Old 10-30-2013, 03:53 AM   #1
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Unhappy Friendship Dilemma

I'm having an internal conflict regarding a friend, and am hoping y'all can give me some things to consider in hopes of resolving it.

I met Jan a few years ago in a mom's group, and we clicked immediately. We're both very similar cognitively and emotionally, but our social styles are different. Jan's an extrovert and social butterfly with tons of friends (and she seems to always be seeking more); I'm more introverted and prefer to spend more time and develop deeper bonds with the fewer people I truly connect with.

When we manage to get together, it's great, we (us and our kids) all get along well and have a fantastic time. My issue is that we rarely manage to spend time together, or even talk on the phone, because Jan's almost always busy. And I feel unimportant, like I'm the person she calls after she's scheduled everything else. I have to book stuff like 3 weeks in advance with her, and by the time the date comes around, illness and/or her overbooking her schedule frequently results in cancelling. For instance, a couple of times she's called me the day before and asked for a raincheck because she's been so busy that she hasn't had time to do what she needs to or take a breather. And that's often happened after we've already rescheduled once or many times because our kids are sick or whatever. I talked to her on the phone last week after not talking all summer. I even waited an extra month after she said her life would calm down to contact her. We had a great conversation, but she hasn't made an effort to schedule something like she said before we hung up. Maybe it's just me, but I try to prioritize dates with people I haven't seen for awhile. Then again, maybe Jan has so many friends that she IS doing that, and my turn hasn't come up yet. It's crazy, but that's what it feels like to me.

I know she has some issues with depression/anxiety and possibly ADD, and she's going through some major life changes, so I try to be extra understanding and accommodating. I also know she self-identifies as a "people pleaser" and has been trying to work on that in therapy. But now it's kind of built up to the point where I feel like I'm always accommodating her schedule/needs and my feelings are hurt because she's clearly managing to get together with other friends. In another situation, I'd figure the person didn't put enough stock in our friendship to continue it, and I'd let them go (at least until they demonstrated otherwise), but I have a feeling that's not the case here. I suspect she's somewhat "addicted" to friendships (or maybe it's collecting friends) and a lot of people in her life might feel the same way I do.

So I'm not sure what to do. I'm pretty confident she'd be receptive to hearing how I feel, and she'd want to know if this could be an issue for multiple people in her life, but I'm also confident she'd feel really bad. And that would be a conversation we'd have to have either on the phone (I'd rather not, at all) or IF we ever manage to get together without our kids.

Or should I just let it go with the understanding that our styles are incompatible? The thing with that is I'm probably not going to make much of an effort to see her if I feel like a "back burner" friend and our friendship will likely fall by the wayside.

Thoughts?
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Old 10-30-2013, 05:13 AM   #2
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Only you really know the friendship and its value in both of your lives, but it seems to me she is not placing the same value on it that you are - thus essentially you have a problem.

If it was me in this situation I would probably hang on for X amount of time, and then eventually I'd tire of attempting to maintain a one-sided friendship, back off, and decide if she wants time she will make the effort to make the time. However, I would also address the issue with her prior to doing so if it meant that much to me.

You are talking about how she would be receptive, and how she would feel really awful about it, but YOUR feelings are valid and real also, and you have a right to voice them. She may be oblivious to the hurt you feel, and can't act to change it if that is the case. I would discuss it with her, and make your decisions after that.
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Old 10-30-2013, 07:45 AM   #3
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I know people like that. The ones I know seem to have good intentions, and they want to be able to spend quality time with lots of people, but they are spread too thin. They also seem to be poor at judging what they can realistically commit to. As a result, they commit to too much, and often leave people disappointed. It is my impression that it is their more peripheral friends that are most often the victims of the over commitments. They seem to have a smaller group of core friends that they are more reliable with. The core friends arenít necessarily more compatible, but tend to be people who are more convenient. For instance, a core friend may be a neighbor, or an officemate whom they can see without any effort or additional time commitments. My suggestion is to back off and not take it too personally. Those people tend to go to my periphery as well. Iíll occasionally extend them an invitation to something. We usually have a great time if we do get together. However, my expectations are low on any particular invitation. For these people, this is normal. From their perspective, they seem any additional friends and acquaintances as a good thing, and a requirement that an additional friend be required to have 100% reliability doesnít make sense

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Old 10-30-2013, 07:49 AM   #4
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As someone who could be described much like your friend, I would encourage you to tell her. I don't think I am addicted to "collecting friends," rather I collect tasks and responsibilities. My children and I are always busy. I take on way too much. I'm sure there's some neuroses present (needing to feel important or something like that). As a highly extroverted person, I tend to make friends easily, but haven't done the best to maintain them.

A little over a year ago, a very close friend called me out. She did it via PM on Facebook and she didn't tread lightly. She told me she felt neglected and unimportant to me even though we'd been friends for decades. I immediately was angry with her, the "who does she think she is" and "can't she see how much I have on my plate" kind of angry. I wasn't going to talk to her anymore. But, after a couple days, I read her message again. I could hear the hurt in her words, the pain in realizing she was ignored or less important. The use of Facebook in her case was quite intentional. She told me I clearly had time for lots of other people and events, and sure seemed awfully busy and important, yet through FB she could also see me spending time "liking" silly things and "sharing" things with others. I clearly had some time and why did I never call. Never. After I got off my high horse, I did realize her friendship was worth way more than I'd acted. I had neglected her (and many others who didn't come forward). I worked hard to fix our relationship and I've also stopped signing up as team mom and such for all of my kids' sports.

I don't know about your friend, but if she's like me it is unintentional and she wouldn't want to make her friend(s) feel as you do. It's a hard conversation to have, but likely very much worth it.
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Old 10-30-2013, 07:52 AM   #5
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Jan may just be more 'flighty' in her temperament. Perhaps she finds it hard to build those deeper connections, due to the skills she's not so good at. Perhaps she sees friendship things as a reward which she denies herself, rather than something she should prioritise. If this has been ongoing in her life, she might be aware of the problem, but might find it hard to get out of it. I'd tend to want to enjoy the time that I could spend with someone like Jan, but know that it's not likely to become that deeper connection.
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Old 10-30-2013, 11:10 AM   #6
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If you think she'd be receptive, I'd also encourage you to talk to her. As J said, relationships are a two way street and each person has to be getting something out of it to want to continue. And knowing you and your excellent communication skills, I'm sure you'd be able to convey your disappointment and hurt, while still demonstrating empathy for her. From there, I think it's up to her as to how she wants to respond.

It may very well be that your styles are incompatible and that you're just not going to mesh as closely as you'd hoped. But by talking to her about it, at least you will have given the friendship every chance you could have, to come to a more mutually satisfying level before letting it go.
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Old 10-31-2013, 09:31 AM   #7
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Don't over analyse it Erika - of course it does come down to you. Sometimes we just can't judge someone on our own values. Think of it this way - if you enjoy the times you connect and if it does happen from time to time - just let it be - enjoy the moments when they happen. Try not to invest too much emotional involvement in this.

Re. her possible or indeed emotional health issues - don't push - just answering the phone when she calls (even if rare) will be a reminder to her that your are there. Even if she does not ask for help or advice, you may well be more a rock for her than you realise - just by being there after a long break.

Maybe a "You know if you ever need me, I am here. I want you to know you can call me 24/7".

Erika, you are one of the true beautiful souls of this world - anyone here who has been around more than six months knows this - your friend will know this all the more as she gets to see you in person. Let her know you care - be there when she calls - enjoy the moments.
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Old 10-31-2013, 10:01 AM   #8
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erika, i've been interacting with you long enough to know that you've already taken stock and have analyzed the available data pretty thoroughly.

here's what i think, in that context:

a) j is right, it's entirely possible she doesn't understand or is so in the moment she can't see what's going on. either way: i'd say point it out and don't mince words. no one is intentionally a jerk to friends on a routine basis. you know that if you were causing a friend to feel this way, you'd want to know that yourself.

b) most people who know me IRL are surprised to learn that i have not traditionally considered myself extroverted--including my wife. i'm a bit of a social butterfly, and like jan, am very active in social media. but something i've noticed about people who are: they sometimes will use those interactions as a means of staving off an internal emptiness.

c) as i think about it, i think the problem for jan is that she doesn't understand how to say no to people and their demands on her time. i don't know what her professional life is like, but if this sounds like it might be on the mark, it's probably harming her there too.

so yes, say something. it isn't for your benefit--and cuz i know you, i know this isn't your primary driver--so much as it is for her other friends, and indeed possibly her career.

ed
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Old 10-31-2013, 01:17 PM   #9
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Wow! I'm glad I started this thread because everyone has given me a great deal to think about!

I do believe Jan is unaware and her actions are unintentional, even though she's a pretty reflective and self-aware person. It's a good point that she may be overbooking herself as a distraction. I also think maybe we connect on a more emotional level and have a lot of similarities, so she might find it easier to not fall back on people-pleasing with me. I'm a pretty easy, stress-free friend, and don't want to get together with people if it's going to add to their stress.

I'm especially happy to hear your experience, JtohisPB. Do you think reading and having time to mull your friend's thoughts over was helpful, or would you have preferred to discuss it in person? I can see the benefits to writing, but it's a difficult decision because Jan has always struck me as a more auditory, face-to-face person (I have friends who will catch up and schedule stuff in longer emails, but she is more of a texter and phone person).
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Old 10-31-2013, 01:23 PM   #10
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Oh, and Ed, she's a SAHM, like me. She has two young kids and is getting divorced, but I don't know if she's going back to school or work before the kids are in school full-time. I'll have to ask what her plans are, but you're right, if she's overbooking and not following through, it's very likely have academic/professional implications.
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Old 10-31-2013, 01:45 PM   #11
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My best friend and I are just like this and have been for years. At first, it would hurt my feelings (she has 3 kids and in the beginning I had none) but as I began my family, I soon understood why she was always so busy. Much later, because of her crazy schedule, we got together when we could and agreed that while we're not together as much as we'd like, or talk as often as we should, we were best friends and we'd simply pick up where we left off, previously. I learned that when she had time she'd come find me. In her absence, I relied on other close friends. Of course, I always set time aside for her out of my crazy schedule but it was a reality I either needed to accept or not. I accepted it at face value and am glad I did. She's always apologetic but I cherish the time we spend with one another because it is so rare.

For you though, it may be time to find someone who can fill that gap your friend is unable to fill because of her schedule/life. Easier said than done, I'm sure. But, always know that while there is distance, you two are still great friends and always will be.
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Old 10-31-2013, 02:13 PM   #12
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i am like this with my best friend. She lives in spain... goes to uni... still in touch with everyone from school...

im the opposite!

I have just got to the point where i have to realise that she might be my best friend, but i am not hers. Sometimes shit like that happens. I see her maybe once a year when she comes to stay for a week (we manage to write to each other essays on facebook a lot) but other than that i dont really get to see her.

i think maybe you should try and make friends with other people if you cant handle her screwing you around. I find it hard, but sometimes i manage it....
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Old 10-31-2013, 02:19 PM   #13
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Yuh gotta endure your mother, yuh gotta endure your boss, you don't gotta endure a friend who's off playing with others and jazzing you and doesn't appreciate you. Teach the bitch that behavior has consequences.
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Old 10-31-2013, 02:36 PM   #14
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I'm not sure how much of a gap there would be to fill if I were let Jan go. Yes, I'd miss her, but this is really about my feelings vs. companionship or similar. I have other friends, and plenty of things to do. I keep my schedule more open so I don't feel so overwhelmed and can fit stuff in as it comes up. And while I'll make a good effort when I happen to connect well with someone, I've always been my own best friend; I'm perfectly happy being by myself most of the time. It must be the introspective only child in me. Oddly enough, my son can be a big extrovert and ham, but he's the same way WRT developing closer relationships with fewer people (although more so because it's a rarer kid/other parent that can understand and tolerate his quirks and needs).
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Old 10-31-2013, 04:31 PM   #15
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I don't know you or your friend, but here is my take and philosophy.

If a friend keeps blowing you off, back off. Be available by phone, email or text, but do not press it. Pursue your life with those with whom you hold a mutual desire.

I'm old, and have many friends I've drifted apart from due to various circumstances. They are still my friends, and I will respond immediately if called.

IMO, a direct confrontation over 'level of friendship' often leads to defensive behavior that is destructive to whatever friendship is there. Let it run its natural course, and don't be vindictive later if it doesn't work out your way. Friends are valuable, even those who aren't always around.

I'm not a regular poster and realize that nobody here knows me. I offer the above as a perspective, not absolute advice.
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Old 10-31-2013, 09:40 PM   #16
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Erika, I would have preferred face-to-face. Body language and emotion would have made for a gentler conversation. She could have started with, "Can we talk about something that's been bothering me? This is difficult, but..." That said, she sure got my attention. She and I had been friends since 6th grade, but the realization that I had taken her for granted forced me to recognize that I had neglected multiple personal relationships.
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Old 11-15-2013, 08:20 PM   #17
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erika, have you had the opportunity to have a conversation with jan?

ed
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