Long-term friendship turned toxic?
I’m in second year university and I feel like one of my good friendships of 7 years is becoming toxic.
We are kind of different people now compared to when we met in high school and don’t have that much in common but we still have a nice time together.
However, she has a lot of issues (abusive parents and partners & other mental health) and nowdays the only times I hear from her are when she needs me for emotional support. She won’t message me for 3 months (she went overseas for a few weeks and I didn’t even know until she got back!) but when she’s having an emotional crisis at 1am I’m the one she reaches out to.
Because she deals with so many issues and I’m really the only friend she talks about these things with I of course want to be there for her but it does take an emotional toll on me especially considering I deal with depression myself.
It always takes her a few days to reply to any of my messages and it’s starting to get on my nerves that we barely have a friendship anymore but she still relies on me for emotional support.
Whenever we catch up she always talks about how she loves that we have the kind of friendship where we can go months without talking but still catch up like nothing’s changed. She’s even stopped being friends with people all together who told her they needed more than that in a friendship, so I don’t know how to confront her about this without loosing her as a friend?
I feel myself starting to resent her for it and I know that friendships require as much work an effort as romantic relationships so it annoys me that she doesn’t realize that but I don’t want to loose her all together, and I still want to be there for her if she needs me - what should I do??
Welcome to the forums. Your story hit me hard because I am like your friend.
I get very down about being a crap friend. I'm almost identical to what you wrote. Sporadic replies. It takes ages for me to make the effort to reach out.
It doesn't surprise me at all that you feel hurt and resentful. You do deserve better.
Why does she do this? No idea. I can only tell you why I do this...
I expect everyone to leave me eventually. They always do.
So it is my way of pushing people away first before they can hurt and reject me.
The hot/cold response... Ignore and need. I need my friends. But maintaining relationships utterly overwhelms me. If I have energy to give I give. If I have none I don't.
I also won't change for anyone. All I can do is apologise and try when I can. Like your friend I walk away from friendships when confronted. I have told people often what I have to offer is what I have. If you can't accept that then don't bother with me.
It sounds harsh and I know I have hurt a few people in my life (I'm 33). But to me it is me protecting myself.
I love deeply. My husband, friends, family. These people mean the world to me. So I am afraid of being dependent and then they leave and I fall apart. So up come the hard boundaries. Don't expect me to change for you... Because I can't.
How does that help you?
Ask yourself a few things...
If this pattern continues is this friend worth your effort?
Do you feel good being friends with them? (From your post it sounded like this was a no).
What would they need specifically to do to make you reasonably content?
I find this is an approach I can accept without becoming anxious.
If you can pinpoint the things that hurt you the most. Keep it very simple.
For example. I feel hurt that we only seem to see eachother when you need someone to vent to. Can we have a regular catch up instead?
And then (this is important!) YOU choose the time and day and what you're doing and just tell her woohoo catch up this week. Thurs 10am usual cafe. Will you be there?
I can't organise anything. Give me an event I have to attend and I'll be there. If you leave it to me it will be another 3 months before I see you.
I'm sorry your friend is hurting you.
Please excuse me for being blunt, however I'm sorry to say it appears to me that you have already lost that friendship - or that at the very least it has reached a low point.
You say yourself:
I know that friendships require as much work...
Which is sort of true, often it does not seem like work though. Plus there are of course common interests, enjoyment in each other's company, mutual support and so on.
From the sound of it in the last couple of years you have morphed into supporter and client. Whenever life deals your friend another blow she returns for help. When it is plain sailing for her she does not feel the need or want to be in touch.
It is natural for you to feel an obligation and desire to help her when she is down, however such support comes at a personal price in terms of worry and even at times self-doubt, plus frustration and often feelings of helplessness. These are in a normal relationship counteracted by the other party doing the same for you or at least obviously enjoining being in your company.
While I have no idea if it would do any good as something to try I'd have a serious discussion with your friend and say what has been happening and how you feel. In such a discussion many will pay lip service to doing the right thing. I guess you then have to wait to see if there is any difference long term.
I'm sorry not to have a more positive slant. Perhaps the person you first formed a friendship with is still there and will come to the fore again.
Hi Nat thanks for taking the time to respond!
I guess I left some point out of my original post for easier reading, but it’s not so much that she doesn’t reply to anyone for days like I’ll send her a message and she won’t reply to it for 3 days but will have posted on social media a bunch of times and I can see that she’s active on Facebook so talking to other people etc. so I guess I would understand if she didn’t have the energy to be on her phone to reply to people cause I get like that too but that doesn’t seem to be the case?
I do want to stay friends with her which is why I haven’t confronted her, whenever we do catch up in person it usually is a normal hangout but they really only happen like twice a year - and I do often organise the catchups so I’m really not sure what will work but thanks so much for responding seeing it from that perspective does make it easier to feel less resentful 🙂
No thank you I appreciate the honesty, I think I kind of already know the friendship is lost but didn’t want to admit it to myself yet - I think I will have a discussion with her about it as at this point things can really only get better as an outcome.
Thanks again for taking the time to respond 🙂
Hi Mal99 (& others),
Like Nat, I have been that friend... I don’t like people to get too close in case they abandon me - less pain for me, tell myself ‘no great loss, we weren’t that close anyway’, that sort of nonsense. But I actually love my friends and I need them. I just want them to chase me to catch up... if I do the chasing I feel as if I’m forcing my friendship upon them and that they don’t really want to be friends with me... am trying to change my ways but it’s so hard.
I’ve recently become good friends with someone who sounds very much like your friend (an older version though) and now I’ve become the person who makes all of the effort! (Must be my punishment for years of being a bad friend...) We have discussed it and she has admitted that she struggles with close friendships, she said she’s not ‘best friend’ material. She apparently tried it in the past and no longer speaks to her friend (didn’t say why) so she’s actually scared of getting too close in case he same thing happens again. Anyway, after talking about it she is making more effort and we understand each other better. It’s much easier to discuss issues now that we have had that initial conversation.
I would recommend that you talk to your friend about how you are feeling. See what she says. What is the worst that could happen? You could lose the friendship, but that might happen anyway. It could improve things. It could be a case of ‘make it, or break it’.
Friendships can be so tricky...
Yes it’s funnt how things switch around like that! With her it’s the kind of thing where we’ve been friends for so long and have always been there for each other, and I literally message her every other day and I always put effort into our friendship that sometimes it just gets hard to empathize with the fact that she might be scared that I’d leave or abandon her.
It’s also that sometimes I think to myself ok well if I’m putting in all this effort and she doesn’t even reply to my messages let alone catch up with me then maybe this isn’t a defense mechanism but she actually doesn’t even want to be friends with me! So it’s hard to navigate those feelings sometimes, it’s hard to feel like she loves me when I put in 100% and get 5% back.
Next time I see her I’m going to talk with her about it as I agree, it probably is a case of ‘make it or break it’.
Thanks so much for taking the time to reply 🙂
Your friend may not be fully conscious of their part in the relationship (degree of neglect). Sometimes people can assign certain roles to folk they know without deeper consideration - the reliable friend, the wise friend, the risk-taking party animal friend etc. It can become a matter of 'Who do I call under the circumstances? I know, Mal99 (super reliable, mature and thoughtful)'.
It pays to begin with a compliment, so as not to offend: 'I always enjoy spending time with you/chatting and wish we could do this more often because you're a great person. Wondering what it is that keeps you from seeing me or speaking to me on a more regular basis? I'd like to be able to change that.'
Communication is definitely key in any relationship. Once you communicate your feelings, if your friend becomes upset then let them be upset. Hearing the truth can sometimes force us to take time out for reflection in regard to how we've handled things. Your friend will either be eager to change things straight away or need some reflection time. No matter what, you will have taken responsibility for your part in the relationship. Remember, you can't take responsibility for theirs.
Hope this helps a little.