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  1. #11


    Quote Originally Posted by SilkRoad View Post
    Your approach is excellent and that's just what I would like to do. Be caring and empathetic but distance myself enough to detach, so I don't get mad or upset when they then go and make the stupid decisions they said they never would...or whatever. But I don't really know HOW to do that. It's like my emotions get invested all on their own. I can't sufficiently bring logic to bear on my emotions in such situations. Any suggestions for how you do it??
    A few things come to mind:
    • Practice. It's sort of a habit. The way to get the ball rolling on such a habit is to decide to take on that mentality in the first place.
    • Sad to say, and I'm really hesitant to say this, but it actually helps to 'judge' people to a certain extent. We want to get deep into others' underlying motivations, sure.. but when you do, it's very difficult to separate yourself from them because you can excuse all sorts of behavior--"Oh, this person is just x, so they're gonna behave like y."

      Sometimes, you just have to truncate that line of thought and look at certain behaviors as just.. inexcusable, from your perspective. That's not to say that the underlying motivations can't be recognized, but that they shouldn't be taken too far.
    • Know that you don't know what's best for everyone. From your perspective--the only one that you can actually control--some course of action seems most reasonable. To others, it won't be. You might be wrong when it comes to what works for someone. This is another reason why it's not so good to get frustrated when someone acts in a way that we don't want them to act.
    • Find people who you can actually trust mutually, the people who allow you to bounce your problems off of them, too. This sort of helps put your relationships with other people in perspective.
    • A mindset of self-preservation, while dangerous if kept for the long term, can help stave off 'people-drama.' If you keep in mind that you must do what's best for yourself--at least for a little while--it'll be easier to make the decisions that preserve your own sanity.

      At the very least, separating your happiness from others' happiness can be helpful. After all, at the end of the day, you really have no bearing on others' happiness.

    Yeah, I'm not quite there yet, either. A part of me feels like I've gone to the other extreme and have not gotten as involved with others as I 'should.' We'll see what works in the end, though vv

    I dunno. The lady and I have a friend who's in an on-again, off-again relationship. We sort of keep telling him that it's not healthy, for reasons x, y, and z. He keeps saying something along the lines of.. "You know, that does suck. I should just end it now and keep it ended." And then he doesn't do that. And then he becomes heartbroken every time they break up. And then he wants to talk about it. Repeat ad infinitum, forever, until the end of time.

    After a while, we were both sick of the situation. We know and understand his motivations. But, well, for our sake, we've actually had to tell him that we don't want to get involved in that situation any longer.

    We have to let him come to his own decisions. The relationship might work out for him. We don't think that it will, but there is absolutely nothing that we can do about it.

    And that's okay.

  2. #12
    Peaced Quay's Avatar
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    Feb 2010
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    Quote Originally Posted by SilkRoad View Post
    I am going to have to work out a way to say kindly but firmly, when they come back and start whining to me about being back in this situation (which sooner or later they almost certainly will), "don't come crying to have to work this out yourself now. Let me know how it all turns out."
    This part has always been hard for me. But it will be good to do this before you guys end up really falling out about it. I could have (couldawouldashoulda) avoided my friendship blow-ups if I'd been upfront about them getting on my nerves.

    Yeah, I hear you. When it's mutual, those can be close and rewarding friendships. I'd like to think there can be at least a bit of mutual dumpage with my closest friends. Though even there you have to be careful because if that's the only foundation for a friendship, it's not healthy. You have to be able to have at least some light and happy times with your friends! If it's all dumpage it could turn into a scary co-dependent thing or the kind of situation I described above where they use the dumpage against you or refuse to believe that you're actually feeling pretty good about life.
    Never thought about it this way. Thanks and I will keep this in mind.

  3. #13
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    Dec 2009


    Like others have mentioned, when I am in the position of helping someone, I detach. Honestly, I find it very difficult to help people who will not help themselves. I've once had someone tell me, "well, I guess you're my therapist now" and I was horrified; so horrified I wanted to run. I feel very guilty thinking in such a way, but I do not like to be in a position of being depended on, because the responsibility I assume amplifies my perfectionist tendencies... and failing people is my worst nightmare. I have the tendency to become so involved (in my mind) that I become overwhelmed, and I need to get away so badly, that I stop helping altogether and shut the person out. I look like a horrible person, because I become so overwhelmed I cannot deal with this person altogether, and don't explain my position.
    I've seen therapists walk away from certain jobs because they can't handle the continuous mental and emotional energy it takes to listen to people continuously about their issues, so that breaking point is a genuine point of contention that needs to be dealt with. Perhaps explaining your needs and laying out ground rules may help you. It's not to limit or truncate communication, but to help create a suitable environment for you and the people you listen to. For example, you tell friends who are penchant to venting to you, that weekends (or weekdays) are your time off from serious 'sessions'. This is a general rule of course, and you might mention that you are happy to talk to them if they genuinely need someone to talk to and are desperate. I have made the point of mentioning before, that sometimes I am helping multiple people at a time, and it takes a lot of my energy. Usually when alerted to this fact, friends understand this, and they are less inclined to blame me if I don't listen to them straight away, or need time away.

    My personal experience- I have learned to detach in these instances, by thinking of myself as playing a role. I am no longer myself or a friend, I am a counselor whose job it is to help this person. My job ends at the point of the counseling session. After that, I become a friend again.
    My aim is to encourage and empower this person to take control of their life, by making this person think they have done all the work they are doing with me, theirselves. So it is not to encourage them to attach to me, and affiliate me with their hero or rescuer, but to see their own self as their own hero. It is not my job to save this person; I do not fail if positive outcomes are not the result of my time with them. I recognise that people make their own choices, and I cannot make someone do anything.

    I find this helps make the best of the situation, and to take off the pressure I put on myself, if the person doesn't seem to be getting any 'better'.

    For every hour or so, listening to a friend, you might take 2-3 hours to yourself to re-energise; "Me time". I find I get snappy and judgmental when my energy is depleted and I feel like i'm being used. But when I am energised, I am more inclined to be able to detach and feel less used, and more 'useful'. Giving yourself positive reinforcement is also good; because sometimes people don't express gratitude and it feels like your listening and input is falling on deaf ears.
    Staying in touch with your own needs is key. Recognise when it's getting too much for you; look for the key signs that lead up to it, and be proactive about it. What do you need to keep yourself from reaching breaking point, and what can you do to maintain balance within yourself? do you need more time to recuperate? do you need somewhere to make sense of these peoples situations, and their complaints? (i.e. taking up a venting journal, where you allow yourself to be honest about these people, and come to an understanding). Do you need to limit yourself to focusing on one person at a time? do you need to find acceptance within yourself, to be ok with putting your foot down and just saying no in some instances? (admittedly, that's been difficult for me).

    It seems to me (in my experience anyway) that when I have become overwhelmed, it's been a case of communication being too one way. In order to bring balance back into the equation, i've had to point out (through an understanding tone) the unbalance in communication; that no one is to blame; and that order needs to be re established, otherwise something is going to give. Most people understand this, and when I ask them to devise a way to create more balance in order for us to be parners (i.e. I express that I'd like to keep the partnership going), they leap at the opportunity. I've never been in the situation where i've given someone an ultimatum (change- or our friendship will be terminated; lol, sounds so formal, but i'm pretty decisive like that), but I think some contexts (where the person is literally, knowingly being a leech) calls for it, unfortunately.

  4. #14
    Senior Member Tiltyred's Avatar
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    Dec 2008
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    It's curious to me that popular culture has relationships so much into doing therapy and feeling responsible for doing therapy. So sometimes I stop and think, is this a friendship, with the give and take that that implies, or I am doing therapy? and if the latter, why? I'm not qualified. So a variety of responses will sometimes wake the other person up to changing the subject:
    "Good luck with that! Let me know how that works out."
    "You should probably see a counselor about that, rather than dissipate your energy talking about it with me. Since it's a recurring theme and all. I see that it causes you a lot of grief."
    "Do you realize you've been talking to me about this exact same thing for two years? (or however long)
    "Why are you telling me this?"
    or sometimes even just stopping the sympathetic noises works. Just sit and look at them and say nothing until they stop talking and start getting it.

    You should be getting paid to go through the steps Hopelandic detailed, for example. You should be getting paid. And you should have degrees and a stated willingness to involve yourself in that kind of relationship.

    It's amazing how it appears these people depend on you so much that you worry what will happen if you withdraw support -- but what happens is, they find somebody else to listen to them.

  5. #15
    THIS bitch stringstheory's Avatar
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    Jul 2009


    Oyyyy my old roommate was like this. The two big things that bugged me most were that she always looked bored and annoyed when i needed to unload about something and that she always assumed i wasn't up to anything that could possibly be more important than listening to her talk about her failed relationship again like it was some breaking news.

    i just started mimicking her mannerisms (uninterested, no eye contact, continue working on something else) or curtly telling her i was busy. Eventually i just started asking her "are you looking for advice or do you just want to talk?". Of course usually it was the latter, so i told her i didn't have the energy to deal with the same ol' thing again but to let me know if anything changed. it made her pretty mad, but she was usually over it by the next morning when she had new drama to talk about.

    and then i moved and....she found someone else to depend on. We still keep in touch because she is otherwise a decent friend now that i don't have to constantly deal with her drama, but it's better now that i don't live with her.

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  6. #16
    eh cascadeco's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tiltyred View Post
    It's amazing how it appears these people depend on you so much that you worry what will happen if you withdraw support -- but what happens is, they find somebody else to listen to them.
    Right. Typically if you do not provide the sort of response/validation they are desiring/seeking, they will stop coming to you and will find someone else. It's really as simple as that.

    To the OP - I had a former friend who was like this. It can take time sometimes to figure out whether they are simply in a rough spot and need a listening ear and support to move past whatever they're going through, vs. it being an ongoing theme of their life. Although, for myself, I don't know that I ever became emotionally invested, I just got tired of hearing the same stuff over and over again.

    If it becomes apparent that it is an ongoing element of their life - that, no matter what, they will always have drama of one sort or another, that they keep revisiting the same things/issues again and again without seeming to move past them, or without really seeming to desire constructive feedback at some point, then, well, I distance myself, to be honest, as it's basically a one-sided relationship. Actually what happened in the case of my former friend is that once I realized her Life=Drama and venting, and all she wanted was a silent ear without feedback, I became tired of that and towards the end started actually throwing in random comments/suggestions, started nudging/disagreeing/challenging her a bit, she reacted extremely negatively to that, and pushed me out of her life because I wasn't being a 'true friend', as 'true friends' are supportive no matter what. Nah, not me, in the sense she wanted (= nodding my head and ONLY validating her). By that point I was done with her too, though, so didn't really care that she lashed out at me. I wasn't able to be the friend she wanted/needed, and frankly I was sick of listening to her so she wasn't what I wanted out of a friend either. There wasn't much of a dialogue - again, very one-sided.
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  7. #17
    Senior Member mochajava's Avatar
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    Jul 2010


    Actually what happened in the case of my former friend is that once I realized her Life=Drama and venting, and all she wanted was a silent ear without feedback, I became tired of that and towards the end started actually throwing in random comments/suggestions, started nudging/disagreeing/challenging her a bit, she reacted extremely negatively to that, and pushed me out of her life because I wasn't being a 'true friend', as 'true friends' are supportive no matter what. Nah, not me, in the sense she wanted (= nodding my head and ONLY validating her). By that point I was done with her too, though, so didn't really care that she lashed out at me. I wasn't able to be the friend she wanted/needed, and frankly I was sick of listening to her so she wasn't what I wanted out of a friend either. There wasn't much of a dialogue - again, very one-sided.
    Sounds about right. A friend kept coming to me with these problems and courses of action that I really was just not in agreement with for a variety of reasons, and when I presented all my disagreements, "you know, you don't have to stay in this situation" but ended the conversation with something like, "well, sounds like you have it all figured out," it kind of ended on its own.


  8. #18
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    Apr 2010


    Quote Originally Posted by SilkRoad View Post
    I've had this problem with a few people in my life. We fall into a pattern where I'm somehow the therapist listening to them vent and unload. Sometimes it can go both ways (I do have healthy friendships where it goes both ways) but if you try to unload on them, they might even be dismissive. At any rate, it's mostly them doing the unloading.

    Ultimately it gets too much because you feel stressed, upset, you see them making bad decisions in clear contradiction of what they previously said to you...etc. You express this to them. They just don't get it. They don't understand why you might feel exhausted, frustrated, emotional or personally involved.

    How do you deal with this? Do you see these patterns emerging and nip them in the bud? Do you distance yourself but still remain cordial with the person? How?
    I notice this with some of my friends, as well. I'm fine with listening to them and helping them out if they have a problem, but I do tend to expect a little listening and help in return. I really hate when I'm having a problem and try to vent to my friend and they just sort of change the subject. :steam: One of the downsides of beign an NF, I guess.

    My only advice is to just save your problems for the people that you know will care and offer you some sympathy. Don't necessarily eject your non-listening friends from your life. They don't sympathize because they don't care, but because they probably think that since we seem to have all the answers for them, that we should know what to do with ourselves. Just find your friends that you know will allow you to confide in them when you need to. Don't eject anyone from your life that you don't want to just because they don't have any sympathy to offer.
    Last edited by musicnerd93; 08-11-2010 at 08:41 AM.

  9. #19
    Lay the coin on my tongue SilkRoad's Avatar
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    Well, in view of my particular situation with the SP friend, I wrote him an email today which included the below. Any comments? Of course it remains to be seen how he reacts.

    "Forgive me if any of this sounds condescending or accusatory or if I have misunderstood you. I know that we’re two very different people and we probably get each other wrong quite a lot. It’s just, I can’t help any more by listening to you talk about these things, not at this point in your life anyway. I get emotionally involved when people tell me about their problems and frustrations. It’s very hard for me to detach and I can end up exhausted and resentful if it seems one-sided. I also get upset when people speak and behave inconsistently. You seem really confused about a lot of things and I wish I could help. But talking to me about the decisions you’re trying to make doesn’t seem to have helped you make any decisions, and it’s just upsetting me and frustrating me at this point.

    I guess what I’m saying is, I still want to be there for you, and if I can help you with other things, or if you want to do something fun together, I would love that. If you make some decisions and you’re happy with how they work out I would like to hear about that too. But if you need to talk to someone about feeling confused or not knowing what to decide, it’s better if you talk with other friends who can detach more, or whatever. I think that will be more helpful anyway and it won’t create this tension between us. I am not trying to say that you’ve wasted my time by talking to me or anything like that. I don’t feel like that at all. I just feel like I have to step back for the sake of still having a good relationship with you."
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  10. #20
    Symbolic Herald Vasilisa's Avatar
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    Feb 2010


    I hope it goes well, SilkRoad.

    I know the feeling of being someone's toxic waste dump. Recently I was having this problem where a friend was constantly dumping the same problems on me. She was a good friend, but what happens is when someone is in this kind of turmoil, I don't want to add to their stress by opening up about my problems. So the onesidedness begins. She, too, seemed to be resistant to changing her situation. It was only later that I found out part of the problem was that she was receiving conflicting messages. She was also confiding in someone who has a toxic personality and who, through her influence and counsel, was prolonging my friends problems. Now that person is out of the picture and things are much better, our friendship is in balance again and my friend has dealt with her problem and is very happy.

    It is so hard. Sometimes people may be wanting us to open up to them, and they are trying to invite it by spilling their troubles. But sadly its true, people exist that just want what Cascade described, to use someone else solely to dump on. I knew a girl like this whose main activity was being in a fight with someone in our circle of friends so she could kvetch about them with supposed justification. After the target would capitulate she would choose a new target. Finally, I felt compelled to doorslam this person because I saw the writing on the wall and knew it was a matter of time. The pure ugliness of the whole situation was very hard for me to cope with.

    I hope it doesn't sound like I think the answer to every problem is to cut someone from your life, that is far from the truth. I know hard it really is. I really hope that your friendships endure and improve.

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