Hi everyone... longtime lurker who needs advice.
I've realised that the relationship with my child's Godmother is toxic for me. She has been a great friend when I have had crisis in the past but whenever I start getting my life together she gets threatened and becomes passive aggressive and snarky. Recently my husband left and she rushed in to pick up the pieces, but smothered me and took control of my toddler to the point where I started to feel really uncomfortable. She is an ex teacher and can get quite bossy. One of her children died 12 years ago and she has a lot of bad days where her depression gets to her, but I feel like she is focusing all her happiness on my child and I think it's unhealthy. I was a friend of her child who died, but not a close friend, but like a lot of people who were around at the time of the person's death I felt responsible for helping out the family afterwards. She and I became close quite quickly.
My job means I might have to move out of State in a years time which I am happy about because it means I get some distance with my ex and if I talk about it with any sense of happy anticipation she gets very weird with me, says things like "I bet you are thrilled about moving" in a sarcastic voice. She's even gone as far as saying she hates the town I would be moving to. Most of the time she tries to hide her lack of support for me doing things that don't involve her, but even if she is saying "that's great!" with a smile, I can feel she is angry with me.
In the past I've had a really close friendship with her but that was because I was very codependent due to losing my own mother at a young age. But I've been working on these issues in therapy for several years. Also until my husband left, we both lived the other side of the country, so she and I only saw each other when she visited (which always was an anxiety provoking time for me as she would inevitably hate where I was living and hate all my new friends and throw some sort of tantrum) When I had my baby she sulked because we were living away and I felt obligated to make her my child's Godmother. Even then I felt emotionally bullied into it...she would have been frosty with me if I hadn't and also I was being weak...I realize I'm a people pleaser and I thought it would give her something happy to focus on in her life.
But although she can be great she also carries a huge amount of negativity about her, and she is either self loathing or boasting about she is the best at her job, or was the most loved teacher or whatever.
Her grieving means all of us tiptoe around her but I'm so sick of it. I find seeing her fills me with horrible anxiety now and I just don't want anything more to do with her.
I know that if I downgrade the friendship I lose someone who has been very supportive in the past. But I just don't want the smothering. Also I feel undermined as a parent and it makes me have days of depression where I feel like a bad mother, so it starts to spiral. I am so much happier with this person out of my life. I've been working on my people pleasing problem...it comes from having an abusive childhood and I'm working on those issues and learning to say no. I realise that because my own mother died in an awful way I find it really difficult to be around people who are experiencing a lot of pain without trying to "make it up to them" in some kind of way. There is a big difference with empathising than trying to 'undo' another persons pain. Also this person takes advantage of my niceness now and dumps her negativity on me and also projects too much onto me. She sees her future as entwined with mine, whereas I don't. How can I be friends with someone who monopolizes me and is so weird about my having other friends? I feel like I am just a source of narcissistic supply to her.
The problem I have now is that I finally have taken some action and told her I need space. I know this will send her into her own depression and I feel guilty about it. I feel like I am a bad friend and I think she will think that I used her and now I am getting my life together again I don't need her. The reality is that I've always found my friendship with challenging and I can't take anymore.
I know at some point I'm going to get a whole guilt thing about her seeing my child. she LIVES for this child. She's really nice to my child, plays fun games with them and makes a big fuss of them, but she said to me the other day "What did you tell them off about last week?" as if my child was confiding in her something she couldn't tell me. That set alarms off in my head. She is the sort of person who likes subtly ganging up on people, forming cliques and having in jokes. I do not want her doing this with my child against me. She always says how much my child is like her, or how much she is learning from her and it's not true. My child barely mentions her.
So right now I've made the first move of extraction but I feel sickened over the whole thing. We have some mutual friends who will see me pulling away as unforgivable. I know it sounds awful and cowardly but I'm kind of wishing she would explode at me the way she has done in the past so I can just break it off and be done with it. I wish I had done that after the last outburst. But everyone writes off her behaviour towards me because she is grieving. I need constructive ways to start to minimise contact with her and gradually sever the friendship. She had been seeing us once a week but I need to start changing this. I don't want to hurt her, but I can't cope with the passive aggressive behaviour anymore.
Thankyou for listening.
That sounds awful and very stressful. I think you are doing the right thing and you will just need to stick to your guns about appropriate boundaries. It's your right to surround yourself with positive people.
I also really struggle with this type of thing (this could easily happen to me). I really have to work on telling people "no" and I always find myself trying to make other people feel better about the crappy thing they've done/said to me. It's not easy to communicate upset/anger with close colleagues and/or family.
Good luck and congratulations on making the first step.
Mama to H (3/18/08) and A (8/25/09)
It sounds to me like you've gotten enmeshed in a very unhealthy dynamic with this person. She dominates you and uses you and your child to fulfill her own emotional needs, and even though you see this is happening, you don't know how to set appropriate boundaries. Telling her you need space from her is a good first step, and even if it hurts her or makes her spiral into depression, you are not responsible for that. Her feelings are her feelings, and it isn't your job to protect her from her grief or her depression. She is the one who needs to take steps to learn how to live with her grief, and you can't do it for her (and shouldn't try). You can feel deeply sorry for her devastating loss without taking on the responsibility for fixing it for her. Her grief does not mean you owe her whatever kind of access to you and your child she wants.
Someone who is emotionally healthy and a good person to have in your life will not constantly be manipulating or bullying you into having the kind of relationship with her that she wants. A true friend tries to understand your needs, even if they conflict with what she wants. A true friend does not try to control your behavior through making you feel bad.
Basically, I think you should decide exactly what kind of relationship you want with this person, tell her clearly what that is, and then stick to your guns, even if it hurts her feelings. Of course be kind and tactful about it, but being kind and tactful does not mean giving in or allowing yourself to be guilt-tripped. This will probably be very hard for you and will feel uncomfortable, but frankly, it sounds like getting some practice setting strong boundaries will be nothing but a good thing for you. Otherwise, even if you get rid of this one problematic relationship (by moving away or whatever), you will be susceptible to manipulation by this kind of person for the rest of your life.
I have an motto for situations like this: "It is not my job to make you feel ok about yourself."
She is a grown woman who is using her losses as an emotional crutch. She is using her friendships to fill a void that she won't fill on her own.
YOU haven't taken away all the things she misses in her life. YOU have not prevented her from moving on with her own emotional growth. However, if you stay in contact with this woman, YOU will be made to suffer emotionally for these things.
Your DD should not be exposed to this kind of relationship. You don't want her to think that a woman should martyr herself for the emotional "wellbeing" of another. Nor do you want her to think that an acceptable way of dealing with loss is to emotionally manipulate those around you.
You are moving on with your life, and that threatens this woman, who cannot seem to do the same with her own pain. Don't let HER wounds hobble YOU.
Check out my radio blog, Pagan Musings, and my writing (as Selina Wolfcat & Sarah Buhrman).
I'm a head-covering witchy mama to DS ('06) and DD ('10) with DH, Stormie, a Heathen breadwinning daddy.
She sounds like a very controlling, dependent person who has an unhealthy dependency on both you and your child. I had a friend who wanted a child so badly she started thinking my daughter was hers. She knew enough to step back out of the situation herself but most times that doesn't happen. I would remove yourself from your friend before she starts getting even more crazy.