is going to work. 

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Spring Butterfly

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2017, 07:36:30 PM »
I hear you and I have several friendships like that, just sort of blowing in the wind. What I did was to get busy with hobbies and community activities and those who are not PD who just have fleas sort of just get used to me having an actual life. The PD persons get highly insulted that I have an actual life that doesn't revolve around their universe and just sort of self-employed and go away. Others are willing to stick around and sort of just be my friend as I'm available. Not sure if that kind of thing would work for you but that's sort of how I meant it some of the sweet people who were in my life but sort of loaded with fleas.
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Trytobegood

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2017, 12:43:43 PM »
This could be me and my friend, and in fact, was why I joined this forum in the first place. I've been trying to pull away from friend (F) for literally years because of her negativity. She, too, has these traits that your friend has. Whereas I am upbeat and positive, and a good listener, there are times when I need someone to listen to my problems but I get talked over. And F is *always* negative. Always. She's alone too, no kids, bad family situation, so I feel sorry for her. Lately I have been successful in pulling away, being legitimately busy with grandkids.

But I could have written your letter word for word. I also don't want to hurt her feelings because really, the only things she's "done" to me is talk over me; well, also tell me what I ought to do, give me unwanted advice, but that's more annoying than harmful.

So, you are not alone. I have no real advice, just hugs. Been there, unfortunately, still there.

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Adrienne25

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2017, 04:43:49 PM »
Same here, Trytobegood!  My former friend had a good heart (somewhere in there!!??), but the negativity was really driving me to a place that was no good. The daylight saving time was a problem ("its getting darker out early--I'm getting SAD-  yeah, me too, but I have to still go ON!!), higher gas prices sent her into a tizzy, the election, So and so movie star dying at only the age of 82 was hard on her and on and on. When I could get a word in edgewise, she found fault with my choices, probed and dug at my problems and made it difficult to bounce ideas off her; something one looks for in a friendship.  I finally decided on the old Ann Landers thing "Can you live better without Him/Her?" and I cut off communication. That process was bitter on her end, but I am better now because of it.

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JenniferSmith

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2017, 06:05:39 PM »
This could be me and my friend, and in fact, was why I joined this forum in the first place. I've been trying to pull away from friend (F) for literally years because of her negativity. She, too, has these traits that your friend has. Whereas I am upbeat and positive, and a good listener, there are times when I need someone to listen to my problems but I get talked over. And F is *always* negative. Always. She's alone too, no kids, bad family situation, so I feel sorry for her. Lately I have been successful in pulling away, being legitimately busy with grandkids.

But I could have written your letter word for word. I also don't want to hurt her feelings because really, the only things she's "done" to me is talk over me; well, also tell me what I ought to do, give me unwanted advice, but that's more annoying than harmful.

So, you are not alone. I have no real advice, just hugs. Been there, unfortunately, still there.

Thanks Trytobegood -  it does sound like we have friends who are similar.

I decided that I am just going to start pulling away gradually. I am going to respond to emails slower and emphasize the things in my life that are keeping me busy. I will be friendly, but distant.  This is someone I haven't known all that long, so it might work better than a longer-term friend. 

I feel sad for this person because I know she is lonely. And her own bad communication habits are contributing to that problem. 

I will report back in a few days or next week to share how my disengaging process is going.

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JenniferSmith

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2017, 12:19:53 AM »
I want to add another aspect to this just to see what folks think.

Part of the problem, I believe, is that the main thing this friend and I had in common was a negative life situation (without revealing the details- think of it like - two women who just got divorced, or two women who are struggling as single parents, etc). 

That negative life situation was what brought us together, and its an on-going source of stress for both of us.  As our friendship progressed, it began to turn into just an overwhelming focus on negativity.  Moreso on her side than mine, but in her mind, I am certain she thinks that I have complained about my problems just as much as she has.  I know that's not true, but I have complained.

I feel like this is just a no-win situation. She sent me two emails over the weekend and I still haven't read them because I am stressed that she is angry at me, and I will have no idea what to say.

I'm just venting a bit. I need to rip the bandaid off and read the emails.

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Spring Butterfly

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2017, 08:38:59 AM »
Reminds me of the prom wbut friendships - People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. There's more to the poem and it's so true.
Every interaction w/ PD persons results in damage-plan accordingly, make time to heal
Individuation is one key to emotional freedom
It's foolish to expect of others what they have no capacity to give
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JenniferSmith

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2017, 06:28:06 PM »
She sent another email yesterday. I finally got up the courage to read the three unread emails today.  Interestingly, now since I've backed off, she is actually asking me about how I am doing, and about things going on in my life.   So she didn't go into a angry rant thankfully. I do think she is just very flea-ridden (she's essentially told me that - abused by horrible mom, and she has had some therapy).

Anyway, I wrote back saying that I am very busy with my "life situation" that we have in common and that I need to put my focus on that for now, and am not feeling very social. I said I'll get in touch after I get things in order, and I wished her the best with her  stressful life stuff.

Now that I hit the send button, I feel relief. I do feel some anxiety that she is going to email me again, but I've decided I am not going to read it if she does. If she can't get the message, then that's just too bad.  (I've been trying to convey for the past few weeks that I have a lot on  my plate, but she continually just focuses on herself and her feelings and needs)  My email today is about as explicit as I can get without burning the bridge completely. I don't feel a need to end things on a bad note/with a big argument. I hope my email and distance will transition to a drifting away, or maybe some casual contact once and a while. 

She has good qualities, but I think I need to focus on my own feelings as we got to know each other. With some folks, the more I get to know them, the more I like them. With her, as the months dragged on, I found myself not liking her. I found myself shutting down in face of her constant interruptions when we did speak. I found myself getting brought down by her overwhelming negativity, while I am struggling to deal with challenging issues in my own life.  I found myself feeling hurt and invisible when I shared things in email only to have them completely ignored. I found myself feeling used when I began to realize that I was the only person being the good listener.

She most likely intends none of those negative impacts. But that is not my problem. She has lived nearly two decades more than me and yet she is unaware of how she affects others. I've spent years in therapy trying to work out my baggage and figure out healthy ways to interact with others. I want friends who can bring more to the table than this person.

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Spring Butterfly

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2017, 09:50:50 PM »
Sounds like you handled it clearly yet with the utmost grace!
Every interaction w/ PD persons results in damage-plan accordingly, make time to heal
Individuation is one key to emotional freedom
It's foolish to expect of others what they have no capacity to give
my Empowered Growth blog

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biggerfish

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #13 on: September 09, 2017, 12:28:42 AM »
Nicely handled, and well thought through. Working out relationships is a lot of work, even for those without PD issues in their lives. You did this in a gentle, creative way that supports your self respect.

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JenniferSmith

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #14 on: September 09, 2017, 03:06:24 AM »
Thanks biggerfish and Spring Butterfly!  :)

Guess what.... I got an email back already. It is staying in its folder.

I have a slightly strange habit- whenever I have a person in my life who I am feeling stress about, I create a folder for their emails.  It helps me have a visual buffer. I feel like my inbox is protected somehow. I created a folder for this friend a couple of weeks ago.

My dad also has his own folder lol

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EntWife

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #15 on: September 09, 2017, 12:57:41 PM »
...She is also nearly 70 years old, so the prospect of change is not great.

...I feel guilty that I have such a negative feeling about her now....

I think we're all capable of change at any age and you're living proof! You're trying to be more positive, setting healthy boundaries, and standing up for yourself: whatever your age, (speaking from experience) those changes are hard and it sounds like your doing an awesome job!

But I know what you're saying, having made these changes for myself. It sounds like she's not a bad person (in fact, she's doing a lot of the things I do because of my sleep disorder) and its not like she deserves to lose you as a friend, but you also have to look after yourself. You can't change her, but you're also making healthy changes that are in conflict with your relationship.

I wish I had good advice like these other respondents, but what I can offer is the comfort that I also get stuck in this conflict! I want to make these changes and KEEP all my relationships. I've quite a few on my journey and I hope you don't have to lose this one! Best of luck!
"Boundaries ensure that the consequences of a person's actions land squarely on his/her shoulders." -(I wish I knew who originally wrote/said this!)

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JenniferSmith

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2017, 10:31:42 PM »
Thanks Zen Warrior!!

Its now been a few days since I sent my "need space" email.... and I honestly feel like a weight has lifted off me.  This tells me that I made the right decision. 

I've reflected on this friendship - we met in person in a support group setting, but then I stopped going. We don't live close to each other, so most of our communication was done over email. The balance was probably 80% communication email and 20% either phone, or rarely in person.

Email strips away all the non-verbal - tone of voice, facial expression, eye contact, body language. 

I've decided that when I do feel in a better place mentally, I might reach out to this friend and say that I'm open to meeting up for coffee/lunch once in a while, but want to stay away from the excessive emailing.

This is what I do with my mentally healthy friends - they are busy and I am too- we don't spend our time dumping our problems on each other via email or text- we meet up and have a nice face-to-face chat when we are able, and this keeps the positive feelings of friendship alive between us.

I've realized that my friend and I fell into an unhealthy dependence on each other too quickly. Its due to us both facing very stressful life circumstances. But that is too much negativity for a new friend. Its not realistic to expect that sort of emotional support so early on. I was trying to keep the balance in my communication (sharing good news/happy things to balance the negative/stressful), but my friend could not, and that is why I had to step away.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 10:33:16 PM by JenniferSmith »

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JenniferSmith

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #17 on: September 18, 2017, 06:17:02 PM »
Its been over a week since I sent my "I need space, need to focus on my own personal stuff" email (that is a paraphrase). 

My friend has sent three emails since then but I haven't read them.

Some days I feel like a cold-hearted bitch, but mostly I just feel relief.  I am totally prioritizing my needs over hers.  I've realized that a lot of my feelings of guilt come from two places 1. I don't want to be an unkind person, and 2. I feel sorry for her.

I wish I could have paid better attention to her annoying habits earlier on. Had I done so, this friendship would not have developed to the point it did.  But aren't people allowed to re-evaluate and make changes?  A friendship between adults is not a commitment or a promise.  I don't think I should feel obligated just because we were friends for a few months, right?

Its like if we were dating, we dated for a few months until one of realized we're not compatible. When you date someone, you expect things to either work out or break up.  With friendship, I feel we don't have any clear guidelines like this., and that is what makes it harder.

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SpringLight

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #18 on: September 18, 2017, 07:51:32 PM »
Its been over a week since I sent my "I need space, need to focus on my own personal stuff" email (that is a paraphrase). 

My friend has sent three emails since then but I haven't read them.

Some days I feel like a cold-hearted bitch, but mostly I just feel relief.  I am totally prioritizing my needs over hers.  I've realized that a lot of my feelings of guilt come from two places 1. I don't want to be an unkind person, and 2. I feel sorry for her.

I wish I could have paid better attention to her annoying habits earlier on. Had I done so, this friendship would not have developed to the point it did.  But aren't people allowed to re-evaluate and make changes?  A friendship between adults is not a commitment or a promise.  I don't think I should feel obligated just because we were friends for a few months, right?

Its like if we were dating, we dated for a few months until one of realized we're not compatible. When you date someone, you expect things to either work out or break up.  With friendship, I feel we don't have any clear guidelines like this., and that is what makes it harder.

Jennifer:

I can certainly empathize with your experience and your feelings about this relationship.

 Like you and other posters here, I've had "friends"/people like this in my life.  And, like you,  I've almost always felt guilty about going N/C with these individuals.  As you wrote, I,  too, a) didn't want to be unkind  &  b) I felt sorry--and overly-empathized with the person and the person's problems.

I frequently have been told that I am an excellent listener. And if  true, that's because I am genuinely interested in people. People being their authentic selves, that is. And I have a wide range of interests.

My take on these nice, but annoying people is that it's not simply that they "have a lot of problems." It's HOW they communicate with others about those problems-- and how they manage their problems-- communicating with you and other people.

One-sided relationships are extremely exhausting, frustrating and ultimately, unfulfilling.  This kind of dynamic is not good for YOUR well-being. But it's also not good for HER, either, to dominate the discussion. Friends are not supposed to serve as social workers/shrinks. (well, they can be for a very short time, but it shouldn't be expected routinely). There has to be give and take in a friendship-- MOST of the time.

Through the years,  I tended to have this type problem in  relationships in which the "Annoying Person" and I were "isolated" from other mutually known contacts --meaning we two did not have any common friends.

I've learned that  a "common friend/coworker/acquaintance" can often help validate your very real feelings/impression about the person.  And help enlighten you and help you to cut ties earlier. It's helpful to realize that this annoying behavior is USUALLY an established pattern of behavior with the Annoying Person.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2017, 07:53:34 PM by SpringLight »

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biggerfish

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Re: Feeling hopeless that a friend can handle my new boundaries
« Reply #19 on: September 18, 2017, 10:27:00 PM »
I'm fortunate enough to have a contrasting story to share. Perhaps my story will illustrate emotionally healthy friendships.

About ten years ago I made friends with someone who, it turns out, was going through a horrendous, contentious divorce. She needed someone to lean on, to be sure. But ya know what she did? She always went out of her way to ask me how I am, and to really listen, and to always remind me that my problems are just as important as hers!

Her problems have continued to this day. And needless to say, we're still friends today.  I get teary-eyed when I think about how much she means to me.

That's a success story of two people working at balance.