Feeling used by a friend


Dear Irene,

My best friend has been in a relationship for the last two years. She has low self-esteem and this guy is no good, controlling and manipulative. I'm not the only friend who has told her that.

Since she has been with him it seems the only time she contacts me anymore is when they're fighting. So after this last fight, a little over a week ago, she said it was the biggest fight they ever had and she was sure it was over. She told me he was a complete "A". So anyway in the end she ends up making excuses why it's her fault and not his, blah, blah.

While all this was going on with her I had my own issues. My mother was ill and we live 3000 miles apart. Also, my mom was very worried about my sister who was in a bad relationship; my mom was begging me to try and talk sense into her.

Now I never mentioned any of this to my friend; I just didn't think she was in an emotional state to deal with my problems due to the drama she was having in her own life. Since my sister is a MySpace friend, I posted some blogs about bad relationships. My friend got all freaked out, assuming they were about her and her boyfriend, and was worried about what he might think or say.

To be fair, she knows I think her boyfriend is not giving back what she puts into the relationship. So I told her that I understood why she might think that the blog posts were about her, but they weren't, and explained what I had going on and that I wasn't going to filter something based on her fear of her boyfriend's reaction.

Never did she say, "I am sorry, I didn't know" or "How are you doing? NOTHING. No concern about me, or what was going on in my life. Since I have not spoken to her. I don't now if I should tell her how she hurt me by being selfish and that she was not a good friend to me? Or do I let it go, say nothing and wait and see if she contacts me? I am just not sure how to handle this, I feel like I have been used over the past two years.



Dear Marley,

Your friend is involved in a destructive, controlling relationship with her boyfriend and, unfortunately, isn't ready to leave him. Even though you and other friends have given her honest feedback and have tried to be supportive, it hasn't helped. It's not a good sign that she's still making excuses for him.

You're used to the drill: Whenever they have a conflict, she expects you to be there for her. After they patch things up, she ricochets back to him. Her boyfriend may be so possessive that he makes it uncomfortable for her to be with female friends.

Her response to your MySpace posts was over-the-top, but she may have felt guilty (after seeing herself in these posts) or fearful (that her boyfriend would see what you had written). However, if you never mentioned your family problems to your friend, you can hardly fault her for not being responsive. By the time you did, she may have been too distressed about her own situation to be responsive to yours.

The big problem for you, as I see it, is that you feel like you've have been at the short end of the stick for two years and, frankly, I can't see things changing as long as your friend is involved with this guy.

You have two choices now. Your friend really needs a good friend. If you value the friendship, you can approach her honestly, let her know your feelings about her and her boyfriend, lower your expectations, and hope that she'll figure a way out of this relationship.

Alternatively, if you still think this friendship is more work than it is worth, you can tell her that you are disappointed in her self-centeredness and feel like you need to take a break in your friendship until she figures out a way to resolve her problems with her boyfriend.

Hope this is helpful. Let us know what happens.

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Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and is working on a book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever: Surviving A Break-up With Your Best Friend, that will be published by Overlook Press in Fall 2009. She recently co-authored Schizophrenia for Dummies (Wiley, 2008). She also blogs about female friendships at The Friendship Blog.