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How to handle a friendship in distress...post #1 of 79/19/12 at 2:54pmThread StarterI have a long (17 year long) friendship which has recently hit troubled times. Even though my friend has lived out of state for over ten years, we have still remained close and I have always considered her the sister I never had.However, we have hit a rough patch. Things started to get a little strained about 3 or so years ago when we both had kids at around the same time. Amongst other things, I was hurt by her reaction to some of my child-rearing plans etc. (mocked hard for not planning on turning my daughter's child seat forward facing until 2 for example). We have always had a fun relationship and done some friendly teasing, but I think with all the emotions, stresses, concerns around child-rearing, she was coming on rather too strong. I did not discuss it seriously with her, but just made sure to steer the topics around to other areas (not difficult due to our geographical distance and the fact that we are never short of conversation even without discussing our kids in detail) and continued to enjoy the friendship.I had an incredibly difficult spring this year. My life is already pretty busy, I have a toddler and a preschooler, both my husband and I work full time, my parents are both elderly and ailing (one fighting cancer, the other experiencing the on-set of dementia) and our house is being remodeled. This spring my workload also shot up. I literally worked the equivalent of two months in one. In fact, in the month of March I worked at least 11 - 12 hours every single day of the month other than my daughter's birthday (when I was hosting 30 people at my house).During that time I dropped the ball on contacting my friend. She had reached out to me last in mid February so it was "my turn" to reach out next -- I certainly was not ignoring repeated phone calls/e-mails, etc. When I reached out to her again once my incredible work load had passed (about 7 weeks later), she was very angry about this and said she "didn't like" the person that work turned me into and said some other hurtful things. I apologized and sent her flowers to express how sorry I was that I had hurt her feelings. I have been diligent about keeping in contact since and am shortly going to be flying out to visit her for the weekend.However, I realized that I am harboring some anger towards her too. She knows my life, she is in a similar career and she seems to have a total lack of empathy for my situation at the time. I felt that as with family it would be understood that sometimes we have to deal with other things but that I still loved my friend.In addition, since her blow-up at me things no longer feel spontaneous or natural on my side when I speak to her. I am constantly worried about saying the wrong thing, not being "attentive" enough, etc. I am debating whether to discuss some of my own anger and hurt (which I have never mentioned to her) in person during this visit and hash the issue out further or whether I should just pretend everything is all right in the hopes that after we spend some time together things will seem more natural (and my anger will dissipate). I really want to preserve the friendship but I am wondering if that means I need to swallow all my feelings as the "party in the wrong"?post #2 of 79/19/12 at 7:44pm
I don't think swallowing our feelings makes them go away.
It sounds like there are several problems in the relationship. You guys aren't on the same page with parenting (which is fine) but she is disrespectful of your choices. When your life is overwhelming, rather than being supportive, she is bitchy and demanding. You don't feel you can relax and just be yourself with her because you fear dealing with her response to you just being you.
I'm not sure what the answer is. What are you still getting out of the relationship? Why is this relationship valuable to you? Do you think she could hear you if you explained that her being hurtful to you when you are busy puts a strain on things *for you*?
I went through some similar stuff with my mother, who lives in a different city. She complained that I hadn't called in a while. She hadn't called me either. I told her that phones work both ways, and if she wants to talk to me, she needs to pick it up and dial it. I have too much going on to keep track of who called who last. I think we need to be past that. It's not like this is some new dating relationship and we need phone calls to prove the other person is still interested and we are interested in each other equally.
Back to your friend... Has she changed, or has she always been this way but when your life was simpler you could compensate? If this is new , may be something is wrong in her life and she is reacting badly to it. Motherhood may not be the bed of roses she expected. Her marriage may be in trouble. She may be so demanding and in need of validation because something is wrong in her life and she is grasping at straws.post #3 of 79/19/12 at 8:16pmI think you should email her beforehand and try to clear things up
Let her know you value the friendship but feel hurt by her lack of empathy when you were dealing with so much chaos and you feel like you need to express this hurt so you can move past it. I wouldn't do it in person unless you are prepared for a big fight on vacation. I would do it now so vacation can be fun and you can have time to make other plans if she blows up.post #4 of 79/20/12 at 2:35am
I am not so sure if you are "the party on the wrong" here. I mean, you had things going on... you explained, you apologized. Now you are done. She is a grown up. She should understand that sometimes life gets the better of us! I would also feel pretty hurt if I were in your situation and expect apology/acknowledgment for the not so nice words spoken. Relationships are a two way street.
Clearing things before you go is a good idea but maybe not via email. A telephone call might be better. I would also leave all the baby/parenting stuff out since that seems to be in the past mostly? The next time she berets you about your parenting, just be firm (curt) and dismiss her opinions ("You know what? I really am not interested in hearing that.") That may teach her not to harp on you about stuff like that again.
However, if you do decide NOT to talk about your current issue. then you probably should wait until the feeling of anger, hurt and resentment passes before you see her. Otherwise, it will show up in your interactions, maybe making things worse. If she is the kind of person that could handle talking about this kind of stuff, you should talk it out. Good luck. It really sucks when friendships sour and it hurts very much.
Also, maybe time for you to seat back and evaluate your relationship. Linda raises good questions for you to explore. I think it will be a helpful/revealing exercise before having the conversation with her, should you decide to.post #5 of 79/20/12 at 5:56am
Your friend is way out of line. And not acting like a friend -- or an adult, for that matter. Good grief, even just knowing about your sick parents, she should be supportive and understanding, not piling on guilt to someone that doesn't owe her anything!
If you have to tiptoe and coddle and be harrassed for your values (your parenting choices), I would think it's better to let her go.post #6 of 79/20/12 at 9:01ampost #7 of 79/20/12 at 12:40pmThread Starter
Thanks to everyone for all their thoughts -- it gave me a lot to consider.
I still want to pursue this friendship and am hopeful that the past several months are a "blip" (versus a change in how our relationship is going to be on an on-going basis).
What I do feel better about is that others are in agreement that my friend had an over-reaction, I have apologized to the extent it was needed (and even a bit beyond) and that I shouldn't need to go into our visit feeling like the guilty party or like I should be walking on egg-shells.
I think I'm just going to relax as much as possible when I visit -- be myself and hope that our friendship is as its historically been. If there seems a natural point for further discussion of the issue, I may bring it up and express my side a bit more-- in particular the idea, as Linda on the move expressed it, that it shouldn't be about who reached out last and the relationship is a two-way street..
It is suprising to me how much writing the initial post and seeing others' responses has helped me process and deal with my anger. I really appreciate it!
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