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Following on the healthy friendship thread ...


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How can you be a good, healthy friend, to a person who is a good friend but an unhealthy person?

 

I so want my friend to be happy. She's had a lousy life, both through circumstances and through choice.

 

Changing her circumstances, and her life, would be difficult, and would involve making some hard decisions, but it can be done. I encourage her to make those changes every chance I get. I have always been her cheerleader. I will always be there for her.

 

She is close to turning 40, and seems to be having a crisis. She is looking back on her life, and is becoming very, very bitter, depressed, and negative. Every conversation is about how much she hates her life and how miserable she is ... but she WILL NOT make changes. And she refuses to look at the reality of her choices. For instance, she bemoans not being able to afford making a particular change, but then spends money on luxuries.

 

I want to be a good friend to her, but what does that mean here? She is headed for a lifetime of depression and misery, and seems to want to bemoan this, but not to want to change anything.

 

How do you keep listening, in that situation? How do you remain supportive? Do you keep encouraging change? What if bringing up change results in hostility?

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When she complains, ask her "Are you just venting and want a listening ear or do you want advice?" If she just wants to vent, there is nothing you can do (other than listen). If she says she wants advice (and many times people say they do but really don't), tell her "I'm your friend. I will be there for you and even help you in any practical way I can." But the old adage that the only one who can change yourself is yourself, is true.

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How can you be a good, healthy friend, to a person who is a good friend but an unhealthy person?

 

How do you keep listening, in that situation? How do you remain supportive? Do you keep encouraging change? What if bringing up change results in hostility?

 

Mama Lynx, you and I must-must-must have a friend in common.

I tell you that I have a friend who fits that description in so many ways.

 

I have very gingerly offered a couple of suggestions, but mostly I listen to her. There are many circumstances in her life that are a sad reality, with no end in sight. She turned 40 last year, and it added to her depression because her life is not at all what she'd hoped it would be at this age. And quite honestly, she has had a very hard life.

 

So I just listen, support, and offer encouragement as much as I can.

 

OH, and one other thing.

I have boundaries. Because I am empathetic to a fault and there have been times when I've found myself spiraling downward because I get so caught up in her problems. I had to learn to put a little bit of space between us sometimes. I love her, she knows that, but my family has to be my first priority.

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Stephanie,

 

We have a friend like this. She's a delightful person, and one of the dearest people in my life -- yet, at only 20-something, she's already well on her way to being a bitter, hardened woman long before she hits nearing-40. It scares me to pieces, b/c I love her so very much and want her to be happy...

 

But like others have said, only she can do that.

 

I'm not like *anj*, in that I'm not overly-empathetic, particularly when it pertains to things my friend can do something about. When she says, in one breath, that their new furniture is being delivered this week and then laments how she's going to HAVE to find a job b/c they can't pay the water bill, I tend to blurt out things like, "Why would you buy that, then?" (Or other life-affecting decisions that make me want to grab her by the shoulders and say through clenched teeth, "This is called 'shooting yourself in the foot'! STOP IT!") SO, boundaries are good, no matter which end of the spectrum you're on (empathetic or hard-a$$ed).

 

I'd third (or fourth) the phrase, "Do you just need to vent, or are you looking for suggestions?" It is definitely an invaluable tool. I use it often. Mostly, she just wants to vent. I can be okay with that, but I've also learned that when it starts to pile up on me, I have to be able to say, "Wow, hey, the kids have set the cat on fire again. Can I call you later?" Then I can breathe in, breathe out, give her a chance to move on to something else, and hopefully catch her at a better time. I've also learned that bringing up change, unless the person is actually seeking change, will result in hostility. That doesn't mean it'll last, or that it'll do irreparable damage to your friendship. But it may not help at all, no matter how tactfully you go about it.

 

I do have some friends I can trust to be upfront w/ me if I'm shooting myself in the foot. I cherish those friends with all I have in me! :) And they are the same ones I can feel comfortable doing the same for them, as well. But I think, perhaps, that's a unique quality to find in friendship. This friend doesn't have that dynamic interface. Sometimes, it's just best to listen, and love them where they're at, no matter how heart-wrending it can be to keep listening. Encourage when you can. And keep loving. :)

 

HTH, Dy

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boundaries.........boundaries.........boundaries

 

I've been where you are. In one instance I ended the friendship, the other I have kept but I have.........you guessed it...........boundaries

 

A great book that helped me tremendously in dealing with various difficult situations was Safe People by Townsend.........the same guy that wrote the books........you guessed it.........Boundaries

 

There is a fine line, IMHO, between being a shoulder to lean on and being used to perpetuate bad behavior. Some people don't want to learn from their mistakes and they need people to condone the behavior so they continue without guilt. Only you can discern which your situation may fit.

 

Good luck!

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LOL.

 

She's certainly not using me to condone her behavior, or to help her perpetuate the situation. I am more like Dy, in that I'm apt to blurt and be blunt. "What do you mean you're poor? Didn't you just pay $70 to have your hair permed and highlited?"

 

And that, I think, is where my problem lies. I want to HELP. I want to point out to her the ways she can make different choices. I want to make her see that no, her life does NOT have to be like this.

 

And I want her to see that she CHOSE to be where she is, and she's CHOOSING to stay (yes, changing would be hard, but it's still a choice), and that by CHOOSING to be miserable about it, she's shooting herself in the foot and guaranteeing her misery.

 

But I know she's not going to change. And so, I bite my tongue more often than I used to. I think my boundaries are pretty good, but oh, it's so hard to keep listening.

 

But I don't often ask her if she needs to vent, or if she's looking for suggestions. I should try that. Maybe, at least, it would call her attention to how much she is venting. And I guess the last boundary issue here is perhaps, admitting to myself that there's really nothing I can do, and taking myself out of the picture a little more often when she wants to vent?

 

That's a hard thing to do.

 

Dy, I hope your friend finds some change in her life. It stinks to be that way at 20. And my friend was fairly like that at 20, herself.

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