Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Carolyn: The last few times I have hung out with a friend, she told me I am "cheating" on her when I mentioned that I hung out with other people. She has also said that I can't have other friends. She says this in a joking manner, but it's happened more than once.
It makes me uncomfortable because back in the day (prior to therapy!) I was always in the company of controlling people - parents, boyfriends, relatives, siblings. I figured out why I followed the controlling requests, and I no longer allow it.
When she referred to "cheating," my automatic response was to shut down and get quiet because I felt like I was going to lose it in a nonproductive way. I hate the way I felt when I was controlled, and I started to feel that way again after those comments. I was sad, upset and angry because she is well aware of my history.
I don't know if I'm overreacting and should just brush off her comments or, if I'm not, how to approach this situation. Up until recently, our friendship has been really good.
How 'bout this, next time: "You are kidding, right?"
If she backpedals, calls you oversensitive, insists it was just a joke, etc., hold firm. "Remember, what is a joke to others is a trigger for me." Then you see whether the friendship reverts to the really good mode or stays weird. If it's the latter, please consider that the change might not be in her, but in you, as you continue to get stronger - and better at spotting clinginess in others.
If you feel awkward bringing it up, remember that a real friend won't punish you for your frailties.
If everything is some kind of trigger for you, of course, then that's a different story; while everyone has sore spots, it's still on us to minimize their impact on our relationships.
But if she won't humor you on this one point, then please consider whether this friendship is a healthy one for you. Summon the courage, speak up, find out.
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