Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: My friend is going through a rough patch. Some of her friends have tossed her aside. She’s having problems at work and then trying to juggle things with a new guy. She turns to me and I’m happy to try to help or just be there to listen.
But she often demurs on plans and always prefaces things with how no one else was available or how someone bailed. I want to be there for her, but how do I explain to her that minimizing my friendship like that hurts? I don’t want to add to her anxiety, but always knowing you’re the second choice is dispiriting.
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DEAR SECOND: Her anxiety is not your problem to solve, it’s hers. Certainly you can be sensitive and not, say, belabor a topic that is obviously uncomfortable for her to talk about — but when you start suppressing who you are and what you feel because she’s anxious, you’re crossing the boundary into making her problems your own. So stop.
Codependency alert: Other friends “tossed her aside”? Maybe instead they made a reasonable calculation that she’s using her new man and her work-ouchies as an excuse to be inconsiderate.
So, be there for her by being you for her. Explain that when she repeatedly blows you off because the other people canceled, you feel slighted and demoralized. Her actions have consequences, and unless she is clinically depressed and/or the “rough patch” is life-and-death serious, it doesn’t give her license to treat you like crap.
And even when it is life-and-death or major-depression serious, the license is limited to, “She is in no position to think clearly,” and whatever that fact can reasonably excuse.
DEAR CAROLYN: I met a guy at a bar from another state. We hit it off, met for drinks a couple of days later, and the potential for a relationship was born before he headed home.
That was two months ago. We met up in a third city about a month ago for a three-hour dinner date while I was on a work trip, which was quite pleasant.
Another month has gone by. I can’t travel to him for one more month due to additional travel, and he hasn’t fully committed to visit me yet. We talk on the phone twice per week with a small smattering of texts in between. I’m starting to be over it due to the limited communication.
There’s just not enough there to maintain interest in between cross-country flights and it’s starting to feel uninteresting, despite the fact he still seems excited about me.
Do I give him a chance to visit again before killing it? Or does the slow two-month build up to not much speak for itself? Friends are telling me to give it time, but my ex-boyfriend texts more often than he does and that feels telling.
DEAR LONG-DISTANCE: Friends, timing of next visit, ex’s text frequency — these are all clutter. You have lost interest. That’s all you need to know.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.