I’m having a problem with the relationship with my best friend. My birthday is 04/10/1980 and hers is 11/03/1979. We’ve been friends for about half of our lives, but I’m afraid that an unhealthy dynamic has emerged over the years, and it’s caused me to question why I’m still in this friendship. In short, I do a lot of giving, and she does almost all the taking. She always has some kind of drama in her life (right now she’s dealing with an alcoholic husband who’s got some things to work out), and she is always coming to me for support. This would normally be fine for me, because I want her to be happy, but she sees me as more of a mentor or counselor than a supportive best friend. Basically, she wants me to solve her problems for her.
Over the years, her problems have become more of a burden and now it’s become an unbearable situation for me. I am seriously asking myself what it is that I get out of our friendship, and I’m not coming up with much of an answer…
So the bottom line is this: I’m thinking about ending the friendship. I feel that it’s unbalanced and my needs in a friendship have changed. It’s hard though, of course, if someone you care about has been in your life for 13 years. I don’t think she is going to change, or I would try to salvage it.
Could you please comment on the state of our friendship, and what would be the best course of action for me to take?
– Buffy in Augusta
The relationship you share with your best friend appears to be at a crossroads, but it doesn’t have to be a dead-end.
You are absolutely right in your assessment that your friend sees you as a mentor and counselor. She values your advice, counts on it and in many ways abuses your generosity. She really doesn’t see that. In her world, you’ve always been the strong one, the one from with she draws strength and security. This has become the foundation of the relationship over the years.
You’ve stated that you are looking within to see what it is that you get out of the relationship, and not coming up with much of answer. There isn’t much of an answer to come up with from where I sit. Your friend lives in such a state of chaos that she really isn’t available to you. The sad thing is, she doesn’t see this.
All relationships change and evolve over time. This relationship has slowly been growing in separate directions for quite a while now. It is kindness and commitment to the past that has held you in your role of trying to hang in there with your friend, and her myriad of dramas.
Because you are thinking of ending the relationship, and are mentally and emotionally trying to prepare to do so, it is time to let your friend know exactly how you feel.
I’m not going to tell you that this is an easy task or a miracle cure, because it’s not. It is going to be a difficult conversation, and your friend is not going to handle it well even though she will see a lot of truth in your statements. Tell your friend what you miss about her and the relationship, what you need from her, and what you will and won’t accept in this relationship. Whether it’s your intention or not, I see the conversation turning into one of “your way or the highway” and that’s okay. In fact, it appears as if it needs to be done in this manner if any positive results are going to come about.
Be prepared for your friend to feel abandoned and betrayed by you. But do it anyway. It’s going to hurt, for both of you, but a relationship — friendship or romantic — needs balance, and this particular relationship is way off center. You need to do what is best for you.
So while I see a much-needed break in this relationship, it doesn’t present as being completely over. In time, the two of you will re-establish your friendship with more defined roles and boundaries. While this may not bring you back to the “best friends” of the past, it does put you two in the position of having a friendship that will grow in the future.