a reminder of bad times
Q: The last few times I have hung out with a friend, she told me I am "cheating" on her when I mentioned that I hung out with other people. She has also said that I can't have other friends. She says these in a joking manner, but it's happened more than once.
It makes me uncomfortable because back in the day (prior to therapy!) I was always in the company of controlling people — parents, boyfriends, relatives, siblings. I figured out why I followed the controlling requests and I no longer allow it.
When she referred to "cheating," my automatic response was to shut down and get quiet because I felt like I was going to lose it in a nonproductive way. I hate the way I felt when I was controlled, and I started to feel that way again after those comments. I was sad, upset and angry because she is well aware of my history.
I don't know if I'm overreacting and should just brush off her comments or, if I'm not, how to approach this situation.
A: How 'bout this, next time: "You are kidding, right?" If she backpedals, calls you oversensitive, insists it was just a joke, etc., hold firm. "Remember, what is a joke to others is a trigger for me." Then you see whether the friendship reverts to the really-good mode or stays weird. If it's the latter, please consider that the change might not be in her, but in you, as you continue to get stronger — and better at spotting clinginess in others.
If you feel awkward bringing it up, remember that a real friend won't punish you for your frailties.