- 2 weeks ago
- Wedding: November 2021
Hi Bees! This is an extremely long post, so I apologize and thank you for your time if you stick with me. I’ve been having a hard time with a close friendship of mine. We became good friends when I moved abroad a couple of years ago after being work colleagues and casual friends for 2 1/2 years. Our friendship really took off over phone calls and text during this transitional period for both of us, shortly before she also moved and transitioned into a new professional environment. That was 2 years ago, and we have become very good friends. However, she is not someone who feels a strong need to have romantic relationships and would rather have and prioritize close friendships. That is totally fine, but I have been with my SO since before she and I even met and we’ve recently gotten engaged. Over recent months, it has felt like her expectations for friendship and what it means are unreasonable. We have a skype call every weekend, which is usually a 2-4 hour commitment. She also texts all of the time and at some point decided–without ever really having an explicit conversation about it, after we scheduled a visit a year after I moved away–that we were committed to travelling to see each other once a year. She wants this to happen, and she would also like it to be through travelling to various exotic spots rather than just visiting one another. She also comes up with a lot of fantasies for the future–she wants us to spend a summer in Europe together sometime in the future; I may be working in the UK for the summer and she has a work conference in Paris in June and she wants me to travel to Paris to see her and then for us to take a trip to Scotland together afterward; she will be a few hours away from me for her sister’s college graduation and she wants me to travel with her for a trip through that area of the country during that weekend (the same weekend my future sister in law will be graduating from college herself). Those are a few examples. She also has said recently that she feels our long distance friendship is full of too much ‘small talk’ and she feels disconnected from me. This has been sort of a challenging pattern for me. I have lived a lot of places and moved around a lot and as such have quite a few long distance friendships. She and I by far have the most phone/skype calls–I already told you the schedule. I moved, moved in with my now fiance, got engaged, and started a new job in recent months, and that 2 year old schedule really isn’t working for me anymore. I just don’t have time. But if I can’t do every week she says that she feels disconnected, and she has even said she would like us to commit to doing regular 5-7 hour skype calls to spend long periods of time together. This is all coming at the expense of my other friendships. I haven’t talked to any of my other long distance friends in months, when we normally try to have phone calls once a month, if not more. Moreover, my fiance and I both work five days a week and want to spend time on the weekends together, and with our respective and shared friends. But when I have a standing 2-4 hour midday call on one of two weekend days, it makes it really hard to make time for other people, catch up on work, keep the house clean, etc etc. My friend won’t move calls to weekdays ever, either, because she is busy on weekdays and we have a time difference.
We recently had a visit–I’m from the same state she lives in now, so I visited my parents (I have academic breaks because I work at a college) for a long period of time after the Holidays and she came to stay for a few days. During that time, she became increasingly agitated and anxious, and wouldn’t spend time with anyone but me. If we were spending time with my parents, my fiance, or anyone else, she would just stay in my room being upset. She became increasingly convinced that she had done someting to offend me or that we were disconnected because I would read news on my phone in the morning, or want to watch the film through when we decided to watch a movie instead of pausing it every 30 seconds to have a deep conversation. She wanted to be having deep, probing, emotionally intimate conversations for every second for 7 days, to the point that she would ask me these incredible invasive questions without any prompting. For example, she asked me how my relationship with my fiance has evolved since we moved in together and what the ways are that I feel our relationship has become worse since we moved in–this questions came up out of nowhere while we were listening to a podcast on a long drive, with zero context.
We were scheduled to stay with my sister so she could meet my friend, and I cleared it with her as she had been exhibiting increasing anxiety about being around me and other people/having to share my attention. She said she was excited to meet my sister and stay near the beach, but then anytime the trip deviated from a previous trip we took to the same town a year prior she became worried, and she was increasingly withdrawn. During this time, she would literally stand right next to me, nearly on top of me, all of the time and if I shifted a few inches to get space she would shift with me. She would also frequenelty be totally in my way when I would be walking across the house or trying to get out of the car or whatever because she was so focused on being so close to me all of the time–almost like a puppy that you trip over because it’s just so one top of you all of the time. During this visit my sister left the house to go pick up one of my nieces on a weekend morning from a sleepover, and the other niece was home alone with my friend and I. I was just scrolling through my phone, drinking coffee–in my mind a totally normal activity for a Saturday morning on the 6th day of a visit. Suddenly, out of nowhere, my friend burst into tears and started talking about how she feels like she is more invested in the friendship than I am. She brought up the trips and visits she has fantasized about which i mentioned earlier and my lack of commitment to her ideas. As I said, I may be travelling for the summer and during that time I will also be transitioning to a new position in my professional life, which is all up in the air and in flux and leaves basically the bulk of this year in question for me. None of this is a bad thing–actually, it’s a very exciting time in my professional and personal life for these reasons. But it’s still disruptive and makes it difficult to make plans–I got engaged in September and we are actually delaying planning a wedding because my life is just in professional flux right now. So I can’t commit to anything for the Spring/Summer until my professional life and my own personal commitments (ie, my sister in law’s graduation) are clearer to me. I have told her this over and over again–like, she had brought these two trips up 6-7 times before this visit. Yet, she said during this breakdown at my sister’s house that she needs me to make a soft commitment and that if she has an idea that doesn’t work for me (ie, travelling recreaitonally around Europe for 3 months at some indefinite point in the future when I have a job etc etc), she needs for me to suggest alternatives. She also asked ‘If I can’t plan for a Spring visit this year then how can I plan for the next 40 years of continuing to deepen our committed friendship?’ This was difficult for me, as I feel hours of weekly contact and capitulating to biannual visits is a great deal of time spent together and I don’t really have a desire for more. But she seems to desire consistent escalation of time spent together and emotional connection and commitment in a way that doesn’t seem conducive to friendship for me. She said that she doesn’t feel like I am considering our friendship enough in my professional plans or plans with my family, and that for her I am the person she arranges her life around. I told her, as gently as I could, that my life is arranged around me and on my terms, but that if there is a person I plan with and arrange around it is my fiance. At that point the conversation got cut off because my niece was in the house with us and my sister came home.
Later on in the car ride to my parent’s house she continued the conversation. She told me that while she is excited for me, she is anxious about my upcoming marriage because she was always felt isolated from marriage as an institution as she doesn’t want to get married or have children so she doesn’t know how she will fit into that world or ‘fit into my marriage,’ in her words. She also said that she is worried if I get married or have children I will make friends with married people who have children who she doesn’t know or have anything in common with and she won’t have anything to do with those friendships, which is apparently where this mounting anxiety is coming from. This was a lot to hear for me, because she won’t fit into my marriage, and I believe that friends should have separate lives. Of course I’ll have friends she doesn’t know and parts of my life which exist apart from each other–that’s true of my fiance, who i live with, and I live across the country from my friend and am not in a romantic relationship with her. She also said that she wants us to have explicit conversations about how my imepnding marriage is scary or sad for us. There were a lot of requests like this–if I have any sort of feeling, she seems to want me to have an explicit conversation with her about it in order to process it. But my impending marriage isn’t scary or sad for me–why would it be?
We finally got back to my parents’ home and she continued to basically not leave my room and ignore my parents etc until she finally left the next afternoon. However, she did start about 3 more separate conversations with me about the same stuff, sort of reiterating a lot of what I’ve stated and saying that she would like me to make a specific and explicit time commitment to her in terms of scheduling future skype calls etc.
Now my friend does not have a serious partner, and said to me that she doesn’t want me to think that she is using me as a surrogate for a committed partner–but that’s exactly how it feels. It feels like she wants so much from me that I am not able or willing to give. I have a fiance, I have other friendships, I have an evolving professional life, I have a family–all of these things matter and are rich and important to me. It just feels like she is trying to exact intimacy from me and be extremely rigorous and regimented in the friendship, and that just to me isn’t how to do this or what I want. I am feeling now like I really want space from this, but I don’t know how to do that. I don’t want to hurt her, and she has an extremely difficult time having intense conversations. I also don’t really want to be made responsible for her negative emotions or emotional well being right now–I feel really uncomfortable with the emotinal intimacy that has been foisted upon me. I’m not sure if that means that I’m not being empathetic or understanding enough, but I feel really violated by the way the week went, honestly. Does anyone have any experience like this or advice?