I had this friend that always complained about her husband. We all worked for the same outfit and she seemed to have it together at home, just unhappy. She was often pessimistic in the workplace, but seem to get the job done. She would sometimes openly compliment me on how good I was at work. We’d have lunch and became closer, but the more she dumped on me about her personal life, the more I began to dislike her. I would give her recommendations about how to find what she was looking for as in how to improve her love life and her work but she was a downer and rarely took my advice. We went to visit psychics together, her mom being the prompter of the activity. I’d always wanted to read minds, but her Mom was the gifter of my first set of tarot cards. I began to study her and her Mother’s interactions, to find she was a middle child of divorce, like me. She always outwardly complained of her strained relationship with her mother and her mother moved closer to her after her divorce.
What perplexed me about this woman was how quickly she moved on after her failed marriage and her inability to solve her own problems without dragging me down. I could feel her negativity just pulling me down, as well as myself adapting to her negative style of interacting. She never really changed, going into a new relationship.
Personally, I began to use her to vent, often being watchful of my words and trying to pull the conversation around to an actionable discussion instead of idle complaints. I introduced her to a man who I thought she might be interested in since she was considering divorce. They began to date and even though she had complaints of the distance between them, his unwillingness to travel and his smoking habits, I watched her give relationship ultimatums while she pushed him to her way of thinking and style of living. She shared with me that she wanted a destination wedding so her family didn’t have to attend; atleast that’s what she said, and I couldn’t go because I didn’t have the money to travel to Hawaii, which sort of helped lessen her importance in my life.
Her new boyfriend lived in Orange County on the beach in his Grandmother’s home. It was owned by his Mother who paid for the property and would eventually sell it and give them the proceeds when the time was right. Her Grandmother died around that time and I remember she became very upset with me because I didn’t bother to console her during a time of loss. I was sort of taken back by her expressed need from me. I was tired of consoling her and making her feel better about her choices and life circumstances since our interactions centered around her unhappiness. First with her first husband, then her Mother, then her sisters, then her second husband. Friends should be able to talk openly about their years growing up, family problems, and should be able to relate and grow together, but this woman started out unhappy seemed to stay in the cycle for a long time. When she did seem happy, I still couldn’t enjoy her company because her happiness stemmed from possessions. I got scared and had to take a step back when I’d catch myself overspending or being negative like her, noticing that her behavior was definitely catchy like a virus.
Around the same time, my cousin was planning a wedding and was upset at me for not traveling to attend. Jokingly, I told her I would make it to her next one. I had traveled to her area a once before on vacation and was disgusted by her lifestyle, so I didn’t plan to go and rarely called the families on the phone, but she was upset, feeling that my party lifestyle was more important and I’d like to say it was; but it was really work, self, and party. Her brother visited in me while I was on a weekend vacation in Las Vegas. We met up with them (they were younger than us) and had a drink and parted ways. He mentioned “the party was more important” and left in anger towards me, as if he expected to alter my plans to please him. These words and thoughts stuck with me because this all happened around the same time. It was a form of jealousy or neediness that I can’t stand. What I could not understand was their need and expectation from me and who was in the right or wrong. Why did these people need my time, my attention, and my presence so much that they would get angry and distant if I didn’t give it to them. Why would they say such things when they didn’t even give much to the relationships to warrant my undivided attention?
These three had these things in common; the need for attention, admiration and consolation and emitted anger or resentment when I would not give into their neediness. They themselves were like small children, in need of a strong shoulder or acknowledgment in their failures or times of heartache and celebration. Although I like being invited to parties and have empathy when friends’ relatives die, I’m not usually one to get angry when a friend doesn’t acknowledge the death of a distant relative or is present for the celebration of marital vows when they aren’t even a part of my daily life. I do provide empathetic ears and consolation to a point, but I got tired of offering free counseling to my damaged friends.
These two women didn’t make sense to me at all, so I studied their behavior and found a severe case of co-dependency and unhappiness. They have moved on and maintained what seem to be happy lifestyles in their marriages, one relying on food as their source and the other on expensive purses and cars. On Facebook, they seem to be happy, but that form of communication isn’t reality. When I needed them, they weren’t there.
I was sad to see my friendships take such a turn because other than her negativity and passiveness, she was alright and I could’ve kept her around for dinners, movies, and shopping if it weren’t for her excessive spending, draining style of communication, and her constant complaining. It was like she didn’t have anything of value to add to the relationship other than complaints of her loved ones. I read somewhere that once you share your marital problems with a mutual friend, perceptions and the friendship changes as a whole, slowing chipping away since the mutual friend is forced to take sides, and eventually erodes the whole relationship when the observer or sounding board starts to see the how the parties interact in their marriage. A tough place to be in indeed.
Another case of observed Co-Dependency was a friend I’d known for 20 years. She was a stay at home mom of two and I visited her regularly, every 6 months and observed her for about two years living in the same neighborhood. I watched her submissive nature turn into severe co-dependency where she’d call her husband at work at least 5 times per day, unable to make a single decision without his input and very verbally abusive to her children whom she couldn’t control. Her whole life revolved around cleaning house everyday, taking care of her children and caring for her husband; which would’ve been admirable if there wasn’t 5 lbs of soap scum in the bathroom and if her kids bedsheets didn’t smell like urine.
I accepted these people and their flaws, but when I found myself in a place of need, the contribution to the friendship was not mutual; as in if I had a friend in need of a place to stay for safety or help and offered it to them or if I had money and they needed it; I would certainly give what and where I could. This wasn’t the same for them.
I defriended all of them due to a drain on my system, but struggled with letting them go after realizing they weren’t deep relationships worthy of keeping as I had hoped; and then I wondered, am I the only sane one out there. I found other sane people along the way, but I’m sure with a few years of friendship, I’d find flaws in them as well or envy on my side.