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Suggestions for responses that won’t kill a friendship

(65 Posts)
Nanamar Thu 28-Jan-21 00:44:04

If you’ve seen my comments, you know I have many challenges right now. DH seriously ill, AS depressed, recently divorced, jobless, and lives with us. Fortunately DH can perform simple personal hygiene tasks and is not bedridden but I manage all household responsibilities and his medical needs. DS can help but since he isn’t working and his ex is, he does childcare for DGS. I have a lifelong friend who has never been married or needed to take care of anyone except herself. She has often complained that she must do everything herself because she’s alone. She barrages me with phone calls during which she quickly asks how we all are and then proceeds to talk on and on about how stressed she is managing home renovations, about her elderly mom who lives with her brother and wife and she complains about how they deal with the mom - but never goes to visit her herself, etc. She has always been self-absorbed - DH used to laugh about how many times she would say “I” during a conversation - but I am running out of patience. I know that I’m basically her only close friend and she “has” to talk to someone but I just want to ignore her calls (I often let them go to voicemail.) I hate to lose my cool and damage this relationship because it’s been such a long one. Any suggestions?

Kamiso Thu 28-Jan-21 01:02:20

Get someone to ring the doorbell or your mobile after 10 minutes and tell her you have to go. There’s a reason she has no friends. Not really sure that there is an answer. Even if you tell her how she affects you I doubt it would get through to her. If she started asking after your family it wouldn’t be genuine so wouldn’t really help.

Our last house was in a terrace and our neighbour was like that. She didn’t even realise we had three children living with us. She was totally self absorbed but we couldn’t complain that she was nosey!

welbeck Thu 28-Jan-21 01:05:18

could you just tell here something of your reality, but in an understated way, eg
i'm not the person to advise you, i am in need of help myself, am absolutely exhausted all the time, that's how it is looking after someone who is ill. i wouldn't have any other way. it's a privilege to be here for him, and he is my priority. and need to go now and sort out his medication. i hope you'll feel brighter soon.

welbeck Thu 28-Jan-21 01:07:11

don't let her add to your stress with long self-centred phone calls. you can state your limits, and curtail it.

CanadianGran Thu 28-Jan-21 06:04:36

Agree with others to find a way to limit the time of the calls. We all are under stress in our own way, but she is too self centred to see your situation, and to be concerned for you.

After 5 or 10 minutes, say your husband is calling you for assistance, and she may eventually get the hint. Also try to change the subject. I know there isn't an awful lot to talk about these days, but mention a TV show, or the news, or some neighborhood going-on just to keep the subject away from her moaning.

grandMattie Thu 28-Jan-21 06:18:30

I have noticed that people are lonely because they talk too much and talk too much because they are lonely.

I'm sorry I have nothing to add to the above - the doorbell trick may be the answer...

mumofmadboys Thu 28-Jan-21 07:38:26

Could you try and change the conversation entirely? Mention you saw your first snowdrops this year and this raised your spirits and made you look forward to Spring?-Try and help her in the art of positive thinking?

Gingster Thu 28-Jan-21 07:51:05

It’s very draining to have a friend like this and you have enough on your plate to be her ‘shoulder to cry on’. I had a friend like this who I worked with. I used to pick her up and take her home. Tried to be supportive and include her in get togethers, took her to the cinema etc etc. In the end , I left the job and gradually lost touch with her. She used to drain any joy or happiness from me.

After knowing her for about 4 years, I knew everything about her and her life. One day she said to me , I didn’t know you had two sons and a daughter! 😳. Wean her off you gradually.

M0nica Thu 28-Jan-21 07:54:46

Why not ignore some of her calls, and when she rings back, say; I am sorry I didn't pick your call up but I was doing....... (and describe some really dreary or time consuming job: helping clear up after children after some kind of messy disaster; clean and tidy bathroom after DH has had a shower/bath, catch up with the washing/ironing.

Plus the suggestions above for shortening the calls.

lemsip Thu 28-Jan-21 08:05:40

i agree with MOnica. You don't have to pick up each time she rings. Ring her back later when you can give her 5-10 mins Then after a chat leave it on a bright note saying 'talk to you later, bye.

nanna8 Thu 28-Jan-21 08:11:27

Is she really a friend or is she just using you? I’d be wondering. It is hard just now with the way things are but I would be gradually weaning her off. You have enough problems in your life, you don’t need more. I would be perfectly frank and say after 10 minutes or so that you just have to go and do whatever, thanks for ringing. Talk to you soon. Bye. I have had this situation myself a couple of times and it is easy to get sucked in because you do feel pity for people. Sometimes you just have to put yourself and your own family first, though.

sodapop Thu 28-Jan-21 08:56:19

In this situation you have to consider yourself Nanamar as well as supporting your friend. Calls like this are quite draining and I agree with others about time limiting them. Good suggestion from momb about introducing a positive thought into the conversation.

LesterGran Thu 28-Jan-21 10:28:36

She doesn't seem a real friend to you. And yes, Monica is right, you don't have to pick up every time she calls you. being a shoulder to cry on isn't friendship, she just uses you to comfort herself.

tickingbird Thu 28-Jan-21 10:40:18

I have often found that people who have never had children are self absorbed. Most women become less self centred after having a child. I have a long-standing unmarried, childless friend who, although lovely in many ways, is selfish and self centred. Doubt your friend will change now so do as others have suggested and find ways of cutting these calls short.

Toadinthehole Thu 28-Jan-21 10:47:24

You’ve articulated it so well in your post....why not just show her it? You don’t have time to wait for her to take hints. The problem with ignoring and avoiding is...the problem is still there....lurking. You need to be honest, because until you are, she’ll stay the same. It would be a shame if she had no clue you felt like this, and all it would have taken was a conversation. You could save a friendship. On the other hand, if she’s just selfish and expects to be a priority, you’d be well rid of her. Your family matter, friends come and go. All the best💐

Katie59 Thu 28-Jan-21 12:50:17

I have a terrible phone the volume on the ringer keeps on getting quieter and I miss quite a lot, very convenient I can call back later. If I am in a rush I set the timer which sounds just like an incoming call a few words and make my exit.

Smartphones can be such a blessing if you make them work for you!.

Madgran77 Thu 28-Jan-21 13:29:12

You’ve articulated it so well in your post....why not just show her it? You don’t have time to wait for her to take hints. The problem with ignoring and avoiding is...the problem is still there....lurking. You need to be honest, because until you are, she’ll stay the same. It would be a shame if she had no clue you felt like this, and all it would have taken was a conversation. You could save a friendship. On the other hand, if she’s just selfish and expects to be a priority, you’d be well rid of her. Your family matter, friends come and go. All the best💐

I agree with the above. You don't have time for hints and anyway why bother. Telling her doesn't have to be confrontational or "losing your cool". But I do think that your long friendship has developed a particular dynamic which just doesn't work for you in your present stressful situation.

Maybe something like: (bit stilted written down but hopefully you can get the gist of the key points)

"I need to say something to you. Are you ok to listen now or shall we arrange a time to chat? ......We have been friends for a long time and I love that and the fact that we can chat so freely to each other. At the moment we both seem to have so much on our plates ...you with (mum/brother/renovations etc ) and me with DH so seriously ill which means that I have to deal with all his medical issues and household stuff and I find that very stressful. Also with AS struggling after the divorce and being depressed and doing childcare I honestly find myself feeling quite overwhelmed at times. I am so grateful for your friendship and I really appreciate that I can tell you now how I am feeling about the situation"

Now if her response is along the lines of "Oh" followed by a long list of her own woes then I think you have to seriously consider the value of this friendship or just accept it will never be different.

If she shows sympathy, asks questions and truly listens then you can follow on with:

"Because my time is so taken up with all the medical and household stuff and helping AS I would find it helpful to agree a time for us to call each other maybe once (twice??) a week for a nice catch up and to tell each other our woes and also any nice bits of news too. That way we can both really focus on each other which is so much better. How does that sound to you?"

..."if either of us can't make the time, we can always text each other and rearrange."

Of course you may have different ideas about what arrangement would work for you but the principles of the conversation remain the same. I hope you can sort it out. flowers

Nanamar Thu 28-Jan-21 17:01:12

Thanks for all the suggestions. I have not been too successful at “protecting” myself because everywhere I turn someone seems to need something from me and, in my opinion, my family’s needs are more urgent than her need to unload about what are not, again in my opinion, quite as critical. I love the idea presented in the last post and will try although along with being somewhat self-absorbed this person has difficulty delaying gratification and tends to need to talk about something right away as it pops into her head, before it pops out again (we are both, after all, 70 and we do tend to forget things at times.

Madgran77 Thu 28-Jan-21 20:55:32

tends to need to talk about something right away as it pops into her head, before it pops out again (we are both, after all, 70 and we do tend to forget things at times

Say you are going to have a notepad next to phone or wherever to note down anything you want to tell her when you speak...suggest she does the same "don't want us forgetting anything ...etc etc "

Tangerine Thu 28-Jan-21 21:25:09

I have a similar friend. I often don't pick up the call when she rings. That doesn't mean I rudely and nastily ignore her for ages but I do ring back when it suits me and that might mean she needs to wait an hour or so.

I just say I was busy working from home or dealing with my elderly relations or some other time-consuming task.

If I do pick up the call, I sometimes say I can only talk for 15 mins because I have an appointment to attend. This means that the conversation is more controlled from my point of view.

My friend does have admirable qualities but she can drone on....... and it is often about nothing.

RoseJ Fri 29-Jan-21 10:14:34

You say the reason for maintaining this relationship is because it's been a long one. Not really a good reason. Sounds like it's run its course !

CarlyD7 Fri 29-Jan-21 10:25:41

I agree with so many wise words here. She is using you to offload with no consideration for you. I used to be the person everyone-else came to with their problems and was becoming resentful but felt guilty if I didn't. (Of course, when I had a problem, they were nowhere to be found!) Seeing a counsellor helped me to become more assertive, so (if I may) I'll share some of her excellent advice. (1) You are encouraging her behaviour by putting up with it (you're actually enabling her to be a nuisance). (2) As she has no other friends, she clearly needs to learn that using other people like this is not acceptable - otherwise she will end up very lonely (even more than she is now). The more you enable her, the longer it will take her to learn this. (3) We teach people how to treat us - you have put up with this for so long that you've "taught" her that it's acceptable. I agree with others - start setting an alarm or ring the doorbell, or even tell her straight - I'm out of the door in 10 minutes (have an excuse ready) and then the alarm goes off and you have to say goodbye. Get a call monitor - if it's her, don't answer it. Gradually, you will find that she calls less and less (if she's not getting what she wants). And please don't worry about letting her go - sometimes we form friendship at a particular time in our life, for a particular reason, but then that reason passes and we realise that we have nothing in common and we're dreading seeing them (or hearing from them). And, personally, I would categorise her as a People User and not a friend.

Lin663 Fri 29-Jan-21 10:25:42

I am with RoseJ on this one...if you are getting nothing out of the relationship, it’s time to end it. If you still want it to continue then you need to be firm. Tell her you only have limited time available to chat and suggest you have a regular catch up once a week at a specific time. Also, when she asks how you all are, tell her! Don’t do the British thing of “fine thankyou”....relationships are two way things: offload to her for a change! Good luck!

JaneJudge Fri 29-Jan-21 10:34:45

I think I would just be honest with her. Say you have alot on your plate atm and need her to be more positive as you feel negative enough as it is. If she is as good a friend as you say she is, she will take it on the chin and step up! I hope you are ok. I think you need to ask your son to pull his weight a bit round the house too.

Annaram1 Fri 29-Jan-21 10:35:16

I feel a bit sorry for your friend, being alone and lonely and with nobody to talk to except you. However, this friendship is obviously not good for you with all your problems, of which she seems to have no concept. There are some good suggestions here and I think a time limit of maybe 10 or 15 minutes is a good one. You gave been a good friend for a long time and she is taking advantage of your good nature.