Life Advice

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Health & Spirit

Friend uses work and relationship problems to excuse bad behavior

Carolyn Hax on

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

My friend is going through a rough patch. Some of her friends have tossed her aside. She's having problems at work and then trying to juggle things with a new guy. She turns to me and I'm happy to try to help or just be there to listen.

But she often demurs on plans and always prefaces things with how no one else was available or how someone bailed. I want to be there for her, but how do I explain to her that minimizing my friendship like that hurts? I don't want to add to her anxiety, but always knowing you're the second choice is dispiriting.

-- Second Choice

Her anxiety is not your problem to solve, it's hers. Certainly you can be sensitive and not, say, belabor a topic that is obviously uncomfortable for her to talk about -- but when you start suppressing who you are and what you feel because she's anxious, you're crossing the boundary into making her problems your own. So stop.

Codependency alert: Other friends "tossed her aside"? Maybe instead they made a reasonable calculation that she's using her new man and her work-ouchies as an excuse to be inconsiderate.

So, be there for her by being you for her. Explain that when she repeatedly blows you off because the other people canceled, you feel slighted and demoralized. Her actions have consequences, and unless she is clinically depressed and/or the "rough patch" is life-and-death serious, it doesn't give her license to treat you like crap.

And even when it is life-and-death or major-depression serious, the license is limited to, "She is in no position to think clearly," and whatever that fact can reasonably excuse.

Dear Carolyn:

...continued

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