When a Friend Becomes a Nuisance
I love my friends so much, yet even I had the misfortune some years back to have a friend who was so high maintenance that I had to get rid of her as she refused to do anything other than rely on me.
This friend was called Anne, and she was even a bridesmaid at my first wedding.
When I met Anne I worked for an electrical retailer in the UK. We did all of our training together, and really hit it off and seemed to be the best of friends within a couple of months. Then the problems started.
At first Anne was great, and we would have such a good laugh both at work, and when we were socialising. She was somewhat older than me by about 6 or 7 years, yet we appeared to have so much in common. She had been through a tough time, and I had too.
Anne lived alone in a house in Tunbridge Wells, and every evening after work she would phone me up for a chat. This was fine at first, but eventually became a problem, as whenever she phoned she would be on the phone for two or three hours. My fiancé at the time would get pretty frustrated by this, yet I was too polite to tell her not to stay on so long, and didn't know how to break off our conversations without causing offence.
Still, I kept on being her friend, even to the degree I asked her to be one of our Bridesmaids, which she was delighted by, and I was grateful she accepted my request. Right up to our Wedding Day she was one of my best friends, but I never realised what I had let myself in for.
After my Wedding I gave up working for the electrical retail outlet, but stayed in touch with Anne. At first this was great, but then she began to confide in me about her past problems and I became her main source of support without realising it. Before too long the pressure became immense, and it had got to the stage she expected me to go around to her house and visit on a regular basis, especially as she didn't drive. This was a problem, as Anne enjoyed her alcohol too much, so if I went round she would inevitably expect me to match her, drink for drink, mainly of German white wine, yet didn't seem to care that I would still have to risk my licence by driving home afterwards. It was during these visits she told me of her horrible life experiences, and how her Brother had molested her as a child, yet when she told her parents they didn't believe her, and to that day she barely spoke to any of her family because of this.
She then went on to tell me how one night she had been out for a drink and had come across a guy she thought she knew. She invited him back to her house for a bite to eat, and then when she went to the bathroom, he grabbed her as she came out and raped her. Apparently she realised afterwards she had got the wrong guy and didn't know this one at all. She said he never got charged with the rape, and I don't think she reported it.
Forgive me for being a bit harsh here, but surely if you invite someone back to your home who you recognise, for a bite to eat, you must be pretty sure you know them, and at the very least the error would have become obvious once you used the incorrect first name to address them by before you even left the pub!
Anne soon became a huge problem to me, as every time I got home from work the phone-call would come, and as I knew it was likely to take hours I would tell my Husband Dave to say I was out, or in the bath. I had rapidly got to the stage I dreaded our phone ringing. If I failed to phone Anne for a few days she would be on the phone complaining bitterly that it was 'always her that had to phone me', and how I never phoned her. I tried to explain that if we talked every night there was little left to say if I phoned her, and that good friends can go for months without phoning each other, and still be the best of friends. She simply didn't "get it" and took it personally if I hadn't made contact.
She was constantly complaining that she had no money, and could not afford her mortgage and her bills, yet I saw her downing a large bottle of wine or more every night, plus about 20+ cigarettes. I tried to suggest to her she either take in a lodger, or cut down on her luxuries to allow her to keep her house. I also suggested she sell her two bedroomed house and buy somewhere smaller that she could afford, but she was having none of it and continued to follow her same self destruct course, and spent more than she earned.
I began to find her stubborn nature frustrating, as I could see the solution to her problems, but she was determined to ignore this and complain about her predicament. I suggested counselling, but she said Doctors were a waste of time and refused to go to one. She wouldn't consider a psychologist or psychotherapist either for much the same reasons.
She would phone me up at 1.00 am (or later), in the morning to say she was suicidal, yet I doubted it, as this went on for months and I think it was more of a cry for attention, (that I was already giving her in abundance).
I then found out that since I had left the electrical retail outlet, she was still bothering the other staff with all of her problems, to the degree that one member of staff had her turning up on his doorstep most days when she was walking home from work past his house.
In the end the whole problem had got so far out of hand that I really wanted "out" of the friendship, and taking the easy way out I chose the easy route and wrote her a letter. In this letter I explained that she was 'suffocating me', and that she failed to understand that good friends don't need to talk to each other every night. I reiterated that I felt she should seek professional counselling and told her that she needed to listen to the good advice I had given her about making cut backs if she couldn't afford her mortgage, plus seeking professional help.
The reaction I got was not great, and she told me she had shown my letter to her Mother who had said it was a load of rubbish. I pointed out that her Mother was bound to say this as, after all, a Mother is always loyal to their child where outsiders are concerned. She then went on to say she had told her work colleagues about the letter, (my former workmates), and they agreed with her that I was out of order. It was a no win situation, so I copied the letter from my computer and took a copy of it into a couple of the work colleagues in question. They agreed that everything I had said was correct, and that she needed to sort herself out and stop relying on everyone else whilst ignoring their advice. One of these colleagues agreed that Anne had caused her a problem too, and that she had been kind of glad that I had taken on the "problem" for the previous months.
I also gave a copy of the letter to one or two other members of staff, who equally agreed with my points and fully understood why I had been forced to break off the friendship with Anne.
I didn't hear from Anne for several years, but when I did it was after my Husband died. Almost immediately after she phoned she brought up the subject of how I had "dumped her" as a friend, and my reasons for doing so. Yet again I had to gently point out to her that she had become 'suffocating', and that the same people who had been our work colleagues originally, agreed with my point of view when they saw the copy of my original letter to her. Although we didn't part on bad terms, that was the last time I spoke to her, and I have to say it was a relief as I had enough problems of my own by now, without taking on hers again too.
To this day I think she probably thought I was being the cruel and unreasonable one in the friendship, and I sincerely doubt she knew how much pressure she was putting on me and my marriage. She really did need help, and I had a life to lead too and could not constantly be on the end of a phone when she claimed to be suicidal, or needed to chat for three hours.
Sometimes you have to draw a line under situations and problems, even friendships, if you aren't to get dragged down with the issues that are not personal to you. It isn't selfish, it is self preservation, and if you have done all you can humanly do first, the no-one can knock you for walking away.
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