I only have 3 close friends and one of them is really upsetting me. Actually, it’s gone on for some years now and I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to cut off from her or upset her, but I also don’t think I can stand her behaviour any more and I don’t want to feel responsible for sorting out her problems – in the past I’ve continually ended up in the role of ‘carer’ for friends and then I get overwhelmed and can’t take it or I try to ask for help in return and they just flake out on me.
This friend is 12 years younger than me – I’m 51 and she is 39. I’m from the UK, she is originally from Europe, so there is maybe a cultural difference, although she’s lived over here for nearly 20 years.I keep trying to take into account our age difference, but I am also really fed up with her attitude. When I first met her we were both at college and I felt I’d finally found another very caring person – which I was back then (I freely admit I am not so much now as I got so taken advantage of by others). She was kind, a lot of fun, hard working and positive. But she was also being funded by her family, who were very wealthy at the time. In her home country, there has been a recession since then and the handouts have stopped. I’ve known her for 12 years and we both work in the same industry. I always wanted to work in this field but she never did. She has, however, been incredibly lucky to get a permanent role which most people would really love. She does have to travel to work, and is still living in a shared house with others. She never says anything positive about this job, which she’s been doing for 7 years now and which I know so many people would be so grateful to have. Every time I see her now, all she does is moan and moan about her situation. She has chosen ‘bad’ boyfriends in the past, who I think she enjoyed reckless times with when she was being supported by her family, but, as soon as she had to start working, obviously could not continue a relationship with. Instead of looking for someone nice and reliable, she just moans about how horrible men are.Over the years, I think I’ve been a good friend. I’ve twice given her really good career opportunities, with nothing in return. I’ve listened and counselled her through her disastrous relationships and she has actually thanked me for helping her through things. I’ve been there with practical help when she’s had to move out of her boyfriend’s home at short notice. I’ve listened and tried to talk with her about her mother’s mental illness and her other family issues. I’ve organised nice things to do together and I’ve never really asked her for anything. I introduced her to someone who was, back then, a close friend of mine and we all three used to go out together. When this friend ‘dumped’ me out of the blue, I was heartbroken and confused, and I never asked my existing friend to take sides or to discuss the situation, even though this was really difficult for me. I suppose I did secretly feel that, because I had introduced them and helped them to forge a good friendship, it would have been a nice thing for her to at least try to help my friendship with this other woman – but she did nothing. When I had to go into hospital for a serious operation and couldn’t walk for weeks afterwards, instead of visiting me, I found out she visited this ex friend of mine. I finally had to ask her nicely if she had any spare time to visit me as I was almost going out of my mind being stuck partially mobile every day. She did come over, but it was only after a weird argument, where even though I was recovering from surgery I felt like she was trying to blame me for things I genuinely had not done. It was weird, as if she simply did not want to visit but didn’t like the feeling of being ‘called out’ on how selfish she was being, even though my parter at the time encouraged me to be more assertive and to ask for what I want in the friendship.What upsets me is that I’m a single mum, who has come from nothing – I;ve never inherited anything and never will and have had no financial support from my daughter’s father or any support at all from my family. In my 20s and 30s I sacrificed the career I wanted to work in jobs I hated, to support my daughter. Because I was paying so much rent to a private landlord and could not get assisted housing (because I was working), I saved every penny for a deposit on a flat which I bought as a complete wreck. It took me 12 years to do it up and I eventually had to sell it because I became ill with stress – I mean really seriously ill through lack of support. I had to buy a much smaller place. I get upset because my friend very often refers to how “lucky” I was to be able to get onto the property ladder. It’s harder for people now, yes, but I’ve told her before that I had to fight against impossible odds to get a property by myself. She doesn’t seem to take this in at all, but seems to be jealous of what I now have (a small flat and I’m still working, but it’s very precarious because I don’t have a permanent role like her and also a daughter who is now grown up – for a while she was going on and on about wanting a child and I went through every option with her, trying to help her to think it through). When I meet up with her now, all she does is moan about her own situation as if I am not facing similar problems. If I try to tell her I too have problems eg. I am worried sick about a pension and what to do, she will simply repeat that I was lucky to get on the property ladder. She is so forceful about her own issues, and has been for so many times when I’ve met her, that I don’t know what to do. She will eventually inherit a LOT of property and she already knows she is going to be leaving the UK in the next few years. I feel confused and upset because I have only 3 close friends, one of whom ( I thought) was her and I just don’t know what I am supposed to do with this friendship. I recently went through a very difficult time and she didn’t bother to check if I was okay. When it was eventually over, I asked her to meet me to celebrate, hoping we could have a nice evening together and I offered to pay. She wouldn’t let me pay, but spent most of the whole night moaning again, almost to a ‘violent’ level. The idea of it being a celebration was completely gone within about 10 minutes of meeting. After we parted, though, she sent me several really lovely texts saying what a lovely time she’d had and inviting me to go away with her in the summer. She has told me recently she was considering counselling because a close family member died – and I really was there for her, calling her and making it clear I would talk to her and for a while she did respond but then eventually went silent about this, so I didn’t ‘push’ it in any way. When I talked to her about counselling, she then moaned about the quality of NHS counselling and said she couldn’t afford private counselling, so I was at a loss as to what to suggest.She does other things that I can’t afford to do – classes she attends that I think are ‘luxury’ eg. ballet and pottery etc, which I simply can’t afford. Yet, she is always complaining. Even her own sister, whom she used to be close to, has called her out on playing the ‘victim’.For the record, I’ve had similar situations before where women who simply cannot sort their lives out look to me for friendship and then continually moan. I’ve put up with it because we’ve managed to have some nice, fun times too. I do understand that friends need to vent to one another at times, but I don’t think I can put up with another friendship like this. I fear losing the friendship, as this has happened before with other friends when I simply cannot take any more.Two other potential new female friends who I had hoped would be good friends in future actually backed off when I very gently but firmly made it clear that I had my own problems to deal with and couldn’t be their ‘counsellor’ – they very quickly went down the route of moaning at me. I feel sad these friendships didn’t work, but also relived that I didn’t let them go on for years and years, as I have in the past, where I am positioned as carer. It’s gotten to the stage where I’m not even sure what I can expect from friendships at my age – I just want a fair, mainly fun but also caring and reciprocal relationship with friends but am beginning to feel I just attract very damaged women.
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A male reader, WiseOwlE + ♥, writes (5 March 2019):
When making friends, you have to set boundaries. Maybe you spend too much time undergoing drama with your friends; and simply need to socialize less with them if everything ends in drama.People don’t have to conform to your expectations. Everyone has a free-will. If they don’t suit your tastes, or repeatedly disappoint you; then you reassess whether the friendship is compatible and works for you. You don’t get deeply involved with people; and then complain after you’ve allowed them to offend or upset you over and over again. Why hold-on to them, put-up with prolonged friendships that don’t work, and complain?You end relationships that don’t work or cause you grief. Clean house and make new friends. Carefully evaluate their compatibility with your values and friendship-criteria. If they don’t checkoff all the boxes, move on.Unlike family, you can choose your friends. When they become a burden or cause too much trouble, you end the friendship. Don’t cling-on to them, deal with unnecessary drama, and then complain about it. We all have good traits and bad traits. Nobody’s perfect. If you pick a bad apple out of the bunch, you toss it. You don’t keep it around to watch it rot; or count how many worms you can find in it.
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