Life Advice


Health & Spirit

Supportive friend now needs same

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: For about six years, I have been the phone support for someone in remission from stage four cancer. She was a friend who included me in this tough and sad news from the first.

Her personal situation includes not only her illness, but an autistic child at home, as well as a husband who is bipolar. All of this is further complicated by ostracism from her remaining family. She is isolated.

I have been patient and loyal, often listening to erratic rants and her problems at odd hours when I was worn out. In the last year, her changing plans have wreaked havoc with my schedule, culminating in a series of bad communications during the holiday season, when I typically struggle not to be depressed.

When I explained how this upset me, I was blasted and insulted. Despite some guilt, I want to distance myself. Don't those who support deserve some modicum of respect? What is your take on this sad situation?

-- Carolina Cares

Dear Carolina: My take is that your friend is stressed to the limits of her endurance.

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"Ring Theory" suggests that the person under the most emergency duress (your friend) is at the center of a set of concentric circles. You (and any other intimates) would be on the next circle and more distant relationships along outer rings.

The shorthand for understanding ring theory is, "Comfort in, venting out." Those on outer circles send their comfort toward the center. (You've been doing this.)

The person in the center pretty much gets to vent and rail and view their own situation with what might seem like selfish magnification.

You comfort her, she vents to you and you vent to someone in an outer ring (me, for instance).


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