DAME’s Friendkeeper reveals how to reset boundaries after helping an ill friend, and tells a woman to give her jerky pal a last chance.
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This past year my friend learned she had cancer. While she was going through chemo I offered to help in any way that I could. No limits—babysitting, groceries, rides to and from appointments, you name it. I was happy to help. Fortunately, all looks good with her health and she is relieved to feel well and work again. I am so relieved right along with her. Unfortunately, I feel that our relationship has shifted considerably. Before the cancer we used to get together for coffee and lunch, now I only get a call from her when she needs a sitter for her kids. I’m terrible at saying ‘no,’ like, I just can’t, so I’m afraid to pick up the phone when she calls. I get the distinct feeling that I’m being used which usurps my feelings of selfishness and cowardice. I miss our once carefree friendship. Is there a way to be a friend with boundaries after offering my labor when it was needed most?
Feeling like a Patsy
What a wonderful, devoted, caring friend you are. Now stop it! Well not really, but kind of. Going through a crisis with a friend brings out the best in some, and that clearly is you. But sort of like being a good soldier in wartime and returning to civilian life, you have to find a new way of being. Your friend went through a major scary life event and you were right there with her. Although she seems better, I am sure she is chock-full of emotions—relief and fear and everything else—and she may be afraid of losing you as the great support you were during her difficult time. That said, we need to take care of you now. Though you could never answer the phone again and avoid it all together, I think it might be better to have a talk with your good friend. I would not say, “You only ever call me when you need me.” I would say, “Can we make a plan to go out to a fun lunch? Because I miss the time we spent talking and laughing and hating on the Kardashians.” You can talk over the lunch about the things you’ve missed and understand she may want to talk about her things, but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk about your stuff, too. There is time for everyone! As far as her asking you for favors, you need to be assertive—“I’m sorry that doesn’t work for me.” Offer to help her get names of sitters. That will send the message. The thing is, I’m sure if she has an appointment that she’s nervous about going to, you will be there, and that’s great, but you don’t need to wear yourself out being her errand girl. I know it’s scary to start saying no, but it gets easier. What won’t get easier is if you keep doing these things that are making you angry and will ultimately sour you on the whole relationship. You’ve been an amazing friend, saying no to her won’t erase that. I know you can do this! Good luck.
One of my besties, who is one of the funniest people I know, also happens to be one of the rudest. We go out to a restaurant and she’s that person who sends food back at least once. She’s snarky to the staff, talks to them like they’re complete idiots. And to make matters worse, she is a horrible tipper. I often find myself pretending to have to retrieve my coat or my phone or go to the bathroom after we’ve left the restaurant so I can slip back in to apologize to the wait staff and hand the server more money. Last time she came over to my house, she talked to my child’s babysitter, who happens to be an old family friend, with the same lack of respect. She’s not a rich bitch—she grew up with hardworking middle-class parents, so it’s not like she was waited on hand and foot and doesn’t appreciate hard work. I honestly don’t know where it comes from but I can’t stand it. I have tried to make jokes to lighten the mood and bring it to her attention but she’s not getting it. My ex-husband once said something to her but she shrugged it off. I fear she’s hopeless. What should I do? Am I colluding with her by continuing to hang out with her? Should I just stay in with her from now on to keep her out of harm’s way?
Friend of an A-hole
Hmm, interesting. Your friend is bad mannered, cheap, dissatisfied, and snarky. Well I would say, let’s give your friend a big, warm hug as WE SHOVE HER OUT THE DOOR! I’m sorry but the working people of the world deserve better and you can see that. Sometimes we have to suffer our relatives’ rudeness in restaurants; my grandparents—God rest their souls—would snap at a waitress like she had slain their firstborn. (“We are entitled BY LAW to take the bread basket home!”). I would cringe and slip money and comfort with my eyes, but these were my grandparents. I didn’t choose them. I’ve heard Kim Jong II is a scream at parties. Supposedly he kicks ass at Taboo and his charades of Meg Ryan rom-coms just kill. But he has this atrocity record and if someone is on the Amnesty International Most Wanted list, they just don’t get to come play with us. Okay, let me get serious for a minute. I think you want to find a way to keep her. My concern is that since your ex-husband tried to no avail to nudge her, that maybe she isn’t going to change. But everyone deserves a last conversation—as the mafia says, a sit down. Be frank, you want to be her friend but she doesn’t play well with others and it’s not a good thing for you. Let her know how much discomfort she causes you and see what she says. I think the bottom line is if she isn’t interested in changing you need to think about whether or not you can tolerate someone who doesn’t treat other people as you would. You don’t want someone you need to be constantly apologizing for.
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