Hard stuff with a close friend, update

I'm feeling very sad because my dear friend "J." and I are on the outs again. A couple months ago she did something that made me angry, disappointed and deeply hurt. She posted something on facebook that was against my favorite presidential candidate. I didn't like it, but would have shrugged it off as just her opinion, had she not tagged me in a comment in a very hurtful way that implied that now I was going to have to admit she is right and to hate my candidate like she does. I thought that was very underhanded and dishonest, and told her that if she has an issue with me like that she should just address it to me personally, in private message, on the phone or whatever. It was embarrassing to me to be tagged like that in a "gotcha now!" way. I told her I was very disappointed and no longer felt I could trust her to be respectful of my boundaries, my right to be a separate person and have different opinions from hers. That as of that moment we were no longer friends and would have to start over from square one. I asked her not to call me or come over to my place, and to return my key, and that I needed some distance until we had things sorted out.

She apologized saying she didn't mean it to be personal (so why did she tag me like that?) and seemed very contrite. Said she was done with politics, candidates and the election because it was not worth it. I told her that it really isn't about politics, which is just the topic that triggered the incident, but about the issue of boundaries, and that I hoped she would not continue to feel she could not talk about politics on facebook.

We have been communicating by fb messenger and things seemed to be getting better, but I was still wary and not sure she "got it" why I felt as strongly as I did. Back when this all started I realized that there was something else, also involving boundaries, that I had needed to say for a long time, but had avoided because I was afraid it would start a fight (meaning that she would rant and rave while I clammed up, just like it was with my ex, and my mother before that). She does not like immigrants or Somalis or Muslims especially ,and is often very angry at them because she has to deal with some at work (customer service) who think they should be able to order women around. I understand the anger at bad behavior of individuals, but it offends me when she makes it about their religion or nationality or immigrant status or the fact that they don't know much English. So I decided that if we are to be friends again that I would at some point tell her how I feel about her saying those things and ask her to please not do it in my presence anymore.

Anyway things seemed to be getting better and J. has been very worried about her (adult) daughter's illness that could be very serious. She said she really needed to talk to her friend, meaning me. So I said why don't you call me tomorrow, because it was late. Then I got to thinking about something else she said that I had thought was about dealing with these difficult customers, so I thought that topic might come up, and I needed to set that boundary before that happened. So I messaged her this morning and told her how I felt and that I did not want to hear about that anymore, that it is bigotry and offends my sensibilities (thanks Dr. Phil for that one!). I was very careful how I said it, did not ask her to change her opinions or to change her behavior when I am not around. I thought I did a good job of standing up for myself while staying respectful (maintaining the boundaries, in other words) and I felt good about it.

Well she really let loose on me. Accused me of calling her a racist and a bigot, which I did not, of being PC and a bleeding-heart liberal and all that. She acted insulted that I would presume that she would ever bring the subject up because she said she wouldn't and that we had an agreement not to. I was really surprised by that because I had never agreed to anything, it was just she who said she was "done with it." The way she said it, I believed she was talking about electoral politics and not including her feelings about immigrants, etc. She continued to insist that we had and agreement, etc.

Obviously it was a misunderstanding so probably I should have let it go at that. Actually, looking back I think my biggest mistake was trying to reason with her when she was so angry. I have had to deal with rageful people all my life, literally, starting with both my parents and then my ex and a few others along the way. I have come to realize that while one can be very angry yet respectful, rage is anger that has no boundaries, that crosses over into disrespect and abuse, caring more about the rage in the moment than about other peoples feelings and boundaries. A person in a rage is no more rational than a person who is drunk, and you don't try to reason with a drunk. But I got hooked into the old pattern of trying to explain myself over and over, as if she would understand if only I could say it right.

So I am sorry that I did not just say maybe we should give ourselves some time to cool down before we discuss this. I can apologize for that, and for her hurt feelings, but I refuse to apologize for how I feel or for my very simple and reasonable request, which she is free to refuse in any case.

So that's where it stands. I would appreciate any observations or similar experiences that anyone else has, but please try to not give advice. Thanks for listening, I'm so grateful for this group and everyone in it. Looking forward to hearing from any of you.

2 Replies

  • Hi Syltownsend,

    I think part of the healing process is letting some people go. It sounds as though this person has some ways of approaching life that you find disrespectful. If it permeates all through then it is not something you can design specific boundaries for. Its better to just clear the space for better people to get close.

    In the process of managing ourselves better we begin to demand higher standards from those around us. And some people can't cope with that. Its a bit of burn as they fall away, but its well worth it in the long run!

  • Thanks. The problem with posting something like this is that I forget to mention that there are some very good things about the friendship, too. So the first thing people think of is maybe I should just let this one go. I'm quite aware that that is always an option and may be necessary, as I have done that with several other friends in the past. But I always have hopes that we can work things out, and that I will not have to do that in this case. So what I was looking for was more in the line of support for trying.

    Our backgrounds are very different and so are our personalities, yet we have become quite close over the last 3 years. We've discussed how different we are and how unlikely our friendship seems, yet both of us value our differences and have learned a lot from each other. Things just seemed so good until she got on facebook a few months ago and sent me a friend request. Knowing how we are poles apart politically (but mostly have just avoided the subject) and how much political stuff I post, I thought it might be a mistake to accept. But then I thought there was no harm in trying, and I could always unfriend her if need be.

    I've been thinking about how to respond to her last messages because I was really floored by some of the things she said. But I realize that my request triggered a lot of anger because she is very angry about illegal immigrants, and because her bigotry is something that is aware of but doesn't like to look at and have pointed out. Also, she has been having a really hard time with what she calls "crazies," has just seen a psychiatrist and was diagnosed as bipolar, which she had already guessed. So I want to make allowances for all the stress she has been going through that has nothing to do with me. Not that that gives her the right to take it out on me, just because I happen to be handy.

    I was thinking I would just wait until I had a chance to discuss this with my therapist tomorrow night. We've discussed it before, but not for a couple of weeks, and a lot has happened since then.

    Then tonight I got a cheery message from J. wishing me a happy belated 4th. Then she started a long and incredibly condescending message full of pseudo-psychoanalyzing and unsolicited advice. She portrayed me as some kind of totally fearful person trying to anticipate and protect myself from every possible hurt. You'd think to read it that I'm cowering in a corner shivering and afraid of my own shadow! Then a lot of philosophical advice like facing our fears and beating them makes us stronger, and I'm stronger than I think I am, yada yada yada. She said that I've convinced myself that I can't handle being hurt, but that I really am so strong that I can. I never read such psychobabble bullcrap.

    Well it just pissed me off so I got a little sarcastic and said thanks for the unsolicited advice. I'd prefer she just share her own experience and us "I" statements. I told her that just about everything she said is totally off the mark, which it is. I've been in recovery for nearly 30 years, in therapy for 27, and I've done more support groups, 12-step meetings, therapy groups, workshops, books etc. than she can even imagine. As a result I am doing extraordinarily well considering where I came from (sexual, emotional, verbal and physical abuse in childhood, then emotional, verbal and some covert sexual and borderline physical abuse in a 15-year marriage). I have shared some of that with her, and in the last few weeks I have taken the risk of explaining some of how I get triggered and why I react they way I do sometimes. I feel like she took that, plus my simple boundary-setting request, and twisted it all around an set herself as some sort of superior person who has a right to judge me and give me advice that I didn't ask for, as if it were up to her to fix me. I'm doing a fine job of fixing myself, thank you!

    Not surprisingly, she reacted with anger and said I was the only person she knows who doesn't understand plain English. Yada yada yada. She ended saying to just forget it and have a nice life. I'm not taking that too literally so I shot back a couple things. I don't mean I was abusive or inappropriate, just angry. I added that I had been just about to apologize for a couple things.

    She said she was deleting my messages but that I didn't have anything to apologize FOR. That's funny, considering what she said a couple days ago. So now I guess she's angry at me for saying I was going to apologize!

    She wants me to leave her alone for awhile, so I will. Her move next. Although I may change my mind about that after talking to my therapist. I don't know, maybe this isn't going to work after all. But I've thought that before, then it seemed like it might actually bring us closer.

    Meanwhile, the rest of my life goes on. I would be very sad to see her go, because I was beginning to feel that she was my closest friend, closer than I've had in a long time. But she isn't the only fish in the sea!

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