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Friend is too self-absorbed to notice the troubles of others

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Friend has too much drama to notice others have problems

Richmond: I'm having trouble with my best friend. She's head-over-heels in love with a guy, although I think she's pretty codependent. Her life seems to revolve around him at the moment: her feelings for him, a possible future, etc. She recently decided to get therapy to deal with some pretty intense insecurities she feels with this relationship.

I have been friends with her for years. I know she can be a drama queen, but I don't have the stomach for this now. I've got my own very real problems (very sick parent, horrible job, fertility issues), and it bugs me when she prattles on about her latest introspective moment. I've tried to distance myself with the thought that when my life takes an upswing I'll be more apt to listen to this. But she's not getting the hint and I suppose I'm avoiding a tough conversation and don't want to hurt her feelings. Thoughts?

Carolyn: It sounds as if you're trying to compartmentalize her where seeing the whole person would serve you better. She isn't just a friend who has lost her way in a relationship because of her insecurities. She doesn't just have drama queen tendencies, and she isn't separately spending more time talking than listening. These are all part of the whole of who your friend really is.

And who is she, really? From what you say, she is someone with some hollow spots in the middle, and she fills them by inflating the importance of herself and her problems.

It's possible you've just had the kind of planetary alignment that tells you your best friend might not be quite the person you always thought. It happens sometimes, that your circumstances allowed you both to be your flawed selves, peacefully leading lives in a comfortable parallel formation that didn't call your suitability for each other into question. It happens sometimes that one of you faces a big struggle, and the other continues on the same path as if nothing ever happened. The struggling one sees how limited the other person really is and how illusory the close friendship really was.

I hope this isn't true for you. You've got a lot going on in your life and this is no time to find your friend is only your friend when you're able to stand by her at the center of her drama du jour.

So, the best thing you can do to start is to operate on the assumption (or just hope) that she really is your good friend, and make an overt bid for her support: "Hey, I know you're going through a lot with your therapy. I'm going through a lot too, though, and I'd rather have a sympathetic ear than to be one."

If she rallies for you, then chuck out all the gloom I just laid out. If she lashes out or punishes you for sharing your true feelings, then take some solace in knowing that these friend upheavals usually do accompany hard times, whether you can bear to think about it or not. Like the cliche says, you find out who your friends really are.

Friend is too self-absorbed to notice the troubles of others 07/11/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 9, 2010 6:13pm]
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