25 May
A Friendship That’s a Toxic Waste

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I need advice on how to deal with a “toxic” friend. When this friendship began several years ago, the woman (who is a work colleague) seemed like a fun, somewhat together person. But over time, other qualities emerged: self-centeredness, pessimism, poor boundaries, and neediness.

I now find spending time with her to be very draining, and when I try to talk about lighter topics, she takes offense and says I lack empathy. She seems to view our relationship as lifelong and doesn’t handle my increasing infrequent availability well. Unfortunately, I need to maintain some semblance of a relationship since I work with her and she’s also in my book group.   Any suggestions?

Signed,

Donna the Defriender

________________________________

Dear Donna the Defriender,

Believe it or not, I actually answered a question similar to this a while ago. At the time, I advised the person to just tell her unwanted friend that she was relocating to Afghanistan, easy peasy, problem solved, but now I’m a year older, a year wiser, and I have even more pretend psychology classes under my belt. Therefore, let’s see if I can come up with some better advice for you.

Let’s see…hmmmmm, how ’bout you…or then again you could…or maybe just take a piano wire and a jackhammer and…nope, I got nothin’, Donna. That Afghanistan shit was PURE GENIUS.

But let’s assume you’re not willing to move to the desert until they have at least one Pinkberry, which may be a few months away. Here’s one more tactic for you to try. Ready? Remember this word: Disengage.

Simply pretend you’re the snotty head cheerleader and she’s the weird, pervy mathlete who’s always trying to talk to you. For example, she says, “I just hate Mondays.” You say, “Uh-huh.” That’s it. No more. She says, “Want to go get a chalupa?” You say, “No, thank you.” That’s it. No more. She says, “I have naked pictures of Bradley Cooper on my computer.” You say, “WHAT? WHERE? CAN I LICK YOUR MONITOR? OH, SWEET JESUS, I’M SO HAPPY!” That’s it. No more.

The point is, if this woman is as self-centered and needy as you say, she constantly craves your attention—good or bad. By disengaging and not reacting to her at all, she’ll most likely get bored and move on to someone else. This may not be the most mature or honest way of dealing with her, but at least this way you save yourself an ugly confrontation and keep the peace at the workplace and in your book club.

And if that doesn’t work, well, load up on the sunscreen, Donna. You’re going to need it where you’re going.

Sincerely,

Wendi, TMH


14 Responses to “A Friendship That’s a Toxic Waste”

05.25.10#1

Comment by Desperate Dietwives.

I have a similar problem, which I wrote about here a short while ago (http://www.mouthyhousewives.com/friends/the-co-dependent-co-ruptive-co-worker).

My co-workers and I wanted a confrontation with this woman, who is constantly avoiding it. One of us works exactly next to her and she’s the one in the most difficult position of all.

Eventually we succeeded in shaking her by simply saying “we’re out to lunch, see you later” and going away.
As she avoids every kind of confrontation, the other day she said: “You know, I’ve been so busy lately, that I couldn’t make it to lunch…”

Good luck!
DD

05.25.10#2

Comment by GrandeMocha.

Find a 3rd to bring into the relationship. Then you won’t have to feel bad about dumping her, cause she has a new friend.

05.25.10#3

Comment by Fairly Odd Mother.

I’d add: get really, really, really busy. Every time she stops by your desk to talk, you’re really busy and can’t. If she wants to go out for drinks to talk, start training for a marathon and now you need to run, run, run all the time, and when you aren’t running, you are talking about running, reading running magazines, and certainly not drinking alcohol until 2am and talking to her about her problems. I have a really hard time pushing someone away, but life is too short to deal with people like this more than a little.

05.25.10#4

Comment by Lara.

Miss Manners’ magic words are “I’m sorry, I can’t” to any unwanted intivataion/interruption. She promotes it as polite and honest, and thinks your reasons do not need to be explained.

That’ll take care of impromptu issues. When you HAVE to be together (book club), I’d grit my teeth, drink a lot, and stick to the topic.

And if she tells you that you lack empathy, you can tell her that friendships change over time, and this is what you can offer her now, and perhaps she should seek out people who are in a more similar place to her (like group therapy).

carma Reply:

Thanks for the good advice, I hope to use it.

Donna the Defriender

05.25.10#5

Comment by SometimesYouNeedtobeKind.

You know, sometimes people just go through a rough time and suddenly need those around them to step it up for them, whether they share the reasons why or not. Being a friend isn’t always easy or convenient, sometimes it’s about being the better person and being caring even when it’s a challenge. Bite the bullet and show her how to be a friend through your example. Most people are teachable when they feel truly cared about and valued.

Desperate Dietwives Reply:

What if you’ve been like that for a few years and are now in overdose????
What if you have a health problem and the needy one says hers is 1000 times worse and starts going into details about it?
What if you try to change subject and tell what you cooked yesterday for dinner and she tells you about the time when a Chef came out of his kitchen and begged her on his bended knee to go work for him? (and you full well know she’s crap at cooking?)
What if you just can’t take anymore of it and next time you try biting the bullet it hits you right in the chest??????????????

carma Reply:

Thanks for the advice. You are thinking that this person is just going through a rough patch. This is not the case. Some of the aspects of her personality & view on life are engrained & unlikely to change. I have tried the kinder, gentler approach with her previously & it didn’t work. I don’t agree that most people are teachable. I think change is very difficult, especially when a person doesn’t feel that change is needed.

Donna the Defriender

05.25.10#6

Comment by dusty earth mother.

Does a confrontation need to be ugly? I say, take the high road, tell her exactly what you see in a kind way that shows that you actually do care about her and want her to, basically, be less obnoxious so that people are not running screaming away from her. And see what happens. Maybe she’ll be grateful. You know, like when someone has spinach in their teeth or a bad wedgie and you rescue them.

05.25.10#7

Comment by Coco.

Solution to the problem: Complain about your life. Whine, moan, bitch & cry. She will get so sick of you immediately and dump you herself.

05.25.10#8

Comment by Erin I'm Gonna Kill Him.

God I love everything Wendi learned in fake Psychology.

I say get married. Everyone knows that married women start spending less and less time with their friend. Marry a foreigner in need of a green card. Then you’re doing two good deeds.:)

05.25.10#9

Comment by Mommy on the Spot.

This advice is genius! Totally going to use it!!

05.25.10#10

Comment by vodka tonic.

I’d say just start giving her blunt advice. “You are unhappy. It sounds like you need a therapist.” She won’t want to hear it, you get it off your chest, and she walks away. Done.

10.11.12#11

Comment by The So-Called Friend and Neighbor | The Mouthy Housewives.

[…] do I get the feeling you are leaving out some really juicy details? Did you start out fast friends, and she started getting on your nerves? Is she actually watching your every move and popping up out of the bushes every time you open your […]

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