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A years long troubled friendship has turned into a family obligatory relationship. What should I do?

Tagged as: Friends, Troubled relationships<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (8 October 2017) 6 Answers - (Newest, 14 October 2017)
A female age 30-35, anonymous writes:


I'd very much appreciate some perspective on a friendship I've had since childhood.

Is it really a friendship, or an inherited relationship? Am I overreacting after 30 years, or have I been to patient and accommodating?

Our parents were best friends and A. and I grew up seeing each other very often. I was always aware of how different we were. For the longest time I didn't question our relationship, just accepted things as they were.

A. was and still is extremely demanding. Over the years I came to understand that above all else she needed someone to listen to her venting, retelling the same stories/problems over and over again, literally eating up both my time and energy, because she never really wanted my opinion, but my "ear" and my agreeing with everything that she said.

At some point I started worrying about her, because I noticed she would repeat her stories using the same words in the same order, with the same facial expressions etc. and I couldn't tell if she forgot that she had already told me that story 3 times that day and God knows how many times that week, or if she simply didn't care. When she gets obsessed with a person or a problem she just can't let go and needs to vent until she gets exhausted. She would sometimes dig up a decade old stuff to obsess about.

It took me a while to realize that I'm not the only one. A. has a few more friends, who have noticed that she does the same things to them. That's when I put a broader picture together that, for the lack of a better word, scared me! It turns out that if something was bothering her, she would call me, talk about her problem, then when I would end the conversation, she would move down the list and repeat the same thing with those other friends, repeating her story a several times in a conversation, same words etc. But I was first on her list, since we were "sisters", right?

Over the years, I was cutting these "sessions" short, and so were other of her friends. Some of them stop talking to her altogether. Even though I felt almost family-like connection with her, I couldn't help but confront the fact that she doesn't really care about anybody else. She would sometimes call to ask how I was, only to turn the conversation in a matter of minutes to thing that was bothering her, the real reason why she called. She would call at 1 AM if she had the compulsive need. When her father was dying, she was obsessing over a man she had met (btw, in 95% of the cases that is the issue since she has been chronically single) and barely paid attention to her own family.

When I started dating my future husband, she had a hard time adjusting to my new rhythm, especially when we got married an had kids. We had a few clashes.

Recently our mutual close friend hung up on A. and decided to cut all contact with her. I can't say I blame her. Our friend's mother is in a hospital with a brain tumor and A. called her and without even asking how everybody was launched into one of her venting-sessions. When our friend told her that that was nor the place not the time, A. got angry calling her selfish. Our friend simply hung up. Later she told me that she realized she could tell A. what she really thought and how she really felt because she had felt for a very long time that A. was being egotistic and manipulating.

I realized I felt the exactly same way! I went trough some of our emails and texts and couldn't help but notice that over 90% of the correspondence was about her. If I wrote to her that our son broke a leg, she would politely wish him well and then never mention it again and ask how he was.

I realize that choosing people who enter into my life is my responsibility, but in a way I "inherited" her. I'm not sure we would be friends had I met her when I was a teenager, let alone an adult.

I'm not sure what I'm asking here. I just know that I need some perspective. I know that none of us is perfect, but it got to the point where I am not looking forward to seeing her or talking to her. It's more of a "family obligation".

Thank you all!

View related questions: best friend, text

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (14 October 2017):

Thank you all for your replies!

I think I am at crossroads and that I feel the need to reevaluate certain aspects of my life.

I was not the only one who thought about something being wrong with her. She just never wanted to seek help. She did go to a shrink once, but said that everything was fine with her and saw no point in continuing. I'm no expert, but I thought of some sort of a personality disorder (narcissistic tendencies?). Unlike two people I know who are on the autistic spectrum, she craves company, can't stand to be alone, but at the same time she doesn't really care about anyone.

Thank you again! I really needed some distance.

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A female reader, aunt honesty Ireland + , writes (9 October 2017):

aunt honesty agony auntHonestly you shouldn't feel like you have to be her friend just because your parents are best friends. I knew someone like this growing up as well, only everything that she said was lies, she was later diagnosed as a compulsive liar. I get how tired and draining it is, and I say well done for keeping up with her for so long. You need to concentrate on your life now with your family, if she is dragging you down then tell her the truth. She needs to know that the whole universe doesn't revolve around her, its time to tell her the truth.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (9 October 2017):

Op your friend/ sister sounds to me like she on the Autistic spectrum .

In fact as a mental health worker and mother to a 24 year old son .. I thought you were describing him ..

example . He will ask a qs . Like how are you .. and your just starting to tell him and he has moved the topic onto himself and what he wishes to speak about .. his story doesnt change . Infact I will get told it maybe 30 times in a day and my husband the same . His sisters etc .. repeativeness or echoing the same over and over ..

Plus the change when you got married and had kids etc .. she couldn't handle that part . Again routine and change or pattern is upmost

I'm just wondering if you have thought of this? .. as from your post I have a slight consideration that maybe you have .: but maybe I'm wrong .

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A female reader, Aunty BimBim Australia + , writes (9 October 2017):

Aunty BimBim agony auntI had a friend like that ... self absorbed and inconsiderate of other people's lives.

You could start by putting in some boundaries, I told my friend unless one of her kids had broken a leg or worse no phone calls after 8pm. You could give your friend a time frame calls are welcome, outside those hours you are busy with family commitments.

And after a time you feel is sufficient (15 minutes would be ample) tell her you have to go now, and then repeat, I have to go now. Then, goodbye I have to go now and hang up. She might respect your boundaries and call back or she might not. Its her choice.

Don't feel bad about pulling back, most obligations have an end date, who wants this sort of thing being part of the rest of your life? Not me, and not you either!

Good luck

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A male reader, Allumeuse United Kingdom +, writes (8 October 2017):

It sounds like your friend has some sort of personality disorder, I'm loathe to call it a mental illness because I'm not a mental health professional, however this behaviour sounds obsessive and self absorbed. A friendship is where two people support, advise and console eachother to the benefit of both, sometimes it isn't even at the same time and one carries the other for a time, eventually it's reciprocated. Human relationships are based on this tenet- without it you are basically a carer. If you are willing to be her carer, crack on. It seems unlikely you will ever have a reciprocal friendship, she seems only to seek validation.

I feel like you are a little complicit if you let her repeat herself over and over without challenging her or asking why she needs to do this, but you have borne that cross by having to deal with the lost hours of repetition. A real friend will challenge the behaviour of a friend- it is not your duty to meekly absorb the endless obsessing over men without asking why they are repeating the same self destructive pattern. Regardless, you should chose- Help her break this cycle-if its possible with professional help, or leave her to this spiral. Good luck

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A female reader, Honeypie United States + , writes (8 October 2017):

Honeypie agony auntOP,

It's OK to not want to keep being friends. If you only give, give and give, and she takes, takes and takes - it not only get monotone but it also becomes a "chore" for you, not a friendship.

I don't think she really knows how to have friendships (or relationships). It seems she thinks that being friends means that others should want to listen to the same crap over and over and over - anytime, day or night.

It can be that she is just very socially awkward and thus never learned that friendships are not one-sided. Generally, they are mutually beneficial.

If you do decide that this friendship is "dead" have the good manners to let her know (without crucifying her) that you feel it's become so one-sided and that you feel like you just don't have the time to invest in it anymore. She might not like it, but it's YOUR life. YOU get to choose who you want in it and whom you don't.


Life is like a garden... sometimes you have to weed out the things that are destroying the other crops or just not beneficial. You water the relationships you want to grow and flourish and weed out the ones that don't work for you.

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