Monday, January 28, 2008

Cutting Ties

I tried to think of something funny to tell you about today, but my heart just isn't in it. It's not that I'm brooding necessarily, but I'm struggling with a sort of moral dilemma, and I honestly don't know what to do.

Think you can help me?

Awhile back, I wrote a post directed at my friend. We'll call her Alison.

Alison and I went to high school together. We ran around in the same circles, so even though we weren't the best of friends, we were fairly good ones. But after graduation, we all went our separate ways, and I lost touch with her.

A couple years ago, we met up again. We caught up on old times, started hanging out again. It was fun, but it quickly became clear to me that she and I were in vastly different places in our lives. I was married and had a child, she was single and still on the prowl.

But more than that, I felt that she still had a lot of growing up to do. This didn't really become clear to me until I set her up with a very good single guy friend of mine, Jon. In theory, they would have been great together. She was a nurse, but she'd always wanted to get married, have some children of her own, and stay home with them. He made the kind of money that she could do that, and he would like nothing more than to have a wife and kids to care for. As a matter of fact, he considers his ex-girlfriend's children, who he'd helped raise for over ten years, as his own, and he's still very involved in their lives.

By the time Alison and Jon had gone on their first date, I truly believe she already considered herself in love with him. By the second date, she was picking out china patterns. She called and texted him incessantly, begged him to let her come over, and complained when he wasn't thrilled that she'd shown up on his doorstep despite the fact that he'd told her he just wanted some time to himself. But the death knell came when she tried to impede on his time with the kids.

She couldn't understand that. She said, "They're not even his kids."

Yes, I explained, by they are important to him. More important than any new relationship. He's their dad, even if he's not their father.

In true Alison fashion, she shrugged it off.

I guess I never really noticed how selfish she was until then. But the more time I spent with her, the more I realized it. When she would call to talk, it was never about me, or about my family, it was about her. Her life, her work, her friends. When I got Ethan into school and finally had some time to myself a couple days a week, she claimed one of those days as "Alison days". And, of course, she would choose how to spend them.

I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. I realized she was lonely, and in need of a friend, and I wanted to be there for her. But the more time I spent with her, the more I felt like I was being used.

Eventually she made another single friend at work, and the two of them would go out partying and drinking a lot. They were like two peas in a pod, but Alison's attitude just seemed to get worse and worse, and her decision-making skills just went right out the window. If something felt good, she'd do it, and damn the consequences. It wasn't long before she was alienating lifelong friends.

But she was still lonely, still looking for someone to fill the growing void in her life. When she got back in touch with her high school sweetheart, I urged her not to rush into anything. He was going through a divorce, and there were children involved.

They were engaged two months later.

Since then, she's moved up to where he lives, and is supporting him and his children since he lost his job.

And they're planning to try to take the children away from their mother because of her "mental problems"--i.e. she's bipolar, and Alison claims she's suicidal.

I know this is information that is being fed to her by her fiance, but I'm disgusted with the whole thing. This situation, like every other she has behaved herself into, is going to implode, and she is going to end up hurting those kids.

She doesn't get that it's not just about her anymore. And I'm sick of dealing with the misery she creates.

How do I tell her it's over?

(P.S. I'll try to be funny tomorrow. ;o) )


CamiKaos said...

I think the only way to break up with some one is to break up with someone.

Does that make any sense.

A friendship being ended can be messier than a romantic relationship ending. You'll have to tell her in a way that she can absorb that it's over.

It's a tough spot, I wish you well.

Holly said...

To quote Billy Joel - "mistakes are the only things we can truly call our own" - or something along those lines. What WAS that song?!?

I agree with camikaos - you simply have to tell her that the two of you no longer have anything in common, your time is valuable to you, since it must be distributed between wife, mother, work, etc - therefore, you can no longer spare time for her.

Holly said...

Oh, just realized, I meant to comment with the 1st paragraph, that your friend is the one making the mistake (of course), but that there isn't anything anyone can do about that.

You are right - the kids are the ones who will end up hurt, but there isn't anything that will show this selfish, self-centered woman what she is doing.

However, if anyone could put a stop to it, it would have to be the father of the kids.

Maybe a heart-to-heart with him?

holly said...

i say *don't* take a page out of my book and just head-in-the-sand it. that method is really just for those who are really good at it, like me.

be direct, which leaves no doubt. she will not like it, but she'll be gone, not bugging you about it. then you can focus on what a healthy decision it was for you and yours.

you can't choose her life for her. you can choose yours.

but i talk a lot of crap, even when i don't mean to. so much as i'd dearly love to help, i doubt i have. but you didn't specify that they had to be *perfect* answers. whew.

MamaGeek said...

Oh man. I have a friend who does something similar. In the end she's a mix between clueless and selfish. The main thing is the kids. So I might talk to him and /or her directly. Whomever has more of a chance of "getting it". You may be unpopular in the short term but helpful in the long term.

Follow your gut, that's what it's there for (besides eating which is way overrated - NOT).

Good luck Avery.

Natalie said...

I'm a wuss. I had a friend like that who found me after many years and suddenly we were best friends. I honestly didn't care for her lifestyle, so I ignored her.

Yep, that's my grand advice that you probably shouldn't take.

Maybe your friend needs a nice dose of honesty. She may not listen to you now, but I bet she'll remember it. I say break-up with her and give her the reasons why.

But totally do it in an email. :P

Lis Garrett said...

I think you just have to come clean and tell her it's not working out - be honest.

Once I got married and had children, it's like an entirely different universe had opened for me. It's one to which single people are not privy, and they can't possibly understand until they have a family of their own. My best friend is unmarried and without children. Even though she understands my life to a certain extent, she still doesn't "get it."

Edge said...

Ya ... this site needs more comedy and boobs ...

But I do think you should just stop talking to her if possible. My wife is in a similar situation with different circumstances. When she calls my wife doesn't answer the phone. At one point she just had to say, "I can't talk to you about XYZ, I can't talk to you about ABC, but not XYZ."

I think honesty - even if it hurts - is the best policy. Just say it nice. It may be something they don't want to hear or it may be something that they need to hear.

Either way, don't let them control you with their behavior.


Mya said...

Does she read your blog?
I think you have written a strong enough argument for cutting the ties - email her a link to this post.
I pity those poor kids, though, and their mother. It's very callous.

Mya x

Thalia's Child said...

I think you're in a really tough place - similar to one my Mum was once in...

There's 2 ways to do things - one is to let her fade out of your life - stop answering her phone calls and emails, and if you do answer her calls, come up busy when she wants to do things. It's passive-aggressive like crazy, but her feelings won't be hurt by this method - you'll just 'lose touch' at tome point.

The other way is to confront her. Tell her you can't stand watching her do what she's doing with her life and that you need a break from her.

If she's super selfish, she's going to be super offended by this tactic, and those who are entirely self-involved rarely take responsibility for their actions, so she won't likely see her part in the whole thing.

Tough situation. I don't envy you it.

Mike said...

If it were me, I'd just let the friendship fade away by rarely returning any calls. This is certainly the coward's way out, and there's no doubt that I generally fear emotional confrontations, but breaking up with a friend is a weird thing. When you break up with someone romantically, it's in everyone's best interest to severe a relationship that cannot continue. However, when you break up with a friend, it's pretty much just because you don't like that person. That's a hard pill to swallow.

Best of luck.

The Casual Perfectionist said...

Well, I'm not sure how to respond to this, but I thought I'd give it a go. :) I apologize in advance for the lengthy answer.

If I'm understanding correctly, she's moved away and doesn't stake a claim to your time anymore, right? And, she's rarely listened to (or understood) your advice before, right? But, part of you liked spending time with her on a certain level, right?

I would just let things fade away. Normally, I don't have a problem confronting people, but in this situation (if I'm understanding it correctly), you telling her you aren't going to be friends with her anymore will not change anything. It won't make the situation with the kids and her fiance any better. It won't make her change her behavior. The only thing that will change her behavior would be life-experience. And, that may or may not work.

So, if she's no longer taking up your time, I'd just let it go quietly by the wayside. If she's insisting on spending time with you, you can either be blunt and say that you don't have stuff in common anymore, or you can conveniently have oodles to do.

Does any of this make sense?

If I thought her behavior would change, I'd be the first to smack her upside the head, but it sounds like it would be a wasted exercise, plus, if she *does* grow and learn from the things happening now, maybe she would be a better friend to you in the future.

I wish I could be more help.

Queen of Shake-Shake said...

Just letting her fade away is the cowards way out?

I don't think so.

That's coming from someone who is not afraid of confrontation either.

As far as calling the guy to talk to him about his kids, if he doesn't get it on his own, no one will be able to teach it to him. It'd be a waste of time, IMO.

If you're really feeling like you have to make it officially over, then I'd tell her you don't approve of the personal choices she made and it interferes with your friendship. If you don't have that feeling, I say let her fade by not returning calls and such.

Emma said...

I had this very thing happen to me about 2 years ago.

If you are anything like me, and I know you are because we are twins, it is HARD to let people live their life when you believe they are making a freaking train wreck of it and taking others down with them. You just want to slap them silly and tell them to shape up but you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him wear a swimsuit...or something like that.

I would get SO frustrated and end up sounding judgmental and bossy. I say this only because I learned this VERY painfully (and no, not implying you act/acted as I did). I would agree with you on separating, best to just let her go before you lose it.

I just quit getting together, less and less, not lying, just family, kids, and busy schedules made up my day and they moved on with their own agendas.

She is obviously not open to your input, as her track record has shown. I don't know what kind of relationship you have with her, in terms of sharing how you feel, but if she is as selfish as you say, she'll slip away on her own if you tell her you have commitments (like Camikaos says). You don't have to sit down and tell her you think she should grow up. Honesty is always the best policy, although some times too much forthright opinions hurt. I, unfortunately, know this all too well with my big mouth. I've almost grown accustomed to the taste of sketchers.)

Not to make waves, but I disagree with earlier comments about sending her this post in email. Passively sending her this would hurt her terribly. I know I'd be ticked, well meaning or not, IMHO.

I am not implying in any way shape or form, that you are acting judgmentally or rude. I am just sharing what I did, went through, and what I learned.

I hope it helps chicka, it's a hard place to be with a friend. I have faith that whatever you will do though, that you will do it with kindness and grace, cause that's how you roll.

Natalie said...

PS. When I said do it in an email I didn't mean send her this post. As a sensitive soul myself, I could not bear to "break-up" with a friend in person or on the phone. Talk about awkward. Not only that, but an "official" letter would be less embarassing for me if I were the one being broken up with. To have to look at the person breaking up with me?! NO WAY, just give me the pink slip and let me crawl into my hole, please.

I don't think you should email her the link, that would definitely be hurtful because you've talked to the world about it. That's not what I meant at all. :)

Then again, this person does not sound anything like me and she may benefit from the face to face break-up.

Good luck, whatever you do.

R said...

Emma's advice sounds supreme, I think. I had a friend that used me (I have had many) recently and I did not come out and say that I was not going to be her friend anymore, but I declined any offers to get together. I let her read it on my sad face that I was not happy with the situation. She could tell, so she never called me again. She let it go, and it was the best thing that could have happened in that situation. And I know that she knew her blunder too.

If you are dealing with someone who is so pigheaded that they just have no regard for anyone period, you may just have to say it nicely to her face. "I am sorry, but my relationship with you is unhealthy and I can not condone the choices you have made for yourself. I can't be quiet about it. I need to remove myself from you, so I do not hurt your feelings."

I think if you said that she could yell at you, get angry, whatever, but you have the power to just walk off and put your hands up.

You have no issues speaking your mind.

terri said...

You've received tons of great advice here. I have none. I am HORRIBLE at this kind of thing. But you are right to want to break ties. Nothing good can come of this friendship at this point.

Groovy Mom said...

I'm in the let it fade away camp. That way, maybe there'll come a day when she is more mature and who knows? the two of you might reconnect. I've had that happen with a couple of friendships. We outgrow each other, or go different ways for a time, and then a few years later it seems we have a lot in common again.

meleah rebeccah said...

Like a Band-Aid... RIGHT OFF.

(ps...she sounds just a little NUTS)

Avery Gray said...

Thanks, everyone, for your advice!

To answer some of your questions, the reason why I feel it's necessary to tell her I'm cutting things off is because I have tried ignoring her, but it doesn't work. She continues to call and e-mail, sometimes on a daily basis, and now she is bringing our mutual friend, Meghan, into it, asking her to call me and tell me that Alison's trying to get a hold of me. If it wasn't for Meghan, I would probably just put up with the nuisance, but I don't want it affecting her life.

Plus, it's just plain annoying. When I do talk to her, it's always a guilt trip about how much time has passed since I last spoke with her, and how she knows I can't possibly be THAT busy that I don't have a few minutes to chat with a friend. (Yes, she really did say that, and she NEVER chats for just a few minutes.)

If I thought there was something worth salvaging in the friendship, I might try a heart-to-heart, but she rarely listens to sound advice. She is a personality chameleon--she mirrors the personality of the person she's closest to at the time (which right now would be her fiance) because she thinks that will make her more likable in the end. It doesn't. Unless she develops a very strong sense of self, I don't see how we can ever be friends again. I like that my friends can think for themselves, even if we don't always agree.

So, I'm well and truly done. I just need to formulate a response that will make it clear, in no uncertain terms, that I have nothing more to offer her.

I agree that honesty is the best way to go, but like Mike said, it's not very easy to tell someone you don't like them. Especially if they don't see it coming.

But, hey, keep the ideas coming. They've been great so far. Thanks so much for your help!

Sheila said...

Breaking up with a friend can be gut wrenching. I wish I had some good advice on this one. I had a friend get married to a guy with a police record. He did the whole alienating thing. We had been best friends for over 20 years. She did not call or even write me an email. She just went cold turkey.

Avery Gray said...

Sheila--I had a friend do that to me, too. It hurt. I totally know what you're saying. I'm so sorry you lost your friend that way.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Wow Avery. This is so hard. I did the fading away thing unconsciously as a kid and it worked, but it won't work here.

I'm really struggling for ideas, but I suppose it depends on if you care about hurting her or not. I don't mean that horribly, I just mean, either tell her straight, or do the, "I don't think we're much good for each other anymore and I don't want to be in contact with you./I need a break from you as so much is happening in my life right now I need to concentrate on me.

Or you could just move house.

Blah, I am no help. Sorry. Thinking of you though.

The Casual Perfectionist said...

Maybe you could say what you've said in your response in the comments:

Talk to her on the phone (probably better than in person, and better than an email...because you'll be wondering if she got it, etc.). Tell her that you realize she's probably noticed that you've been distant and hard to reach. Tell her that you feel you need to be honest with her. Tell her that you don't like who she's become since she's with her fiance. (You can bring up the chameleon personality thing or not...) Tell her that it may hurt her feelings, but that's why you don't feel comfortable talking to her or spending time with her. Tell her that you don't agree with the situation she's gotten herself into, and you can't do this right now. Tell her to stop calling your mutual friend, because no one is going to change your mind. Then, tell her that you're sorry it has to be this way, but it has to be this way: You won't be returning her calls or her emails. Period.

Other than ignoring it (which you've done, and that's not working), being polite and direct is the only other option. After that comes rude and direct. After that comes changed phone numbers and restraining orders, and well, that's just no fun for anyone.

Oof. What a mess. Good luck!!

Caffeine Court said...

Maybe you just need to take a break for a while. (Which would just require screening calls and e-mails for a couple of weeks.)

If you are SURE that you are done with her than expain to her that you've grown apart. I wouldn't get into too much detail. She has to make her own decisions about her life. It's understandable that you don't want to be in a relationship that frustrates you so much. (Don't we get enough of that with our husbands?!)

P.S. Is Emma really your sister?

Caffeine Court said...

Maybe you just need to take a break for a while. (Which would just require screening calls and e-mails for a couple of weeks.)

If you are SURE that you are done with her than expain to her that you've grown apart. I wouldn't get into too much detail. She has to make her own decisions about her life. It's understandable that you don't want to be in a relationship that frustrates you so much. (Don't we get enough of that with our husbands?!)

P.S. Is Emma really your sister?

Caffeine Court said...

P.S. I love giving advice so much that I posted it twice. (oops)

Rima said...

Hey, Avery.

I think I'm a little late to this party, but I wanted first to say that I'm in the "let it fade away camp." Just distance yourself and when (and if) the inevitable question comes from her as to what is going on, you should be honest with her.

And second, I enjoyed this post, even though the tone wasn't your usual. IT IS OK TO BE SERIOUS! Honestly, it takes some of the pressure off the rest of us ;)

Now I should go listen to my own advice cause I'm all, "OMG, there is nothing funny going on in my stupid life right now, whatever will I post about next??"

sybil law said...

Yep - ignore her.
My mother-in-law actually married some guy whose kids she wanted nothing to do with. I flat out called her a bitch to her face. She married the guy, anyway.
They divorced in about 6 months.
This girl is a selfish train wreck, and it's unfortunate kids are involved.
I'd just let her know how you feel about what she's doing. That it's okay to be ignorant and selfish as long as you're single but NOT when there are kids involved. It's an easy way to say, "You suck and I don't agree with it" and get her gone. For a while, anyway.
Worms eventually come up for air.
Good luck.

secret agent mama said...

I've never been successful at cutting someone out of my life. Even when I did, something always led me back to [them].

That being said, a few months ago I had a problem with a friend, regarding some things that her daughter said, and rude behaviour-in general. I tried to ignore the situation and her calls. I thought that maybe it would just go away. It didn't work, and when we discussed it (albeit through email) I realized that some mistakes were made, but that it didn't warrant cutting them out of our lives.

Another situation I've been in involved my best friend and the betrayal of my trust. I cut her out, but am currently talking to her on instant messenger, and via blogs. I never wanted to be her friend, and I conveyed that to her over the phone with a mean, nasty tone. Why am I talking to her? I guess because we've been through so much, she knows me so well, and I'm very forgiving. I'm sure she knows that we'll never be friends in the magnitude that we were prior to what happened, but I do think the friendship that I'm extending means a lot to her.

I dunno, Avery.. There's two clear examples of trying to "break up". Maybe I'm just no good at it. I hope you come to a better solution. Listen to Emma though; she's a wise and beautiful owl!

Lilacspecs said...

I suppose it depends on what you want her reaction to be. People say that ignoring phone calls and e-mails works, and yes it does, but I feel that's almost as cruel, if not moreso than talking to the person and explaining yourself. I've done both things and I've had both things done to me and I hurt a lot more when I'm ignored as opposed to someone telling me, "Hey Kor, I just don't like how you act and I don't want to hang out anymore."

Granted, I'm an expert at not keeping close friends. I either alienated people in college or perposefully faded myself off into the background and only really realized how I had no friends when I was about to move to Belgium and no one was around to say goodbye to.

I don't mind living that way, as apparently I am an easy person to forget.

Anyway, my point is, even if Alison gets pissy, you won't be doing the wrong thing by explaining how her actions make you feel and why you have decided that a friendship with her is not a good idea right now.

clairec23 said...

It always amazes me how far apart we all are yet our experiences can be similar. I've had friends like that. One in particular. Unfortunately, she actually has children and still can't grow up. I cut the ties completely a couple of years ago but lately she's been crawling again and if I'm not careful, I'll be right back where I started. So my advice to you is to be clear of what you want. If this one isn't good for you then blank her out of your life. Make no bones about it because she won't take a hint. She'll only twist you back into HER problems and HER issues yet again. Good luck because it's hard to be the one that lets go.

R said...

As comment 33, I will say, go to my blog and tell me your Indian name.

Or a string of them.

I will name you

Scary With Pen

meleah rebeccah said...

Glad you are in better spirits... BOOBS like that ARE magical I tell ya!

Doozie said...

I was going to read everyone elses advice before I posted but there is too freaking much of it and I'm hungry.

so here is my advice to you.

don't EVEN try to straighten them out, people do what they want.

set a boundary and stick to it

Mert said...

Oye, what a doozie. People like that are just soul suckers, you are better off without her and shouldn't feel bad about letting her go.

Sounds like to me, that she is so self-absorbed that she may not even notice you want nothing to do with her.