Ask Amy: Patient friend becomes ‘comfort bot’
Dear Amy: I have a perfectionist friend. I used to find her neurotic nature endearing, but now that we’re both parents, the qualities I used to think were cute are now wearing thin.
This started when we were both pregnant at the same time. My pregnancy was a (very happy!) accident. I wasn’t married to the baby’s father, was working and finishing school, and lived in a comfy little apartment. She planned her pregnancy for the perfect time: a stable job, a marriage to a high-earning partner, and a big beautiful house. Still, she panicked about the smallest things. I didn’t understand it, but I rolled with it.
I’m not sure I can, anymore. It’s not even her frequent complaining that bothers me most. It’s the fact that she no longer seems to care about me as a person. I’ve become some kind of “comfort bot” that she messages, gets a response from, and ignores.
Discussing my own kids seems to whip her into a bigger frenzy. She diverts every conversation — always — back to motherhood. Mostly, I respond with the same stock empathy phrases: “That sounds hard!” “Hope it gets better soon!” “Poor thing!,” and hope she doesn’t notice.
She’s important to me, but I can’t continue. I know that, as mothers, we’re supposed to support one another no matter what and that we should give each other permission to complain about the little things. (Especially now!)
I don’t want to be the kind of woman who doesn’t do that, but truly, I can’t support this woman in this way any longer. What should I do?
— Tired Mommy Friend
Dear Tired: Oh yes, the “comfort-bot.” What a perfect description of what it feels like to reliably deliver comfort, encouragement, and empathy — in short, the key elements of being a supportive friend — and to never receive same in return.
If your friend was in a bad patch and was reaching out for help — then yes, you should continue to provide an actively supportive ear. But motherhood hasn’t changed her. Motherhood seems to have intensified her already intense reaction to life. She reaches out, you respond, she ignores.
But guess what? You have needs, too. Motherhood may have intensified your awareness of them. If you believe it makes your friend feel better and is genuinely important for her to vent to you, then yes, respond with a “heart emoji,” and leave it at that. Otherwise, I suggest a quiet backing away from a relationship that seems to have run its course.