Friends in need
My best friend of 15 years has started trying to control my other friendships. We have always talked about everything, but when I bring up my feelings about her behavior, she cries so hard it’s impossible to continue our conversation. This has been going on for weeks. I don’t know what to do. I can’t let go of the other people I care about just to make her happy. Can I?
You know the answer to that question, right? So let’s examine questions you haven’t asked. Start here: What triggered my best friend? Maybe she feels abandoned, is jealous, or fears losing you because of the intimacy of your other connections. All of those possible reasons are understandable, but there’s a more complicated perspective that fits. People often react emotionally to situations in which they can exercise control, rather than face the deeper issue actually responsible for triggering their suffering. Your friend is struggling with a trauma she has no words for (at least not yet) and it likely has nothing to do with you. Until you know otherwise, be yourself. Don’t play the victim.
The other question worth exploring is whether your friendship is nourishing or not. With the exception of this rough patch, are you grateful to have this friend? If not, what would shift you into appreciation? Focus on the good she brings into your life. It will support you until she can open up and talk honestly with you. Is it worth it to wait for that day? Of course! That’s what friends do for one another. In the process, you’ll gain practice in developing patience, a valuable skill we all need to grow in love for ourselves, and others.
I’ve read your columns on ghosting and wonder if you think it applies to friendships. One of my closest friends suddenly, and without explanation, stopped answering my texts, calls and emails. She lives too far away for me to simply show up on her doorstep and demand an answer, although I’m not sure that would even help. I’m heartbroken and miss her terribly. I think about her and what I may have done, if anything, to cause this distance. I’ve even had nightmares. Do you have any advice for me?
Be kind to yourself. Nightmares and distress are symptoms of grief. The sudden loss of a trusted friend is like an unexpected death. Resisting the change in this friendship only hurts you. Rather than continuing to reach out in hopes of securing closure, let go. She doesn’t have the power to give you closure, unless she has more influence over you than you do. If you want to experience freedom, take charge. When your mind recycles pain and loss, confront it. Remind yourself that you are well, that you don’t know anything about your friend’s situation and it’s none of your business until she confides in you. Mentally send positive vibes to wish her well in all things. Tell yourself something sweet about you and then get on with enjoying yourself. Friends come and go. That’s not good or bad. It’s just true.