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How to support without engaging?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I have someone in my life who is going through a lot of crap right now. The bottom line is that my view of what's going on and hers are very different. She's making one decision, in particular, that I know is self-destructive and having a negative impact on her life. I can't tell her that. She won't listen...I'm not even sure she can listen (friends and family have long suspected a personality disorder). So, she's going to continue in that direction.

I don't want to engage in any of this. However, she needs support. She's dealing with some health issues right now, and absolutely cannot afford the stress of the situation she's in. She won't get out of it, becuase she feels that she gains support/strength from the very thing that I see stressing her out. Ugh.

So...any tips on supporting her, without getting sucked into the...stuff?
post #2 of 14
I have a toolbox of comments I think of as "Sympathy Lite." A couple of the most common ones are "I'm so sorry for how hard a time you're having" and "You must feel so . . . . " Depends on the person, of course; as I'm saying this to someone really self-absorbed, I tend to already have my exit in mind (on my way to appointment, or they have something scheduled soon).

I also try to hide behind a self-limiting helpful gesture. For example, I'll take my mother out on errands when I'm headed for school pickups, so there's an externally defined boundary and I'm not knocking heads about when I decide to leave.

Wow. Rereading this, I sound pretty cold-hearted. But I guess the key for me is trying to respect the fact that someone else has problems while keeping them from becoming mine.

Good luck. Yours is a tough position.
post #3 of 14
Wish I knew, but I'll be eagerly awaiting other responses.

I have a somewhat similar situation with a good friend. she's in what is pretty clearly an emotionally abusive relationship. Sometimes she's certain they're gonna' divorce ( and I'm no advocate of divorce, especially with kids involved!) and sometimes they're gonna' commit to their relationship by buying a new house! sigh . .. .

I want to support her as she works through her feelings and her very understandable fears and conflicts about leaving (there's int'l custody of kids involved). On the other hand, there's only so much drama I can take, especially when it feels very much like she's not listening and/or repeating the same stuff over and over, but making no progress in addressing the issues at hand.

Hoping for some wise words from other MDC mamas who can give some perspective on support without being drawn into the drama!
post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DariusMom View Post
I have a somewhat similar situation with a good friend. she's in what is pretty clearly an emotionally abusive relationship. Sometimes she's certain they're gonna' divorce ( and I'm no advocate of divorce, especially with kids involved!) and sometimes they're gonna' commit to their relationship by buying a new house! sigh . .. .
This is part of what's going on here. I don't think the relationship is abusive, exactly...but it's not healthy, and it's not supportive. Unfortunately, it's where she's trying to draw most of her support from. *sigh*

Quote:
I want to support her as she works through her feelings and her very understandable fears and conflicts about leaving (there's int'l custody of kids involved). On the other hand, there's only so much drama I can take, especially when it feels very much like she's not listening and/or repeating the same stuff over and over, but making no progress in addressing the issues at hand.
I know this one all too well. There actually isn't relationship drama going on here, as such. The issues are something else entirely, and I'd be stressed to the max in her shoes, too. It's just so hard to watch her trying to get support - and thinking she has it! - when it's just not there.
post #5 of 14
OK, I missed the point on first reading. Your friend is stressed, but thinks that something you know is causing the stress is a solution?

That's really hard. About all you can do is sympathize with the stress symptoms as she goes into them with you. If it's possible, maybe some open-ended questions can lead her to realize what's behind them.
post #6 of 14
What can you actually do for her? Drive her to a doc appt? Fix her a meal? Do what you can, and let go of the rest.
post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by A&A View Post
What can you actually do for her? Drive her to a doc appt? Fix her a meal? Do what you can, and let go of the rest.
This is a good point...practical support. She does have a lot of people willing to drive her around and stuff, but maybe I could give her a hand with some meal prep and/or cleaning. (She's a better cleaner than I am, when she does it, but she's not up to intensive work right now.)
post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MariaMadly View Post
OK, I missed the point on first reading. Your friend is stressed, but thinks that something you know is causing the stress is a solution?
Yes, exactly. There are other stressors - big ones - but this is the part that's making me go, "aaacck!".
post #9 of 14
i have a similar situation with a friend... subbing
post #10 of 14
i pretty much have a 100% exactly the same situation. subbing.
post #11 of 14
I only listen to the complaining/whining/venting for as long as it doesn't start dragging me down. Once I start feeling like I'm getting sucked into the emotional aspect of the situation, I make my excuses and get out. (This is much easier done on the phone than in person of course.) I never offer advice, because it's not going to be taken and it drives me crazy to have someone pretend they'll make a change with no intention of doing it. And when the repetitive whining starts to occur, I just don't respond with anything other than a smile and an offer of a hug. Otherwise it feels like enabling to me.

I have not always been like this, it took a lot of hard work to get here. But the person in my life that required these changes in me has started to take more responsibility in her life. Stopped complaining quite so much. Our relationship has improved.
post #12 of 14
I have a friend in a similar situation right down to the personality disorder and your location! I'll be watching this thread with interest.
post #13 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Katwoman View Post
I only listen to the complaining/whining/venting for as long as it doesn't start dragging me down. Once I start feeling like I'm getting sucked into the emotional aspect of the situation, I make my excuses and get out. (This is much easier done on the phone than in person of course.) I never offer advice, because it's not going to be taken and it drives me crazy to have someone pretend they'll make a change with no intention of doing it. And when the repetitive whining starts to occur, I just don't respond with anything other than a smile and an offer of a hug. Otherwise it feels like enabling to me.

I have not always been like this, it took a lot of hard work to get here. But the person in my life that required these changes in me has started to take more responsibility in her life. Stopped complaining quite so much. Our relationship has improved.

This is me too, but I go back n forth on feeling like I am happy with that as a solution since I am an "avoider". Sometimes I feel like I need to speak up.

Stormbride
I would focus on letting the friend know that you care/love them very much. You know the boundary line with your friend and how far you can go with your advice. Tell them that you want the best for them and you are available to offer ideas that you would consider if you were in their shoes.


Good Luck
post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 
I've been working on setting boundaries with this person for quite a while, and have been doing okay. Right now, I'd just completely bow out, except for listening with as much understanding/sympathy as I can ("nod and smile", yk?). Right now is a little different, because she really does have serious health problems at the moment, and the stress she's under could hospitalize her. I really, really wish there were some way to get through to her that what she's doing is counterproductive, but I've known her a loooonnnng time and that's just not going to happen.

*sigh*
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