Gransnet forums

Ask a gran

Old friend acting strangely - what to do

(57 Posts)
Fairydoll2030 Tue 24-Jan-17 17:17:15

I have a friend I have known for over 50 years. We first metwhile working abroad and shared a flat for a while. Although I liked her, I always felt she was rather hyper and opinionated. I am a fairly quiet person and found it all a bit too much at times. By the time we returned to the UK we were both married and went to live in different parts of the country. We saw each other periodically and kept in touch when I spent a further period overseas. So, we have a lot of history.
In recent years we began to see more of each other, particularly since we all retired, although distance has restricted us to just 2 or 3 visits a year - mainly undertaken by DH and me. Sadly, my friends husband - who was a lovely man, died three years ago after a long illness.
A source of sorrow to my friend is that they were never able to have children although her DH one from a previous marriage. Unfortunately she managed to alienate her stepchild by giving her opinions on how she and her DH should conduct their lives and bring up their children. All this was relayed to me via long phone calls from her when I would often cringe at the things she would tell me she had said to or emailed them! At times she has made disparaging remarks to me, one memorable one was I couldn't possibly live where you do with motorways on your doorstep'. (Nearest motorway is 3 miles!). i know she has offended people with some of the 'frank' comments she makes as she says what she thinks, without much thought as to how it will be received.
Since her husband's death I have been very ill. Recovered now, and we were visiting more frequently, but I find I tolerate her off the cuff remarks less and less. Not sure why. Last time we visited she made a derisory remark about the type of holiday we were about to go on (just a short cheapie to Florence!), and this time I I bit on it. I have never taken her to task before, probably because I knew what I would never hear the end of it, and it has triggered a backlash!
I have had long emails saying that I have always criticised her character and been dismissive of her opinions ( --WTF-) - I am shocked at what this has unleashed.
What is sad, is that she has always referred to me as her 'best friend' and said that she wished I lived closer. I have good friends locally and have never fallen out with any of them although I see them far more often that I do her.
As I said, her DH died three years ago and I cannot possibly understand how she is suffering inside, however I have just arrived at a point where I will no longer allow her to make derisory remarks about my lifestyle, where I live and the sort of holidays I enjoy. DH lets it roll off his back as he only half listens anyway when my friend is proffering her opinions.
I hope I don't sound like a doormat - I am actually quite an assertive person and fully able to fight my corner if necessary. In the past I chose to remain 'passive' with this particular friend because of our long history and the fact that when she is not comparing everyone else's lifestyle to hers, she is actually an interesting lady, very clever and gifted artistically.
I have not responded to the last email she sent 3 months ago. I know for a fact that she has been involved in email wars with her brothers, and I do t want to go down that road.
Just asking has anyone ever been in this situation, and what did you do about it?
it would be a shame to end a 50 year relationship.. I feel quite sorry for her as I am wondering if she actually knows that she offends people but she can't help it. I just don't know...

Ankers Tue 24-Jan-17 17:44:30

it seems to me, that far from acting strangely, she is acting how you expected her to act if you ever bit back at her.

Up to you where you go from here with her.

Ankers Tue 24-Jan-17 17:45:20

Though I suppose you didnt expect her to act as badly as she has done.

Fairydoll2030 Tue 24-Jan-17 17:47:30

You are right Ankers! I think my 'subject' shouldn't have said 'strangely' wrong choice of words!

vampirequeen Tue 24-Jan-17 17:55:04

I haven't been in this situation but I have to say you have the patience of a saint. I would have bitten long before now.

Fairydoll2030 Tue 24-Jan-17 17:56:46

What I omitted to say is that my friend has got even more opinionated and critical since her DH died. . It's very hard to take, especially now she says I have always criticised HER. Is this what they call 'gaslighting?'

Grannyknot Tue 24-Jan-17 18:00:33

I think the friendship has run its course (granted, a long course). I would just drop her as a friend. There's no law that says you have to keep the same friends forever, especially if you are no longer getting on.

Jane10 Tue 24-Jan-17 18:18:29

Real friends are able to be direct with each other if its really necessary. Obviously she thinks its fine to just spout her thoughts to you especially as you've always 'sucked it up' until now. Her DH probably kept her in check a bit but now she doesn't have anyone to tell her she's gone too far.
If she's now gone 3 months without contact I suggest you sit it out. It might give her pause for thought. She just might resume contact in a more placatory way. If she doesn't well its her loss.

Luckygirl Tue 24-Jan-17 18:22:19

Leave the ball in her court. If she gets back to you then say very clearly that you are not going to tolerate the sort of comments that she has been making; that you have made allowances for her bereavement and now it is time to behave politely or you have no wish to be in contact.

jusnoneed Tue 24-Jan-17 18:46:48

Personally I would let things lie, if you haven't heard from her in the last three months I would imagine she isn't too concerned about you. I would wonder why a friend hadn't replied if we had been in regular touch, and would pick up the phone.
She sounds a lot like one of the ladies I help out. She doesn't think before she speaks and is very opinionated, especially on what she calls "incomers" to the town. Since she has been widowed she has gradually lost most of her friends (she was born here and is now in her 80's)and spends a lot of her time alone. She upset a long term friend a couple of years ago, no one knows what she said. Hasn't learnt the lesson though and I sometimes have to bite my tongue. Someone did recently say to her that she had a big chip on her shoulder, she promptly jumped on that and told him her thoughts lol.

janeainsworth Tue 24-Jan-17 18:47:21

It seems to be important to some people to say what they think without any consideration of the impact it may have on other people.

You could just let your friend find out the hard way that this will leave her friendless and alone, by not getting in touch with her and ignoring all her emails or letters. It sounds as though you have other friends and a nice DH so you don't need this person in your life.

Or if you were feeling more charitable, you could write to her and tell her how her criticisms and comments make you feel.

Christinefrance Tue 24-Jan-17 21:29:36

I would let sleeping dogs lie now. If your friend has not been in touch for three months then your friendship is not valued.
Life is too short to put up with this sort of relationship.
Enjoy time with your husband and other friends.

rosesarered Tue 24-Jan-17 22:35:22

She doesn't sound like a real friend to me!
Let things subside quietly for a while, and maybe it will just fizzle out.Don't make any trips to see her.
We make friends at different times of our lives, and very few survive the whole life, you know and value the ones which will.

M0nica Tue 24-Jan-17 23:05:23

Fairydoll I am in a similar situation. My friend and I have known each other for 60 years and stood beside each other through thick and thin and always been there when help and support is needed, which is why I will never break off this friendship but she has always had a tendency to assume her way of doing anything is better than her friends, that she knows more etc etc, but until recently we have shrugged it off as just her way, because she will always help anyone in need and we recognise her virtues and her generosity - and she does have them.

However we went away with DH for five days over the new year and how we got back without me murdering her I still do not know. Everything I said she dismissed for being limited, or laughed at for being ridiculous. I usually let it ride over me but it got so bad that when she began correcting me on subjects where I have specialist knowledge and she doesnt. I started snapping back. We parted very amicably, and we are still in touch.

Like you, Fairydoll I am a bit at a loss. I suspect this ramping up of her behaviour, may have something to do with the aging process. We spent a couple of nights with her in the Autumn and her house never outstandingly tidy, now looks like one of those houses in 'The Hoarder next door'. I know my friend remains very fond of me despite her behaviour and I just think, possibly like your friend, that she lacks any sense of self awareness and that this behaviour is defensive, but against what I am not sure.

I think in your case as you didn't reply to her email and she has never followed that up, as ChristineFrance says let sleeping dogs lie and just see what happens. I am hoping that what happened in the new year was just a bad attack of something and she will be back to normal when next I see her. In our case we are still in touch.

edsnana Wed 25-Jan-17 09:56:00

Over the last year I have decided that I won't tolerate this kind of treatment from friends/family. I think when you respond in a different way to how you always have it changes the whole dynamic of a relationship. So I now find my sister no longer speaks to me and my sister in law and I have had a few difficult conversations! I am just fed up with being harangued and bullied by these women. There is a friend who I haven't been brave enough to confront, mainly because she has been ill, but after a telephone call lasting over an hour last week, in which not once did she ask how I am, (I have also been suffering this last few years) I have decided to distance myself. FairyDoll I would leave well alone, you have nothing positive to gain from contact with this so called friend

radicalnan Wed 25-Jan-17 09:56:17

I loved my cousin, she was closer to me than my sister and after 50+ years, all that is gone. In a puff of smoke really.

Sometimes we are in the right place to see things differently and we do. Or other elements intrude and change things for us.

It is one of the repeating themes on GN.

Let it go, the way it was when it worked has gone and you really cannot go back.

It is so hard, I miss my cousin often and her kids, they all grew up together our kids and were practically interchangeable........none of us are in contact now.

Such is life, it is a stinker but it is normal enough to just let go and get on with things.

goldengirl Wed 25-Jan-17 10:16:34

Sadly I agree with letting the friendship go. Remember the good times and move on

JS06 Wed 25-Jan-17 10:29:17

What a great friend you've been.

The pattern is set with your friend though, you've seen the wars she conducts with family and it would probably 'energise' her to get into an email tirade with you. I concur with others that you should keep a distance, you're not really missing anything and have a full and active life. If your friend does in the future reclaim contact with you then you're in a position to set out the way forward.

All the best and I wish you well. x

Jaycee5 Wed 25-Jan-17 10:32:20

I think this always happens with people who are hyper critical of others. They do it to make themselves feel better and consider criticism of themselves an unreasonable affront.
As her behaviour hasn't really changed, it does not appear to be a result of grief of illness.
You have to decide whether you benefit from this friendship in a way that makes this worthwhile. It doesn't sound like you do.
It is sad as she will end up alone and bitter but there is nothing you can do about that.

EmilyHarburn Wed 25-Jan-17 10:56:33

I think it best not respond to her email. As some contributors suggest it may be time to move on. However if you feel that you cannot drop this relationship you probably know her birthday date. You could decide to send her a nice card with a note hoping she is keeping well and coping. That when she feel better etc. you would be happy to hear from her and put your phone number on the card as I do not think emails are the most helpful form for communicating sensitive emotions.

marionk Wed 25-Jan-17 11:15:49

I have been in your situation and sympathise. I had friend who had some obvious issues for whom I made many excuses to other friends and my DH asking them to try to accept her. When my DH and I got married 5 years ago she and her husband were at the wedding, she was flirting heavily with my son (who is gay) to the point of almost sitting on his lap, she also said something totally unforgivable to my DS and DD which obviously upset my DD as she told me about it the next day. I was angry, upset, disbelieving and decided I needed to say something to her. I slept on it so that I would be calm and phoned her, explained that I was upset and hurt by what she had said, she was mortified and apologetic. About 10 mins after coming off the phone to her her husband phone and verbally berated me for upsetting her!! I eventually put the phone down on him after it became clear he wasn't about to give me a chance to speak and I have never heard from her again.

Like people have said if it was a true friendship we would have got over this, but to this day I have no idea why her husband felt he needed to get involved!

tigger Wed 25-Jan-17 11:24:44

Sometimes enough is enough, do you really need this "friendship" or is it because of the memories behind it?

Midge Wed 25-Jan-17 11:31:09

There could be a mental health issue here. I have seen similar in a friend who has periods of depression. It is very difficult to deal with health issues you can't see. I feel for you

Lilyflower Wed 25-Jan-17 11:36:00

We all get ruder as we age and less tolerant of the rudeness of others. Our inhibitions lessen as our experience and confidence grows and as our faculties wear thin.

I should take plenty of no notice.

As for a cheapie/quickie holiday to Florence - I expect she's jealous. Most people would love a weekend in Florence!

LJP1 Wed 25-Jan-17 11:39:22

Agree with Jane 10.

My daughter had this trouble and was upset by a friend for years.

At last she was persuaded not to reply to a particularly unpleasant comment and just sat it out.

They are now in a much more amicable relationship and my daughter has learnt that her friendship is really valued even if seldom overtly appreciated.